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p341 Comoedia

Article by Charles Peter Mason, B. A., Fellow of University College, London
on pp341‑347 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

COMOE′DIA (κωμῳδία), comedy. 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 (Aristot. Poët. 5), for, though springing out of the Dionysiac festivals, it had not that predominantly religious character which tragedy had.

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. Poet. 4) p342witticisms with which the revellers assailed the bystanders (see the description of the phallophori at Sicyon in Athen. XIV p622), just as the chorus in the Frogs of Aristophanes, after their song to Iacchus, began 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. Meid. p517), where we find mentioned together ὁ κῶμος καὶ οἱ κωμῳδοί (comp. Müller, Hist. of Gr. Lit. vol. II p4, Dor. IV.7 § 1; Bode, Gesch. der Hellen. Dichtk. vol. II part 2 p4, &c.; Kanngiesser, die alte Komische Bühne zu Athen, p32). 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 pp335, 337; Anonym. περὶ κμωῳδίας in Meineke, Hist. Crit. Comic. Graec. pp535, 538, 558, and in Bekker's Anecd. Gr. p747, where a very absurd account of the origin of comedy is given), and has the sanction of Bentley, W. Schneider, and even Bernhardy (Grundriss d. Griech. Lit. vol. II p892).

It was among the Dorians that comedy first assumed any thing 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. Vesp. 57, with the schol.; Anthol. Pal. XI.440; Suidas, s.v. γέλως; Bode, vol. II pt. 2 p27), 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 (Pollux, IV § 105; Athen. XIV p621; Plut. Ages. 21 p607D, Apophth. Lac. p212, &c.; Schol. ad Apollon. I.746; Müller, Dor. IV.6 § 9; Bernhardy, l.c. p894). Analogous to the δεικηλικταί were the βρυαλλικταί (Hesych. s.v.). Among the forerunners of comedy must be mentioned the Phallophori and Ithyphalli at Sicyon. It was here, where at an early period the dithyramb was also dramatised, that the κῶμος first assumed a more dramatic form, and Dionysus was even said to have invented comedy at Sicyon (Anthol. Pal. XI.32). The Phallophori had no masks, but covered their faces with chaplets of wild thyme, acanthus, ivy, and violets, and threw skins around 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 or phallus-bearers, which were called comedies (Athen. X p445). Such pieces have been styled lyrical comedies by many scholars (as Böckh, Corp. Inscrip. No. 1584, note; and Müller, Hist. of the Lit. of Greece, vol. II p5), to distinguish them from the comedy proper. Lobeck and Hermann however 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 p211, &c.). 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 Bekker's Anecd. Gr. p748; Aspasius, Ad Aristot. Eth. Nic. IV.2.20 fol. 53, B). Icaria was the oldest seat of the worship of Dionysus in Attica (Athen. II p40), 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 (Müller, Hist. of Lit. of Gr. vol. I p132; 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 ἅμαξης (Schol. Arist. Equit. 544, Nub. 296; Suidas, s.v.; Ulpianus ad Demosth. de Cor. p268, ed. Reiske; Bode, l.c. p22; Photius, Lex. s.v. τὰ ἐκ τῶν ἁμαξῶν). This amusement continued customary not only at the rural Dionysia, but at the Anthesteria, on the second day of the festival [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 (Mar. Par. ep. 40 in Böckh's Corpus Inscript. vol. II p301). It is not however easy to decide in what his improvements consisted. Of course there were no actors beside 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 p343the first to give to the iambistic performances or comus a regular metrical form (Schol. ad Dionys. Thrac. ap. Becker, Anecd. Gr. p748; Meineke, l.c. p549). 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. c. 5), Crates was the first who ἦρξεν, ἀφέμενος τῆς ἰαμβικῆς ἰδέας καθόλου ποιεῖν λόγους ἢ μύθους. 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 p259, 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 recognized, 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 (Athen. II p40; Anon. ap. Meineke, l.c. p535; Aristoph. Acharn. l. 473, &c.; Fragm. ap. Athen. XII p551; Acharn. 851, 603, Vesp. 650, 1534; Schol. ad Arist. Acharn. 397, 498; Schol. ad Plat. de Rep. III p928, ed. Bait. et Orell.; Bentley, Dissert. on the Ep. of Phal. vol. I p341, &c. ed. Dyce; Bode, l.c. p22). There can be but little question that Susarion's pieces were merely intended for the amusement of the hour, and were not committed to writing (Bentley, l.c. p250, &c.; Anonym. de Com. ap. Meineke, l.c. p540; Bode, l.c.). The comedy of Susarion doubtless partook of that petulant, coarse, and unrestrained personality for which the Megarian comedy was noted. 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 Sicily always exhibited a lively temperament, and the gift of working up any occurrence into a spirited, fluent dialogue (Cic. Verr. IV.43, Divin. in Caecil. 9, Orat. II.54; Quintil. VI.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. The performers were called αὐτοκάβδαλοι, i.e. improvisatores (Athen. XIV p622; Etym. Magn. s.v. αὐτοκαβδ.; Eustath. ad Il. XI. p884.45; Hesych. s.v.; Aristot. Rhet. III.7 § 1; Bode, l.c., p8, &c.), and, subsequently, ἴαμβοι. Their entertainments being of a choral character were, doubtless, accompanied by music and dancing. Athenaeus (XIV p629) mentions a dance called the ἰαμβική, which he ranks with the κόρδαξ and σίκιννις. Afterwards, the comic element was developed partly into travesties of religious legends, partly into delineations of character and manners; the former in the comedy of Epicharmus, Phormis, and Deinolochus; the latter 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. p900). In his efforts he appears to have been associated with Phormis, a somewhat older contemporary. The Megarians in Sicily claimed the honour of the invention of comedy, on account of his having lived in Megara before he went to Syracuse (Dictionary of Biog. and Myth. art. Epicharmus). According to Aristotle (Poet. 5) Epicharmus and Phormis were the first who began μύθους ποιεῖν; which Bernhardy (l.c. p898) understands to mean that they were the first to introduce regular plots. The subjects of his plays were mostly mythological, i.e. were parodies or travesties of mythological stories (Müller, Dorians, book IV c. 7). Whether in the representation there was a chorus as well as actors is not clear, though it has been assumed (Grysar, de Dor. Com. p200, &c.) that he and Phormis were the earliest comic poets whose works reached posterity in a written form (Bentley, l.c. p451). But the comedy of Epicharmus was of brief duration. We hear of no successors to him except his son or disciple Deinolochus.

In Attica, the first 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 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. p29‑36). 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 Under the vigorous and liberal administration of Pericles comedy found free scope, and rapidly reached its perfection. Cratinus is said to have the first who introduced three actors in a comedy (Anonym. de Com. ap. Meineke, p540). But Crates is spoken of as the first who began καθόλου ποιεῖν λόγους ἢ μύθους (Arist. Poet. 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, Poet. 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 pieces the character of a drunken man (Anonym. de Com. ap. Meineke, p536). 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 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 (Bernhardy, l.c. pp942, 946). Crates and his imitator Pherecrates seem in the character of their pieces to have had more affinity with the middle p344than 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, and tended to detract from the true nobleness of the Greek character. It performed the functions of a public censorship (Hor. Serm. I.4.1, &c.; Isocrat. de Pace, p161; Dion Chrysost. vol. II p4, ed. Rsk.; Cic. de Rep. IV.10). 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 basis of the most imaginative forms which its wild licence adopted. All kinds of phantastic 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 poets.

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. p40; Bernhardy, p943) 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. p348C). 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, p41). The nature of the political events in the ensuing period would of itself act as a check upon the licence of the 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 poets by those who had been attacked by them (Schol. Arist. Ran. 153). Agyrrhius, though when is not known, got the pay of the poets lessened (Schol. Arist. Eccl. 102). 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, p535; Bode, l.c., p108). An excellent and compendious account of these poets is given by Bernhardy (Grundriss der Griech. Lit. vol. II p945‑954). 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 p108, &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 (Athen. XIV p659A) 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. Poet. 4; Bode, l.c. p28).

It was not usual for 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. Nub. 530, with the scholiast). 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. s.v. πέντε κριταί).

The chorus in a comedy consisted of twenty-four. [Chorus.]

The dance of the chorus was the κόρδαξ, the movements of which were capricious and licentious, consisting partly in a reeling to and fro, in imitation of a drunken man, and in various unseemly and immodest gestures. For a citizen to dance the κόρδαξ sober and without a mask, was looked upon as the height of shamelessness (Theophrast. Charact. 6). The choreutae were attired in the most indecent manner (Schol. ad Arist. Nub. 537). Aristophanes, however, and probably other poets also, frequently dispensed with the κόρδαξ (Arist. Nub. 537, &c., 553, &c.; Schneider, das Attische Theaterwesen, p229 &c.). Comedies have choric songs, but no στάσιμα, or songs between acts. The most important of the choral parts was the Parabasis, when the actors having left the stage, the chorus, which was ordinarily divided into four rows, containing six each (Pollux, IV.108; Schol. ad Arist. Pac. 733), and was turned towards the stage, turned round, and advancing towards the spectators delivered an address to them in the name of the poet, either on public topics of general interest, or on matters which concerned the poet personally, criticising his rivals and calling attention to his merits; the address having nothing whatever to do with the action of the play (Schol. ad Arist. Nub. 518, Pac. 733, Equit. 505). The grammarians speak of it as being divided into the following portions:— 1. A short introduction (the κομμάτιον); 2. The παράβασις in the narrower sense of the word, or ἀνάπαιστος, which was the principal part; and usually consisted of a system of anapaestic or trochaic tetrameters, in which case it was the practice for it to close with what was called the μακρόν or πνῖγος, a number of short p345verses, which the speaker had to utter in a breath, and by which he was to appear to be choked; 3. The στροφῆ; 4. The ἐπιῤῥημα; 5. The ἀντιστροφῆ, answering to the στροφῆ; 6. The ἀντεπιῤῥημα, answering to the ἐπιῤῥημα. The strophe and antistrophe were sung by half choruses, and were probably accompanied by dancing, being the only parts of the parabasis that were so accompanied (Bode l.c. p273). The rhema and epirrhema were uttered by single choreutae. The parabasis, however, did not always contain all these parts complete. The origin of the parabasis is not quite clear. Possibly in the earlier stages of comedy, the poet went with the comus procession, and in the course of its performance addressed a speech in his own person to the spectators (Etym. Magn. p528; Pollux, IV.111; Schol. ad Arist. Nub. 518, 1113, Pac. 733; Hypothes. ad Arist. Nub.; Hermann, Elem. III.21, p720, Kanngiesser, Alte Kom. Bühne, p356, &c.; Kolster, de Parabasi). The parabasis was not universally introduced: three plays of Aristophanes, the Ecclesiazusae, Lysistrata, and Plutus have none.

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 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 satirizing classes, in criticising the systems and merits of philosophers and literary men, 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, p396), and in the absence of that wild grotesqueness which marked the old comedy. As regards its external form, the plays of the middle comedy, generally speaking, had neither parabasis nor chorus (Platonius, de Differ. Com. ap. Meineke, p532). The absence of the chorus was occasioned, 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 p336D) says, that he had read above 800 dramas of the middle comedy. Only a few fragments are now extant. Meineke (Hist. Crit. Com. Gr. p303) gives a list of thirty-nine poets of the middle comedy. The most celebrated were Antiphanes and Alexis (Bode, l.c. p393, &c.; Bernhardy, p1000, &c.).

The new comedy was a further development of the last mentioned kind. It answered as nearly as may be to the modern comedy of manners or character. 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 generalized form a picture of the every-day life of those by whom they were surrounded. Hence the grammarian Aristophanes asked: ὦ Μένανδρε καὶ βίε, πότερος ἄρ᾽ ὑμῶν πότερον ἀπεμιμήσατο (Meineke, praef. Men. p33). The new comedy might be described in the words of Cicero (de Rep. IV.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 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 (Appul. Flor. 16; Ovid, Amor. I.15, 17). In the new comedy there was no chorus, and the dramas were commonly introduced by prologues, spoken by allegorical personages, such as Ἔλεγχος, 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, p1008, &c.; Meineke, l.c., p435, &c.).

Respecting the masks used in comedy the reader is referred to the article Persona. The ordinary costume was the ἐξωμίς, which for old men was unfulled. Peasants carried a knapsack, a cudgel, and a skin of some kind (δίφθερα). Young men had a purple tunic; parasites a black or grey one, with a comb and a box of ointment. Courtezans had a coloured tunic, and a variegated cloak over it, with a wand in their hand. Slaves wore a small variegated cloak over their tunic; cooks an unfulled double mantle; old women a yellow or blue dress; priestesses and maidens a white one; heiresses a white dress with a fringe; bawds and the mothers of hetaerae had a purple band round the head; panderers had a dyed tunic, with a variegated cloak and a straight staff, called ἄρεσκος (Pollux, IV.120, &c., VII.47; Etymol. Magn. p349.43; A. Gell. VII.12). The authorities, however, on these points are not very full, and not quite accordant.

2. Roman. — The accounts of the early stages of comic poetry among the Romans are scanty, and leave many points unexplained, but they are probably trustworthy as far as they go. Little is known on the subject but what Livy tells us (VII.4). According to his account 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 p346gesticulation. The amusement became popular, and was imitated by the young Romans, who (though how soon is not stated) 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. Those who had an aptitude for this sort of representation set themselves to improve its form, supplanting the old Fescennine verses by more regular compositions, which however had not as yet any thing like dramatic unit or a regular plot, but from the miscellaneous nature of the subjects introduced were called Saturae [Satura]. Those who took part in these exhibitions were called histriones, hister being the Etruscan word which answered to the Latin ludio [Histrio]. It was 123 years after the first introduction of these scenic performances before the improvement was introduced of having a regular plot. This advance was made by Livius Andronicus, a native of Magna Graecia, in B.C. 240. His pieces, which were both tragedies and comedies, 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 whom Livius wrote his pieces. The representation of regular plays of this sort was now left to those who were histriones by profession, and who were very commonly either foreigners or slaves; the free-born youth of Rome confined their own scenic performances to the older, irregular farces, which long maintained their ground, and were subsequently called exodia, being, as Livy says, conserta fabellis potissimum Atellanis [Exodia; Satura]. 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 monodies, which were more lyrical in their metrical form, and more impassioned in their tone than the ordinary dialogue parts. 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 the practice in these monodies, or cantica, of placing a slave beside the flute player to recite or chaunt 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 dialogues (diverbia). Livy's account has been absurdly misunderstood as implying that the introduction of this slave to chaunt the cantica led to the use of dialogue in Roman dramas, as though there had been no dialogue before; in which case, as there was certainly no chorus, Livius must have adapted Greek dramas so as to admit of being represented in a series of monologues, a supposition which is confuted by its own absurdity. It is perfectly clear that the plays of Livius were an improvement on the old scenic Saturae, which consisted of dialogue, and that the improvement was simply that of adapting the dialogue to a regular plot. Hermann (Dissert. de Cant. in Fab. scenic. Opusc. vol. I p290, &c.) has sufficiently shown that the cantica were not mere musical interludes accompanied by dancing or gesticulation, introduced between the acts, but the monodial parts of the plays themselves; though (as is clear from Plautus, Pseud. I.5.160) there were cases in which the flute-player filled up the intervals between the acts with music, as in the διαύλιον in the Greek theatre. But there is nothing to show that such musical interludes were accompanied with gesticulation by any actor; and it is not merely without but against all authority to call such interludes cantica. Hermann has also shown that it is quite a mistake to suppose that the leading actors only gesticulated in the cantica, and took no part in the ordinary dialogue. The cantica were only monodies put into the mouth of one or other of the dramatis personae. There is a useful treatise on this subject by G. A. B. Wolff (de Canticis in Romanorum Fabulis scenicis), in which the author has endeavoured to point out which are the cantica in the remaining plays of Plautus and Terence.

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. of Gr. and Rom. Biog. and Myth. art. Naevius). The most distinguished successors of Naevius were Plautus (Ibid. art. Plautus), 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. But the fabulae togatae were in fact little else than Greek comedies clothed in a Latin dress. (As Horace says: "dicitur Afrani toga convenisse Menandro." Epist. II.1.57.) They took their name because the costume was the toga. The togatae were divided into two classes, the trabeatae and tabernariae, according as the subject was taken from high or from low life (Euanthius, de Fabula). In the comediae palliatae, the costume of the ordinary actors was the Greek pallium. The plays which bore the name of praetextatae, were not so much tragedies as historical plays. It is a mistake to represent them as comedies. There was a species of tragi-comedy, named from the poet who introduced that style Rhinthonica. A tragedy the argument of which was Greek was termed crepidata. The mimes are sometimes classed with the Latin comedies (Hermann, de Fabula togata. Opusc. vol. V p254, &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, so far as bespeaking the good will of the spectators, and defending the poet against p347his 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, or, perhaps, 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. Prol. II.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. Lustp. in Jahn's Archiv. I.3 p441, &c.; Bekker, de com. Roman. Fabulis, p89, &c.; Wolff, de Prologis Plautinis). The rest of the piece consisted (as Diomedes says, III p489) of diverbium and canticum. This division, however, must not be taken too stringently, as it was not every monologue which was a canticum. The composition of the music, which is spoken of in the didascaliae, appears to have had reference to these cantica. Respecting the use of masks, see the article Persona. When they were first introduced, is a disputed point (Wolff, de Canticis, p22, &c.; Hölscher, de Personarum Usu in Ludis scen. ap. Rom.; Stieve, de Rei scenicae ap. Rom. Origine). 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 induitur,º 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 induitur, leno pallio varii coloris utitur, meretrici ob avaritiam luteum datur."

A word remains to be said on the Atellanae fabulae. These were not of Roman, but of Italian origin, and were not introduced among the Romans till the latter came into contact with the Campanians. These pieces took their name from the town of Atella in Campania. From being always composed in the Oscan dialect, they appear to have been rude, improvisatory farces, without dramatic connection, but full of raillery and satire. So far they resembled the earlier scenic entertainments of the Romans. But the Oscan farces had not the dancing or gesticulation which formed a chief part of the latter, and those who took part in them personated characters representing various classes of the country people, like the Maschere of the modern Italians. These had regular names; there was Maccus, a sort of clown or fool; Buccones, i.e. babblers; Pappus; Simus or Simius, the baboon. The Greek origin of some of these names would seem to indicate that the Greek settlers in Italy had some influence in the development of this species of amusement. The Atellanae fabulae were distinguished from the mimes by the absence of low buffoonery. They were marked by a refined humour (Cic. ad Fam. IX.16; Val. Max. II.1). They were commonly divided into five acts (Macrob. Saturn. III). Respecting the exodia, see the article Exodium.º The Oscan dialect was preserved, even when they were introduced at Rome (Strabo, V p356A). Though at first improvisatory, after the regular drama acquired a more artistic character, the Atellanae came to be written. Lucius Pomponius of Bononia and Q. Novius are mentioned as writers of them. Regular histriones were not allowed to perform in them. They were acted by free-born Romans, who were not subjected to any civil degradation for appearing in them. In later times, they degenerated, and became more like the mimes, and were acted by histriones; but by that time they had fallen into considerable neglect. (C. E. Schober, über die Atellanen, Lips. 1825; Weyer, über d. Atell. Mannheim 1826; Neukirch, de Fabula togata, pp20, 51, &c.; Bähr, Gesch. der Röm. Litteratur).


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