A Different Plato Was Funny on Purpose: Platon the Comic Poet, Some Fragments

The philosopher we know as Plato the son of Ariston–whom Diogenes claims was actually named Aristocles–was not the only Plato. No, there was another one, a little older, who was a comic poet in Athens. Our philosopher Plato wanted to be a poet too,

Here are some of the comic poet’s fragments:

Fragment 22

“Our laws are just like
Those fine spider webs
that the creature weaves upon the walls”

εἴξασιν ἡμῖν οἱ νόμοι
τούτοισι τοῖς λεπτοῖσιν ἀραχνίοισιν, ἃ
ἐν τοῖσι τοίχοις ἡ φάλαγξ ὑφαίνεται.

ἡ φάλαγξ: while this means “battle-order” or simply, phalanx in most of Greek, it can also mean spider. And not just any spider, a venomous spider.

Fragment 37

“So large they say that Mt Aetna is that the story is that the beetles who are born there are no smaller than men!”

ὡς μέγα μέντοι πάνυ τὴν Αἴτνην ὄρος εἶναί φασι τεκμαίρου,
ἔνθα τρέφεσθαι τὰς κανθαρίδας τῶν ἀνθρώπων λόγος ἐστὶν
οὐδὲν ἐλάττους.

Fragment 38

But some man scooped up the brains and gulped it down

ὁ δὲ τὸν ἐγκέφαλόν τις ἐξαύσας καταπίνει.

Fragment 77 (Storey)

“Why don’t you hang yourself and become a hero at Thebes?
Τί οὐκ ἀπήγξω, ἵνα Θήβησιν ἥρως γένῃ

Zenobius explains this one in his Common Proverbs (6.17): “Plato uses this line in his Menelaus. And the reason is that they say that in Thebes men who kill themselves receive no kind of honor. Aristotle says the same thing about Thebes, namely that they do not honor suicides there. Hence “so you may become a hero” is added ironically.”

ταύτης Πλάτων ἐν Μενέλεῳ μέμνηται. Φασὶ δὲ, ὅτι ἐν Θήβαις οἱ ἑαυτοὺς ἀναιροῦντες οὐδεμιᾶς τιμῆς μετεῖχον. Καὶ ᾿Αριστοτέλης δέ φησι περὶ Θηβαίων τὸ αὐτὸ τοῦτο, ὅτι τοὺς αὐτόχειρας ἑαυτῶν γινομένους οὐκ ἐτίμων. Τὸ οὖν, ῞Ινα ἥρως γένῃ, κατ’ εὐφημισμὸν εἴρηται.

5 thoughts on “A Different Plato Was Funny on Purpose: Platon the Comic Poet, Some Fragments

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