In Digenes Akrites, why did Maximou challenge Digenis to a second duel immediately after being defeated once? Also, did Maximou offer herself to Digenis after their duel or did he force himself on her? Here are some lines I found:

She springing back and in a grip of fear
Crouched down, and said, "Let me not die, young man;
I erred woman-like, Philopappos told me.'
And I respected, her, hearing her words,
Pitied the wondrous beauty that was hers,
And left her there and turned against the rest.

This is immediately after their first duel which Digenis wins. Shortly after this, Maximo says:

Blessed your father, and your mother who bore you,
And the blessed mother's breasts which nourished you;
For such another man I never saw.
I beg you then my master to fulfil
One more request, that by it you may know
More strictly my experience in war:
Bid me to go away and mount my horse,
And in the morning I will come to this place,
That we may singly fight, none present with us,
And you shall see, good friend, my bravery.

Here she praises her opponent and immediately challenges him to a second duel. Did she expect to win the second time?


I must admit that working out an answer to this question was somewhat challenging. In Digenis Akrites, the amazon Maximo fights Digenis purely on the insistence of her relative Philopappos, who intended to abduct Digenis' wife,Evdokia. Maximo falls into the trap (the suggestion is that she would never willingly have had anything to do with an attack on Digenes).The author writes:

Thus having spoken old man Philopappos
Made Maximo in all respects submissive—
For woman's mind is easily deceived.

The battle between Digenis and Maximo is described in the text from a first person point of view.

In the battlefield Maximo realises she has been tricked into fighting a solitary man without an army of his own. She finds it unethical to attack him with an army and resolves to fight Digenis on her own.This is what she tells Philopappos:

"You thrice accurst old man," she answered him,
"So me and my people you troubled for one man,
To whom I will cross alone, boasting with God's help
I will bring back his head, not needing you?"

In the battle that follows Digenis emerges the victor and Maximo expects to be killed. She pleads for her life and Digenis spares her for her "wondrous beauty" as is quoted in the question.She thanks him for his mercy, blesses him for his valour, and asks that they may meet again in the morning in single combat.

One more request, that by it you may know
More strictly my experience in war:
Bid me to go away and mount my horse,
And in the morning I will come to this place,
That we may singly fight, none present with us,
And you shall see, good friend, my bravery."
"With joy, O Maximo," I said to her,
"Go where you will, and you shall find me here."

Maximo wishes to redeem herself.Is there any indication that she wishes to throw the duel? None at all. Why on earth would she challenge him then?

As for the second duel, there is nothing at stake. Digenis has spared Maximo once and is looking forward to the second duel "with joy".The antagonists apparently wish to pit their skills against each other:

And when we were come near we both embraced
Greeting each other lovingly, as was fair.

Maximo is disarmed which apparently implied defeat.She was seized by great fear and is the first one to bring up the topic of intercourse, albeit within the framework of marriage. This makes rape seem somewhat far-fetched. There is nothing to indicate that Maximo was forced into having sex.

I am a virgin still by none seduced.
You alone have conquered, you shall win me all;
And have me helpmate too against your foes."

Digenis undoubtedly finds Maximou attractive:

My soul was wounded, she was beautiful.

They proceed to have sex.

A better example of rape (and of male chauvinism) in a similar situation can be found in Irish mythology (the duel between Aoife and Cu Chulainn). Here, Aoife has to choose between death and Cu Chulainn. I'm not sure the situation is so grave for Maximo here. Her defeat did not imply offering herself to the victor as it did for Aoife.

  • "I am yet to acquire a proper English translation of the text" - out of curiosity, where did you get the quotes in this answer then? (I haven't upvoted your answer yet, because it doesn't fully answer the question, but I like that you're looking directly at the text to support your answer - looking forward to your edits/updates!) – Rand al'Thor Mar 17 '18 at 17:19
  • @ Rand al'Thor The translation I have with me is too archaic for my liking! – user3223 Mar 17 '18 at 20:17
  • There was always an element of subjectivity involved in this question. I hope I haven't misinterpreted the text. – user3223 Mar 18 '18 at 15:32
  • This seems like a good interpretation of the text itself, and I've now upvoted your answer. (I do think this text is an unrealistic depiction of what may have been a real event, and that if they actually did have sex, it was more likely to be rape than mutual attraction between two such enemies - but that kind of commentary isn't strictly necessary to answer this question.) – Rand al'Thor Mar 18 '18 at 15:40

Well, it is quite evident that Maximou fights the second duel just for the sake of showing off her skill at warfare.There is a stark contrast between the two duels as the two combatants are more amicably disposed towards each other in the second. Unfortunately, Digenis wins the second fight and Maximou's response to her defeat suggests that she was hoping to win. Digenis and Maximou's lovemaking appears to be consensual although Maximou's compromised situation after her defeat leaves this open to debate.

  • Welcome to Literature SE! Please can you edit to support this answer better, e.g. by quotes from the source text? You say that "it is quite evident" and their lovemaking "appears to be consensual", but presumably this wasn't clear to the person who asked the question - some more explanation would help them and others to appreciate your view on this. – Rand al'Thor Mar 16 '18 at 10:26
  • The question isn't quite clear. Is the OP wondering whether she lost intentionally? I might answer this after a bit of fact-finding. – user3223 Mar 17 '18 at 11:20

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