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Alexis

(c. 375—275 bc)


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c.375–c.275bc,

poet of Middle and New Comedy, born at Thurii in south Italy (Suda α 1138), but apparently living most of his long life in Athens. He wrote 245 plays (Suda); the first of his two, three, or four victories at the Lenaea (a festival sacred to Dionysus) came probably in the 350s (six after Eubulus, four after Antiphanes in the victors' list, IG 22. 2325. 150 = 5 C 1 col. 3. 11 Mette), and he won a victory in 347 at the Dionysia (IG 22. 2318. 278 = 1. 14. 64 and 3 B 1 col. 2. 119 Mette). The good anonymous tractate on comedy (2. 17 p. 9 Kaibel, 3. p. 10 Koster) makes Menander a pupil of Alexis—a relationship more plausible than that of blood alleged in the Suda. About 140 titles and 340 fragments survive, but it is difficult to assess from them the part played by Alexis in the transition from Middle to New Comedy. However, four interesting points emerge: some signs of influence on Menander (e.g. the comparison of life to a carnival, Alexis fr. 222 KA = 219 K, Menander fr. 416 Körte—Thierfelder) are suspected but not proved; Alexis used both the older form of chorus which could be addressed by an actor (fr. 239 KA = 237 K) and the later form familiar from Menander (fr. 112 KA = 107 K); the parasitos (parasite) almost certainly received this name from Alexis (fr. 183 KA = 178 K); and Alexis' Agonis, dating probably to the 330s, was an early example of the type of plot especially associated with New Comedy, involving a love affair with a courtesan, and probably a confidence trick and recognition. The fragments sometimes show a lively imagination and beauty of language: e.g. 70 KA and K, carnal passion a crime against real Love; 222 KA = 219 K; 230 KA = 228 K, old age as life's evening. Pleasant wit is revealed in frs. 107 KA = 102 K and 168 KA = 163 K (cf. W. G. Arnott, Hermes 1965, 298 ff.). Of interest also are frs. 46 KA = 45 K, a verbally clever comparison of man and wine; 103 KA = 98 K, a long description of aids to female beautification; 113 KA = 108 K, part of a postponed prologue of New-Comedy type; 129 KA = 124 K, a cook's cure (in pseudomedical language) for burnt pork; 140 KA = 135 K (from the Linus, one of about a dozen mythological burlesques in Alexis), Heracles' teacher with a library of classical Greek authors; 247 KA = 245 K, a man philosophizing about the nature of Eros.

Alexis' fame continued down to Roman times. A. Gellius (NA 2. 23. 1) notes that his plays were adapted by Roman comedians; Turpilius used Alexis' Demetrius as a model, and Plautus' Poenulus may derive at least in part from his Carchedonius.

William Geoffrey Arnott

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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