In This Article Menander of Athens

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies
  • Texts and Commentaries: General
  • Texts and Commentaries: Individual Plays
  • Lexica
  • Translations
  • Theater, Actors, Staging
  • Menander and Social Life
  • Style, Plotting, and Characterization
  • Reception at Rome
  • Later Reception

Classics Menander of Athens
by
David Konstan
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0035

Introduction

Menander, born in 342/1 BCE, was an Athenian citizen, the son of Diopeithes and Hegestrate (Suda s.v. Menander). Diogenes Laertius (5.36) reports that he was a pupil of Theophrastus, Aristotle’s successor as head of the Lyceum. He died around 290 BCE, perhaps having drowned while swimming (scholia to Ovid Ibis 591–2). He wrote 105 (other sources give 108) plays (Aulus Gellius 17.4.5), and won first prize eight times—not the most successful of the comic playwrights in his time. After his death, however, he achieved great esteem, being ranked by several authorities as equal to, or just behind, Homer. Menander’s plays ceased to be copied in the Byzantine period, and his works were for a long time known only through brief citations by later writers; an ancient collection, mostly of single verses, called Gnomai monostichoi or Sententiae (upwards of 850 items), which includes lines by other poets such as Euripides; and the imitations by Plautus and Terence, the former of whom adapted quite freely at least three of Menander’s comedies (a small fragment of the source for one of these has been discovered), and the latter, somewhat more faithfully, four. In 1898, about 80 lines of Georgos (“Farmer”) came to light on papyrus, and in 1907 substantial portions of Epitrepontes, Perikeiromene, and Samia were published, along with lesser bits of other plays. Then in 1959, a papyrus containing virtually the complete text of Duskolos was published, and this was followed in the next two decades by large bits of Misoumenos (“Hated man”) and Sikuonios (“Man from Sicyon”), along with new fragments of Aspis, Samia, and other plays. Most recently, in 2004, a palimpsest containing a bit of the Titthe (“Nurse”) was discovered in the Vatican. These finds have greatly enhanced the picture we had of Menander and rendered much earlier work obsolete.

General Overviews

In order to obtain a broad picture of Menander, both overviews of Old and New Comedy and more specialized surveys of Menander should be consulted.

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