Polyzelus, Testimonia and Fragments

LCL 515: 206-207

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The Poets of Old Comedy


Two very different ancient myths recounted the birth of the goddess of love and beauty. In one she is the daughter of Zeus and the minor goddess Dione, born as one of the second generation of Olympians (Iliad 370–430), but in Hesiod (Theogony 190ff.) she is born of the sea from the blood that dripped from the genitals of castrated Uranus—


The title of this comedy has curious implications. We do know of other compound titles in Old Comedy, Dionysalexander by Cratinus, Aristophanes’ Aeolosicon, Pherecrates’ Heracles the Mortal, which suggest that the comedy lay in the fusion of two incongruous personalities. But the point is not that easy to see here. Demos is presumably the Athenian people—we get a character of that name in Knights and very probably in Eupolis’ Maricas, also the speaker of Platon F 201—but what is the force of Tyndareus? An obscure entry in the Suda (α 1806) records that Aesop was so well loved by the gods that he came back to life, “just like Tyndareus in fact.” Scholars have thus concluded that a Demos, “brought back to life” like Tyndareus, alludes to the restoration either after 411 or after the fall of the Thirty (403). But this is a great deal to place on an obscure reference. What sort of story would one naturally associate with Tyndareus? That his wife Leda was seduced by Zeus? That Leda incubated the egg of Nemesis



Fragments Birth of Aphrodite

Aphrodite means “foam spun.” Plato at Symposium 180c1–185c3 has Pausanias expound on the philosophical implications of the two Aphrodites (“celestial” and “common”). We might expect that more dramatic and comic value was to be had from the second version of her birth. Nothing remains of the play except the title.


that produced Helen—cf. Cratinus’ lost comedy Nemesis, and Tyndareus appearing on vases that display the scene? That he arranged the formal courtship of his daughter Helen by the foremost eligible males of the Greeks? That he attempted to secure the condemnation of his grandchildren for the murder of their mother?

Much depends on F 3 and 5 which mention Theramenes and Hyperbolus. The former was mentioned in comedy as early as Eupolis’ Cities (F 251, usually dated to 422) and was executed by the Thirty in 404. Hyperbolus was killed in 411 but is mentioned as late as Frogs 570 (in 405). What exactly are Theramenes’ “three things” of F 3? There was an ancient tradition about “the three ways to die”: the sword, hanging, or hemlock (poison). But we seem to be getting here imprisonment, poison, and flight. At Thucydides 8.70.2 we learn that the democracy after the restoration in 411/10 dealt with those involved in the Revolution of 411 by imprisoning some, executing some, and exiling

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.polyzelus-testimonia_fragments.2011