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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a coincidence, is still an interesting one. 3

Apart, too, from these very remarkable instances,
there are not a few passages scattered about in the

1 Plaut. Epid. i. 2, 7.

2 Cp. v. i, 45, where the lover's regrets are promptly answered by
the assertion that there is another woman ready who will do just as
well or better : stultus, tace !

tibi quidem quod ames domi praesto.

3 That the character of the soldier belonged essentially to erotic
comedy is further shown by Plaut. Capt. prolog. 57 :

hie neque periurus leno nee meretrix mala
neque miles gloriosus.

184 Women in Greek Comedy.

remains of the New Comedy which serve to show
that the " love," of which there is so much talk in
that literature, is not the merely animal passion of
an earlier period. Of these, a striking one is that
preserved in Plutarch, ap. Stob. Flor. Ixiii. 34:

Ttov MevdVS/oov S/oa/xarcov, says Plutarch there, OVK tcrws

V Cnn>e/CTt/COl/ 60-TlV 6 6^0)9, OtOV TTVeVfJLOL KOiVQV

ov ovv /xaAto~ra ^tao~WT^v TOI> Oeov /cat oyoytacrr^v
tcr/zev, rov avftpa o-weTTtAaju^avoo/Aev ets rrjv ^T^crtv, eTret /cat
AeAa/c^/ce Tre/ot roi; irdOovs <^>tAocro^)cuTe/)Ov. a^tov yap etvat
^av/xaro? ^cra? TO Trept roi>5 epcovras, wcrTrep eo-rtv a/za
AaAet. etra aTropet /cat ?/Tt Trpb? eavrov *

rtvt SeSovAwrat (^. 6 epaorT^s) TTOTC j

oi/'et ; <j>\vapos. /c.r.A

/catpos e(TTtv ^ vocros

if;vx?js. (Menand. Incert. 14.)

That is : Menander, a writer familiar with love in
its most passionate forms (Oiao-corqv KCU opyiaarrriv),
gives us a sober and serious view of the matter.
After expressing his astonishment at the ways of
lovers, he furnishes us with a realistic account of
love as it actually is (warTrep GO-TLV djma XaXe?), 1 and
then proceeds to investigate its causes. For a
moment he is puzzled, and questions with himself,
but soon he finds the true answer. Kaipo? eo-nv fj
i/oVo9 ^i/x??* Love is an affection of the soul as
distinct from the body, and has only an accidental
connection with the latter. 2

Equally forcible, though in another way, is a

1 This doubtless refers to some lines, now lost, which preceded the
passage subsequently quoted.

2 This is, of course, nothing but a versified version of the doctrine
of the Stoic, Euclides. Cp. Diog. Laert. ii. 108.

Women in Greek Comedy. 185

passage from the Poenulus. The lover and his
slave are watching the two girls, and the slave
expresses his utter contempt for his master's
" Platonic " affection, to which the latter answers
that he loves Adelphasium as he loves the gods. 1
Another case is in the Curculio, where the love of
Phaedromus for Planesium is fed on nothing more
substantial than kisses ; 2 another in the Hecyra,
where it is distinctly pointed out that the love of
Pamphilus for his wife is induced by other than
sensual considerations. 3 Other instances, of more
or less significance, every reader of the Latin
comedians will be able to supply for himself; and
it is further worth observing that when a New
Comedy character, as occasionally does happen, is
made to speak slightingly of " Platonic " love, such
a character is always a slave, never a person of
refinement. 4

To proceed to the final point of essential difference
between Middle and New Comedy, it will be re-
membered that, in the former class of literature,
family life and the mutual relations of members
of a family were among the stock subjects of
ridicule, and that no remarks expressive of any
other views on this matter are to be found there,

1 Ml. etiamne (a me didicisti) ut ames earn, quam nusquam
tetigeris? nihil illuc quidem est.

AG. deos quoque edepol et amo et metuo, quibus tamen abstineo
manus. (i. 2, 69. ) A remark in v. 4, 49, is similar in spirit.

2 Plaut. Cure. i. I, 50 seqq. Further moralisings on the power of a
kiss (which almost suggest Daphnis in Longus' Pastor alia, i. 18) occur
in Menand. Incert. 7.

3 Ter. flee. i. 2, 60 seqq. ; 85 seqq.

4 e.g. the "Geta" in Menander's Misumenus, Milphio in the
Poenulus of Plautus, &c.

1 86 Women in Greek Comedy.

at any rate before a very late period. 1 Family life,
as depicted in the New Comedy, is by no means
ideal ; indeed, as we have already had occasion
to remark, the unhappy relations between husband
and elderly wife are, under certain circumstances,
a favourite subject of ridicule, even with Menander. 2
But yet instances to the contrary are to be found,
and are, in fact, by no means very uncommon. Not
to speak of the cases of devotion of wife to husband
and husband to wife such as those in the Stichus,
&c., already sufficiently discussed 3 the relations
between father and children, and, still more, mother
and children, 4 are often described as of the most
delightful character.

Of the former, there are interesting examples in
Menand. Incert. 59 :

ato-^vvofjiai TOV Trar^oa, KAemx^wv, /xoVov.
dvTi/3\7TiV l/cetvoi/ ov SvvrjcrofJLai
dSiK&V TO, 8 } aAAa /5a6Yu>s ^eipwcropaL.
Incert. 108 :


rots ftev Aoyots TTiKpos ecrrt, rots 8' efpyois
Incert. 113 :

fjLiqStv oSvva rbv Trarepa, yiyi/wavccov ort
6 ju-eytcrrov cxyaTrwv 6Y eAa^KTr' op
Incert. 117:

s ovSev ovO' i;tw Trarrjp
OVT epwv epw/xev^. 5

1 Such a passage as Alexis, Incert. 35, would belong to this date. It
is very different to the ribald remarks in the Philometor of Antiphanes.

2 Cp. supra, p. 173. 3 Ibid. p. 171.

4 The "mater indulgens" is mentioned in Apuleius, Florid. 16, as
one of the stock characters in Philemon.

5 Menand. Incert. 109, 114, 115, are all equally to the point.

Women in Greek Comedy. 187

The charming interview between the father and
his two daughters in the Stichus (i. 2, 32 seqq^ is a
further, equally striking instance.

Of the latter relation, that between mother and
children, there is a good instance in this same play
(i. 2, 51), where, after the father has propounded
his intention of marrying again, his daughter reminds
him that it will be hard for him to find a second
wife like his first.

AN. pol ego uxorem quaero, postquam vostra mater
mortua est.

PA. facile invenies et peiorem et peius moratam, pater,
quam ilia fuit ; meliorem neque tu reperies neque
sol videt.

A still more striking case is that in the Hecyra,
where the mother of Pamphilus, thinking that it is
her presence which renders it impossible for her
son's wife to live with him, resolves to sacrifice
herself, and go into voluntary exile into the country. 1
The same idea, though less pleasantly expressed, is
apparent in Syrus' remark in the Heauton Timoru-
menus (v. 2, 38) : matres omnes filiis

in peccato adiutrices, auxilio in paterna iniuria.

But it is needless to multiply instances of a state
of affairs with which every attentive reader of Plautus
and Terence must be sufficiently familiar. 2

1 Vide Ter. Hec. iv. 2, I seqq., a passage of great interest.

2 Some further remarks on the family relations in New Comedy will
be found in Excursus K.

[Frequent reference is made in these pages to Plautus and
Terence, as illustrating the New Comedy. The justification of such
reference was to have been dealt with in an Excursus. The author
was of opinion that the Latin comedians might be cited to illustrate
plot and subject, though we could not be certain that the actual words
or expressions in any given passage were due to Greek originals.]

1 88 Women in Greek Comedy.


The above investigation into the nature of New
Comedy, and into the points of difference between
it and the earlier literature, leads naturally to the
consideration of a further and final question that
of the origin of these differences which are so
strikingly apparent. We have seen that the romantic
New Comedy differs entirely in its treatment of
women from every form of dramatic art which had
preceded it. 1 In fact, we have seen that, while the
Middle Comedy belongs still entirely to the first or
classical period of Greek literature, the New Comedy,
with its striking romantic features, belongs essentially
to that second period, which it is usual to call the
Alexandrian, and forms, indeed, one of the depart-
ments of literature in which the romantic tendencies
of that period can be studied to the best advantage.
What we have to consider is therefore this : How
did Athenian Comedy acquire these romantic features
which are so conspicuously absent from its earlier
phases ? when did it acquire them ? and to whom
was the acquisition due ?

The last of these three questions may be best
considered first. There seems every reason to believe
that this introduction of the romantic element was
due to Menander rather than to Philemon. 2 There

1 That there was no romantic element in Greek tragedy has already
been shown at length. [See above, pp. 37-67.]

2 The claims of Diphilus need not be considered. His leanings
towards Middle Comedy are generally admitted ; in his fragments

Women in Greek Comedy. 189

can be no question that of the two writers, Philemon
is the less distinctively romantic. Of the typical
New Comedy love-stories preserved in Plautus and
Terence, not one professes to be derived from him.
The allusions to women altogether are proportion-
ately much fewer in his fragments than in those
of Menander ; while a large proportion, again, of
such allusions as there are, are either references to
Hetaerae, or else belong to the old-fashioned miso-
gyny of Middle Comedy. The detailed examination
of his style of art, which occurs in the Florida of
Apuleius, is altogether strongly suggestive of Middle
Comedy; 1 indeed, Apuleius actually describes him
as " mediae comoediae scriptor." It is further to
be remarked that the number of coarse allusions
to women is proportionately far greater in Philemon
than in Menander. Indeed, the whole study of
Philemon's treatment of women leaves one with the
impression, not only that he was at heart a follower
of the old school, but that even when he did for

there is no suggestion of any romantic treatment of women. In fact,
the only real reason for assigning him to New Comedy at all is,
perhaps, the story of the Rudens, which, Arcturus states in the Pro-
logue, is derived from this writer. Of the Casino, we shall speak
elsewhere. [See page 165, note 2.]

1 Poeta fuit hie Philemon, mediae comoediae scriptor", fabulas cum
Menandro in scenam dictavit, certavitque cum eo, fortasse impar, certe
aemulus. namque eum etiam vicisse saepenumero, pudet dicere.
reperias tamen apud ipsum multos sales, argumenta lepide inflexa,
agnatos lucide explicates, personas rebus competentes, sententias vitae
congruentes, ioca non infra soccum, seria non usque ad cothurnum.
rarae apud ilium corruptelae, et, uti errores, concessi amores. nee
eo minus et leno periurus et amator fervidus et servulus callidus et
arnica illudens et uxor inhibens et mater indulgens et patruus obiur-
gator et sodalis opitulator et miles proeliator ; sed et parasiti edaces
et parentes tenaces et meretrices procaces. Apul. Flor. 16.

1 90 Women in Greek Comedy.

any reason adopt the romantic principle, he developed
this principle from a more sensual point of view than
Menander. That this tendency to coarseness is in
sympathy with the earlier spirit of Athenian comedy,
but is entirely foreign to its romantic development,
need hardly be emphasised, after all that has
already been said on the subject. And it may not
be altogether beside the question here, to call atten-
tion to Philemon's invariable pessimism pessimism
most characteristic of a conservative mind in an age
of progress, but hardly consistent with such qualities
as would be required of the originator of a great
artistic and social revolution. 1 Furthermore, Philemon
is regularly spoken of as the rival of Menander; 2 the
reverse is never the case, notwithstanding the fact
that the relative ages of the two playwrights would
have made the latter the more natural way of putting
the case. Again, the much greater success of Phile-
mon at the time, notwithstanding the well-nigh
unanimous contrary verdict of subsequent ages, 3
seems to show clearly that he was the more old-
fashioned of the two ; for, as is well known, originality
is seldom very welcome on the stage. And lastly,
the very large proportion of Philemon's works which
appear to have belonged to Middle Comedy pure
and simple a point which will be further discussed
directly seems to be further evidence that this was

1 A curious instance of this feeling is his often-expressed opinion
that animals are happier than men. Cp. Incert. 3, 4, 8, etc.

2 Cp. inter alia Apul. Flor. 16.

3 Among many expressions to this effect, we need only mention that
of Quintilian : atque ille quidem (sc. Menander) omnibus eiusdem
operis auctoribus abstulit nomen et fulgore quodam suae claritatis
tenebras obduxit. Inst. x. I, 72.

Women in Greek Comedy. 191

his natural metier^ and that it was only a spirit of
rivalry with Menander which made him turn his
attention to a style of art with which he had no real
sympathy. 1 As for the Hypobolimaeus, that proves
nothing, for there is no evidence whatever by which
to fix the date of this resuscitation of the Cocalus
of Aristophanes ; indeed, if anything, it rather
suggests that Philemon found such subjects so little
congenial, that he had to borrow his materials, in-
stead of being able to produce them himself.

All this, it may be argued, proves little as to the
claims of Menander over Philemon. Indeed, it may
even be urged that the very fact that Philemon is
the less distinctively romantic of the two, renders
it probable that the first introduction of the romantic
element was due to him. But such an argument,
though at first sight plausible enough, rests on an
imperfect comprehension of the real nature of the
romantic principle in Greek comedy. Were this
principle a direct development of tendencies charac-
teristic of the earlier phases of the literature, it would
doubtless be right to assume that its first appearance
in any tangible shape would be of an unemphatic
and tentative kind ; but the romantic principle is no

1 To take an instance from modern times. M. Daudet is said to
have written his Sappho with the expressed object of showing that
he, too, could produce a work which could not be left lying about.
Similarly, M. Zola may be imagined to have produced La Reve, in
order to prove that even he could be decent if he tried. But any
attempt to judge of the general character of these authors by the two
books mentioned would be obviously futile. In like manner, in the
case of Philemon, one has to consider how much of the romantic
element in his comedies is due to conviction, and how much to a desire
to show that romantic love-stories were a game two could play at.

1 92 Women in Greek Comedy.

such development of previous tendencies It is not a
development, but a regeneration ; it is not a growth
from within, but an annex from without. Whatever
anyone may suppose to be the origin of the romantic
element, no one with any acquaintance with the
subject is likely to wish to maintain that the virgin-
love of New Comedy is developed out of the
Hetaera - worship of its predecessor on the stage.
Indeed, there can be little doubt that, so far from
New Comedy appealing to those tastes which Middle
Comedy had fostered, its remarkable success was
in great part due to a strong reaction against the
latter. And thus there is every reason to believe
that, when once the new emotion found expression
on the stage, such expression was immediately clear
and unmistakable ; and that therefore, in looking for
the originator of the movement, one must look for
that writer of the period whose works exhibit the
romantic features most strongly and consistently,
and must regard those other writers, in whom such
features are less prominent, as more or less unwilling
imitators. And if this be so, there can be little real
doubt as to the validity of Menander's claim.

The next question to be considered is When was
this introduction of the romantic element into Greek
comedy first brought about ? We know that Phile-
mon began to exhibit in 330, and that the date of
Menander's first play is 322 ; but these facts do not
of themselves furnish any information as to the
origin of New Comedy proper. For it is an unques-
tionable fact, and one of the greatest importance in
this connection, that both Philemon and Menander

Women in Greek Comedy. 193

wrote plays which are not romantic, and which
belong, therefore, to Middle, rather than to New
Comedy. And on this fact hinges the whole ques-
tion of the date of the introduction of the romantic
element into Athenian Comedy.

Of the ninety -seven plays of Philemon, which
Platonius states were in his time extant, 1 hardly
fifty titles are preserved, and of these, well-nigh a
third obviously belong to what were evidently
Middle Comedies. 2 When we consider how ex-
tremely probable it is that the majority of the plays
now entirely lost belonged also to this class (for it
is obvious that a later age would tend to preserve
such plays as were in harmony with the romantic
tastes then prevailing, rather than those that were
not), it becomes clear that a very large proportion
of the plays of Philemon were not New Comedies
at all. With Menander the same is to a certain
extent, though not in an equal degree, also true.
Of about a hundred plays that he produced during
the thirty-two years of his literary activity, while

1 Platon. de Com. p. 30. ad fin. The passage distinctly suggests that
these ninety-seven plays were not all that Philemon actually wrote.
<rc6~ercu de avrou (3>L\r)[JLOvos) dpdfAara eirra Trpbs frevrjKOVTa. M.evaj>dpos
.... yeypa<f>e de Trdvra dpa/mara. prj' .

The view that the total number of his plays was greater than ninety-
seven seems to acquire further probability from the fact that he lived
well-nigh twice as long as Menander, and continued to write up to the
day of his death. Cp. Apul. Flor. 16. It need hardly be remarked
that if plays of Philemon were already lost in the time of Platonius,
such plays were, in all probability, Middle rather than New Comedies.

2 I have reserved the detailed proof of this fact, and the similar one
concerning Menander, for another place, in order that the sequence
of the argument may not be disturbed. Vide Excursus. [This Excursus
does not appear to have been written.]


194 Women in Greek Comedy.

a dozen or so, presumably unsuccessful efforts of
his earlier years, are entirely lost, some twenty
besides, of those whose titles we know, must be
ranked with the old, rather than with the new
form of dramatic art.

Now when we further reflect that it is not probable
that, after a writer has once taken to a new and suc-
cessful development of art, he will then fall back
again to any considerable extent upon the old, and
that therefore the Middle Comedies of Menander,
and also of Philemon, 1 belong, in all probability, to
their earlier period and are anterior to the intro-
duction of the romantic element, it becomes obvious
that the date of the introduction of this element
into Comedy, (that is to say, the date of the birth of
New Comedy,) must be put considerably later than
is usually done, and that, instead of fixing this date
at 330, or even at 322, we must rather fix it some-
where between the years 315 and 310. For assuming,
as we seem in every way justified in doing, that
about a quarter of the plays of Menander belonged
in spirit still to Middle Comedy, and that his rate
of production increased rather than diminished with
advancing years, a simple calculation will enable us
to put the date within these limits.

Granted then that the introduction of the romantic
element into Comedy was due to Menander, and

1 It is hard to speak so positively of Philemon if, as is probable, he
was merely the imitator and rival of Menander in this respect ; but, of
course, if it be granted that his romantic plays are subsequent to
Menander's introduction of the subject, it is a matter of indifference
for the present argument whether he afterwards reverted to the older
style or not

Women in Greek Comedy. 195

took place about the year 312, there remains the
final question, Where did Menander get the idea
from ? It has, I trust, been made sufficiently clear
by this time that he did not derive it from his pre-
decessors in Comedy, nor yet from his favourite model
Euripides. He may, of course, have evolved it in-
dependently for himself, but this, seeing that a
similar conclusion had been arrived at some hundred
years before, is not very probable. It has already
been demonstrated that the romantic idea, (that is to
say, the idea that a woman is a worthy object for a
man's love, and that such love may well be the chief,
if not the only, aim of a man's life,) had originally
been propounded by Antimachus of Colophon at the
end of the fifth century 1 ; it seems, therefore, well-nigh
certain that this idea must have been communicated
in some way to Menander from Antimachus, and
the only point that remains to be considered is the
probable method of this communication.

It is possible that the influence may have been
direct. It is possible that the accident of a copy of
the Lyde coming into Menander's hands may have
suggested to him the idea which he subsequently
developed with such success. It is possible, and, in
the absence of evidence, one way or the other, it
would be bold to assert that it was not the case ;
but, at the same time, it seems on the whole more
probable that the influence was of a different kind,
and that Menander's attention was first called to
the views propounded by Antimachus through the
medium of some third person. While it is, of

1 \Supra, p. 107 segq.]

196 Women in Greek Comedy.

course, futile to expect proof in such a case as this,
there is, perhaps, one personality among those we
know belonging to the period, in favour of which,
rather than of any other, the evidence seems to tend.
This is Asclepiades, the originator of the erotic
epigram, and a poet of great influence upon various
contemporary writers. It is true that it is usual to
place the date of Asclepiades somewhat later than
that which we have decided must be fixed for the
appearance of the New Comedy, but this later date
does not rest on any very strong evidence. Ascle-
piades is mentioned along with Philetas in Theocritus
vii. 40, in a way which, at any rate, does not exclude
the possibility that he was a contemporary; 1 Philetas,
as we know, was born in the reign of Philip, 2 say,
338 ; Asclepiades may have been born several years
later, even in 330, and yet have had an influence on
Menander, for, as we know, he began his career as an
erotic poet at a very early age. 3 It is by no means
improbable that he may have visited Athens to
complete his education ; his epigrams show an ac-
quaintance with Athenian comedy and life as there
described which could hardly have been acquired
elsewhere ; such visits were paid to Athens by Calli-
machus, Aratus, and others. It will, of course, be
urged that the influence may have been just the

1 The Scholiast here, and others, go so far as to assert that Theocritus
was a pupil of Asclepiades as well as of Philetas.

2 <&i\T]Tas . . . &v tri re $>L\linrov Kal ' AAedp dpov. Suidas s.v.

3 Cp. Antk. Pal. xii. 46. The fact that Asclepiades was tired of
life at twenty-one is, of course, no proof that he died early. Many
people, especially poets, who were very anxious for death in their
youth, have developed a wonderfully tenacious hold upon life as they
grew older.

Women in Greek Comedy. 197

reverse, and that Menander suggested the romantic
idea to Asclepiades ; but this is improbable for two
reasons. In the first place, Asclepiades is known to
have been a student of Antimachus, 1 while Menander,
as far as we know, was not ; in the second, though
Asclepiades shows, as has been said, evident traces
of the influence of comedy, such comedy is not New,
but distinctly Middle Comedy, as is sufficiently plain
from the drinking-scenes described in Anth. Pal.
v. 1 8 1, 185, from the frequent, or rather, constant
allusions to Hetaerae in his epigrams, and from the
complete absence from them of those particular
features of the romantic idea which Menander him-
self developed. It is therefore well-nigh certain that,
if there was influence from either side, and, when
one considers the close sympathy between the ideals
of the two writers, the conclusion that there was
some more than merely fortuitous affinity between

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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 14 of 18)