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The Actors’ Repertoire, Fifth-Century Comedy and Early Tragic Revivals

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Nervegna, Sebastiana. “The Actors’ Repertoire, Fifth-Century Comedy and Early Tragic Revivals.” CHS Research Bulletin 3, no. 2 (2015). http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hlnc.essay:NervegnaS.The_Actors_Repertoire.2015

1§1 In antiquity as today, Greek tragedies circulated both as written texts for the reading public and as scripts for performance on public stages. Of these two strands in the ancient reception of Greek tragedy, textual transmission has received far more attention for at least two main reasons, the long-standing scholarly interest in Greek plays as texts and the greater availability of sources, both literary and papyrological.[1] The theatrical afterlife of Greek tragedy— the fascinating process whereby Greek plays became a staple on the stages scattered around the Mediterranean — is yet to be fully studied, but it can be sketched in its main outlines.[2] Inscriptions attest to tragic revivals at the Great Dionysia in Athens starting in 386 BCE, when ‘the tragoidoi first offered in addition an old play’ (παλαιὸν δρᾶμα πρῶτο[ν] παραδίδαξαν οἱ τραγ[ωιδοί], IG II2 2318, 201-203). Greek drama quickly travelled to South Italy to be performed on local stages and to be reproduced on hundreds of theatre-related pots dated to the fourth century BCE. By the mid-third century, Greek plays arrived in Rome. The same areas that produced a substantial amount of theatre-related artifacts, Apulia and Campania, were also home to the earliest poets who adapted Greek dramas into Latin for performance in Rome, often selecting the same tragedies that can be identified on the theatre-related pots from southern Italy.[3] Classical and early-Hellenistic plays continued to entertain theatregoers well into the Imperial period. They are the ‘old tragedies’ and the ‘old comedies’ attested on festival records across the Empire, although only few sources preserve the details of the plays produced.[4]

1§2 Scholars and readers chose Greek tragedies by focusing on a limited number of dramas, and eventually reducing them into the select plays, seven by Aeschylus and Sophocles, and ten by Euripides.[5] Actors, too, selected Greek tragedies: they formed a repertoire that they continued to stage around the Mediterranean. Several plays by the canonical tragedians became repertoire tragedies. Euripides’ plays are prominent among them and Orestes is probably the most famous example. Staged at the Great Dionysia in Athens by both Neoptolemos in 341-340 BCE and by a now anonymous Hellenistic actor in the years 190-170 BCE, Orestes was, in the words of Aristophanes of Byzantion, one ‘of the plays that enjoy success on the stage’ (τῶν ἐπὶ σκηνῆς εὐδοκιμούντων). [6] Later scholars took care to record the realia of later performances and both Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Dio Chrystostom do seem to have seen Orestes staged in the theatre of their day.[7] Euripides’ Medea was another tragedy that retained the favor of later audiences. The play’s final tableau, the triumphant Medea leaving on the Sun’s chariot, had quite an impact on ancient viewers. That Aristotle found faults with the use of the mechane in this scene does suggest that he watched it performed and at least four artifacts from South Italy reproduce Medea’s escape.[8] In addition to being adapted into Latin by Ennius, Euripides’ Medea also influenced several Medea plays.[9] Other tragedies enjoyed a reperformance tradition just as rich: Sophocles’ Ajax, Antigone and Electra, for example, entertained public audiences in both the Greek- and Latin-speaking worlds.[10] Aeschylus’ difficult Greek made him less popular in and out of public theatres, but at least some plays such as Libations Bearers and Edonians were to be seen on later stages.[11]

1§3 The records for revivals cluster around specific plays. Not all Classical and Early Hellenistic tragedies entered actors’ activities, but those that did travelled far and wide in fourth-century BCE Attica, fourth-century BCE South Italy, Republican Rome and elsewhere in the ancient world. This trend suggests that later actors drew on the selections made by earlier performers. Since the repertoire was conservative, later records can help us approach a debated issue in the history of Greek drama: the beginning of the reperformance tradition.

1§4 We know that tragic revivals were first introduced at the Great Dionysia in Athens in 386, but there are at least a few clues to early restagings in Athens or more generally in Attica during the fifth century BCE. The decree granting revivals of Aeschylus’ drama after Aeschylus’ death and the one granting a reperformance of Aristophanes’ Frogs are quite familiar, but an earlier decree also deserves mention. When Herodotus records that the Athenians fined Phrynichus for staging his Capture of Miletus and ‘decreed that nobody should use this play in the future,’ the implication is that plays could be restaged already in the early fifth century BCE.[12]  Scholarly accounts on early revivals invariably include Aelian’s report that Socrates went to the theatre only when ‘Euripides was competing with new plays’, something that implies the existence of a contemporary reperformance tradition.[13] Aelian’s reliability is never beyond question, but note Demosthenes’ remark in response to Aeschines’ quotation of Euripides’ Phoenix. Demosthenes claims that Phoenix was not common fare for contemporary actors, ‘rather it was Molon and some other of the olden-days actors who competed with it.’ He allows that Molon, who was active in the late fifth century BCE, was not the only one to stage Euripides’ play.[14] The early export of plays to South Italy also suggests that they were already being reperformed in Attica during the fifth century, [15] and the Dionysia celebrated in various demes across Attica have often been considered their most likely venues.[16]

1§5 Yet the idea of dramatic reperformances in fifth-century Attica has often met with resistance. This is due both to the long-standing prejudice that in Classical Athens a tragic poet typically composed with ‘his eye on a single, ephemeral performative event’ and to the importance attached to texts as the medium whereby tragedies came to circulate. [17] Aristophanes’ comedies, and Old Comedy in general, often recall specific tragedies by means of imitation or negative distortion, ‘paratragedy’ or ‘parody.’[18] The driving force behind comedy’s use of tragedy — reading or performance — has been a matter of debate, especially when comic poets recall tragedies that premiered several years earlier. Aristophanes’ Frogs tells us that tragic texts circulated already by 405 BCE: Dionysus notoriously claims to have been reading Euripides’ Andromeda on his trireme and the chorus of initiates of the Eleusinian mysteries notes that books made the audience more sophisticated. Coupled with various references to books and reading in fifth-century BCE sources, Aristophanes’ lines are at the core of the pro-reading argument that turns comic poets into readers and audiences into something close to bookworms.[19] The problem is not simply that this line of argument relies too much on the supply and demand ends of the nascent book trade, paying little attention to the realities of book production, which was expensive and slow, the restricted size of the public reading literary compositions, and the diverse composition of fifth-century BCE theatrical audiences.[20] The existence of dramatic texts in Classical Athens does not exclude or even undermine the likelihood of reperformances because at least some of these copies were probably produced for actors and used by them. In the 330s BCE Lycurgus reportedly prepared an official edition of the tragedies by the three canonical tragedians and imposed it upon actors: the state secretary was to ‘read the official text out to performers for the purpose of comparison (παραναγινώσκειν), for it was not allowed to perform the plays out of accordance with the official texts.’ The underlying implication is that performers had their own scripts.[21]

1§6 This contribution focuses on the tragedies that comic paratragedy or parody makes the best candidates for early reperformances in Attica, Euripides’ Telephus and Aeschylus’ Edonians. It also considers, more briefly, another play that fifth-century drama variously recalled and later actors restaged, Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers. These tragedies, which fifth-century BCE comedy recalls many years after their premieres by focusing on their visual aspects thus suggesting familiarity with them as performance events, can be consistently identified in the theatre-related records from later periods. This trend is probably not a coincidence. It suggests that these plays were reperformed around the Mediterranean after the fifth century because they were already successfully restaged in late fifth-century BCE Attica.

Euripides’ Telephus

2§1 Euripides’ Telephus premiered at the Great Dionysia in 438 BCE, as part of a tetralogy including Cretan Women, Alcmeon in Psophis and Alcestis. Although the details of the plot are not all clear, its main outline can be safely reconstructed. Telephus is the son of Heracles and Auge, and the king of Mysia, in Asia Minor. During the abortive first expedition against Troy, Achilles wounds him in the leg. Following the oracle that forecast his healing by the man who had injured him, Telephus disguises himself as a beggar and reaches the Greek leaders assembled in Argos. He unsuccessfully addresses the assembly and, after being exposed, seizes the baby Orestes and takes refuge at the altar. By the end of the play, the two parties reach a compromise: Achilles will heal Telephus and Telephus will help the Greeks in their expedition against Troy.[22]

2§2 Euripides’ Telephus enjoyed a blissful afterlife on ancient stages. Two details of this tragedy had the greatest impact on later dramatists and audiences: Telephus’ disguise as a beggar and the altar scene. Roman Republican tragedy counts two Telephus plays, one by Accius and one by Ennius, both generally identified as drawing from Euripides.[23] Accius’ Telephus starred a hero stripped of his ‘kingdom and wealth,’ and now reduced to rags: he wears a ‘hideous dress,’ and is ‘covered in dirt.’ [24] The remains of Ennius’ Telephus are even fewer than Accius’, but they tell us that (i) Ennius’ Telephus, like Euripides’, speaks before the assembly, and (ii) he, too, sports rags. The remains of one fragment read: ‘wrapped in dirty clothes / I left my kingdom wrapped in rags.’ [25] Although Ennius’ tragedy cannot be dated with certainty, Fantham (2009: 426) links the Romans’ interest in Telephus, the mythical founder of the Pergamene kingdom, with Roman political events, Rome’s alliance with Pergamum and the subsequent involvement in war with Antiochus. Telephus, and specifically Euripides’ Telephus, however, already circulated in South Italy during the fourth century, well before the rise of Rome. This tragedy, too, reached Rome via South Italian stages.

2§3 We have about a dozen representations of Telephus at the altar, and most of them are depicted on pots from South Italy.[26] One of the earliest examples is a Lucanian kalyx-krater known as the ‘Cleveland vase’: Telephus is at the altar with the baby Orestes, flanked by Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. Agamemnon is ready to intervene, but Clytemnestra is trying to restrain him.[27] The male figures are shown naked, but note Telephus’ scruffy looks and Agamemnon’s boots. The Cleveland vase is dated to around 400 BCE: it was painted a few decades after the first performance of Euripides’ Telephus and possibly within Euripides’ lifetime. Also to the fourth century, most likely to the years 370-350 BCE, belongs a terracotta figurine now in Munich that reproduces a male comic character seated at the altar holding a baby in one hand and a sword in the other.[28] This statuette testifies to a comic parody of the signature scene of Euripides’ Telephus. Note also the headgear of the comic Telephus, the pilos that we otherwise know to have been part of the attire of Euripides’ Telephus. Those who went to watch Euripides’ Telephus expected the hero to be wearing a pilos and noted its absence: a scholion to Aristophanes’ Acharnians records productions of Euripides’ Telephus where the hero appeared without his trademark cap. Possibly dated to the Early-Hellenistic period, this scholion may refer to a reperformance in Alexandria.[29] Another revival is suggested by a passage from Antisthenes’ Diadochai mentioned in Diogenes Laertius’ Life of Crates (6.87). Crates, who lived in the late fourth and early third centuries BCE, was reportedly ‘driven to Cynic philosophy after seeing Telephus in a tragedy, with a little basket and utterly miserable (σπυρίδιον ἔχοντα καὶ τἄλλα λυπρὸν).’ The basket, used in lieu of the leather pouch typical of beggars, was another of the props of Euripides’ Telephus.[30] We may also find a reference to Euripides’ Telephus in a later comic fragment that dwells on the benefits of watching tragic performances: ‘after one lad, who is poor, realizes that Telephus was poorer than he is, he immediately endures his poverty more easily’ (Timocles PCG F 6.9-11).

2§4 The earliest signs of ancient audiences’ familiarity with Euripides’ Telephus date to the late fifth century. Aristophanes made extensive use of this tragedy in two of his comedies, Acharnians and Thesmophoriazusae, first staged in 425 and 411 BCE respectively.[31] It is not clear exactly when in the Thesmophoriazusae Aristophanes starts his parody of Euripides’ Telephus, but he unmistakably toys with this tragedy.[32] Like Euripides’ Telephus, Inlaw puts on a disguise and infiltrates a hostile assembly (215-68). After being exposed, he flees to an altar with a wineskin, Mica’s ‘baby’, which replaces the baby Orestes in Euripides’ tragedy. An Apulian bell crater dated to around 370 BCE reproduces this scene, in particular the action at 750-755: In-Law-Telephus at the altar, threatening the wine skin with a knife as Mika holds out a basin to catch her child’s ‘blood.’[33] Thesmophoriazusae entered the visual record by its most memorable scene, the parody of Euripides’ Telephus.

2§5 Even more pervasive is the presence of Euripides’ Telephus in Aristophanes’ Acharnians, where, once again, Aristophanes plays on the altar scene. Eager to plead his case with the angry chorus of Acharnian farmers and frustrated by their resistance, the comic hero, Dicaiopolis, takes a charcoal basket (λάρκος) and threatens to kill it; as he goes inside to fetch the basket, the chorus speculates that he may have seized someone’s child. Ancient viewers remembered Dicaiopolis in his stance as Euripides’ Telephus. Dicaiopolis-Telephus threatening a charcoal basket with a knife appears on a series of Apulian mould-made oil cans (gutti): like Thesmophoriazusae, Acharnians also entered the visual record by the scene modeled after Euripides’ tragedy.[34] Finally given the opportunity to make his case to the chorus, Dicaiopolis visits Euripides to secure appropriate attire. He begins by asking for the rags from ‘that old play’ and Euripides goes through several of his heroes —Oeneus, Phoenix, Philoctetes, Bellerophon—before identifying the right one, the Mysian Telephus.[35] Dicaiopolis takes Telephus’ rags and ‘what goes along with the rags’ (τἀκόλουθα τῶν ῥακῶν): the little Mysian pilos, a beggar’s cane, ‘a little basket burned through by a lamp,’ ‘a tiny cup with the broken lip’ and ‘a tiny pot plugged with a sponge’ that Telephus presumably used to carry salve for his wound.[36] Unlike Old Comedy, tragedy makes sparing use of props and the many accessories that Euripides’ Telephus carried probably contributed to make him memorable.[37] Aristophanes was likely a boy when Euripides’ Telephus was first staged yet his parodies involve visual aspects of the play –the tableau of the suppliant Telephus and his many props.[38] Note also the phrasing of Dicaiopolis’ request for Telephus’ rags and props. Dicaiopolis ‘knows exactly which play he is referring to’ and his failure to identify it is probably a device that allows Euripides to review his repertoire of ragged heroes. The expression ‘old play’ is significant. Rather than drawing a distinction among Euripides’ works—Euripides’ career started in 455 BCE and none of the plays named here is particularly early—it can be compared to the terminology used in the inscriptions recording revivals in the City festival in the fourth century BCE.[39] According to Biles (2011: 68), ‘with ‘old play’ Dicaiopolis clearly has in mind a revival performance,’ and ‘restagings at the Rural Dionysia might have introduced a categorical significance for the term long before [the fourth century].’

Aeschylus’ Edonians

3§1 First staged probably in the 450s BCE, Edonians was the first tragedy of the tetralogy known as the Lycurgeia and was reportedly a successful play.[40] Its text is largely lost, but the surviving fragments yield a few details of the play, which dramatized Dionysus’ arrival in Thrace and his conflict with king Lycurgus. Dionysus arrives with his followers who make music with a variety of instruments (pipes, cymbals and drums), is captured by Lycurgus and taunted on stage for his effeminate appearance. We hear about the god’s attire —‘one who wears Lydian tunics and fox-skin mantles down to his feet’— and we know that at one point Dionysus reveals himself, shaking the royal palace ‘in a bacchic frenzy.’ [41] Later accounts, generally thought to derive from Aeschylus, shed light on Lycurgus’ punishment: driven mad, he mistakes his son Dryas for a branch of vine and kills him with an axe (along with his wife, according to some versions).[42]

3§2 Like Euripides’ Telephus, Aeschylus’ Edonians also entered Roman drama, via Naevius’ Latin adaptation, Lycurgus.[43] Naevius retained several key elements of his model: Lycurgus manages to imprison Liber, the Roman Dionysus; they come to a confrontation, and Liber plans to destroy Lycurgus’ palace.[44] Aeschylus presented Dionysus accompanied by his followers, and so did Naevius. Several fragments from Lycurgus describe the maenads: they are dressed ‘with gowns with gold edging, with soft saffron-coloured mourning garb,’ carry ‘crested snakes’ and probably sing a ‘mellifluous tune.’ Naevius also presents them in the midst of an energetic dance: ‘forward, Bacchantes, bearing wands, in Bacchic manner and mien.’ Liber is probably the referent of an unidentified fragment by Naevius often ascribed to Lycurgus: ‘he had slippers on his feet, wore a saffron dress.’[45]

3§3 Aeschylus’ Edonians can be identified in the theatre-related artifacts via a specific scene, the punishment of Lycurgus. This scene is reproduced on at least nine artifacts, most of which come from the Greek West and are dated to around the mid-fourth centuryBCE.[46] At least a couple of these pots betray their theatrical inspiration. An Apulian column-krater attributed to the Painter of Boston reproduces Dryas supplicating his armed father against an architectural background, a rudimentary ‘portico’ that recalls theatrical scene painting. On a contemporary Apulian kalyx-krater decorated by the Lycurgus Painter, Lycurgus is serving a second blow to his wife while two attendants are carrying away Dryas’ body. One of the figures witnessing Lycurgus’ slaughter is an old man holding a staff and decked in full theatrical attire, including fancy boots. He is a paidagogue, a character with visible connections to tragedy in performance.[47]

3§4 Fifth- and fourth-century BCE comedy recalls Aeschylus’ Edonians in two instances. In Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae, first staged in 411 BCE, Inlaw showers the tragic poet Agathon with a series of questions that he introduces by saying: ‘and now, young man, I want to ask you what kind of woman you are in the manner of Aeschylus, with words from the Lycurgeia.’ A scholiast notes that Aristophanes cites from Aeschylus’ Edonians, ‘Whence comes this femme?’It is very likely that more Aeschylean borrowings hide in the following lines, which mockingly detail Agathon’s props and effeminate costume: the barbitos, saffron-dyed dress, lyre, hairnet, oil-flask, bra, mirror and sword.[48] Evidently, Aristophanes’ Agathon looked like Aeschylus’ Dionysus: he was dressed in similar attire and carried a similar range of accessories. Another scholiast has more to say about the reception of Aeschylus’ Edonians on the comic stage. After citing one of the questions that Aristophanes puts on the mouth of Inlaw, —‘What confusion of living is this?’(138) — he notes: “from here, Eubulus took the beginning of his Dionysius, listing the discordant objects in Dionysius’ house, but his list is even longer.” The underlying implication is that Eubulus, who was active from ca. 380 to 335 BCE, ‘used the same theme’ as Aristophanes:[49] he, too, recalled Aeschylus’ Dionysus in Edonians. He did so in the comedy that mocked Dionysius I, tyrant of Syracuse and practicing tragedian. Eubulus’ caricature of Dionysius is in line with the tradition that the tyrant styled himself as the god Dionysus, but Eubulus specifically recalled Aeschylus’ Dionysus.[50]

3§5 In both Aristophanes’ and Eubulus’ comedies, the emphasis lies on how Aeschylus brought Dionysus onto the stage, his effeminate look and many disparate props. Both comedies contribute to reconstructing Aeschylus’ impact on how Dionysus came to be represented.[51] So do Euripides’ Bacchae and its effeminate Dionysus.[52] Bacchae shares many features with Aeschylus’ Edonians: like Lycurgus, Pentheus interrogates the god, taunting him for his womanish look, and puts him into prison; Dionysus reveals himself and destroys the royal palace in the famous ‘earthquake scene.’[53] Both Aristophanes and Euripides were seemingly familiar with Aeschylus’ Dionysus and his appearances, and the resulting impression is that they knew Aeschylus’ Edonians via a dramatic performance. While Euripides, who was born probably in the 480s BCE, might have seen the premiere of Edonians in the 450s, Aristophanes was probably yet to be born.

Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers

4§1 Euripides’ Telephus and Aeschylus’ Edonians are not the only two tragedies that were part of the repertoire of later actors and that could also be identified on fifth-century BCE Attic stages. Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers, which premiered in Athens in 458 BCE, did not enter Roman Republican tragedy but is well attested in the tragedy-related record from South Italy, typically via one specific scene: ‘the children at the tomb.’ Consider, just to give a few examples, a mid-fourth century Lucanian pelike reproducing the whole scene, and compare Electra’s mask with the one decorating a roughly contemporary artifact, a Lucanian squat lekythos on which the mask is set next to a stele that probably stands for Agamemnon’s tomb and right above a stage platform.[54] Add also an Apulian red-figure fragment dated to c. 375-350 BCE with a comic woman labelled ‘Electra’ and note, once again, the column included here. It testifies to a comedy that made parody of Aeschylus’ scene.[55] The earliest evidence for the impact of the recognition scene from Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers comes from late fifth-century BCE drama. Aristophanes’ alludes to it by comparing his Clouds looking for clever spectators to Electra looking for her brother’s hair-lock, and both Sophocles and Euripides reworked Aeschylus’ recognition scene in their Electra tragedies.[56] In Euripides’ Electra the paidagogue suggests to Electra a series of tokens, all familiar from Aeschylus, whereby she could recognize her brother: the hair-lock, the footprints and a ‘piece of weaving from your loom’ (κερκίδος…ἐξύφασμα). When he mentions the last token, Electra responds that an adult man could not be wearing clothes that she wove for a child. Since the ‘piece of weaving’ (ὕφασμα) produced by Aeschylus’ Orestes is a sampler, the argument that Euripides puts in Electra’s mouth gives us a clue on how Libation Bearers was restaged in the late fifth century BCE. Euripides and his audiences were familiar with a revival where Aeschylus’ ‘piece of weaving’ was the garment worn by Orestes. [57]

From fifth-century Attica to later stages

5§1 The introduction of performances of old tragedies at the Great Dionysia in the early fourth century BCE marked an important chapter in the cultural history of Greek drama, By being removed from the traditional competition to be set apart, in a category of their own, old plays were given a unique status that also betrays the respect that contemporary Athens paid to fifth-century BCE tragedians. This event also testifies to the degree of organization and importance of contemporary tragic actors: they sponsored reperformances as a gift to the city and the watching public. The fourth century saw the rise of several famous actors whose careers contributed to the survival of fifth-century BCE tragedies on public stages. Ancient authors often remembered their performances in fifth-century BCE tragedies: Plutarch, for instance, mentions Theodoros’ production of Euripides’ Trojan Women, which reportedly moved the tyrant Alexander of Pherae to tears; Polos’ role as Sophocles’ Electra, dressed in mourning robes and with the urn in his hands, was memorable enough to find its way into Gellius’ Attic Nights.[58] Other actors brought fifth-century BCE tragedy across the Adriatic and staged it for local audiences: their performances, which left a trace in the pictorial records, were popular enough to give rise to a new dramatic tradition, the adaptation of Greek plays into Latin for performance in Rome. The revival tradition of Greek tragedy can be best reconstructed from the fourth century BCE onwards, but, when combined with the tantalizingly little evidence that survives from the fifth century BCE, these later performances can also shed light on their earliest counterparts. That the same plays that entertained later theatergoers are also the likeliest candidates for earlier revivals strongly suggests that they did not enter the reperformance tradition in the fourth century BCE. These tragedies were already part of it in fifth-century BCE Attica.


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* I would like to thank the Center for Hellenic Studies for funding my research. I owe a debt of gratitude to my all colleagues in Washington for their much-needed support. Extra thanks go to Seemee Ali, Christy Constantakopoulou and especially Maria Xanthou.

[1] For recent works on the textual transmission of Greek tragedy, see Carrara 2009 on Euripides and Finglass 2012 on Sophocles. On Aeschylus, see Wartelle 1971.

[2] Easterling 1997 is the pioneering work. See also Taplin 1999, Nervegna 2007 and 2013, ch. 2.

[3] See Green 1999, Todisco 2003 and especially Taplin 2007 for the tragedy-related from South Italy, and Nervegna 2014 for the relationship between the tragedy-related vases from South Italy and Roman Republican tragedy. For a different view on the pictorial record from South Italy, see Giuliani, esp. 2013: 212-221.

[4] See Nervegna 2007 with earlier literature. Specific references include: Dio Chrys. Or. 6.66, Plut. Mor. 998e (Euripides’ Cresphontes), 556a (Euripides’ Ino); Philo, Every good man is free 141 (Euripides’ Auge). See also the Alcestis papyrus used as an actor’s script (P.Oxy. LXVII 4546, first century BCE or AD, with Marshall 2004).

[5] The nine alphabetical plays by Euripides preserved by L and P (?) are a chance survival. On the selection of dramatic texts, see Hägg 2010: 114-122, Canfora 2004: 29-33 and, more generally, Most 1990.

[6] IG II2 2320.18–19, Syll.3 1080 (with Le Guen 2007 for the date), hyp. Eur. Or. II 42.

[7] Sch. Or. 57, 268 (see further Nünlist 2009: 361-2), Dio Hal. Comp. 63f, Dio Chrys. Or. 66.6.

[8] Arist. Poet.1454a37-b1. For the pictorial record, see Taplin 2007: 117-123 and Mastronarde 2002: 66-67.

[9] For Ennius’ Medea see TrRF 89-100 with Manuwald’s comments on pp. 187-188. DS 4.56.1 mentions a variety of Medea stories in South Italy, explaining them with the ‘tragedians’ search for amazing effects.’ For the impact of Euripides’ Medea on other Medea-tragedies reproduced on vases, see Taplin 2007: 114.

[10] Ajax: schol. Aj. 864a; Livius Andronicus, Aias Mastigophorus TrRF 10-11. Antigone: Dem. 19.246-248, 18.180; Accius, Antigone F I-VI D. Electra: Gell. NA 6.5; Atilius’ Electra (Cic. De Finibus 1.5).

[11] On both plays, see further below.

[12] Life of Aeschylus §12 (see also Quint. Inst. 10.1.66, likely drawing from Hellenistic scholars); hyp. Ar. Frogs 1.3 W (see also Life of Aristophanes 35-39 with Sommerstein 1993); Her. 6.21.9-13 with Taplin 1999: 37 and Lamari 2014.

[13] Ael. VH 2.13. See Revermann 2006: 68; Lamari 2014.

[14] Dem. 19.246 (delivered in 343). Molon: Ar. Frogs 55 with scholion; see further Stephanis 1988 no. 1738.

[15] The vessels from a single tomb in Heraclea dated to around 400 are among the best known examples. At least a few of them are related to Euripides’ tragedies (Medea, Children of Heracles and Antiope). See further Todisco 2003: 533-534 and Taplin 2012, esp. 230-236.

[16] From, e.g., Webster 1973: 179 to Carter 2014: 45 (with earlier literature).

[17] Rosen 2006: 27; see also Wright 2012: 147.

[18] See Silk (1993: passim, esp. 479–480) for the terminology and Bakola 2010: 120-122 for further discussion.

[19]Ar. Frogs 52-54; 1113-1114; see further Knox’s referenced discussion (1985). The pro-reading argument counts many advocates, from Wilamowitz-Moellendorff 1959: 121-124 to Pfeiffer 1968: 28 and especially Wright 2012: ch. 5.

[20] See Harris 1989: 65-115, esp. 84-87 on literacy in fifth-century Athens and Roselli 2011 on the audience composition (see esp. 116: ‘In light of the available space, finances, and the sociology of the population of Athens, however, it seems inescapable that more than half of the spectators on any festival day were poor’).

[21] Ps-Plut. Lives of the Ten Orators 841f. See further Hanink 2014: 62-64.

[22] Editions and reconstructions of the play: Cropp 1995, Collard and Cropp 2008: 185-223 (with English translation); Praiser 2000 (with German translation and commentary); TrGF F 696-727c.

[23] See most recently Fantham 2009.

[24] F VII, IV, V Dangel.

[25] Ennius TrRF F 125, 126.

[26] References in LIMC 866-868 with Taplin 2007: 205, n. 110; Todisco 2003: 725 s.v. ‘Euripide, Telefo’ includes seven artifacts from South Italy.

[27] Cleveland Museum of Art, 1999.1, close to the Policoro Painter (illustrated in Taplin 2007, no. 76). On this vase, which shows Euripides’ Medea on the other side, see also Todisco 2003, L 14.

[28]Munich, Staatliche Antikensammulungen inv. 5394 (illustrated in MMOC3 85 AT 65).

[29] Schol. Ar. Ach. 439a : <τὸ πιλίδιον:> πρὸς τοὺς νῦν ὑποκριτάς, ὅτι χωρὶς πίλου εἰσάγουσι τὸν Τήλεφον. See further Nünlist 2009: 362 and more generally Falkner 2002.

[30] On Telephus’ ‘little basket’ see Ar. Ach. 453 cited below with Olson 2002: 192.

[31] Note also that, by Rau’s counting (1967: 217), Telephus is parodied, quoted or alluded more than any other Euripidean play in Aristophanes’ surviving works.

[32] Bowie 1993: 223-224; Austin and Olson 2004: lviii.

[33] Würzburg H5697, attributed to the Schiller Painter. For illustrations and identification of this vase as reproducing Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae, see most recently Taplin 1993: 36-40, Csapo 2010: 53-58, Austin and Olson 2004: lxxv-lxxvii.

[34] Ar. Ach. 325-332; 329-330. On the Apulian gutti (Naples, MN Santangelo 368; Tampa Museum, Zewadki Collection; Private Collection, Westphalia, Germany), see Green 1994: 64-67, Csapo 2010: 64-65 (with illustration).

[35] Ar. Ach. 415 (δός μοι ῥάκιόν τι τοῦ παλαιοῦ δράματος), 418-429.

[36] Ar. Ach. 438-439, 448, 459, 463. As Platter (2007: 200, n. 53 notes), ‘Telephus’ costume is catalogued in excruciating detail.’

[37] See Tordoff 2013.

[38] The exact date of Aristophanes’ birth is not certain, but unlikely to be earlier than 460BCE and possibly as late as 450 BCE (OCD4 s.v.).

[39] Olson 2001: 182.

[40] Demetrius Lacon, On Poems, p. 89 De Falco (Aesch. TrGF T 69); see further West 1990: 48-50.

[41] Aesch. Edonians TrGF F 57, 61, 59 (quotation), *58 (with Long. Sub. 15.6, who makes clear Dionysus’ epiphany in the play).

[42] Apollodorus 3.5.1 is the main source; see also Hyg. Fab. 132. General reconstructions of the play: West 1990: 27-32 and Sommerstein 2008: 60-61.

[43] For Aeschylus’ Edonians as the model of Naevius’ Lycurgus, see Deichgräber 1938-1939; Dodds 1960: xxx-xxxiii, West 1990: 27-32, Jouan 1992: 73, Seaford 1996, esp. 26-27.

[44] Naevius, Lycurgus TrRF F 37 (Liber’s captivity); F 23, 33 (confrontation); F 24 (Liber’s plan). Reconstruction and discussion of Naevius’ Lycurgus: Boyle 2006: 42-49 and especially Lattanzi 1994.

[45] Naevius, Lycurgus TrRF F 40, 28, 31, 32; Naevius Incerta TrRF F 43 (with Manuwald’s note).

[46] LIMC, “Lykourgos I.” nos. 12-14, 19-20, 26-28. There are also other fragmentary artifacts possibly related to this scene. The two Attic artifacts (LIMC “Lykourgos I.” nos. 12, 26) are dated to the late fifth century.

[47] Ruvo, Museo Jatta 36955 (n.i.32); London, British Museum F271 (for illustrations and discussion, see Taplin 2007; nos. 12, 13). Green 1999 discusses in detail the pedagogue figure.

[48] Ar. Th. 136-145: schol. on 136 (Aesch. Edonians TrGF F 61). See further Austin and Olson 2004: 100, following other scholars: ‘the solemn introduction makes us expect a long and important parody.’

[49] Schol. Ar. Th. 137; Eubulus Dionysius PCG F 24 with Austin and Olson 2004: 100-101 (quotation).

[50] Dio Chrys. 37.21 notes that the statues of Dionysius displayed “the attributes of Dionysus.” On Dionysius’ activity as a tragedian, see Duncan 2012.

[51] See Xanthakis Kamamanou 2012: 332: ‘It can be argued that the visual feminization of Dionysus in literature and especially in dramatic poetry can be first seen in Aeschylus’ Edonoi.’

[52] For Dionysus’ effeminate look, see esp. Bacch. 235-236, 353, 453-459 ‘stranger of female appearance.’ On Dionysus’ presence in Greek tragedy in general, see further Bierl 1991.

[53] Bacch. 451-518 (see Dodds 1960: xxxi-ii ‘it looks as if the first scene between Pentheus and Dionysus in the Bacchae followed the older poet’s model pretty closely’); 576-641.

[54] For Libation Bearers on the tragedy-related vases from South Italy, see Todisco 2003, with the list given on p. 722; Taplin 2007: 49-57. Illustrations and discussion in Taplin 2007, no. 4 (Lucanian peilike attributed to the Choephoroi Painter) and Trendall and Webster 1971.III.1. 7 (Lucanian squat-lekythos by the Primato Painter).

[55] Trendall and Webster 1971.IV, 34 (with illustration); Taplin 1993: 83; Walsh 2009: 220.

[56] Ar. Clouds 534-6, Eur. El. 487-584, Soph. El. 1171-1231.

[57] Eur. El. 539-44, Aesch. LB 231 with scholion. West (1980: 20) notes this point and concludes: ‘we will accept the usual assumption that the critical performance was not the original one of 458 but a recent revival.’

[58] Plut. Pelopidas 29.5, Gell. NA 6. 5.

About Sebastiana Nervegna

Sebastiana Nervegna (PhD University of Toronto) was educated in Italy and in Canada. She comes to the CHS after holding two fellowships at the Centre for Classical and Near Eastern Studies of Australia. She is the author of Menander in Antiquity: The Contexts of Reception (Cambridge, 2013) and of several contributions on the history, iconography, and reception of ancient theatre. At the CHS she will be working on a monograph on the theatrical reception of Classical Greek tragedy during the Hellenistic Period, Reperforming Classics: The Tragic Repertoire of Ancient Actors (currently under contract with Cambridge University Press).

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