Friday Filosophy v.08.26.2022
Founder Ron Slee continues with the theme of Greek poets and writers with Friday Filosophy v.08.26.2022, the final installment for the month of August.
Menander; c. 342/41 – c. 290 BC was a Greek dramatist and the best-known representative of Athenian New Comedy. He wrote 108 comedies and took the prize at the Lenaia festival eight times. His record at the City Dionysia is unknown.
He was one of the most popular writers in antiquity, but his work was lost during the Middle Ages and is now known in highly fragmentary form, much of which was discovered in the 20th century. Only one play, Dyskolos, has survived almost complete.
Menander 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. He presumably derived his taste for comic drama from his uncle Alexis.
He was the friend, associate, and perhaps pupil of Theophrastus, and was on intimate terms with the Athenian dictator Demetrius of Phalerum. He also enjoyed the patronage of Ptolemy Soter, the son of Lagus, who invited him to his court. But Menander, preferring the independence of his villa in the Piraeus and the company of his mistress Glycera, refused. According to the note of a scholiast on the Ibis of Ovid, he drowned while bathing, and his countrymen honored him with a tomb on the road leading to Athens, where it was seen by Pausanias. Numerous supposed busts of him survive, including a well-known statue in the Vatican, formerly thought to represent Gaius Marius.
His rival in dramatic art (and supposedly in the affections of Glycera) was Philemon, who appears to have been more popular. Menander, however, believed himself to be the better dramatist, and, according to Aulus Gellius, used to ask Philemon: “Don’t you feel ashamed whenever you gain a victory over me?” According to Caecilius of Calacte (Porphyry in Eusebius, Praeparatio evangelica) Menander was accused of plagiarism, as his The Superstitious Man was taken from The Augur of Antiphanes, but reworkings and variations on a theme of this sort were commonplace and so the charge is a complicated one.
How long complete copies of his plays survived is unclear, although 23 of them, with commentary by Michael Psellus, were said to still have been available in Constantinople in the 11th century. He is praised by Plutarch (Comparison of Menander and Aristophanes) and Quintilian (Institutio Oratoria), who accepted the tradition that he was the author of the speeches published under the name of the Attic orator Charisius.
An admirer and imitator of Euripides, Menander resembles him in his keen observation of practical life, his analysis of the emotions, and his fondness for moral maxims, many of which became proverbial: “The property of friends is common,” “Whom the gods love die young,” “Evil communications corrupt good manners” (from the Thaïs, quoted in 1 Corinthians 15:33). These maxims (chiefly monostichs) were afterwards collected, and, with additions from other sources, were edited as Menander’s One-Verse Maxims, a kind of moral textbook for the use of schools.
Menander found many Roman imitators. Eunuchus, Andria, Heauton Timorumenos and Adelphi of Terence (called by Caesar “dimidiatus Menander”) were avowedly taken from Menander, but some of them appear to be adaptations and combinations of more than one play. Thus, in the Andria were combined Menander’s The Woman from Andros and The Woman from Perinthos, in the Eunuchus, The Eunuch and The Flatterer, while the Adelphi was compiled partly from Menander and partly from Diphilus. The original of Terence’s Hecyra (as of the Phormio) is generally supposed to be, not by Menander, but Apollodorus of Carystus. The Bacchides and Stichus of Plautus were probably based upon Menander’s The Double Deceiver and Brotherly-Loving Men, but the Poenulus does not seem to be from The Carthaginian, nor the Mostellaria from The Apparition, in spite of the similarity of titles. Caecilius Statius, Luscius Lanuvinus, Turpilius and Atilius also imitated Menander. He was further credited with the authorship of some epigrams of doubtful authenticity; the letters addressed to Ptolemy Soter and the discourses in prose on various subjects mentioned by the Suda are probably spurious.
Most of Menander’s work did not survive the Middle Ages, except as short fragments. Federico da Montefeltro‘s library at Urbino reputedly had “tutte le opere”, a complete works, but its existence has been questioned and there are no traces after Cesare Borgia‘s capture of the city and the transfer of the library to the Vatican.
Until the end of the 19th century, all that was known of Menander were fragments quoted by other authors and collected by Augustus Meineke (1855) and Theodor Kock, Comicorum Atticorum Fragmenta (1888). These consist of some 1650 verses or parts of verses, in addition to a considerable number of words quoted from Menander by ancient lexicographers.
- Bad company corrupts good character.
- The character of a man is known from his conversations.
- The sword the body wounds, sharp words the mind.
- I call a fig a fig, a spade a spade.
- We live, not as we wish to, but as we can.
- He who labors diligently need never despair; for all things are accomplished by diligence and labor.
- ‘Know thyself’ is a good saying, but not in all situations. In many it is better to say ‘know others.’
- The chief beginning of evil is goodness in excess.
- Intelligence, if it is clever in the direction of the better, is responsible for the greatest benefits of all.
- It is not white hair that engenders wisdom.
- Riches cover a multitude of woes.
- Whom the gods love dies young.
- Old men are children for the second time.
- The person who has the will to undergo all labor may win any goal.
- The Truth, sometimes not sought for, comes forth to the light.
- ‘Tis always best to tell the truth. At every crisis, I recommend this as a chief contribution to security in life.
- Let bravery be thy choice, but not bravado.
- Even God lends a hand to honest boldness
The Time is Now.