The title is literally “irony,” a notion with a long and complex history. It consists of saying what one obviously does not mean, and originally εἰρωνεία meant simply “lying” (Aristophanes, Clouds 499, cf. Wasps 174, Birds 1211); but it came to be applied specifically to the self-deprecating false modesty of Socrates (e.g., Plato, Republic 337A, cf. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1127b; Gregory Vlastos, Socrates, Ironist and Moral Philosopher [Ithaca, N.Y., 1991] 21–44). The brothers Schlegel conceived it to be a playful excess of self-confidence (Ernst Behler, Klassische Ironie, romantische Ironie, tragische Ironie, Darmstadt 1972); then, by way of reaction, it was viewed as a destructive force (Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, tr. Lee M. Capel, New York 1965). Modern criticism considers (unconscious) irony to be an important element of tragic drama (beginning with Connop Thirlwall, “On the Irony of Sophocles,” The Philological Museum 2 (1833) 483–536).
The εἴρων is described also by Ariston of Keos (see the Appendix); he is one of the characters of comedy according to Tractatus Coislinianus XII; in Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1127a20ff., the εἴρων is opposite to the ἀλαζών