Archippus, Testimonia and Fragments

LCL 513: 94-95

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One of the lesser lights of the very late fifth century and early fourth, Archippus is credited with a victory (T 1) in the 91st Olympiad (415–412), but the play titles and fragments that we possess suggest a career closer to 400 and into the next century. Fishes (F 27) refers to “Euclides the former archon.” As he was archon in 403/2, Fishes at the earliest must date from 401. The comedy Rhinon was focussed on a political player in the transition from oligarchy to democracy in late 403. Again the earliest date lies around 400. His comedies, Heracles’ Marriage and Amphitryon, seem to be burlesques of myth, a comic subgenre that was at its height in the early fourth century.

It seems odd that Archippus would win a victory, perhaps his only victory, around 415 and then vanish for ten years or so. Much could be explained by MacDowell’s theory that Archippus, along with two other comic poets (Aristomenes and Cephisodorus), were among those who fled Athens after being implicated in the profanation of the Mysteries in 415 (T 6). They would have returned to Athens either at the end of the War (405/4) or after the fall of the Thirty (404/3). If he is also the man known from Lysias (T 7–10), he was an active combatant in the law courts in the 390s.

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Archippus

Of interest also is his connection with Aristophanes. The Life of Aristophanes (T 4) records that four of Aristophanes’ plays were attributed to Archippus. We know that Aristophanes (and other poets of Old Comedy) would produce their plays through others—Frogs (405), for instance, was produced through Philonides, himself known as a comic poet. Did Aristophanes in the later part of his career entrust four of his plays to Archippus and thus confuse the scholars of Alexandria?

As far as we can gather from six play titles and sixty-one fragments, he seems to have been a comic poet of the Old style. F 14 and 16 bring the Athenian political system into the comedy. Rhinon is a comedy based around a real political figure—cf. Platon’s Cleophon or Hyperbolos. We find jokes against real people of the day (Hermaeus the fish seller at F 23, Anytus at F 31, Alcibiades the younger at F 48), and a scene from Fishes featured the gourmand Melanthius brought on stage, trussed up to become food for the fishes. T 5 tells us that Archippus was made fun of himself for his comic wordplay, a judgement confirmed in Fishes by his use of names that fit both the marine and the human world (F 15–19, 25, 27).

In 1993 a papyrus known as the “Comoedia Dukiana” (PCG VIII 1146) presented fifty lines of what was

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.archippus-testimonia_fragments.2011