Reproducing Athens: Menander's Comedy, Democratic Culture, and the Hellenistic City

Overview

"Lape reads Menander's plays with extremely close attention to the historical moments to which they can be dated and with a fine eye for the political implications of their plots. This is new and striking, making this book a highly significant contribution to the field."—Alan Zeitlin, Bard College

"This book is timely and will move the level of debate about Menander to a higher plane. It should find a wide readership in gender studies and comparative literature, as well as among students of ancient literature and...

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Reproducing Athens: Menander's Comedy, Democratic Culture, and the Hellenistic City

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Overview

"Lape reads Menander's plays with extremely close attention to the historical moments to which they can be dated and with a fine eye for the political implications of their plots. This is new and striking, making this book a highly significant contribution to the field."—Alan Zeitlin, Bard College

"This book is timely and will move the level of debate about Menander to a higher plane. It should find a wide readership in gender studies and comparative literature, as well as among students of ancient literature and culture. It has much to say not just about New Comedy but also about the organization of the Athenian polis in general."—Richard Hunter, Cambridge University

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
As its title suggests, this book is much more than a commentary on the extant plays and fragments of the only surviving 'new comedy' playwright. Lape aims to see Menander's plays as both social commentary and political statement
International Journal of the Classical Tradition
This impressive contribution to New Comedy studies. . . . Interpret[s] Menander's comedies not so much from literary and theatrical angles but from the ways that they relate to the history—military, political and social—of Menander's time. . . . Throughout this book Susan Lape appears in full command of the many areas relevant to her arguments.
— W. Geoffrey Arnott
International Journal of the Classical Tradition - W. Geoffrey Arnott
This impressive contribution to New Comedy studies. . . . Interpret[s] Menander's comedies not so much from literary and theatrical angles but from the ways that they relate to the history—military, political and social—of Menander's time. . . . Throughout this book Susan Lape appears in full command of the many areas relevant to her arguments.
From the Publisher
"As its title suggests, this book is much more than a commentary on the extant plays and fragments of the only surviving 'new comedy' playwright. Lape aims to see Menander's plays as both social commentary and political statement"—Choice

"This impressive contribution to New Comedy studies. . . . Interpret[s] Menander's comedies not so much from literary and theatrical angles but from the ways that they relate to the history—military, political and social—of Menander's time. . . . Throughout this book Susan Lape appears in full command of the many areas relevant to her arguments."—W. Geoffrey Arnott, International Journal of the Classical Tradition

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691115832
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 11/24/2003
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Lape is Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of California, Irvine.
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Read an Excerpt

Reproducing Athens

Menander’s Comedy, Democratic Culture, and the Hellenistic City
By Susan Lape

Princeton University Press

Susan Lape
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0691115834


Chapter One

NARRATIVES OF RESISTANCE AND ROMANCE

DEMOCRACY AND COMEDY IN THE EARLY HELLENISTIC PERIOD

Resilient Democracy and the Rise of Romantic Comedy

Athenian history between the battle of Chaeronea in 338 B.C. and the end of the Chremonidean War in 260 is punctuated by one military disaster after another. At Chaeronea, Philip of Macedon won a decisive victory over Athens and its allies, enabling him to gain effective control of Athenian foreign policy. In 322 Athens suffered a much more catastrophic defeat in the Lamian War, the Greek-led rebellion against Macedonian rule. In the ensuing peace settlement, Antipater, the de facto ruler of Macedon, installed Macedonian troops in the city, replaced the democratic government with an oligarchy, executed leading democratic politicians, and relocated many disfranchised democrats to Thrace. These measures, despite their severity and scope, did little to disturb the Athenian commitment to democracy. Following Antipater's death in 319 the Athenians restored the democracy, apparently in the hope of regaining the pre-Lamian War status quo. The problems that erupted with Alexander's unforeseen death, however, had not really been solved. Alexander's would-be successors were still in the process of attempting to seize and define their own spheres of control. Accordingly, without the military power to defend themselves against the emergent military kingdoms, the Athenians were soon forced to capitulate yet again, this time to Antipater's son Cassander. Like his father before him, Cassander continued to employ highly coercive measures to control the Greek cities, including the imposition of oligarchic constitutions and the installation of military garrisons. While the wealth requirement for citizenship under this second oligarchic regime was fairly low, Cassander took an additional, more invasive, step of installing a manager of domestic affairs within the city itself. For the next ten years, Demetrius of Phaleron ruled Athens as a virtual regent on Cassander's behalf.1

Although Demetrius of Phaleron is generally credited with ruling well-even hostile sources acknowledge the material prosperity his regime brought to the city-the Athenians were only too eager to restore the democracy.2 They seized the first opportunity to oust him from power, even though doing so meant dealing with autocrats. When Demetrius Poliorcetes, one of Cassander's chief rivals in the struggle for the empire and the Greek cities, made an unexpected appearance in the Athenian harbor in 307, the Athenians readily accepted his assistance and reestablished the democracy.3 While fifteen years of oligarchic domination seems not to have diminished the Athenian preference for democracy, it did give the Athenians time to come to terms with the new realities of international politics and their city's diminished place within them. By 307 the Athenians were ready to compromise with external autocratic rulers for the sake of maintaining democracy in the city. In fact, the policy of liberating the Greek cities from oligarchic rule adopted by Demetrius Poliorcetes and his father, Antigonus Monophthalmus, made it seem like the Athenians were not compromising at all.

But the reality of Athens's subordinate position became clear when Demetrius Poliorcetes took up residence in the city and, according to some reports, actually moved into the Parthenon. Whatever the truth of the situation, his continued presence in Athens revealed the incompatibility between democracy and dependence on autocratic rule. Athenian relations with Demetrius deteriorated to such an extent that in 301 they refused him entrance to the city. Although Athens declared its neutrality in the affairs of the diadochoi (successors), in 295 Demetrius was able to regain control of the city. This time there seems to have been little or no attempt to make even a pretense of maintaining democratic proprieties; the period is explicitly described in later Athenian sources as an oligarchy.4 Once again, however, the familiar pattern recurs: in 287 the Athenians restored the democracy and, more significantly, managed to retain it for another twenty-five years or so in a period that was both intensely democratic and nationalistic. But in 260, Demetrius's son, Antigonus Gonatas, recaptured the city and imposed measures that seem to have finally and effectively curtailed the possibility of effective political resistance.5

The history of this period-roughly the transition to the Hellenistic age-might be told as a story of decline, the downfall of the polis and democracy in the face of the more powerful emergent military kingdoms. While this narrative characterizes Athens militarily, it does not capture the complexities of the domestic political scene. Although the constitutional seesawing of the period brought nearly 150 years of democratic stability to an end, Athens's insistent if ultimately ill-fated democratic rebellions speak to the continuity of democratic ideology-the set of beliefs and practices that sustained the identity of Athenian citizens as specifically democratic citizens.6 The more vigorously the Macedonians attempted to eliminate the democracy, the more passionately committed to it the Athenians became. The indelibility of democracy in the Athenian imagination is attested by a decree honoring the mercenary Kallias of Sphettos for (inter alia) abiding by democratic law during a period of oligarchic rule.7 By attributing an existence to the democracy during a period of oligarchic rule, the decree invests the democracy with an ontological permanence, declaring it impervious to the ephemeral Macedonian interventions.

The resiliency and intensity of Athens's democratic ethos during this period is remarkable and indeed puzzling because the conditions that made democracy possible were either interrupted, altered, or no longer in existence at all. Under the classical democracy, political institutions were the primary arena in which democratic ideals were instantiated and enacted.8 In addition, they provided the key site in which social and political tensions were mediated and negotiated.9 During the transition to the Hellenistic age, however, these institutions for many years ceased to operate according to democratic principles. At the same time, the emergence of Macedonian military kingdoms undermined the ideal of the citizen-soldier, a crucial pillar of the democracy's ideological foundation. The ability and duty of every citizen to fight for the state, whether as a hoplite or thete, underwrote the egalitarian logic of the democratic political order.10 Every citizen could claim an equal stake and standing within the democracy, no matter what his place in the social hierarchy, because in the end he was willing to fight and give his body in service to the state. Although the Macedonians took away this power, drastically attenuating the citizen-soldier ideal, all available evidence demonstrates that Athens's commitment to democracy remained strong, becoming perhaps even more deeply ingrained than before.

The persistence of the Athenian democratic ethos during a period in which the democracy had lost its institutional and military mooring raises a number of important questions. How was democratic culture produced and reproduced in the absence of democratic political institutions? How did individuals continue to identify as democratic citizens? What sources of democratic identity emerged to fill the gulf left by the loss of the citizen-soldier ideal and the suspension of democratic institutions? Lycurgus's prosecution of Leocrates contains an important clue. In the aftermath of the battle of Chaeronea, the Athenians passed a number of emergency measures, including one stipulating that every able-bodied man could be called on to defend the city against the Macedonian invasion that, at the time, seemed imminent (Lycur. 1.16-17, 1.41). Leocrates, however, fled the city, allegedly in violation of this decree. When he returned to the city eight years later, Lycurgus, architect of democratic renewal after Chaeronea and avid public prosecutor, sought to make an example of him by prosecuting him for treason. To emphasize the egregiousness of Leocrates' disloyalty and default on his civic obligation, and in effect to depict him as the sort of citizen who was really responsible for the defeat at Chaeronea, Lycurgus describes the atmosphere of desperation and panic in the city immediately after the battle:

When the defeat and disaster had been reported to the people and the city was tense with alarm at the news, the people's hope of safety had come to rest with the men over fifty. Free women could be seen crouching at the doors in terror inquiring for the safety of their husbands, fathers, or brothers, offering a spectacle degrading to themselves and to the city. The men who were far past their prime, advanced in life, exempt by law from service in the field, could be seen throughout the city, debilitated with age wretchedly scurrying with cloaks pinned double about them. Many sufferings were being visited upon the city; every citizen had felt misfortune at its worst; but the sight which would have most surely stirred the onlooker and moved him to tears over the sorrows of Athens was to see the people vote that slaves should be released, that aliens should become Athenians, and the disfranchised regain their rights: the nation that had once prided itself on being autochthonous and free. (Lycur. 1.40-41)11

Remarkably, Lycurgus does not claim that the most devastating consequence of Chaeronea was the catastrophic loss of citizen lives or even the city's desperate dependence on the elderly. Rather, it was the fact that the Athenians approved a proposal to free the slaves and to enfranchise foreigners and those who had been disfranchised. According to Lycurgus, this measure-proposed but never actually implemented-was the real tragedy of Chaeronea. The implementation of the emergency decree would have destroyed the city more completely than any mere battle, Lycurgus suggests, because it would have contaminated the autochthonous ancestry or "racial purity" that made the Athenians who they were and underwrote the city's democratic identity.12

The myth of autochthony was fundamental to the cultural imaginary of the Athenian democracy.13 To emphasize this point is not to make any claim about whether the Athenians literally believed their ancestor or ancestors were "sprung from the earth."14 Rather, the political significance of the myth arises from the kind of story it enabled the Athenians to tell about themselves. It supplied a narrative about the shared origins and ultimate relatedness of a people of diverse origins and statuses. In so doing, it provided a crucial theoretical justification for democratic egalitarianism and exclusivity.15 Supposed common kinship furnished a basis for commonality and hence equality between citizens and, at the same time, a reason for differentiating citizens from all noncitizens. But paradoxically, though the myth provides a model of generation that justifies the exclusion of foreigners and women from the political order, the Athenian discourse of autochthony is "inextricably tied to sexual reproduction,"16 and hence to the very realm of women it seems to exclude. This slippage was perhaps inevitable since in practice the autochthonous purity of the citizen body was maintained and secured through the polis's rules of sexual reproduction.

In 451/0, on Pericles' proposal, the Athenians passed a law limiting citizenship to those born from two native Athenians.17 Although the law as we have it does not mention marriage per se, it effectively redefined what counted as a legitimate marriage.18 Previously, the state had allowed a citizen to marry and father children with either an Athenian or a foreign-born woman. After the passage of the Periclean law, however, children born from foreign women were no longer eligible for citizenship, and correspondingly, foreign women were no longer eligible for Athenian marriage.19 Thus, the practical effect of the law's requirement was to invoke rules of sexual reproduction-that is, to delineate who could bear legitimate children with whom-in order to produce the democratic citizen body and to separate citizens from noncitizens.20 It has recently been argued that the passage of this law was a symbolic statement of autochthonous pride.21 Whether or not the Athenians were thinking in such terms when they passed the law, the operation of the law did, over time, foster the perception that Athenian citizens were racially distinct from other Greeks and from all noncitizens.22 The very requirement of bilateral native parentage for citizen status promoted the belief that both parents transmitted "Athenianness" to their children, and hence that the rules of sexual reproduction preserved the racial purity of the citizen body.23 While fidelity to the rules of sexual reproduction enshrined in the Periclean law was correlated to the generation of good Athenian and good democratic citizens, deviation from the state's reproductive rules was believed to produce "citizens" characterized by an innate hostility to the city and its democracy. To cite an extreme example, among the many abominations attributed to Alcibiades, the bad boy of the fifth-century democracy, was his having produced a son with a Melian slave woman, effectively breeding an enemy of the democratic state (And. 4.22-23).

The state's rules of sexual reproduction composed and maintained the internal and external boundaries of the citizen body. At the same time, they preserved and transmitted the Athenianness and autochthonous ancestry that underwrote democratic national ideology. It is thus not surprising that Lycurgus identifies these status distinctions as the one thing that the Athenian polis could not survive without. The Athenians could lose everything, Lycurgus suggests-men, military power, and their foreign policy-so long they retained the status distinctions (created and iterated by the rules of sexual reproduction) that effectively made them who they were. These long-standing associations indicate that it is quite possible (if indeed not probable) that the state's matrimonial citizenship system-and all practices, ideologies, and identifications that went with it-compensated for the attenuation of the traditional sources and practices of democratic identity in the period between Chaeronea and the Chremonidean War. Macedonian military supremacy and interventions in domestic democratic politics did nothing to interfere with the production of democratic citizens and civic ideology from below in the seemingly mundane practices of marriage and sexual reproduction.

Continues...


Excerpted from Reproducing Athens by Susan Lape Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations ix
1. Narratives of Resistance and Romance: Democracy and Comedy in the Early Hellenistic Period 1
Resilient Democracy and the Rise of Romantic Comedy 1
The Politics of Marriage and the Comic Marriage Plot 13
Comedy's Constitutive Political Silence 17
Constituting Citizens: The Laws of Genre and State 19
Comedy's Poetics of Political Membership 21
Opposites Attract: Rape,Romance,and Democratic Selection 24
The Power of Love: Female Selection and Male Education 30
Reproduction and Resistance 33
2. Reproducing Democracy in Oligarchic and Autocratic Athens 40
The Reproducibility of Athenian Democracy 40
The Policies and Politics of Demetrius of Phaleron: Law,Power,and Prior Restraint 43
Athens and the Antigonids: The Failed Foundation of Hellenistic Democracy 52
"Romantic" Resistance: Comedy and the Sterility of Empire 59
3. Making Citizens in Comedy and Court 68
Gender and Democratic Identity 68
The Importance of Acting Athenian 72
Engendering Egalitarianism 74
The Politics of Seduction 83
Passionate Protagonists and Practical Citizens 91
The Comic Romance Narrative: Marrying Interest and Necessity 96
Staging a Biopolitics of Democratic Citizenship 99
Democratic Reproduction in the Aspis 106
4. The Ethics of Democracy in Menander's Dyskolos 110
The Politics of Love at First Sight 110
The Democratic Logic of the Comic Plot 113
The Class Politics of Sexual Conduct 115
Performing Egalitarianism 121
Ethical Identity and the Democratization of Social Relations 123
Marriage Exchange and the Critique of Ideology 129
Egalitarianism and Inclusion 134
5. The Politics of Sexuality in Drama and Democratic Athens: The Case of Menander's Samia 137
The Father-Son Romance 137
Forensic Theater: Staging Comedy as Court 141
The Consequences of Nonconjugal Cohabitation 147
Demeas's Defense: Revising the Tragic Family Plot 150
Shame, Poverty, and Anger: The Politics of Affect 156
The Work of Prostitutes: The Importance of a Gender Stereotype 159
The Fragility of Manhood 167
6. The Mercenary Romance: Gender and Civic Education in the Perikeiromene and Misoumenos 171
Socializing the Mercenary Lover 171
Power and Punishment: Problems in the Perikeiromene 173
Learning the Language of Law: The Embedded Drama of Civic Education 180
Gender and International Relations 183
The Return of the Repressed: Gender and the Constraints of Genre 186
Negotiations of Martial and Marital Values in the Misoumenos 188
The Conquering Captive: Genre and Gender Inversion 192
Civic Reciprocity and the Revision of Epic Manhood 194
Ethics and Comedy's Construction of Transnational or Hellenic Citizenship 198
7. Trials of Masculinity in Democratic Discourse and Menander's Sikyonioi 202
The Loss of the Citizen-Soldier Ideal 202
The Macedonian Question and Athenian Civic Identity 206
The Moral Manliness of the Democratic Man 212
Menander's Sikyonioi: The Male Recognition Plot 215
Ideology and Intertextuality 220
Moschion's Revealing Complexion 222
The Lastauros: An Anti-Macedonian Tradition? 227
Stratophanes' Embodied Biography 231
Metadrama and the Illusion of Identity 234
Remasculinizing and Reproducing the Democratic State 237
8. Conclusion: Inevitable Reproduction? 243
Bibliography 255
Acknowledgments 279
Index Locorum 281
General Index 287

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Recipe

"Lape reads Menander's plays with extremely close attention to the historical moments to which they can be dated and with a fine eye for the political implications of their plots. This is new and striking, making this book a highly significant contribution to the field."—Alan Zeitlin, Bard College

"This book is timely and will move the level of debate about Menander to a higher plane. It should find a wide readership in gender studies and comparative literature, as well as among students of ancient literature and culture. It has much to say not just about New Comedy but also about the organization of the Athenian polis in general."—Richard Hunter, Cambridge University

Read More Show Less

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