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The Individualized Chorus in Old Comedy

  • Allan M. Wilson (a1)

The Birds of Aristophanes is unique among his extant plays in that it employs a chorus in which each member has an individual identity, that is, in which each chorus-member represents a different kind of bird. The consequent variety of costume must have been a great visual embellishment to the play, and one is led to wonder how commonly the device employed in Birds featured in Old Comedy in general. Two parallels are frequently cited in the choruses of Eupolis' and Ameipsias' , both of which will be considered below, but, although those plays do indeed provide our best evidence outside Birds, I wish to argue here that we may reasonably suspect that some other old comedies known to us had choruses of the type in question, which I designate ‘individualized’ or ‘multiform’ choruses.

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page 278 note 1 Cf. Meineke A., Fragmenta Comicorum Graecorum (Berlin, 1839-1857), i. 64, where Meineke supposes that Crates' Birds was a revised version of Magnes' play of the same title. The view is hazardous when so little is known about either play (or version) and the title inline-graphic recurs in Comedy. Meineke seems to me rather over-concerned to make the number of a comedian's titles known to us square with the ancient statements of his output. Such statements are of dubious value and liable to be corrupt in some cases.

page 278 note 2 The text is inline-graphic and Th.Kock (Comicorum Atticorum Fragmenta (Leipzig, 1880-1888), vol. i) remarks ad loc., ‘Una ex insulis significatur, quae male tractata ab Atheniensibus maesto vultu incedit.’

page 279 note 1 The fragment is a complaint by the gods of the way they are treated in sacrifices. Clement of Alexandria in citing the passage says, inline-graphicinline-graphic

page 279 note 2 Th.Bergk, in his Commentationum de Reliquiis Comoediae Atticae Antiquae Libri Duo (Leipzig, 1838), thought (p.6) that the fragment referred to the (sole) chorus of ‘censores acerbi’ (ibid., p.5) when they first appeared. Others have seen two semi-choruses in inline-graphic: cf. W. W. Baker in HSCP 15 (1904), 139 f. (‘... concludere fortasse nobis licet unam tantum chori partem, de qua fabula iota nomen accepit, Archilochi fautores fuisse, alteram poetarum aliorum, Homeri et Hesiodi, comites.’) M. Whittaker in CQ 29 (1935), 185, remarks on the agon of inline-graphic, ‘the altercation would take place between Homer and Archilochus, each supported by his half chorus, with Hesiod as a tertius gaudens.’

page 279 note 3 Edmonds J. M.'s suggestion (The Fragments of Attic Comedy (Leiden, 1957-1961), ad loc.) that Plato's inline-graphic had a chorus of beasts (cf. frs. 35 and 28) rests on inadequate evidence. Fr. 28 could be figurative: cf. Metagenes fr. 19A Edmonds for comparable imagery. Bergk (op. cit., p.132) supposes that the chorus of inline-graphic were personified festivals (from the plural title). If his inference is correct, it is likely that there was a multiform chorus, individual festivals being represented (cf. Philyllius fr. 8 Kock for a festival day as a character), but I am not sufficiently confident of the composition of the chorus to include the play in the present list. Could the chorus perhaps have been composed of celebrants? Nevertheless, a multiform chorus in inline-graphic is a possibility.

page 280 note 1 Cf. my article ‘A Eupolidean Precedent for the Rowing Scene in Aristophanes’ “Frogs”?’ in CQ 24 (1974), 250–2. I ought to have added there that there is the probability of a boat as a stage property in Hermippus' inline-graphic, assuming, that is, that the rowing to which reference is made actually took place in the action of the play.

page 280 note 2 Cf. especially Ar. Frogs 236 f.

page 280 note 3 Meineke, op. cit. i. 212, comments, ‘In, inline-graphic Eupolidis, ut videtur, in Taxiarchis exemplum sequutus, mollem et effeminatum deum duris athletarum et luctatorum laboribus exposuit...’ I wholeheartedly agree with Meineke's theory of the plot. Bergk (Comm., p.431) doubts the title, which is so recorded only in Pollux 3.150 (see fr. 13 Edmonds), whereas Athenaeus twice gives the title merely as inline-graphic (650 d and 658 a: see frs. 11 and 12 in Edmonds). Bergk suggests inline-graphicinline-graphic, which Meineke is prepared to accept (ii. 733) or else postulate two editions of the play. In Moretti L., I. G. Urb. Rom. (Rome, 1968), 216.10, the first letters of the title inline-graphic are (it seems) given, and the play is dated to 394 B.C., inline-graphic, but this does not resolve the problem, and in Metagenes’ inline-graphicinline-graphic and Aristophanes’ or Archippus' inline-graphic we have parallels for the form of both suggested titles. A final decision is impossible without better evidence, but perhaps Bergk is right to argue that Athenaeus is unlikely to have dropped (or his copyists lost) the second word of the title in two places if the title comprised two words and not alternatives. Therefore the correct form of the title is more likely to be inline-graphic. For the implications of Metagenes' title inline-graphicinline-graphic cf. Ar. Frogs 1034 ff. (Homer's value as an instructor in military virtue being in point).

page 280 note 4 See Meineke, op. cit. ii. 402 f. Bergk (Comm., p.324) followed Dindorf (in his edition of Athenaeus) in adopting the emendation inline-graphic and further argued that there was an allusion to Alcibiades, who is said by Antiphon (in Athen. 12 p.525b) to have visited Abydos in early manhood to school himself in debauchery inline-graphic. In view of the fact that Athenaeus in citing Hermippus fr. 58 talks only of the ‘people of Abydos’, and not Alcibiades, it seems to me that Bergk has been too ingenious in seeking an allusion to Alcibiades.

page 281 note 1 So Edmonds ad loc. and Ehrenberg V., The People of Aristophanes (Oxford, 1943), p.21.

page 282 note 2 F.C.G. ii. 540. Contrast Bergk, Comm., p.363.

page 283 note 3 Norwood G., Greek Comedy (London, 1931), pp.284 f.

page 284 note 1 Cf. Whittaker in CQ 29 (1935), 183: ‘Similarly in Eupolis’ inline-graphic frags. 231, 232, 233 are descriptions of three different members of the chorus of cities, Tenos, Chios and Cyzicus, who probably entered singly, carrying symbols for identification which would have been unintelligible without explanation.'

page 284 note 2 Cf. Dover K. J., Aristophanic Comedy (London, 1972), p.145.

page 285 note 1 For animal choruses see Sifakis G. M., Parabasis and Animal Choruses (London, 1971).

page 285 note 2 I refer to Magnes' inline-graphic (title and Ar. Knights 522), inline-graphic(title and Ar. Knights 523), and inline-graphic (title and Ar. Knights 523), Crates' inline-graphic (title and fr. 17) and inline-graphic (title), Callias' inline-graphic (title), Pherecrates' inline-graphic (title and fr. 121: ants?), Eupolis' inline-graphic (title and fr. 14), Cantharus' inline-graphic (title) and inline-graphic (title), Plato's inline-graphic (title) and inline-graphic (title), Archippus' inline-graphic (title, frs. 28, 29, etc.) and Diodes' inline-graphic (title).

page 285 note 3 The present article is based upon sections of my thesis, ‘The Technique of Humour of Cratinus, Eupolis, Pherecrates and Plato and of the Minor Poets of the Athenian Old Comedy’ (diss. St. Andrews 1974).

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