Athenaeus quotes a character who is unhappily married telling a younger person not to marry: “of married men, not even one is saved”. This reminds me of the joke about the difference between a wedding and a funeral: in the funeral, the man is a dead duck before he goes down the aisle.
The papyrus known as “Oxyrhinchica 1235″ seems to have been the Wikipedia of the ancient world: it listed plot summaries of many Menander plays. What bothers me most about Wikipedia’s entries for movies and stories is that they too often focus on plot to the exclusion of theme and other considerations. Anyway, Oxy. 1235 has a very complete summary of–and one brief quotation of–a play that would have otherwise been entirely lost to us: Hiereia (“The Priestess”).
Clement of Alexandria quotes (hmm: with reason or not?) the following:
You see in marriage what distresses you
And what will cause you pain, but don’t look at
Its goods. You’ll find there’s no good in the world ,
Simylos, to which there’s not some bad attached.
There is also a very positive comment on the “spendthrift wife”. On the other hand, there is also a husband protesting to his wife that she spends too much. The two quotations are attributed to different plays; otherwise, I would have liked to have imagined the wife defending herself with the words I read.
Some Romans were discriminating: Aulus Gellius compared Caecilius’ adaptation of Menander’s Plokion (“The Necklace”) to the original, and found the adaptation wanting.
“My wife’s an heiress and a true monster-who-eats-human-flesh”: Good heavens! Marriage definitely wasn’t for the speaker of that line! It’s a pity there wasn’t more context for this; marriage is usually the goal and final event of a Menander plot. Perhaps it was a character seeking to dissuade another from hitching up.
An interesting set of lines on Luck: “All that we think or say or do is luck; / We only write our signatures below.”
“Examine it to see if it’s good coin”: there are quite a few references in both Aristophanes and Menander to coined money. One ancient coin I would love to have (though it is beyond my means) is a small silver Athenian tetradrachm with a large-eyed owl, some olive leaves, and the letters “Athe” (for “Athens”) on it. I first saw this coin in a writing textbook for ESL writers.
Hmm: quite a few rather misogynistic lines are attributed to Menander’s characters. I’m assuming these attributions, when they are valid, are to the very worldly-wise characters who are foils for the young and restless who always end out being married “happily ever after”.
Against racism: “The man who’s born with a / Good character, he is the true ‘well-born’, / Though he may be an Ethiopian”. Nice!
Stobaeus has another interesting quotation, this time touching on the subject of the nature of deity and materialist philosophy:
“Epicharmos tells us that the gods are winds,
Sun, earth, and water, fire and stars, but I
Supposed silver and gold alone were gods
Which were some use to us. Set up these gods
Within your house and pray for what you want;
You’ll get it all….”
An Ecclesiastes-type comment: “All living animals are happier and have more sense than man, far more.” The idea is that man brings his troubles on himself, but beasts don’t.
“Once I held her in my arms and kissed her, I was sunk for good and all.”
“Was it not right Prometheus should be nailed to the rocks, as painters show…”. This intrigued me a good deal because Prometheus has continued to be painted into far more recent times, the nineteenth century providing several very notable examples.
There: tomorrow I will read and post on the chapter “Fragments of Doubtful Authorship”, and then a final post on Menander, and a very short post on classical Greek drama in general. Then I will have read all the extant classical Greek drama that I know of.
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