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the man whom he has abused will not appropriate it to himself."* “The best man,” says Menander, “is he who best knows how to control himself when he is injured, for a hot and bitter temper is a patent proof to everybody of littleness of mind.”
With this improved temper there came in naturally a greater consideration for the feelings of others, and a greater indulgence in general for the faults and foibles of mankind. The legislators of the age of Euripides had been humane and gentle in advance of the society of their day; now public opinion had progressed, and humanity was to be found not merely in the dictates of the law, but in the maxims and in the practice of ordinary life. I said that the age of Euripides was superior to that of Homer, in that men considered not only their equals in rank and station--that the poor had their rights and their dignity. The age of Menander advanced a step further, and embraced within its sympathies not merely the humbler citizen, but the woman and the slave, the poor and the destitute—all, in fact, who in the reign of politics had been forgotten and despised. The duties of masters towards their slaves, the obligations of slaves towards benevolent masters, are a common subject of discourse. “For even a slave,” says Philemon, “is our flesh and blood; no one was ever born a slave by nature; fortune has but enslaved his body;" and as to the poor, not only are there many beautiful passages commiserating their sad lot, but there are distinct precepts enjoining charity upon the rich, not merely as a duty, but even as a privilege. The relations of the rich and the poor are a distinct feature in the literature of the day, and at no time did the value of a faithful servant find more constant recognition. Even the continual complaints of the idleness and knavery of slaves are but a proof that higher qualities were expected from them ;, and this remark applies to all the apparent bitterness and the discontent in the comedy of the day. For the greatest punishment which the comic poet can inflict on ignorance, bad temper, and injustice, is shame, ridicule, and self-reproach. And Menander naturally introduces his disappointed characters venting their spleen in those generalized reflections on human vice and misery, by which such characters endeavour to acquit themselves of folly and of blame.
* Philemon. Eridíxos, frag. I.
Constant, for example, are the attacks upon marriage and the responsibilities of a family. Such remarks are, indeed, common in the satire and comedy of every time, even of our own, which, I suppose, estimates the institution of marriage more highly than ever. “The man is actually married,” says a witty fragment of the poet Antiphanes.* “My goodness, do you say so; is it the man whom I left alive and walking about?” “Great Jupiter," says another poet, with subtler irony, “may I perish if I ever spoke against women, the most precious of all acquisitions. For if Medea was an objectionable person, surely Penelope was an excellent creature. Does any one abuse Klytemnestra? I oppose the admirable Alkestis. But, perhaps,
* Antiphanes, pilotérap.
some one may abuse Phædra ; but, by Jove, what a capital person was
Oh ! dear, the catalogue of good women is already exhausted, but there is still a crowd of bad ones that might be mentioned.”
Marriages with heiresses, too, are particularly criticized as foolish and unhappy; for even in those days, as now, a fortune and a high connection was often preferred to the more important qualifications of a wife. “Whosoever desires to marry an heiress, is either suffering under the wrath of the gods, or wishes to be called lucky, while he is really miserable."* But in spite of all these complaints, almost every play of Menander ended with the happy marriage, not, indeed, of an heiress, who made herself disagreeable, and wasted her husband's fortune, but of some loving, simple, penniless girl, whose adventures had excited during the play the deep sympathy of the audience. So that marriage was really looked upon as a happy and natural termination of the gay life of youth, and in many beautiful fragments not only the dangers and responsibilities of educating a family, but the blessings of a home and children, are distinctly acknowledged. Yet by the same law of comedy which I have mentioned, the harsh and unreasonable parent is introduced, deceived by his children and his slaves, destroying his own comfort, and injuring the honesty of his household by his tyranny.
But as Menander's comedies were devoted to portraying private life, he did not disdain to criticize even trifling matters of etiquette, of politeness, and of fashion. Take, for example, the management of dinner parties-a subject which gave him hardly less scope for satire than it would at present. First come the difficulties of preparing the entertainment. Fish being the greatest delicacy at Athens, we find bitter complaints of the dreadful extortion and the absurd impudence of the fish-mongers. In the middle comedy, indeed, the attacks on fish-mongers form quite a peculiar feature, and, along with money-changers, they seem the greatest objects of public odium. Next come the troubles about cooks.
In the previous generation those important functionaries had been free men, who were engaged, along with their cooking apparatus, for the occasion.* Now, owing probably to the increase of luxury, the cooks are slaves in the household. But their pretensions seem in no way diminished. They rivalled their modern representatives in inventing absurd and unintelligible names for their dishes, not indeed under the pretence of using a foreign language, but of adapting the majestic phraseology of the Homeric poems to their purposes. Even in ordinary conversation, they would not condescend to the graceful dialect of Attica, but spoke in a Doric patois, because the art of cooking was supposed to have been perfected in Doric Sicily. In this they made common cause with the physicians, who found it expedient to prescribe in Doric Greek, as their
* Antiphanes, Métoxos. Alexis, Pugás.
+ Cf. Strato, Porvoxíons, a very humorous fragment, beginning—“It is a male sphinx, and not a cook, that I have got into the house."
patients would feel no respect for their treatment, if they used the purer and more literary language of Athens.* This, too, has its parallel in the present day. And then these cooks spoke of their art as if it were the highest science in the world.
With regard to the entertainments themselves, many curious remarks are preserved to us. considered vulgar to have a large and expensive dinner party at a wedding. We find also the elegant stinginess of the Athenian banquets contrasted with the homely but more hospitable entertainments of other cities. f In fact, the great requisites at an Athenian dinner party seem to have been elegant appointments and pleasant conversation; and from this latter point of view, family parties are ridiculed as intolerably stupid. I suppose there are few of you who have not on some occasion been thrust by adverse fate into a company, where you found yourself interposing as a cold obstruction between affectionate relations, who are keeping up a perpetual cross fire of questions as to the health of Dick, and the prospects of dear Harry, and whether cousin Dinah has recovered from her influenza ; whether Mary's children had really the whooping cough, and whether Jane was actually going to marry Tommy. Similar misfortunes seem to have befallen Menander. “ It is a dreadful thing,” exclaims one of his characters, “ to fall among relations at a dinner party, where the father, keeping
* Crates, frag. incert. 5, Alexis, MavågayogSopávn, frag. 2. Epicrates, frag. incert. 1.
† Lynceus, Kévtaupos.