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Who "Invented" Comedy? The Ancient Candidates for the Origins of Comedy and the Visual Evidence

Jeffrey Rusten
The American Journal of Philology
Vol. 127, No. 1 (Spring, 2006), pp. 37-66
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3804923
Page Count: 30
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Who "Invented" Comedy? The Ancient Candidates for the Origins of Comedy and the Visual Evidence
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Abstract

The formal beginning of comedy is firmly dated to the Dionysia of 486 B.C.E. For what preceded it there were at least three ancient candidates: phallic processions, Doric comedy and Susarion. Each is supported by visual evidence of the sixth century B.C.E., each explains certain features of Old Comedy, but all have some anomalies as well. Striking is how many forms of performance attested in the sixth century contained comic elements. All these other forms ceased with the introduction of comedies to the Dionysia in 486 B.C.E., which coincides with the ascendancy of the demos; yet it was not until forty years later that comedy becomes unabashedly political.

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