Tag Archives: Eupolis

BAPTAE (Circa 415-413 B.C.): ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY

Dr Frank N FurterFor Balladeer’s Blog’s latest post on Ancient Greek Comedy I will examine another fragmentary work by Eupolis, who, along with Aristophanes and Cratinus was one of the Big Three of Attic Old Comedy.

BAPTAE was a comedy satirizing the latest faddish belief system to hit Athens: the cult of the Dorian and Thracian goddess Cotyto. Just like Kabala or transcendental meditation and other systems have enjoyed a brief vogue with entertainers and even some movers and shakers various foreign deities would periodically develop a following in ancient Athens. Eupolis was lampooning the fashionable appeal of one such cult and also ridiculed other elements of Cotyto worship as we will see.

The title Baptae came from the fact that the worshippers of Cotyto would immerse or “baptize” their garments in blue, green or purple dye, an expensive and very ostentatious indulgence for the time period. And yes, Baptae and baptizing are from the same root word, since it originally referred to immersion in any liquid, not just water.

The main element of the Athenian version of the cult of Cotyto was the fact that her devotees were exclusively male and all of them DRESSED AS THE GODDESS as part of their rites of worship. Even today we can Continue reading

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TAXIARCHOI (427-415 B.C.) FOR TAX DAY

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

TAXIARCHOI (Tax Collectors) – By Eupolis. Tax Day 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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MARIKAS (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.

The ancient Greek comedies made a point of breaking the fourth wall on a regular basis (despite the way so many people have convinced themselves that that is a “postmodern” development) and Marikas opened up with a character assuring the audience that the play they were about to see was NOT just a rehashing of The Knights. Continue reading

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

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

TAXIARCHOI (Tax Collectors) – By Eupolis. Tax Day 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.     Continue reading

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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: 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: BAPTAE (c: 415-413 BCE)

Dr Frank N Furter

Dr Frank N Furter

For Balladeer’s Blog’s latest post on Ancient Greek Comedy I will examine another fragmentary work by Eupolis, who, along with Aristophanes and Cratinus was one of the Big Three of Attic Old Comedy.

BAPTAE was a comedy satirizing the latest faddish belief system to hit Athens: the cult of the Dorian and Thracian goddess Cotyto. Just like Kabala or transcendental meditation and other systems have enjoyed a brief vogue with entertainers and even some movers and shakers various foreign deities would periodically develop a following in ancient Athens. Eupolis was lampooning the fashionable appeal of one such cult and also ridiculed other elements of Cotyto worship as we will see.

The title Baptae came from the fact that the worshippers of Cotyto would immerse or “baptize” their garments in blue, green or purple dye, an expensive and very ostentatious indulgence for the time period. And yes, Baptae and baptizing are from the same root word, since it originally referred to immersion in any liquid, not just water.

The main element of the Athenian version of the cult of Cotyto was the fact that her devotees were exclusively male and all of them DRESSED AS THE GODDESS as part of their rites of worship. Even today we can Continue reading

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EIGHT ANCIENT GREEK COMEDIES WITH THEMES THAT ARE STILL RELEVANT

Map

Map

The satirical comedies written and performed during the glory years of the ancient Athenian Democracy still pack a punch after more than 2,400 years. Athens faced many of the same issues and dilemmas we Americans face. Part of the reason for that is the fact that our founding fathers were great students of ancient Greek democracy and modeled some of our own institutions on the Athenian model.

The comedies are also much more sophisticated than modern audiences expect, featuring political views, sexual material and metatheatrical humor that seems several centuries ahead of their time. Breaking the fourth wall is not a postmodern concept like some people have convinced themselves – it was a convention established in these ancient works of comedy.

Irreverence toward any and all subjects – including the gods they worshipped – was permitted by the Athenians in the “anything goes” arena of the Theatre of Dionysus, where the comedies competed with each other at festivals, chiefly the Dionysia and the Lenaea.

TRIPHALLES – By Aristophanes. This comedy was a mythological burlesque and featured the fantastic story of the title character, a man with three penises. Mythological burlesques could be comedies that parodied the story of a specific mythological figure or could simply lampoon the grandiose approach of mythic tales. This would be done by employing the storytelling technique of a sweeping epic to tell a less-than-majestic story. Picture a modern-day grand opera about the John Holmes or Continue reading

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ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY: DEMOI (C 417 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/

As 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 Continue reading

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AT LONG LAST – MY ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY POSTS BEGIN!

After months of feeling outrightly overwhelmed by how much information I want to share on this subject, I figured I’d better just get started and let the posts flow naturally. I could be organizing my thoughts on this topic from now until December 21st of next year (rimshot) and still not have an overall idea of the most efficient way of laying it all out.

If readers of my blog think I have a ton of books covering obscure global mythology brace yourselves for the sheer dorkgasmic level of material I have on Ancient Greek Comedy. (Henceforth AGC) I’ve been into this topic since I was 17 years old and not only do I have multiple translations of each of Aristophanes’ surviving comedies but I also have multiple books  covering those comedies of his that have survived only in fragmentary form.

And, since I immerse myself in this topic with the same semi-psychotic attention to detail that I bring to  mythology I also have multiple books (in addition to copies of much-sought-after academic papers delivered at AGC seminars) that cover the fragmentary remains of THE OTHER ANCIENT GREEK  COMIC PLAYWRIGHTS!  Yes, you read that right, and my fellow AGC geeks know how hard that info is to come by, so even hard-core fans of Aristophanic comedy will be treated to what I hope is a fresh perspective on the topic. Thank whoever for the internet, where virtually ANYTHING can be tracked down if you try hard enough.

BY DEFAULT, IT ALWAYS COMES DOWN TO ARISTOPHANES

Aristophanes is considered the greatest political satirist of ancient Athens, the cultural center of a large part of the world at the time. During the low 400’s BCE and high 300’s BCE he wrote approximately 40 comedies, of which only 11 have survived in “complete” form. His contemporaries, and there were dozens, were not so lucky. None of their works have survived in their entirety. Period. Today we have only fragments of the work of the other ancient Greek comedians, including the other 2 members of AGC’s Big 3 – the 2 joining Aristophanes in that trio being Cratinus and Eupolis. Of Susarion, credited with pioneering comedy in the 6th Century BCE, only his name has come down to us. Not even fragments of his plays survive.

The reason for the odd survival rate of Aristophanes’ works compared to the ancient Greek comedians who came before and during his period of activity is easy to explain. Aristophanes was Continue reading

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