Chapter

The comic Pericles

James McGlew

in Ancient Tyranny

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2006 | ISBN: 9780748621255
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651047 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748621255.003.0041
The comic Pericles

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This chapter highlights the part that Attic comedy played in Athenian political and cultural effort to keep the idea and image of tyranny alive and well and to use it as a political tool. Comedy's special role in sustaining and politicising the memory of tyranny can be best appreciated by focusing on the comic image of Pericles. This chapter argues that the comic Pericles was a powerful political construction that demonstrates comedy's political role in Athens as well as the significance that the memory of tyranny continued to hold. Cratinus invokes a series of double entendres and reshapes mythological precedents to recall and ridicule Pericles. This chapter suggests that Cratinus objected to the way Pericles sought to obscure the personal dimensions of his own — indeed, of all power. It also traces the evolution of the idea in the light of changing political events, from the ‘first citizenship’ of Pericles in the fifth century, through the oligarchic revolutions and into the re-established democracy.

Keywords: Pericles; tyranny; Attic comedy; Athens; Cratinus; citizenship; democracy

Chapter.  5285 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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