Tag Archives: Ancient Greece

ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY: AUTOLYCUS circa 420 B.C.

Jesse Ventura: Wrestler turned governor of Minnesota

Jesse Ventura: Wrestler turned governor of Minnesota

With the ongoing domestic violence situation with the NFL’s Ray Rice, the fake “drowning rescue” at USC plus the usual number of other scandals plaguing high-profile athletes at the moment this seemed a good time to examine the ancient Greek comedy Autolycus. This play was written by Eupolis who, along with Aristophanes and Cratinus constituted the Big Three of Attic Old Comedy. As with so many comedies of the time period Autolycus has survived only in fragmentary form, unfortunately.

THE PLAY

The title character of Eupolis’ comedy Autolycus was an Athenian athlete who earned a high degree of fame for his performance at the Great Panathenaia in 422 B.C. To simplify the concept the Great Panathenaia was a “local” version of the Olympic games and did not have participants from all over the known Western World.

Like so many figures from ancient Athens Autolycus had both male lovers and female lovers. The plot of this comedy dealt with the way in which Autolycus’ male lover Kallias – a wealthy heir – had begun grooming Autolycus for a run at political office. The play depicted Autolycus (son of Lykon) as being all muscles and no brains, prompting Kallias to insist his lover be “coached up” on politics by one of Lykon’s servants – an erudite man who suffered financial losses and was reduced to the lackey class in Athens.  

Once again we have an ancient Greek comedy with a theme we can still relate to today. On one level we can picture unlikely figures like Arnold Schwarzeneggar or Jesse Ventura successfully winning gubernatorial races despite their public reputations as “jocks” instead of statesmen. On a deeper level the theme of the comedy can also be applied to ANY figures who are deemed politically viable because of their accomplishments in a field COMPLETELY unrelated to the skills necessary to the art of governing.   Continue reading

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ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY: THE PAGEANT OF LETTERS (C 402 BCE)

Time for another examination of an ancient Greek comedy. In the past several months Balladeer’s Blog has reviewed dozens of examples of Attic Old Comedy. We’ve gotten to appreciate our shared humanity with the ancient Athenians, America’s forerunners in the experiment of democracy, with comedies that dealt with politics, economics, philosophy and irreverence for religion.

This time we’ll deal with a comedy that is more light-hearted for a change, but which deals with a subject that still affects a very large part of the world to Continue reading

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ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY: THE BANQUETERS (427 BCE)

 For background info on ancient Greek comedies and my previous reviews of them, click here (also features a list of my source books): https://glitternight.com/ancient-greek-comedies/

What Meet the Beatles was to the British Invasion, The Banqueters was to Attic Old Comedy. (Yes, I love silly comparisons) This play was the first comedy written by Aristophanes, the leading light of ancient Greek comedy, and was performed at the Lenaea festival of 427 BCE when Aristophanes was nineteen years old. The Banqueters won second prize, making it a very auspicious debut for the man often considered the greatest political satirist of the ancient world.

THE PLAY

The Banqueters is a comedy that once again lets us feel our shared humanity with the ancient Athenians, in this case over the perennial conflicts caused by Generation Gaps and the tension between pointlessly clinging to the past and pointlessly embracing new ideas just because they’re new, even though they may be just as flawed as the older ideas they replace. This is one of the many comedies of Aristophanes that survive in fragmentary form, not in their entirety. 

SYNOPSIS

An Athenian landowner with staid, old-fashioned views is hosting a lavish banquet in honor of Heracles. The attendees are the landowners’ Phratry- brothers (think of a cross between college fraternity brothers and social lodge brothers) and they are the title banqueters who make up the chorus of the play, offering wry commentary on the action of the comedy, often with jokes that break the fourth wall and address the audience directly.

The landowner is using the event to Continue reading

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