Tag Archives: Ancient Greek Comedies

TWO MORE ANCIENT GREEK COMEDIES SEEN THROUGH MODERN EYES

Balladeer’s Blog’s previous looks at Seven Ancient Greek Comedies with Themes That Are Still Relevant , Four More Ancient Greek Comedies and Five More Ancient Greek Comedies … went over pretty well, so here are two more.

frank n furterBAPTAE – Written by Eupolis, one of the Big Three of ancient Greek comedians. Aristophanes and Cratinus were the other two. This comedy satirized the latest “hot new cult” to hit Athens – worship of the Dorian and Thracian goddess Cotyto.

Practitioners would immerse, or “baptize” their garments in water containing exotic dyes, hence the term Baptae to describe them. Continue reading

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FIVE MORE ANCIENT GREEK COMEDIES VIEWED THROUGH A MODERN LENS

Balladeer’s Blog’s previous look at Seven Ancient Greek Comedies with Themes That Are Still Relevant went over pretty well, so here are five more.

aristophanes picTHE BANQUETERS – By Aristophanes. This was the very first comedy from the Athenian whose name is synonymous with ancient Greek comedies, especially political satires. The nineteen-year-old presented a landowner from Athens whose two sons were being introduced to his phratry brothers at a banquet dedicated to Herakles. 

The sons were on opposite ends of what we would today call the political left & the political right. Following an argument between the two of them they switch friend groups to see who can handle the other’s daily life better. Jokes abound about values, hair styles, tastes in music and more. Continue reading

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CRATES: ANCIENT GREEK COMEDIES

Balladeer’s Blog takes another look at the surviving fragments of an ancient Greek comedian, in this case Crates.

CratesCRATES – Crates’ career spanned from approximately the 450s B.C. to the 430s B.C. We have fragments from nine or ten comedies from an unknown total output. From other sources we know that comedies as stage productions began sometime around 500 B.C. or earlier so Crates came fairly early to the artform.

Crates was credited with being the first Athenian comic poet (the comedies were written in verse and included songs) to introduce drunken characters, still a comic staple over 2,400 years later. Aristotle himself credited Crates as being the first to abandon the “glorified comic monologues” approach of the oldest comedies and introducing fleshed-out plots and storylines.

Be that as it may, there is still a great deal of academic arguing over whether or not Crates’ work simply reflected the influence of Epicharmus, who may well have been the TRUE innovator.

Crates was supposedly an actor before he began writing comedies (But I’m sure he really wanted to direct. – rimshot – ) and his brother was Epilycus, one of the Epic Poets. Eusebius’ Chronicles stated that Crates was a well-known comedian by 451 B.C. and Demetrius Lacon in his work On Poetry indicates that Crates may have acted in some of Aeschylus’ tragedies before switching genres. 

KNOWN WORKS 

NeighborsNEIGHBORS – We do not have even a hypothetical year for this work, unfortunately. Since titles sometimes referred to the all-important Chorus of a Greek comedy there is speculation that the chorus members were “Neighbors” of some sort (Duh!) but nothing is known about the plot.

 Athenaeus argued that Crates’ use of a drunken character in this comedy PRE-DATED Epicharmus’ use of stage drunks, so apparently even back in ancient times this was being debated.    Continue reading

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TAXIARCHOI (C 427-415 B.C.): ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY

TaxiarchoiBalladeer’s Blog presents another examination of an ancient Greek comedy.

TAXIARCHOI (Tax Collectors) – By Eupolis. Tax Day – which April 15th USUALLY is – is the most appropriate day to examine this comedy because its premise serves as a pointed reminder of the inherent ugliness in all taxation – that the power to impose and collect taxes is, ultimately, backed up by the use of force. (If you doubt me go without paying your personal property taxes. Then we’ll discuss how much you truly “own” your home or your car.)  

In Taxiarchoi the god Dionysus is depicted joining the title military unit. Those Taxiarchoi units would periodically collect the “taxes” or – in its most honest form – “tribute” from the various regions, not only of Athens proper but of the Athenian subject states. Military units were necessary for such tasks for the reasons you would expect – attempted resistance on the part of those being taxed and/or attempted robbery by bands of thieves after the taxes had been collected.    

Sometimes a particular community might try to poor-mouth their circumstances and provide the taxiarchs with less money than had been assessed against them. In such cases the officer in charge was empowered to either seize portable property to make up the difference or to ransack the town and its vicinity to determine if the citizens were simply hiding their wealth. Continue reading

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COTTABUS PLAYERS (CIRCA 420s B.C.): ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY

Balladeer’s Blog examines yet another ancient Greek comedy which has survived only in fragmentary form.

Theater of Dionysus

The Ruins of the Theater of Dionysus in Athens.

COTTABUS PLAYERS (c 420s B.C.) – This comedy was written by Ameipsias, whose career as an Athenian comic poet ran from approximately the 420s B.C. to the 390s B.C. In the Dionysia Festival of 423 B.C. he won 2nd Place for his comedy Connus and in 414 B.C’s Dionysia he won 1st place for The Revelers. Ameipsias also won 1st place at a Lenaea Festival but the year and title of his entry are not known.

Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog will remember that Cottabus was a party game in ancient Athens and had two variations. The “lesser” variation involved the hard-drinking guests (and virtually ALL guests at ancient Athenian parties were hard-drinking) throwing the wine-lees at the bottoms of their cups at a plate balanced on a pole, with the winner being the one who knocked the plate off the pole.

masc chair and bottleThe “greater” variation, to the proud, sea-faring Athenians, who “ruled the waves” long before Britons came along, involved throwing their wine-lees at plates floating in a pool, with the winner being the one who sank each plate. This small-scale equivalent of naval warfare was, according to Athenaeus, the more prestigious version and was characteristic of a more “high-end” party.

The all-important Chorus of this comedy by Ameipsias was presumably a set of rowdy, drunken Cottabus players. Let’s take a look at what can be gleaned from the surviving fragments:

** The comedy’s characters were SO drunk (“How drunk were they?”) they were using their projectile vomiting instead of wine-lees to sink the floating plates.      Continue reading

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POLEIS (CITIES): ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY

Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of ancient Greek comedies. 

classical greecePOLEIS – In this post I’m looking at Poleis (Cities), written by Eupolis, one of the Big Three of Ancient Greek Comedy along with Aristophanes and Cratinus. This satirical comedy is dated from approximately 422 B.C. to 419 B.C.  Like so many other such comedies it has survived only in fragmentary form.

The title refers to the all-important Chorus in ancient Greek comedies. In this case the chorus consisted of actors costumed to represent some of the city-states which were under the influence of Athens at the time.

As for how people can be “costumed” as cities, picture how it would be done with American cities. The chorus member representing New York might be depicted as the Statue of Liberty, Saint Louis as the Arch, Pittsburgh as a steel worker, Los Angeles as a brain-dead movie star and so on.

Part of the political satire dealt with the love-hate relationship that many subject- states had with Athens. Being the combination Paris/ Tokyo/ New York City of its time, Athens had a lot to offer its allied polities, but a certain air of tension always existed because of what some of those locations felt were Athens’ high-handed ways of dealing with them.

Eupolis depicted the personified subject-states/ allied states as workers with a not altogether beloved “boss,” Athens. Continue reading

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ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY: COTHURNUS (circa 405 B.C.)

The Ruins of the Theater of Dionysus in Athens.

The Ruins of the Theater of Dionysus in Athens.

Balladeer’s Blog takes another look at an ancient Greek comedy. This time around I’m examining Cothurnus by Philonides, a comic poet who may also have acted and produced for the Athenian stage as well. It cannot be definitively determined if the “Philonides” referred to in those capacities are all one and the same or separate figures.

THE PLAY  

Like most ancient Greek comedies Cothurnus has survived only in fragmentary form and with very few fragments at that. The title refers to a type of footwear of the time period. A cothurnus could be worn on either the left foot or the right foot because of its softness and looseness. Because of this the word “cothurnus” also became a sarcastic term for a politician who tried to position themselves on both sides of an issue, claiming victory no matter which way the political winds blew.

This is certainly another element of Old Comedy that we can still relate to 2,400 years later. Philonides was specifically using this term and this comedy to target Theramenes. Continue reading

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SYNOPSES FOR ANCIENT GREEK COMEDIES

map of greeceBy reader request here is a blog post featuring a brief synopsis of the subject matter to each of the dozens of reviews I’ve written of ancient Greek comedies. Some of you indicated that you don’t like clicking on one with no idea what it will be about, so here we go.

I will start with the Big Three of Aristophanes, Eupolis and Cratinus. 

FIRST – My overview of the themes of ancient Greek political satire. CLICK HERE

ARISTOPHANES

LYSISTRATA – The women of Athens and Sparta conspire to withhold sex from their men until they bring about an end to the Peloponnesian War. CLICK HERE 

THE CLOUDS – A comedic look at the lighter side of the Sophist revolution in education and scientific research, with an emphasis on rhetorical ploys used in the courts. CLICK HERE  

THE KNIGHTS – Aristophanes takes on the demagogue Cleon in this examination of the way dishonest candidates always have a built-in advantage in political campaigns. CLICK HERE

THE BIRDS – Proto-Orwellian fantasy in which two Athenians seeking to escape the increasingly oppressive atmosphere of their homeland join with birds to form the absurd Cloud-cuckooland. CLICK HERE  

THE BANQUETERS – A clash of generations and values begins when an Athenian farmer inducts his two sons into his Phratry. CLICK HERE 

MERCHANT SHIPS – Two merchant ships – one from Athens and one from Sparta – carve out a separate peace when they meet at sea. CLICK HERE

THESMOPHORIAZUSAE aka THE POET AND THE WOMEN – The women of Athens call for retribution against the famous tragedian Euripides for his negative portrayal of women in his plays. CLICK HERE

EUPOLIS

DEMOI – An Athenian man brings four dead statesmen back to life to set straight the mess that their political successors have made of the city-state. CLICK HERE

AUTOLYCUS – A less than bright athlete is supported for a political position by his well-to-do gay lover. CLICK HERE 

MARIKAS – Eupolis went after the demagogue Hyperbolus the way Aristophanes went after Cleon in this comedy. The corrupt Marikas was a fictional stand-in for Hyperbolus. CLICK HERE Continue reading

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ASK BALLADEER: FAVORITE ANCIENT GREEK COMEDIAN OUTSIDE OF ARISTOPHANES

Mascot new lookASK BALLADEER: Who is your favorite Attic Old Comedian outside of Aristophanes?

ANSWER: Enough people have asked this now that I’ll post this in the spirit of an FAQ. Outside of Aristophanes, of course, we have only fragments to go by, but I would go with Eupolis. His comedies like Demoi, Marikas, Baptae, Autolycus and Taxiarchoi have been covered here at Balladeer’s Blog. Continue reading

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BEST OF JANUARY 2018

Year-end is the time for retrospectives of the months just past. Here is a look at Balladeer’s Blog’s Best of January for 2018.

Flashman cutTHE TOP FIVE FLASHMAN NOVELS – Little did I know how wild the reaction would be to my reviews of what I consider to be the top five novels featuring George MacDonald Fraser’s infamous antihero Harry Paget Flashman.

Roguish and amoral Harry’s bed and battle historical adventures were new to a lot of readers. Reaction was so enthusiastic I wound up throwing in a bonus Sixth novel PLUS my speculations regarding assorted Lost Flashman Papers. To start click HERE

pherecrates logo from vaseCRATES: ANCIENT GREEK COMEDIES – Balladeer’s Blog took another look at the fragmentary remains of the works of yet another ancient Greek comedian.

Crates had nowhere near the impact of the big names like Aristophanes, Eupolis and Cratinus but his comic plays are still interesting in their own way. To read this item click HERE  

5.1.2ORION: THE ELVIS PRESLEY HOAX/ PUT-ON – Many readers felt this weird topic featured me at my myth-dissecting best.

For Elvis Presley’s birthday I examined obscure and bizarre folklore, demented conspiracy theories and the way the whole Orion/ Dead Elvis tableau presented fiction imitating real-life imitating fiction in a mad loop. Click HERE

Trump triREHASHING PRESIDENT TRUMP’S INCREDIBLE 2017 – De facto Third Party President Donald Trump showed the working class and the poor that at long last an American office-holder actually cared about them for the first time in decades.

Trump-o-crats, Re-Trump-licans and the entire Trumpen-proletariat had their economic suffering eased by the Donald, who has proven to be equal parts Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F Kennedy! I was expecting to hate Trump but he proved me wrong every step of the way, from the campaign onward. Click HERE 

*** TWELVE MORE COOL FOOTBALL HELMETS FROM NEGLECTED TEAMS – This one is a visual treat, so click HERE

mascot new look donkey and elephant headsTRANSGRESS WITH ME, JANUARY 13th – One of the earliest installments of what has become one of Balladeer’s Blog’s most controversial and hotly-debated recurring items.

Let your mind explore the forbidden in this fun but challenging bit by clicking HERE

chancellor manuscript 3ROBERT LUDLUM’S THE CHANCELLOR MANUSCRIPT – Balladeer’s Blog reviews Robert Bourne Identity Ludlum’s 1977 espionage novel that seems even more timely and possible here in 2018.

See an FBI run amok, Deep State oligarchs (See how old the term Deep State is?) and the consequences of lack of oversight of America’s sleazy, forever-corrupt intelligence agencies. For my review click HERE   

*** MOCK HEADLINES JANUARY 17th – One of the most popular and funniest items of the month. CLICK HERE

*** FACEBOOK IS FAKEBOOK: NOTHING IS WHAT IT SEEMS – What more need be said? Click HERE

*** MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY MULTIPLE CHOICE QUIZ – CLICK HERE

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