Born: c. 342 BC
Died: c. 292 BC
Location of death: Athens, Greece
Cause of death: Accident - Drowning
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: Ancient Greece
Executive summary: Early Greek comic dramatist
Greek dramatist, the chief representative of the New comedy, born at Athens. He was the son of well-to-do parents; his father Diopeithes is identified by some with the Athenian general and governor of the Thracian Chersonese known from the speech of Demosthenes De Chersoneso. He doubtless derived his taste for the comic drama from his uncle Alexis. He was the friend and associate, if not the pupil, of Theophrastus, and was on intimate terms with Demetrius of Phalerum. He also enjoyed the patronage of Ptolemy Soter, the son of Lagus, who invited him to his court. But Menander, preferring independence and the company of his mistress Glycera in his villa in the Peiraeus, refused. According to the note of a scholiast on the Ibis of Ovid, he was drowned while bathing; his countrymen built him a tomb or the road leading to Athens, where it was seen by Pausanias. A well-known statue in the Vatican, formerly thought to represent Marius, is now generally supposed to be Menander (although some distinguished archaeologists dispute this), and has been identified with his statue in the theater at Athens, also mentioned by Pausanias.
Menander was the author of more than a hundred comedies, but only gained the prize eight times. His rival in dramatic art and also in the affections of Glycera was Philemon, who appears to have been more popular. Menander, however, believed himself to be the better dramatist, and, according to Aulus Gellius, used to ask Philemon: "Don't you feel ashamed whenever you gain a victory over me?" According to Caecilius of Calacte, he was guilty of plagiarism, his one play being taken bodily from Antiphanes. But, although he attained only moderate success during his lifetime, he subsequently became the favorite writer of antiquity. Copies of his plays were known to Suïdas and Eustathius (10th and 11th centuries), and twenty-three of them, with commentary by Psellus, were said to have been in existence at Constantinople in the 16th century. He is praised by Plutarch in his Comparison of Menander and Aristophanes, and by Quintilian, who accepted the tradition that he was the author of the speeches published under the name of the Attic orator Charisius. A great admirer and imitator of Euripides, he resembles him in his keen observation of practical life, his analysis of the emotions, and his fondness for moral maxims, many of which have become proverbial: "The property of friends is common", "Whom the gods love die young", "Evil communications corrupt good manners" (from the Thaïs, quoted in 1 Corinthians 15:33). These maxims (chiefly monostichs) were afterwards collected, and, with additions from other sources, were edited as a kind of moral textbook for the use of schools.
Menander found many Roman imitators. The Eunuchus, Andria, Heautontimorumenos and Adelphi of Terence (called by Julius Caesar "dimidiatus Menander") were avowedly taken from Menander, but some of them appear to be adaptations and combinations of more than one play; thus, in the Andria were combined two of Menander's plays, in the Eunuchus two others; while the Adelphi was compiled partly from Menander and partly from Diphilus. The original of Terence's Hecyra (as of the Phormio) is generally supposed to be not Menander, but Apollodorus of Carystus. The Bacchides and Stichus of Plautus were probably based upon Menander's work. Caecilius Statius, Luscius Lavinius, Turpilius and Atilius also imitated Menander. He was further credited with the authorship of some epigrams of doubtful authenticity; the letters addressed to Ptolemy Soter and the discourses in prose on various subjects mentioned by Suïdas are probably spurious.
Dyskolos ("The Grouch")
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