Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2015.01.15 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2015.01.15

Andreas Bagordo, FrC 1.1 Alkimenes – Kantharos. Fragmenta Comica, Bd 1.1.   Heidelberg:  Verlag Antike, 2014.  Pp. 292.  ISBN 9783938032688.  €74.90.  

Reviewed by Ian C. Storey, Trent University (

The series Fragmenta Comica has its origin from a major conference held at the University of Freiburg in 2012 and is part of a larger project “Kommentierung des Fragmente der griechischen Komödie” (KomFrag) at Heidelberg. The aim is to provide a text, translation, and interpretative commentary for all the fragments of Greek Comedy, special attention being paid in the first instance to Old Comedy. Volumes are appearing in quick succession – Bagordo’s is the fourth volume, with two further ones imminent.1

Volumes in the series employ a consistent form of presentation, an introductory “Einleitung” followed by an extensive “Kommentar”. The first will expand according to the evidence available, found in full form in the entry on Kallias: Name und Identität, Chronologie und Karriere, Überlieferung und Rezeption, Themen und Motive, Kōmōdoumenoi, Sprache und Stil, Metrum und Form, Editionen und Übersetzungen, Diskussionen. In the “Kommentar” the testimonia are treated first with text, translation, and discussion, followed by the fragments as presented in Kassel–Austin with text and translation, the metre (often conjectural), the context of the citation, textual problems, and finally the interpretation. Particularly welcome are the sections on reception and context, which allow us to see exactly who cites a given comic poet and, where we may not be able to understand the fragment, to know why it was cited.

This entry in the series contains thirteen assorted minor comic poets from the first half of the alphabet. Only four get any real space in the volume: Chionides (20–70), Ekphantides (73–98), Kallias (118–217), and Kantharos (222–48). The rest are little more than names with few, if any, comic fragments or titles known (Alkimenes, Aristagoras, Arkesilaos, Diopeithes, Euphronios, Euxenides, Hegemon, Ion of Chios, Kallistratos). In fact there is some real doubt whether Hegemon and Kallistratos were poets of Old Comedy, or of comedy at all.

Bagordo argues for one poet, Hegemon of Thasos, “eines Zeitgenossen des Kratinos und des Alkibiades”, who wrote both parody and comedy. I would prefer two poets: the parodist from Thasos active in the 430s (Suda η 52), and the man named at Demosthenes 18.285 whom the Suda (η 53), citing Athenaios (15b), describes as the author of plays including a Philinna. Some confusion has clearly arisen between these two men, but in which direction? Bagordo does point out that both the title (of a hetaira?) and the one fragment about eating octopus and roe from the fry-pan would fit either fifth- or fourth-century comedy. Later stories about Hegemon are both anecdotal and suspect. For example, Chamaileon (cited at Athenaios 406-7 = T 2) reports first that he was producing a parody in the theatre on the day that news of the Sicilian disaster arrived, but were parodies actually performed in the fifth century and was there any public performance festival in October? The second story, that the intervention of Alkibiades saved Hegemon from a prosecution by “the artists of Dionysos” is clearly a doublet of Alkibiades’ persecution of Eupolis for his Baptai, and both are the inventions of later tradition. Thus while Hegemon may well have been a contemporary of Kratinos (career: 454-423), any association with Alkibiades (career at Athens: ca. 427 to 405) is unproven.

For Bagordo, whether Kallistratos was a comic poet as well as a producer for some of Aristophanes’ plays depends not on restoring his name as the well-known Κα[… on IG ii2 2325.60 – here Ka[ntharos, victor at the Dionysia of 422 (IG ii2 2318.115) holds the day – but on the interpretation of Wasps 1018 (“not openly, but secretly aiding other poets”) as referring to the productions before Knights (424, Lenaia) through Philonides and Kallistratos. “Other poets” then implies that Kallistratos was a poet, but “helping other poets” seems very different from writing a comedy and then entrusting its production to someone else (Clouds 518–62). I prefer the explanation of Halliwell and Mastromarco that Aristophanes’ early career had three stages and that “helping other poets” does not refer to his plays produced through Kallistratos and Philonides, but to his activity before 427.2

Chionides receives a surprising fifty pages in Bagordo, not at all bad for only two testimonia, seven fragments, and three play-titles. Considerable discussion (29–34) concerns the meaning of protagōnistēn in the Suda’s entry 318), which Bagordo interprets as “leading exponent”, rather than the more common “first competitor”. Chionides and Magnes are thus the first substantial poets of Old Comedy, but not necessarily the first chronologically. But Aristotle and others would have had access to the official records and the first name on any list will have been remembered, and despite the uncommon use of protagōnistēn (normally “first actor”), I prefer the usual interpretation that Chionides was the first recorded comic victor. Bagordo attributes the apparent chronological inconsistency (T 2) that Epicharmos was “much earlier than Chionides and Magnes”, even though both Magnes and Epicharmos were active during the 470s, to Aristotle’s lack of substantial information about early comedy.

Bagordo sees F 1 of Heroes as a conversation between an older man and a younger (son?) over the latter’s refusal to do military service. For parallels he cites Clouds and Wasps, but another useful comparison occurs at Birds 1360-9 where Peisetairos advises the father-beater to take wings, spurs, and a rooster’s crest and “stand watch, serve in the army”. Bagordo prefers to read Emperius’ φρουροῦντας ἀτενῶς (“intently watching”) for φρουροῦντας ἀτεχνῶς (“actually watching”) of the MSS tradition, but I think that the latter can stand. F 4 from Beggars has always seemed more than a little suspicious to me, in that it mentions Kleomenes and Gnesippos, the latter a comic target of the 430s, while Chionides belongs to the 480s and 470s. Either the reference in Athenaios is in error or Chionides’ play was revised and reproduced in the 430s. In F 5 Bogardo rightly (I think) explains the vocative θεοί as an address to physically present gods, rather than an invocation “by the gods”. Gods on stage would not be out of place in a comedy about heroes.

Kallias is the only comic poet of any substance in this volume. Bagordo allows for a career that began as early as the late 450s and could have lasted into the 410s. He is unwilling to assign the curious and problematic Tragedy of Letters, attributed to a Kallias of Athens by Athenaios (276a, 453c), to Kallias the comic poet on the grounds that it would extend his activity down to the end of the century, creating a fifty-year career. Also F 40 hints at another comic Kallias around 400. But with Millis & Olson I would see his victory in the Dionysia of 446 as an early production,3 and a career of forty-five years is not out of the question, since both Aristophanes and Aristomenes enjoyed over forty years of comic productivity. Bagordo presents the testimony from Athenaios about the Tragedy of Letters with translation as T 8 (129–32), but without the same sort of exhaustive commentary as the rest of the volume. As far as I can tell from the proposed scheme for KomFrag., no entry for a Kallias II is planned. This is a pity, for the evidence is controversial and deserves a proper discussion of the text and recent scholarship.

At Knights 526–8 Aristophanes describes Kratinos as a torrent sweeping away oaks and plane-trees and echthrous. The scholiast (= T 2) identifies these echthrous as “Kallias and his people”. Bagordo (124–5) tackles the question of whether echthrous means “rivals” (his preference), in which case we may detect an ongoing intertextual encounter between Kratinos and Kallias, or “targets”, in the same way that Aristophanes describes his attacks on Kleon and others at Wasps 1029-42. The echthroislandering Aristophanes at Acharnians 630 are surely his public enemies, not rival poets, and at Knights 590 the chorus may be singing about enemies in war, not competing comedians. Of the forty or so extant fragments of Kallias’ work, ten come from Pedetai (“men in chains”). He questions (167) my dating of the play to the 410s on the grounds that a comedy about prisoners of war should belong to wartime, but in the previous paragraph he entertains the possibility that “men in chains” can refer to slaves, literally or metaphorically.4 The ten extant fragments give no hint of a wartime context. In F 15 a female speaker responds to a question, “why are you so haughty and have such high-and-mighty thoughts?”, with the line “because I can, and Sokrates is why”. Bagordo entertains the possibilities for the identity of the woman: a disguised Euripides, Tragedy (as a wife), Aspasia, and (his preference) the Muse of Euripides (cf. Frogs 1305–9). I find this last possibility most appealing, since one might expect tragedy to be semnê and high-minded (cf. Frogs 1004–5) without the help of Sokrates.

About Kallias’ Satyrs we know only that it was produced in 437, and that it was one of a number of comedies that employed a chorus of satyrs, more properly found in satyr-drama. On the relationship between comedy and satyr-drama (189) he cites Bakola, but does not seem to know my own study on that subject or the earlier article by Marshall who first proposed that Kallias’ comedy was an intertextual response to the satyrs missing from Euripides’ Alkestis (438).5

Although only a few of the entries provide scope for much discussion, Bagordo has done a thorough and commendable job of presenting a great deal of material in the prescribed format of the series. In the notes I found his citation of relevant passages to be select and judicious, his use of previous scholarship thorough, and his judgement solid and usually on the mark. There were places where I wished he might have come down more firmly on one side or the other of a point under discussion, but on the whole this is a worthy addition to a series that is making all of Old Comedy more readily available to serious students in the field.


1.   Reviews of FrC 9.1 (Orth on Alkaios, Ameipsias, and Apollophanes) at BMCR 2014.07.34, and FrC 15 (Pellegrino on Nikophon) at BMCR 2014.04.40.
2.   S. Halliwell, “Aristophanes’ Apprenticeship”, CQ 30 (1980) 33–45; G. Mastromarco, “L’esordio ‘segreto’ di Aristofane”, QS 10 (1979) 153–96.
3.   B. W. Millis and S. D Olson, Inscriptional Records for the Dramatic Festivals in Athens (Leiden 2012) 167.
4.   I. C. Storey, “The Date of Kallias’ ‘Pedetai’”, Hermes 116 (1988) 379–83.
5.   E. Bakola, “Old Comedy Disguised as Satyr-Play”, ZPE 154 (2005) 46–58; I. C. Storey, “But Comedy has satyrs too”, in G. Harrison (ed.), Satyr Drama: Tragedy at Play (London 2005) 201–18; C. W. Marshall, “Alcestis and the problem of prosatyric drama”, CJ 95 (2000) 229–38.

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