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Ancient Interpretations of νομαστìκωμῳδєȋν in Aristophanes*

  • Stephen Halliwell (a1)

Interest in νομαστìκωμῳδєȋν began early. Even before the compilation of prosopo-graphical κωμῳδούμєνοɩ in the second century B.C., Hellenistic study of Aristophanes had devoted attention to the interpretation of personal satire. The surviving scholia contain references to Alexandrian scholars such as Euphronius, Eratosthenes and Callistratus which show that in their commentaries and monographs these men had dealt with issues of νομαστì κωμῳδєȋν Much material from Hellenistic work on Old Comedy was transmitted by later scholars, particularly by Didymus and Symmachus in their variorum editions, and was eventually embodied in the scholia, though of course in an abridged and sometimes distorted form. Many of our fragments of Old Comedy, preserved in the scholia or in medieval works of reference as parallels to passages in Aristophanes, are direct evidence of the long ancient tradition of interest in the genre's large element of personal satire. What we find in the scholia should not therefore be treated as representative only of the latest and most derivative stages of ancient scholarship. It is the purpose of this article to argue that the scholia on Aristophanes allow us to see that in matters of νομαστì κωμῳδєȋν certain assumptions about the nature of this type of comic material were persistently made by ancient scholars, and that certain interpretative habits were consequently developed from them. It is my further aim to suggest that this pattern of interpretation has been widely but unjustifiably perpetuated in later work on Aristophanes.

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1 SeeSteinhausen, J., ΚΩΜΩΙΔΟΥΜΕΝΟΙ (1910), who, however, underestimates earlier Hellenistic work on νομαστì κωμῳδєȋν. Roberts, C.H., on P. Oxy. XVIII 2192. 28f., and Austin, C., Comicorum Graecorum Fragmenta in Papyris Reperta (1973), on 344. 28, are wrong to attribute a work of κωμῳδούμєνοɩ to Aristarchus.

2 Throughout this article ‘scholia’ and Σ signify scholia vetera, which I cite for Acharnians, Knights, Clouds and Wasps from the Dutch edition, Scholia in Aristophanem (1960–), under the general editorship of W. J. W. Koster, and from the edition of F. Dübner( 1842) for the remaining plays.

3 This is wrongly assumed by Rutherford, W. G., A Chapter in the History of Annotation (1905), p. 431. On the general relation between scholia and earlier hypomnemata cf. Wilson, N. G., CQ 17 (1967), 244ff.

4 Quaest. Conv. 7. 8. 712a.

5 On the possibility of a relevant Peripatetic doctrine see Leo, F., Hermes 24 (1889), 74 f., but there does not seem to be a moralistic element in Aristotle's references to comic ασχρολογα and λοιδορα at EN 1128a22f. and Pol. 1336b3f. For Roman consciousness of an analogy between their own comedy and satire and Greek Old Comedy see, in addition to the passages of Horace and Diomedes in the text and n. 6, Cicero, , de rep. 4. 1112, Persius 1. 123f., Gellius 3. 3. 15 and, doubtfully, Lucilius fr.llll (with Rudd, W. J. N., Mnem. 10 [1957], 320). On the importance of Varro in such matters cf. Brink, C. in Varron, Fondation Hardt, Entretiens 9 (1962), esp. pp. 193–5.

6 See AP 9. 186. 6 (Antipater of Thessalonica), Diomedes GLK 1, 485, Evanthius 16 Wessner (= Koster, , Prolegomena, p. 124), Donatus 23–4 Wessner (= Koster, p. 127), Vita Aristophanis 33. 11 ff. Koster. Cf. also the belief that Old Comedy originated in a practice of folk-justice of theflagitatio or charivari type: see nos. IV, XVIII, XXVI and XXXIII. 2 in Koster, Prolegomena.

7 For a classic Victorian portrait of Aristophanes the moralist see Thirlwall, C., The History of Greece 2 (1855), iv. 259 ff. For a riposte to such attitudes, Grote, George, History of Greece 2 (1851), viii. 454–7. Cf. also my forthcoming article on ‘Aristophanic Satire’ in The Yearbook of English Studies (1984).

8 See e.g. ΣVEKn. 608, ΣRVPeace 803, ΣRVBirds 798 and 1295.

9 The satirical treatment of Cleisthenes has been too literally accepted by modern commentators: e.g.. Sommerstein, A. on Ach. 117ff., Neil, R. A. on Kn. 1374, Stanford, W. G. on Frogs 422–30.

10 Aristophanes: A Study (1933), p. 157. Similarly Leeuwen, J. van on Clouds 353, Birds 1480ff.

11 On Chairis see Rogers, B. B. and Platnauer, M. on Peace 951. On Amynias see Rogers, , Starkie, W. J. M. and MacDowell, D. on Wasps 74, but the point lies in setting Amynias up for the unexpected gibe: otherwise, the joke would be over half-way through 75.

12 The interpretation may have been based on the reading τραγῳδικοῖς, which is found in A. For a different, but analogous, explanation see Sommerstein, on Ach. 887. That Morychus was a tragic poet is accepted by Diehl, E., RE XVI, 326.

13 Ribbeck, W. and loc, Neil ad. accept that Theorus was a poet. On this passage see my ‘Notes on Some Aristophanic Jokes’ in LCM 7.10 (1982), 153.

14 I suspect that ξνος is a naïve inference from π Θρκης Lys. 103 is a simple παρπροσδοκαν, relying on standard cynicism about leaders, but scholars repeatedly look for a specific point in it: see Rogers and U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff ad loc., Davies, J. K., Athenian Propertied Families (1971), p. 404, MacDowell on Andoc. 1. 47.

15 See the apparatus in R. T. Elliott's edn of Ach. The identification of the slave, though accepted by some editors, should be rejected on the principles set out by Hiller, E., Hermes 8 (1874), esp. pp. 446 f.

16 If Cleon had a secretary (which as an individual politician he will not have done: Dow, cf. Sterling in In Memoriam Otto J. Brendel [1976], pp. 69ff.), his name would not have meant anything: some ὑπογραμματεῖς were free men, but note the association with slaves at Lysias 30. 27, and the anonymity of the scribes at Antiphon 6. 35 and 49. For ὑπογραπες as an ally in bringing (political) prosecutions cf. the Latin terms subscriptor, subscribere.

17 For a possible archaeological identification see Kourouniotes, K. and Thompson, H. A., Hesperia 1 (1932), 207–11.

18 I disagree with Honigmann, E. (Rexi, 1112f.) and Cassio, A. C. (Aristofane: Banchettanti [1977], pp. 72f.) that Banqueters fr. 26 (Cassio) is relevant: why read Kολωνῷ and not κολωνῷ? For the position of Colonus Agoraeus see Travlos, J., A Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens (1971), fig. 219.

19 Cf. Kirchner, J. under Prosopographia Attica 1904, Davies, op. cit. p. 57. For appropriate scepticism see Wilamowitz, , Aristoteles und Athen (1893), i. 100 n. 3.

20 For various attempts to argue round the scholia's anachronism see Rogers, and Starkie, on Wasps 1025, Wilamowitz, , SBBerl (1911), p. 467, Geissler, P., Chronologie der altattischen Komödie (1925, rprt. 1969), p. 6.

21 There are still others: see ςVEKn. 580, ΣvClouds 924 (probably a misunderstanding of γνώμας), and ΣREccl. 22.

22 Acceptance was made orthodox by the major German treatments of this subject, esp. Meineke, A.FCG (1839), i. 39ff.; Leo, F., Quaestiones Aristophaneae (1873), ch. 2; Bergk, Th., Kl. Philol. Schr. (1886), ii. 444ff.; Körte, A.RE xi, 1234f.

23 For doubts about even this decree see Mattingly, H. B. in Studies Presented to Fritz Schachermeyr (1977), ed. Kinzl, K. H., p. 243.

24 E.g. ΣEAch. 703 and ΣVWasps 947 (with Raubitschek, A., Hesperia 24 [1955], 287f.), ΣEPeace 347, ΣRVBirds 750. On comparable problems of homonymy in Attic epigraphy see Thompson, W. E. in Θρος: Tribute to Benjamin Dean Merritt (1974), pp. 144–9.

26 Rogers, on Ach. 849.Moulton, Cf.C., Mus.Helv. 36 (1979), 26f., and for earlier refs. Erbse, H., Eranos 52 (1954), 81ff.

26 Compare ΣVWasps 506 on Morychus.

* This article is the condensed form of a case argued in much greater detail in a chapter of my Oxford D.Phil, thesis, Personal Jokes in Aristophanes. For their comments on the earlier version I am grateful to Sir Kenneth Dover, Dr C. Austin and Mr E. L. Bowie.

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