The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate,
MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
While traveling in Greece in 1811, the English Romantic poet Lord Byron
witnessed a horrifying incident. Turkish soldiers were about to fling a young
woman into the sea. Why? Because she had committed adultery. Two years later
Byron published The Giaour, a Fragment of a Turkish Tale, a long, narrative poem set in tetrameter couplets and quatrains.
It takes place in 17th-century Greece, near Athens, and recounts the story
of Leila, a slave in the seraglio of the caliph Hassan. When she fell in love
with a young Venetian warrior (the "giaour" of the title, which is the Turkish
word for infidel, or non-Musselman), she was condemned to be thrown into the
sea. The giaour avenged her death by killing Hassan in hand-to-hand combat
and then retired to a monastery where he spent the remainder of his life doing
penance, not only for murdering Hassan, but also for the death of Leila for
which he held himself responsible. It was a love story worthy of a Romantic
age; within two years of its publication in 1813, it had gone into 14 editions.
Southgate MT. The Combat of the Giaour and Hassan. JAMA. 2001;285(13):1677. doi:10.1001/jama.285.13.1677