Old Comedy on Ancient Actors: Speculations on an Odd and Unexpected Discrimination


In marked contrast to the tireless and systematic (at least in the comedies of the 5th century), relentlessly derisive and straightforward critical attitude of Aristophanes and in general of the Old Comedy towards a plethora of activities, events and representatives of the current or past political, religious, administrative, military, artistic and social life of ancient Athens, one discovers with surprise that the presence of lengthier comments or even that of simple references regarding ancient actors  is paradoxically scarce and from a stylistic point of view, is unusually moderate and discreet.

Which are the reasons behind this odd “discrimination”, this relative “silence” of Aristophanes and his colleagues regarding ancient actors? The article attempts to set forth some hypotheses and thoughts, trying and leaving open to judgment the weaknesses and the advantages of their entailments, while, at the same time, guiding the reader’s choice among the different alternatives, through an elementary reductio ad absurdum, towards the most probable one.