Tag Archives: Athenian democracy

MARIKAS (circa 421 B.C.): ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY

EupolisBalladeer’s Blog presents another look at an ancient Greek Comedy. This time around it’s one written by Eupolis who – along with Aristophanes and Cratinus – was one of the Big Three of Attic Old Comedy.

MARIKAS (c 421 B.C.) – This was the second comedy to emerge in the new subgenre of Attic Old Comedy called “the Demagogue Comedy”. Aristophanes led the way a few years earlier with The Knights, his comedy attacking the politician Cleon. The play Marikas finds Eupolis attacking the demagogue Hyperbolus, whose reputation for character assassination by way of overstatement lives on in our language by way of the word “hyperbole”.  

As with most ancient Greek comedies Marikas has survived only in fragmentary form. Those fragments, along with contemporary references in surviving works, provide what is known about the play. Marikas, the title character, was used by Eupolis to represent the politician Hyperbolus the same way Aristophanes had used the Paphlagonian to represent Cleon in The Knights. Continue reading

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ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY: THE CLOUDS (C 423 BCE)

FOR BACKGROUND INFORMATION IF YOU MISSED MY FIRST POST ON ANCIENT GREEK COMEDIES CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2011/09/22/at-long-last-my-ancient-greek-comedy-posts-begin/

The Clouds was written by Aristophanes around 423 BCE and next to Lysistrata, which I examined last week, is the Big A’s most- discussed satire, mostly because of its lampooning of the philosopher Socrates, a contemporary of Aristophanes. Many modern readers, who have been programmed to sneeringly “deconstruct” old works of art rather than understand them, love to regard this comedy with hostility. They accuse Aristophanes of being “anti – intellectual” for subjecting Socrates in particular and the Sophist philosophers in general to the same satirical criticism that every other aspect of Athenian society was subjected to in comic plays.

There are many arguments I can use to refute this claim, and  I’ll present them below following my synopsis of the play itself. To provide just a brief argument right now since you may be curious, let me remind everyone that Shakespeare is famous for the line about killing all the lawyers, but I’ve never met one rational person who thinks that line means Shakespeare was seriously proposing the execution of all lawyers or the elimination of the law and/or the  judiciary system. By the same token I hardly think Aristophanes was railing against every form of education or intellectual inquiry. More on this controversy, including the trial of Socrates, below. 

THE PREMISE

In the ancient Greek democracy Athenian citizens were expected to represent themselves in court in both criminal and civil proceedings.

Since juries are the same no matter what the time period a guilty person who was a good speaker could get acquitted while an innocent person who was an inept speaker could get found guilty.

Conversely, since there were no public prosecutors, citizens could charge their fellow Athenians with crimes and if they were skilled enough at speaking they could railroad an innocent person. Many Athenian citizens who faced a court date would Continue reading

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