). of Athens, was one of the best poets of the Old Comedy (Anon. de Corn.
He was contemporary with the comic poets Cratinus, Crates, Eupolis, Plato, and Aristophanes (Suid. s. v. Πλάτων
), being somewhat younger than the first two, and somewhat older than the others. One of the most important testimonies respecting him is evidently corrupted, but can be amended very well; it is as follows (Anon. de Com.
p. xxix) :--Φερεκράτης Ἀθηναῖος νικᾷ ἐπὶ θεάτρου γινόμενος, ὁ δὲ ὑποκριτὴς ἐξήλωκε Κράτητα. Καὶ αὖ τοῦ μὲν λοιδορεῖν ἀπέστη, πράγματα δὲ εἰσηγούμενος καινὰ ηὐδοκίμει γενόμενος εὑρετικὸς μύθων.
Dobree corrects the passage thus : --Φ.Α. νικᾷ ἐπὶ Θεοδώρου, γενόμενος δὲ ὑποκριτὴς ἐζήλωκε Κράτητα, κ.τ.λ. ;
and his emendation is approved by Meineke and others of our best critical scholars. From the passage, thus read, we learn that Pherecrates gained his first victory in the archonship of Theodorus, B. C. 438; and that he imitated the style of Crates, whose actor he had been. From the latter part of the quotation, and from an important passage in Aristotle (Aristot. Poet. 5
) we see what was the character of the alteration in comedy, commenced by Crates, and carried on by Pherecrates; namely, that they very much modified the coarse satire and vituperation of which this sort of poetry had previously been the vehicle (whatt Aristotle calls ἡ ἰαμβικὴ ἰδέα
), and constructed their comedies on the basis of a regular plot, and with more dramatic action. 1
Pherecrates did not, however, abstain altogether from personal satire, for we see by the fragments of his plays that he attacked Alcibiades, the tragic poet Melanthius, and others (Ath. viii. p. 343c., xii. p. 538b. ; Phot. Lex.
p. 626, 10).
But still, as the fragments also show, his chief characteristics were, ingenuity in his plots and elegance in diction : hence he is called Ἀττικώτατος
(Ath. vi. p. 268e; Steph. Byz. p. 43; Suid. s.v. Ἀθηναία
). His language is not, however, so severely pure as that of Aristophanes and other comic poets of the age, as Meineke shows by several examples.
Invention of the Pherecratean Metre
Of the invention of the new metre, which was named, after him, the Pherecratean,
he himself boasts in the following lines (apud Hephaest.
10.5, 15.15, Schol in Ar. Naub.
ἄνδρες, πρόσχετε τὸν νοῦν
The system of the verse, as shown in the above example, is which may be best explained as a choriambus, with a spondee for its base, and a long syllable for its termination. Pherecrates himself seems to call it an anapaestic metre; and it might be scanned as such : but he probably only means that he used it in the parabases, which were often called anapaests,
because they were originally in the anapaestic metre (in fact we hold the anapaestic verse to be, in its origin, choriambic). Hephaestion explains the metre as an hephthemimeral antispastic,
or, in other words, an antispastic dimeter catalectio
(Hephaest. ll. cc. ;
comp. Gaisford's Notes).
The metre is very frequent in the choruses of the Greek tragedians, and in Horace, as, for example,
Grato Pyrrha sub antro.
There is a slight difference in the statements respecting the number of his plays. The Anonymous writer on comedy says eighteen, Suidas and Eudocia sixteen.
The extant titles, when properly sifted, are reduced to eighteen, of which some are doubtful.
The number to which Meineke reduces them is fifteen, namely, Ἄγριοι, Αὐτόμολοι, Γρᾶες, Δουλοδιδάσκαλος, Ἐπιλήσμων ἢ Θάλαττα, Ἰπνὸς ἢ Παννυχίς, Κοριαννώ, Κραπάταλοι, Λῆροι, Μυρμηκάνθρωποι, Πετάλη, Τυραννίς, Ψευδηρακλῆς.
Of these the most interesting is the Ἄγριοι
, on account of the reference to it in Plato's Protagoras
(p. 327d.), which has given rise to much discussion. Heinrichs has endeavoured to show that the subject of the play related to those corruptions of the art of music of which the comic poets so frequently complain, and that one of the principal performers was the Centaur Cheiron, who expounded the laws of the ancient music to a chorus of wild men
). that is, either Centaurs or Satyrs; and he meets the obvious objection, that the term μισάνθοωποι
, which Plato applies to the Chorus, is not suitable to describe Satyrs or Centaurs, by changing it into ἡμιάνθρωποι
(Demonstratio et Restitutio loci corrupti e Platonis Protagra,
Kiliae, 1813, and also in his work Epimenides aus Creta, &c.
pp. 188, 192, foll.).
The same view is adopted by Ast and Jacobs, but with a less violent change in Plato's text, namely, μιξάνθρωποι
The common reading is, however, successfully defended by Meineke, who shows that there is no sufficient reason for supposing that Cheiron appeared in the Ἄγριοι
at all, or that the Chorus were not really what the title and the allusion in Plato would naturally lead us to suppose, namely, wild men.
The play seems to have been a satire on the social corruptions of Athens, through the medium of the feelings excited at the view of them in men who are uncivilized themselves and enemies to the civilized part of mankind.
The play was acted at the Lenaea, in the month of February, B. C. 420 (Plat. l.c. ;
Ath. v. p. 218d.).
Subjects of the other plays
The subjects of the remaining plays are fully discussed by Meineke.
Confusion with Crates and with Pherecydes.
The name of Pherecrates is sometimes confounded with Crates
and with Pherecydes.
Meineke, Frag. Com. Graec. vol. i. pp. 66-86, vol. ii. pp. 252-360
; Bergk, Reliq. Comoed. Att. Antiq. pp. 284-306.
Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. ii. pp. 473-476.