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date: 16 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter surveys depictions of politicians in Athenian comedy, arguing that the Old Comic figure of the demagogue, a complex villain of the marketplace and a ritual scapegoat, articulated and fed the discontent of those disgruntled with Athenian democracy, virtually scripting oligarchic takeovers in 411 and 404. Old Comic freedom of speech (parrhesia) can be implicated in the subversion of democracy; fourth-century comedy moderated its tone. In the fourth century, comedians continued to ridicule democratic leaders more harshly (e.g., Callistratus, Hyperides) than anti-democratic leaders (e.g. Callimedon); but the politician became a figure differentiated from villains of the marketplace and from other types associated with the fifth-century demagogue-barbarian, slave, parasite, boastful chef, and prostitute. As comedy grew less vitriolic in its treatment of the democracy and its politicians, the genre developed in the direction of respect for the rule of law.

Keywords: demagogues in Old Comedy, freedom of speech (parrhesia), politicians in fourth-century comedy, Cleon, Hyperbolus, Cleophon, Callistratus, Callimedon

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