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.
FOR MORE ANCIENT GREEK COMEDIES CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/ancient-greek-comedies/
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