Tag Archives: Athens

LYSIPPUS: THREE ANCIENT GREEK COMEDIES

ancient-greece-mapBalladeer’s Blog once again focuses on one of the ancient Greek comedians whose entire corpus is very, very fragmentary, touching briefly on all of their known works. For background info on ancient Greek comedy plus my previous reviews click here: https://glitternight.com/ancient-greek-comedies/ 

LYSIPPUS – This writer of Attic Old Comedy redefines the expression “fragmentary” because even less is known about his life than about shadowy figures like Susarion and Epicharmus. Lysippus came in 1st place with an unknown comedy at a Dionysia around 440 BCE. Fragmentary evidence survives from just three of his comedies out of an unknown total body of work so this will be my shortest blog post on ancient Greek comedy. 

We’ll start with my favorite random quote from Lysippus’ fragments. It displays his pride in Athens and reflects the city-state’s status as the combined New York, Rome and Tokyo of its era:  “If you have never come to Athens you are a fool. If you have come to Athens and not been captivated by her charms you are  ignorant. If you have been captivated by the charms of Athens and ever left her you are but a beast.” 

I. BACCHAE – Not to be confused with the various tragedies of the same title or the comedy by Diocles. Too little survives to tell if the play presented a comedic version of the tragic events depicted in other works titled Bacchae. The parabasis included the type of segment that would later be frequently repeated in Attic Old Comedy as Lysippus took shots at his competitors. That segment featured joking insults that break the fourth wall and Continue reading

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DEMOI (C 417 B.C.) – ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY

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/

map of greeceAs promised this time around I’ll depart from the works of Aristophanes to examine the fragmentary remains of a work by another genius of Ancient Greek Comedy, in this case Eupolis. 

Eupolis was part of the Big Three of Ancient Greek Comedy (henceforth AGC) along with Aristophanes and Cratinus. Some people confuse Eupolis with the later Greek comedian Eubulus but manage to lead fairly normal lives just the same. (rimshot)

THE PREMISE

Demoi is considered to be Eupolis’ greatest political satire. The premise is simplicity itself. An Athenian named Pyronides, like many of his fellow citizens, is disgusted with the pettiness, corruption and incompetence of the current crop of political and military leaders in the great city-state. Thus motivated, Pyronides retrieves four of the greatest figures of Athens’ storied past from the Netherworld and brings them back with him so they may set things right.

THE PLAY

In my introductory post about AGC (see above) I illustrated the similar problems faced by the Athenians’ ancient experiment in popular rule and our own often teetering enterprise. Corruption, partisanship and a tendency to subordinate the general good in the name of personal gain  were as rampant then as now.

As all societies are prone to do, the Athenians romanticised the leaders of the past, believing them to be of a heroic stature lacking in the current crop of Athenian politicians and generals. Continue reading

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DEMOS-TYNDAREUS (410BC): ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY

classical greeceDEMOS-TYNDAREUS (410 BC) – Written by Polyzelus (see below for biographical details).

The Tyndareus part of this political comedy’s title refers to the mythical figure who came back from the dead like Lazarus in Christian beliefs. The Demos part is the embodiment of “the people” and comes from the same root word that “democracy” does. In this satire Demos represents the Athenian people just like he did in Aristophanes’ The Knights and in other comedies. Think of a figure like Uncle Sam representing Americans or John Bull representing the British or a person on their knees with their hands raised in surrender representing the French (rimshot). 

The title is referring to the resurrected democracy of Athens following the fall of the government imposed by the oligarchic coup of 411 BC – 410 BC. This restoration would later be followed by ANOTHER oligarchic coup six years later and another restoration of democracy, but of course none of this was known when Demos- Tyndareus was first performed. The scattered fragments reveal that the comedy dealt with an unknown figure orienting the resurrected Demos to the political climate of the newly- restored democracy. Continue reading

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CALLIPPIDES (circa 400 BC), THE ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY

Annoy your friends with your pretentiousness: refer to shows like I Love Lucy and Make Room for Daddy as "Parathespian Comedies."

Annoy your friends with your pretentiousness: refer to shows like I Love Lucy and Make Room for Daddy as “Parathespian Comedies.”

Balladeer’s Blog presents another examination of an ancient Greek comedy. Callippides was written by the comedian Strattis and falls into that comic poet’s specialized area: Parathespian Comedies.

Another fun element of our shared humanity with the ancient Athenians who flocked to attend these plays is the fact that even 2,400 years ago audiences were fascinated and entertained by the trappings of “showbiz”. “Parathespian Comedies” were just one of the many sub-genres of ancient Greek comedy but Strattis is the writer most associated with them … by me and the .000001 percent of the population who are into such things.

Yes, a few thousand years before I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Seinfeld and other such sitcoms the spectators at the Theatre of Dionysus were laughing at comedies depicting what it was like to be one of the performing, writing and singing stars of the Athenian stage. The Parathespian Comedies sometimes featured fictional stars as the characters but would also depict real-life figures of the stage in stories that were either wholly fictional or based on backstage gossip of the time.  

Callippides was based on the real-life actor and megastar of ancient Greek tragedies. In this particular case Strattis presented a very unflattering comedic poke at Callippides, making jokes that depicted him as a William Shatner-esque ham instead of the accomplished thespian he was often hailed as.   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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ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY: ALCAEUS

Balladeer’s Blog has  examined 24 ancient Greek comedies so far in terms of their continuing relevance over 2,400 years later. This will be the fourth time I will focus on one of the ancient Greek comedians whose entire corpus is very, very fragmentary, touching briefly on all of their known works. For background info on ancient Greek comedy plus my previous reviews click here: https://glitternight.com/ancient-greek-comedies/ 

ALCAEUS – This comic playwright came along for the tail end of Attic Old Comedy. Alcaeus’ career ranged from approximately 405 BCE to the 380s BCE and we have fragmentary remains of eight comedies from an unknown total body of work.

1. TRAGI-COMEDY – This play gave comedic treatment to the traditional rivalry between comedy and tragedy on the ancient Athenian stage. The comedy had fun with the Continue reading

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