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An Athenian comic poet, born in B.C. 519. It was not till late in life that he directed his attention to comic compositions. The first piece of his on record is the Ἀρχίλοχοι, which was represented about B.C. 448, at which time he was in his seventy-first year. In this play, according to Plutarch (Cimon), he makes mention of the celebrated Cimon, who had died the preceding year, B.C. 449; and from the language employed by the poet it may be inferred that he was on terms of close intimacy with the Athenian general. Soon after this, comedy became so licentious and virulent in its personalities that the magistracy were obliged to interfere. A decree was passed, B.C. 440, prohibiting the exhibitions of comedy; which law continued in force only during that year and the two following, being repealed in the archonship of Euthymenes. Three victories of Cratinus stand recorded after the recommencement of comic performances. With the Χειμαζόμενοι he was second, B.C. 425 (Argum. Acharn.), when the Ἀχαρνεῖς of Aristophanes won the prize, and the third place was adjudged to the Νουμηνίαι of Eupolis. In the succeeding year he was again second with the Σάτυροι, and Aristophanes again first with the Ἱππεῖς (Argum. Equit.). In a parabasis of this play that young rival makes mention of Cratinus; where, having noticed his former successes, he insinuates, under the cloak of an equivocal piety, that the veteran was becoming doting and superannuated. The old man, now in his ninety-fifth year, indignant at this insidious attack, exerted his remaining vigour, and composed, against the contests of the approaching season, a comedy entitled Πυτίνη, or The Flagon, which turned upon the accusations brought against him by Aristophanes. The aged dramatist had a complete triumph (Argum. Nub.). He was first; while his humbled antagonist was vanquished also by Ameipsias with the Κόννος, though the play of Aristophanes was the favourite Nubes. Notwithstanding his notorious intemperance, Cratinus lived to an extreme old age, dying B.C. 422, in his ninety-seventh year. Aristophanes alludes to the excesses of Cratinus in a passage of the Equites (v. 526 foll.). In the Pax, he humorously ascribes the jovial old poet's death to a shock on seeing a cask of wine staved and lost. Cratinus himself made no scruple of acknowledging his failing (Schol. in Pac. 703). Horace, also, opens one of his Epistles (i. 19) with a maxim of the comedian's, in due accordance with his practice. The titles of thirty-eight of the comedies of Cratinus have been collected. His style was bold and animated (Pers. i. 123), and like his younger brethren, Eupolis and Aristophanes, he fearlessly and unsparingly directed his satire against the iniquitous public officer and the profligate of private life. The fragments of Cratinus may be found in Meineke, Fragmenta Comicorum Graecorum (Berlin, 1840).


There was also a younger Cratinus, a poet of the New Comedy and contemporary of Plato.

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