I had planned on examining another comedy by Cratinus for my next Ancient Greek Comedy post here at Balladeer’s Blog. Understandably my sister Rosemary’s hospitalization has changed quite a few things. She is out of the hospital now but needs more assistance than usual for a while so with the limited time I have available right now I figured it was better to do a brief take on the VERY fragmentary remains of Pherecrates’ comedy Ore Miners AKA Metalles.


A group of ore miners accidentally dig so deep underground that they stumble upon the Netherworld. While there they observe the automatist Utopia that Pherecrates depicts the souls of the dead as dwelling in.

Rivers flowed with porridge and soup instead of water and on the banks of those rivers cheese-filled breads, sizzling sausages, broiled steaks and eels were scattered like stones and seashells. Pork ribs and soft cakes grew like fruits from the trees. Bathtubs full of oatmeal and pudding were everywhere.

Roast thrushes, cooked but oddly alive, flew around the mouths of the dead begging to be eaten. There were plenty of shade-trees everywhere and their branches held apples hung so low that they were always within easy reach even of souls reclining on the grass under those trees. Beautiful teenage girls with shaved pubic areas served wine to the dead and whenever the goblet a soul drank from was empty, the wine replenished itself. 

Not enough of the play has survived to piece together the beginning, ending or very much of the plot beyond the rhapsodic existence of the dead.    


Ore Miners is an example of another subgenre of Attic Old Comedy – the Utopian comedy. Most of those comedies depicted an idyllic lifestyle from either the distant, mythic past, the far future or in remote lands. They are often considered a forerunner of many science fiction tales with similar themes. Ore Miners is the only example of a Utopia set in the land where Hades ruled over the dead. This makes the comedy groundbreaking in a philosophical way, too, since the concept of rewards or punishments after death was still in its formative stages in the west.    

Many of these Utopian comedies dealt specifically with automatist elements of Utopia in which game animals cooked and prepared themselves or various treats flowed naturally from rivers or on the wind. This recurring theme is a fascinating forerunner of many of the luxuries that modern technology has afforded and even anticipates various elements of sci fi stories involving robot servants and laborers.

Pherecrates’ Ore Miners is intentionally funny and absurd, but for an UN-intentionally funny and absurd look at an afterlife depicted purely in terms that would please the living, check out The Believer’s Heaven, a short film from the 70’s by Reverend Estus W Pirkle. Pirkle is well-known to bad movie fans for the classically bad flick If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? (see my bad movie page).

In The Believer’s Heaven Pirkle describes in great detail the houses and general lifestyle of “good” souls in Heaven. This ridiculous short will have you rolling with laughter and can be found on Youtube.

Modern religious nuts have also done some impressive work in the concept of miners excavating their way down to Hell itself. In the tradition of UFO and ghost “sightings” there is a whole new genre of nutcase “phenomena” regarding miners taping recordings of the sound of souls suffering in Hell – as if that infernal Netherworld would really, literally, be located underground like in ancient imaginings! These recordings are a riot to listen to if you can find them around the web. They’re as ridiculous as the “Electronic Voice Prints” that ghosts supposedly record on those hilarious ghost- hunting shows.


© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Filed under Ancient Greek Comedy

54 responses to “ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY: ORE MINERS (C 420’s BCE)

  1. This is my favorite of these comedies so far because of all the yummy food! I wish more of it had survived.

  2. Did you know you have the most information about these comedies than any other site on the internet?

  3. I don’t much like ancient history but the way you describe these old comedies is fascinating.

  4. Outstanding the way you make these ancient comedies sound so interesting!

  5. Really kewl! You are so good at making these sound interesting even if some1 doesn’t like ancient things.

  6. Ted

    Hi! These ancient greek comedy posts are my favorite parts of your blog!

  7. What an interesting topic! I can’t believe those ancient Greeks had such refined sense of humor.

    • Yep. A lot of ancient cultures were pretty sophisticated, but the rise of Islam and Christianity naturally set back society by centuries.

  8. Im excited to see you give such renown to these ancient comedies. Who knew they could be so much fun.

  9. Useful and funny descriptions of these comedies. Really enjoyable.

  10. I love these old comedies! You’ve gotten my whole family into them.

  11. I am really liking these reviews. I never would have imagined I would enjoy such ancient comedies so much!

  12. Okay well except for the shaven pubic areas this is my kind of heaven…

  13. Fine way to updated these things! Luv ur take on them and I never would have thought they would emphasize food so much for the afterlife.

  14. No matter how many times I come here I can’t believe the awesome odd things you write about! I love hearing about these ancient comedies.

  15. There’s nothing more you can tell us about the rest of this comedy?

  16. Wow, I love the way u describe these comedies. I can’t believe how much we can still relate to them.

  17. Hi! I could read u talking about these comedies all day!

  18. Yeah I want the hot young boys serving me wine, not shaved women

  19. Pingback: common circle education

  20. Pingback: Hillview

  21. My dream retirement is living on a 45ft center cockpit Hunter sailboat with my man and dog sailing the inter coastal waterways, the Caribbean, and any port I choose.

  22. Awesome and daring comedies!

  23. Thank you, I’ve recently been searching for info about this subject for a while and yours is the best I’ve discovered till now. However, what about the conclusion? Are you positive in regards to the supply?

  24. Very informative blog article.Much thanks again.

  25. Howdy! Would you mind if I share your blog with my zynga group?
    There’s a lot of people that I think would really
    enjoy your content. Please let me know. Cheers

  26. Luz

    Thanks for another informative blog. Where else could I get that type of information written in such a perfect way? I’ve a project that I’m just now working on, and I’ve been on the look out for such info.

  27. I’d must check with you here. Which is not some thing I ordinarily do! I appreciate reading a post that can make people today think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

  28. Nathan L

    really strange ideas about life after death they had.

  29. Joanne

    I wish more of these old comedies had survived.