Ardana II


Ancient Greek quotations are from A. H. Sommerstein, Aeschylus II: Agamemnon, Libation-Bearers, Eumenides, Loeb Classical Library 146, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, and London 2008.

Quotations from Charalambides are from Petrides’ translation in, A. K. Petrides, “Kyriakos Charalambides, Greek Tragedy, and the House of Atreus” (forthcoming).

 Click here to listen to Charalambides reading his poem


Ardana is a village on the mountain range of Pentadaktylos. This is, in fact, the second poem -in reality a prose poem- written for this village. The first poem bearing the same title is included in the collection Famagusta Reigning City (1982). [Listen to the poem here]. Charalambides accompanied the first poem with a note, explaining what triggered him to write about Ardana in the first place:

“…. Andreas Maragos, a theatre director and actor, born in Ardana, inspired some elements of the composition. The idea for the poem, after all, was founded on his description of a dream he had about his village. One day he came up to me and said: “Kyriakos, you write so many poems about your home town, Famagusta. But my own thoughts go to my village, Ardana. Nobody speaks of it, poor and humble as it is. But this village is what I am yearning for, for this I suffer. So you keep on writing about Famagusta. After all some day it will be returned to you. But who will ever care about my Ardana? We shall never go back, I know it by my dreams. I think we have lost it forever.” But the situation is even more tragic as far as Famagusta is concerned, I reflected later; we are talking about a city which we used to have and which we let slip from our fingers; which we see and do not see; which, even when we take it back, will not belong to us.”

The sequel to the first poem is written eleven years after, on 1 July 1992. Memory and one’s return to his/her hearth (νόστος) constitute the two overarching themes of the poem. Both issues are tackled through the narration of a dream: the narrator visits his house at Ardana only to realise that he does not recognize it anymore, and that he feels completely detached from everything that used to form an integral part of his life in the past.

Even though the narrator remains unnamed throughout, his identity can be deduced from his address to Pylades in line 8 − the speaker is, in fact, a modern Orestes. The ‘staging’ of the poem clearly alludes to the opening of Sophocles’ Electra, where Orestes, guided by his Pedagogue, returns back to Argos, after the lapse of many years. Just like his Sophoclean counterpart, Charalambides’ Orestes visits − albeit in his dream − his house after many years.


Lines 1-2, 26-28

-Is this my house?

– This is your house.


“Madam, is this the house I was born in?” And

the Turkish woman told me: “Yes, this is it”

Charalambides’ Orestes is tortured by a series of doubts and questions. On the contrary, Sophocles’ Orestes is generally free of doubt either concerning the identity of the place or his birthright or the justice of his cause, even though he has no memories of the house itself, as he was taken out of Argos at a very early age.


Lines 6-8

Αnd I started weeping in my sleep.

Ιn contrast to Sophocles’ Orestes, who returns back to Argos during the day (17-18), Charalambides’ Orestes visits his house during the night, in one of his dreams.


Lines 11-13

Our army is gone!”

Nothing remains, no ship in sight, no land, no

home, my friend.

An echo of Aeschylus’ Persians 255 (στρατὸς γὰρ πᾶς ὄλωλε), 266 (πάντα γ’ ἔστ’ ἐκεῖνα διαπεπραγμένα).


Lines 14-18

And yet the front door was the same, the narrow street the same,

the well the same, the carob tree, the clay oven, the tractor, and the

fold, all were the same. And I had no relation with the house. I did not

recognize it. I was standing inside its yard and I was feeling so


The way in which Charalambides’ Orestes observes the things that used to constitute his abode − the carob tree, the tractor etc − brings to mind the way in which the Pedagogue introduces to Orestes the various landmarks of his hometown (e.g. the Lycean marketplace, the temple of Hera, his royal house) at the opening of the Electra (6-10). However, the magnificent buildings that the Pedagogue singles out stand in stark contrast to the humble abode of Charalambides’ Orestes.


Lines 23-24

Tί φῄς; What are you saying? Outside your house and you couldn’t

even recognize it, is that true?

This is the only instance where we hear Pylades’ voice. His laconic reply to Orestes’ sobs recalls Aeschylus’ Pylades, who throughout the Choephori utters merely two sentences, at the crucial moment of Clytemnestra’s murder (“Then what becomes in future of Loxias’ oracles delivered at Pytho, and of faithful, sworn pledges? Hold all men your enemies, rather than the gods” 900-2).



Orestes (narrator) 

The narrator’s identity can be deduced from his address to Pylades in line 8.

Unlike the tragic Orestes, who returns to his birthplace in order to avenge the murderers of his father and regain his privileged premise to the throne, Charalambides’ Orestes is a helpless, tired, and wary refugee, whose return back takes the character of an ultimate farewell (And I started weeping in my sleep. That cry of farewell.) What is more, whereas Sophocles’ Orestes is prepared to take revenge, declaring that he has every right to do so (El. 67-72), Charalambides’ Orestes expresses no feelings of revenge or anger against the usurpers of his house, in this case the Turkish woman who occupies his house. Rather he is confused and distressed because of the detachment he experiences. 


Pylades (lines 8 and 26): 

Charalambides’ Pylades seems to be more detached from Orestes and not so much attuned with him. His detachment is dexterously articulated through his reply which is cast in ancient Greek (Tί φῄς; What are you saying? Outside your house and you could not even recognize it, is that true?)




Leave a reply