Ancient Comedy and Iambic Poetry: Generic Relations and Character Depiction


Aristotle distinguishes two basic forms of blame poetry, iambus and comedy, and places them in a line of teleological development. The comic writers of fifth-century Athens (Cratinus, Aristophanes) expressed sim-ilar views through their theatrically enlivened poetological conceptions. In this respect, they may reflect theories of contemporary intellectuals, who had perceived the generic connection between iambic poetry and comedy. Bothgenres have in common the portrayal of humorous human types. The large but cowardly general (Archilochus fr. 114) forecasts the miles gloriosus of the comic stage. The characterological sketch of the kolax, who gatecrashes richbanquets (Asius fr. 14, Archilochus fr. 124), reappears in a comedy by Eupolis (Kolakes fr. 172). The foolish loser who becomes the victim of humiliating mishaps, a central figure in Hipponax and in the humorous poem Margites, is also depicted in Aristophanes’ lampooning songs (e.g. Acharnians 1150–1173). The iambographer takes inspiration from actual figures of his social milieu but invests them with universality and upgrades them to diachronic ethological archetypes.