Eupolis

Eupolis

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Eupolis was an Athenian
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 of the Old Comedy, who flourished during the time of the Peloponnesian War
Peloponnesian War
The Peloponnesian War, 431 to 404 BC, was an ancient Greek war fought by Athens and its empire against the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally divided the war into three phases...

.

Biography


Nothing whatsoever is known of his personal history. There are few sources on when he first appeared on the stage. A short history of Greek Comedy, written by an anonymous writer of antiquity, reports that Eupolis first produced in the year where Apollodorus was the Eponymous archon, which would be 430-429 BC. The same source claims Phrynichus also debuted that year. The Chronicon
Chronicon (Eusebius)
The Chronicon or Chronicle was a work in two books by Eusebius of Caesarea. It seems to have been compiled in the early 4th century. It contained a world chronicle from Abraham until the vicennalia of Constantine I in 325 AD...

  of Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea also called Eusebius Pamphili, was a Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist. He became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine about the year 314. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon...

 instead places his debut in 428-427 BC and adds that Aristophanes
Aristophanes
Aristophanes , son of Philippus, of the deme Cydathenaus, was a comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his forty plays survive virtually complete...

 also started producing that year. This is the version preserved in the Latin translation by Jerome. But the Armenian translation places the event in 427-426 BC.

Cyril of Alexandria
Cyril of Alexandria
Cyril of Alexandria was the Patriarch of Alexandria from 412 to 444. He came to power when the city was at its height of influence and power within the Roman Empire. Cyril wrote extensively and was a leading protagonist in the Christological controversies of the later 4th and 5th centuries...

 placed the debut of Eupolis at some point between 428 and 424 BC. Placing the debuts of Aristophanes and Plato the comic poet
Plato (comic poet)
Plato was an Athenian comic poet and contemporary of Aristophanes. None of his plays survive intact, but the titles of thirty of them are known, including a Hyperbolus , Victories , Cleophon , and Phaon . The titles suggest that his themes were often political...

 within the same period. George Syncellus
George Syncellus
George Syncellus was a Byzantine chronicler and ecclesiastic. He had lived many years in Palestine as a monk, before coming to Constantinople, where he was appointed syncellus to Tarasius, patriarch of Constantinople...

 gives the same dates, but merely states that Eupolis and Aristophanes were becoming prominent, not when they debuted. Syncellus extends the phrase to include Sophocles
Sophocles
Sophocles is one of three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived. His first plays were written later than those of Aeschylus, and earlier than or contemporary with those of Euripides...

. Sophocles had actually become the pre-eminent playwright in Athens c. 456 BC, when Aeschylus
Aeschylus
Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

 died.

Based on the primary sources above, modern historians conclude that Eupolis debuted in the 420s BC, probably in 429 BC. His first production was probably at the Lenaia
Lenaia
The Lenaia was an annual festival with a dramatic competition. It was one of the lesser festivals of Athens and Ionia in ancient Greece. The Lenaia took place in Athens in the month of Gamelion, roughly corresponding to January. The festival was in honour of Dionysos Lenaios...

, the lesser theatrical festival of his time. The Lenaia are thought to have allowed novices to compete, so they could prove themselves before presenting plays at the Dionysia
Dionysia
The Dionysia[p] was a large festival in ancient Athens in honor of the god Dionysus, the central events of which were the theatrical performances of dramatic tragedies and, from 487 BC, comedies. It was the second-most important festival after the Panathenaia...

 festival. His first known play was either Prospaltioi or Heilotes . Surviving fragments from "Prospaltioi" include allusions and near-quotations from Antigone
Antigone (Sophocles)
Antigone is a tragedy by Sophocles written in or before 442 BC. Chronologically, it is the third of the three Theban plays but was written first...

 (442 BC) by Sophocles. Scholars are convinced the play targeted Pericles
Pericles
Pericles was a prominent and influential statesman, orator, and general of Athens during the city's Golden Age—specifically, the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars...

 , due to a famous reference to Aspasia
Aspasia
Aspasia was a Milesian woman who was famous for her involvement with the Athenian statesman Pericles. Very little is known about the details of her life. She spent most of her adult life in Athens, and she may have influenced Pericles and Athenian politics...

. This makes it likely that Pericles, who died in 429 BC, was still alive when Eupolis was working on the text.

The Suda
Suda
The Suda or Souda is a massive 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranean world, formerly attributed to an author called Suidas. It is an encyclopedic lexicon, written in Greek, with 30,000 entries, many drawing from ancient sources that have since been lost, and often...

 claims Eupolis was only 17 years old when he started his career. Placing his birth in c. 447/446 BC. It should be noted that sources also claim Aristophanes and Menander
Menander
Menander , Greek dramatist, the best-known representative of Athenian New Comedy, was the son of well-to-do parents; his father Diopeithes is identified by some with the Athenian general and governor of the Thracian Chersonese known from the speech of Demosthenes De Chersoneso...

 were adolescents (epheboi
Ephebos
Ephebos , also anglicised as ephebe or archaically ephebus , is a Greek word for an adolescent age group or a social status reserved for that age in Antiquity....

) at the start of their own careers. This suggests a tradition concerning the precociousness of poets.

Although he was at first on good terms with Aristophanes, their relations subsequently became strained, and they accused each other, in most virulent terms, of imitation and plagiarism
Plagiarism
Plagiarism is defined in dictionaries as the "wrongful appropriation," "close imitation," or "purloining and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions," and the representation of them as one's own original work, but the notion remains problematic with nebulous...

.

Works


Of the 19 plays attributed to Eupolis, with which he obtained first prize seven times, only fragments remain. Of these, the best known are:
  • Kolakes ("Flatterers"), in which he pilloried the spendthrift Callias, who wasted his money on sophists and parasites.
  • Maricas, an attack on Hyperbolus, the successor of Cleon
    Cleon
    Cleon was an Athenian statesman and a Strategos during the Peloponnesian War. He was the first prominent representative of the commercial class in Athenian politics, although he was an aristocrat himself...

    , under a fictitious name.
  • Baptai ("Dippers," Latinization: Baptae), against Alcibiades
    Alcibiades
    Alcibiades, son of Clinias, from the deme of Scambonidae , was a prominent Athenian statesman, orator, and general. He was the last famous member of his mother's aristocratic family, the Alcmaeonidae, which fell from prominence after the Peloponnesian War...

     and his groups, at which profligate foreign rites were practised. The word Baptai was a name given to the priests of the Thracian goddess Cotytto.
  • Demoi ("Demes
    Deme
    In Ancient Greece, a deme or demos was a subdivision of Attica, the region of Greece surrounding Athens. Demes as simple subdivisions of land in the countryside seem to have existed in the 6th century BC and earlier, but did not acquire particular significance until the reforms of Cleisthenes in...

    ") and Poleis ("Cities") were political plays, dealing with the desperate condition of the state and with the allied (or tributary) cities.


Other people he attacked in his plays were Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

, Cimon, and Cleon
Cleon
Cleon was an Athenian statesman and a Strategos during the Peloponnesian War. He was the first prominent representative of the commercial class in Athenian politics, although he was an aristocrat himself...

. The following titles (with associated fragments) are also ascribed to Eupolis:
  • Aiges ("Goats")
  • Astrateutoi ("People Exempt From Military Service"), or Androgynai ("Hermaphrodites")
  • Autolykos ("Autolycus
    Autolycus
    In Greek mythology, Autolycus was a son of Hermes and Chione. He was the husband of Neaera, or according to Homer, of Amphithea...

    ", two versions)
  • Diaiton
  • Dias ("Dias")
  • Heilotes ("Helots")
  • Klopai ("Thefts")
  • Lakones ("Laconians")
  • Noumeniai ("New-Moon Festival")
  • Prospaltioi ("Men From Prospalta
    Prospalta
    Prospalta is a genus of moths of the Noctuidae family.-Species:* Prospalta atricupreoides Draeseke, 1928* Prospalta contigua Leech, 1900* Prospalta coptica Wiltshire, 1948* Prospalta cyclina Hampson...

    ")
  • Taxiarchoi
  • Hybristodikai
  • Philoi ("Friends")
  • Chrysoun Genos ("The Golden Race (or Species)")


Storey estimates a total output of 14 or 15 works for Eupolis, noting the doubtful paternity of some of the works attributed to the poet. He considers his career to have lasted from 429 to 411 BC, a period of 18 years.

Death and Burial


Ian Storey notes that there are "four ancient traditions" on the manner of death and burial of Eupolis. Each with details impossible to reconcile to each other. The first tradition is "the well-known story" concerning Alcibiades
Alcibiades
Alcibiades, son of Clinias, from the deme of Scambonidae , was a prominent Athenian statesman, orator, and general. He was the last famous member of his mother's aristocratic family, the Alcmaeonidae, which fell from prominence after the Peloponnesian War...

. That Eupolis targeted the politician in his play Baptai. But then found himself serving under Alcibiades in the Sicilian Expedition
Sicilian Expedition
The Sicilian Expedition was an Athenian expedition to Sicily from 415 BC to 413 BC, during the Peloponnesian War. The expedition was hampered from the outset by uncertainty in its purpose and command structure—political maneuvering in Athens swelled a lightweight force of twenty ships into a...

. Alcibiades retaliated by having the poet drowned on the way to Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

. This would place Eupolis' death in "the late spring or early summer" or 415 BC. The story, with small variations, can be found in the writings of Juvenal
Juvenal
The Satires are a collection of satirical poems by the Latin author Juvenal written in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries AD.Juvenal is credited with sixteen known poems divided among five books; all are in the Roman genre of satire, which, at its most basic in the time of the author, comprised a...

, Aelius Aristides
Aelius Aristides
Aelius Aristides was a popular Greek orator , who lived during the Roman Empire. He is considered to be a prime example of the Second Sophistic, a group of showpiece orators who flourished from the reign of Nero until ca. 230 AD. His surname was Theodorus...

, Themistius
Themistius
Themistius , named , was a statesman, rhetorician, and philosopher. He flourished in the reigns of Constantius II, Julian, Jovian, Valens, Gratian, and Theodosius I; and he enjoyed the favour of all those emperors, notwithstanding their many differences, and the fact that he himself was not a...

, Platonios, John Tzetzes
John Tzetzes
John Tzetzes was a Byzantine poet and grammarian, known to have lived at Constantinople during the 12th century.Tzetzes was Georgian on his mother's side...

 and the Anonymus Crameri. The latter two add two new details. First, that Eupolis made fun of Alcibiades' rhotacism
Rhotacism
Rhotacism refers to several phenomena related to the usage of the consonant r :*the excessive or idiosyncratic use of the r;...

. Second, that soldiers dunked the poet repeatedly in the sea. Leaving unclear if the poet drowned or survived the experience. The story was reported in several ancient sources. But also had its detractors. Eratosthenes
Eratosthenes
Eratosthenes of Cyrene was a Greek mathematician, poet, athlete, geographer, astronomer, and music theorist.He was the first person to use the word "geography" and invented the discipline of geography as we understand it...

 pointed out that there were works by Eupolis which were produced following the Sicilian Expedition. Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 quoted Eratosthenes and considered him a reliable source on the matter.

The second tradition is recorded by Pausanias the geographer
Pausanias (geographer)
Pausanias was a Greek traveler and geographer of the 2nd century AD, who lived in the times of Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. He is famous for his Description of Greece , a lengthy work that describes ancient Greece from firsthand observations, and is a crucial link between classical...

. He reported that Eupolis was buried away from Athens, his tomb being located in the vicinity of Sicyon
Sicyon
Sikyon was an ancient Greek city situated in the northern Peloponnesus between Corinth and Achaea on the territory of the present-day prefecture of Corinthia...

 and the river Asopus
Asopus
Asopus or Asôpos is the name of four different rivers in Greece and one in Turkey. In Greek mythology, it was the name of the gods of those rivers.-The rivers in Greece:...

.
Pausanias never explains the reason for a burial away from home. But it might point to Eupolis having a family connection with Sicyon. Storey notes that there was one Athenian family with known connections to this city: the Alcmaeonidae
Alcmaeonidae
The Alcmaeonidae or Alcmaeonids were a powerful noble family of ancient Athens, a branch of the Neleides who claimed descent from the mythological Alcmaeon, the great-grandson of Nestor....

.

The third tradition is recorded by Claudius Aelianus
Claudius Aelianus
Claudius Aelianus , often seen as just Aelian, born at Praeneste, was a Roman author and teacher of rhetoric who flourished under Septimius Severus and probably outlived Elagabalus, who died in 222...

. He first narrates a tale concerning Augeas, a Molossus dog
Molossus (dog)
-History:This ancient extinct breed of dog is commonly considered to be the ancestor of today's Mastiff-type dogs and of many other modern breeds. Mastiff-type dogs are often referred to as Molossus dogs or Molossers...

 owned by Eupolis, and how it protected the property of its master from a thief. He then mentions that Eupolis eventually died and was buried in Aegina
Aegina
Aegina is one of the Saronic Islands of Greece in the Saronic Gulf, from Athens. Tradition derives the name from Aegina, the mother of Aeacus, who was born in and ruled the island. During ancient times, Aegina was a rival to Athens, the great sea power of the era.-Municipality:The municipality...

. Augeas maintained constant vigil and lament over the grave of its master until passing away itself. The location was reportedly named "Dog's Lament" (Greek: Κυνός Θρῆνος) following that event. Modern scholars have pointed this account follows a familiar pattern in ancient literary biography. Adding in a tale concerning a faithful dog and how its presence benefited its master. Said master invariably being the subject of the biography. Storey suggests that the story may have started as a tale mentioned in comedy. Then later writers might have mistaken it for a historical account. He finds more intriguing the connection of Eupolis to Aegina. Verses 652-655 of "The Acharnians
The Acharnians
The Acharnians is the third play - and the earliest of the eleven surviving plays - by the great Athenian playwright Aristophanes. It was produced in 425 BCE on behalf of the young dramatist by an associate, Callistratus, and it won first place at the Lenaia festival...

" imply that Aristophanes
Aristophanes
Aristophanes , son of Philippus, of the deme Cydathenaus, was a comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his forty plays survive virtually complete...

 was also connected to this island.

The fourth tradition can be found in the Suda
Suda
The Suda or Souda is a massive 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranean world, formerly attributed to an author called Suidas. It is an encyclopedic lexicon, written in Greek, with 30,000 entries, many drawing from ancient sources that have since been lost, and often...

. It claims Eupolis was one of the casualties from the Peloponnesian War
Peloponnesian War
The Peloponnesian War, 431 to 404 BC, was an ancient Greek war fought by Athens and its empire against the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally divided the war into three phases...

, dying "in a shipwreck" within the Hellespont (the Dardanelles
Dardanelles
The Dardanelles , formerly known as the Hellespont, is a narrow strait in northwestern Turkey connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara. It is one of the Turkish Straits, along with its counterpart the Bosphorus. It is located at approximately...

). The source for the information is not given. Neither is the death associated with any particular naval battle. Storey notes that the death might be connected to either of three major battles in the region. The Battle of Cynossema
Battle of Cynossema
The naval Battle of Cynossema took place in 411 BC during the Peloponnesian War. In the battle, an Athenian fleet commanded by Thrasybulus and Thrasyllus, although initially thrown on the defensive by a numerically superior Spartan fleet, won a narrow victory...

 (411 BC), the Battle of Arginusae
Battle of Arginusae
The naval Battle of Arginusae took place in 406 BC during the Peloponnesian War near the Arginusae islands east of the island of Lesbos. In the battle, an Athenian fleet commanded by eight strategoi defeated a Spartan fleet under Callicratidas...

 (406 BC) and
the Battle of Aegospotami
Battle of Aegospotami
The naval Battle of Aegospotami took place in 405 BC and was the last major battle of the Peloponnesian War. In the battle, a Spartan fleet under Lysander completely destroyed the Athenian navy...

 (405 BC).

Reputation


Horace
Horace
Quintus Horatius Flaccus , known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.-Life:...

 listed Eupolis, Cratinus
Cratinus
Cratinus , Athenian comic poet of the Old Comedy.-Life:Cratinus was victorious six times at the City Dionysia, first probably in the mid- to late 450s BCE , and three times at the Lenaia, first probably in the early 430s...

 and Aristophanes
Aristophanes
Aristophanes , son of Philippus, of the deme Cydathenaus, was a comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his forty plays survive virtually complete...

 (in that order) as the most prominent writers of Old Comedy. Noting how they would "single out" the immoral in their comedies. Persius addressed his works to those inspired by "bold Kratinos", "angry Eupolis", and "the grand old man" (Aristophanes). The Saturnalia by Macrobius mentions: "Everyone knows Eupolis, who must be considered among the elegant poets of Old Comedy."

With Eupolis combined a lively and fertile imagination with sound practical judgment. He was reputed to equal Aristophanes
Aristophanes
Aristophanes , son of Philippus, of the deme Cydathenaus, was a comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his forty plays survive virtually complete...

 in the elegance and purity of his diction, and Cratinus in his command of irony and sarcasm.

Sources

  • Sommerstein, Alan Herbert (2002). Greek Drama and Dramatists. Routledge. ISBN 0415260272

External links

/ 444 fragments of Eupolis (Ancient Greek text, Latin commentary) : Augustus Meineke
Augustus Meineke
Johann Albrecht Friedrich August Meineke , German classical scholar, was born at Soest in Westphalia.After holding educational posts at Jenkau and Danzig , he was director of the Joachimsthal Gymnasium in Berlin from 1826 to 1856. He died at Berlin on 12 December 1870...

, Fragmenta comicorum graecorum, editio minor, 1847, t. I, p. 158 to 228, at Google Books