A Further Case of Classical Reception in The Knight in the Panther’s Skin
Greek-Roman traces are still being discovered in Rustaveli’s work, as, in this author’s view, is clearly demonstrated by one more case of reception of Greek myth found in the Knight in the Panther’s Skin. The article discusses an episode of Avtandil’s adventure described in the chapter “Avtandil’s Departure from Phridon to Seek Nestan-Daredjan” (verses 1034–1069), where the main character, disguised as a merchant and epitomizing benignity, defends the oppressed, and all alone strives to battle pirates and, with the help of God, easily defeats them, killing some and throwing into the sea or enslaving others.
Pirates appear in fictional works which depict historical events, as well as in legends and myths. Amongst the latter, the most archaic and at the same time quite popular plot in both the Western and Eastern worlds is the myth about Dionysus and the Tyrrhenian Pirates. This narrative is upheld in the Homeric hymns and is referenced by Euripides, Ovid and Nonnus. It is noteworthy that authors of different centuries offer various interpretations of the myth. In contrast to relevant passages belonging to Homer, Euripides and Ovid, Dionysus, as characterized by Nonnus, is not an innocent victim, who, drunk on wine, accidentally encounters pirates, but is instead a hero fighting greedy, trophy-hunting freebooters, who himself sets a trap for the pirates. Certain parallels can be observed between the above-mentioned episode of the Knight in the Panther’s Skin and the given passage of the Dionysiaca, that goes well beyond the level of typological similarity. By comparing extracts from these two works, it becomes evident that the author of the Knight in the Panther’s Skin was familiar with the myth of Dionysus and the Tyrrhenian Pirates, as well as with that variant of literary adaptation presented in the Dionysiaca of Nonnus.