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Magnes

Μάγνης), one of the most important of the earlier Athenian comic poets of the old comedy.

He was a native of the deims of Icaria or Icarius, in Attica. (Suid. s. v.) He is mentioned by Aristotle (Aristot. Poet. 3) in such a manner as to imply that he was contemporary, or nearly so, with Chionides. An anonymous writer on comedy (p. 28) places him intermediate between Epicharmus and Cratinus. Suidas states that he was contemporary, as a young man, with Epicharmus in his old age. His recent death, at an advanced age, is referred to in the Knights of Aristophanes (524), which was written in B. C. 423. From these statements it may be inferred that he flourished about Ol. 80, B. C. 460, and onwards. The grammarian Diomedes is evidently quite wrong in joining him with Susarion and Myllus (iii. p. 486).


Works

The most important testimony respecting Magnes is the passage of the Knights just referred to, in which Aristophanes upbraids the Athenians for their inconstancy towards the poet, who had been extremely popular, but lived to find himself out of fashion (vv. 520-525):

τοῦτο μὲν εἰδὼς ἅπαθε Μάγνης ἅμα ταῖς πολιαῖς κατιούσαις,
ὃς πλείστα χορῶν τῶν ἀντιπάλων νίκης ἔστησε τροπαῖα:
πάσας δ᾽ ὑμῖν φωνὰς ἱεὶς καὶ ψάλλων καὶ πτερυγίζων
καὶ λυδίζων καὶ ψηνίζων καὶ βαπτόμενος βατραχείοις
οὐκ ἐξήρκεσεν, ἀλλὰ τελευτῶν ἐπὶ γήρως, οὐ γὰρ ἐφ᾽ ἥβης,
ἐξεβλήθη πρεσβύτης ὢν, ὅτι τοῦ σκώπτειν ἀπελείφθη.

These lines, taken in connexion with the statements of ancient writers, and the extant titles of the plays of Magnes, give us a fair notion of his style. The allusions in the third and fourth lines are said by a scholiast to be to his plays entitled Βαρβίτιδες, Ὄρνιθες, Λυδοί, Ψῆνες, and Βάτραχοι It is evident, therefore, that his plays contained a large portion of the mimetic element, in the exhibition of which, as the age at which he wrote, and the testimony of the grammarian, Diomedes (iii. p. 486), concur in establishing, there was a great deal of coarse buffoonery. The concluding words of Aristophanes, ὅτι τοῦ σκώπτειν ἀπελειφθη, especially as they occur in a sort of apologetic address by that poet, who, through his whole career, prided himself on his less frequent indulgence in the extravagant jests in which other comedians were addicted, gave some countenance to the supposition that Magnes had attempted a similar restriction upon his comic licence during the latter period of his life, and had suffered, as Aristophanes himself was always exposed to suffer, for not pandering sufficiently to the taste of his audience. The words may, however, refer simply to the decline of his comic powers.

According to Suidas and Eudocia, Magnes exhibited nine plays, and gained two victories, a statement obviously inconsistent with the second line of the above extract from Aristophanes. The anonymous writer (l.c.) assigns to him eleven victories, and states that none of his dramas were preserved, but that nine were falsely ascribed to him. (Comp. Athen. 14.646e.) Some of these spurious dramas seem to have been founded on the titles, and perhaps on some remains, of his genuine plays. (Suid. s. v. Λυδίζων).

It is worthy of notice that Magnes is the earliest comic poet of whom we find any victories recorded. (Comp. Aristot. Poet. 5.)

Only a few titles of his works are extant. Of those mentioned by the scholiast on Aristophanes, the Βαρβίτιδες should probably be corrected to Βαρβιτισταί; and the play was no doubt a satire on certain musicians who were fond of the lyre called barbiton. The Λυδοί seems to have been an attack on the voluptuous dances of the Lydians. (Suid. s. v. Λυδοί; Hesych. s. v. Λνδιζων; Athen. 15.690c; Pollux, 7.188.) The Ψῆνες took its name from a sort of gall fly which infested the fig; and both it and the Βάτραχοι belong to a class of titles common enough with the Attic comedians; but we have no indication of their contents. There are a few other titles, namely, Διόνυσος, of which there were two editions, and which should perhaps be assigned to Crates (Athen. 9.367f., xiv. p. 646e.; Poll. 6.79), Πιτακίς, or Πυτακίδης (Suid. vol. ii. p. 640; Phot. s. v. νῦν δή; the true form of this title is quite uncertain), Ποάστρια (Schol. ad Plat. p. 336, Bekker), and Γαλεωμυομαχία, a title which does not well agree with what we know of the character of the plays of Magnes. (Eudoc. p. 302.)


Editions

The extant fragments of Magnes scarcely exceed half a dozen lines. (Meineke, Frag. Com. Graec. vol. i. pp. 29-35, vol. ii. pp. 9-11).


Further Information

Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. ii. p. 453; Bode, Gesch. d. Hellen. Dichtk. vol. iii. Pt. 2, p. 31.

[P.S]

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