1. An Athenian tragic poet of considerable eminence. We have no precise information about the time at which he lived, but he must certainly be placed later than Aristophanes, since, though his style was remarkably calculated to expose him to the ridicule of a comoedian, he is nowhere mentioned by that poet, not even in the Frogs.
On the other hand, he was attacked by the comic poets, Eubulus (Athen. 2.43
c.) and Ephippus, of whom the latter, at least, seems to speak of him as of a contemporary. (Athen. 11.482
b.) Aristotle frequently mentions him in a manner which, in the opinion of some critics, implies that Chaeremon was alive. (Rhet.
2.23, 24, 3.12; Problem.
The writers also who call him a comic poet (see below) assign him to the middle comedy For these and other reasons, the time when Chaeremon flourished may be fixed about B. C. 380. Nothing is known of his life.
It may be assumed that he lived at Athens, and the fragments of his poetry which remain afford abundant proofs, that he was trained in the loose morality which marked Athenian society at that period, and that his taste was formed after the model of that debased and florid poetry which Euripides first introduced by his innovations on the drama of Aeschylus and Sophocles, and which was carried to its height by the dithyrambic poets of the age. Accordingly, the fragments and even some of the titles of Chaeremon's plays shew, that he seldom aimed at the heroic and moral grandeur of the old tragedy.
He excelled in description, not merely of objects scenes properly belonging to his subject, but description introduced solely to afford pleasure, and that generally of a sensual kind.
He especially luxuriates in the description of flowers and of female beauty. His descriptions belong to the class which Aristotle characterizes as ἀργὰ μέρη
and as μήτε ήθικὰ μήτε διανοητικά
The approach to comedy, by the introduction of scenes from common life, and that even in a burlesque manner, of which we have a striking example in the Alcestis
of Euripides, seems to have been carried still further by Chaeremon; and it is probably for this reason that he is mentioned as a comic
poet by Suidas, Eudocia, and the Scholiast on Arist. Rhet.
iii. p. 69b. (For a further discussion of this point, see Meineke and Bartsch, as quoted below.)
The question has been raised, whether Chaeremon's tragedies were intended for the stage. They certainly appear to tory. have been fair more descriptive and lyric than dramatic; and Aristotle mentions Chaeremon among the poets whom he calls ἀναγνωστικοί
But there appears to be no reason for believing that at this period dramas were written without the intention
of bringing them on the stage, though it often happened, in fact, that they were not represented; nor does the passage of Aristotle refer to anything more than the comparative
fitness of some dramas for acting and of others for reading.
It is by no means improbable that the plays of Chaeremon were never actually represented.
There is no mention of his name in the διδασκαλίαι
The following are the plays of Chaeremon of which fragments are preserved: Ἀλφεσίβοια, Ἀχιλλεὺς θερσιτοκτόνος
(a title which seems to imply a satyric drama, if not one approaching still nearer to a comedy), Διόνυσος
, Ὀδυσσεὺς Τραυματίας
, and Κένταυρος
It is very doubtful whether the last was a tragedy at all, and indeed what sort of poem it was. Aristotle (Aristot. Poet. 1.12
, or 9, ed. Ritter) calls it μικτὴν ῥαψφδίαν ἐξ ἁπάντων τῶν μέτρων
(comp. 24.11, or6), and Athenaeus (xiii. p.608, e) says of it ὅπερ δρᾶμα πολύμετρόν ἐστι
The fragments of Chaeremon have been collected, with a dissertation on the poet, by H. Bartsch, 4to. Mogunt. 1843.
There are three epigrams ascribed to Chaeremon in the Greek Anthology (Brunck, Anal.
2.55; Jacobs, 2.56), two of which refer to the contest of the Spartans and Argives for Thyrea. (Hdt. 1.82
The mention of Chaeremon in the Corona
of Meleager also shews that he was an ancient poet.
There seems, therefore, no reason to doubt that he was the same as the tragic poet.
The third epigram refers to an unknown orator Eubulus, the son of Athenagoras.
(Welcker, Die Griech. Trag.
&c. iii. pp. 1082-1095; Meineke, Hist. Crit. Com. Graec.
pp. 517-521 ; Ritter, Annot. in Arist. Poet.
p. 87; Heeren, De Chaeremone Trag. Vet. Graec.;
Jacobs, Additamenta Animadv. in Athen.
p. 325, &c.; Bartsch, De Chaeremone Poeta Tragico.