Bitter Wine: Old Comedy and Satyr As Tools of Civic Religion


Mason Wilkes

Document Type


Publication Date



5th century Athens was the site of the golden age of Tragedy. Since Aristotle and the scholiasts of Rome, Greek Tragedy has been wreathed by academics as the most noble and worthy of creations from the Attic theater. The comedy of Aristophanes has gone in and out of style throughout the centuries?unfortunately subject to limits of taste and education?while the comedy of Menander is truly a product of 4th century sentiment and has been available mostly in fragmented chunks. The Satyr play, of which Euripides? Cyclops is the only complete survivor, has been the recipient of considerably less responsible criticism. Very little ink of interest has been spilled in the cause of understanding the Satyr, as a genre, to be anything more than a pleasantry intended to relieve the anxiety of three Tragedies. This is roughly the theory regarding Comedy?s functional being as well. In conducting research regarding the character of Athenian citizenship, I developed two provisional frameworks from which to understand Old Comedy and Satyr in a more complex, context-driven manner. The city as a place of negotiating extremes?here materialized in religious cult?sates the acknowledged necessity of Dionysiac worship with the Satyr play (not necessarily comedic) and by staging it prevents the absolutism of Dionysian unpredictability. On the other hand, Old Comedy, as one of its many jobs, conflates all non-civic worship as so much horse-hockey and disarms it of real danger to political and civic negotiated living.


Damian Stocking




Ford Research Endowment

This document is currently not available here.