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II Un enjeu au niveau dramaturgique
II, 1 Le regard dans l’intrigue

Widening Horizons and the Blind Spot in New Comedy

William Furley
p. 155-181

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Index de mots-clés :

Blind Spot, Vision, Seeming, Menander
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Texte intégral

  • 1 Forsa, Gesellschaft für Sozialforschung und statistische Analysen mbH, Max-Beer-Straße 2, 10119 Be (...)
  • 2 Generally : M. M. Austin, The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest, Cambridge, C (...)

1A recent study by the Forsa Institute in Germany discovered that (mainly young) people could not relax on holiday because they were always trying to follow developments at work and at home through the internet and social networks1. In the words of the study’s authors « they simply did not want to miss anything » and as a result failed to enjoy their holiday properly. The study points to the difficulty (impossibility) of being in two places at once. Wherever one is, something exciting or worrying may be happening where one isn’t. This fact of life was exploited in a new and creative way by the poets of New Comedy, Menander chiefly. His comedy depends to a considerable degree on what we may call the « blind spot » which develops when someone is absent from home. A new situation develops behind the person’s back and without his / her awareness ; when that person returns they have a « blind spot » leading to intrinsically comical misunderstandings and misapprehensions. The trip abroad may broaden the individual’s horizon in terms of new sights, new surroundings and experiences, but the broadening of perspective is acquired at the price of losing touch with developments at home. To a remarkable degree New Comedy is based on the interruption of perception through the mobility in Greece and its Eastern neighbour states of the main characters. Sometimes this mobility is of the individuals’ free will : we have soldiers serving in mercenary armies overseas who return to find their domestic lives in tatters. We hear of business trips to other Greek cities or to Asia Minor from which the men return unaware of changes and secret scheming in their own homes. Sometimes the mobility is forced upon people, when they are sold into slavery, for example, and only later freed ; or captured by pirates and abducted to foreign lands, to return ultimately to their rightful positions. This mobility in the Mediterranean area of course reflects a new historical reality following the Macedonian conquest of Greece and the East. Large mercenary armies were recruited to do the Macedonians’ fighting ; the forced unification of Greek city states into what was effectively a Macedonian empire had the doubtful advantage of loosening a person’s ties with his own city-state and opening up the possibility of a move abroad, in search of wealth, land or property2.

  • 3 In P. Oxy. 1176 fr. 39 col. 7 lines 6-22, Satyros says : « Or the matter of reversals, [involving] (...)
  • 4 E. g. The Hero, The Apparition, The Arbitration (here the baby does not grow up).
  • 5 I follow the version in Sophocles’ play.

2The blind spot was not invented by Menander or his rivals. There were famous incidents of blind spots in earlier drama. When we examine these, however, we find that the figurative blindness has a religious, or mythical, cause which is quite different to that exploited by Menander. In Euripides’ Ion, for example, the child Ion is transported from Athens following birth by Creusa by the agency of Apollo ; the god removes his child to his oracular seat in Delphi, with the result that the boy’s mother fails to recognize her son when she visits Delphi and comes within an inch of killing the boy through disillusioned rage at Apollo. It was an observation made already by ancient critics that the poets of New Comedy used plot elements such as rape and the exposure of children and later recognition following Euripides’ lead3. But we note the huge difference in the circumstances under which Ion was transported to Delphi from the typical scenario in Menander : a girl is raped by a man, exposes the child from shame ; later in life the baby, grown up now, discovers its true parentage and the natural order is restored. That is the situation in a whole series of Menander’s plays4. The element of divine intervention is completely elided in Menander ; the blind spot is caused by chance and human fallibility, not by any divine scheme. When we consider the classic case of tragic blindness, that of Oedipus, we see again how Oedipus’ actions are in response to divine order rather than the result of quite normal human fallibility. His father exposed him on the strength of an Apolline oracle ; taken to Corinth and reared in the royal household there as heir to the throne, it was his determination to avoid fulfilling the oracle which foretold that he would kill his own father and marry his own mother which led to him leaving Corinth. Oedipus’ blind spot was engineered, one might say, by Apolline authority. And when Oedipus commits the fateful homicide and enters into marriage with Jocasta in Thebes, it is again Apollo who informs him that the resulting plague must be assuaged by finding and punishing the murderer of Laios5. Oedipus’ absence from Thebes during his youth and hence blindness to his true parentage is not the result of business or military ventures, or chance abduction by human traffickers, as in Menander, but is part of some larger mythical plan laid down by the gods.

  • 6 Recent commentaries on the play include A. W. Gomme & F. H. Sandbach, Menander : A Commentary, Lon (...)
  • 7 98-100 : πόντος […] ἀηδία τις πραγμάτων. Βυζάντιον.
  • 8 129-132 : γαμετὴν ἑταίραν, ὡς ἔοικ᾿, ἐλάνθανον / ἔχων.
  • 9 M. Faure-Ribreau finds in the comedies of Terence, in this volume, cf. supra p. 111-134, that misu (...)

3A prime example of Menander’s exploitation of the blind spot comes in The Girl from Samos6. Demeas and his friend Nikeratos have been away in the Black Sea area for some time, presumably on some kind of business trip7. During Demeas’ absence from home his adopted son Moschion has become intimate with Nikeratos’ daughter and fathered a child by her. When the father returns, both he and his son want the same thing, but against a quite different background. Demeas and Nikeratos have been planning the wedding of their respective son and daughter anyway ; Moschion urgently wants to ask his father for permission to marry the girl in order to render the child legitimate. But on no account should Demeas learn of his son’s illegitimate baby. To avoid that, Moschion and Chrysis, Demeas’ pallake (the woman from Samos of the title), plan a deceit ; Chrysis will act as if the child is hers. Now when Demeas discovers this « fact », that his concubine has fathered his child in his absence, he is angry enough, as that is not what a woman in her position is for8. Then, to make matters worse, he overhears a conversation between household personnel while he is concealed in a storeroom, which convinces him Moschion must be the child’s father (which indeed he is). He falsely puts two and two together and arrives at the conclusion that his son Moschion has been cheating with his lady love Chrysis while he was away9. The bottom of his world is pulled from under him and he rants and raves in fury with the son who appears to have deceived him. Moreover, Nikeratos eventually discovers that Moschion is the child’s father by his daughter and he, too, sees red. We see here how easily the blind spot in Demeas’ perception, followed by that of Nikeratos, develops. His prolonged absence leads to a quite false perception of developments at home in the interim. While he has been developing his business interests in the Black Sea area (we presume) and forging relations of kedeia with his friend Nikeratos, his domestic situation has been changing in a way unknown to, and uncontrolled by, himself. The comedy of the situation arises from the blind spot in his perception. As in all Menandrean comedies, the conundrum is resolved by the end and « they all live happily ever after », with Moschion married to Nikeratos’ daughter and Demeas reconciled to son and concubine Chrysis, but it is a rough ride for all the characters until they reach this end.

  • 10 106-111 : Νι. : ἐκεῖν᾿ ἐθαύμαζον μάλιστα, Δημέα, / τῶν περὶ ἐκεῖνον τὸν τόπον· τὸν ἥλιον / οὐκ ἦν (...)
  • 11 Though A. H. Sommerstein (forthcoming) explains the remark as referring to the meteorological fact (...)
  • 12 The comic irony is already flagged by Demeas’ opening remark in 96-97 : ..]ουν μεταβολῆς αἰσθάνεσθ (...)

4If we turn to the initial lines introducing the two friends’ return from their trip abroad, it seems, in hindsight, as if Menander is pointing to the diminished perception brought about in Demeas through his absence. The two men compare notes on the different atmospheric conditions in Athens and Pontus. They say that the Attic air is refreshingly clear and sunny whilst the sky around Pontus is somehow misty, impeding clear vision10. One wonders what is the sense of these remarks : is it simply the two men’s relief at returning to their home city, reflected in their appreciation of the local air ? Or could it be that atmospheric conditions in the Black Sea area are, or were perceived to be, generally mistier than in Greece ? The latter can hardly be true11. The remark may have an ironical sense, however, reflecting Menander’s conscious exploitation of the blind spot. The two men think they see more clearly now they have returned to Attica, whilst in fact their perception is clouded when it comes to appreciating what is going on under both their noses at home. Their happiness in returning to Athens’ « clear air » will soon be overshadowed by a domestic cloud which threatens to darken all their lives12.

  • 13 For recent studies cf. D. C. Beroutsos, A Commentary on the Aspis of Menander. Part One : Lines 1- (...)
  • 14 On the legal background to this play see P. G. McC. Brown, « Menander’s Dramatic Technique and the (...)

5We know enough about a series of « soldier » plays by Menander to see that the theme of a soldier returning (or not) from abroad was a favoured way of generating the blind spot which precipitates comedy. Perhaps the classic case is The Shield13. Here, as in The Girl from Samos, we will see that details in the play’s opening scenes point to the obscurity of vision which characterizes the homecoming. Kleostratos has been serving abroad in Lycia in Asia Minor attended by his old tutor Daos. In one skirmish with the enemy Kleostratos lost his life and was found three days later, dead and bloated, beside his shield. At least, that was the obvious assumption made by members of his camp, including Daos. Now Daos returns to Athens with the sad news of Kleostratos’ death, but bringing with him the dead hero’s considerable spoils from the campaign. In other words, his wealth, but not his life, has been preserved. This new situation, as it is perceived by his close relatives, sets the comedy in motion. In particular, Smikrines, the avaricious uncle, sets his sights on marrying Kleostratos’ daughter, the epikleros, heiress of Kleostratos’ estate14. Daos and the father of the young man who was betrothed to Kleostratos’ daughter, set about opposing him in this purpose, with hilarious effect. What the characters are not aware of, their blind spot, is told to the audience in the prologue by Tyche, Lady Luck. She says that the tragedy of Kleostratos’ death is imaginary, as, in fact, another man had taken up his shield on the day of the military engagement ; that man had died, Kleostratos survived, although he was taken captive. Tyche announces that Kleostratos will shortly return home, safe and sound. So much for the comic mechanism of the blind spot here.

  • 15 72-73 : Σμ. : πῶς οὖν οἶσθα; Δα. : ἔχων τὴν ἀσπίδα / ἔκειτο : « Smikrines : How do you know [scil. (...)
  • 16 70-72 : τετάρτην ἡμέραν / ἐρριμμένοι γὰρ ἦσαν ἐξωιδηκότες / τὰ πρόσωπα : « three days they’d been (...)
  • 17 29-30 : ἡμᾶς δ᾿ ἀτάκτους πρὸς τὸ μέλλον ἤγαγε / τὸ καταφρονεῖν : « our scorn [scil. of the enemy’s (...)
  • 18 41-43 : λαθόντες τοὺς σκοποὺς / τοὺς ἡμετέρους οἱ βάρβαροι λόφον τινὰ / ἐπίπροσθ᾿ ἔχοντες ἔμενον : (...)
  • 19 106-108. It is not said explicitly that Kleostratos took up the other man’s shield (ἑτέροις ἐκβοηθ (...)

6When we turn to the details of the scene which generates the blind spot, there are interesting indications that Menander is conscious of the crucial importance of correct perception in interpreting apparent facts. Daos is deceived in his perception of the battle scene by two factors : a young man is found dead beside Kleostratos’ shield. The obvious deduction is that it is Kleostratos himself15. Recognition of the body itself is impeded by the fact that Daos only comes upon it three days after the engagement, and heat and exposure to the elements have bloated the body beyond recognition16. Then, when we hear Daos’ description of the engagement, further aspects of obscured vision become apparent. The mercenaries in Kleostratos’ company had become overconfident following repeated victories over the enemy and had taken rich spoils from captured enemy territory. They slackened their guard and engaged in drinking in the evening17. The enemy, meanwhile, occupied high ground close to the Greeks’ camp, unseen by them18. They obviously used « dead ground » behind the hill to approach it and occupy it. One night, when the Greeks were revelling, they fell upon them with the element of surprise on their side. It was on this occasion that Kleostratos and the other soldier, in their haste to defend themselves, snatched up each other’s shield19. The reduced alertness caused by alcohol, the advantage of an unseen attack, the cover of night — all these things contribute to the chaos in the Greek camp which led, ultimately, to the blind spot back home, where Kleostratos’ relatives fight over his daughter and his estate as if he were dead. Toward the end of the play, he clearly returns, thus setting matters right, one assumes. Daos’ mistake (110 : διημάρτηκεν) is made to seem natural enough (eikos in Aristotelian terms) ; my point is that the narrative prepares the ground for the basic confusion in the plot : the relatives back home mistakenly taking Kleostratos for dead. His supposed death could have been engineered in any number of ways : missing in action, taken prisoner and reportedly killed, drowned at sea. Menander has taken care to point out that a sequence of faulty perceptions — by the Greek forces in defending their camp, and by Daos in jumping to conclusions from finding Kleostratos’ shield among the fallen — led to the error. The blind spot is not just an accidental feature of the story, but rather a central motif.

  • 20 On this play see my forthcoming edition (London, ICS).
  • 21 Cf. fr. 5 Sandbach ; supplemented in line 32 Sandbach of the play.
  • 22 144 : βέβαιον δ᾿ οὐθὲν ὧι κατελείπετο.
  • 23 Thus M. Lamagna, op. cit. n. 6, s. u. and W. Furley (forthcoming).

7Other mercenary plays exploit this basic problem involved in service overseas : the mercenary may gain booty and, no doubt, experience of action in foreign lands bringing with it glory in some degree, but it is inevitably accompanied by a prolonged absence from home, during which all manner of complications may occur. In The Rape of the Locks the returning soldier Polemon learns that his pallake Glykera has been seen kissing another young man on her doorstep. The jealous rage which this causes is the prime mover of this play. In fact the « other man » is her brother, known to no one except the girl herself. The blind spot here is in Polemon’s perception of a situation which is, in fact, innocent, but appears to him clear evidence of infidelity20. In The Hated Man reconstruction of the situation is hampered by the damaged state of the text but it seems that the basic situation is similar to that in The Rape of the Locks. The returning soldier in this case (this time from service in Cyprus)21, Thrasonides, finds that the woman he loves has turned against him and now hates him (hence the title). It seems she has discovered the sword of her brother among his war booty and has come to the conclusion that Thrasonides is the slayer of her brother. As in The Shield, the blind spot here is generated by action abroad which comes to be misinterpreted back home. In these plays we can generalize the effect of these mercenaries’ mobility. The new importance of mercenary service in the period of the diadochoi meant that men could become rich by serving under Macedonian commanders far from home. What they gained in terms of wealth they were, however, prone to lose through broken circumstances at home. On returning to their native cities after service overseas they might find their partners disaffected, or they themselves might misinterpret a changed situation at home. One might say that the widening of their geographical sphere of action leads to diminished understanding of the oikos, their own home. In the prologue of The Rape of the Locks the deity speaking there, the blind spot personified, Agnoia, says that Glykera’s foster mother told the girl who her brother was because the man she was leaving her to (Polemon) was hardly a reliable bulwark in her life22. Presumably the old lady meant that, as a mercenary soldier, Polemon was likely to be absent from home for long periods, during which Glykera would be unprotected and vulnerable to other predatory men (such as Moschion seems initially to be)23.

  • 24 In lines 281-282 it emerges that Stratophanes was given as a baby « to a woman from abroad who wan (...)
  • 25 As W. G. Arnott in the Loeb edition points out (Menander, 1979, III p. 206), perhaps it was Strato (...)
  • 26 Thus M. Balme, Menander. The Plays and Fragments, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002, translati (...)

8A play which is badly preserved but which seems to have depended to a more than average degree on the vagaries and vicissitudes of chance caused by geographical mobility is The Sikyonian. Recovered from mummy cartonnage, a process which itself exhibits a good degree of tyche, the fragments permit reconstruction of the plot to a certain extent, although much remains conjectural. Stratophanes is the soldier here. He believes he is from Sicyon in the Peloponnese. He has served abroad chiefly in Caria. While there once he bought a girl and her attendant at market. The child had been sold into slavery by pirates, we learn, who had captured her and the slave Dromon. The father was an Athenian, Kichesias. In the play, the girl Philoumene, now a young woman, and still a virgin, we are told, is loved by two suitors : Stratophanes her « owner » and Moschion. The play takes place at Eleusis, an Athenian deme. Identity in this play is thus confused by two aspects of « globalization », to use a modern term. In the first place Stratophanes serves in the army in Caria, having been brought up by a « woman stranger » (presumably in Sikyon), not his true mother, who turns out to have been none other than Smikrines’ wife (Smikrines is the true father of Stratophanes and Moschion)24. In the second, the child Philoumene is taken by pirates and sold at market in Mylasa in Caria, where she is acquired by Stratophanes or perhaps his foster-father before him25. The deracination of Stratophanes and Philoumene is thus largely forced upon them. The joining of their fates in Caria is brought about partly by force (pirates) and partly by voluntary military service when the Sikyonian Stratophanes signs up for service under a Macedonian commander, presumably, in Caria. The plot is further complicated by a subsidiary strand of the story, also involving non-Athenian influence. Stratophanes’ supposed father had lost a lawsuit to a Boeotian and owed much money. When he died, Stratophanes became liable to pay this debt. When Theron and Stratophanes confer to try and avoid this liability, Theron comments on one point « you were [not] here and [made] no reckoning of anything »26. He is pointing to precisely the problem at issue here : absence leads to diminished control of one’s domestic affairs.

  • 27 Cf. W. E. Major, « Menander in a Macedonian World », GRBS 38 (1997), p. 41-73. On the miles glorio (...)

9One might think that service abroad for these mercenaries would bring with it a worldliness, a wider experience of life, a broader horizon. No doubt it did in fact, but Menander hardly thematizes this aspect. In other writers the returning soldier does have special status ; sometimes he acts the role of the miles gloriosus, one who boasts of military prowess in the field when he returns home. Menander does not seem to have liked this comic type27. His soldiers tend to be the opposite of war heroes, whether empty boasters (alazon) or truly hardened warriors. On the contrary, they tend to be helpless and vulnerable when confronted with domestic crises. Their military training does not help them when faced with a recalcitrant lover. Both Polemon and Thrasonides in The Rape of the Locks and The Hated Man respectively are shown as sorry figures when their lady loves turn against them. It is the kind of irony which Menander loves : the weaker sex dominates the supposedly stronger male.

  • 28 See D. B. Durham, The Vocabulary of Menander Considered in its Relation to the Koine, Amsterdam, H (...)
  • 29 Cf. W. Furley, « P.Oxy. 2658 (= PCG vol. 8, 1103) — Menander’s Perikeiromene after all ? », ZPE 18 (...)
  • 30 D. B. Durham, op. cit., p. 35 : « Instead therefore of accepting the judgment of that class of cri (...)

10Where Menander does betray some awareness of contact with the new order set up by the Macedonian conquests is in vocabulary28. Typical Macedonian armour such as the sarisa, pike, pelte, shield, kausia, felt cap, are used by his Athenian and Corinthian mercenaries. Ancient grammarians criticized Menander’s language for not being pure Attic. One of the reasons for their censure was that some words were allegedly « Alexandrian, Macedonian, or Hellenic » rather than Attic29. Some of these alleged impurities are questionable. Their number is also, as D. B. Durham points out, not that great considering the hundred odd plays which Menander is accredited with. We should not conclude from this list that Menander’s language is anything other than Attic with occasional « foreign » touches. That is precisely what we would expect from an Athenian author writing within the tradition of Attic comedy in a period when Athens had been forcibly opened up to the greater Greek world by the Macedonian conquests30.

  • 31 S. West, « Another Type of Phrygian : A Note on Menander’s Aspis », ZPE 183 (2012), p. 30-32.
  • 32 The Girl from Samos, The Farmer, The Harp-Player and Double Deceiver respectively.
  • 33 Nos. 4, 18 and 4, 19 ; cf. A. Koerte, « Menander und Glykera », Hermes 54 (1919), p. 87-93 and RE (...)
  • 34 Cf. E. W. Handley, « Notes on the Theophoroumene of Menander », BICS 16 (1969), p. 88-101.
  • 35 Andria, Androgynos or Cres, Achaioi, Boiotia, Dardanos, Ephesios, Thettale, Imbrioi, Carine, Carxe (...)
  • 36 See W. T. MacCary, « Menander’s Slaves : Their Names, Roles, and Masks », TAPhA 100 (1969), p. 277 (...)
  • 37 For discussion of similar issues with regard to the ancient novel, a genre which owes much in its (...)

11We have already seen how his soldiers typically serve in the states of Asia Minor : Caria, Lycia, Phrygia31. His businessmen go to places such as the Greek Pontus, Corinth, Ephesus32. Menander himself is depicted in fictional letters by Alkiphron of receiving an invitation by Ptolemaios to reside in Alexandria in Egypt, an invitation which the letter depicts him as declining33. Perhaps the plays centering on possession by Cybele such as The Girl Possessed by a God and (the totally lost) Beggar-Priest of Rhea might also be taken to reflect contact with that goddess’s cult, which was particularly associated with areas of Asia Minor34. A considerable number of titles of lost plays show that some stranger(s) from overseas (from Athens’ point of view) featured prominently35. A number of these titles are ethnics in the feminine singular ; no doubt, as in The Girl from Samos, a woman from the place named was a focus of the action. Most of the places mentioned are Greek-speaking, though widely scattered through the Greek world. Not surprisingly, true foreigners speaking a different language did not feature prominently on Menander’s stage. Many slave names, of course, indicate an origin in non-Greek speaking foreign countries, mainly in Asia Minor : Getas (Thrace), Syros, Syra and Syriskos (Syrian), Karion (Carian), for example36. The cumulative effect of all these non-Athenian elements is, however, to point to greater internationalism (within the Greek-speaking world) than previously. In this paper so far I have been arguing that « globalization », then, was a contributory factor in the development of Menander’s comedy of mistaken identities and mis-perception. While the horizon of people’s experiences widened, gaps opened in the continuity of life back home, gaps in which comic agnoia could arise37.

  • 38 To use a Lucretian metaphor.
  • 39 E. g. Ion, the lost plays Alope and Auge. For the relation of Alope to Menander’s The Arbitration (...)
  • 40 See W. Furley, « Drama at the Festival : A Recurrent Motif in Menander », in J. R. C. Cousland & J (...)
  • 41 Among known instances : Tauropolia : The Arbitration, The Girl from Samos 38-48 ; Adonia : The App (...)
  • 42 Moschion says he encountered Phanias’ daughter at the girls’ festival of Artemis called deipnophor (...)
  • 43 « Menander’s Epitrepontes and the Festival of the Tauropolia », ClAnt 31 (2012), p. 151-192.

12So far we have been looking at travel (apodemia), whether forced or voluntary, as a way of generating the blind spot which underlies a comedy. There is another, parallel, technique by which Menander creates a diversion from the continuity of daily life, during which an irrational swerve38 can happen, and that is the religious festival. This was no new phenomenon which first makes its appearance in New Comedy. Euripides, for example, has several examples of festivals providing the backdrop to irregular action such as the rape of a woman participant and the resultant illegitimate birth39. In Menander this scenario becomes almost a mannerism40. Countless are the children born from illicit nocturnal sexual intercourse taking place during a religious festival : the children born from such unions are illegitimate, hence a cause of shame to their mothers. They are commonly exposed or given away but — and this belongs to the mannerism of New Comedy, they grow up — their true identity is discovered, resulting in the regaining of their citizenship and, in the case of girls, their marriageability41. In The Arbitration Pamphile is raped by (her future husband) Charisios during an all-night vigil (pannychis) at the Tauropolia festival. Because it had been night, Charisios failed to recognize in his future wife (Pamphile) the face of the girl he had raped at the Tauropolia ; that is his blind spot and almost the cause of his undoing. It takes a physical token, his signet ring, which he lost on the occasion, to trigger the eventual recognition. In The Girl from Samos it is at the women’s festival of the Adonia that Moschion manages to seduce the neighbour’s daughter Plangon ; the nocturnal festival there provides the cover necessary for the two young people to get together. The child in that play is the focus of Demeas’ blind spot, as we have seen above. In the The Harp-Player there are at least two incidents of illicit sex between unmarried couples ; it seems that these were associated with Artemis’ festival at Ephesos42. In The Apparition (cf. infra p. 174) another festival of Artemis, the Attic Brauronia, is the backdrop to the rape. E. Bathrellou has argued that the festivals in question tend to involve girls’ transition rites, hence that the fate of a girl raped during such a festival bears a poignant relation to the social transition which the festival is designed to effect in a normative manner43.

13The basic mechanism here has similarities to the motif which I identified earlier involving the comic blind spot as a result of absence abroad. The structural similarity involves, as I said, an interruption in normal life during which a breach occurs. In the first case physical absence abroad opens the way for disruption ; in the second, the festival similarly interrupts daily life and brings people together who were not normally permitted to meet, and in circumstances conducive to permissive behaviour : night, the mingling of the sexes, the lowering of people’s normal guard.

  • 44 See E. G. Turner, « The Phasma of Menander », GRBS 10 (1969), p. 307-324 ; W. G. Arnott, « Notes o (...)
  • 45 95-98 : παν]νυχίδος οὔσης καὶ χο[ρῶν […] ἡ δ᾿ ἐρεῖ ‘Βρ[αυρῶνι τοῖς] / [Πανι]ωνίοις (Βραυρῶνι τοῖς (...)

14One play in particular thematizes this source of the comic blind spot in an intriguing way. The Apparition, Phasma, is unfortunately fragmentary but a summary of the play given by Donatus commenting on Terence’s The Eunuch gives an outline of the plot44. Years before the action of the play a woman had suffered one of these stereotyped rapes during the Brauronia festival of Artemis45. The baby girl born of this union was given by the mother to neighbours to bring up. In order to keep up contact with her daughter as she grew up, the mother made a hole in the partition wall between her home and the neighbours’, who were the girl’s foster-parents. The mother disguised this hole with wreaths as if it were a shrine and frequently made her observances at this shrine. In fact she was communicating with her daughter through the hole in the wall. Now the mother had, in the meantime, married a man who had a son by his first marriage. One day this stepson saw the girl next door through the hole in the wall.

15He was so taken aback by the strange and unexpected sight that he thought he had seen a beautiful apparition (the phasma of the title) through the wall, not a human girl. A complication in the situation was that the young man was already betrothed to the natural daughter of the couple next door. On learning the truth about the mysterious girl next door, however, the young man was so taken by her beauty that he fell in love with her instead of the girl he was engaged to marry. We do not know more details of the plot as it developed.

16I suggest that in this play Menander has elaborated on the theme of illegitimacy, or veiled identity, if you will, of children born from the clandestine union. In this case the mother became pregnant during Artemis’ festival of the Brauronia.

Fig.  : « I’ve seen a ghost ! », scene from Act 2 of Menander’s The Apparition, mosaic from Mytilene, III p. C., cf S. Charitonidis, L. Kahil & R. Ginouvès, Les Mosaïques de la Maison de Ménandre à Mytilène, Bern, Francke Verlag, 1970, p. 60-62, pl. 8, 2.

Fig.  : « I’ve seen a ghost ! », scene from Act 2 of Menander’s The Apparition, mosaic from Mytilene, III p. C., cf S. Charitonidis, L. Kahil & R. Ginouvès, Les Mosaïques de la Maison de Ménandre à Mytilène, Bern, Francke Verlag, 1970, p. 60-62, pl. 8, 2.
  • 46 Brauron was home to the famous Attic rite of arkteia, in which Athenian girls prepared themselves (...)
  • 47 The « hole in the wall » motif seems to be quite traditional, featuring in the Pyramus and Thisbe (...)

17We know that nocturnal dancing of girls was a feature of this cult46. Not wanting to keep the baby girl born from this occasion, she slipped the infant to her neighbours for her upbringing. Now comes the interesting part. The hole in the wall disguised as a domestic shrine becomes the mother’s life-line to the daughter whose identity is veiled. When the young man catches a glimpse of her through this passage his vision of her appears almost supernatural. She is not a young woman of this world ; she appears to be an apparition. The nature of the vision here reflects the girl’s existence in a liminal state hidden away from the world. The girl’s situation encorporates, or symbolizes, the marginal status of a child born without social sanction. She exists, but not fully ; in social terms she is a non-entity, unsubstantial. As such, the young man’s belief that he has seen a ghost matches in some way the girl’s mysteriously nebulous existence. Eventually, we hear from Donatus, the young man’s father gives permission for him to marry the girl he has fallen in love with. By that time, no doubt, the girl’s true identity as the daughter of the woman next door and her husband (!) will have been established, and her marriageability as a girl born to Athenian parents restored. The interesting point, in my opinion, is the way Menander has dramatized her social status as a nothos through a vivid narrative construction47.

18The « comedy of errors », then, as it has come to be known in European theatre, goes back fairly and squarely to Menander. The main comic effect is achieved by the audience’s witnessing behaviour in the stage characters at variance with what they know to be the truth. The audience enjoys superior knowledge over the figures in the drama as it has heard vital information from the speaker of the prologue or another privileged source. In this paper I have argued that the figures’ error(s) tend to arise from a disjunction in their lives. They either spend time abroad on business, at war, or through forced slavery, and lose touch with their homes and families. When they return their status has changed, or the status of another family member has changed, without the other side knowing. The misconception arising (agnoia) feeds into the ensuing action until light dawns at the end. I have argued that Menander emphasizes the fundamental importance of (mis-)perception in his dramas by pointing to details in the characters’ situations which involve faulty vision. The mistaken assumption of Kleostratos’ death in The Shield is introduced by a series of deceptive visual data ; in The Girl from Samos the two misled old gentlemen comment on how well they can see now they have returned home from murky Byzantium. Alternatively, the blind spot is caused by illicit sex leading to an illegitimate birth. Here the result is again typified by poor vision : night time, the influence of alcohol, girls wandering alone unchaperoned during a celebration. Common to both motifs is the disjunction in daily life caused either by absence abroad or by going out into the country for a religious festival.

  • 48 See the contribution by C. Mauduit and R. Saetta Cottone in this volume, supra p. 45-73.
  • 49 G. Vogt-Spira, Dramaturgie des Zufalls : Tyche und Handeln in der Komödie Menanders, Munich, Beck, (...)
  • 50 S. Lape, op. cit. n. 2.

19This type of comedy is something quite different to Old Comedy. Aristophanes does not use the ploy of mistaken identity at all in his surviving comedy, except in the case of a character gaining entry to a closed society by means of disguise (Women at the Thesmophoria Festival48). Misconceptions, surprising recognitions, hidden identities are simply not a feature of Aristophanic comedy. Why is New Comedy as it is ? Why this new comedy of errors ? Historicizing theories have not been lacking. G. Vogt-Spira, for example, has investigated the importance of chance (tyche) in Menander’s comedies49. As the traditional polis gods lost their importance as the polis itself became subordinated to larger imperial powers, so the goddess of Chance (and other abstract deities) gained in importance and became objects of worship. Perhaps the increasing mix of peoples and nationalities in the Hellenistic World weakened people’s sense of belonging in one particular polis ; chance movements, meetings, events came to seem all-important in deciding their fates and positions in life. Somewhat different is the view of Susan Lape who argues that Menander’s plays try to counter outside (Macedonian) influences on Athens by emphasizing the importance of Athenian citizenship50. Time and time again in his plays, children thought to be illegitimate turn out to have been born of Athenian citizen parents, thus allowing them to marry and perpetuate the true Athenian ciuitas.

  • 51 Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 117-129, with A. Faulkner’s notes and parallel passages, The Homeric Hym (...)

20The position I have been arguing for in this paper so far is, perhaps, not so different to these approaches. The explicandum of New Comedy is its obsession with deceptive appearances and misconceptions (both literally in the sense of mis-conceptions and figuratively !). Of the dramatic techniques producing these, one might indeed be influenced by a new historical reality : Athenians’ horizons were widening at this period, people were travelling more, serving in armies further afield. Menander many times draws on this motif to introduce his confusions. The other — rape at the festival — surely has no particular correlation with a new historical reality. The festivals mentioned by Menander at which girls were led astray were not new or celebrated differently to earlier ages. Already in the Homeric Hymns we find the motif of a girl plucked from a chorus-line by a lustful male and abducted51.

  • 52 See the testimonia in A. Koerte & A. Thierfelder (eds), Menandri quae supersunt. Pars prior : reli (...)
  • 53 E. g. A. Barigazzi, La Formazione spirituale di Menandro, Turin, Bottega d’Erasmo, 1965 ; K. Gaise (...)

21Perhaps another, more intellectual, factor should be considered as well. The fourth century in Athens was the century of the philosophers and their schools. All the major philosophical schools, with the exception of the Cynics, emerged at Athens in this period. Their schools and their writings were the main focus of higher education. Menander, too, is reported to have studied under Theophrastus, Aristotle’s successor as head of the Lyceum, and to have enjoyed good relations with the philosopher-governor of Athens from 317-307 Demetrios of Phaleron52. Many have investigated Peripatetic and other philosophical influences in Menander’s plays53. The results have not been conclusive in the sense that Menander can be labelled a proponent of Peripatetic philosophy (or any other) in his plays ; but they have demonstrated clear reflections of contemporary philosophy in his phraseology at times, and his conceptualization of the issues involved in his drama. His plays are certainly not philosophical treatises in disguise, but Menander was an intellectual of his times and contemporary philosophy certainly did not pass him by.

  • 54 « Aspects of Recognition in Perikeiromene and Other Plays », in A. H. Sommerstein (ed.), op. cit. (...)
  • 55 One notes Lucian’s satire on the effects of a philosophical education in Hermotimus 81 ; Lucian, o (...)

22In a recent contribution I suggested that the very decency of Menander’s language in comparison with Aristophanes, say, may reflect Plato’s severe strictures on poetry and drama in the The Republic54. Plato was the towering intellectual figure in fourth century Athens. His works must have been essential reading for Menander’s generation. In a way, other philosophical schools were offshoots, or reactions, to Plato’s dominance. At the heart of Plato’s thinking lies the distinction between being and seeing. Appearances do not always match realities ; sense perception is faulty. Only intellectual perception can lead to knowledge. We are all living in the Cave until enlightenment through the noetic Sun shines upon our minds. This fundamental questioning of appearances and impressions must have been one of the great intellectual challenges thrown down by Plato. Can we trust our perception and our vision when it is underlying metaphysical being which gives things their true identity ? Might it be that New Comedy’s obsession with identity and deceptive appearances is, in some sense, a reflection of this intellectual questioning ? Might not Menander’s endless playing on concealed identities, recognitions and revelations, be a theatrical working up of this basic philosophical issue ? Or, one step further still, might not his dramas be a sending up of the philosophers’ fixation on being and appearing ? Might he not be exploiting the doubts sown by philosophers in the reliability of our human perception for the purposes of dramatic entertainment55 ? Are his plays a kind of emerging from the Cave of unreal impressions into the light of truth ?

23At one point in the surviving texts the issue becomes explicit. When Demeas in The Girl from Samos is discussing with Moschion, shortly after his return from Byzantium, the matter of a baby which Chrysis has apparently given birth to during his absence, he says she should « get the hell out » of his house taking the baby with her. « Not so », Moschion remonstrates (the baby is, in fact, his, by Plangon, the neighbour’s daughter). Demeas retorts : « Well, you don’t expect me to raise somebody else’s bastard in my house, do you ? » Moschion replies : « Ah, who among us is legitimate, by the gods, and who a bastard, when we are all human beings ? » « You’re joking ! » says Demeas. « No », replies Moschion, « by Dionysos, I’m quite serious. I don’t think one line of descent is different from any other, but if one looks at the matter correctly, the good person is legitimate and the bad illegitimate. And a slave […] » (the text breaks off, 134-142b).

  • 56 A. H. Sommerstein (forthcoming, note on lines 137-143a) : « In Sophocles’ Aleadai (fr. 87), Teleph (...)
  • 57 P. Oxy. 3647 in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri 52 (1984), p. 1-5. Cf. M. Ostwald, « Nomos and Phusis in An (...)
  • 58 E. g. Politics 1254a 13-1255b 15.
  • 59 On talking at cross-purposes in Menander see now G. Martin, « Failing Communication in Menander an (...)

24In this exchange Moschion is defending the rights of the baby against Demeas’ rejection of it. The situation gains dramatic piquancy, of course, from our (the audience’s) knowledge that it is, in fact, Moschion’s baby, whilst Demeas has fallen for Chrysis’ ruse in pretending that she has borne a baby (to him ?) during his absence. Moschion seeks to counter Demeas’ condemnation of the baby on the grounds that it is a bastard by saying humans are all equal in terms of their humanity ; whether someone is good should be the true criterion for a person’s status, not his parentage. Demeas can only scoff. A. H. Sommerstein correctly points to tragic antecedents for Moschion’s claim « we’re all human beings, when it comes down to it »56, but the point surely has a philosophical background, too. It was the fifth-century sophists who opened up debate on « natural law » (physis) as opposed to social convention (nomos) — a theme eagerly taken up by the tragedians. Fragments of Antiphon’s On Truth argue for exactly the point that conventional status (free / enslaved, Greek / foreign) says nothing about underlying humanity57. Much Peripatetic thought centres also on the subject of the shared humanity of people regardless of social or ethnic categories58. My point here, however, is the larger one, that Moschion’s remark depends on the distinction between being and seeming in people. He maintains (comically, of course) that the term bastard is a misnomer ; what counts is the inner worth of a person. At the same time, the exchange between him and his father reflects comically on issues of being and seeming in another sense. They are talking at cross-purposes ; to Demeas the baby seems to have a certain ontological status (Chrysis’ bastard) but the audience knows that it is the child of Moschion and Plangon which will eventually be legitimized by their marriage59.

  • 60 As E. W. Handley (« The Rediscovery of Menander », in D. Obbink & R. Rutherford (eds), Culture in (...)
  • 61 J. Grethlein suggests in a private letter that Plato’s use of the terms gnesios, « genuine », and (...)

25Although Moschion expresses a lofty sentiment here about universal humanity, we can hardly take him seriously. The comic tension of the scene undercuts any philosophical or ethical earnest. Moschion is, in fact, trying to wriggle out of the embarrassment of knowing that he in fact is responsible for the illegitimate child which Demeas is proposing to abandon. His appeal to common humanity is a desperate diversionary tactic, one might say, rather than a level-headed appeal to high moral principles. So it is in most « philosophical » passages of Menander : they can seldom be taken seriously. Time and time again the speaker, usually a slave, or the situation (comic irony), undercuts all seriousness of intention in the arguments put forward. Syriskos appealing to tragic precedents in The Arbitration (320-333), for example ; or Onesimos in the same play teasing Smikrines with a lecture on human character (tropos) as the decisive factor in just or unjust behaviour (1092-1109)60. The « philosophical » discourse in Menander, and it is undoubtedly there, is part of the comedy, not serious comment interspersed in the action. I tend, in fact, to the view, that Menander’s play with seeming and being in his treatment of everyday life is, indeed, deeply influenced by contemporary philosophy, but not in any dogmatic sense. By an artistic metamorphosis the philosophical discourse of the day has been digested and recast in his theatre of shifting identities and misperceptions61.

26These last remarks are necessarily speculative. But historicizing interpretations only take us so far ; somehow we have also to account for the general aesthetic impression made by New Comedy in comparison with other genres and epochs. And here impressionistic and subjective responses have their place in the discussion.

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Notes

1 Forsa, Gesellschaft für Sozialforschung und statistische Analysen mbH, Max-Beer-Straße 2, 10119 Berlin : August 2013. Weblink : http://www.gesundheitsstadt-berlin.de/nachrichten/artikel/wer-im-urlaub-nicht-abschaltet-erholt-sich-nicht-2155.

2 Generally : M. M. Austin, The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1981 ; M. Trundle, Greek Mercenaries. From the Late Archaic Period to Alexander, London, Routledge, 2004 ; S. Lape, Reproducing Athens. Menander’s Comedy, Democratic Culture, and the Hellenistic City, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2004, p. 172 : « The sudden emergence of numerous competitive military kingdoms requiring large permanent armies for conquest and defense created an unprecedented demand for mercenaries. And, with promises of high pay, figures such as Eumenes of Cardia and Antigonus Monophthalmus were able to attract numerous citizens from the Greek cities into their service. Thus, the sudden rise of large imperial entities whose power was a direct function of the size of their armies posed fundamentally new threats to the population and culture of the polis ».

3 In P. Oxy. 1176 fr. 39 col. 7 lines 6-22, Satyros says : « Or the matter of reversals, [involving] rapes of girls, babies foisted on others, recognitions by rings and jewelry — these are the stock-in-trade of New Comedy, which [things] Euripides had brought to perfection » : ἢ τ̣[ὰ κ]α̣τὰ τὰς π̣[ερι]πετείας, β̣[ια]σμοὺς παρθ[έ]νων, ὑποβολὰς παιδίων, ἀναγνωρισμοὺς διά τε δακτυλίων καὶ διὰ δεραίων, ταῦτα γάρ ἐστι δήπου τὰ συνέχοντα τὴν νεωτέραν κωμωιδίαν, ἃ πρὸς ἄκρον ἤ̣γα[γ]εν Εὐριπίδης. See S. Schorn (ed.), Satyros aus Kallatis, Sammlung der Fragmente mit Kommentar / [gesammelt, übers. und komment.], Basel, Schwabe, 2004 (Diss. Bamberg, 2002), p. 259-262 with note 492 with further literature. On the relationship between Menander and tragedy, see now, among many studies, C. Cusset, Ménandre ou la comédie tragique, Paris, CNRS, 2003. All translations of Greek texts are my own unless otherwise indicated.

4 E. g. The Hero, The Apparition, The Arbitration (here the baby does not grow up).

5 I follow the version in Sophocles’ play.

6 Recent commentaries on the play include A. W. Gomme & F. H. Sandbach, Menander : A Commentary, London, London University Press, 1973 ; M. Lamagna, Menandro. La Donna di Samo. Testo critico, introduzione, traduzione e commentario, Naples, Bibliopolis, 1998 ; C. B. Dedoussi, Menandrou Samia. Eisagoge, keimeno, metaphrase, hypomnema, Athens, Akademia Athenon, 2006 ; A. H. Sommerstein, Menander Samia, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press will appear shortly (my thanks go to him for letting me see his commentary before publication).

7 98-100 : πόντος […] ἀηδία τις πραγμάτων. Βυζάντιον.

8 129-132 : γαμετὴν ἑταίραν, ὡς ἔοικ᾿, ἐλάνθανον / ἔχων.

9 M. Faure-Ribreau finds in the comedies of Terence, in this volume, cf. supra p. 111-134, that misunderstanding is usually the result of misinterpreting aural, rather than visual, data ; a character witnessing or overhearing others’ conversation, missing something of the context, construes the sense falsely.

10 106-111 : Νι. : ἐκεῖν᾿ ἐθαύμαζον μάλιστα, Δημέα, / τῶν περὶ ἐκεῖνον τὸν τόπον· τὸν ἥλιον / οὐκ ἦν ἰδεῖν ἐνίοτε παμπόλλου χρόνου· / ἀὴρ παχύς τις, ὡς ἔοικ᾿, ἐπεσκότει. / Δη. : οὐκ, ἀλλὰ σεμνὸν οὐδὲν ἐθεᾶτ᾿ αὐτόθι / ὥστ᾿ αὐτὰ τἀναγκαῖ᾿ ἐπέλαμπε τοῖς ἐκεῖ : « Nikeratos : What I was most surprised about there, Demeas, was that sometimes one couldn’t see the sun for days on end. A kind of dense smog, it seems, darkened everything. Demeas : No, well, there’s nothing wonderful to see there anyway, so it just gives them the bare minimum of light for seeing ». F. H. Sandbach in the OCT gives 98-101 to Nikeratos against the manuscript evidence. A. H. Sommerstein now defends the manuscript attribution of speakers.

11 Though A. H. Sommerstein (forthcoming) explains the remark as referring to the meteorological fact that fog is common in some parts of the Black Sea : « in the northern and western parts of the Black Sea fog is frequent (75-80 days a year) and can sometimes stay unbroken for a week or more. Conditions tend to be worst near the coasts, where ancient travellers would normally sail ». Even if that corresponded to a common Athenian perception at the time, the meteorological phenomenon may also be cited for its metaphorical significance.

12 The comic irony is already flagged by Demeas’ opening remark in 96-97 : ..]ουν μεταβολῆς αἰσθάνεσθ᾿ ἤδη τόπου, / ὅσον διαφέρει ταῦτα τῶν ἐκεῖ κακῶν : « […] do you already notice the change of place, how much things differ here from the unpleasantness back there ? ».

13 For recent studies cf. D. C. Beroutsos, A Commentary on the Aspis of Menander. Part One : Lines 1-298, Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2005.

14 On the legal background to this play see P. G. McC. Brown, « Menander’s Dramatic Technique and the Law of Athens », CQ 33 (1983), p. 412-420 ; S. Ireland (ed.), Menander The Shield and The Arbitration, Edited and Translated, Oxford, Oxbow Books, 2011 (introduction).

15 72-73 : Σμ. : πῶς οὖν οἶσθα; Δα. : ἔχων τὴν ἀσπίδα / ἔκειτο : « Smikrines : How do you know [scil. it was him] ? Daos : He was lying there with the shield ».

16 70-72 : τετάρτην ἡμέραν / ἐρριμμένοι γὰρ ἦσαν ἐξωιδηκότες / τὰ πρόσωπα : « three days they’d been lying there ; their faces were bloated ». Tyche in the prologue refers to the same two facts in lines 108-110 : κειμένης δ᾿ ἐν τοῖς νεκροῖς / τῆς ἀσπίδος τοῦ μειρακίου τ᾿ ὠιδηκότος / οὗτος διημάρτηκεν : « because the shield was lying among the fallen and the young man was bloated, he [scil. Daos] has made a mistake ».

17 29-30 : ἡμᾶς δ᾿ ἀτάκτους πρὸς τὸ μέλλον ἤγαγε / τὸ καταφρονεῖν : « our scorn [scil. of the enemy’s inferior forces] led us to into disarray for the future ». And in lines 44-48 : πεπυσμένοι τὴν δύναμιν ἐσκεδασμένην […] ἔκ τε χώρας ἄφθονα / ἅπαντ᾿ ἐχούσης, οἷον εἰκὸς γίνεται· ‹ἐ›βρύαζον οἱ πλεῖστοι : « they learned that our forces were scattered […] because the country had everything in abundance, the inevitable happened : most let themselves go ». On this episode, see now M. Lamagna, « Military Culture and Menander », in A. H. Sommerstein (ed.), Menander in Context, Oxford, Routledge, 2014, p. 58-74.

18 41-43 : λαθόντες τοὺς σκοποὺς / τοὺς ἡμετέρους οἱ βάρβαροι λόφον τινὰ / ἐπίπροσθ᾿ ἔχοντες ἔμενον : « escaping the notice of our watchmen, they took up a position on a hill in front of [our camp] and waited there [scil. till nightfall] ».

19 106-108. It is not said explicitly that Kleostratos took up the other man’s shield (ἑτέροις ἐκβοηθήσας ὅπλοις), only that that man took up his. The literary motif of swapped armour goes back as far as the Iliad, where the Trojans thought it was Achilles on the battlefield when Patroclus went into battle with Achilles’ armour.

20 On this play see my forthcoming edition (London, ICS).

21 Cf. fr. 5 Sandbach ; supplemented in line 32 Sandbach of the play.

22 144 : βέβαιον δ᾿ οὐθὲν ὧι κατελείπετο.

23 Thus M. Lamagna, op. cit. n. 6, s. u. and W. Furley (forthcoming).

24 In lines 281-282 it emerges that Stratophanes was given as a baby « to a woman from abroad who wanted children then » : ἐξεπέμπομεν / [πρὸς τὴν] ξένην σε τὴν τότ᾿ αἰτοῦσαν τέκνα.

25 As W. G. Arnott in the Loeb edition points out (Menander, 1979, III p. 206), perhaps it was Stratophanes’ (supposed) father who bought the child, as it is a little odd that Stratophanes should have bought the four-year-old at market, then waited for her to grow up to fall in love with her.

26 Thus M. Balme, Menander. The Plays and Fragments, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002, translating a likely supplement by W. G. Arnott (op. cit.) 115 : [οὐκ ἐ]νθάδ᾿ ἦσθα διὰ λογισμὸν οὐθενὸς [.

27 Cf. W. E. Major, « Menander in a Macedonian World », GRBS 38 (1997), p. 41-73. On the miles gloriosus otherwise in ancient comedy cf. G. Wartenberg, « Der Miles gloriosus in der griechisch-hellenistischen Komödie », in W. Hofmann & H. Kuch (eds), Die gesellschaftliche Bedeutung des antiken Dramas für seine und für unsere Zeit, Berlin, Akademie-Verlag, 1973, p. 197-205 ; on Plautus’ The Swaggering Soldier, L. Schaaf, Der Miles gloriosus des Plautus und sein griechisches Original, Munich, Fink, 1977. It is interesting to see how some of Lucian’s Dialogues of the Courtesans, which otherwise draw heavily on New Comedy (e. g. 9, based on Menander’s Rape of the Locks), do indeed show the returning soldier boasting of his courage and prowess on the battlefield ; Menander’s returning soldiers conspicuously do not.

28 See D. B. Durham, The Vocabulary of Menander Considered in its Relation to the Koine, Amsterdam, Hakkert, 1969 (1913). For the Macedonian connection of the Peripatos, of which Menander was a student, cf. C. Habicht, Athen. Die Geschichte der Stadt in hellenistischer Zeit, Munich, Beck, 1995, p. 82. W. E. Major, op. cit., argues that Menander in his plays betrays pro-Macedonian sympathies — a position vehemently denied by S. Lape op. cit. n. 2. On the impact of Macedonian rule in Athens cf. P. Green, « Occupation and Coexistence : The impact of Macedon on Athens 323-307 », in O. Palagia & S. V. Tracy (eds), The Macedonians in Athens, Oxford, Oxbow Books, 2003, p. 1-7.

29 Cf. W. Furley, « P.Oxy. 2658 (= PCG vol. 8, 1103) — Menander’s Perikeiromene after all ? », ZPE 187 (2013), p. 93-100. From D. B. Durham’s list of suspect words we can identify a number which fall into the category of « foreign », not proper Attic, according to the ancient grammarian cited (op. cit., p. 17-18). Among the more interesting cases may be mentioned : καυσία, felt hat used by Macedonians (Pollux, Suidas), κόνδυ, a drinking vessel (Athenaios, Hesychius), λαβρώνιον, a Persian cup (Athenaios), λιτυέρσης, a reaper’s song named after Lityerses, son of Midas (Pollux, Photius), σκοῖδος, Macedonian for διοικητής or ταμίας (Herodianus, Hesychius, Photius), τηγανισμός, « frying » (Moeris, Phrynychos).

30 D. B. Durham, op. cit., p. 35 : « Instead therefore of accepting the judgment of that class of critics which denied to Menander a place among commendable Attic writers, we are led to the conclusion that the diction of Menander was good Attic Greek in the main ; though it contained colloquial elements in a sufficient degree to justify the atticizing grammarians in uttering a note of warning. In other words we believe that the attitude of writers like Phrynichus was partisan and extreme ».

31 S. West, « Another Type of Phrygian : A Note on Menander’s Aspis », ZPE 183 (2012), p. 30-32.

32 The Girl from Samos, The Farmer, The Harp-Player and Double Deceiver respectively.

33 Nos. 4, 18 and 4, 19 ; cf. A. Koerte, « Menander und Glykera », Hermes 54 (1919), p. 87-93 and RE XV, 712 ; J. J. Bungarten, Menanders und Glykeras Brief bei Alkiphron, Diss. Bonn, 1967.

34 Cf. E. W. Handley, « Notes on the Theophoroumene of Menander », BICS 16 (1969), p. 88-101.

35 Andria, Androgynos or Cres, Achaioi, Boiotia, Dardanos, Ephesios, Thettale, Imbrioi, Carine, Carxedonios, Cnidia, Leucadia, Locroi, Messenia, Olynthia, Perinthia, Chalkis.

36 See W. T. MacCary, « Menander’s Slaves : Their Names, Roles, and Masks », TAPhA 100 (1969), p. 277-294 ; M. Krieter-Spiro, Sklaven, Köche und Hetären. Das Dienstpersonal bei Menander. Stellung, Rolle, Komik und Sprache, Stuttgart, Teubner, 1997.

37 For discussion of similar issues with regard to the ancient novel, a genre which owes much in its typical story-lines to New Comedy, see T. Whitmarsh, Narrative and Identity in the Ancient Greek Novel : Returning Romance. Greek culture in the Roman world, Cambridge / New York, Cambridge University Press, 2011.

38 To use a Lucretian metaphor.

39 E. g. Ion, the lost plays Alope and Auge. For the relation of Alope to Menander’s The Arbitration see C. Cusset, op. cit. n. 3, p. 168-183 ; W. Furley (ed.), Menander Epitrepontes, London, Institute of Classical Studies, 2009, p. 143 ; for Auge see Ibid. p. 253-254. The Suda credits the poet of Middle Comedy Anaxandrides, however, for introducing love affairs and the rape of virgins into comedy. On the subject of rape in comedy see especially P. G. McC. Brown, « Athenian Attitudes to Rape and Seduction : The Evidence of Menander, Dyskolos 289-293 », CQ 41 (1991), p. 533-534 ; S. Lape, « Democratic Ideology and The Poetics of Rape in Menandrian Comedy », ClAnt 20 (2001), p. 79-119 (with the review by W. E. Major, BMCR 2001) ; R. Omitowoju, Rape and the Politics of Consent in Classical Athens, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002.

40 See W. Furley, « Drama at the Festival : A Recurrent Motif in Menander », in J. R. C. Cousland & J. R. Hume (eds), The Play of Texts and Fragments. Essays in Honour of Martin Cropp, Leiden / Boston, Brill, 2009, p. 389-401.

41 Among known instances : Tauropolia : The Arbitration, The Girl from Samos 38-48 ; Adonia : The Apparition ; festival of Artemis Ephesia : The Harp-Player 94-95.

42 Moschion says he encountered Phanias’ daughter at the girls’ festival of Artemis called deipnophoria, cf. 94-96 : τῆς Ἀρτέμιδος ἦν τῆς Ἐ[φεσίας] / δειπνοφορία τις παρθένων.

43 « Menander’s Epitrepontes and the Festival of the Tauropolia », ClAnt 31 (2012), p. 151-192.

44 See E. G. Turner, « The Phasma of Menander », GRBS 10 (1969), p. 307-324 ; W. G. Arnott, « Notes on Menander’s Phasma », ZPE 123 (1998), p. 35-48.

45 95-98 : παν]νυχίδος οὔσης καὶ χο[ρῶν […] ἡ δ᾿ ἐρεῖ ‘Βρ[αυρῶνι τοῖς] / [Πανι]ωνίοις (Βραυρῶνι τοῖς Πανιωνίοις cj. Furley : Ἀδωνίοις Turner).

46 Brauron was home to the famous Attic rite of arkteia, in which Athenian girls prepared themselves for adult life by participating in Artemis’ « bear-cult » there (cf. Aristophanes, Lysistrata 641 with scholia). As literary references and archaeological finds from excavations at the site show, a women’s pannychis was an important part of the festival ; vases show girls dressed in a short chiton, or naked, « running or dancing, sometimes holding torches or wreaths at a place recognizable as a sanctuary by the presence of an altar and as an Artemis sanctuary by the presence of a palm-tree », L. Ghali-Kahil, « Autour de l’Artémis attique », AK VIII (1965), p. 21 and pl. 7 ; cf. also L. Kahil, « L’Artémis de Brauron : rites et mystère », AK XX (1977), p. 86-98. For the Arkteia festival see L. Deubner, Attische Feste, Berlin, Keller, 1932, p. 208 ; M. P. Nilsson, Geschichte der griechischen Religion, Munich, Beck, 1955, I, p. 485-486 ; H. W. Parke, Festivals of the Athenians, London, Thames and Hudson, 1977, p. 139-140 ; W. Sale, « The Temple Legends of the Arkteia », RhM 118 (1975), p. 265-284, on the literary evidence ; C. Sourvinou-Inwood, Studies in Girls’ Transitions, Aspects of the Arkteia and Age representation in Attic Iconography, Athens, Kardamitsa, 1988, for interpretation of the vases.

47 The « hole in the wall » motif seems to be quite traditional, featuring in the Pyramus and Thisbe myth, for example (Ovid, Metamorphoses IV, 55-166).

48 See the contribution by C. Mauduit and R. Saetta Cottone in this volume, supra p. 45-73.

49 G. Vogt-Spira, Dramaturgie des Zufalls : Tyche und Handeln in der Komödie Menanders, Munich, Beck, 1992.

50 S. Lape, op. cit. n. 2.

51 Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 117-129, with A. Faulkner’s notes and parallel passages, The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite. Introduction, Text, and Commentary, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008.

52 See the testimonia in A. Koerte & A. Thierfelder (eds), Menandri quae supersunt. Pars prior : reliquiae in papyris et membranis uetustissimis seruatae. Pars altera : reliquiae apud ueteres scriptores seruatae, Leipzig, Teubner, 1953-1955 (1938) ; P. Steinmetz, « Menander und Theophrast. Folgerungen aus dem Dyskolos », RhM 103 (1960), p. 185-191.

53 E. g. A. Barigazzi, La Formazione spirituale di Menandro, Turin, Bottega d’Erasmo, 1965 ; K. Gaiser, « Menander und der Peripatos », A&A 13 (1967), p. 8-40 ; F. Wehrli, « Menander und die Philosophie », in E. G. Turner (ed.), Ménandre, Genève, Fondation Hardt, 1970, p. 145-155 ; S. Jaekel, « Die Tücke der Faktizität in den Epitrepontes des Menander », Arctos 18 (1984), p. 5-21 ; A. Casanova, « Menander and the Peripatos : New Insights into an Old Question », in A. H. Sommerstein (ed.), op. cit. n. 17, p. 137-151.

54 « Aspects of Recognition in Perikeiromene and Other Plays », in A. H. Sommerstein (ed.), op. cit. n. 17, p. 106-115. Plato spells out his strictures on poetic and dramatic writers in Book II of the Republic.

55 One notes Lucian’s satire on the effects of a philosophical education in Hermotimus 81 ; Lucian, of course, frequently satirizes the philosophers and their schools, as in Icaromenippus. Lucian owed much to (New) Comedy, as he himself admits in To One Who Said « You’re a Prometheus in Words » 5.

56 A. H. Sommerstein (forthcoming, note on lines 137-143a) : « In Sophocles’ Aleadai (fr. 87), Telephus, the son of Heracles and Auge, taunted with his bastardy and asked how he can be reckoned equal to a legitimate son, replies ἅπαν τὸ χρηστὸν γνησίαν ἔχει φύσιν ; in Euripides’ Antigone (or should it be Antiope ? — the two titles are often confused by scribes), someone says (fr. 168) ὀνόματι μεμπτὸν τὸ νόθον, ἡ φύσις δ’ ἴση ».

57 P. Oxy. 3647 in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri 52 (1984), p. 1-5. Cf. M. Ostwald, « Nomos and Phusis in Antiphon’s Peri Alêtheias », in M. Griffith & D. J. Mastronarde (eds), Cabinet of the Muses : Essays on Classical and Comparative Literature in Honor of T. G. Rosenmeyer, Atlanta, Scholars Press, 1990, p. 293-306.

58 E. g. Politics 1254a 13-1255b 15.

59 On talking at cross-purposes in Menander see now G. Martin, « Failing Communication in Menander and Others », in A. H. Sommerstein (ed.), op. cit. n. 17, p. 116-136.

60 As E. W. Handley (« The Rediscovery of Menander », in D. Obbink & R. Rutherford (eds), Culture in Pieces : Essays on Ancient Texts in Honour of Peter Parsons, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 143) points out, it now emerges through a comparison of Menander’s Double Deceiver with Plautus’ Bacchides that the wise saying « whom the gods love dies young » is said in context by a slave to his elderly master complaining about the tribulations of age : the « philosophy » of the remark is entirely « tongue-in-cheek » in context.

61 J. Grethlein suggests in a private letter that Plato’s use of the terms gnesios, « genuine », and nothos, « counterfeit », in philosophical discourse might bear on the question. The subject might repay future study.

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Titre Fig.  : « I’ve seen a ghost ! », scene from Act 2 of Menander’s The Apparition, mosaic from Mytilene, III p. C., cf S. Charitonidis, L. Kahil & R. Ginouvès, Les Mosaïques de la Maison de Ménandre à Mytilène, Bern, Francke Verlag, 1970, p. 60-62, pl. 8, 2.
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William Furley, « Widening Horizons and the Blind Spot in New Comedy », Cahiers des études anciennes, LI | 2014, 155-181.

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William Furley

Université d'Heidelberg

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