) properly signifies
an imitation or imitator of a situation or person.
In Greek literature the word mime
with the name of Sophron of Syracuse (fifth century B.C.) and his son
Xenarchus (Suid. s. v. ῥηγίνους
we know about Sophron is mainly derived from Suidas (s. v. Σώφρων
) and the other lexicographers, the
Scholiasts on Nicander and Theocritus, and Athenaeus (see Gaisford's
Suidas). We are told that he wrote μίμους
in the Doric dialect, that they were in prose and
imitated by Plato, who used to keep a copy of Sophron under his pillow.
The names of some of the mimes are ἄγγελος,
θυννοσθήρας, γέροντες ἁλιεῖς,
and ἀκεστρίαι, νυμφοπόνος, πενθέρα,
The Second Idyll of Theocritus is borrowed
from the Ἀκεστρίαι
( “The Women
Quacks” ), and the Fifteenth from the Ἰσθμιάζουσαι.
Mahaffy (Hist. of Greek
§ 240) supposes that Sophron's
compositions were, like the so-called poems of Walt Whitman, written in
a rhythmical prose (οὗτος γὰρ μόνος,
says an old Scholiast, τῶν ποιητῶν ῥυθμοῖς
τισι καὶ κώλοις ἐχρήσατο ποιητικῆς ἀναλογίας
), and were clever delineations of ordinary
character, full of patois, wise saws and outspokenness. He further
considers that they may have been performed in private society, like the
marriage of Dionysius and Ariadne at the end of Xenophon's Symposium.
Besides Plato, Persius was also said
to have imitated Sophron (Lyd. de Magistr.
has collected the fragments of Sophron in a Programm, 1867. For further,
see Fuhr, De Mimis Graecorum,
The Roman mimus
(a term applied to the piece
as well as to the actor) was, like the Atellan farce, an improvised
character play of ordinary life, but without the stock character-masks
and buskins; and it was more concerned with the humorous side of the low
life of the town than of the country. It was indigenous in Latium, and
developed out of the dances in character to the flute which were
performed in the pit of the theatre during the intervals between the
acts, and sometimes in private circles to amuse the guests during dinner
(Mommsen, Rom. Hist.
4.579). Later it
assumed a certain amount of stage wisdom and wise saws from the works of
the Greek New Comedy, which are known chiefly from the great number of
Sententiae in Iambic verse of Publilius Syrus. (See the list of over 500
certain instances in Ribbeck, Com. Lat. Reliquiae,
ff.) But the chief function of the mime was to raise a laugh, and so the
language was that of the lower orders, coarse and vulgar. Mimi
first appear about the time of Sulla (Auct. ad Herenn.
1.14, 24, 2.13, 19; Plin. Nat. 7.158
Plut. Sull. 2
), and in Cicero's time the mime was
often given as an afterpiece instead of the Atellana (Cic. Fam. 9.1. 6
); hence a mimus
may fairly be called an exodium
(cf. Suet. Dom. 10
though that term is generally applied only to the Atellanae (Liv. 7.2
were played in front of the stage before the siparium
, and Schol.;
Senec. de Tranquill. An.
11). The actor had no buskins
8, 8), and no mask: he
wore a sort of harlequin costume (centunculus,
13), with the
(Festus, s.v. Marquardt,
p. 558) [RICINIUM
], and the phallus (Schol. on Juv. [p. 2.173]
6.66; Arnob. 7.33). Along with the principal
) was a sort of pantaloon called parasitus
(Wilmanns, 2635), got up with puffed cheeks and
shaved head, who used to have to stand a great deal of noisy slapping
) and abuse from the principal
actor (Mart. 2.72
; Tert. Spect.
23; Arnob. l.c.
). This stupidus,
as well as
the other actors of the secondary parts, had as his rôle
to imitate the chief actor (Hor. Ep. 1.18
; cf. Suet. Cal. 57
female parts were played by women: for example, Thymele in Juv. 1.36
Arbuscula (Cic. Att. 4.1. 5
), Dionysia (ib. Rose. Com.
8, 23), Cytheris (ib. Phil.
2.8, 20), Claudia Hermione (Orelli, 4760), Luria privata mima
vixit annis xix.
(Wilm. 2634; cf. C. I. G.
6335, 6750), a burial-ground sociarum
in Wilm. 326. Their performances, originally at the
Floralia, later at all the exhibitions, were decidedly loose (ut mimae nudarentur postulare,
V. Max. 2.10
). The dancing in the mimus was of a grotesque nature,
accompanied by extravagant grimaces and obscene gestures and jokes
(Ov. Tr. 2.497
ff., 515), with plenty
of ribald abuse and blows (Mart. l.c.;
, and see especially Mayor on
The subjects were of the most varied kinds (see the long list, with the
fragments which preserved, in Ribbeck, Com. Lat.
237 ff.), but they nearly always involved some
incident of an amorous nature in which ordinary morality was set at
defiance (Ov. l.c.;
; V. Max.
). There were often sudden
changes of fortune introduced, beggars becoming millionaires (Cic. Phil. 2.27
) and vice
114, 6), mimicking
and parodies of people of the day, such as lawyers for example (Wilm.
2627), general character pieces (e. g. Augur, Colax, Ephebus, Hetaera,
Virgo), scenes from the life of tradesmen (e. g. Restio, Fullo) or of
foreigners (e. g. the Etruscan Women, the Gauls), subjects with ghosts
in them (Descensus ad Inferos by Laberius, Phasma by Catullus),
description of popular festivals (Compitalia, Parilia, Saturnalia,
reminding one of Sophron's mimes), representation of careers that
attracted the imagination of the people (e. g. that of Laureolus, the
Dick Turpin of the ancients, Juv. 8.187
mythological caricatures (moechum Anubim et masculam Lunam,
Dianam flagellatam et Jovis mortui testamentum recitatum et tres
Hercules famelicos, Tert. Apol.
25). In Imperial times they
were sometimes intricate enough (Quint. 4.2, 53): Plutarch (de
19 = 973, 46) tells us of a mime in which a
dog took a prominent part. There was always a great deal of political
criticism allowed in the mimes (Macr. 2.7
; Cic. Att.
; Suet. Aug. 53
45; Friedländer, ii.3 420 ff.).
The principal writers of mime under the late Republic were Laberius and
Publilius Syrus. The mimographi under the Empire are numerous: Catullus
), Lentulus and Hostilius
15), Aemilius Severianus (C. I.
4092), Philistion (Suet. ed. Roth, p. 299, 3). As the mimes
were not so fashionable as the pantomimes, we hear less about their
performers. Still we occasionally hear of them, e. g. Latinus and
Panniculus (Mart. l.c.
), Alytyros (Joseph.
3), &c.; and at times
they were advanced to great honours, e. g. a mimus Eutyches was made a
decurio at Bovillae, and he was so rich as to be able to give a
distribution of money to the citizens (Wilm. 2624, cf. 2625). The
epitaph of the actor Vitalis says of his profession as mime, Hinc mihi larga domus hinc mihi census erat
ii. p. 89, ed. Meyer).
For further, see Friedländer, Sittengeschichte
ii.3 416-422; Teuffel,
(who however confuses mimes and pantomimes); Patin,
Études sur la Poésie latine,