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Menander's Dramatic Technique and the Law of Athens

  • P. G. McC. Brown (a1)


‘Menander has set up a confrontation between this law [the law about epikleroi] and love… He wants the audience to regard the law as stupid and wrong… Surely one of Menander's purposes in writing this play was to make the Athenians consider seriously whether the law ought to be changed.’ Thus Professor D. M. MacDowell in the concluding paragraph of his article ‘Love versus the Law: an Essay on Menander's Aspis’. A similar view was already implicit in E. Karabelias' treatment of the play as indicative of the general attitude to this law in Athens in Menander's day: ‘A n'en point douter, l'épiclérat est ressenti, á l'epoque de Ménandre, comme une anomalie intolérable pour les mceurs de la societe athénienne à la fin du ive s.av.n.è L'épiclérat est odieux et ridicule… L'hostilité envers l'épiclérat est done un signe des temps’. And Professor E. G. Turner has written: ‘it is hard to imagine that the institution of the epiclerate emerged in good standing from this derisory treatment’.



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1 Greece and Rome, 2nd series, 29 (1982), 4252. MacDowell gives further bibliography in his notes.

2 Revue Historique du Droit François et Étranger 48 (1970), 384–7.

3 Chronique d' Égypte 54 (1979), 120.

4 On which see Schaps, David, Economic Rights of Women in Ancient Greece (Edinburgh, 1979), ch. 3.

5 art. cit. 50.

7 MacDowell, art. cit. 49.

8 It is perhaps worth noting that Smikrines does not in what survives of the play use an argument in defence of his plan to marry her which would have been available to him if she were classed among the thetes: it would have been quite consistent with his character for him to point out that he would have to provide her with a dowry if he did not marry her himself and to argue that it would be unreasonable to expect him to choose this alternative.

9 art. cit. 48–9.

10 We are promised a full study by de Ste Croix, G. E. M., The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World (London, 1981), 114 and 558 n. 1 to ch. Ill, i. I take it that this is the ‘unpublished essay’ referred to by Rhodes, P. J., A Commentary on the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia (Oxford, 1981), 138, 143.

11 op. cit. (in n. 10), 142; cf. de Ste Croix, , Class, et Med. 14 (1953), 41.

12 MacDowell, art. cit. 44.

13 cf. Gorame, and Sandbach, , Menander, a commentary (Oxford, 1973), 76–7.

14 art. cit. 45.

15 p. 77.

16 art. cit. 45.

17 art. cit. (in n. 3), 119.

18 art. cit. 45.

19 The Cambridge History of Classical Literature II, Latin Literature (ed. Kenney, E. J. and Clausen, W. V., Cambridge, 1982), 121.

20 Handley, ad loc; cf. Arnott, W. G., ‘A note on the motiv of “Eavesdropping behind the door” in comedy’, RhM 108 (1965), 371–6. No motivation is given for Daos' entry at Aspis 164 (cf. Gomme-Sandbach, ad loc.).

21 Actors and Audience (Oxford, 1977), 139, on Epitr. 442 ff. (Sandbach).

22 cf. Arnott, W. G., Menander I (Loeb Classical Library, 1979), 238 n. 1.

23 Athena 76 (1977), 155 ff.

24 cf. Harrison, A. R. W., The Law of Athens i (Oxford, 1968), 21. Dem. 46. 24, on which Karnezis bases his rejection of this possibility, does not seem relevant.

25 MacDowell, art. cit. 43.

26 On line 22.

27 cf. Handley on 739.

28 cf. Gomme-Sandbach on 22.

29 art. cit. (in n. 2), 381.

30 p. 44; cf. Karabelias, art. cit. 366–8.

31 p. 46.

32 p. 47; cf. Karabelias, art. cit. 375–8.

33 p. 48.

34 pp. 49–50.

35 cf. Gomme-Sandbach on 264: ‘if Chairestratos’ plan were carried through, a child born L to the girl might argue that the arrangement had cheated him out of the property that was his right. I do not know that there is any evidence to show what rights, if any, the law gave him, but even if there were none, he or someone suing on his behalf might hope to win a jury's sympathy and the verdict'.

36 p. 49.

37 Dem. 41. 4.

38 , Men.Epitrepontes and Pap. Didot I (Menander, ed. Sandbach, pp. 328–30).

39 Plautus, Stichus and Ennius, Cresphontes.

40 See Harrison (cited in n. 24), 30–1; Jocelyn, H. D., The Tragedies of Ennius (Cambridge, 1967), 274–5; Petersmann, H. on Stichus 17. Zucker, F., RhM 92 (1944), 204 seems very much to the point when he says of Plautus in the opening scenes of Stichus: ‘Im übrigen bringt er die Rechtsfrage eben so wenig zur Geltung, wie das… im Original und in den Epitrepontes der Fall gewesen zu sein scheint’.

41 art. cit. (in n. 3), 120–2.

42 cf. Erdmann, W., Die Ehe im alten Griechenland (Miinchen, 1934), 274.

43 I must also thank my wife Lesley Brown for pillorying some un-Menandrian obscurities in an earlier draft of this article.


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