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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 August 2019

Sebastiana Nervegna*
Monash University


Active in Alexandria during the second half of the third century, Dioscorides is the author of some forty epigrams preserved in the Anthologia Palatina. Five of these epigrams are concerned with Greek playwrights: three dramatists of the archaic and classical periods, Thespis, Aeschylus and Sophocles, and two contemporary ones, Sositheus and Machon. Dioscorides conceived four epigrams as two pairs (Thespis and Aeschylus, Sophocles and Sositheus) clearly marked by verbal connections, and celebrates each playwright for his original contribution to the history of Greek drama. Thespis boasts to have discovered tragedy; Aeschylus to have elevated it. The twin epigrams devoted to Sophocles and Sositheus present Sophocles as refining the satyrs and Sositheus as making them, once again, primitive. Finally, Machon is singled out for his comedies as ‘worthy remnants of ancient art (τέχνης … ἀρχαίης)’. Dioscorides’ miniature history of Greek drama, which is interesting both for its debts to the ancient tradition surrounding classical playwrights and for the light it sheds on contemporary drama, clearly smacks of archaizing sympathies. They drive Dioscorides’ selection of authors and his treatment of contemporary dramatists: both Sositheus and Machon are praised for consciously looking back to the masters of the past. My focus is on Sositheus and his ‘new’ satyr-play. After discussing the relationship that Dioscorides establishes between Sophocles’ and Sositheus’ satyrs, and reviewing scholarly interpretations of Sositheus’ innovations, I will argue that Dioscorides speaks the language of New Music. His epigram celebrates Sositheus as rejecting New Music and its trends, and as composing satyr plays that were musically old fashioned and therefore reactionary.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 2019 

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I would like to thank the Australian Research Council for funding my research as a Future Fellow at Monash University. Many thanks go also to Paul Touyz and Anne-France Morand, who kindly commented on an earlier draft, the anonymous reader and both the former and the current editor of CQ, Andrew Morrison and Patrick J. Finglass. This article is dedicated to an inspiring mentor and very dear friend, Catherine Rubincam.


1 Anth. Pal. 7.410, 411, 37, 707, 708; nos. 20–4 in the edition by Gow, A.S. and Page, D.L., The Greek Anthology: Hellenistic Epigrams (Cambridge, 1965)Google Scholar. Dioscorides’ epigrams are also available in the edition by G. Galán Vioque (Huelva, 2001). Dioscorides’ career is dated on the basis of his epitaph for Machon, a playwright approximately contemporary with Callimachus; according to Athenaeus (6.241f), Dioscorides’ lines were inscribed on Machon's tomb. Dioscorides is also listed among the poets to whom Meleager dedicates his anthology (Anth. Pal. 4.1, 1 GP). On the epigrams that Dioscorides devotes to Greek drama, see Fantuzzi, M., ‘Dioscoride e la storia del teatro’, in Pretagostini, R. et al. (edd.), La cultura letteraria ellenistica (Rome, 2007), 105–23Google Scholar, further elaborated in Fantuzzi, M., ‘Epigram and the theater’, in Bing, P. and Bruss, J.S. (edd.), Brill's Companion to Hellenistic Epigram (Leiden and Boston, 2011), 477–95Google Scholar, at 487–95. All dates are b.c. unless otherwise stated.

2 Anth. Pal. 7.37, 707. I am following the edition by Galán Vioque (n. 1).

3 Fortuna, S., ‘Sofocle, Sositeo, il dramma satiresco (Dioscoride, AP VII 37 e 707)’, Aevum(ant) 6 (1993), 237–49Google Scholar, at 243–4 citing Vit. Soph. 6 (where Satyrus and Ister are named as sources), Callixeinus, FGrHist 627 F 2 (on which, see also below) and Poll. Onom. 4.118. See also Fantuzzi (n. 1 [2007]), especially 117; contra, Martino, G., ‘Sofocle, gli abiti di porpora, il drama satiresco’, SIFC 16 (1998), 816Google Scholar. On the ‘fine’ cloak worn by Sophocles’ satyr, see also below.

4 Soph. Ichneutai 96 and F 316 with Poll. Onom. 4.99; on both passages, see Seidensticker, B., ‘Sophocles and satyr drama’, in Markantonatos, A. (ed.), Brill's Companion to Sophocles (Leiden and Boston, 2012), 211–41Google Scholar, at 233. One of the papyri preserving this play, P.Oxy. 1174 (late second century a.d.), contains glosses or variant readings attributed mostly to Theon, who is generally identified as the Alexandrian scholar of the first century.

5 Arist. Poet. 1449a14–15. See Fantuzzi (n. 1 [2007]), 112.

6 Literary sources variously credit Sophocles with a total of 24, 20 or 18 victories, and the epigraphic record attests that he scored 18 victories at the Great Dionysia in Athens. See Suda σ 815, Vit. Soph. 8, Diod. Sic. 13.103.4, IG II2 2325.5; Soph. TrGF T 2.10, 1.33, 85, DID A 3a 15. On Sophocles’ competitive record as a leitmotiv in the ancient tradition, see further Nervegna, S., ‘Sophocles the kōmōidoumenos: two forgotten comic fragments’, CQ 66 (2016), 3245CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 42 with n. 55.

7 Simias, Anth. Pal. 7.21; Erycius, Anth. Pal. 7.37. See also the other epigram that Simias writes for Sophocles, Anth. Pal. 7.22: here too, the poet invites the ivy to cover Sophocles’ tomb.

8 Vit. Soph. 16. Fantuzzi (n. 1 [2007]), 113 rightly notes that the parallel between Lobon and Dioscorides also rules out taking Dioscorides’ σχῆμα as ‘costume’.

9 Anth. Pal. 7.410.3, 3–4, 5–6; Ar. Ran. 1004, 819, 68; see also Fantuzzi (n. 1 [2007]), 109 and further below. Dioscorides’ final address to Aeschylus as ‘one of the ancient heroes’ may also look back to Aristophanes’ comparison of Aeschylus to legendary figures such as Orpheus and Musaeus (Ran. 1021–2).

10 Vit. Soph. 15 records that Sophocles was buried ‘in the paternal tomb that lies along the road to Decelea’, adding that the burial monument was decorated with a siren or a bronze swallow.

11 Scirtus is variously attested as indicating a category of members of Dionysus’ entourage (Cornutus, ND 30, 59.8 Lang) and as a proper name (Nonnus, Dion. 14.111). Note also the epigram inscribed on the statue of a satyr called Scirtus who claims his connection with Pratinas, first published by Müller, H., ‘Ein neues hellenistisches Weihepigramm aus Pergamon’, Chiron 19 (1989), 499553Google Scholar. On this epigram, dated to 250–220, see further Cipolla, P., ‘Due testimonia relative a Pratina di Fliunte (Dioscorides, Anth. Pal. 7.707; Pap. Petrie 2.49 (B) 20–24)’, in Mureddu, P. et al. (edd.), Tragico e comico nel dramma attico e oltre (Amsterdam, 2009), 5175Google Scholar, at 58.

12 Klooster, J., Poetry as Window and Mirror: Positioning the Poet in Hellenistic Poetry (Leiden and Boston, 2011), 152CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 Sositheus, Daphnis or Lityerses, TrGF F 1a–3. The fragments of Sositheus’ Daphnis or Lityerses are included in all major works on the satyr play: Krumeich, R., Pechstein, N. and Seidensticker, B., Das griechische Satyrspiel (Darmstadt, 1999), 602–13Google Scholar; Cipolla, P., Poeti minori del dramma satiresco, testo critico, traduzione e commento (Amsterdam, 2003), 398406Google Scholar; and O'Sullivan, P. and Collard, C., Euripides: Cyclops and Major Fragments of Greek Satyric Drama (Oxford, 2013), 458–61Google Scholar. For Daphnis or Lityerses as a tragedy, see Xanthakis-Karamanos, G., ‘The Daphnis or Lityerses of Sositheus’, AC 63 (1994), 237–50Google Scholar.

14 Schol. Theoc. Id. 8 Arg. b and 93 a Wendel; the sources likely relating the play are Serv. ad Verg. Ecl. 8.68 and schol. Theoc. Id. 10.41e.

15 Python TrGF F 1 and Lycophron TrGF F 2–4. On both plays, see most recently O'Sullivan and Collard (n. 13), 448–55 and 462–7.

16 Shaw, C.A., Satyric Play: The Evolution of Greek Comedy and Satyr Drama (Oxford, 2014), 139–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Cozzoli, A.T., ‘Sositeo e il nuovo dramma satiresco’, in Martina, A. (ed.), Teatro greco postclassico e teatro latino: teorie e prassi drammatica (Rome, 2003), 265–91Google Scholar, at 290, who speaks of ‘two different strands’ in Sositheus’ production, and T. Günther in Krumeich et al. (n. 13), 616, who suggests that Sositheus’ Cleanthes-drama belongs to the earlier stage of Sositheus’ dramatic activity.

17 Callixeinus, FGrHist 627 F 2, cited by Cozzoli (n. 16), 290. On Callixeinus’ description of this procession and its historical context, see further Rice, E.E., The Grand Procession of Ptolemy Philadelphus (Oxford, 1983)Google Scholar, who dates it to between 279 and 275.

18 For a possible reconstruction of the corrupted text, see Cipolla (n. 11), 56–9.

19 Webster, T.B.L., ‘Alexandrian epigrams and the theatre’, in Miscellanea di studi alessandrini in memoria di Augusto Rostagni (Turin, 1963), 531–43Google Scholar, at 535: ‘the reference must be to song, dance and music of the chorus in Sositheus’ satyr plays’. See also Fortuna (n. 3), 241.

20 New Music has been the subject of much recent work. See in particular Csapo, E., ‘Later Euripidean music’, ICS 24 (1999–2000), 399426Google Scholar and ‘The politics of the New Music’, in P. Murray and P.J. Wilson (edd.), Music and the Muses: The Culture of Mousikê in the Classical Athenian City (Oxford, 2004), 207–48; D'Angour, A., ‘The “New Music”: so what's new?’, in Goldhill, S. and Osborne, R. (edd.), Rethinking Revolutions through Ancient Greece (Cambridge, 2006), 264–83Google Scholar and The Greeks and the New: Novelty in Ancient Greek Imagination and Experience (Cambridge, 2011), especially ch. 8; LeVen, P.A., Many-Headed Muse (Cambridge, 2014)Google Scholar.

21 For the way in which the ancients referred to New Music, see further below.

22 Timoth. PMG 791.211–13 (see also 202–3), 796. See further LeVen (n. 20), especially 93–4, 89.

23 See D’ Angour (n. 20 [2011]), especially 23.

24 Eur. Tro. 511–13, on which see Battezzato, L., ‘The New Music of the Trojan Women’, Lexis 23 (2005), 73104Google Scholar and Sansone, D., ‘Euripides’ new song: the first stasimon of Trojan Women’, in Cousland, J.C.R. and Hume, J. (edd.), The Play of Texts and Fragments (Leiden and Boston, 2009), 193204Google Scholar. For Euripides as a pioneer of New Music, see Csapo (n. 20 [1999–2000]).

25 Ar. Av. 1376, 1384–5. On comedy and New Music, see in general Zimmermann, B., ‘Comedy's criticism of music’, in Slater, N.W. and Zimmermann, B. (edd.), Intertextualität in der griechisch-römischen Komödie (Stuttgart, 1993), 3950CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

26 Timoth. PMG 791.221, Telestes PMG 805c.2, 806.3. The quotation is from Franklin, J.C., ‘Songbenders of circular choruses’, in Wilson, P.J. and Kowalzig, B. (edd.), Dithyramb in Context (Oxford, 2013), 213–36Google Scholar, at 216. On poikilia, see also LeVen (n. 20), 101–5.

27 LeVen (n. 20), 102.

28 Arist. Pol. 1341b; Pl. Leg. 700a–701a. Plato mingles musical and legal terminology, and this practice was also echoed by later sources; see Rocconi, E., ‘The music of the laws and the laws of music’, Greek and Roman Musical Studies 4 (2016), 7189CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

29 Ar. Thesm. 191, 136–8, 142 (Agathon's costume); 97–8, 134–45 (In-law's mockery); 149–56, 159–67 (Agathon's explanations of his dressing style and behaviour). See further Compton-Engle, G., Costume in the Comedies of Aristophanes (Cambridge, 2015), 95–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar on Agathon's costume and Paduano, G., ‘Lo stile e l'uomo: Aristofane e Aristotele’, SCO 46 (1996), 93101Google Scholar, at 97, on Agathon's elaborations on poetry and poets.

30 Several ancient sources gloss Ar. Gerytades F 178, ‘Agathonian piping’ (Ἀγαθώνειον αὔλησιν), as an accusation of μαλακία made against Agathon in the play. For Agathon as a byword for effeminacy in later works, see Lucian, Rhetorum Praeceptor 11.

31 On Tragedy §5, p. 28.39 Perusino, Suda τ 620, Aristox. F 70 W.

32 On Damon's role in the conception and promotion of the ethos theory of music, see most recently Wallace, R.W., Reconstructing Damon: Music, Wisdom Teaching, and Politics in Perikles’ Athens (Oxford, 2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The ethos theory of music was very popular yet not uncontroversial. Aristotle suggests the existence of opposite views, and a diatribe partially preserved on a papyrus attacks its core beliefs (Arist. Pol. 1339a41–2, 1340a5–6, P.Hibeh 13, probably fourth century).

33 Aristid. Quint. De Musica 2.14 (pp. 80–1, 25–33 Winnington-Ingram) with West, M.L., Ancient Greek Music (Oxford, 1992), 247Google Scholar with n. 81. For musical modes and their categorization in antiquity, see West (this note), 177–89.

34 Pl. La.188d; Resp. 399a, 398d; Arist. Pol. 1342b.

35 Ath. Deipn. 14.624c, Aristox. F 82 W, on which see Fearn, D., Bacchylides. Politics, Performance, Poetic Tradition (Oxford, 2007), 194CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

36 Ath. Deipn. 14.616e–617f, citing Melanippides PMG 758, Telestes PMG 805a–c, 806 and Pratinas PMG 708. For Pratinas’ fragment in scholarly discussions of Dioscorides’ lines, see Cipolla (n. 13), 61 and (n. 11), 54–5; Fantuzzi (n. 1 [2007]), 115.

37 See especially Zimmermann, B., ‘Überlegungen zum sogenannten Pratinasfragment’, MH 43 (1986), 145–54Google Scholar and ‘Gattungsmischung, Manierismus, Archaismus. Tendenzen des griechischen Dramas und Dithyrambos am Ende des 5. Jahrhunderts v. Chr.’, Lexis 13 (1989), 25–36, at 29–30; Csapo (n. 20 [2004]), 243; Franklin (n. 26), 216. See also D'Alessio, G.B., ‘ἢν ἰδού: ecce satyri (Pratina, 708 PMG = 4 F 3 TrGF)’, in Perusino, F. and Colantonio, M. (edd.), Dalla lirica corale alla poesia drammatica (Pisa, 2007), 95128Google Scholar, at 118 and n. 53, who suggests that PMG 708 might be a late fifth-century pseudepigraphic piece ascribed to the sixth-century Pratinas. For an earlier dating of this fragment, see Seaford, R., ‘The ‘hyporchema’ of Pratinas’, Maia 29–30 (1977–8), 8199Google Scholar; Cipolla (n. 13) and LeVen, P.A., ‘New Music and its myths: Athenaeus’ reading of the aulos revolution’, JHS 140 (2010), 3547CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

38 Ar. Ran. 828–9, 940–2; see also 1108, 1111 with Halliwell, S., Between Ecstasy and Truth: Interpretations of Greek Poetics from Homer to Longinus (Oxford, 2011), 132Google Scholar.

39 O'Sullivan, N., Alcidamas, Aristophanes, and the Beginnings of Greek Stylistic Theory (Stuttgart, 1992), 137Google Scholar.

40 Callim. Aet. F 1.24 Harder. On Aristophanes and Callimachus, see further Cameron, A., Callimachus and his Critics (Princeton, 1995), 330–1Google Scholar.

41 Callim. Aet. F 1.35–8 Pf., Eur. HF 636–700. See Prauscello, L., ‘Digging up the musical past: Callimachus and the New Music’, in Acosta-Hughes, B., Lehnus, L. and Stephens, S. (edd.), Brill's Companion to Callimachus (Leiden and Boston, 2011), 287305Google Scholar, at 303–5; Acosta-Hughes, B. and Stephens, S.A., Callimachus in Context: from Plato to the Augustan Poets (Cambridge, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, especially 98. But see also Callim. fr. 604 Pf. (νόθαι δ᾿ ἤνθησαν οἰδαί), which Fearn (n. 35), 212 links to New Musical dithyrambs.

42 McNelis, C. and Sens, A., The Alexandra of Lycophron: A Literary Study (Oxford, 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, especially 16–17; for New Music and ‘blending’, see Budelmann, F. and LeVen, P.A., ‘Timotheus’ poetics of blending: a cognitive approach to the language of the New Music’, CPh 109 (2014), 191210Google Scholar.

43 See, for instance, Arist. Pol. 1342a18 and Plut. [De Mus.] 1140D–F, 1142D. See further Csapo (n. 20 [2004]), 207–8.

44 Soph. Inachus F 281a (singing Argus), F 269c.7 (‘I hear the syrinx’, see also F 269c.21); Ichneutai 243–337. For both plays as engaging with contemporary musical novelties, see T. Power, ‘The power of music: the lyric Sophocles’, in Markantonatos (n. 4), 283–304, at 297–8, 300–3.

45 Ath. Deipn. 10.411a; Astydamas II TrGF F 4.

46 See, among others, Kauppinen, S., Kaimio, M. et al. , ‘Metatheatricality in the Greek satyr-play’, Arctos 35 (2001), 3578Google Scholar, at 59–60; Shaw (n. 16), 133–4; and Cipolla, P., ‘Sugli anapesti di Trag. Adesp. F 646a Sn.–K.’, Lexis 29 (2011), 131–72, at 154–6Google Scholar.

47 Barbieri, A., ‘In margine ad Astydam. fr. 4 Sn.–K.’, Eikasmos 13 (2002), 121–32Google Scholar is a noteworthy exception; see also Cipolla (n. 46), 156. As Barbieri (this note), 132 observes, modern translations of this passage misleadingly render the ‘music’ of the Greek text with ‘entertainment’ or ‘spectacle’.

48 Pl. Resp. 404d–e (see especially 404e3–4: ἐκεῖ μὲν ἀκολασίαν ἡ ποικιλία ἐνέτικτεν, ἐνταῦθα δὲ νόσον) cited by Barbieri (n. 47), 131.

49 Aristox. F 124 W (ἡ πάνδημος … μουσική) with Meriani, A., ‘La festa greca dei Poseidoniati e la nuova musica, Aristox. fr. 124 Wehrli’, Seminari Romani di Cultura Greca 3 (2000), 143–63Google Scholar for its context and date.

50 Polyb. 4.20, 8–12; I.Cret. I 66, no. 11, lines 10–11. See Csapo, E. and Wilson, P.J., ‘Timotheus the New Musician’, in Budelmann, F. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek Lyric (Cambridge, 2009), 277–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 279.

51 IG II2 2318, 201–3; Hypoth. Eur. Or. II 42 (Orestes); Plut. Pel. 29.5 (Trojan Women). For theatrical re-performances of Euripides’ plays in the Hellenistic period, see further Nervegna, S., ‘Performing classics: the tragic canon in the fourth century and beyond’, in Csapo, E. et al. (edd.), Greek Theatre in the Fourth Century b.c. (Berlin, 2014), 157–87Google Scholar, especially 161–3, 177–8.