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COMOE´DIA

COMOE´DIA (κωμῳδία).


1. Greek.

The early stages of the history of comedy are involved in great indistinctness, as they never formed the subject of much inquiry even when information was extant. This was the case even among the Athenians, and to a still larger extent among the Dorians. The ancient Greeks seldom showed much aptitude for antiquarian research, and for a long time comedy was scarcely thought deserving of attention; “for it was not,” says Aristotle (Poët. 5), “seriously cultivated from the beginning. And it was only quite recently that the archon gave a chorus of comedians; before that they were ‘volunteers’ (ἐθελονταί). It was only when comedy had attained something like form that comic poets are mentioned. Who fixed its masks or prologues or number of actors or the like, is not known.” Aristotle does not give a formal definition of comedy; though in one passage (Poët. 5 init.) he seems to define it as μίμησις τοῦ γελοίου: but perhaps we should suppose with Mahaffy (Hist. of Greek Lit. 1.466) that the formal definition is lost, and that it ran parallel to his definition of tragedy, describing comedy as a purification of certain affections of our nature by laughter and ridicule.

That comedy took its rise at the vintage festivals of Dionysus is certain. It originated, as Aristotle says (Poët. 4), with those who led off the phallic songs (ἀπὸ τῶν ἐξαρχόντων τὰ φαλλικά) of the band of revellers (κῶμος), who at the vintage festivals of Dionysus gave expression to the feelings of exuberant joy and merriment which were regarded as appropriate to the occasion, by parading about, partly on foot, partly in wagons, with the symbol of the productive powers of nature, singing a wild, jovial song in honour of Dionysus and his companions. These songs were commonly interspersed with, or followed by petulant, extemporal (αὐτοσχεδιαστική, Arist. Poët. 4) witticisms with which the revellers assailed the bystanders (see the description of the phallophori at Sicyon in Athen. 14.622), just as the chorus in the Frogs of Aristophanes, after their song to Iacchus, begin ridiculing Archedemus (417, &c.). This origin of comedy is indicated by the name κωμῳδία, which undoubtedly means “the song of the κῶμος.” This appears both from the testimony of Aristotle that it arose out of the phallic songs and from Demosthenes (c. Mid. p. 517), where we find mentioned together κῶμος καὶ οἱ κωμῳδοί. (Comp. Müller, Hist. of Gr. Lit. vol. ii. p. 4, Dor. 4.7.1; Bode, Gesch. der Hellen. Dichtk. vol. iii. part 2, p. 4, &c.; Kanngiesser, Die alte komische Bühne zu Athen, p. 32; Schömann, Gr. Alt. ii.3 491.) Other derivations of the name were, however, given even in antiquity. The Megarians, conceiving it to be connected with the word κώμη, and to mean “village-song,” appealed to the name as an evidence of the superiority of their claim to be considered as the originators of comedy over that of the Athenians (Arist. Poët. 3). This derivation was also adopted by several of the old grammarians (see Tzetzes, in Cramer's Anecd. Gr. vol. iii. pp. 335, 337; Anonym. περὶ κωμῳδίας in Meineke, Hist. Crit. Comic. Graec. pp. 535, 538, 558, where a very absurd account of the origin of comedy is given, but the important point that personal censure is of the essence of comedy is indicated: cf. Bekk. Anecd. Gr. 747, 10, κωμῳδία ἐστιν ἐν μέσῳ λάου κατηγορία ἤγουν δημοσίευσις), and has the sanction of Bentley, W. Schneider, Bernhardy (Grundriss d. Griech. Lit. vol. ii. pt. 2, p. 450), and Mahaffy (Hist. of Greek Lit. 1.398).

Passing by the Homeric Margites, in which Aristotle sees the origin of comedy (Poët. 4), and which certainly does draw a character from a ridiculous point of view, we find that it was among the Dorians that comedy first assumed anything of a regular shape. The Megarians, both in the mother country and in Sicily, claimed to be considered as its originators (Arist. Poët. 3); and so far as the comedy of Athens is concerned, the claim of the former appears well founded. They were always noted for their coarse humour (Aristoph. Wasps 57, with the Schol.; Anthol. Pal. 11.440; Suidas, s. v. γέλως: Bode, vol. iii. pt. 2, p. 27); and their democratical constitution, which was established at an early period, favoured the development of comedy in the proper sense of the word. In the aristocratical states the mimetic impulse, as connected with the laughable or absurd, was obliged to content itself with a less unrestrained mode of manifestation. The Lacedaemonians, who had a great fondness for mimetic and orchestic amusements, had their δεικηλικταί, whose exhibitions appear to have been burlesques of characters of common life. The favourite personages were the fruit-stealer and the foreign quack, for the representation of which they had a peculiar mimetic dance. (Athen. 14.621; Plut. Ages. 21, p. 607 D; Schol. ad Apollon. 1.746; Müller, Dor. 4.6.9; Bernhardy, l.c. p. 454.) Among the forerunners of comedy must be mentioned the Phallophori and Ithyphalli at Sicyon, who, Athenaeus says (xiv. p. 621 e), are the same as the δεικηλικταί. It was here, where at an early period the dithyramb also was dramatised, that the κῶμος first assumed a more dramatic form, and Dionysus was even said to have invented comedy at Sicyon (Anthol. Pal. 11.32). The Phallophori had no masks, but covered their faces with chaplets of wild thyme, acanthus, ivy, and violets, and threw skins round them. After singing a hymn to Dionysus, they flouted and jeered at any one of the bystanders whom they selected. The Ithyphalli wore masks representing drunken persons, and were equipped in other respects in a manner which, if not very decent, was appropriate to the part they had to sustain. (Athen. l.c.) It was the iambic improvisations of the exarchi of such choruses which gave rise to the later comedy. Antheas of Lindus is spoken of as a poet who composed pieces for such comuses of phallus-bearers, which were called comedies (Athen. 10.445). Such pieces have been styled lyrical comedies by many scholars (as Böckh, Corp. Inscript. No. 1584, note; and Müller, Hist. of the Lit. of Greece, vol. ii. p. 6), to distinguish them from the comedy proper. Lobeck and Hermann, however, [p. 1.515]stoutly deny that there was any such thing as lyrical tragedy or comedy distinct from dramatical tragedy and comedy and yet not the same with dithyrambs or phallic songs, and affirm that the tragedies and comedies which we hear of before the rise of the regular drama were only a species of dithyramb and phallic song. (Hermann, de Tragoedia Comoediaque Lyrica, in Opusc. vol. vii. p. 211, &c.; cf. A. Müller, Griech. Bühnenalterthümer, p. 388.) The dispute is more about names than about things; and there seems no great objection to applying the term lyrical tragedy or comedy to pieces intended to be performed by choruses, without any actors distinct from the chorus, and having a more dramatic cast than other purely lyrical songs. This, apparently, was the point to which comedy attained among the Megarians before Susarion introduced it into Attica. It arose out of the union of the iambic lampoon with the phallic songs of the comus, just as tragedy arose out of the union of rhapsodical recitations with the dithyramb.

Among the Athenians the first attempts at comedy, according to the almost unanimous accounts of antiquity, were made at Icaria by Susarion, a native of Tripodiscus in Megara. (Schol. ad Dionys. Thrac. in Meineke, i. p. 559; Aspasius, ad Aristot. Eth. Nic. 4.2, 20, fol. 53, B.) Icaria was the oldest seat of the worship of Dionysus in Attica (Athen. 2.40), and comus processions must undoubtedly have been known there long before the time of Susarion. Iambistic raillery was also an amusement already known in the festivals of Bacchus and Demeter on the bridge between Athens and Eleusis (Müller, Hist. of Lit. of Gr. vol. i. p. 178; Hesychius, s. v. Γεφυρισταί: Suidas, s. v. γεφυρίζων: Schol. Arist. Acharn. 708). From the jests and banterings directed by the Bacchic comus, as it paraded about, against the bystanders, or any others whom they selected, arose the proverb τὰ ἐξ ἁμάξης (Schol. Arist. Nub. 296; Suidas, s.v. Ulpianus ad Demosth. de Cor. p. 268, ed. Reiske; Bode, l.c. p. 22; Photius, Lex., s. v. τὰ ἐκ τῶν ἁμαξῶν: cf. πομπεία, meaning “abuse” ). This scoffing, which was considered part of the festival, continued customary not only at the rural Dionysia, but on the second day of the Anthesteria [DIONYSIA]. It was in the third year of the 50th Olympiad (B.C. 578) that Susarion introduced at Icaria comedy in that stage of development to which it had attained among the Megarians (Marm. Par. ep. 54, 55, in Böckh's Corpus Inscript. vol. ii. p. 301). It is not, however, easy to decide in what his improvements consisted. Of course there were no actors besides the chorus or comus; whatever there was of drama must have been performed by the latter. The introduction of an actor separate from the chorus was an improvement not yet made in the drama. According to one grammarian, Susarion was the first to give to the iambistic performances of the comus a regular metrical form (Schol. ad Dionys. Thrac. ap. Bekker, Anecd. Gr. p. 748; Meineke, l.c. p. 559). He no doubt substituted for the more ancient improvisations of the chorus and its leader premeditated compositions, though still of the same general kind; for, as Aristotle says (Poët. 100.5), Crates was the first who ἦρξεν ἀφέμενος τῆς ἰαμβικῆς ἰδέας καθόλου ποιεῖν λόγους μύθους. According to Schömann (Gr. Alt. ii.3 491), the regularity introduced into the Icarian choruses consisted of a definite number of persons uniting to form a chorus and arranging some general plan of performance, leaving a considerable amount of details to improvisation. Such choruses became frequent, and, as was to be expected, there would seem also to have been some kind of poetical contest, for we learn that the prize for the successful poet was a basket of figs and a jar of wine (Marm. Par. l.c.; Bentley, Dissert. on the Ep. of Phal. vol. i. p. 259, ed. Dyce). It was also the practice of those who took part in the comus to smear their faces with wine-lees, either to prevent their features from being recognised, or to give themselves a more grotesque appearance. Hence comedy came to be called τρυγῳδία or lee-song. Others connected the name with the circumstance of a jar of new wine (τρύξ) being the prize for the successful poet, or of the exhibition being held at the time of the vintage (τρύγη). (Athen. 2.40; Anon. ap. Meineke, l.c. p. 535; Acharn. 851, 603, Vesp. 650, 1537; Schol. ad Arist. Acharn. 397, 498; Schol. ad Plat. de Rep. iii. p. 928, ed. Bait. et Orell.; Bentley, Dissert. on the Ep. of Phal. vol. i. p. 351, &c. ed. Dyce; Bode, l.c. p. 22.) An important gloss in the Sangallensis MS. edited by Usener (Rhein. Mus. 28.418) says of these early comedies: In fabulas primi eam contulerunt non [om. MS.] magnas ita ut non excederent in singulis versus trecenos [tricenos MS.]. Leo in Rhein. Mus. 33.140, note 2, thinks that Magnes is concealed under magnas. It is to be remarked, however, that Wilamowitz in Hermes, 9.319 sqq., considers that the so-called Megarian comedy in Attica was not derived from Megara at all, but was a species of comedy invented by the Athenians, in which they satirised the vulgarity and stupidity of the Megarians, laying the scene at Megara just as the Romans did that of the Atellanae at Atella. He urges that the fragments we have purporting to be those of the ancient Attic comedians up to Cratinus (i. e. Chionides, Magnes, &c.) are not genuine, as may be perceived both from the style, which is more that of the age of Eupolis than that even of Cratinus, and also from the fact that Aristotle knew merely the names of these authors, but not their plays. Be that, however, as it may, there can be but little question that what are called Susarion's pieces were merely intended for the amusement of the hour, and were not committed to writing: a laugh was the sole object sought. (Bentley, l.c. p. 250, &c.; Anonym. de Com. ap. Meineke, l.c. p. 540; Bode, l.c.) They doubtless partook of that petulant, coarse, and unrestrained personality for which the Megarian comedy was noted. But for entertainments of such a character the Athenians were not yet prepared. They required the freedom of a democracy. Accordingly, comedy was discouraged, and for eighty years after the time of Susarion we hear nothing of it in Attica.

It was, however, in Sicily that comedy was earliest brought to something like perfection. The Greeks in the Sicilian colonies always exhibited a lively temperament, and the gift of working up any occurrence into a spirited, fluent dialogue. (Cic. Ver. 4.43, 95; Quintil. [p. 1.516]6.3.41.) This faculty finding its stimulus in the excitement produced by the political contests, which were so frequent in the different cities, and the opportunity for its exercise in the numerous agrarian festivals connected with the worship of Demeter and Bacchus, it was natural that comedy should early take its rise among them. Yet before the time of the Persian wars we only hear of iambic compositions, and of a single poet, Aristoxenus of Selinus, “who first introduced the ancient fashion of reciting iambics,” according to Epicharmus, and who ridiculed the soothsayers (Hephaestion, p. 49, ed. Gaisf.). The performers were called αὐτοκάβδαλοι, i.e. improvisatores (Athen. 14.622; Etym. Magn. s. v. αὐτοκάβδ.; Hesych. sub voce Aristot. Rh. 3.7.1; Bode, l.c. p. 7, &c.), and subsequently ἴαμβοι. There is no evidence that they belonged exclusively to Sicily. The Italians called them φλύακες: the Thebans, ἐθελονταί: and some people apparently σοφισταί ( Athen. 14.621 e). Their entertainments being of a choral character were, doubtless, accompanied by music and dancing. Athenaeus (xiv. p. 629) mentions a dance called the ἰαμβική, which was quieter than the πυρριχή; but as he ranks it with the Μολοσσικὴ ἐμμέλεια, the σίκιννις Περσικὴ, and the κόρδαξ, it was probably a generic term, like our “fling.” Afterwards, the comic element was developed partly into travesties of religious legends, partly into delineations of character and manners, in the comedy of Epicharmus, Phormis, and Dinolochus; and in the mimes of Sophron and Xenarchus. Epicharmus is very commonly called the inventor of comedy by the grammarians and others (Theocr. Epig. 17; Suidas, s. v. Ἐπίχαρμος; Solinus, 5, 13); this, however, is true only of that more artistical shape which he gave to it. (Bernhardy, l.c. p. 460.) “He was the first who recovered the disjecta membra of comedy, and effected many improvements” (οὗτος πρῶτος τὴν κωμῳδίαν διερριμμένην ἀνεκτήσατο πολλὰ προσφιλοτεχνήσας, Anonym. de Com. ap. Meineke, 1.535). His comedy was that of character and travesty. Democopus built a theatre for him at Syracuse, and the entire management of the stage was reduced to system there long before it was at Athens. His plays had not very much plot, but clever dialogue and single comic scenes were elaborately worked out, in which the myths were travestied or philosophical notions aired and parodied. His sound practical wisdom was shown in the number of wise sayings collected from his writings (O. Müller, op. cit. 57, note). He wrote three kinds of plays: (1) travesties of the myths, e.g. the Marriage of Hebe, in which the gluttony of Heracles is represented. (2) Character comedies, e. g. Ἐλπὶς πλοῦτος, Ἀγρωστῖνος, Θεᾶροι. (3) Dialectical arguments, e. g. Γᾶ καὶ θάλασσα. He is said to have first introduced the drunkard, though this is also attributed to Crates (O. Müller, p. 57), and to have invented the character of the parasite (in the Ἐλπίς): see Athen. 6.236. He wrote in trochaic tetrameters and anapaests, and in the Doric dialect. His plays exhibit a close connexion, both with the Satyric drama and with such plays as the Helena, in which the heroes are somewhat vulgarized. Indeed, Epicharmus had probably much to say to the degradation of such characters as the Odysseus of the Philoctetes (Mahaffy, op. cit. 1.406; cf. Hermathena, 1.262 ff.). The titles of the plays by Phormis (e.g. Admetus, Alcinous, Perseus) and Dinolochus (Althea, Medea, Telephus) show that they were on mythological subjects, and were travesties of the heroes. The difference thought to subsist between these farces and the Satyric drama, is that in the former the gods and heroes were themselves ridiculed; whereas in the Satyric drama the nobler characters (e. g. Odysseus in the Cyclops) retain their dignity (Mahaffy, p. 401). O. Müller, however (op. cit. 2.3, note), says: “Satyric poetry places by the lofty forms of the heroes, not human perverseness, but the want of real humanity, whereas comedy is conversant about the deterioration of civilised humanity.” Sophron flourished about 450 B.C. His Mimes were written in rhythmical prose and in the broader Doric dialect, patois being often introduced. They were coarse in tone, but full of proverbs and of humour. We have no evidence of their being performed in public. Their titles show their nature: e.g. The Tunny Fishes, Παιδικὰ ποιφύξεις (cf. ἔρωτα πνεῖν), Ὡλιεὺς (= ἁλιεὺςτὸν ἀγροιώταν. Theocritus is said to have borrowed his Φαρμακευτρίαι and Ἀδωνιάζουσαι from the Ἀκεστρίαι and Ἰσθμιάζουσαι of Sophron (Mahaffy, pp. 406-408).

In Attica, the first comic poet of any importance whom we hear of after Susarion is Chionides, who is said to have brought out plays in B.C. 488 (Suidas, s. v. Χιωνίδης). Euetes, Euxenides, and Myllus, “who heard everything,” were probably contemporaries of Chionides; he was followed by Magnes and Ecphantides. Their compositions, however, seem to have been little but the reproduction of the old Megaric farce of Susarion, differing no doubt in form, by the introduction of an actor or actors separate from the chorus, in imitation of the improvements that had been made in tragedy. (Bode, l.c. pp. 29-36.) That branch of the Attic drama which was called the Old Comedy begins properly with Cratinus, who was to comedy very much what Aeschylus was to tragedy. (Anonym. de Com. ap. Meineke, 536.) Another (p. 534) says that, according to the proverb, γυμνῇ τῇ κεφαλῇ τίθησι<*>τὰς βλασφημίας κατὰ τῶν ἁμαρτανόντων, but that he was careless in adhering to his plots. Under the vigorous and liberal administration of Pericles comedy found free scope, and rapidly reached its perfection. Cratinus is said to have been the first who introduced three actors in a comedy. (Anonym. de Com. ap. Meineke, p. 540.) But Crates is spoken of as the first who began καθόλου ποιεῖν λόγους μύθους (Arist. Poët. 5), i. e. raised comedy from being a mere lampooning of individuals, and gave it a character of universality, in which subjects drawn from reality or stories of his own invention received a free, poetic treatment, the characters introduced being rather generalisations than particular individuals. (See Aristotle's distinction between τὰ καθ᾽ ἕκαστον and τὰ καθόλου, Poët. 9.) In what is known of his pieces no traces appear of anything of a personal or political kind. He was the first who introduced into his works the character of a drunken man. (Anonym. de Com. ap. Meineke, p. 536.) Though Crates was a younger contemporary of Cratinus, and at first an actor in his pieces, yet, except perhaps his earlier plays, the comedies of Cratinus [p. 1.517]were an improvement upon those of Crates, as they united with the universality of the latter the pungent personal satire and earnest political purpose which characterised the Old Comedy. Crates and his imitator Pherecrates seem in the character of their pieces to have had more affinity with the Middle than with the Old Comedy. The latter has been described as the comedy of caricature, and such indeed it was, but it was also a great deal more. As it appeared in the hands of its great masters Cratinus, Hermippus, Eupolis, and especially Aristophanes, its main characteristic was that it was throughout political. Everything that bore upon the political or social interests of the Athenians furnished materials for it. It assailed everything that threatened liberty, religion, and the old established principles of social morality and taste, or tended to detract from the true nobleness of the Greek character. It performed the functions of a public censorship, and the utmost freedom was allowed the comic poets. (Isocr. de Pace, § 14; Cic. de Rep. 4.8; Hor. Sat. 1.4, 1; Dion. Chrys. 2.4, Reiske.) But it must be remembered that they attacked as party men, not as perfectly disinterested lovers of what was right; just like the attacks of party newspapers of the present day. (Mahaffy, p. 436.) Though merely personal satire, having no higher object than the sport of the moment, was by no means excluded, yet commonly it is on political or general grounds that individuals are brought forward and satirised. A groundwork of reality usually lay at the base of the most imaginative forms which its wild licence adopted. All kinds of fantastic impersonations and mythological beings were mixed up with those of real life. With such unbounded stores of materials for the subject and form of comedies, complicated plots were of course unnecessary, and were not adopted. Though the Old Comedy could only subsist under a democracy, it deserves to be remarked that its poets were usually opposed to that democracy and its leaders. Some of the bitterest assailants even of Pericles were to be found among the comic poets, e. g. Teleclides and Hermippus.

But what is generally known as the Old Comedy at Athens--that is, the political Old Comedy--was in reality only one of the forms of comedy, which has been brought into excessive prominence for us owing to the fact that the principal plays of Aristophanes which have come down to us have this political reference. But it is a mistake to suppose that politics was the sole subject treated of by Aristophanes and his contemporaries; they handled also the various other subjects of comedy which we find in preceding and succeeding ages. Thus, besides Crates and Pherecrates, whom we have seen to be virtually writers of the New Comedy, the latter attacking innovations in music in the Chiron, painting the delights of the golden age in the Agrios, and censuring the extravagances of the better classes in the Ἀγαθοὶ ἀργύρου ἀφανισμός, we find mythical subjects treated of by Cratinus in the Nemesis (e. g. the birth of Helen) and Busiris, and literary criticism in the Seriphii and Archilochi, in the latter of which Homer and Hesiod are introduced. Literature is also treated of in the Musae and Tragoedi of Phrynichus, and in the Frogs and Amphiaraus of Aristophanes. The guessing of riddles (γρῖφοι), a note of the New Comedy, is found in the Cleobulinae of Cratinus; Teleclides represents the golden age in the Amphictyones, as did Eupolis in the Χρύσουν γένος; Hermippus wrote the Birth of Athena (and we know γοναὶ were a favourite subject of the so-called Middle Comedy). Even in the Plutus of Aristophanes it is no longer on a political or literary subject, but on the unevenness and unjust division of wealth; it has all its characters general ones; and the slave, as in the later comedy, plays a principal part. But, above all, we actually hear of a play of Aristophanes, the Cocalus, which in its love-intrigue and recognition presents two of the most prominent features of the New Comedy plots.

Mahaffy (op. cit. i. p. 435) notices that the old comic writers could not be so prolific as the tragedians, because they had to invent their plots; but, as depending on the passing events of the day, were compelled to faster writing than the tragedians. In many points he notices analogies between the days of the Old Comedy and the Shakesperean era, such as that the authors often began as actors (Aristoph. Kn. 541)--thus Crates and Pherecrates, we are told, were actors (Anonym. de Com. ap. Meineke, 1.536); they had to work very fast, and brought out altered editions of their own plays to supply the place of new ones--thus we hear of two editions of the Nubes (Arg. v. to Nub.); they often collaborated, e. g. Eupolis is said to have helped Aristophanes in the Equites (Schol. ad Eq. 1291); and they brought out plays under other people's names, e. g. Aristophanes brought out the Nubes under the names of Philonides and Callistratus (Schol. on Nub. 531). In the year B.C. 440, a law was passed τοῦ μὴ κωμῳδεῖν (Schol. Arist. Acharn. 67), which remained in force for three years, when it was repealed. Some (e. g. Clinton, F. H. s. a.) understand the law to have been a prohibition of comedy altogether; others (Meineke, l.c. p. 40; Bernhardy, p. 943) a prohibition against bringing forward individuals in their proper historical personality and under their own name, in order to ridicule them (μὴ κωμῳδεῖν ὀνομαστί). To the same period probably belongs the law that no Areopagite should write comedies. (Plut. de Glor. Ath. p. 348 C.) About B.C. 415, apparently at the instigation of Alcibiades, the law of 440, or at all events a law μὴ κωμῳδεῖν ὀνομαστί, was again passed on the motion of one Syracosius (Schol. Arist. Aves, 1297). But the law only remained in force for a short time (Meineke, p. 41). The nature of the political events in the ensuing period would of itself act as a check upon the licence of the comic poets. A man named Antimachus got a law like that of Syracosius passed, but the date of it is not known (Schol. Arist. Acharn. 1149). With the overthrow of the democracy in 411, comedy would of course be silenced; but on the restoration of the democracy, comedy again revived. It was doubtless again restrained by the Thirty Tyrants. During the latter part of the Peloponnesian war also it became a matter of difficulty to get choregi; and hindrances were sometimes thrown in the way of the comic poets by those who had been attacked by them: e. g. the dithyrambic poet Cinesias, who had been attacked by the comic poets, introduced a law whereby the public expenditure on the comic drama was so much curtailed, that it had to renounce the chorus [p. 1.518]altogether. On this account, Strattis wrote a play against him called Cinesias, in which he styled him χοροκτόνος (Kock, fr. 15; Schol. Ran. 404; cf. Schol. Ran. 153). Agyrrhius, though when is not known, got the pay of the poets lessened. (Schol. Arist. Eccl. 102.) Yet even in the ruin of Athens the old Attic comedy was not quite dead. Cleophon was attacked by Aristophanes and Plato in 405 B.C. The old Attic comedy lasted from Ol. 80 to Ol. 94 (B.C. 458-404). From Cratinus to Theopompus there were forty-one poets, fourteen of whom preceded Aristophanes. The number of pieces attributed to them amounted altogether to 365. (Anon. de Com. ap. Meineke, p. 535; Bode, l.c. p. 108.) An excellent and compendious account of these poets is given by Bernhardy. (Grundriss der Griech. Lit. vol. ii. pp. 515-525.) A more extended account will be found in Meineke (Hist. Crit. Comic. Graec. forming vol. i. of his Fragm. Com. Graec.), and in Bode (Gesch. der Hellen. Dichtk. vol. iii. pt. ii. p. 108, &c. &c.). The reader is also referred to the articles Crates, Cratinus, Pherecrates, Hermippus, Eupolis, and Aristophanes in the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. (Comp. Rötscher, Aristophanes und sein Zeitalter; and Schlegel's Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature.) The later pieces of Aristophanes belong to the Middle rather than to the Old Comedy. The old Megaric comedy, which was improved by Maeson by the introduction of standing characters (he is said to have invented the masks for the servant and the cook; and hence the kind of jokes made by these characters were called μαισωνικά: cf. Ath. xiv. p. 659 a), continued for some time to subsist by the side of the more artistically developed Attic comedy, as did the ancient Iambistic entertainments both in Syracuse and in the Dorian states of Greece (Arist. Poët. 4; Bode, l.c. p. 28), and the Oscum ludicrum at Rome.

It was not usual for comic poets to bring forward more than one or two comedies at a time; and there was a regulation according to which a poet could not bring forward comedies before he was of a certain age, which is variously stated at thirty or forty years. (Aristoph. Cl. 530, with the Schol. Ald.) But this is all a fiction (see A. Müller, op. cit. p. 351, note). To decide on the merits of the comedies exhibited, five judges were appointed, which was half the number of those who adjudged the prize for tragedy. (Schol. ad Arist. Av. 445; Hesych. sub voce πέντε κριταί. For details concerning the appointment of judges and the course of procedure in the production of plays, see THEATRUM; and for the chorus of comedy, see CHORUS and SALTATIO

As the old Attic comedy was the offspring of the political and social vigour and freedom of the age during which it flourished, it naturally declined and ceased with the decline and overthrow of the freedom and vigour which were necessary for its development. It was replaced by a comedy of a somewhat different style, which was known as the Middle Comedy, the age of which lasted from the end of the Peloponnesian war to the overthrow of liberty by Philip of Macedon (Ol. 94-110). During this period, the Athenian state had the form but none of the spirit of its earlier democratical constitution, and the energy and public spirit of earlier years had departed. The comedy of this period accordingly found its materials in satirising classes of people instead of individuals, in criticising the systems and merits of philosophers and literary men, especially the Platonists and Pythagoreans (see the Epicrates of Alexis), and in parodies of the compositions of living and earlier poets, and travesties of mythological subjects. It formed a transition from the Old to the New Comedy, and approximated to the latter in the greater attention to the construction of plots, which seem frequently to have been founded on amorous intrigues (Bode, p. 396), and in the absence of that wild grotesqueness which marked the Old Comedy. The excellences now are mainly those of expression; there is little inventive genius in the characters (λογικὰς ἔχουσι τὰς ἀρετάς, ὥστε σπάνιον ποιητικὸν εἶναι χαρακτῆρα παρ᾽ αὐτοῖς, Anonym. ap. Meineke, 537). Aristotle notices (Eth. N. 4.8, 6) that in the Old Comedy the laugh was at coarse language (αἰσχρολογία), but in the later comedy at innuendo (ὑπόνοια). As regards its external form, the plays of the Middle Comedy, generally speaking, had neither parabasis nor chorus; and such was the case with the Odysseis of Cratinus, the Aeolosicon and Plutus of Aristophanes, and very many of the dramas of the Old Comedy. The word χορὸς is indeed found at the end of the acts in the Plutus, but the gap was doubtless filled up by a musical interlude. (Platonius, de Differ. Com. ap. Meineke, p. 532.) The absence of the chorus was occasioned, partly by the change in the spirit of comedy itself, partly by the increasing difficulty of finding persons capable of undertaking the duties of choregus. As the change in comedy itself was gradual, so it is most likely that the alterations in form were brought about by degrees. At first showing the want of proper musical and orchestic training, the chorus was at last dropped altogether. Some of the fragments of pieces of the Middle Comedy which have reached us are of a lyrical kind, indicating the presence of a chorus. The poets of this school of comedy seem to have been extraordinarily prolific. Athenaeus (viii. p. 336 d) says that he had read above 800 dramas of the Middle Comedy. Only a few fragments are now extant. Meineke (Hist. Crit. Com. Gr. p. 303) gives a list of thirty-nine poets of the Middle Comedy. The most celebrated were Antiphanes and Alexis. (Bode, l.c. p. 393, &c.; Bernhardy, pp. 592-603.) Anaxandrides is said to have invented that kind of play so common in later comedy, in which (as in the Adelphi of Terence) a girl is seduced and afterwards married to the hero (Suidas, s. v. Ἀναξανδρίδης), though we have found such a play in the Cocalus of Aristophanes. Alexis or Ararus first brought on the Attic stage the parasite under that name; the character, however, was invented by Epicharmus. Mahaffy (1.473) thinks that the vast number of plays of the later comedy, the few victories recorded as having been won by their authors, and the slight effect their works had, show that they were meant to be read rather than acted, and that they filled the place of our novels and magazine articles.

The New Comedy was a further development of the last-mentioned kind. It answered in a certain measure to the modern comedy of [p. 1.519]manners or character. The subjects were virtually meat, drink, and love--but in moderation: hence the detailed accounts of cookery and feasting, and the prominence of cooks, parasites, and courtesans. But we also find mythological parody in the New Comedy, especially by Diphilus, ridicule of the poets, aye, and even vigorous political attacks (cf. Meineke, vol. i. pp. 436-439, 471). Dropping for the most part personal allusions, caricature, ridicule, and parody, which in a more general form than in the Old Comedy had maintained their ground in the Middle Comedy, the poets of the New Comedy made it their business to reproduce in a generalised form a picture of the every-day life of those by whom they were surrounded. Hence the grammarian Aristophanes asked: ( Μένανδρε καὶ βίε, πότερος ἄρ᾽ ὑμῶν πότερον ἀπεμιμήσατο (Meineke, praef. Men. p. 33). The New Comedy might be described in the words of Cicero (de Rep. 4.11), as “imitationem vitae, speculum consuetudinis, imaginem veritatis.” The frequent introduction of sententious maxims was a point of resemblance with the later tragic poets. There was no rhetoric in the writers of the New Comedy: they aimed at saying everything plainly and neatly. There were various standing characters which found a place in most plays, such as we find in the plays of Plautus and Terence, the leno perjurus, amator fervidus, servulus callidus, amica illudens, sodalis opitulator, miles proeliator, parasitus edax, parentes tenaces, meretrices procaces (Apul. Flor. 16; Ovid, Amor. 1.15, 17). In the New Comedy there was no chorus, and the dramas were commonly introduced by prologues, spoken by allegorical personages, such as Έλεγχος, Φόβος, Ἀήρ. The New Comedy flourished from about B.C. 340 to B.C. 260. The poets of the New Comedy amounted to 64 in number. The most distinguished was Menander. Next to him in merit came Philemon, Diphilus, Philippides, Posidippus, and Apollodorus of Carystus. (Bernhardy, p. 603 ff., &c.; Meineke, l.c. p. 435, &c.)

This division into Old, Middle, and New Comedy is the traditional one, and on that account it has been retained here. But the prevailing opinion now held on the point is that the division is faulty in making the Middle Comedy a special class. Kock, in his edition of the Fragments of the Attic Comedians, divides his subject into the Old and the New Comedy, and assigns (vol. ii. p. 11) the following reasons for rejecting the Middle. (1) The latter is not recognised till the age of Hadrian: for Aristotle (Eth. N. 4.8, 6), the Alexandrine critics, Quintilian (10.1, 65-72), Velleius (1.16, 3), Plutarch (Symp. 7.712 a), even the anonymous writer de Comoedia ap. Meineke, 1.539, only recognise the Old and the New Comedy. (In the latter τὸ δὲ μέσον is an obvious insertion, as the next sentence shows: cf. Fielitz, de Atticorum comoedia bipartita, 1866.) (2) The Old Comedy had been originally divided (e. g. by Diomedes, 488-9, Keil; and Tzetzes, de divers. Poet. 81, 29) into two classes, that before and that after Cratinus. But the grammarians of Hadrian's time thought, as the New Comedy was so vastly more extensive both in time and writings than the Old, that it was the New Comedy which should be divided. (3) And again, there is no really decided distinction between the so-called Middle and New Comedy as there is between the Old and the later comedy, in the fact that the parabasis and the choral odes are wanting in the latter. (4) It can be shown that in point of subjects the line cannot be drawn: all subjects which are considered notes of the Middle and New Comedy are exhibited in writings of the Old, and what is considered as belonging peculiarly to the Old (viz. political attack) is found occasionally in the New.

As to the occasions on which comedies were produced: (1) the original festival at which dramas were exhibited was the Lesser Dionysia, or the Διονύσια τὰ κατ᾽ ἄγρους, held from the 8th to 12th of Poseideon (Nov.-Dec.). This was held principally in the Piraeus, but also in the country parts of Attica, e. g. Collytus (Aeschin. Tim. § 157), Aixone, Eleusis, Thoricus (Schömann, Gr. Alt. ii.3 492). After the establishment of the Lenaea and the Greater Dionysia, the plays produced at the Lesser Dionysia were in all likelihood ones which had been previously performed. They were produced without a chorus. (2) At the Lenaea (8-12 Gamelion=Dec.-Jan.), which was probably established by Pisistratus, tragedies were originally acted, but after the establishment of the Greater Dionysia it became the festival at which comedies especially were performed. The Acharnenses, Equites, Vespae, and Ranae were all produced at it, and comedies continued to be acted at the Lenaea down to the second century (C. I. A. 2.977, fr. i. m-n). Tragedies began to be acted again at this festival in 464 B.C. (Bergk, Rhein. Mus. 34.302). It is not known for how many days the contest at the Lenaea lasted--in the third century probably two days, as that would suffice for two tragic trilogies (cf. C. I. A. 2.972) and the preceding comic agon (A. Müller, op. cit. 327). Only new pieces were produced in early times. Strangers were not allowed to be present at the dramatic performances of the Lenaea (Ar. Ach. 504). The administration was in the hands of the Archon Basileus (Poll. 8.90). (3) At the Greater Dionysia or Διονύσια τὰ ἐν ἄστει (8-14 Elaphebolion=Feb.-Mar.) established after the Persian Wars, both comedies and tragedies were acted, but the latter were certainly the principal feature (Law of Evagoras in Dem. Mid. 517.10; Schol. on Ran. 406). It is disputed whether dramatic performances were held on three of the days, viz. 11, 12, 13, as Sauppe, A. Mommsen, and A. Müller hold; on two (Schneider); or on six (Geppert). See A. Müller, op. cit. 320, note 2. That comedies were acted is quite certain, as may be proved from the famous inscription, C. I. A. 2.971, frag. a: Ξενοκλείδης ἐχορήγει Μάγνης ἐδίδασκεν Τραγῳδῶν Περικλῆς Χολαργεὺς ἐχορήγει Αἴσχυλος ἐδίδασκεν (467 B.C.), where the mention of tragedies points to the Greater Dionysia: cf. also Arg. v. to Nubes (424 B.C.), Arg. i. to Pax (422), Arg. i. to Aves (415 B.C.), Schol. to Ran. 404, C. I. A. 2.977, frag. d-h, which extend over the whole of the Old and New Comedy. For Roman times see Lucian, Piscat. 14. In the comic agon there were mostly three competitors (Arg. v. Nubes; Arg. i. Pax; Arg. i. Aves). In the fourth century and afterwards the number was increased to five (Arg. iv. to Plutus (389 B.C.); cf C. I. A. 2.972 (354 B.C.), 975 (second century), for the number could be increased as the chorus [p. 1.520]had disappeared. The administration was in the hands of the ἄρχων ἐπώνυμος (Poll. 8.89). There were no comedies performed at the Anthesteria (11-13 Anthesterion=Jan.-Feb.): for the law of the orator Lycurgus, τὸν περὶ τῶν κωμῳδῶν ἀγῶνα τοῖς Χύτροις ἐπιτελεῖν ἐφάμιλλον ἐν τῷ θεάτρῳ (Plut. Vit. X. Or. 7.1, 10 =2.841 e), refers to the agon of comic actors, not to the performance of comedies. At all the festivals at which there were dramatic contests the comedies came on before the tragedies (Law of Evagoras, ap. Dem. Mid. 517.10; C. I. A. 2.971). Some refer to Aves, 785, 789, to prove that tragedies were played in the morning and comedies in the evening; but perhaps ἐφ᾽ ἡμᾶς only means “to us in the theatre,” for tragedy and comedy formed one single and connected entertainment (Wecklein, Philolog. 31.457).

After the age of the great tragedians it became customary to act one of their dramas at each tragic agon. Such is noted in the didascaliae as παλαιά (opp. to καινή). In the comic agon of 354 four new comedies are mentioned (C. I. A. 2.972, 50.16); in 352 there is a tragedy of Euripides (ib. 973): but not till the second century (C. L. A. 2.975, col. 3) do we find produced a comedy by an old master (Menander, Posidippus or Philemon, but of course not Aristophanes, whose works would have little point if acted in a different age to that of the individuals they satirised). We may thus perhaps infer that the custom of producing a play by an old master was later in the department of comedy than in that of tragedy.

The question has been often raised whether women were allowed to be present at comedies, as they certainly were at tragedies (Plat. Gorg. 502 D; Legg. 2.658 C, 7.817 C). The literature on both sides of the question is collected by A. Müller, op. cit. pp. 289, 290. The answer to be given is that they were allowed as far as the law was concerned. That they were present is expressly stated for the Old Comedy in Pax, 964 foll.; for the New Comedy in Alciphr. 2.3, 10; and for Roman times by certain seats in the Dionysiac theatre being marked as belonging to priestesses (C. I. A. 3.313, 315, &c.). Further, tragedy and comedy formed a single connected entertainment, so that permission to attend at tragedies would naturally imply permission to attend at comedies (Wecklein, l.c.). Yet though all women were allowed to be present, as far as the law was concerned, yet we may well conceive that many especially of the young women of respectability did not attend. That all women did not attend may in a measure be inferred from Aves, 793-796. Boys were certainly present (Nub. 537, 765; Pax, 56; Eupolis, frag. 244, ed. Kock ; cf. Aristot. Pol, 4.17, 9, τοὺς δὲ νεωτέρους οὔτε ἰάμβων οὔτε κωμῳδίας θεατὰς θετέον, πρὶν τὴν ἡλικίαν λάβωσιν ἐν κατακλίσεως ( “seat at table” ) ὑπάρξει κοινωνεῖν ἤδη, where it is no doubt intended to censure a prevailing custom. For details as to the public at dramatic performances, see THEATRUM

The costume worn in the Old Comedy can in a great measure be ascertained as well from indications in the plays as from pictures found on vases of Southern Italy representing scenes from the φλύακες or comedies of that country, which were in many ways similar to the comedy at Athens (O. Müller, Arch. § 390, 7): for undoubtedly one represents the first scene of the Ranae. When we remember that comedy started from phallic songs (Aristot. Poët. 4), we are not surprised to find the phallus as the most prominent feature of comic costume. It was made of leather, red at the top (Nub. 538 and Schol.), and was sometimes hung round the neck (Suidas, s. v. φαλλοί). The σωμάτιον was a kind of tights, generally drawn over padding for the chest and stomach (προστερνίδιον, προγαστρίδιον), and so often confused with the latter (A. Müller, op. cit. 230). This σωμάτιον appears to have been nearly always worn, and often in the pictures it gives the figures the appearance of being naked. We find it at one time with holes pierced in it like eyes; at another with embroidery or horizontal stripes. Sometimes it does not fit the skin tightly, but falls in folds. Rarely we find the actor wearing a loose kind of trousers. The σωμάτιον was made sometimes of leather, sometimes of woven stuffs. Dividing the rest of the dress of the body into ἐνδύματα and ἐμβλήματα, the former consisted of a tunic either with two sleeves (ἀμφιμάσχαλος, Hesych. sub voce Schol. Eq. 882), worn only by freemen, or else the ἐξωμίς [EXOMIS], which was the same as the ἑτερομάσχαλος (Phot. s. v.), which left the right arm and shoulder bare, and was worn by slaves and the working classes; the latter also wore a διφθέρα or leather jerkin (Vesp. 444), which appears to have been similar to the σπολάς (Av. 933; Poll. 7.70). The χιτὼν is seldom mentioned by Aristophanes; but at times we find certain kinds of it, the ἡμιδιπλοίσιον (Eccl. 318), the κροκωτίδιον (ib. 332), and the κροκωτὸς (ib. 879) worn by women [CROCOTA]. The principal ἔμβλημα for men was the ἱμάτιον (e.g. Ach. 1183); a poorer kind was the λῃδάριον (Av. 915 and Schol.) and the τριβώνιον (Plut. 882). The χλαῖνα was a comfortable cloak for old men (Vesp. 738, 1132; Poll. 10.123); and the σισύρα was a sheepskin blanket, also used for a thick cloak (Schol. on Vesp. 738). Women, too, wore the ἱμάτιον (Thesm. 250), a special kind of which was the ἔγκυκλον (ib. 261 and Schol.), which appears to have been of a round cut. Compare generally the instructive scene in Thesm. 253 ff., where the parts of the woman's dress are put on in this order: σωμάτιον, κροκωτός, στρόφιον ( “girdle” ), ἔγκυκλον. As to what was worn on the head, there is mention of κυνῆ (Nub. 269), and all sorts of hats appear in pictures: e. g. the πέτασος on Hermes. Crowns, too, were worn on certain occasions (Pax, 1044, &c.). We find women wearing nets (κεκρύφαλοι), snoods (μίτραι), and wigs (κεφαλαὶ περίθετοι, Thesm. 257-8). In pictures the feet appear for the most part naked, though that is no doubt due to the carelessness of the artist. We hear of ἐμβάδες (Eq. 872), Λακωνικαὶ (Vesp. 1157) worn by men, and Περσικαὶ (Thesm. 734) worn by women [CALCEUS]. The κόθορνος, which was a woman's shoe (Eccl. 346; cf. 319), was probably similar to the latter. Besides this ordinary dress, the dramatis personae had their special attributes: e. g. Dionysus when personating Heracles had the club and lion's skin (Ran. 44), and so Zeus appears in pictures with the thunderbolt. Of course grotesque characters appeared in grotesque costume: e. g. Pseud-artabas in the Acharnenses and Iris in [p. 1.521]the Aves. For the dress of the chorus, see CHORUS

The costume worn in the New Comedy is still more the dress of ordinary life than that of the Old Comedy, being much less of the nature of caricature. The σωμάτιον is often found, but without the excessive padding of the Old Comedy. With men the χιτὼν is generally found long on freemen of all ages, the parasite, and some slaves: with soldiers and the majority of slaves it is short. The ιμάτιον was worn by men of all ranks, the lower part of it being thrown over the left shoulder. The χλαμὺς was worn by soldiers (Plaut. Pseud. 4.7, 40). The mysterious κοσύμβη (Suid., Hesych. sub voce) appears to have been a sort of shawl wound round the body or thrown over the shoulders; and the ἐγκόμβωμα (Poll. 4.119) or ἐπίρρημα a white pallium worn by slaves, so fastened that it no doubt left both hands free. The legs were generally covered with tights, seldom loose trousers. The διπλῆ of cooks (Poll. 4.119) was an apron. A covering for the head is rarely found in representations. The soldier has a round flat hat (Baumeister, Denkmäler, fig. 910). As covering for the feet the actors wore the EMBAS or else shoes which left the toes bare: stockings also are sometimes found (A. Müller, op. cit. 264, note 2; cf. Becker-Göll, Charikles, 3.284). Women wore the χιτὼν reaching to the feet, which was often called συμμετρία (Poll. 7.54), and as an over-covering the ἱμάτιον. Heiresses used to wear ἱμάτια with fringes (Poll. 4.120). On their feet women wore either socci or sandals with thongs. As to the additional accessories of certain characters, we are told that old men carried a curved walking stick (καμπύλη, Poll. 4.119); rustics (ib.) a straight staff (λαγωβόλον), wallet (πήρα), and leathern tunic (διφθερα); procurers a straight stick called ἄρεσκος (ib. 120); the parasite a strigil (στλεγγις) and an oil-pot (λήκυθος, ib.; cf. Plaut. Stich. 1. 3, 75); and the soldier a sword (Plaut. Mil. 1.1, 5).

The different colours of the dress of the different stock-characters are much insisted on both by Pollux and Donatus (de Comoedia et Tragoedia). Thus old men wore white, younger men (νεώτεροι) red or dark purple (φοινικὶς μελαμπόρφυρον ἱμάτιον, Poll. 4.119), youths (ϝεανίσκοι purple (ib.), though Donatus (11, 21) says it was party-coloured (discolor). Parasites had black or grey (φαιός) cloaks (cf. οἱ μελάνες ἡμεῖς, Ath. vi. p. 237 b; Cic. Caec. 10, 27). The soldier has a chlamys purpurea (Donatus, 11, 24), slaves and artisans white ἱμάτια (Artemid. Oneir. 2.3). Old women wore apple-green (μηλίνγ) or dark blue (ἀερίνγ) dresses, except priestesses, who wore white. Young women had white dresses. Procuresses had a purple band round their heads (Poll. 4.119). There was a law at Athens that hetaerae should wear bright-coloured costume (ἄνθινα φορεῖν, Suidas, s. v.), and pictures show them with red and yellow chitons and white and yellow himatia. The soubrette (ἅβρα περίκουρος) wore a white chiton, and the hetaera's servant (παράψηστον θεραπαινίδιον) a saffron-coloured chiton (Poll. 4.154). For the masks of comedy, see PERSONA The most important work on the costume of the drama is Wieseler, Theatergebäude und Denkmäler des Bühnenwesens (1851), the main results of which are collected and criticised in the light of more recent researches by A. Müller, Die griechischen Bühnenalterthümer (1886), who is chiefly followed in the above sketch.

Besides the works cited in the text, the reader is referred to the article Lustspiel in Baumeister's Denkmäler des klassischen Altertums, and that on Comoedia in Daremberg and Saglio, Dict. des Antiquités.

[C.P.M] [L.C.P]


2. Roman.

The account which is given by Livy (7.2) of the introduction of comedy at Rome is to the following effect. In the year B.C. 363, on the occasion of a severe pestilence, among other ceremonies for averting the anger of the deities, scenic entertainments were introduced from Etruria, where it would seem they were a familiar amusement. Tuscan players (ludiones), who were fetched from Etruria, exhibited a sort of pantomimic dance to the music of a flute, without any song accompanying their dance, and without regular dramatic gesticulation. The amusement became popular, and was imitated by the young Romans, who improved upon the original entertainment by uniting with it extemporaneous mutual raillery, composed in a rude irregular measure--a species of diversion which had been long known among the Romans at their agrarian festivals under the name of Fescennina [FESCENNINA]. They regulated their dances so as to express the sense of the words. This amusement became popular, and those who had an aptitude for this sort of representation set themselves to improve its form, supplanting the old Fescennine verses by compositions called saturae, which were written in a more regular measure (impletae modis) and set to the music of the flute (descripto jam ad tibicinem cantu), and delivered with appropriate gestures. Those who took part in these exhibitions were called histriones, ister being the Etruscan word which answered to the Latin ludio [HISTRIO]. After some years Livius introduced dramas with a regular plot, in which he acted himself. When acting had thus developed from mere amusement to a recognised profession, the young citizens, leaving the representation of plays to actors, began to bandy jests thrown into verse, which afterwards got the name of exodia, and were introduced into the Atellan plays. In this account Livy seems unquestionably mistaken in describing the saturae as due to the imitation of Etruscan actors: there is no reason to doubt that they were, as Virgil (Georg. 2.385) and Horace (Hor. Ep. 2.1, 139 ff.) represent them, connected in the earliest times with the rustic festivals in honour of the deities presiding over agriculture. But under the influence of the foreign histriones they doubtless took a more formal shape. Nor can he be right in suggesting a connexion between the Atellan farces and the satura with the drama thence developed. The drama arose from the combination of the text of the saturae with the music and dancing of the histriones. (Cf. Mommsen, Hist. 3.455, note.)

Livius Andronicus, a native of Magna Graecia, in B.C. 240 introduced both tragedies and comedies, which were merely adaptations of Greek dramas. His popularity increasing, a building on the Aventine hill was assigned to him for his use, which served partly as a theatre, partly as a residence for a troop of players, for [p. 1.522]whom Livius wrote his pieces. Livius, as was common at that time, was himself an actor in his own pieces. His Latin adaptations of Greek plays, though they had no chorus, were interspersed with cantica, which were more lyrical in their metrical form, and more impassioned in their tone than the ordinary dialogue. In the musical recitation of these Livius seems to have been very successful, and was frequently encored. The exertion being too much for his voice, he introduced in these cantica the practice of placing a slave beside the flute-player to recite or chant the words, while he himself went through the appropriate gesticulation. This became the usual practice from that time, so that in the cantica the histriones did nothing but gesticulate, the only parts where they used their voice being the diverbia. For the distinction between the cantica and the diverbia, see CANTICA.

The first imitator of the dramatic works of Livius Andronicus was Cn. Naevius, a native of Campania. He composed both tragedies and comedies, which were either translations or imitations of those of Greek writers. In comedy his models seem to have been the writers of the Old Comedy. (Dict. Biogr., art. Naevius.) The most distinguished successors of Naevius were Plautus (ib., art. Plautus) and Terence (ib., art. Terentius), whose materials were drawn chiefly from Menander, Diphilus, Philemon, and Apollodorus. The comedy of the Romans was throughout but an imitation of that of the Greeks, and chiefly of the New Comedy. Where the characters were ostensibly Greek, and the scene laid in Athens or some other Greek town, the comedies were termed palliatae. All the comedies of Terence and Plautus belong to this class. When the story and characters were Roman, the plays were called togatae, because the costume was the toga. These fabulae togatae represented the life of the lower classes in Rome, and were coarser in tone than the palliatae. One kind of these, called trabeatae, representing the knights, was of late introduction and little importance. (Diomed., iii. p. 489, K.) In the comoediae palliatae, the costume of the ordinary actors was the Greek pallium. There was a species of burlesque travesty of tragic subjects, named from the poet who introduced that style Rhinthonica. The mimes are sometimes classed with the Latin comedies. (Hermann, de Fabula togata: Opusc. vol. v. p. 254, &c.) Respecting them, the reader is referred to the article MIMUS The mimes differed from the comedies in little more than the predominance of the mimic representation over the dialogue, which was only interspersed in various parts of the representation.

Latin comedies had no chorus, any more than the dramas of the New Comedy, of which they were for the most part imitations. Like them, too, they were introduced by a prologue, which answered some of the purposes of the parabasis of the Old Comedy, bespeaking the good will of the spectators, and defending the poet against his rivals and enemies. It also communicated so much information as was necessary to understand the story of the play. The prologue was commonly spoken by one of the players (who did not appear in the first act), or by the manager of the troop. Occasionally the speaker of it assumed a separate mask and costume for the occasion (Plaut, Poen, prol. 126; Terent. Hecyr. prol. 2.1). Sometimes the prologue is spoken by one of the dramatis personae (Plaut. Amph.; Mil. Glor.; Merc.), or by some supernatural or personified being, as the Lar familiaris in the Aulularia of Plautus, Arcturus in the Rudens, Auxilium in the Cistellaria, Luxuria and Inopia in the Trinummus. (Baden, von dem Prologe im Röm. Lustsp. in Jahn's Archiv, 1.3, p. 441, &c.; Becker, de com. Roman. Fabulis, p. 89, &c.; Wolff, de Prologis Plautinis.) Pliny (Plin. Nat. 36.204) says that Servius Tullius first instituted the Compitalia in honour of the Lares, in commemoration of the miraculous circumstances of his own birth; for he was said to have been the son of a Lar familiaris. Respecting the use of masks, see the article PERSONA The characters introduced were much the same as in the New Comedy, and their costume was not very different. Donatus gives the following account of it: “comicis senibus candidus vestis inducitur, quod is antiquissimus fuisse memoratur, adolescentibus discolor attribuitur. Servi comici amictu exiguo conteguntur paupertatis antiquae gratia, vel quo expeditiores agant. Parasiti cum intortis palliis veniunt. Laeto vestitus candidus, aerumnoso obsoletus, purpureus diviti, pauperi phoeniceus datur. Militi chlamys purpurea, puellae habitus peregrinus inducitur, leno pallio varii coloris utitur, meretrici ob avaritiam luteum datur.”

A word remains to be said on the Atellanae fabulae. These were of very early origin; the Latins having been accustomed, probably before the foundation of Rome, to improvise songs and jests in masks which represented certain standing characters. It has been commonly supposed, on the strength of our Greek authorities (e. g. Strabo v. p.356 a), that the name of ludi Osci or ludicrum Oscum points to their origin in Campania, and it has even been asserted that they were performed at Rome in the Oscan language. This statement, which is quite incredible in itself, when we consider how unintelligible the dialect must have been to actors and audience alike, is now universally rejected. Mommsen's view (Hist. 3.455) is far preferable, that the Latin farce with its fixed characters and standing jests needed a permanent scenery, which was fixed at the ruined town of Atella in order not to give offence to any existing community. We need not attempt to find any other connexion with the Oscan nation. Nor did they form any part of dramatic literature: the text was never written, or at any rate not published. Apparently it was only in the generation preceding Cicero that the Atellan farces were taken up by professional actors (cf. Cic. Fam. 9.1. 6), who continued to play them under the empire (Tac. Ann. 4.14) as after-pieces (exodia) to more serious dramas. Among the standing characters were Pappus or Casnar, Bucco, Maccus, and Dossennus (Mommsen, Unterital. Dial. p. 118). The first is an old man, vain and very stupid; the second, a fat-faced chattering glutton; the third, a filthy, amorous fool; the fourth, a cunning sharper. The earlier writers who composed complete texts for these plays were L. Pomponius of Bononia and Novius (about 100-80 B.C.). From the extant fragments the language seems to have been extremely [p. 1.523]coarse, and the jokes mostly obscene (Teuffel, Röm. Lit. § 125). (C. E. Schober, Ueber die Atellanen, Lips. 1825; Weyer, Ueber d. Atell., Mannheim, 1826; Munk, de Fabulis Atellanis, Breslau, 1840; Mommsen, Hist.; Bähr, Gesch. der röm. Litteratur; Teuffel, Roman Literature, § § 9, 10).

[C.P.M] [A.S.W]

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