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*Mela/nqios), an Athenian tragic poet, who seems to have been of some distinction in his day, but of whom little is now known beyond the attacks made on him by the conic poets. Eupolis, Aristophanes, Pherecrates. Leucon, and Plato, satirized him unmercifully; and it is remarkable that he was attacked in all the three comedies which gained the first three places in the dramatic contest of B. C. 419, namely, the Κόλακες of Eupolis, the Εἰρήνη of Aristophanes, and the Φράτορες of Leucon (Athen. 8.343; schol. ad Arisloph. Pac. 804). He is again attacked by Aristophanes in the Ὄρνιθες, B. C. 414. In addition to these indications of his date, we are informed of a remark made by him upon the tragedies of Diogenes Oenomaus, who flourished about B. C. 400 (Plut. de Aud. p. 41c.). The story of his living at the court of Alexander of Pherae, who began to reign B. C. 369, is not very probable, considering the notoriety which he had acquired fifty years earlier, and yet the allusion made to his position and conduct there is quite in keeping with all that we know of his character (Plut. de Adul. et Amic. p. 50e.).

The most important passage respecting Melanthius is that in the Peace of Aristophanes (796, &c.), which we subjoin in the form in which Welcker gives it:

Τοιάδε χρὴ Χαρίτων δαμώματα καλλικόμων τὸν σοφὸν ποιητὴν
ὑμνεῖν, οταν ἠοινὰ μὲν φωνῇ χελιδὼν
ἑζομενη κελαδῇ
, χορὸν δὲ μὴ ῎χῃ Μόρσιμος,
μηδὶ Μελάνθιος, οὗ δὴ πικροτάτην ὄπα γηρύσαν-
τος ἤκους᾿,
ἡνίκα τῶν τραγῳδῶν τὸν χόρον εἶχον ἁδελφός τε
καὶ αὐτὸς ἀμφώ
Γόργονες ὀψοφαγοι, βατιδοσκάποι, ἅρπυιαι
γραοσόβαι, μιαροὶ, τραγομάσχαλοι, ἰχθυολῦμαι.

It has been much doubted whether the fifth line means that Melanthius and Morsimus were brothers, or whether we should understand the word ἁδελφός to refer to some brother of Melanthius, whose name is not mentioned. Tihe two ancient scholiasts held opposite opinions on the point (comp. Suid. s. v.); while among modern scholars, the former view is held by Ulrici, Meineke, Welcker, and Kayser, and the latter by Elmsley, Böckh, Müller and Clinton (comp. Elms. ad Eurip. Med. 96, with Welcker, die Griech. Tragöd. p. 1029). The character given of Melanthius in the above extract, his worthlessness as a poet, his voracious gluttony, his profligacy, and his personal offensiveness, is confirmed by several other passages of the comic poets and other writers (Aristoph. Peace 999, Av. 152, and Schol.; Archippus, apud Athen. viii. p. 343; Athen. 1.6c.). He was celebrated for his wit, of whichseveral specimens are preserved (Plut. de Aud. Poet. p. 20c., de Aud. p. 41c., de Adul. et Amic. p. 50d., Conjug. Praec. p. 144b., Sympos. p. 631d., p. 633d.). Aristophanes has preserved the title and two lines, somewhat parodied, of one of his dramas, the Medea, for it is absurd to suppose the Medea of Euripides is meant (Pax, 999) ; and Plutarch has more than once (De cohib. Ira, p. 453f., de sera Num. Vindict. p. 551a.) quoted a line, in which Melanthius says that θυμὸς

Τὰ δεινα πράττει τὰς φρένας μετοικίσας

Athenaeus informs us that Melanthius also wrote elegies (viii. p. 343d.), and Plutarch (Plut. Cim. 4) refers to the epigrammatic elegies of Melanthius on Cimon and Polygnotus, of which he quotes one distich. But if the Melanthius quoted by Plutarch lived and wrote in the time of Cimon, as he seems clearly to mean, he could not have been, as Athenaeus supposed, the same person as the tragic poet. (Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. ii. p. 310; Ulrici, Hellen. Dichtkunst, vol. ii. p. 572; Welcker, Die Griech. Trag. pp. 1030-1032; Kayser, Hist. Crit. Trag. Graec. pp. 59-65.)


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  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Aristophanes, Peace, 999
    • Plutarch, Cimon, 4
    • Athenaeus, of Naucratis, Deipnosophistae, 1.6
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