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While the connection between the genres of the satyr play and comedy in the fifth century has lately received some deserved attention (e.g., Storey 2005; Bakola 2010), less has been paid to the interaction between the rather more obscure satyr play and comedy of the fourth century and later (van Rooy 1965 remains the best study). In this paper, I argue that the fragments of satyr plays from the 330s on suggest that the satyr play adopted certain features of Middle Comedy during those very years when Middle Comedy was giving way to New. I suggest that their relationship was significant enough that it posed a serious obstacle for subsequent attempts to delineate the satyr play as a third dramatic genre separate from comedy and tragedy. After the satyr play was disconnected from the tragic trilogy in around 340 (cf. IG II2 2320), it transformed in form and content due to an extensive rapprochement with Middle Comedy. The satyr play began to tolerate greater license for its trimeters and admitted a greater variety of meters over-all, including in one instance the eupolidean (Astydamas II fr. 4 TrGF); the setting moved from the country to the city; and, most significantly, the satyr play began to incorporate personal mockery. The same types of people are mocked in these satyr plays and Middle Comedy (e.g., philosophers and courtesans), but in some cases the very same individuals are attacked. Indeed, most scholars claim that the satyr play that would be the earliest representative of this trend, Timocles' Ikarioi Satyroi from around 330 (frr. 15-9 Kassel-Austen), must be a comedy based on the argument that it so closely resembles Middle Comedy (Constantinides 1969), even though its title strongly suggests that it is a satyr play. The Aristotelian model of the dramatic genres ignores any relationship between the satyr play and comedy by folding the satyr play into the genre of tragedy (Poet. 1449a19-20): Aristotle regards the satyr play as a precursor to and subclass of tragedy. The Alexandrians, however, formulated a different history of drama and had a triadic model of the dramatic genres whereby the satyr play was a genre alongside comedy and tragedy (Solmsen 1947). Horace's discussion of the satyr play in AP 220-50 is the most important extant exponent of this scheme. Unlike Aristotle's historical grounds for delineating the genres, Horace's criteria are aesthetic, and he is most interested in disentangling the satyr play not from the genre of tragedy, but comedy. Horace is responding to this relationship between Middle Comedy and the satyr play, which problematizes a triadic model and could produce a play like the Ikarioi Satyroi, which has left modern critics questioning its classification. Horace had good reason to be concerned for the triadic model. Evanthius, a fourth century grammarian, fully conflates Middle Comedy and the satyr play based on his second-hand information about the two (de Fabula 2.5-6). He says that the satyr play succeeded Old Comedy and preceded New Comedy, and he defines the satyr play in a manner elsewhere reserved for Middle Comedy: in the tractates on comedy (e.g., Koster XVIIIa), Middle Comedy is distinguished from Old in that Middle was restricted from open mockery; this is precisely how Evanthius characterizes the satyr play. The rapprochement was extensive enough that it ultimately collapsed the triadic model, leaving, once again, a dyadic model, with the satyr play now being not a subclass of tragedy, but comedy.


  • Bakola, E. Cratinus and the Art of Comedy, Oxford University Press (2010): 81-112.
  • Brink, O. Horace on Poetry, Cambridge University Press (1971): 224-325.
  • Constantinides, E."Timocles' Ikarioi Satyroi: A Reconsideraton," in TAPA 100 (1969): 49-61.
  • van Rooy, C. A. Studies in Classical Satire and Related Literary Theory, Brill (1965): 124-202.
  • Snell, B. Szenen aus griechischen Dramen, de Gruyter (1971): 104-137.
  • Solmsen, F. "Eratosthenes' Erigone: A Reconstruction," in TAPA 78 (1947): 252-75.
  • Storey, I. "But Comedy Has Satyrs Too," in Satyr Drama: Tragedy at Play, Swansea (2005): 201-218.
  • Sutton, D. F. The Greek Satyr Play, Hain (1980): 75-85.

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