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.
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. To give a comprehensive look at Theramenes’ political juggling act would take too much time, suffice it to say he would flip-flop not just on specific issues but would retroactively claim to have supported whichever side won, would change political affiliations again and again and even set up other public figures to take the fall for his own failures (like arranging for six generals to be blamed and executed for his own part in the Arginusae travesty). Continue reading