Susarion, Comic Testimonia and Fragment

LCL 515: 272-273

Go To Section
Go To Section

The Poets of Old Comedy


When Aristotle begins his account of the history of comedy at Poetics 1448a34, he names Chionides and Magnes as the earliest comic poets. Similarly the Suda reports that “they say Chionides was the first comic poet” (Chionides T 1). But a more anecdotal tradition claims Susarion as “the inventor of comedy,” and an easy distinction could be made between Chionides the first poet to win at a state-sanctioned festival and Susarion, who wrote in the period when comedy was performed by “volunteers.” This is certainly the line taken in the Glossary of Ansileubus (T 6), and by Norwood who sees Susarion as a “literary forerunner of comedy.” Others have not been so sure of his existence at all—Körte, Pickard-Cambridge, and Breitholz all dismiss


i Marmor Parium 239 A 39

ἀφ᾿ οὗ ἐν Ἀθ[ήν]αις κωμῳ[δῶν χο]ρ[ὸς ἐτ]έθη, [στη]σάν[των πρώ]των Ἰκαριέων, εὑρόντος Σουσαρίωνος, καὶ ἆθλον ἐτέθη πρῶτον ἰσχάδω[ν] ἄρσιχο[ς] καὶ οἴνου με[τ]ρητής.




the ancient testimony as a fiction made up to connect Athenian comic drama from that shadowy entity known as Megarian comedy (see Wasps 54ff., Ecphantides F 3, Eupolis F 261, and Myrtilus F 1).

The one alleged fragment (F 1) has been suspected for its second line, which seems to have been inserted to confirm a Megarian origin for its author, for its good Attic Greek with none of the Doricisms we would expect from a Megarian, and for its use of the dēmotai (townsfolk). Aristotle (Poetics 1448a36–37) cites those who see the etymology of comedy from kōmē (the Dorian word for “village,” as opposed to the Attic dēmos). Women as a proverbial evil was a commonplace of early Greek poetry; see especially Semonides 1. It will recur as the underlying theme of Thesmophoriazusae 786–99.


i From the time when a chorus of comic players was instituted at Athens, the people of Icaria being first to do so, the inventor being Susarion, and a prize was established, at first a basket of figs and a quantity of wine.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.susarion-comic_testimonia_fragment.2011