Balladeer’s Blog has examined 21 ancient Greek comedies so far in terms of their continuing relevance over 2,400 years later. This will be the third 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/
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
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