Frogs (Murray 1912)/Notes
COMMENTARY ON THE FROGS
P. 3, l. 1, Xanthias.]—A common slave's name from Xanthus, the chief town of Lycia, or possibly from ξανθὸς "auburn," "red-headed." Northern slaves were common.
P. 4, ll. 14, 16, Phrynichus, Ameipsias, Lykis.]—Contemporary comic poets. Phrynichus was competing with his "Muses" against Aristophanes on the present occasion, and won the second prize. Ameipsias' Connos won the first prize over the Clouds, and his Revellers over the Birds.
P. 6, l. 33) Why wasn't I on board at Arginusae?]—All slaves who fought in that battle had been set free. It and its consequences loom so large in The Frogs that it is desirable to give some account of them. It was a great victory. Seventy Spartan ships were destroyed and the admiral, Callicratidas, slain. But it was not properly followed up, and it was dearly bought by the loss of twenty-five triremes, with nearly the whole of their crews, amounting to about five thousand men. It was believed that with more care many of these men might have been saved, and most of the dead bodies collected for burial. The generals were summoned home for trial for this negligence. They pleaded bad weather, and also that they had given orders to the trierarchs (or captains) to see to recovering the men overboard. The trierarchs were thus forced in self-defence to throw over the generals, and it happened that they had among them the famous orator and "Moderate" politician, Theramenes. He, naturally, led the case for his fellow-trierarchs, and succeeded in showing that the order to see to the shipwrecked men was sent out much too late, after the storm had arisen. A coincidence intensified the general emotion. The Feast of the Apaturia, devoted to family observances and the ties of kindred, chanced to occur at the time of the trial. Whole kindreds were seen in mourning. (It was rumoured afterwards that impostors were hired by the enemies of the generals to go about in black, wailing for imaginary relatives—like Sebînus below (p. 36)—"floating unburied on the waves!") The generals were condemned, and six of them, including Erasînides (p. 88), executed. Theramenes "came off scratchless" (p. 72), except in reputation.
P. 7, l. 48, Cleisthenes.]—Noted for his effeminate good looks. He may or may not have been in command of a ship.
P. 7, l. 53, The Andromeda.]—Molon was a very tall actor who performed in it.
P. 9, l. 64, Seest then the sudden truth.]—From Euripides' Hypsipylê. Acted 411–409.
P. 9, l. 72, For most be dead, &c.]—From Euripides' Oineus.
P. 9, l. 73, Iophon.]—Son of Sophocles. Fifty plays are attributed to him by Suidas, among others a Bacchae or Pentheus, from which we have the fragment: "This I understand, woman though I be; that the more man seeketh to know the Gods' mysteries, the more shall he miss knowledge." He won the second prize in 428, when the Hippolytus obtained the first.
P. 10, l. 83, Agathon.]—The much-praised tragic poet, for whose first victory in B.C. 416 the "Symposium" of Plato's dialogue professes to be held. He left Athens "to feast with peaceful Kings," i.e. with Archelaus of Macedon, in B.C. 407, at the age of forty, immediately after Aristophanes' attack on him in the Gerytades, and before his influence had established itself on Athenian tragedy. He is a butt in the Thesmophoriazusae also.
P. 10, l. 86, Xenocles.]—Son of Carcinus. No critic has a good word for him, though he won the first prize in 415 over Euripides' Troades. He is nicknamed "The Dwarf," "Datis the Mede," and "Pack-o'-tricks" (δωδεκαμήχανος). One line of his seems to be preserved, from the Licymnius—
"O bitter fate, O fortune edged with gold."
P. 10, l. 87, Pythangelus.]—Nothing whatever is known of this man except the shrug of Dionysus' shoulders. And that has carried his name to 2500 years of "immortality"!
P. 11, l. 89, Other pretty fellows.]—Among them would be Plato. Other celebrated men of this time who in their youth tried writing tragedies were Antiphon, Melêtus the accuser of Socrates, Critias the Oligarch, and Theognis his colleague, Dionysius the tyrant of Syracuse; later, Crates the philosopher, and perhaps the great Diogenes.
P. 11, l. 100, O holy Ether.]—"I swear by the holy Ether, home of God," from Euripides' Melanippe the Wise.
P. 11, l. 100, Foot of Time.]—The phrase occurs very boldly in Bacchae, 888 (translated "stride"), but that play was not yet published. Euripides had said, "On stepped the foot of Time," in the Alexandros, acted B.C. 415.
P. 11, l. 101, Souls that won't take oaths, while tongues, &c.]—See Hippolytus, 612 (p. 33). The frequent misrepresentations of this line are very glaring, even for Aristophanes. Cf. Frogs, 1471, Thesm. 275; also Plato, Theaet. 154d, and Symp. 199a, who, however, refers to the phrase sympathetically.
P. 11, l. 105, Ride not upon my soul.]—The source of this quotation is not known.
P. 13, l. 124, The hemlock way.]—The ordinary form of capital punishment at Athens was poisoning with hemlock. Socrates in the Phaedo describes the gradual chilling of his body after drinking it.
P. 13, l. 129, Cerameicus.]—The Potter's Quarter of Athens. The "great tower" is probably that built by Timon the Misanthrope in this quarter. It would command a view, for instance, of the torch races at the feasts of Prometheus and Hephaestus, and at the Panathenaea, which ran "from the Academy to the City through the Kerameicus" (Pausanias, I. xxx. 2, with Frazer's note).
P. 14, l. 139, For two obols.]—Two obols constituted the price of a day's work as legally recognised by the early Athenian democracy. It was the payment made for attendance at the Jury Courts, and distributed to poor citizens to enable them to attend festivals. Hence it was also the price of entry to the theatre. It was probably also the original payment for attendance at the Ecclesia, or serving in garrison, or on ship-board, in cases where payment was not made in rations. The payments were greatly altered and increased (owing to the rise in prices) during the war and the fourth century.
Charon traditionally took one obol, the copper coin which was put in the dead man's mouth. But Theseus, the fountain-head of the Athenian constitution, has introduced the Two-obol System in Hades!
P. 15, l. 151, Morsimus.]—Son of Philocles and grand-nephew of Aeschylus, was a doctor as well as a tragic poet. No one has a good word for his poetry, and no fragments—except one conjectural half line—exist.
P. 15, l. 153, Kinesias.]—A dithyrambic poet of the new and florid school of music, from whom Aristophanes can never long keep his hands. He had frail health and thin legs; and you could not "tell right from left" in his music. The parodies of his style in the Birds are rather charming. Plato denounces him and his music in the Gorgias (501e). But it is interesting to observe that he was the author of a law reducing the extravagance and sumptuousness of choric performances—which does not look like "corrupt" art.
P. 16, l. 158, The Initiated.]—Persons initiated in the Eleusinian Mysteries, as in those of Orpheus and others, had their sins washed away, saw a great light not vouchsafed to other eyes, and had eternal bliss after death.
P. 16, l. 159, The donkey, holiday-making.]—Much as a costermonger's donkey with us celebrates its master's Bank Holiday by extra labour.
P. 18, ll. 186 f., Lethe and Sparta and the rest of Hell.]—I suspect that in Λήθης πεδίον, ὂνου ποκὰς, Ταίναρον, we have a reference to a proposal, by some member of the war party, to take the offensive against Sparta by sailing round the Laconian coast—as Tolmides had done—and landing at Λεύκης πεδίον, ὄνου γνάθος (Strabo, 8, 363), and Ταίναρον.
P. 19, l. 191, The battle of the Cold Meat Unpreserved.]—Arginusae, see above, p. 109. Ophthalmia seems to have been a common cause of disablement or malingering in Greek soldiers. See Hdt. vii. 229.
P. 26, l. 282, What is so flown with pride]—"as man's weak heart?" So says Odysseus of himself in the opening of Euripides' Philoctetes.
P. 27, l. 293, Empusa.]—A vague phantom appearing in dark places, whose chief characteristic was to be constantly changing, so that whenever you looked it seemed different. Like other phantoms, she was sent by Hecate. Aeschines' mother was so nicknamed (Dem. xviii. 130) as being (1) changeable, always devoted to some new religion; (2) associated with uncanny mysteries.
P. 28, l. 303, Hegelochus.]—An actor who performed the hero's part in Euripides' Orestes, B.C. 408. He ought to have said, "I catch a tale of peace." He seems to have pronounced γαλήν᾽ ὁρῶ, in Orestes, v. 279, so that it sounded like γαλῆν ὁρῶ, "I see a weasel." We hear much of this slip. See Sannyrion, fr. 8, and Strattis, fr. 1 and 60.
P. 29, l. 311, Parlour of God.]—See on p. 11, l. 100.
P. 30, l. 320, Diagoras.]—Diagoras of Melos, nicknamed "the atheist," who was condemned to death for his attack on the Mysteries, but happily escaped to Pellene and the Peloponnese.
P. 31, l. 338, Roasting pig.]—Pigs were sacrificed before the Mysteries. Cf. Peace, 374—
"Lend me three drachmas for a sucking pig!
I must be purified before I die."
P. 32, l. 353, The Mere.]—Δίμναι, the district between the three hills—Acropolis, Areopagus, and Pnyx—where the 'Lenaion,' or 'Wine-Press,' and the shrine and precinct of Dionysus have been recently discovered.
P. 32, ll. 354 ff.—The Hierophant's address is apparently a parody of some similar warning off of the impure at the Mysteries before the addresses to Korê (the Maiden), Demêter, and Iacchus. As to the allusions: Cratînus is the celebrated comic poet, precursor and rival of Aristophanes. He was personally a burly and vigorous "Beef-eater," and the word is additionally suitable in this context because the ceremonial eating of an ox's flesh, being sacramentally the flesh of Dionysus, the Mystic Bull of Zeus, was an essential part of the Orphic Mysteries. There were contests with bulls at the Eleusinian also.—Lobeck. Agl. p. 206, note c.
P. 32, l. 363.—Thorycion is unknown except for the allusions in this play.
P. 33, l. 366, A teacher of Choirs.]—He alludes to a ribald anecdote about the poet Kenesias (p. 113).
P. 33, l. 367, Pitiful fines.]—Many laws were passed restricting the licence and the expensiveness of comedy, e.g. by Archînos, Agyrrhius, and Archedêmus.
P. 38, l. 464, Aeacus.]—This character and his speech seem to be parodied from the Peirithous, a tragedy attributed either to Euripides or to Critias (acted after 411), where the real Heracles is confronted and threatened by the real Aeacus. "Gorgons" and "lampreys" are suitable in the infernal regions; but "lampreys of Tartessus" in Spain were a well-known delicacy, and the "Gorgons" of the Attic district Tithras were apparently something human and feminine—like the Hostess who appears presently.
P. 40. l. 501, Melitêan.]—The quarter of Athens called Melitê possessed a temple of Heracles, and perhaps a rough population.
P. 40, l. 505, Split-pea porridge, &c.]—Heracles, nearly always a comic figure on the Athenian stage (perhaps, as Professor Ridgeway suggests, because he was a "Pelasgian" hero), has gross and simple tastes in his food. Xanthias, I think, refuses out of caution, feeling that Persephone will detect his imposture, and then is overcome by temptation.
P. 42, l. 531, Alcmena's son, &c.]—A tragic line, but of origin unknown.
p. 42, l. 541, Theramenes.]—This interesting man owes his bad name in The Frogs to his conduct with regard to the impeachment of the generals after Arginusae (see pp. 72, 110). But he had made a similar impression, and earned his nickname of "The Buskin"—which goes equally well on either foot—in 411, when he first was a leader in the Oligarchic Revolution, and then turned against it, and even spoke in accusation of his late associates, Antiphon and Archeptolemus, when they were being condemned to death. It would have been the same story in the second Oligarchic Revolution in 404, had not the extreme Oligarchs saved themselves by murdering him. A "Moderate" at a time when faction was furiously high, he is continually found supporting various movements until they "go too far." Aristotle (Const. of Athens, cap. 28) counts him with Nicias and Thucydides, son of Melesias, as one of the "three best statesmen in Athenian history," and has an interesting defence of his character. He was certainly a man of great culture, eloquence, ability, and personal influence. And his policy has a way of seeming exactly right. Yet he is unpleasantly stained with the blood of his companions, and one is not surprised to find the tone of Aristophanes towards him peculiarly soft and venomous, unlike his ordinary loud railing.
P. 45, ll. 569, 570, Cleon . . . Hyperbolas.]—It is interesting to observe the duties—even in caricature—of a προστάτης τοῦ δήμου, or Champion of the Demos. He fought the causes of the oppressed.
P. 46, l. 588, Archedêmus.]—See above, p. 35.
P. 47, l. 608, Ditylas, Skebylas, Pardokas.]—The barbarous names seem to be Thracian or Scythian. Police work in Athens was done by Scythian slaves.
P. 48, l. 616, Question this poor boy.]—A man's slaves would generally know about his movements. Hence it was a mark of conscious innocence for an accused person to offer his slaves to be examined. They were examined under torture, or threats of torture, in order that they might fear the law as much as they feared their master, and were guaranteed protection against his anger if they told the truth. The master usually stipulated that no severe or permanently injurious torture should be used. Xanthias generously offers to let them maltreat Dionysus as much as ever they like!
P. 48, l. 621, No scourges made of leeks or young shalott.]—Why should any one imagine scourges made of such things? Because such things were used for certain ceremonial scourgings; for instance, Pan's statues were whipped with squills (Theoc. vii. 106), the scapegoats (pharmakoi) in Ionia with fig-twigs and squills (Hippônax, fr. 4-8), the disgraceful boor in Lucian (Against the Boor, 3; cf. Fugit, 33, and Vera Hist., ii. 26) with mallow.
P. 49, l. 628, An illegal act, being immortal.]—A parody of the law. It was illegal to torture a citizen.
P. 49, l. 634, He won't feel it.]—There appears to be some inconsistency about this very funny scene. Dionysus does seem to feel it as much as Xanthias.
P. 51, l. 651, Diomêan Feast.]—Held in honour of Heracles (whom Xanthias is personating) at the deme Diomeia every four years.
P. 52, l. 661, Hippônax.]—An earlier writer of satire. The next quotation is said to be from the Laocoon of Sophocles.
P. 53, l. 679, Cleophon.]—The well-known bellicose and incorruptible demagogue, who opposed peace in 410 (after the victory of Cyzicus), in 406 (after the victory of Arginusae), and in 405 (after the disaster of Aegospotami). Cleophon is said to have come drunk into the Agora and vowed that "he would cut off the head of any one who mentioned the word 'peace.'" He was shortly afterwards either assassinated or judicially murdered by the Moderates and Oligarchs. The point of these intentionally obscure and nonsensical lines seems to be: (1) that Cleophon talked bad Attic, like a barbarian, and was in fact of Thracian birth; (2) that he went about whining—and well he might!—that his political enemies meant to twist the law somehow so as to have him condemned to death. An equally divided vote counted by rights as an acquittal. See also the last two lines of this play.
P. 54, l. 688, All Athenians shall be equal, &c.]—That is, an amnesty should be granted to those implicated in the Oligarchical Revolution led by Phrynichus in 411.
P. 54, l. 694, Become Plataeans.]—When Plataea was destroyed by Sparta in 431, the refugees were granted rights of Athenian citizenship and eventually given land (421) in the territory of Skiône in Chalcidice. The slaves who were enfranchised after Arginusae were apparently sent to join the Plataeans.
P. 56, ll. 718–720, Is the same towards men and money.]—Mr. George Macdonald has convinced me that such is the meaning of this passage. Gold coins were struck at this period (B.C. 407; Scholiast quoting Hellanicus and Philochorus), and were, to judge from those specimens now extant, of exceptional purity. Bronze coins also were struck (Schol. on v. 725) in the year 406–5, and apparently found unsatisfactory, as they were demonetised by the date of the Ecclesiazusae, B.C. 392 (Eccl. 816 ff.). See Köhler in Zeitsch. für Numismatik, xxi. pp. 11 ff. Others take the general sense to be:—
"It has often struck our notice that this city draws the same
Line between her sons true-hearted and the men who cause her shame,
As between our ancient silver and the stuff we now call gold.
Those old coins knew naught of alloys; everywhere their fame was told.
Not all Hellas held their equal, not all Barbary far and near,
Every tetradrachm well minted, tested each and ringing clear."
This would be very satisfactory if there was any reason to suppose either that (1) there was an issue of base gold at this time, or (2) the new bronze coinage was jestingly called "the new gold."
P. 56, l. 730, Red-haired things.]—Northerners, especially from the Athenian colonies on the coast of Thrace. Asiatic aliens are comparatively seldom mentioned in Attic writers.
P. 56, l. 733, Scapegoats.]—φαρμακοί, like "Guy Fawkeses." Traditions and traditional ceremonies survived in various parts of Greece, pointing to the previous existence of an ancient and barbarous rite of using human "scapegoats," made to bear the sins of the people and then cast out or killed. See the fragments of Hippônax, 4–8. It is stated by late writers that in Athens two criminals, already condemned to death and 'full of sin,' were kept each year to be used in this way at the Feast of Thargelia. The sins of the city were ritually laid upon them; they were, in ceremonial pretence, scourged before execution; their bodies were burnt by the sea-shore and their ashes scattered. The evidence is given in Rohde, Psyche, p. 366, 4. It is preposterous, to my thinking, to regard this as a "human sacrifice"—a thing uniformly referred to with horror in Greek literature.
P. 58, l. 756, Zeus of the Friendly Jailbirds.]—A deity invented to meet the occasion of their swearing friendship.
P. 61, l. 791, Clidemides informs us.]—The joke is now unintelligible. Even the Alexandrian scholars did not know who Clidemides was. He may, for instance, have been some fussy person who toadied Sophocles and liked to give news about him.
P. 61, ll. 799 ff., Straight-edges and cubit-rules, &c.]—The art of scientific criticism, as inaugurated by Gorgias, Prodicus, Thrasymachus, and afterwards developed by Isocrates and Aristotle, would seem absurd to Aristophanes; the beginnings of physics and astronomy and grammar are similarly—and less excusably—satirised in the Clouds.
P. 62, ll. 814–829.—The parody of Aeschylus is not so brilliant as that upon Euripides, whom Aristophanes knew to the tips of his fingers (pp. 94 seqq.). The "Thunderer" and "Thoughtbuilder" is Aeschylus; the "Man of the Mouth," Euripides.
P. 64, l. 837, Bard of the noble savage.]—Aeschylus drew largely from the more primitive and wild strata of Greek legend, as in the Prometheus and Suppliants. The titles and fragments of the lost plays show the same tendency even more strongly.
P. 64, l. 840, How sayst thou. Son of the Goddess of the Greens.]—A parody of a line of Euripides (possibly from the Telephus), where "Sea" stood in place of "Greens." Euripides' mother, Cleito, was of noble family (τῶν σφόδρα εὐγενῶν) and owned land. For some unknown reason it was a well-established joke to call her a "Greengroceress." (Cf. Ach. 457, 478; Knights, 18 ff.; Thesm. 387, 456, 910, and the "beetroot and book juice," below, p. 70.) Possibly the poet was at some time of his life a vegetarian.
P. 64, l. 842, Blind-beggar-bard; crutch-and-cripple playwright.]—Euripides seems to have used more or less realistic costumes. With him the shipwrecked Menelaus looked shipwrecked, the lame Telephus lame; Electra, complaining of the squalor of her peasant life, was dressed like a peasant-woman. It is curious how much anger this breach in the tradition seems to have created. We are told that Aeschylus dressed all his characters in gorgeous sacerdotal robes. Yet I wonder if we moderns would have felt any very great difference between his Philoctetes or Telephus (in both of which cases the lameness is essential) and that of Euripides.
P. 64, l. 844, Strike not thine heart, &c.]—A tragic line, the source not known.
P. 64, l. 847, A black lamb.]—As sacrifced to appease Typhon, the infernal storm-god.
P. 64, l. 849, Cretan dancing-solos.]—Possibly a reference to his Cretan tragedies (The Cretans, The Cretan Women); perhaps merely a style of dancing accompanied by song.
P. 65, l. 855, Knock out all the Telephus.]—(Cf. "That'll knock the Sordello out of him"), i.e. his brains, which consist of Telephus in masses. No play of Euripides is so often mocked at.
P. 66, l. 877, Founts of Quotation.]—Literally "makers of Gnômae" or quotable apophthegms.
P. 68, l. 910, Phrynichus.]—The tragic poet, predecessor of Aeschylus, not the oligarchical conspirator.
P. 68, l. 911, Sole veiled figures.]—In the extant plays the silent Prometheus and the silent Cassandra are wonderfully impressive. Achilles (in the Phrygians) and Niobe (in the Niobe) seem to have been 'discovered' sitting silent at the opening of the play. The Adrastus of Euripides' Suppliants (v. 104 ff.) is exactly similar; the silences of Heracles (Her. v. 1214) and Hecuba (Hec. v. 485), in the plays that bear their names, are different.
P. 70, l. 931, A question comes in night's long hours.]—From Hippolytus, v. 375. A hippalector (horse-cock, a kind of flying horse with a bird's tail) was mentioned in the Myrmidons of Aeschylus; both the adjective (translated "russet," but perhaps meaning "shrill") and the noun were obscure, and the phrase is often joked upon; e.g. Birds, 805, of the basket-seller Dieitrephes, who, from being nobody
"Rose on wicker wings to captain, colonel, cavalry inspector,
Till he holds the world in tow and ranks as russet hippalector,"
—where "scarlet" or "screaming" would suit better.
P. 70, l. 934, Eryxis.]—Unknown. The next line is considered spurious by some critics, as being inconsistent with Euripides' general argument.
P. 70, l. 937.—A "tragelaph," "goat-stag," was a name for the figures of antelopes, with large saw-like horns, found on Oriental tapestry.
P. 70, l. 941, Treatment for such distension . . . fed it up on solos.]—This account is generally true. Euripides, as an artist, first rationalised and clarified his medium, and then re-enriched it. He first reduced the choric element and made the individual line much lighter and less rich. Then he developed the play of incident, the lyrical 'solo singing,' and the background of philosophic meditation.
P. 70, l. 944, Cephisophon.]—A friend of Euripides (not a slave, as his name shows), known chiefly from a fragment of Aristophanes—
"Most excellent and black Cephisophon,
You lived in general with Euripides,
And helped him in his poetry, they say."
A late story, improbable for chronological reasons, makes him a lover of the poet's wife.
P. 71, l. 952, That's no road, &c.]—Euripides in later life severely attacked the Democratic party. E.g. Orestes, 902–930. See introduction to The Bacchae.
P. 72, l. 963, Magic Swans.]—It is not known in what play Aeschylus introduced the swan-hero Cycnus. Memnon, the 'Aethiop knight,' occurred in two plays, the Memnon and the Soul-weighing.
P. 72, l. 964.—The difference between the pupils of Aeschylus and Euripides is interesting. Aeschylus turned out stout, warlike, old-fashioned Democrats; Euripides, "intellectuels" of Moderate or slightly oligarchical politics.
P. 72, l. 965, Phormisius.]—One of the Democratic stalwarts who returned with Thrasybulus. He proposed the amnesty of 403, recalling the exiles. He was afterwards ambassador to Persia. He is described as bearded, shaggy, and of truculent aspect, and died (according to gossip) in a drinking bout. A sort of Μαραθωνομάχης person, loyal and unsubtle.
P. 72, l. 965.—Megainetus is not elsewhere mentioned, and the meaning of the word μανῆς, "looby lump," is obscure. It seems to be a slave's name, and also the name of a bad throw at dice.
P. 72, l. 967, Cleitophon.]—One of the coadjutors of Theramenes in the Oligarchical Revolution of 411 (Ar. Rep. Ath. 29, 3). He also gives his name to a fragmentary Platonic dialogue, where he argues that Socrates is of inestimable value in rousing the conscience of the quite unconverted man, but worse than useless to the converted man who seeks positive guidance. Cleitophon is there connected with Lysias and Thrasymachus, both of them Democrats. His political attitude would therefore seem to be like that of Theramenes. This party may be taken to represent the general views of Euripides, Thucydides, Isocrates, and Aristotle, and indeed, apart from certain personal prejudices and a dislike to intellectualism, of Aristophanes himself. In general, as Mr. Neil says in his introduction to the Knights, "Attic literature is on the side of the Moderates, in favour somewhat vaguely of a restricted franchise and clearly of a Panhellenic peace" (involving a more liberal treatment of the Allies). The closer Platonic circle was in a different position. Many of its members were compromised by the bitterer Oligarchic Revolution of 404, and separated from Moderates as well as Democrats by a river of blood.
P. 72, l. 967.—For Theramenes, see above, p. 116.
P. 73, l. 970, Not aces—no; all sixes.]—E.g. it looked as if Theramenes was fatally compromised by the non-recovery of the bodies at Arginusae; instead of which he contrived to make himself leader of the agitation on that very subject. (The reading, however, is doubtful.)
P. 73, l. 992, Great Achilles, gaze around thee]—"on the spear-tortured labours of the Achaeans, while thou within thy tent . . ."—From the Myrmidons of Aeschylus.
P. 76, l. 1026.—The Persae was, as a matter of fact, performed in 472, before the Seven against Thebes (467); nor does the exact exclamation "Yow-oy," ἰαυοῖ, occur in it. But various odd quasi-Persian forms do: οἶ, ὀᾶ, ἰωά.
P. 77, l. 1031, Those poets have all been of practical use, &c.]—This passage, dull and unintelligent as it seems (unless some jest in it escapes me), is not meant to be absurd. It implies an argument of this sort: "All poetry, to be good, must do something good;" a true statement as it stands. "Homer and the ancients do good to people." No one would dare to deny this, and no doubt it is true; he does them good by helping them to see the greatness and interestingness of things, by filling their minds with beauty, and so on; but the ordinary man, having a narrower idea of good, imagines that Homer must do him "good" in one of the recognised edifying or dogmatic ways, and is driven to concluding that Homer does him good by his military descriptions and exhortations!
Aeschylus proceeds, "I am like Homer because I describe battles and brave deeds, and similar things that are good for people. Euripides is unlike Homer, because he describes all sorts of other things, which are not in Homer, and are therefore probably trash; at any rate some of them are improper!"
This is ordinary philistinism. Aeschylus struck Aristophanes as being like Homer, not because they were both warlike, but chiefly because they were both great well-recognised poets of the past, whom he had accepted in his childhood without criticism. He attacks Euripides for making him think and feel in some new or disturbing way, or perhaps at a time of life when he does not expect really to think and feel at all. Probably the contemporaries of Aeschylus attacked him in just the same way. He made people think of the horrors of victory and of vengeance; he made a most profound and un-Homeric study of the guilty Clytaemnestra. But Aristophanes, when in his present mood, resembles that modern critic who is said to have praised Shakespeare for writing "bright, healthy plays with no psychology in them."
P. 77, l. 1036, Pantacles.]—A lyric poet, one of whose victories is recorded on an extant inscribed pillar (Dittenberger, 410). The "procession" was doubtless at the Panathenaea six months before.
P. 77, l. 1039, Lamachus.]—The general who died so heroically in the Sicilian expedition. He is attacked in the Acharnians as representative of the war party, partly perhaps because of his name ("Love-battle" or "Host-fighter"). He is treated respectfully in Thesm. 841.
P. 77, l. 1043, Stheneboia.]—Phaedra, heroine of the Hippolytus.
P. 77, l. 1044, A woman in love in one act of one play.]—An exaggeration. Clytaemnestra is in love with Aegisthus, as any subtle reading of the Agamemnon shows; but other passions are more prominent, and love in Aeschylus is on the v/hole treated with reserve and stiffness. There was, however, a famous speech of Aphrodite in the Danaïdes, explaining herself as a world-force. And Euripides would probably have shrunk from writing such lines as Myrmidons, fr. 135, 136, and from representing Semelê's pregnancy as Aeschylus seems to have done in the play called by her name (see Nauck), a great deal more than Aeschylus would have shrunk from the delicate psychology of Euripides' Phaedra. In the dramatic treatment of female character Aeschylus was really the pioneer who opened the road for Euripides. The Clytaemnestra of the Agamemnon probably differs from the women of earlier poets in just the same way as Phaedra differs from her, and to a far greater degree.
P. 78, l. 1046, Once . . . left you flat on the ground.]—The allusion is entirely obscure.
P. 78, l. 1051, To gratify Bellerophontes.]—That hero, in a fury, had wished that all women might poison themselves.
P. 79, l. 1058, The language of men.]—Euripides, as represented, agrees with Wordsworth. The general voice of poetry is clearly against both.
P. 80, l. 1074, And spit on the heads, &c.]—One of the passages which show that Aristophanes could see the other side when he chose. Your stout, ignorant pre-sophistic farmer or sailor was a bit of a brute after all!
P. 80, l. 1080, Goes into shrines.]—Augê.
P. 80, l. 1081, Her own brother's wife.]—Canacê in the Aeolus.
P. 80, l. 1082, Life is not Life.]—See the Polyîdus. The same sentiment occurs in the Phrixus.
P. 82, l. 1109, If you fear from former cases, &c.]—The meaning may also be that they have a book in their hands at the time, viz. a copy of the play. So Van Leeuwen: "These verses were added in the second performance of The Frogs. At the first performance . . . this part of the play had been over the heads of some, perhaps many, of the audience. But now, says the Chorus, this objection is removed; copies of the play are in every citizen's hand."
P. 82, l. 1124, Oresteia.]—The prologue quoted is that of the Choephori; Oresteia ("The Orestes-poetry"), seems to have been another name for that play. We apply the word to the whole trilogy—Agamemnon, Choephori, Eumentdes. The growth of formal titles for books was a very slow thing. Probably Aeschylus scarcely "named" his plays much more definitely than Herodotus and Thucydides "named" their histories. Even Euripides' plays sometimes bear in the MSS. varying names: Bacchae or Pentheus, Hippolytus or Phaedra. By the time of Plato regular names for plays must have been established, as he named his dialogues in evident analogy from plays.
P. 83, l. 1126, Warding a father's way.]—A phrase really obscure. Commentators differ about the interpretation.
P. 84, l. 1150, Dionysus, dull of fragrance, &c.]—Apparently a tragic line.
P. 87, l. 1182, At first was Oedipus, &c.]—Prologue to Euripides' Antigone.
P. 88, l. 1196, Erasinides.]—One of the commanders at Arginusae. There was one piece of bad luck that Oedipus missed.
P. 88, l. 1200, One umbrella.]—Literally "one oil cruse." An ancient Athenian carried a cruse of olive oil about with him, both to anoint himself with after washing and to eat like butter with his food. Naturally he was apt to lose it, especially when travelling. I can find no object which both ancient Greeks and modern Englishmen would habitually use and lose except an umbrella.
The point of this famous bit of fooling is, I think, first, that Euripides' tragic style is so little elevated that umbrellas and clothes-bags are quite at home in it; secondly, that there is a certain monotony of grammatical structure in Euripides' prologues, so that you can constantly finish a sentence by a half-line with a verb in it.
The first point, though burlesquely exaggerated, is true and important. Euripides' style, indeed, is not prosaic. It is strange that competent students of Greek tragic diction should ever have thought it so. But it is very wide in its range, and uses very colloquial words by the side of very romantic or archaic ones—a dangerous and difficult process, which only a great master of language can successfully carry through. Cf. the criticism on the 'light weight' of his lines, below, pp. 97 ff.
As to the second point, it is amusing to make out the statistics. Of the extant Greek tragedies, the following can have ληκύθιον ἀπώλεσε stuck on to one of the first ten lines of the prologue: Aesch. Prom. 8, Sept. 6, Eum. 3 (a good one, ἣ δὴ τὸ μητρὸς ληκύθιον ἀπώλεσεν and several other lines; Soph. O. T. 4, El. 5, Trach. 3 and 6, Antig. 2 and 7 (XXX); Euripides, Tro. 10, Hec. 2, Phoen. 7, Hclid, 1 and 4, Her. 9, Hel. 4, El, 10, I. A. 54 ( = 6), and I. T. 2, quoted here. Thus all three tragedians have such passages in the opening of about half their extant plays, and the "monotony," if such it be, belongs rather to the style of the tragic prologue than to Euripides.
A third allusion seems to have been felt by the ancient writers on rhetoric. Δήκυθος and ληκύθιον (Synesius, p. 55), in the sense of "paint-flask" (Latin ampulla), were cant terms for "ornament in diction." Euripides' tragic heroes, with their plain style of speech, seem to have lost their paints. I do not think Aristophanes meant this.
P. 88, l. 1206, Aegyptus, &c.]—The first words, it is said, of the Archelaus, though Aristarchus, the famous Alexandrian scholar, says that the Archelaus as published in his time had a different prologue without these words. Apparently there were two alternative prologues; cf. the Iphigenia in Aulis.
P. 89, l. 1211, Dionysus, &c.]—Opening of the Hypsipylê. It went on: "amid the Delphian maids."
P. 89, l. 1217, No man hath bliss, &c.]—Opening of the Stheneboea. It went on: "Rich acres holds to plough."
P. 90, l. 1225, Cadmus long since]—"his way to Thêbê won." Opening of the Phrixus.
P. 90, l. 1232, Pelops the Great]—"a royal bride had won." Opening of the Iphigenia in Tauris, still extant.
P. 91, l. 1238, Oineus from earth.]—From the Meleager, but not (according to the Scholiast) the first words. It went on: "Left one due deed undone, Praising not Artemis."
P. 91, l. 1244, Great Zeus in heaven, &c.—Opening of Melanippe the Wise. It went on: "Was sire to Hellen," and therefore did not really admit the ληκύθιον tag.
P. 91, l. 1247, As bunged up as your eyes.]—There are various allusions to Euripides' bodily infirmities in his extreme old age.
Pp. 92 ff., ll. 1264 ff.—Aristophanes parodying Aeschylus is not nearly as brilliant and funny as when parodying Euripides. The lines here are all actual lines of Aeschylus: a refrain is made of a line which is good sense when first used, but easily relapses into gibberish. The plays quoted are, in order, the Myrmidons, Raisers of the Dead, Telephus (?), Priestesses, Agamemnon (v. 104); then, for the cithara songs, Agamemnon (v. 109), Sphinx, Agamemnon (v. 111), Sphinx (?), Thracian Women.
P. 94, l. 1294, War towards Aias.]—Obscure and perhaps corrupt.
P. 94, l. 1296, Was it from Marathon, &c.]—"Did you find that sort of stuff growing in the marsh of Marathon when you fought there?" Aeschylus answers: "Never you mind where I got it. It was from a decent place!" The metre of the song, and presumably the music, is Stesichorean.
P. 94, l. 1308, No Lesbian.]—I.e. she is very unlike the simple old Lesbian music of Sappho and Alcaeus; but there is a further allusion to the supposed improprieties of Lesbian women.
P. 94, l. 1309, Ye halcyons, &c.]—This brilliant parody contains a few actual Euripidean phrases; cf. I. T. 1089—
"O bird, that wheeling o'er the main
By crested rock and crested sea
Cryest for ever piteously,
O Halcyon, I can read thy pain," &c.
and El. 435 seqq., "Where the tuneful dolphin winds his way before the dark-blue-beaked ships." "The shuttle's minstrel mind" is said by the Scholiast to be from the Meleager.
P. 95, l. 1314, Wi-i-i-ind.]—A musical "shake." This particular word εἱλίσσω is scanned εἱ-ειλίσσω (and actually so written in one MS.) in El. 437, the passage cited above; and a papyrus fragment of the Orestes has ὡς written ὡως with two musical notes above it. Of course the thing is common in lyric poetry, both Greek and English, but decidedly rarer in Aeschylus than in Euripides.
P. 95, l. 1323, That foot.]—The metrical foot, περίβαλλ᾽, an anapaest rather irregularly used: I imitate the effect in "arm-pressúre."
P. 95, l. 1328, Cyrene.]—Not much is known of her, and that not creditable.
P. 96, l. 1331, Thou fire-hearted Night, &c.]—Cf. the solo of Hecuba (Hec. 68 seqq.). The oxymoron ("his soul no soul") and the repetitions are very characteristic of Euripides, though common enough in Aeschylus (e.g. Aesch. Suppliants, 836 ff., where there are seven such repetitions). It is not Euripides, but Greek tragedy in general, that is hit by this criticism.
P. 97, l. 1356, Cretans take up your bows, &c.]—From Euripides' Cretans, according to the Scholiast, but he does not specify the lines.
P. 97, l. 1365, Bring him to the balance: the one sure test.]—This is indeed the one test—and a fairly important one—in which Euripides must be utterly beaten by Aeschylus. Every test hitherto has been inconclusive.
P. 101, after l. 1410, Room for the King, &c.]—I have inserted this line. There seems to be a gap of several lines in our MSS.
P. 101, l. 1413, The one's so good,] = viz. Euripides, and "I so love" Aeschylus.—Euripides was σοφὸς, being master of the learning, including conscious poetical theory, which had not fully entered into the ideals of the educated Athenian in Aeschylus' time.
P. 102, l. 1422, Alcibiades.]—He was now in his second exile. Appointed one of the three generals of the Sicilian expedition in 415, he was called back from his command to be tried for "impiety" (in connection with the mutilation of the Hermae). He fled and was banished; then he acted with Sparta against Athens in order to procure his recall. Upon the outbreak of the Oligarchic Revolution of 411, the fleet, which remained democratic, recalled Alcibiades. He commanded with success for three years, returned to Athens in triumph in 408, and was formally appointed Commander-in-Chief. The defeat at Notium in 406, for which his carelessness was considered responsible, caused him to be superseded, and he retired to the castles which were his private possessions in the Chersonese, maintaining an ambiguous political attitude, but on the whole friendly to Athens. He was mysteriously assassinated in 404. The divergent advice of the two poets is clear and probably characteristic. Euripides says, "Have no dealings with such a shifty and traitorous person;" Aeschylus says, "Make all the use you can, even with some risk, of every good fighter." And this would, no doubt, be Aristophanes' view, to judge from the Parabasis of this play (pp. 54–56).
P. 102, l. 1425, She loves and hates, &c.]—Said to be parodied from a line in The Sentinels (φρουροί) by Ion of Chios.
P. 102, l. 1434, The one so wise, &c.]—I do not think that any real distinction is drawn between σοφῶς, "wisely," and σαφῶς, "truly" or "convincingly."
P. 103, l. 1443, Where Mistrust is, &c.]—The respective lines of advice are the same as before. Euripides says, "Purge your governing bodies and keep the morale of the state sound"; Aeschylus says, "Fight your hardest and think of nothing but fighting."
P. 104, l. 1468, My choice shall fall, &c.]—Seems to be a tragic line.
P. 104, l. 1471, My tongue hath sworn.]—Hippolytus, v. 612 (see above, p. 112).
P. 105, l. 1474, Canst meet mine eyes, &c.]—From Euripides' Aeolus.
P. 105, l. 1477, Who knoweth if to live, &c.]—From the Polyîdus (cf. above, p. 80).
P. 106, l. 1482, Then never with Socrates, &c.]—A most interesting attack on the Socratic circle for lack of brains—of all charges! Plato, Critias, and other pretty fellows" (see p. 111) wrote tragedies, and no doubt seemed to old stagers like Aristophanes to break "the drama's principal rules."
P. 1 06, ll. 1504 ff., This sword is for Cleophon.]—Viz. to kill himself with (see on Cleophon above, p. 118). The "Board of Providers" was specially appointed to raise revenue by extraordinary means after the Sicilian disasters. Myrmex and Archenomus are otherwise unknown. Nicomachus was a legal official against whom Lysias wrote his speech, No. XXX. Adeimantus is a better known figure. A disciple of Protagoras, he was a general in 407 and in actual command at the defeat of Notium. He was appointed general again after the condemnation of those concerned in the battle of Arginusae; continued in his command next year, and was responsible, through incompetence or deliberate treachery, for the annihilation of the Athenian fleet by Lysander at Aegospotami (404).
P. 107, l. 1528, Peace go with him, &c.]—The dactylic hexameter metre is rather characteristic of Aeschylus, and so is the solemnity of these last lines—so charmingly broken by the jest at the very end.
P. 108, l. 1533, Fields of his father.]—The leader of the extreme 'patriotic' party was supposed to be a foreigner—of Thracian descent.
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