E. F. M. (Edward Felix Mendelssohn) Benecke.

Antimachus of Colophon and the position of women in Greek poetry. A fragment, printed for the use of scholars online

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duction on the stage of such subjects cannot be the
merit claimed by Suidas for Anaxandrides. The
most simple explanation of the apparent anomaly
would therefore seem to be, that what Suidas means
to imply, is that Anaxandrides was the first to make
erotic subjects the main interest of his plot, and to
introduce his principal characters as taking part in
them ; for this, as we have already seen, was not the
case with the earlier plays which dealt with erotic

Whether this great advance was really due to
Anaxandrides cannot, unfortunately, be proved with
anything like certainty, for such fragments of his
works as have survived are remarkably reticent on

1 No one who is familiar with the Middle Comedy is likely to wish
to maintain that the words irapOtvwv <t>0opds imply that the plays of
Anaxandrides were similar in character to such plays as the Andria or
the Adelphi of Menander. The exact nature of the irapdtvuv 2/>o>res
of the Middle Comedy, which form, in fact, an infinitesimal part of
the erotic element in that literature, will be fully discussed lower down,
[pp. 159, 213.]

Women in Greek Comedy. 155

this particular subject; 1 but there can be no doubt
that it took place about his time, so that there is at
least a strong probability, under the circumstances,
that it was the result of his influence.

On the first and older class of Hetaera-play, it is
useless to dwell further ; a certain vague idea of
their general nature is all that can be gained by the
study of their fragments, and the external evidence
as to their character is equally meagre, while the
intentional want of coherence which marked their
action makes it obviously absurd to endeavour in
any way to reconstruct them. The character of the
second and, for our purposes, more important class,
will be best explained by a brief examination of one
or two striking specimens, the remains of which are
sufficiently important to render it possible to follow
their story, at any rate for a certain distance.

Thus, in the Campylion of Eubulus, we are intro-
duced to two men, one of whom sighs with quite
modern plaintiveness over the heavy burden of his
love for a certain /cooyx/a ercu/oa '.

rt's ?Jv 6 y/oa^as TT/OCOTOS CXV^/OWTTWV apa

a A A' TI v aTretpos rcov T/OOTTWV ra>v rov Bcov.
<TTIV yap ovre KO{KOS oirre pctSios
(XTraAAayTJvai TO) <j)povTi rrjv vocrov,
/3apvs Be KOfJLiSfj ' TTWS ai/ ovv e^ot Trrcpd
TOIOTJTO 7r/oay/xa ; A?J/oos, t /cat <^7ycrt rts.

(Fr. 3 ap. Athen. xiii. 5620.)

1 Curious in this connection is the fact that, while the Captivi of
Flautus is the only extant play derived from Anaxandrides, it is, at the
same time, the only extant play of Latin Comedy which is not con-
cerned with erotic subjects.

156 Women in Greek Comedy.

Through the agency of the friend, who is evidently
more of a man of the world, the lovers meet at a
supper party, which was probably at least a partie
carree. Here the friend gives vent to various cynical
remarks on women :

u> ycua K/)aju,t, rts ere Qr]piK\rjs TTOTC
Tei>e KotA^s AayoVos cvpvvas /3d6os ;
rj TTOV KareiSws TTJV yvvaiKeiav </>vcriv
ws ov^' juiKpots ^'Serat TTOT^/HOIS.

(/^. 2 a/. Athen. xi. 471 E.)

and, evidently a little sceptical as to the inviolable
Koa-jULiorrjs of the lady, makes various efforts to induce
her to commit herself, either by eating or drinking to
excess 1 (Fr. i, 5), or by displaying her talents in a
questionable u song and dance." (Fr. 6.) His efforts
seem, however, to be unsuccessful, and at the end
of the evening the hero is as hopelessly in love as

' ws 8' eSetTrvet Kocr/xtcos, he exclaims,

OVK okrTre/) aAAat, TWV Trpacrwv Trotov/xei/at

s, ecrarrov ras yva$ovs KCU TWV /cpeeov
tcr^pws, aAA' KOL(TTOV p,LKpov av
' tfxnrep TrapOevos MtA^o^'a.

(^r. 4 a/. Athen. xiii. 571 F.)

The denouement of this interesting little story
we do not know; let us hope it was a satisfactory

In the Agonis of Alexis again, we find a girl

1 That Tpayfi^aTCL was merely a polite word for drinking, seems
clear from Alexis, Polydeia:

6 Trpwros evp&v KO/JL\^OS fy TpayrjfJLara'
TOV crvjj,7ro<riov yap diarpLp^v e^evpt TTWS

Women in Greek Comedy. 157

remonstrating with her mother, who wishes her to
accept a rich but dissolute lover in preference to the
of her choice.

to fJbTep, LKTVW O~6, fJLTj

TOV MicryoAaV ov yap Kt$aptoSos etjU,' eyw.

The mother, however, insists, in spite of the young
man's professions of (imaginary ?) wealth (Fr. 2), in
carrying off her daughter to the rich lover's house,
where, however, the hero also manages to turn up
and make some cutting remarks on the family
portraits (Fr. 3). 1 He then succeeds in making the
mother drunk (Fr. 4), and so, we are led to believe
for the end is again veiled in obscurity is enabled
to elude her vigilance. 2

Further evidence as to the character of this style
of art may be obtained by studying several of the
plays of Plautus, such as the Truculentus, the
Mercator, or the Mostellaria, which seem to have
been adapted directly from Greek works of this
class, without being in any way influenced by the
later romantic ideas.

But while the incidents which occur in the
individual plays are naturally of an endless variety,
certain broad features are recognisable throughout
this literature.

Firstly, not only is love for an Hetaera enthusiast-
ically praised, but it is specially described as the one

1 <rvKCL are doubtless used here in the same sense as " mariscae " in
luv. ii. 13, or "ficus" in Mart. vii. 71.

2 Or, perhaps, the veavio-Kos tries the effect of the OyptKXeia on the
girl herself (cp. the epigram of Hedylus, Anth. Pal. v. 199) ; sed haec
omnia incerta. In any case, the scene seems somewhat to suggest that
in Petr. 85 seqq.

158 Women in Greek Comedy.

love in life worth loving. The advantage of the
Hetaera over the wife is such a stock subject, that
it will be unnecessary to do more than mention
one or two of the most striking passages in which
the feeling finds expression, such as that cited in
Athenaeus, xiii. 559 A, from the Athamas of
Amphis :

.lr ov ywaiKos ecrrtv cvvoiKwrcpov
yaperrjs traipa TTO\V ye /cat jU-aA' etKorws.
rj fjiv vofJLM yap Kara^povovcr 1 evSov /zevet,
rj S 3 ofSev OTL rj TO is rpotrois WV^TCOS
av$yoa)7ros eo"Ttv rj Trpos aXXov aTrtreov.

or that quoted in the same place from the Corinth-
iastes of Philetaerus :

ws TctKepov, w ZiVj Kal paXaKov TO

OVK eros eraipas iepov ecrrt Tra

a A A* ov^t yajJLtrrjs ovSapov r^Js 'E

But this is not all. The advantages of Hetaera-
love over adultery are expounded after a fashion
that cannot fail to be startling to anyone who has
not formed a clear conception of what " love " meant
in the Athens of Demosthenes. A striking instance
of this occurs in the Nannion of Eubulus, 1 and the
same idea is still further developed in the Pentathlus
of Xenarchus.

yap (TKOTia vv/jupevei \a0pq,,
oi/jt iravTbjv t^riv dOXiuTaros ;
Bewp'TjaavTi Trpos rbv tfXiov,

6(TTW(7aS, OittS

ayvols v5a<ri KvjTrevei

v irpiaadai K^PJULCLTOS TTJV T]ov

\a0paiav Ktiirpiv, alo"x,l<TT'r)v

v woffov ~)(apiv t

Women in Greek Comedy. 159

As for that " love of a man for a maid," which
is, so to speak, the very essence of the love-element
in later Greek literature, it is simply ignored in
Middle Comedy. A girl that one is going to marry
has all the disadvantages of a wife, but for one thing.
While the wife in esse is, as a later writer feelingly
expresses it, " an immortal necessary evil," and,
therefore, cannot be altogether escaped from, there
is no need to meet troubles halfway by drawing
attention to the wife in posse. Let us eat and drink,
for to-morrow we marry ; and while we do so, let
us have no Alexandrian skeleton at the feast to
remind us of the fatal hour. And so, if the question
be asked, "What did the Middle Comedy writers
think of such love ? " the answer is, " They did not
think of it at all." l

And this will serve to introduce us to a further
question, in the answer to which lies the key to the
whole of this part of our subject. What is actually
meant by the "love" which we hear so often ex-

1 The one or two apparent exceptions to this rule, such as those in
the Marathonii of Timocles or the Philaulus of Theophilus, are in
reality no exceptions at all. This will be clear enough if we consider
what is meant in these passages by a K6prj t and do not confuse the
sentiment there expressed with a sentiment which does not occur till
a later period. The K6prj in question (a Kidapi&Tpia in the Philaulus]
is merely an Hetaera in posse instead of in esse> an Hetaera who has
not yet entered into regular business, and herein consists her superiority
from the point of view of those who do not share Diogenes' view as to
the parallel between women and houses. That her attractions do not
differ in kind from those of the regular Hetaera will be plain enough to
anyone who takes the trouble to turn to the passage in the Marathonii,
and that the character of the ' ' love " she inspires is also similar will
be equally apparent from the same lines. That this was the character
of the irapdtvwv fywres with which, according to Suidas, Anaxandrides
dealt, seems beyond question.

160 Women inr^Greek Comedy. ....

pressed for these Hetaerae ? The answer may be
simple and brief: ornari res ipsa vetat, contenta doceri:
the love of the Middle' Ccmed}* is animal: passion,
pure and simple; the Hetaera caters for the appetites
of the time in exactly the same way, even if in a
different sphere, as the cook and the fishmonger,
of whom we also hear so much* both to praise and
blame, in this literature. 1 Of love in the modern
sense of the word, of love as distinct from lust,
there is nowhere any suggestion in the writers of the
Middle Comedy. This fact is so patent to anyone
who is familiar with the plays of this period, that
one may, perhaps, be spared the trouble of its
illustration. If anyone is inclined to doubt it, let him
open the third volume of Meineke's Comic Fragments
at random, and read ; he will soon be satisfied.

When this is the case, it is not surprising that we
find " Platonic " love held up to consistent ridicule
during the time of the Middle Comedy. A
sufficiently striking example of this method is the
passage quoted in Athenaeus, xiii. 563 C, from the
Dithyrambus of Amphis :


u>S cfoV paa~Trjs ocrrts, ta/oatov <iAwv,
T/OOTTWV eyoacm^s ecrri, r?)v o\piv Tract's *
a</)(ov y dXtjOws. K.T.\. \_JFr. 2.]

But the clearest proof of all is that furnished by
the fact that Plato himself, and Sappho, whose style
of love was, as we have already had occasion to
observe, 2 recognised as similar in spirit to that

1 Alexis himself says this, in almost as many words, in the passage
quoted below, p. 163. 2 Supra, p. 85.

Women in Greek Comedy. 161

advocated by the philosopher, are, perhaps, the two
favourite butts for the wit of the Middle Comedy.
That the Plato of Aristophon, like the Hedy chares
of Theopompus, of which we have already spoken,
and the Sapphos of Antiphanes, Amphis, Ephippus,
and Timocles, were, at least some of them, in part
devoted to this subject, it seems only reasonable to
believe, while sporadic allusions to the matter are,
of course, sufficiently common. The one possible
exception to this general rule appears in the Helene
of Alexis, where a character is introduced upholding
the Platonic view of love ; but it would be bold, in
the face of so much evidence on the other side, to
assert that this isolated statement in any way indi-
cates the general tone of the comedy in question.
It is far more likely that the champion of these
views (perhaps Theseus 1 ) was made to see the error
of his ways and repent his lost opportunities before
the play was out.

And akin in spirit to the above is the tendency,
so common that it hardly needs special illustration,
to throw ridicule on the married state and on family
life in general. 2 When the man, who is called the

1 The " Platonic" nature of Theseus' admiration for the unde-
veloped charms of Helen is a well-known feature of the legend. A
comparison with Aristoph. Thesmoph. B> Fr. 26, seems to suggest
a further reason why Theseus should have been introduced as a mock
"Platonic" lover. Cp. Phot. s.v. KU(roXci/cwj>. r6 d ro?s TratdiKois
XpTJeQat- XcLKUvlfcLv \eyov. "EXtvy (so Ruhnken for MeXaivy) yap
Qycrebs O#TOJS txptfcraTO.

3 In this connection we may remark that the tendency of the mytho-
logical stories commonly parodied by Middle Comedy was also almost
entirely in this direction. The Zei)s /uotx6s with whom the Athenian
audience of the day was so familiar, was hardly the type of character
to inspire respect for married life. How different was the New Comedy
treatment of the adulterer, we shall see further on.


162 Women in Greek Comedy.

originator of the erotic element in Middle Comedy,
can write words like these :

OCTTIS ya/xetv /^ovAever*, ov /SovXeverai
op^ws, SIOTI /3ovX.VTai ^ovTCo ya/xet,

(Anaxandrides, Incert. i.)

and mean them, there can be little doubt as to the
tendency of that erotic element which he was the
first to introduce. In fact, not only is marriage a
favourite subject of ridicule, but it is one on which
the writers of this period make some of their happiest
remarks. There are few things in Antiphanes as
good as the passage in the Philopator, where one
man, meeting another, enquires after a friend, and
hears that he has got married.

rt o-v Aeyeis ; he exclaims in horror. d
ov eya> ^eovra TrtpiTrarovvTa T

Alexis is seldom as amusing as when he proclaims
(Incert. 34) marriage worse than disfranchisement.

etr' ov)(l KpeiTTOv ecrrt T(J) y eyovri vovv
an/JLov eTvat /xaAAov ^ yvvaiK e^etv j
TToAAw ye" rovs ^v yovv art/xous OVK ea
dpXyv Aa^ovras 6 vo/xos apyeiv TWV TreAas*
7rav Be y^l/9, ovSe cravrov Kvpiov
e^ecrrtv etvat.

Such, then, is the erotic element of the Middle
Comedy the praise of sensuality and the ridicule
of all that is ennobling or virtuous. Alexis tells
us all when he says:

Women in Greek Comedy. 163

rots ^Sovots 8et crvAAeyeiv rov croxfipova.

Tpeis 6 etcrtv at ye -np Swa/ziv

rr)v a) d\rj6ios crvvTeXovcrav rw

TO Trietv, TO </>ayetv, TO T?Js 'A

TO, 8' aAAa TrpocrOrjKas airavra -%pr) KaAetv.

(Incert. 31.)

Processit Vesper Olympo. It was time the Mace-
donian barbarians swept all this away and made
place for cleaner things. 1


The feeling on passing from the Middle to the
New Comedy is like the fresh air on coming out
of the bar of a public-house. The Middle Comedy
is the last decaying branch of the old literature ; the
romantic New Comedy is one of the earliest and most
vigorous offshoots of that new literature which sprang
from the genius of Antimachus, and has continued to
the present day. In the Middle Comedy, we are still
face to face with the women of typical Athens, with
the women of Aristophanes, at best with the women
of Euripides, and with the way in which typical
Athens treated these women ; in the New Comedy
this is changed, and woman the woman that can
be loved as wife and mother steps into her true
place as object of, and partner in, the intensest and
the purest passions of which humanity is capable.

It will be remembered that the Middle Comedy
treatment, of women and love for women, had four
main characteristics.

1 Another phase of the Middle Comedy treatment of women, the
discussion of which here would lead us too far away from our immediate
subject, will be considered in Excursus I.

164 Women in Greek Comedy.

(1) The glorification of the Hetaera and of love
for the Hetaera.

(2) The purely sensual nature of the love thus

(3) The ridicule of all love that was not sensual.

(4) The ridicule of family-life.

The New Comedy flatly contradicts every one
of these principles. The love of which it treats is
love for a virgin?* and the consummation of this
love is marriage. Such love is by no means purely
sensual ; indeed, at times it is almost of a " Platonic"
character. And lastly, not only is the sanctity of
marriage strictly insisted upon, and the advantages
of marriage as a system strongly maintained, but
the family relations, anyhow among the younger
generation, are often of a very pleasant character.

In fact, while the action of the Middle Comedy
is concerned with a love, the consummation of which
is a temporary sensual gratification, the action of
the New Comedy is supplied by the efforts of its
heroes and their adherents, to secure that the love
which occupies so much of their thoughts may be
made at once legitimate and permanent. It was
New Comedy that first introduced on the stage the
love of a life, as opposed to the love of an hour.
If anyone were to ask what was the chief merit of
Menander, the answer would be that he was the
first to show the Athenians that " love for ever,"

1 That the \f/evdoK6pr), as the Athenian stage-managers rather quaintly
called her a class of character sufficiently common, it must be ad-
mitted differs toto caelo from the regular Hetaera, is almost too
obvious to need mention.

Women in Greek Comedy. 165

with which every poetaster and novel-reader has now
been familiar for so many centuries.

But the differences between the treatment of
women in the new literature, and that to which they
were exposed in the literature we have just been
studying, will be most readily made clear if we
proceed at once to the detailed examination of
the former.

The first and most prominent feature of the New
Comedy treatment of the love of men for women
is its insistance on marriage that is to say, on a
definite guarantee of permanence and constancy
as the one proper consummation of such love. In
fact, as we have already had occasion to observe
in another place, the idealisation of marriage is the
basis of Greek romance. 1

This insistance on marriage is, of course, most
strikingly exemplified in the typical New Comedy
plot, which is sufficiently familiar to every student of
the Latin comedians. Thus, in five of these Latin
plays, the Heauton Timorumenos (of Menander),
the Phormio (of Apollodorus), the Rudens (of
Diphilus), the Curculio, and the Poemilus? the story
is of exactly the kind that subsequently appears
in the Greek novel a young man falls in love
with a virgin, and, after various misfortunes which
threaten to separate the pair, they are eventually
married, and live happily ever afterwards.

1 Supra,) p. 109.

2 Of the Casina, which would appear at first sight to belong to this
class, we shall speak in another place. [The Excursus, dealing with
this subject, seems not to have been written ; comp. Excursus K.]

1 66 Women in Greek Comedy.

On this class of plot it is unnecessary to dwell,
except that it may be worth while just to draw
attention to the extremely passionate nature of the
love which makes these young men so anxious to
marry. The modern reader would instinctively
expect that the confinement of love to these
legitimate and, as one would now consider them,
commonplace channels, would inevitably lead to a
lessening of its charm, and a diminution of its force.
As a matter of fact, the result was the very reverse.
Not only has the character of man's love for woman
changed, but this love has developed an intensity
of poetry and passion which has never belonged
to it before. 1 Instances are easy to find ; the most
striking one is perhaps shown us at the meeting of
Phaedromus and Planesium, in the Curculio (i. 3) :

PL. tene me, amplectere ergo ! PH. hoc etiam est

quamobrem cupiam vivere.
quia te prohibet herus, clam hero potior. PL. prohibet,

nee prohibere quit,
nee prohibebit, nisi mors meum animum abs te abalien-


PH. sibi sua habeant regna reges, sibi divitias divites,
sibi honores sibi virtutes sibi pugnas sibi proelia !
dum mi abstineant invidere, sibi quisque habeant quod

suum est ! 2

1 It is hard for us, in our generation, to realise what the first dawn of
pure love for women must have meant to the men who saw it. It needs
a conscious effort of will to clean away from one's eyes and one's heart
the dust of the centuries, and to look back clearly ; but if once the
effort be successfully made, it is no longer hard to understand why,
at the end of the fourth century, the pure girl was a more inspiring
ideal than "the woman with a past," and why the irapfftvos could stir
depths of passion that the eralpa had left untouched.

8 These last lines are very suggestive of Theocr. viii. 53. It is worth
noticing that in this play (v. 2, 72) the girl is specially asked whether
she is willing to marry.

Women in Greek Comedy. 167

But there are others, almost equally forcible, in
the Rudens (iv. 8) where particular enthusiasm is
expressed at the prospect of marriage, as opposed
to the relation which had previously been the lover's
highest possible ideal, the Poenulus (v. 4, 49) x , and

But another and equally important type of story
is that in which the man first seduces the woman,
and then subsequently marries her. Plays of this
description are the Andria, the Eunuchus, the
Adelphi (all by Menander), the Aulularia, and the

Of these, the Cistellaria is different from the rest.
Here, the girl Silenium, who, though supposed to
be the daughter of a lena, has been brought up as
a virgin (i. 3, 24), is induced by a promise of marriage
to live with the man Alcesimarchus, a promise which
is afterwards fulfilled only after a considerable delay,
(i. i, 90-100.) In the other four cases, however
and this is very important the promise of marriage
is subsequent to the seduction, and takes the form,
not of an inducement to, but of a reparation for
the latter. The lover regards the seduction as a
crime, for which he is willing to make amends to
the utmost of his power, while at the same time
he is anxious to perpetuate and legalise his amour.
He therefore adopts what we are accustomed in
modern times to call an "honourable course," and

1 " patrue mi, ita me di amabunt ut, ego si sim luppiter,

iam hercle ego illanc uxorem ducam, et lunonem extrudam foras !"

2 Probably by Menander. At any rate, Cistell. i. I, 90 seqq. is a
translation of Menand. Incert. 32.

1 68 Women in Greek Comedy.

offers marriage to the woman whom he has loved
and still loves. The importance of this feature is two-
fold firstly, the close association thus brought about
between marriage and love of the most " romantic "
and unconventional description ; and secondly, the
perpetuation and legalisation of a form of love which
is obviously by nature temporary and illegitimate.
And thus the love-stories of the New Comedy may
be said to begin where those of the Middle Comedy
end ; while the heroes of the latter are concerned
with achieving the temporary satisfaction of their
sensual desires, the heroes of the former are occupied
in striving to make permanent atonement for the
indiscretions which such desires have led them to

To quote instances of what has been said: in the
Andria the promise of marriage is distinctly an act
of reparation, which the lover feels himself in duty
bound to make. This is evident from the argument
of Sulpicius Apollinaris, 1 and from various passages
in the play. 2 The same is the case in the Adelphi?
Here Aeschinus, as soon as he considers what he
has done, comes to the mother of Pamphila, and
begs with tears to be allowed to marry her by way
of reparation. 4 In the Aulularia, the petition of
Lyconides to the miser Euclio is animated by a very

1 " Glycerium vitiat Pamphilus,

gravidaque facta dat fidem, uxorem sibi

fore hanc," etc.
8 e.g. Ter. And. i. 5, 36 seqq., iv. 2, II seqq.

3 In the Adelphi of Menander, this feature was, in all probability,
even more prominent than it is in Terence's contaminated version.

4 Ter. Adelph. iii. 2, 34 seqq. ; cp. iii. 4, 23 seqq.

Women in Greek Comedy. 169

similar spirit. 1 In the Eunuchus (which is, it must
be remembered, the love-story of a boy of sixteen) 2 ,
there is no opportunity for any such behaviour on
the part of Chaerea, though his sincere regret (ii. 3,
33 seqq.\ and his enthusiasm when the possibility
of marriage becomes apparent (v. 8, I seqq), show
clearly enough that he is not intended to be an
exception to the general rule.

It must not, however, be supposed that the feeling,
which prompts the various characters of whom we
have spoken to make reparation for their wrong-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryE. F. M. (Edward Felix Mendelssohn) BeneckeAntimachus of Colophon and the position of women in Greek poetry. A fragment, printed for the use of scholars → online text (page 12 of 18)