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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 April 2013

Vayos J. Liapis*
Open University of Cyprus


At Aristophanes, Birds 172ff., Peisetaerus persuades the Hoopoe that the birds would be better off building a city in the clouds. The Hoopoe announces that he will go off to summon the other birds to an assembly, so that the proposal may be approved. ‘How will you summon them?’, asks Peisetaerus. ‘That's easy’, replies the Hoopoe:

      δɛυρὶ γὰρ ἐμβὰς αὐτίκα μάλ' ɛἰς τὴν λόχμην,
      ἔπɛιτ' ἀνɛγɛίρας τὴν ἐμὴν ἀηδόνα,
      καλοῦμɛν αὐτούς· οἱ δὲ νῷν τοῦ ϕθέγματος
      ἐάνπɛρ ἐπακούσωσι θɛύσονται δρόμῳ.     205
      ὦ ϕίλτατ' ὀρνίθων σύ, μή νυν ἕσταθι·
      ἀλλ', ἀντιβολῶ σ', ἄγ' ὡς τάχιστ' ɛἰς τὴν λόχμην
      ɛἴσβαινɛ κἀνέγɛιρɛ τὴν ἀηδόνα.

Shorter Notes
Copyright © The Classical Association 2013

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My warmest thanks go to Nikoletta Kanavou, Alan Sommerstein, Antonis Tsakmakis, Stavros Tsitsiridis and Nigel Wilson for helpful criticisms. I am also grateful to an anonymous CQ reader for his/her suggestions. All errors are mine.


1 The Greek text is from Nigel Wilson's 2007 OCT edition.

2 Cf. Kakridis, P.I. (ed.), Ἀριστοϕάνους Ὄρνιθες (Ioannina, 1973)Google Scholar, ad Ar. Av. 202; Sommerstein, A.H. (ed.), The Comedies of Aristophanes VI: Birds (Warminster, 1987), 211–12.Google Scholar

3 Cf. Sommerstein (n. 2), 211; Dunbar, N., Aristophanes. Birds (Oxford, 1995)Google Scholarad Ar. Av. 202–4 (p. 201).

4 Russo, C.F., Aristophanes: An Author for the Stage, tr. Wren, K. (London, 1994)Google Scholar, 156 (originally published as Aristofane: autore di teatro, Florence, 1962). On the difficulty of the hoopoe's song, and on the possibility that it might necessitate a professional singer, see Hall, E., ‘The singing actors of antiquity’, in Easterling, P. and Hall, E. (edd.), Greek and Roman Actors: Aspects of an Ancient Profession (Cambridge, 2002), 338Google Scholar, esp. 30–1; Hall also gives a very useful discussion on expert or professional theatrical singers from the early fifth century down to the Byzantine era. On actor soloists in Hellenistic dramatic performances, see Sifakis, G.M., Studies in the History of Hellenistic Drama (London, 1967), 7580.Google Scholar

5 Russo (n. 4), 157 seems to realize the difficulty when he writes: ‘What was essential was that these songs, precisely because they were performed backstage, should have been performed perfectly, in order to leave the public all ears.’ But surely no amount of virtuosity could possibly make up for the physical impediment of the skênê walls.

6 See most recently McCart, G., ‘Masks in Greek and Roman theatre’, in McDonald, M. and Walton, J.M. (edd.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek and Roman Theatre (Cambridge, 2007), 247–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 248–9: ‘The mask particularly affects facial resonance associated with upper registers and the clarity of plosive consonants.’ One is thus all the more puzzled by the assertion of T. Vovolis and G. Zamboulakis that the ‘mask creates consonance and amplifies further the natural head resonator of the actor’ and ‘helps to achieve maximum resonance for each vowel and clear definition of the consonants’ (Didaskalia 7.1 [2007], at See however the detailed discussion of modern practitioners' experimenting with masks as tools to enhance voice projection in Wiles, D., Mask and Performance in Greek Tragedy (Cambridge, 2007), 153–79Google Scholar; on the use of masks in modern performances of Greek drama see also Wiles, D. in Hall, E., Macintosh, F. and Wrigley, A. (edd.), Dionysus Since 69: Greek Tragedy at the Dawn of the Millennium (Oxford, 2004), 245–63Google Scholar. For reservations as to whether the mask can add resonance to the actor's voice see Pickard-Cambridge, A.W., The Dramatic Festivals of Athens, 2nd ed. rev. by Gould, J. and Lewis, D.M. (Oxford, 1968), 195–6Google Scholar.

7 The parallels are cited and discussed by Mastronarde, D.J. (ed.), Euripides. Medea (Cambridge, 2002)Google Scholar, ad 96.

8 See further Dunbar (n. 3), ad Ar. Av. 227–62 and Parker, L.P.E., The Songs of Aristophanes (Oxford, 1997), 302–4Google Scholar for metrical analysis and discussion.

9 Quotation from Arnesen, I., The Romantic World of Puccini (Jefferson, NC, 2009), 82.Google Scholar

10 Mallach, A., Pietro Mascagni and his Operas (Boston, 2002), 53Google Scholar.

11 Thus Craik, E.M., ‘The staging of Sophokles' Philoktetes and Aristophanes' Birds’, in Craik, E.M. (ed.), ‘Owls to Athens’: Essays on Classical Subjects Presented to Sir Kenneth Dover (Oxford, 1990), 81–4, at 83–4Google Scholar; Dunbar (n. 3), ad Ar. Av. 202–4 (p. 200).

12 Quotation from Sommerstein, A.H. (ed.), The Comedies of Aristophanes XI: Wealth (Warminster, 2001)Google Scholar, 286 (on Ar. Av. 202, 266).

13 Dunbar (n. 3), ad Ar. Av. 226 (p. 209) considers a couple of alternative means by which Peisetaerus could have known that the Hoopoe was about to sing: the bird ‘may also (or instead) have made loud throat-clearing noises’, as in Ar. Thesm. 381–2 or Theoc. Id. 15.99, ‘and/or the aulete may now have played what the audience would recognize as the prelude to a song’. But throat-clearing noises would not carry well to the auditorium, which is why attention has to be verbally drawn to them in Thesm. 381–2.

14 Σ Ar. Av. 266c (p. 47 Holwerda); Σ Pl. Grg. 494b(2), p. 157 Greene; Suda χ 90 (IV 787 Adler).

15 Hist. an. 615a1–2 (in the same passage Aristotle also remarks that the plover hides during the day). This interpretation was first suggested, teste Dunbar (n. 3), ad Ar. Av. 265–6 (p. 225), by Merry, W.W. (ed.), Aristophanes. The Birds (Oxford, 1904 4)Google Scholar (non vidi). Craik, E.M., ‘The Hoopoe's nest: Aristophanes, Birds 265–6’, CQ 48 (1998), 292–4CrossRefGoogle Scholar reads ἐπῶζɛ (from ἐπόζω) and χαράδριον (dim. of χαράδρα), and argues that the Hoopoe is said to be ‘stinking his nest up’ (ἐπῶζɛ) ‘acting just like a drainage ditch’ (χαράδριον). But the scatological joke seems pointless, and the idea of a stinking nest for the Hoopoe is not suggested by anything else in the text.

16 The difficulty is pointed out by Sommerstein (n. 12).

17 Sommerstein (n. 2), 212. There is little doubt that, in Parker's words ([n. 8], 302), ‘on the Attic stage a high degree of skill as a singer was evidently part of the normal equipment of both the comic and the tragic actor’; but surely producers must have had to deal, occasionally, with unforeseen contingencies, such as a star actor becoming unavailable at the last minute.

18 That Birds was produced διὰ Καλλιστράτου is attested in one of the ancient hypotheses (Hyp. 1, line 8 Wilson). On Aristophanes' collaborations with producers/directors (Philonides as well as Callistratus), see MacDowell, D.M., Aristophanes and Athens: An Introduction to the Plays (Oxford, 1995), 3441Google Scholar. More recently Silk, M., Aristophanes and the Definition of Comedy (Oxford 2000), 56Google Scholar (n. 9) and 17 has argued that Aristophanes was unusual in preferring to have others produce/direct his own plays.

19 Cf. Russo (n. 4), 160: ‘The basic function of these four birds is probably that most obvious one of providing spectacle on-stage in anticipation of the appearance of the chorus.’

20 I owe this last point to Alan Sommerstein (private correspondence, 4/2/2010); cf. also G. Ley, ‘A material world: costumes, properties and scenic effects’, in McDonald and Walton (n. 6), 268–85, at 270.

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