Life

Eupolis (YEW-puh-luhs) first competed as a comic playwright at the young age of sixteen, in 429 b.c.e. He won in dramatic competition several times with the nearly twenty plays he wrote. No complete play survives, but a number of fragments do, including some lengthy ones. In the Demes (after 418 b.c.e.; precincts), famous Athenian leaders from the past, including Solon and Pericles, are recalled from the dead to restore Athens to its glory. In Cities (c. 420 b.c.e.; cities), Athens’ imperial subjects are personified, apparently in an appeal for more lenient treatment for them. Controversy surrounds his Maricas (421 b.c.e.; maricas), which attacked the Athenian politician Hyperbolus extensively. Aristophanes charged Eupolis with stealing the idea from his own Hippīs (424 b.c.e.; The Knights, 1812), but Eupolis claimed he had, in fact, helped Aristophanes first. Fanciful stories abound about Eupolis’s death, some involving his play Baptae (after 424 b.c.e.; dippers), which mocked Alcibiades of Athens. Evidence does suggest he died relatively young, probably in his thirties.

Influence

Eupolis was the last of the great triad of comedians of Old Comedy, along with Cratinus and Aristophanes. Much of what survives shows the creativity but not the charm for which he had a reputation in antiquity.

Additional Resources

Kassel, R., and C. Austin. Poetae Comici Graeci. Vol. 5. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1986.

Norwood, Gilbert. Greek Comedy. London: Methuen, 1931.

Sidwell, Keith. “Authorial Collaboration? Aristophanes’ æKnights’ and Eupolis.” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 34, no. 4 (Winter, 1993): 365.