Polyzelus, Testimonia and Fragments

LCL 515: 204-205

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The Poets of Old Comedy


The list of victors at the Lenaea contains two partial names a few places apart, first a Po[] with one victory, and three places later a Pol[]s with four victories. The names of the intervening poets, Metagenes and Theopompus, make it clear that we have reached the end of the fifth century at this point on the list. Two comic poets beginning with Po—are known for this period of comedy, Poliochus and Polyzelus. As the latter is known for five plays and rather more fragments (thirteen as opposed to two), it would seem logical to identify the second poet as Polyzelus.


i Suda π 1961

Πολύζηλος, κωμικός. δράματα αὐτοῦ Νίπτρα, Δημοτυνδάρεως, Μουσῶν γοναί, Διονύσου γοναί, Ἀφροδίτης γοναί.

ii IG ii2 2325.130

Πολ[ύζηλο]ς IIII




Apart from Demos-Tyndareus, which could be a political comedy and belong around 410–406, Polyzelus’ plays appear to have been burlesques of myth. He seems to have been especially fond of the “birth comedies,” which were in vogue from 405–380, and of which much of the humour probably turned on the placing of divine or heroic births in the mundane context of the “real” world. This is the technique that Lucian would adopt brilliantly in his humorous sketches in the second century AD.

Recent bibliography: H. Heftner, ZPE 128 (1999) 33–43.


i Polyzelus: comic poet, His plays are Bath-Scene, Demos-Tyndareus, Birth of the Muses, Birth of Dionysus, Birth of Aphrodite.

ii [From the list of victors at the Lenaea, c. 400] Pol[yzelu]s 4

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.polyzelus-testimonia_fragments.2011