The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

360

PHRYNICHUS.

of tragedy, the chief place after Thespis is assigned to Phrynichus. The external and mechanical im­provements in the drama are indeed ascribed to each of the great tragedians who lived at the end of the sixth and beginning of the fifth centuries B. c., namely, Choerilus, Phrynichus, Pratinas, and Aeschylus ; and there might well be doubts on such matters, as every formal improvement made by either of these poets must, of necessity, have been adopted by the others ; so that the tragedy which Phrynichus exhibited in B. c. 476, after the introduction of those improvements which are usually ascribed to Aeschylus, must have been altogether a different kind of drama from that with which he gained his first prize in b.c. 511. Of such inventions, the one ascribed to Phrynichus is the introduction of masks representing female persons in the drama. But those improvements which are ascribed specially to Phrynichus affect the internal poetical character of the drama, and entitle him to be considered as the real inventor of tragedy, an honour which the ancients were in doubt whether to assign to him or to Thespis (Plato, Minos, p. 321). For the light, ludicrous, Baccha­nalian stories of the latter, he substituted regular and serious subjects, taken either from the heroic age, or the heroic deeds which illustrated the history of his own time. In these he aimed, not so much to amuse the audience as to move their passions ; and so powerful was the effect of his tragedy on the capture of Miletus, that the audience burst into tears, and fined the poet a thousand drachmae, because he had exhibited the sufferings of a kindred people, and even passed a law that no one should ever again make use of that drama (Herod, vi. 21). It has been supposed by some that the subjects chosen by Phrynichus, and his mode of treating them, may have been influenced by the recent publication, under the care of Peisis-tratus, of the collected poems of Homer ; which poems, in fact, Aristotle regards as the source of the first idea of tragedy. Aeschylus, the great successor of Phrynichus, used to acknowledge his obligations to Homer, by saying that his tragedies were only re^uc^i] r<£v 'O^pov fj.eya.XtoV deiirvcav. (Ath. viii. p. 348.)

In the poetry of the drama, also, Phrynichus made very great improvements. To the light mi­metic chorus of Thespis he added the sublime music of the dithyrambic chorusses ; and the effect of this alteration must have been to expel from the chorus much of the former element, and to cause a better arrangement of the parts which were assigned respectively to the chorus and the actor. We have several allusions to the sublime grandeur, and the sweet harmony of his choral songs. Aristophanes more than once contrasts these ancient and beauti­ful melodies with the involved refinements of later poets (Av. 748, Vesp. 219, 269, Ran. 911, 1294, Thesm. 164 ; comp. Schol. ad loc. and ad Ran. 941) ; some writers ascribe to Phrynichus the ancient hymn to Pallas which Aristophanes refers to as a moo'el of the old poetry (Nub. 964 ; comp. lam-procles) ; and his were among the paeans which it was customary to sing at the close of banquets and of sacrifices (Bode, Gcsch. d. Hellen. Dicliikunst, vol. ii. pt. 1, p. 70).

Phrynichus appears moreover to have paid particular attention to the dances of the chorus ; and there is an epigram ascribed to him, cele­brating his skill in the invention of figures (Pint.

PHRYNICHUS.

Sympos. iii. 9)-. Suidas also says that he composed pyrrhic dances (s.v.).

In the drama of Phrynichus, however, the chorus still retained the principal place, and it was re­served for Aeschylus arid Sophocles to bring the dialogue and action into their due position. Thus Aristophanes, while attacking Aeschylus for this very fault, intimates that it was a remnant of the drama of Phrynichus (Ran. 906, &c.) ; and one of the problems of Aristotle is, " Why were the poets of the age of Phrynichus more lyric than the later tragedians ?" to which his answer is that the lyric parts were much more extensive than the narrative in their tragedies. (Prob. xix. 31.)

Of the several plays of Phrynichus we have very little information. Suidas, who (as in other in­stances) has two articles upon him, derived, no doubt, from different sources, gives the following titles:—n\evpwvia.t (or FIAeupcov, Paus. x. 31. § 2), AiyvTrrioi, 'A/crcuW, "aak^o-tjs, 'Avrcuos tf , Aiitaioi $ Tlepcrcu $ "SvvQuKoi, Aavaifies, 'Hpi'yJj'?], and "A\wcns MiA^dtcov (or MiA??Toy a.Aco<r:s). The last of these plays, which has already been referred to, must have been acted after b. c. 494, the year in which Miletus was

7 v

taken by the Persians. Suidas omits one of his most celebrated, and apparently one of his best plays, namely, the Phoenissae, which had for its subject the defeat of the Persian invaders, and to which Aeschylus is said by an ancient .writer to have been greatly indebted in his Persae (Argum. in Aesch. Pers.}. The conjecture of Bentley seems very probable, that this was the play with which Phrynichus gained his last recorded victory, with Themistocles for his choragus. Phrynichus had a son, Polyphradmon, who was also a tragic poet. (Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. ii. p. 316 ; Bentley, An­swer to Boyle ; Welcker, Die Griech. Trag. pp. 18, 127 ; Miiller ; Bode ; Bernhardy.)

2. A tragic actor, son of Chorocles, whom Suidas confounds with the great tragic poet, but who is distinguished from him by a scholiast on Aris­tophanes (Av. 750), who mentions four Phrynichi, the tragic poet, the tragic actor, the comic poet, and a general. This actor is no doubt the person whose dancing is ridiculed by Aristophanes, in pas­sages which Bentley erroneously referred to the tragic poet (Vesp. 1481, 1515). He is also men­tioned by An decides as O/>vvi%o<r 6 opx^^^vos (De Myst. p. 24) ; and an attack in the Clouds of Aristophanes (1092), on the tragic actors of the day is explained by the scholiast as referring to Phrvnichus. (See Meineke, Hist. Crit. Com. Graec. pp. 148, 149.)

3. A comic poet of the Old Comedy (r&v eTrtSev-ripwv Trjs ctpxcuas /ccoyita>5ias), was, according to the most probable statement, the son of Eunomides (Schol. ad Aristoph. Ran. 14). He first exhibited, according to Suidas, in 01. 86, b. c. 435, where, however, we should perhaps read 01. 87, for the anonymous writer on Comedy (p. 29) places him, with Eupolis, at 01. 87- 3, b. c. 429 (Clinton, F. H. sub ann.). Nothing more is known of the life of Phrynichus, for the statement of the anonymous writer, that he died in Sicily, refers, in all proba­bility, to the tragic poet (see above), and the story of a scholiast (ad Aristoph. Ran. 700) about his being elected a general, is an error which has been sufficiently exposed by Bentley and Meineke.

Phrynichus was ranked by the grammarians among the most distinguished poets of the Old

Pages
About | First

358

359

360
letter/word  
volume
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.