), an obscure tragic poet, but notorious as one of the accusers of Socrates, was an Athenian, of the Pitthean demus (Plat. Euthyph.
At the time of the accusation of Socrates, he is spoken of by Plato (l.c.
) as young and obscure Compp. Apol.
p. 25d., 26, e.).
But the fact that he was mentioned by Aristophanes in the Γεωργοί
, gives rise to a difficulty (Schol. in Plat. Apol.
p. 330, Bekker). For the Γεωργοι
was evidently acted during the life of Nicias (Plut. Nic. 8
); and not only so, but the passage cited by Plutarch seems to have been rightly understood by him, as referring to the affair of Sphacteria, and on this and other grounds Meineke assigns the play to the year B. C. 425 (Frag. Comp. Graec. vol.
ii. pp. 983-985). Supposing Meletus to have been only twenty at this time, he must have been upwards of forty-five when he accused Socrates. Meineke attempts to get rid of the difficulty, by a slight change in the text of the scholiast, which would then imply that Meletus was still a boy when alluded to in the Γεωργοί
(Frag. Com. Graec.
vol. ii. p. 993).
At all events, if the Meletus thus referred to was really the same person as the accuser of Socrates, he must at the latter period have been between thirty and forty; and in that case he might still have been called νέος
In fact, though the attack upon Socrates was his first essay as a public politician, and was indeed made, as Plato insinuates, in order to bring himself into some notoriety (Euthyph.
pp. 2, 3, Apol.
p. 25d.), yet it is clear from Plato himself that Meletus was already known as a poet; for he imputes to Meletus, as another motive for the accusation, the resentment felt by him and the other poets for the strictures made upon them by Socrates (Apol.
p. 23e.; D. L. 2.39
). Besides, when Plato calls him ἁγνώς
, he perhaps refers rather to his being a man of no merit than to his being altogether unknown in the city.
With respect to his tragedies, we are informed by the scholiast on Plato (l.c.
), on the authority of Aristotle in the Didascaliae,
that Meletus brought out his Οἰδιπόδεια
in the same year in which Aristophanes brought out his Πελαργοί
, but we know nothing of the date of that play. His Scolia
are referred to in the Frogs
(1302), B. C. 405; and in the Γηρντάδης
, which was probably acted a few years after the Frogs
, to which it was similar in its argument, Aristophanes makes him one of the ambassadors sent by the poets on earth to the poets in Hades (Athen. 12.551
He was also ridiculed by Sannyrion in his Γέχως
); and his erotic poetry was referred to by Epicrates in his Ἀντιλαις
e.). Suidas (s. v.) calls him an orator as well as a poet, no doubt on account of his accusation of Socrates, and perhaps of Andocides. (See below.)
The character of Meletus, as drawn by Plato and Aristophanes and their scholiasts, is that of a bad, frigid, and licentious poet, and a worthless and profligate man,-vain, silly, effeminate, and grossly sensual. Plato makes Socrates call him τετανότριχα καὶ οὐ πάνυ εὐγένειον, ἐπίγρυπον δέ
. Aristophanes, in the Γηπυτάδης
, ridiculed him for his excessive thinness, and light weight, and his natural tendency to the infernal regions, where, as Thirlwall remarks, i" to understand the point of the sarcasm, we must compare the balancing scene in the Frogs,
and the remarks of Aeschylus, 867, ὅτι ἡ ποίησις οὐχὶ συντέθνηκέ μοι, τούτω δὲ συντέθνηκεν"
(Hist. of Greece,
vol. iv. p. 275, note). Aristophanes again, in the Πελαργοί
, calls him the son of Laius, a designation which not only contains an allusion to his Oedipodeia,
but is also meant to insinuate a charge of the grossest vice (see Meineke, ad loc., Frag. Com. Graec.
vol. ii. pp. 1126, 1127). Misled by this passage, Suidas (s.v. Μέλιτος
) makes him a son of Laius (as Clinton has corrected the word from Ααρου
); the real name of his father was Meletus, as we learn from Diogenes Laertius, on the authority of Phavorinus, in whose time the deed of accusation against Socrates was still preserved in the Metroum at Athens (D. L. 2.40
The epithet Θρᾶξ
, applied to him by Aristophanes, in the fragment just referred to, probably alludes to the foreign origin of his family.
In the accusation of Socrates it was Meletus who laid the indictment before the Archon Basileus ; but in reality he was the most insignificant of the accusers; and according to one account he was bribed by Anytus and Lycon to take part in the affair. (Liban. Apol.
pp. 11, 51, ed. Reiske.) Soon after the death of Socrates, the Athenians repented of their injustice, and Meletus was stoned to death as one of the authors of their folly. (D. L. 2.43
; Diod. 14.37
; Suid. s. v. Μελιτος:
it may here be observed that the article in Suidas is a mass of confusion; there is evidently in it a mixing up of the lives of two different persons, Melissus of Samos and Meletus.)
There is room for some doubt whether the accuser of Socrates was the same person as the Meletus who was charged with participation in the profanation of the mysteries, and in the mutilation of the Hermae, B. C. 415, and who was an active partizan of the Thirty Tyrants, both as the executioner of their sentence of death upon Leon of Salamis, and as an emissary to Lacedaemon on their behalf, and who was afterwards one of the accusers of Andocides in the case respecting the mysteries, B. C. 400 (Andoc. de Myst.
pp. 7, 18, 46, Reiske ; X en. Hell.
2.4.36 ): but as all this is perfectly consistent with the indications we have noticed above respecting the age of Meletus, there seems no good ground for distinguishing the two persons, though they cannot be identified with absolute certainty. (Droysen, Rhein. Mus.
vol. iii. p. 190.)
Respecting the form of the name, Μέλητος
is almost universally adopted by modern scholars, though Welcker defends Μέλιτος
. For the arguments on both sides, and respecting Meletus in general, see Clinton, F. H.
vol. ii. p. xxxvi.; Welcker, die Griech. Trag.
pp. 872-874; Kayser, Hist. Crit. Trag. Graec.
pp. 284, 285. Plato makes Socrates pun upon the name several times in the Apology
(p. 24c. d., 25. c., 26, d.). [P.S