Chapter 3. He Loves You, He Loves You Not: Demophilic Courtship in Aristophanes’ Knights

In the Acharnians of 425 BCE, Aristophanes promises to “shred” the leather merchant Cleon, a political bigwig and a thorn in the playwright’s side. [1] Delivering on that promise the very next year in Knights, Aristophanes portrays Cleon as a repulsively obsequious, yet violently quarrelsome house-slave named Paphlagon. But to exact full poetic justice, the playwright evidently felt he needed to create a character in whom this stage-Cleon would more than meet his match. Hence the Sausage-Seller, a disreputable street vendor vying with Paphlagon to win the affections of the significantly named Demos (“The-People, ” from dêmos “citizenry”), an elderly householder and Paphlagon’s master. Indeed, the pair profess love—sexual love—for their incongruously superannuated love-object, but why? What could they, or, for that matter, the playwright, hope to gain from staging a thinly veiled political rivalry as a tawdry love triangle?
Whatever it is, students of the play would do well to pay heed. For sexual imagery runs through the goings-on like an idée fixe, at times sounding the dominant note, at times playing counterpoint to other themes. [2] Yet this imagery has, at least until recently, mostly gone unnoticed. [3] When scholars comment, they tend to focus on one or another of two “logics.” Thus Dover, pointing out how each of Demos’ two “lovers” stands to benefit from coming across as the more generous, and therefore more deserving, “suitor,” alludes to some of the more elevated components—the ameliorating reciprocities—of classical Athenian pederasty. [4] That, however, cannot be divorced from another, equally important “logic.” Thus Henderson connects erôs imagery to Paphlagon as “violator of the people”; [5] I would further assert that dêmos-“buggery,” which is quite as organic to the erastês (male lover) conceit as any positive connotation, needs to be understood within a larger system of reversals and incongruous revalorizations. Curious, and too little studied, is the fact that Paphlagon and the Sausage-Seller pursue their quarry by means of kolakeia, obsequious cajolery at odds with the dominance usually associated with being an erastês. More curious still is it that Demos, elsewhere a gullible victim, in the lyric interlude at lines 1111–1150 rationalizes his passively mercenary stance vis-à-vis his lovers.
I shall, then, be taking a closer look at still unresolved problems relating to the politician-as-lover conceit in Aristophanes’ Knights. In so doing, I part company with those who start from the assumption that the image mimics the purportedly “demerastic” (dêmos-besotted) rhetoric of a Cleon. I, too, see oratorical practice as the starting point. But the image itself I read as comically absurdist reification inspired by the “demophilia topos,” a well-attested blame motif attacking court and assembly speakers for attempting to seduce the dêmos with specious claims of affection. By sexualizing the topos, Aristophanes discovers within the dysfunctional give-and-take of “demophilic” politics a whole tangle of contradictory reciprocities, symmetries, and asymmetries—strategies, in other words, whereby power is got through surrender, and dominance through subservience. Overlooked in all this has been the role of Demos, who, in the crux passage mentioned earlier (1111–1150), admits to feigning ignorance and passivity so as to screen his own aggressively exploitative stance toward would-be “buggerers.” Strife and conflict therefore underlie the amicable veneer. Comically dressed-up as pederastic kolakeia, this dystopian vision of political friendship presents Athenian democracy as fraught with category slippage and revalorizations symptomatic of stasis.

Demerastic Rhetoric?

To make sense of sexual imagery in Knights, we should first turn to the play’s finale, where the Sausage-Seller, setting aside all pretense that Demos is anything but the sovereign dêmos of Athens, or that the courtship of Demos was anything but a political contest, demonstrates the sort of assembly rhetoric that previously so enthralled his new master:
First of all, whenever an assembly speaker would say, “O Demos, I am your lover (erastês), and I love (philô) you and care for (kêdomai) you, and no one else counsels you the way I do”—whenever they’d start their speeches like that, it would set you flapping your wings and tossing your horns.
But how close to reality are we? Certain scholars, pointing out similarities between the love language famously scripted by Thucydides in the Periclean Funeral Oration (“You must daily gaze upon the city’s power and become lovers [erastai] of it,” 2.43.1) and the erotically inflected love declarations in our play (732–737, cf. 1341), detect in the latter a snapshot of late fifth-century practice—“flowers culled from the oratory of Cleon,” as some have put it. [6] There is, however, reason for doubt. In the surviving corpus of Attic oratory and related evidence (speeches in Thucydides, Plato’s Apology, sophistic exercises), we find no instance of, nor reference to, speakers wooing audiences with professions of erôs. In fact, we find but a single, rather unusual instance (Plato Apology 29d, though cf. Thucydides 2.60.5) of an emotional effusion at all like what the Sausage-Seller reports—that is, one where a speaker professes a heartfelt attachment or partiality (philia, kêdos) to his audience (“you”), or to the collectivity (polis, dêmos) to which that audience belongs. [7] That should arouse our curiosity, given the frequency with which speakers attribute such love talk to others. Why, then, all those claims that “so-and-so says he loves you” if matching instances of same fail to materialize in the evidence?

The Demophilia Topos

We can begin to answer that question by looking more closely at how speakers both did and did not conduct their audience-bonding—I shall use the technical term captatio benevolentiae. [8] Thus we note that democratic sympathies, patriotism, a favorable disposition toward “you,” the audience—none of that in and of itself would have been taken amiss. [9] On the contrary, audiences seem to have demanded of speakers just those sorts of assurances, whence the practice of, for instance, listing one’s own or one’s forebears’ civic-minded accomplishments, [10] or representing one’s friendships and hatreds as identical to those of one’s listeners (Demosthenes 18.280–281; cf. Aristophanes Acharnians 509–512; Aristotle Rhetoric 1381a7–19), or, with varying degrees of obliquity, implicating oneself in patriotic sentiments of various sorts. [11] None of that is, however, quite as blunt or direct as what the Sausage-Seller quotes. To be sure, speakers show little reluctance to profess civic goodwill (eunoia), [12] though we shall see how eunoia could be viewed differently from philia (affection, love, friendship) in terms of emotional intensity. Lysias, Aristides tells us, “professed himself to be a friend (philon) in common of the polis” (Aristides 3.607 Behr = Lysias fr. 109b Albini), though just what Aristides quotes, and how accurately, remains a puzzle. Pericles, in the last of the speeches assigned to him by Thucydides, affirms himself to be philopolis, “partial/devoted to the city”—in other words, a patriot (2.60.5). But in tandem with his patriotism Pericles notes his incorruptibility, seemingly as if to thwart suspicions the first claim might tend to raise (see further below). Nor do we find a fully applicable parallel in the Periclean Funeral Oration (Thucydides 2.43.1), where Pericles affirms no city-erôs of his own, but urges it on others. As for the warm expression of philia in Plato’s Apology,
If then you would, as I said, acquit me on these conditions [viz., that I give up philosophizing], I should answer you, “Men of Athens, I do indeed love you dearly (egô humas, ô andres Athênaioi, aspazomai men kai philô), but I shall obey the god rather than you.”
Plato’s Apology 29d
that does not so much express democratic sympathies as it does a rather elaborate, and somewhat ironic, “No thank you.” [13] As for speakers declaring erôs for audience, dêmos, or the like (“I am your lover [erastês],” “I desire/lust for [erô] you”), that does not happen in our sources—except, of course, in Aristophanes’ Knights. [14]
What, then, to make of some twenty-odd instances of speakers warning audiences not to trust an opponent’s love-talk—instances like the following:
Why in the world is it, men of Athens, that you, whose interests are on the lips of all, are generally no better off now than before, while these men whose every word hangs on your welfare, never their own—why is it that they have gone from poor to rich? Because, men of Athens, though they say they love you, it is not you they love, but themselves. (hoti phasin men, ô andres Athênaioi, philein humas, philousi d’ oukh humas all’ hautous)
Demosthenes Exordia 53.3 (my emphasis) [15]
Similar is Isocrates’ warning to an imagined assembly audience “not to pay heed…to those who claim to love the dêmos, yet bring it to utter ruin” (tois philein men ton dêmon phaskousin, 8.121), or another speaker’s to ignore “those whose words speak of love for you” (tous men phaskontas toutous tôi logôi philein humas) but whose deeds, we gather, speak otherwise. [16] We are, then, dealing with a variation on the familiar words-versus-deeds antithesis, with the emphasis placed, as usual, on deeds as the more truthful signifier. [17]
But it would seem we are also dealing with a red herring of sorts if, as we saw earlier, matching instances of speakers actually saying such things in so many words fail to materialize in the expected contexts. I would therefore posit an element of exaggeration, even distortion, for what I shall call the “demophilia topos” (“So-and-so claims to love you/the dêmos/the polis, but in fact does not”). [18] True, it prefers indirect over direct, verbatim quotation. But we should not for that reason regard it as mere shorthand for an adversary’s audience-bonding. It is, rather, a rhetorical move, a way to impute certain sentiments, even language, to targeted speakers. [19] Thus when a plaintiff in the corpus informs the jury that the defendant “will be telling you he loves you (phêsei humas philein) second only to his relatives” (Demosthenes 58.30; cf. 28–29), the intimacies implied by philia are key to the sarcasm of the speaker’s quip.
But why the apparent reluctance to profess in one’s own behalf the sort of polis-oriented philia readily attributed to others (e.g. Isocrates 16.28)? Dionysius, commenting on Pericles’ avowal of polis-love in Thucydides’ History (“I am philopolis,” 2.60.5), faults it as vulgar, inappropriate, and squandered, inasmuch as singing one’s own praises tends to provoke annoyance and resentment, not sympathy, especially before a political or courtroom audience (Dionysius of Halicarnassus Thucydides 45). Plutarch, though he also recognizes the risks inherent in self-praise, nevertheless cannot criticize Pericles’ gambit: the statesman had no choice (Pericles in Thucydides 2.60–64 is under attack), nor does he lie (Moralia 540c–d). So, too, Demosthenes, needing to defend honors he has received, mentions the disadvantage self-commendation places one in (Demosthenes 18.3–4). In another speech, Demosthenes clearly relishes the opportunity to rake Charidemus (mercenary commander and honorary citizen) over the coals for a letter combining, so we are told, fulsome self-praise (23.160–161) with a bogus profession of “love for you.” [20]
Use of dêmotikos, “true-blue democrat,” Volksfreund (Wankel), offers further clues. [21] Commendable though it was to be dêmotikos, bluntly first-person affirmations of the type “I am dêmotikos” are difficult to confirm. [22] Still, the charge that “so-and-so falsely claims to be dêmotikos” appears to have been commonplace, as when Aeschines alleges some such claim to be Demosthenes’ mantra. [23] Later in the same speech, Aeschines disparagingly observes that “goodwill (eunoia) and the name ‘the people’s friend’ (to tês dêmokratias onoma) are common property, yet those whose conduct least fits the description are usually the first to seek refuge there” (3.248). Whatever its accuracy, this last observation suggests that listeners could at least be induced to regard self-commendation in a demophilic vein as ipso facto suspect.
Noteworthy is the psychagogic power speakers sometimes ascribe to patriotic posturing. Thus Aeschines alerts listeners to the danger of being deceived by the pleasant sound (euphêmian) of Demosthenes’ claim to being dêmotikos (3.168). In a similar vein, the speaker in Against Aristocrates warns his audience not to let Charidemus’ fraudulent friendship “cloud” their wits (Demosthenes 23.184). Relevant to these psychological considerations is the matter of wording, the “spin” affective vocabulary could place on allegations of patriotic posturing. [24] What sort of spin? For that, we can turn to Aristotle. Contrasting eunoia (goodwill) with philia (affection, love, friendship), the former, he tells us, while it appears to be an element of the latter, differs in possessing neither “tension” (diatasis) nor “desire” (orexis), these last being concomitants of philêsis, “loving.” [25] A client of Lysias’ appears to capitalize on just such a contrast when, having already commended victims of the Thirty for their dêmos-oriented eunoia (13.1; cf. 13, 93–94), he raises the rhetorical temperature by characterizing the relationship between the martyrs of democracy and “you” as philia involving the same obligations as those incumbent on “friends and intimates” (philous kai epitêdeious, 92; cf. 94, 96–97).
So, too, will speakers have capitalized on the voltage associated with philia—its “tension” and “desire”—when attacking others for demophilic posturing. That could have suggested a certain lack of decorum, an unseemly willingness to indulge in over-emotional speech, on the part of alleged demophiles. [26] But we should remember that the problem was not dêmos- or polis-oriented philia itself (ordinarily highly commendable), but the notion that a speaker would go before an audience and declare, “I love you” (philô humas) or the equivalent. Such a sentence conveys information (the fact that I love you), but it also performs in the Austinian sense: it enacts an emotional bond, namely, philia, between speaker (“I”) and addressee (“you”)—so especially in the case of the Greek verb philein (“to love”), whose semantic field extends to the performance of philia through kissing. [27] Thus when I say, “I love you,” I may be lying, but something still happens. [28]
Of course, the demophilia topos performs this verbal kiss only at a mimetic remove; through it, a speaker avers that someone else, not himself, declares audience-love. Does that indirectness rob this speech-act of its performative power? Without rehearsing the whole debate over the representation of performative speech, [29] we need to keep in mind the social-performative component intrinsic not only to the reported speech-act itself but to the very act of reporting another’s speech. For such an act
takes into account a third person—the person to whom the reported utterances are being transmitted. This provision for a third person is especially important in that it strengthens the impact of organized social forces in speech reception. [30]
The reporting of speech, insofar as it invites others to join in scrutinizing someone else’s words, is social and ideological all at once: social in terms of the sharing involved, ideological in terms of values put into play. It is, in short, its own speech-act. Where reported speech directly concerns addressee, affect will likely play a part. And that is how our topos must have worked. Implicating listeners as victims of demophilic posturing, the topos will have targeted their sensibilities at the level of what Aristotle calls thumos, the soul’s “spirited” dimension and seat of philia. Concomitant impressions of philia betrayed will then have stirred the thumos to anger. [31] Particularly galling would have been the gullibility this topos at times imputes to listeners. So, for instance, in Demosthenes’ Third Olynthiac, the current generation, doting as it does on the ingratiating love-talk of corrupt politicians, fails to measure up to the dêmos of yesteryear [32] —precisely the Sausage-Seller’s point, as it is also the playwright’s in much of the comic business soon to be examined.

Friends, Lovers

The play opens with two house slaves complaining of a third, Paphlagon, a newcomer who will stop at nothing to make himself the favorite of Demos, the master of all three. To rid themselves of the Paphlagon-nuisance, the first two slaves enlist the aid of a nearly perfect rogue, the Sausage-Seller, in hopes that he, by dint of utter shamelessness (that is, by fighting fire with fire), will replace the upstart as manager of Demos’ household.
A contest pitting Paphlagon against the Sausage-Seller is ushered in with love declarations that place a decidedly pederastic complexion on what follows: [33]
Why Paphlagon, who’s been wronging you?
Him! Him and his boys have been beating me up, all because of you.
But why?
Because I love you, Demos. Because I’m the one who’s hot for you. (hotiê philô s’, ô Dêm’, erastês t’ eimi sos.)
Okay, so who are you?
But why choose a “more caring” suitor in the first place, and “more caring” as opposed to what? It was, we have seen, benevolence (eunoia) and good services (eu poiein) that legitimized the persuasive efforts of politicians. Much the same can be said for lovers, who were expected to prove their worth through the guidance and mentoring they offered their respective beloveds. Take that away, and the reciprocities of pederasty amounted to prostitution. [35]
In Aristophanes’ Knights, it is Demos’ honorable standing that is on the line, and the enticements offered by each of his lovers that are on trial. Whoever puts on the more compelling display of eunoia will win a crown from Demos; that recalls the practice of awarding crowns to politicians and others for civic or polis-directed goodwill. [36] But the sparring of our two candidates also foregrounds what Demos can expect from an erastês whose peithô falls short in the eunoia department. Thus Paphlagon advises Demos not to heed the Sausage-Seller’s oracles lest they turn him into a “worn hide” (molgos, 962–963), meaning, arguably, a male willing to submit to sexual penetration. [37] The Sausage-Seller counters that listening to Paphlagon’s oracles could spell circumcision for Demos (963–964), [38] a barbaric indignity for any Greek man. [39] Elsewhere in the play, Paphlagon boasts that he can make a fool of Demos ad libitum (713), and that his skills include the ability “to make the dêmos expand and contract on cue” (719–720). Quips the Sausage-Seller, “Even my ass-hole knows that trick” (721), as if to imply that Paphlagon’s vaunted skill at dêmos-manipulation will habituate Demos to a degrading docility analogous to the Sausage-Seller’s own sexual passivity. [40]
All of this connects with the demophilia topos in fairly obvious ways. “Spinning” civic eunoia as a more intimate, and in context more disquieting, philia, the topos exaggerates the emotional side to a speaker’s audience-bonding. Spinning demophilia as erôs, the playwright renders the Demos-bonding of Paphlagon and the Sausage-Seller more disquieting still. Yet this politics-pederasty equation, when looked at closely, reveals cracks in its ideological underpinning. Democracy presupposes a sovereign dêmos, and one therefore dominant over individual citizens, including the leadership elite. Pederasty assigns to the erastês seniority in a relationship assigning to his junior a subordinate role should the relationship take a sexual turn. [41] Thus in our play, politics-as-pederasty, insofar as it subordinates Demos, which is to say the sovereign dêmos, to his lover-politicians, necessarily subverts at least as much as it ratifies democratic values.


One cannot easily miss the political resonances of kolakeia in Knights. What, if anything, does it mean that Demos’ lovers are also his kolakeuontes, his “flatterers”? Paphlagon, so he tells us, can humiliate the dêmos at will, knows the kind of crumbs it likes to feed on, and, to top it all off, can make it “expand and contract on cue” (713–720). Turning to Euripides’ Suppliants, a play also dated to the 420s, we note how the Theban Herald implies Athens to be a place where politicians, in quest of personal gain, lead by “puffing up” (ekkhaunôn) the citizens with speeches (412–413), and by providing them with momentary gratification (to d’ autikh’ hêdus kai didous pollê kharin, 414), which is to say, through means recognizable as kolakeia. [46] Comparing that to Knights, we see how Paphlagon’s Demos-manipulation exploits puffery and deflation—that is, flattery and censure—along with outright gratification. Remembering the Sausage-Seller’s caustic rejoinder to Paphlagon’s boast (“Even my ass-hole knows that trick,” 721), it becomes evident that both here and elsewhere in the play, as indeed elsewhere in Aristophanes’ oeuvre, “flattery” (kolakeuein, thôpeuein, etc.) can serve as the medium for a covertly aggressive form of seduction hazardous to a beloved’s autonomy and honorable standing. [47]
Hence a contradiction. Flatterers (kolakes, thôpes, etc.) were as a class debased figures. [48] The relationship of flatterer to victim of flattery was, not unlike that of pederastic lover to his beloved, a relationship of unequals, though with status values reversed. That is, the flatterer, the active participant in the arrangement, was viewed as inferior to the passive recipient, the target of flattery. [49] That contrasts with pederasty, where, as we have seen, the sexually inactive erômenos was conventionally understood as subordinate to the active erastês. The lover-as-flatterer thus presents us with the paradox of a senior partner subordinating himself to his junior.
That paradox, insofar as it highlights a kind of jouissance in the abjectivity erôs reduced one to, could be said to encapsulate what it meant to be in love. By which I mean that it encapsulates not the sheer joy of erôs, but all the ambivalence the lover’s plight could evoke. [50] For clarity on how that relates to our play, it will help to look more closely at flattery, Paphlagon’s and the Sausage-Seller’s preferred mode of courtship, as a strategy itself fraught with problematic ambiguity. On the one hand, flattery (kolakeia, thôpeia) empowered one to coax compliance out of one’s betters, as when a girl in Menander successfully “flatters” gods whose aid she seeks (kolakeuous’…pepeiken, Dyscolus 36–39). But the empowering modalities of kolakeia also point to problem areas. Thus we encounter kolakes who con their way into inheritances. [51] In Antisthenes, both kolakes and hetairai prey on victims whose deficiencies in good sense they seek to exploit (fr. 132 SSR; cf. Eupolis fr. 172.7–8 PCG). In Antiphon Sophist, a very similar deficiency induces the victims of flattery to eschew even the companionship of friends:
Many, though they possess friends (philous), fail to acknowledge the fact; rather, they consort with fortune-hunting toadies (thôpas ploutou) and opportunistic flatterers (tukhês kolakas).
Antiphon Sophist fr. 65 D-K
Whether or not these last kolakeuomenoi suffer from a true cognitive failure or have simply shut their eyes to their friends, the passage just quoted illustrates a dichotomy that will prove thematically important in Knights: the contrast between the genuine philos and the kolax-poseur, a rather slippery sort of contrast since, by playing the philos, the kolax blurs the difference between himself and his opposite number. [52] Ordinarily, the philia aped by the kolax will have been of a deferential, inferior sort (cf. Aristotle Nichomachean Ethics 1159a14–15). Yet Paphlagon incongruously boasts that Demos will find “no better friend than me” (860–861)—incongruously because this slave and flatterer par excellence uses language (philon beltion’, ‘better friend’) evoking the familiarity, mutuality, and parity usually associated with the kind of friendship meant when nowadays we say, “You and I are good friends.” [53] Should Paphlagon get caught playing false with this “friend” of his, he doubtless will come across as having violated the golden rule of Greek popular morality: help friends, harm enemies. Or so one assumes ancient audiences would have responded. [54]
We have seen that Demos’ lovers, through their antics and attack rhetoric, bring to light the play between philia and its quasi-opposite, kolakeia. But erôs, too, reveals within itself a similarly ambiguous play of opposites. When felt by male subjects, erôs often comes across as desire not just to enjoy but to possess and dominate. [55] Yet erôs masters those in its grip: as Socrates explains, the supposed freedom of tyrants is actually a form of slavery, for the tyrant is himself tyrannized by erôs (Plato Republic 572e–573b). But lovers beware: to kiss a pretty face is to let oneself be instantly enslaved. [56]
Inextricably linked in Knights, pederasty and kolakeia are not often partnered elsewhere. Yet partnered they are, and often enough for us to detect a pattern. In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates at one point claims that male lovers, like flatterers and prostitutes, offer their beloveds harmful, albeit pleasurable, companionship (240a–b). Socrates does not, of course, really believe what he is saying, but that does not mean that others would have found such a sentiment wholly implausible. Clearchus of Soloi defines the lover (erastês) as a “flatterer” (kolax) seeking the “affection” (philia) of one possessing beauty or youth (fr. 21 Wehrli = Ath. 255b). In Plato’s Symposium, the behavior of lovers can smack of slavish flattery (183a–b, cf. 184c). If Pausanias, Plato’s speaker, empathizes with these lover-flatterers, Plutarch in his Life of Alcibiades seems not to when he disparages the mass of Alcibiades’ lovers (not Socrates) as mere flatterers whom the youth despised. Yet in so characterizing them, the biographer has in mind no aberrant or anomalous erôs, but the instabilities and contradictions that erôs for an Alcibiades could evoke. [57] Hence the kolax-erastês both is and is not a contradiction. By playing the kolax, he seems to overturn pederastic hierarchies. Yet what else but erôs drives him to play that role?
And that just about sums up Paphlagon, who, as Demos’ slave, lover, and kolax, flouts status disparities fundamental not just to pederasty, but to the very structure of Athenian society. [58] Add to that hinted aspersions against his sexual conduct, [59] and this allegorized leader of the democracy begins to mirror the very “buggers” (kinoumenous) whom he, as the people’s “watchdog,” hounds out of political life. [60] Many (not all) of the same attributes also appear in the Sausage-Seller. However benign his ultimate aims (he will emerge as Demos’ savior), the idea that he, a sexually compromised street vender, [61] would pursue pederastic politics with a view to becoming a “real man, a major player” (anêr megistos) riding roughshod over Athens and much else (157–178, 356–358), brings him uncomfortably close to his rival. Indeed, it presents us with a grotesquely exaggerated version of the demophile’s reckless egocentricity. To gain power over Demos, both lovers paradoxically stoop to thôpeumata, the tricks of the flatterer, thereby calling their love into question. Yet in so doing, they both seem unaware of the even more paradoxical assist provided by the object of their attentions.


If nothing else, Aristophanes’ play leaves a vivid impression of Demos’ weakness for the enticements offered by Paphlagon and (for the purpose of ousting Paphlagon) by the Sausage-Seller as well. Thus we hear of a Demos who can be won over by the mere gift of a cushion (784–788), a “slack-jawed” Demos abjectly dependent on jury pay (kekhênêi, 804; cf. têi kekhênaiôn polei, Athens as “city of slack-jaws”: 1263), a naïve Demos, for whom the Sausage-Seller’s exposé of past idiocies is pure revelation (1337–1355)—a Demos, in short, defenseless against lies and trickery of all sorts.
What, then, to make of the following, in which an oddly savvy Demos admits a kind of complicity in the questionable practices of his lovers?
O Demos, you possess a fair empire, for everyone fears you like a big-shot tyrant. But you’re easy to trick, and you love flattery and being duped, always gazing in a slack-jawed stupor at whoever is giving a speech. And that brain you’ve got there, it’s just not there!
But it’s you with no wits under those fair locks of yours if you think I’m witless. No, I allow myself to be gulled; I like bawling for my daily chow. I want to maintain a thievish political leader. So I raise him up, and when he’s had his fill, I strike him down.
Aristophanes Knights 1111–1130
At a point just before the final, decisive contest, with Demos’ lovers momentarily offstage, the Chorus notes the baffling juxtaposition of Demos’ king-like qualities with his idiotic vulnerability to flattering speeches. Demos takes issue with very little of it, countering only that his imbecility is merely a pose, one that he assumes willingly. So long as a given leader responds satisfactorily to his infantile cries (brullôn) for handouts, he will fatten the politician as if for the sacrifice (1127–1140)—that is, allow him to steal (1127, 1149) from state coffers until the inevitable corruption trial (1150). Thus Demos tolerates bad behavior from his leaders in a way that, for its cynically self-interested willingness to accommodate, at least up to a point, those who care little for his well-being, exhibits patterns of prostitution. I repeat, up to a point: Demos surely stops short of that boundless forbearance one poet attributes to the “bugger” (kinaidou) and the “whore” (pornês), kindred souls (isos…ho nous) willing to do anything for cash (Archilochus 328 West, spurious). Still, Demos gives them a run for their money. Ever ready to gratify the thievish lusts of his flatterer-lovers so long as he stands to benefit, Demos has long since, and with eyes wide open, embraced a modus operandi that he has more than once been warned against, and in suggestively sexual terms. [62] But, as Landfester points out, Demos shows complicity in behaviors—theft of public funds, deception of the dêmos—treated under Athenian law as offenses of the highest order. [63] Thus citizen Demos pursues self-interest at the expense of Demos—the dêmos personified. Whatever his gains, they inevitably translate as loss.
At this point we begin to notice a strange symmetry of deception, manipulation, and exploitation between Demos and his lovers, a travesty of reciprocities whereby leaders and led in the democratic polity “struck and maintained a viable social contract in part through the discursive operations of public oratory.” [64] But one term of that contract was non-negotiable. Under a system where, as David Konstan puts it, “the sovereign δῆμος was the unique entity toward which a citizen was expected…to show deference,” [65] even the elite had to submit to what Josiah Ober calls the “ideological hegemony of the masses.” [66] Granted, Paphlagon and the Sausage-Seller fall over each other being submissive. But their flattering attentions (even the Sausage-Seller’s) are easily read as subversion and subjugation, even a kind of buggery, and thus deviate from the protocols governing the system within which they operate. [67] Telling is the implied perversion of democratic checks and balances. Filtered through a sexual lens, the non-negotiable sovereignty of the dêmos becomes a male citizen’s sexual autonomy set in phallic counterpoise to threats like those posed by would-be tyrants and oligarchs. [68] Yet when leaders from outside the ranks of the kaloi k’agathoi want to have a go at Demos, he seems willing to negotiate in ways that efface distinctions between those threats and the resistance he offers.
For perspective, we can turn to the “Old Oligarch,” who likewise has the Athenian dêmos showing shrewdness, if not exactly wisdom, in its preference for “bad” men as leaders useful to its interests. [69] Though Pseudo-Xenophon’s speaker mostly detests democracy, he grudgingly admires how well it meets its objectives, namely, unambiguous empowerment for the poorer, “worse,” element (the dêmos), whom the system sets free to rule (1.8). He even allows that the dêmos exercises foresight at least insofar as it elects its generals and other unsalaried officials not from its own ranks, but from the “elite” (the dunatôtatoi, 1.3). By contrast, Demos in Knights “plays” the system in ways strikingly ambiguous by any standard. Nor would the “Old Oligarch” award high marks for elevating characters like Paphlagon-Cleon (i.e. worse than Demos) to the generalship.
But more than that, the whole tenor of the play’s satire cuts to the material heart of the late fifth-century democracy. Jury pay, the spreading round of imperial profits—rewards, in other words, deriving from policy aimed at benefiting the masses—these are, according to the “Old Oligarch,” spoils to all appearances rightfully (dikaioi) accruing to the rank-and-file citizenry, the mainstay of Athens’ imperial might (1.2). In a not dissimilar vein, Pericles expatiates on the many blessings Athens offers its citizen-fighters, blessings rendering the city a fit object of citizen erôs (Thucydides 2.38–41), a place, the orator means, far superior to enemy states like Sparta. [70] In Knights, however, such advantages tend to come across either as handouts used by the leadership elite to scam a gullible Demos, or else as handouts actively sought after by a corrupt Demos cynically scamming those who would scam him. [71]
Perhaps not surprisingly, the disclosures of lines 1111–1150 have proved singularly challenging to commentators, who often treat them as an antidote to criticism of Demos as foolish elsewhere in the play—an antidote that would seem not to sit very well with the miracle cure—the rejuvenation and re-education of decrepit, dim-witted Demos—still to come. [72] While I would not deny certain inconsistencies in plot and characterization, [73] I would argue that inconsistency here enriches the texture of comic reversal. For it demands we rethink the entire scheme of sexual-political debauchery, a scheme that, in light of these disclosures, suggests nothing so much as a kind of covertly waged internecine war, in a word, stasis.
Stasis, civic discord, was, of course, the great nightmare of ancient Greek politics. Yet stasis, unlike, say, the plague of 430–426, could furnish raw material for comedy. [74] And so it does in Knights, where the playwright satirizes Cleon’s demagoguery as disturbance (tarakhê, polupragmosunê) in conflict with the quietism (hêsukhia, apragmosunê) embodied by the aristocratic Knights and, finally, Demos. [75] But stasis in real life involved more than conflicts of interest or ideas; it involved conflict between persons. And so we should not gloss over the lyric interlude, revealing, as it does, mutuality of deception and aggression, leaders versus led. To some that will seem a rather eccentric sort of stasis, at least insofar as it drives a wedge between the demagogues and their constituents, the dêmos. But that is how it often is in Old Comedy. [76] Nor are we dealing with any literally factionalized polis. Rather, we are dealing with a comic trope treating the whole give and take of democracy as conflictive and dysfunctional to the core.
We can better appreciate how that works by noting category-slippage symptomatic of stasis in other sources. Thus the poet of the Iliad connects a collapse of legal restraints and social and familial mores to erôs for internecine war. [77] Developing that idea further, Theognis rails against the vulgar herd (kakoi) gaining the upper hand over their betters (agathoi), and doling out justice (dikas) in favor of the unjust (adikoisi) for the sake of private gain and personal power. Hence stasis, murder, and despotism (39–52 West). Notes Veda Cobb-Stevens, [78] that litany of reversed expectations in Theognis looks forward to similar reversals in Thucydides’ famous description of the mindset and discourse typifying stasis at Corcyra and elsewhere:
Speakers, too, altered as they saw fit the value associations words ordinarily brought to bear upon things (tên eiôthuian axiôsin tôn onomatôn es ta erga). Thus reckless audacity was deemed the courage of a loyal adherent, and cautious hesitation, specious cowardice. Good sense became a screen for spinelessness, and the effort to see all sides to an issue, sheer laziness. To strike out rashly was to act like a man; to plan from a secure footing, a fine-sounding excuse for desertion.
Thucydides 3.82.4
And so on. Like many a Thucydidean sentence, the one at the start of the passage just quoted lends itself to no easy translation. Particularly difficult is the noun axiôsis, often taken to refer in context to verbal denotations altered to serve factional interests (e.g. LSJ s.v ἀξίωσις IV.). Reading on, though, we note the degree to which linguistic instability resides in the affective impact of words, [79] and in the attitude shifts reflected by altered labels for things (“You call it ‘good sense’? We call it ‘spinelessness’!”). [80] Judging from the historian’s examples, this “rhetoric of stasis,” as it has been called, [81] opportunistically revalorized actions and attitudes by painting factional or personal interest in the colors of received ideals. [82] But it also served to reconfigure identity. By talking a talk that broke with the usual value associations, speakers effectively severed prior ties and ratified new ones (cf. 3.82.6). Revalorization functioned, then, not just semantically; it functioned socially and symbolically.
By now, it should be apparent that the rhetoric of stasis, Thucydides’ topic in the passage quoted above, was largely a matter of spin. And spin, I would suggest, aptly describes what Demos and the Chorus are up to when Demos justifies, and the Chorus applauds, the modus operandi of the former. For Demos shows little shame when he strikes the pose of a passively mercenary erômenos (1162–1163), indiscriminate in his choice of lovers (738–740), and a sucker for flattery and deceit (1115–1120, cf. 1340–1355). This pose the Knights praise as puknotês, a pun on Demos’ rootedness in democratic tradition. [83] Yet the noun denotes the cunning with which Demos outwits, exploits, and ultimately destroys leaders. Buttressed by cunning such as that, Demos’ sovereignty, though the very yardstick of political and juridical legitimacy at Athens, recalls what Thucydides, still on the topic of stasis, deplores as “intelligence recognized as superior because it prevailed through treachery” (3.82.7)—a striking contrast with simplicity (to euêthes), the better part of nobility according to Thucydides (3.83.1). [84] As for the aristocratic Knights, siding with Demos, they commend a course of action contradicting not just democratic values, but those, too, of oligarchy, the constitution with which the wealthy were liable to be associated. For a Demos cleverly and aggressively arranging matters to keep himself on top, albeit through a show of submissiveness, replicates vulgar Paphlagon’s style of polupragmosunê, the impertinent political meddling detested by kaloi k’agathoi, “well-bred gentlemen,” like the Knights. [85]
So, too, the play’s representations of demagoguery, from both a political and a pederastic viewpoint, involve no small element of revalorization. Thus policy favoring the dêmos—for instance, the per diem raise from two to three obols awarded jurors (doubtless encouraging a broader spectrum of Athenians to serve)—becomes vulgar kolakeia. Conversely, an exemplar of vulgarity like the Sausage-Seller is hailed the city’s destined savior (147–149), and vaunts himself a kalos k’agathos lover of Demos (733–735). Indeed, a whole range of ideologically crucial polarities—free versus slave, dominant versus submissive, philia versus kolakeia, kalon (honorable) versus aiskhron (disgraceful)—becomes blurred as a consequence of the passive-aggressive contacts transacted within this ménage à trois.
But I would further suggest that in Knights, the whole image of politics as erôs connotes disruptions of a stasiastic cast. To begin with, the association of erôs with stasis, or with stasis-like disruption, was a commonplace. Homer, we have seen, speaks of erôs for internecine strife (Iliad 9.63–64). In Sophocles’ Antigone, the Chorus reflects on the universal reach of Eros, the god who maddens the wits of mortals and immortals alike, drives the just to injustice, and has “stirred up this strife of kindred men,” which is to say, set father against son. [86] Echoing Sophocles, but evoking more explicitly political associations, Aristophon describes Eros as having been “justly” and “reasonably voted out” of the company of the gods for “stirring them up” and “fomenting stasis” whenever among them. Stripped of his wings, Eros has been exiled to the human realm (fr. 11 PCG).
How, then, within that realm might politically inflected erôs prove “stasiastic”? In Aristophanes’ Frogs, “epithumia (desire) for personal gain,” in a word, greed, can impel one to foment “hateful stasis” and behave disagreeably toward fellow citizens (359–360). In Thucydides, a pleonectic (pleonexia, “greed”) component to erôs proper emerges from the Mytilenian debate, specifically, from Diodotus speech. There greed (pleonexian) based on wealth (exousia), arrogance (hubrei), and pride (phonêmati) numbers among the “incurable” (anêkestou) passions that, overmastering human beings, cause them to throw discretion to the wind—a pattern with close affinities to the process, discussed in the very next sentence, whereby elpis and erôs, hope and lust, drive people to seek out fortune’s riches at any cost. [87]
Foucault can help clarify the relationship between stasis and the pleonectic dynamic within erôs. Though focusing not on politics per se, but applying a political metaphor to the ethics of pleasure, Foucault argues that classical Greek thought viewed sexual lust as a need similar in many respects to other physical appetites (hunger, thirst), though different from them in the degree to which the pleasurable satisfaction of the need creates a desire for more. This inability to achieve satiety can lead to “rebellion and riotessness…the ‘stasiastic’ potential of the sexual appetite,” and with that, ill health. [88] Foucault uses the adjective “stasiastic” in a non-political, metaphorical, sense. But we can just as well apply his schema to politics, where erôs, the untrammeled, essentially pleonectic desires of citizens and leaders, cause the city to spiral into stasis, the political malaise par excellence. Thus Thucydides locates the causes of stasis in greed (pleonexia), ambition, and competitiveness guided by the desire for pleasure (3.82.8)—a recognizably erotic mix of motivations, and powerful enough to dissolve civic philia, the glue holding the city together and guarding it against stasis. [89]
“Though they say they love you, it is not you they love, but themselves” (Demosthenes Exordia 53.3). In Aristophanes’ play, erôs—not feigned erôs for a decrepit old man, but real, pleonectic erôs for power and wealth—are what drive Paphlagon and even the Sausage-Seller to court Demos in ways blurring the distinction between philia and its evil twin, kolakeia. But Paphlagon and others like him need to watch out, too. For Demos-erômenos revalorizes passive gullibility as a cunning guise to thwart attacks on his supremacy, a screen behind which to hide his own ambitious lusts. This tango of desire, deception, and manipulation may have Demos and his lovers moving in sync, but its undertone of aggression sounds a dissonant note. A democracy in name, the reality on stage suggests nothing so much as a stealthily run rat race.


To sum-up, just as the demophilia topos sought to destabilize an opponent’s patriotic self-representations, so Aristophanes’ image of the erastês tou dêmou, the “people’s lover,” discovers and amplifies within demophilia an erotic dynamic, “the ‘stasiastic’ potential of the sexual appetite.” Put differently, this vision of political erôs, despite obvious affinities with Pericles’ famous directive that Athenians “daily gaze upon the city’s power and become lovers (erastai) of it” (Thucydides 2.43.1), exposes paradox and contradiction at which the Periclean conceit can only hint. However much Pericles’ metaphor seeks to exploit connotationally divergent resonances (a lover’s generosity toward his beloved, a lover’s self-centered pursuit of a love-object), the work it performs needs to be understood in relation to the challenge faced by the orator, namely, to unite Athenians, and to inspire them to give up their lives for their beloved city. By contrast, erotic metaphor in Knights creates, rather than responds to, an atmosphere of uncertainty and crisis. For when the city’s leaders fix their gaze on the sovereign dêmos and become lovers of it, they become as much potential buggerers as benefactors. Troubling is Demos’ role. However proactive in his efforts to police corruption, he plays the system by feigning ignorance and vulnerability, while his self-centeredness combined with his dual character—citizen Demos, the dêmos personified—underscores the fragility of ties binding individual to group.
That leaves us with a striking redefinition of “normal” and “deviant” democracy. The norm, reinstated for the play’s finale (1316–1408), presents us with a transformed Demos, boiled down, rejuvenated, and beautified through the Sausage-Seller’s magic. Decked out in all the finery befitting the “monarch of Greece and of this land” (1330), Demos has returned to a nearly mythic past, when the citizenry, like the aristocrats they supposedly were, still wore golden cicadas in their hair. [90] Deviant is the here-and-now of jury pay, misthos (wages) for the poor, and all the rest—the erga of the radical democracy, here reduced to logos, tricks by which demerastic leaders court a willing dêmos. Thus Aristophanes targets not just Paphlagon-Cleon, but the whole rhetorical basis of Athenian democracy, a system under which demagogues plead devotion to a public complicit in their leaders’ efforts to manipulate them. Yet Aristophanes does not simply administer an antidote to demophilic rhetoric. Attacking the substance—the erga—conveyed by advice cloaked in all that seductive logos, the playwright envisions a regime under which the operations of the radical democracy will be circumscribed, and its belligerent imperialism curtailed (cf. 1300–1315).
As for the Sausage-Seller, he has repeatedly distinguished himself in the role of plain-speaking demophilia-debunker (cf. 1340–1344 with e.g. 792–796), forcing his rival again and again to up the demophilic ante. Demos has, in fact, long since acknowledged the Sausage-Seller as true-blue Demos-lover (786–787), and addresses his benefactor now as “dearest of men” (1335)—no hypocrite, but the real McCoy. But rather than accept the compliment graciously, the Sausage-Seller, if anything, goes the demophile one better: “You mean me? My dear fellow, you’ve no idea what you were like before, or what you did. Else you’d think me a god!” (1336–1338)—a comic bit of self-aggrandizement, but ironic as lead-in to the Sausage-Seller’s lecture on demophilic speechifying. [91] Yet the Sausage-Seller’s miracles amount to little more than a beauty treatment, and have already been adumbrated for what they really are: kolakeia. [92] There are, however, more surprises in store. As we have seen, the Sausage-Seller, unlike the orators, adds an erotic layer to his version of the demophilia topos (“Whenever an assembly speaker would say, ‘O Demos, I am your erastês,…’” 1340–1344). But further on into his lecture, the Sausage-Seller spins the topos in a most unusual direction. In the orators, the topos alarms listeners with the thought of their being taken in by someone’s insincere love talk, or else chides them for having done so. It shames them, in other words, into thinking for themselves. By contrast, the Sausage-Seller absolves Demos from all blame: too senile to resist his leaders’ blandishments, Demos failed to notice the subtly phallic threat those blandishments posed (cf. 1356–1357).
But feebleminded Demos boiled down appears no better off intellectually than before. Whatever the merits of his new policies, impulsive decision-making has replaced deliberation and reflection. Indeed, Demos will banish the young from the agora, the school for aspiring orators, and will make politicians give up legislating for hunting (1357–1383). Thus logos, elsewhere praised as the essence of Athenian democracy, [93] will have no place at all under the new order. This Athens of the ancestors has, with good reason, been likened both to oligarchy and to Eastern despotism as the Greeks imagined it. [94] In the end, though, the play’s vision of the “noble simplicity” has elided the polis altogether. Indeed, it returns Demos—or seems to return Demos—to a bygone Golden Age, where human beings (Demos), perpetually young (cf. Hesiod Works and Days 113–115) and untroubled by politics (Knights 1373–1383), enjoy good things without toil (a magic makeover, catamite “chairs,” peace-treaty concubines; cf. Hesiod Works and Days 116–118) through the good offices of the gods (the Sausage-Seller), with whom the mortal race, restored to pristine innocence, may again consort. [95] This arresting vision of bygone Athens could well have aroused powerful yearnings in a war-weary audience, but its peithô deviously taps into an atavistic urge for infancy.
Though one might wonder how well so unflattering a treatment of the democratic status quo would have played to the Athenian dêmos, it could not have played too badly. Knights did, after all, win, nor should we second-guess the public’s tolerance for being satirized, especially amid the carnivalesque revelry of the Dionysian festival. But what about the apparent inconsistency in Aristophanes’ characterization of Demos, whose brief moment of candor (lyric dialogue 1111–1150; see above) jars with his transformation from superannuated naïf to the rejuvenated and supposedly reformed Demos of the finale? On the one hand, we can take that transformation at face value, and assume that cunning, crafty Demos has ceased to figure within the dramatic reality. Alternatively, we can assume that Demos continues to “play the babe” to the very end, thus making a mockery of the Sausage-Seller’s exertions in his behalf. Neither alternative completely satisfies. Yet a comic dénouement featuring an ironically equivocal return to the “noble simplicity” would hardly be at odds with the bizarre twists taken by flattery politics in the play. Demos remains a creature of his appetites (1384–1392), and let us not forget how important those appetites have been in luring him to his senses. Whether a reformed Demos has finally shed his much vaunted cunning, or whether cunning Demos, in taking up with a new favorite, simply begins the cycle anew—none of that is clear. Nor can we know for sure how things will turn out for this new favorite once the honeymoon is over.


[ back ] 1. Aristophanes Acharnians 299–302. Aristophanes’ troubles with Cleon and related matters: Olson 2002:xxix–xxxi, xlvi–xlvii, l–li; Atkinson 1992; Sommerstein 1986.
[ back ] 2. See Landfester 1967:55 on “die Darstellung des Politischen im Erotischen für die weitere Handlung als konstitutiv”; cf. Hubbard 1991:67–68.
[ back ] 3. But see Ludwig 2002 (consult index); Wohl 2002:73–123; Henderson 1991:66–70. Landfester 1967:50–60, 73, 100–101 provides detailed analysis; his focus on passivity looks forward to Dover 1989 and Foucault 1990. Neither Rosen (1988:59–82) nor McGlew (2002:86–111) addresses the politician-as-lover conceit. For recent work on political themes in the play: McGlew 2002:86–111; Hesk 2000:255–258, 289–291; Riu 1999:143–154; Yunis 1996:50–58.
[ back ] 4. Dover 1972:91: “…for lovers try to outbid one another in generosity to the person whom they love.” Cf. Sommerstein 1981:181; Connor 1971:96–98 and sources cited p. 97n14.
[ back ] 5. Henderson 1991:69; cf. Monoson 2000:86–87. Brock 1986 and Landfester 1967 connect Demos-erômenos’ passivity to the “Souveränitätsproblem.” Wohl 2002:73–123 reads Knights as reversing a constructive leadership-erotics suggested by Cleon’s Mytilenian speech, Thucydides 3.37–40.
[ back ] 6. Connor 1971:97, quoting Rogers 1910:188; see also Ludwig 2002:145 (cf. 151); Monoson 2000:66; Crane 1998:318–319; Dover 1972:91; Gomme et al. 1970–1981:vol. 2 pp. 135–137; Burckhardt 1924:40; Neil 1901:175. Wohl 2002:92–93 suggests that erôs-rhetoric could have figured in the historical Cleon’s attempt to bind “demos to demagogue in a relation of mutual desire without mutual degradation.”
[ back ] 7. For the affective register of philia, below; for kêdesthai, Landfester 1967:101; Neil 1901:175.
[ back ] 8. “Currying of favor,” phrase first used Boethius In topica Ciceronis 1042d, 1043a Migne, but cf. Cicero Officia 2.48. Standard term of rhetoric since Alberic of Monte Cassino (eleventh century ce): Murphy 2001:205–206.
[ back ] 9. See Ober 1989:336; Connor 1971:99–108; Landfester 1967:53–55; Burckhardt 1924:40–46.
[ back ] 10. Antiphon 6.45; Andocides 1.141–143; Lysias 25.12; Demosthenes 18 passim; see Ober 1989:226–247, cf. 266–270.
[ back ] 11. Isocrates 8.39 (“such is my task, just as it is of every other man who cares about his country [tôn allôn tôn kêdomenôn tês poleôs]”); 20.1 (eleutherias makhometha kai tês dêmokratias epithumoumen, “we fight for freedom and desire democracy”); Demosthenes 23.190; Dinarchus 1.92 (“if we care for our homeland”); Aeschines 2.152; Lycurgus 3.
[ back ] 12. Andocides 2.25; Aeschines 1.159; 2.118, 181; Demosthenes 18.1, 8, 286. Similar are first-person affirmations of civic prothumia, “zeal” or “commitment”: Lysias 12.99; 20.19, 33, 35; Demosthenes 18.286.
[ back ] 13. Cf. the use of philein with requests (LSJ s.v. I.7.), demurral (Plato Phaedrus 228d–e).
[ back ] 14. Demades fr. 78 de Falco, in which the speaker claims to be a cowardly erastês of peace, is spurious.
[ back ] 15. Authenticity: Yunis 1996:287–289 with references. Selfishness theme, cf. Aristotle Nichomachean Ethics 1168b15–25; Lysias 20.17.
[ back ] 16. Isocrates 8.127; 12.141; Demosthenes 3.24; 22.66 (kêdemôn, “one who is solicitous for your welfare,” sarcastic); 26.23; 58.30; Aeschines 2.8; Dinarchus 1.100; 3.22; Plato Apology 24b.
[ back ] 17. See Parry 1981:15.
[ back ] 18. Cf. Knights 870, 946 (“you have enraged me with your claims that you love [philein] me [sc. the dêmos]”).
[ back ] 19. Direct quotation only by the Sausage-Seller (Aristophanes Knights 1340–1344). Cf., however, direct quotation of an allegedly impassioned (aei boai, “always shouts”) and bogus eunoia claim at Demosthenes 25.64; for derogatory boai, Bers 1997:187 and n110. See Bers 1997:134 on emotive indirect discourse; 115–128 on direct quotation in Aristophanes; 224 on direct versus indirect quotation.
[ back ] 20. Philos einai phêsi phenakizôn humas, “in saying he loves you he pulls the wool over your eyes,” Demosthenes 23.184; cf. 23.174, 193.
[ back ] 21. Thucydides 6.28.2 (Alcibiades’ allegedly “undemocratic lawlessness”) suggests dêmotikos as a potent slogan already in 415. See Wankel 1976:vol. 1 p. 138.
[ back ] 22. Hoping to be recalled from exile, Andocides (2.26) assures listeners he likely, and sensibly, will be dêmotikos. Cf. the obliquity of Isocrates 18.62 (“you should regard as dêmotikoi not those who…but who” etc.). Note non-problematic third-person assertion (“So-and-so is/was dêmotikos”): Lysias 20.22; Isocrates 16.36; Demosthenes 24.134; Aeschines 1.173; 3.194.
[ back ] 23. Aeschines 3.168: nai, alla dêmotikos estin etc. (“yes, but let’s not forget he’s ‘the people’s friend’” etc.); cf. 176, 248; Lysias 28.12; 30.9, 15; Isocrates 18.48; Dinarchus 1.9, 44, 78–79; dêmizontôn (those who “people-ize”) in Aristophanes Wasps 699.
[ back ] 24. “Spin” in Attic oratory, Hesk 2000:202–207, 213. Cf. in the “Hermagoreans” and Seneca the Elder the related idea of khrôma or color, the “color” or “complexion” one gave to a court case: Fairweather 1981:32–33, 166–178.
[ back ] 25. Aristotle Nichomachean Ethics 1166b30–34; see Konstan 1997:74.
[ back ] 26. Cf. Bers 1997:147–148; Bers 1994b on care taken by courtroom speakers to project an appropriate social personality. See also Roisman 2005; Worman 2002.
[ back ] 27. Speech-acts (Austin’s “performatives”) include sentences like, “I bet you X dollars” and the response, “You’re on!”—sentences that do not so much describe as enact a fact (a bet, a marriage, etc.). See Ober 1998:36–38; Ober 1994; Petrey 1990:5–7; Austin 1975:13–14.
[ back ] 28. See Neuman 2004:63.
[ back ] 29. Its power to perform if abstracted from its proper setting, as in the case of speech-acts quoted, narrated, fictionalized: Petrey 1990; Derrida 1982:307–330; Austin 1975.
[ back ] 30. Vološinov 1986:117.
[ back ] 31. Philia and thumos: Aristotle Politics 1327b40–1328a3; Ludwig 2002:194–195 and n98.
[ back ] 32. The speakers of yesteryear “did not habitually gratify or love (ouk ekharizonth’ . . . oud’ ephiloun) your forebears the way those we’ve got now do you”: Demosthenes 3.24; cf. 3, 13, 21–22, 25–26, 30–31.
[ back ] 33. Cf. Landfester 1967:51–52 on the programmatic force of these lines; 50–60, 73, 100–101 for erotic evocations generally in Knights. Andrew Lear has sent me the intriguing suggestion, more plausible, I think, than others, that Aristophanes here parodies not a Cleon professing dêmos-erôs, but one accusing others of doing so.
[ back ] 35. Cf. Pausanias in Plato Symposium 184b, 184e–185a; Demosthenes 61.5 (erôs without shame); Aeschines 1.137. See Dover 1989:49–54 for the redeeming power of philia in pederasty, 202–203 for the educative role played (ideally) by the erastês. Aristophanes Wealth 153–159, though cynically treating honorable pederasty as dressed-up porneia, acknowledges a notional distinction between the two. See further Konstan 1993:8; Foucault 1990:204–214; Dover 1989:145–147.
[ back ] 36. Cf. e.g. Isocrates 18.61; Demosthenes 18. For evocations of honorary crowning in Knights, Yunis 1996:54. For honorary decrees (including those involving crowns), Hedrick 1999:410; Veligianni-Terzi 1997; Henry 1983.
[ back ] 37. I find Henderson 1991:68–69, 212 and the parallels adduced there persuasive. Henderson 1998:347 translates “a mere balloon”; Sommerstein 1981:195 understands as “flayed alive.”
[ back ] 38. So Henderson 1998:347; Sommerstein 1981:195.
[ back ] 39. See Henderson 1998:78–79n30 on Acharnians 155–163; Dover 1989:129–130; cf. Herodotus 2.37.2.
[ back ] 40. Landfester 1967:11, 59 notes thematic resonances (viz., the “Souveränitätsproblem”) of erômenos-Demos’ passivity; Henderson 1991:66–70 discusses details of active-passive role-playing in the courtship.
[ back ] 41. On pederastic asymmetry and its problematics, I mostly side with Foucault 1990:215–225; Halperin 1990:88–112; Dover 1989:103–109. For useful critiques of an unnuanced approach, Davidson 1997; Thornton 1997; Cohen 1991.
[ back ] 46. Cf. Plutarch Alcibiades 6.4 (puffery and deflation). See Yunis 1996:45 (“This passage contains many of the standard charges against the demagogue” etc.).
[ back ] 47. Cf. Aristophanes Acharnians 634–638 (flattered Athenians sit up on the “tips of their little behinds”); see Olson 2002:117; Hubbard 1991:51.
[ back ] 48. Ranked with thêtes and slaves: Aristotle Nichomachean Ethics 1125a1–2; cf. Rhetoric 1383b32–35.
[ back ] 49. Under the mature democracy, treating fellow citizens deferentially could be viewed as douleia or kolakeia out of step with democracy: Konstan 1996a:10–11.
[ back ] 50. This is the Lacanian view of jouissance, for which Homer 2005:88–91.
[ back ] 51. Tais kolakeiais . . . psukhagôgoumenoi, “inveigling their victims with flattery,” Demosthenes 44.63; cf. 45.63–65; Isaeus 8.37; Plato Laws 923b
[ back ] 52. For friends-versus-flatterers, cf. Euripides fr. 362.18–20 Nauck; Aristotle Rhetoric 1371a23–24; Xenophon Memorabilia 2.9.8.
[ back ] 53. Konstan 1997:52–92; Konstan 1996b. Philos in Knights 861 = noun “friend”; note that Aristophanes has philon beltion’ (“a better friend”), not philteron (“more dear”). Cf. the “good friend” (philos agathos) in Plato Lysis 211e; Xenophon Memorabilia 1.6.13, 2.4–6.
[ back ] 54. Archilochus 23.14–15; Solon 13.5 West; Sappho fr. 5.6–7; Xenophon Memorabilia 2.6.35; Plato Republic 332a–b; Blundell 1989:180–184; Dover 1974:180–184.
[ back ] 55. Dominance and the male sexual role, Cohen 1991:186–187; Dover 1989:103–109. Power-lust, tyranny-lust: Archilochus 19.3 West; Herodotus 1.96.2, 3.53.4, 5.32; Isocrates 8.65, 113; McGlew 1993:183–212; Rothwell 1990:37 and nn67–68.
[ back ] 56. Xenophon Memorabilia 1.3.11; cf. Symposium 4.14, 26; Cyropaedia 5.1.12; Plato Symposium 183a; Phaedrus 252a; Aeschines 1.42 (enslavement to lusts); see Foucault 1990:78–82.
[ back ] 57. Plutarch Alcibiades 4.1, 6.1, for which Wohl 2002:124–170.
[ back ] 58. Athenian law forbade slaves to “love” (eran) free boys or to “follow after them,” a role Aeschines understands as reserved for free males (1.139). See also Wohl 2002:226 on Plutarch Solon 1.6.
[ back ] 59. Cf. Aristophanes Knights 75–79 (elaborate punning on sexual passivity and political corruption), 377–381 (anus-scrutiny turned against Paphlagon), 765 (Paphlagon is “noblest” after Lysicles and two prostitutes); Acharnians 664 (Cleon as coward and bugger). See Wohl 2002:90.
[ back ] 60. Aristophanes Knights 876–880, 1017–1024. Ex-prostitutes were forbidden to address the assembly or play other public roles: Halperin 1990:88–104; Winkler 1990:54–64; Dover 1989:19–39, 102–104.
[ back ] 61. Sausage-Seller as sexually compromised: Aristophanes Knights 417–426 (hiding stolen meat between one’s buttocks implies sexual passivity, which in turn implies a future in politics), 721, 1242. Note how the Sausage-Seller’s political disqualifications (above note) become ironic qualifications. See further Wohl 2002:81–86; Henderson 1991:66–70.
[ back ] 62. Cf. Aristophanes Knights 719–721, 962–963. Citizen-male prostitution as self-compromise: Aeschines 1.22, 29, 54–55; Scholtz 1996. Greedy, predatory hetairai/pornai: Archilochus 302 West (spurious?); Aristophanes Assemblywomen 1161–1162; Hyperides 5.1–3 Jensen; Isocrates 8.103; Plato Phaedrus 240b; Anaxilas fr. 22 PCG; Konstan 1993:6–12.
[ back ] 63. Landfester 1967:72–73.
[ back ] 64. Ober 1996:91 describing Ober 1989; see also Ober 1994.
[ back ] 65. Konstan 1996a:11.
[ back ] 66. Ober 1989:332.
[ back ] 67. Henderson 1991:68 suggests that a sexually passive Sausage-Seller is “at one with the people,” whereas Paphlagon-Cleon is the aggressor-buggerer. But both suitors resort to nearly identical, highly questionable tactics.
[ back ] 68. The “phallic” democracy at Athens: Halperin 1990:88–112. Cf. dêmos as turannos-erastês: McGlew 1993:183–212.
[ back ] 69. Pseudo-Xenophon 1.1. The pamphlet’s connection to political currents: Rosenbloom 2004a:87–90; Brock 1986:25–26; Forrest 1975.
[ back ] 70. The utopian thrust of the Periclean Funeral Oration, and funeral oratory generally: Loraux 1986.
[ back ] 71. E.g. jury pay (recently raised by Cleon): Aristophanes Knights 51, 255. Various items: 1019, 1078–1079, 1090–1091, 1100–1106, 1125–1126, 1163–1220, 1350–1354 (back-reference to pay).
[ back ] 72. Yunis 1996:57–58. Landfester 1967:72–73 argues that a Demos boasting complicity in serious political offenses parades his immorality without diminishing his foolishness, Reinders 2001:192 that the passage attacks the dêmos “ruthlessly” even as it seeks to inoculate itself against formal charges of slandering the dêmos. Brock 1986 takes the claims at face value as an intermediate ending helping Demos save face. According to Rosen, a Demos alert to his leaders’ misdeeds draws audience attention to “the way the demos ought to behave” (1988:79–80). According to Hesk 2000:289–291, the interlude foregrounds the ambiguities inherent in dêmos-power and in rhetoric and counter-rhetoric. McGlew 2002:101–104, noting the disjuncture between the wily Demos of the interlude and the “confused and regretful” Demos of the finale, observes that the interlude looks ahead to vengeance against Paphlagon.
[ back ] 73. E.g. the Sausage-Seller as both vulgar demagogue and kalos k’agathos hero. See especially Brock 1986 for the play’s ambiguities, to which Brock applies the solution of a double plot movement.
[ back ] 74. Cratinus satirizes Pericles as a Zeus-like tyrant, son of Stasis and Time. This “Zeus” takes Aspasia, daughter of “Rear-Entry” (Katapugosunê), as his “Hera” (frr. 258–259 PCG). Cf. e.g. Aristophanes Thesmophoriazusae 788 (women chafe at being blamed for stasis, discord et sim.); Wasps 488–499, subversion-tyranny paranoia, for which MacDowell 1971:180; Wealth 944–950.
[ back ] 75. Edmunds 1987; cf. Rosenbloom 2004a; Rosenbloom 2004b.
[ back ] 76. Cf. Rosenbloom 2004a:88 on “comedy, which plots to sever the bond between ponêroi and demos and to restore the ancestral/moral order of chrêstoi to hegemony.”
[ back ] 77. “Without clan, law, or hearth is he who loves dire war among his own people,” Iliad 9.63–64. Cf. reversal and disintegration in Hesiod Works and Days 182–201, for which West 1978:199 adduces Near Eastern and other parallels.
[ back ] 78. Cobb-Stevens 1985:165–166 et passim; see also Konstan 1997:49–50; Edmunds 1987:35–37. For the pathology of stasis and similar matters, Price 2001; Kalimtzis 2000; Gehrke 1985:245–254.
[ back ] 79. I mostly agree with Price 2001:41–42 on the meaning of axiôsis in this passage, though its use here is less unparalleled than Price suggests. Axiôsis mostly has to do with “worthiness,” “merits,” and the like (see LSJ s.v.); at Thucydides 2.88.2, it means “conviction” or “belief” relative to the merits of a course of action—so, too, more or less, in Thucydides 3.82.4.
[ back ] 80. Dionysius glosses thus: “changing the usual words for things to be called by, they [those embroiled in stasis] saw value in calling them differently” (Thucydides 29.4). I.e. things were renamed as factional or personal interests dictated.
[ back ] 81. Kalimtzis 2000:11.
[ back ] 82. Cf. Price 2001:39–67, 81–189 on “transvaluation”; Neuman and Tabak 2003:260 on “positive reformulation”; Billig 1996:170–185.
[ back ] 83. The Pnyx (stem Pukn-) being the hill where the Athenian assembly—the dêmos—met. Cf. Dêmos Puknitês, 42.
[ back ] 84. Following Hornblower vol. 1 p. 486 ad loc. on metekhei.
[ back ] 85. Though nowhere referred to as kaloi k’agathoi, the Knights in Knights are styled andres agathoi, “noble men,” at 225. In context, that conveys much the same information. Kaloi te k’agathoi will join forces with the Knights (227), not, apparently, as a class wholly distinct from them, but similar in sensibilities and aims. Labels for the 420s upper crust: Rosenbloom 2004a:88n125.
[ back ] 86. Sophocles Antigone 781–794; cf. fr. 684 Radt; Theophrastus fr. 107 Wimmer.
[ back ] 87. Thucydides 3.45.4–5; cf. e.g. Solon 4 West; Euripides Suppliants 238–239. See Balot 2001:38–39, 79–98, 156–159, 194.
[ back ] 88. Foucault 1990:49–50.
[ back ] 89. Cf. Aeschylus’ “spirit of common love” as antidote to stasis in Eumenides 984–985; Aristotle Politics 1262b7–9, 1295b23–24; Demosthenes 18.246 (rhêtôr’s duty to promote civic homonoia and philia). See further Kalimtzis 2000; Konstan 1997:69–70; Hutter 1978. For this passage and the themes of stasis, pleonexia, etc., Balot 2001:137–141; Price 2001:6–67.
[ back ] 90. Cf. Aristophanes Knights 1331 with Thucydides 1.6.3. Other tokens of archaic luxury in Aristophanes Knights: purple robe (967); “frog-green” cloak (formerly Paphlagon’s, 1406). See Sommerstein 1981:195, 220.
[ back ] 91. Anticipated by “epiphanies” (Aristophanes Knights 149, 458, 836) and by the Sausage-Seller’s “providential” arrival (147); see Landfester 1967:36–37, 92–94, though I regard “apotheosis” here not as resolving earlier paradox (so Landfester), but as equivocal and ironic.
[ back ] 92. Rejuvenating grey-hair plucking: Aristophanes Knights 908. Cf. n43 above.
[ back ] 93. Thucydides 2.40.2–3; Lysias 2.19; Isocrates 4.47-49; Demosthenes 19.184 (Athens’ “government in words”); Roisman 2005:139.
[ back ] 94. Oligarchy: Ludwig 2002:61–62. “Costume monarchy” with overtones of eastern despotism-tyranny: Wohl 2002:110–114.
[ back ] 95. Cf. Hesiod fr. 1.6–7 Merkelbach-West; Theogony 535–536 with West’s note. The schema in Knights reprises elements of Cratinus’ Ploutoi (frr. 171–179 PCG), which seems to have decried a present made corrupt by a recently deposed tyrant Zeus (read Pericles), and to have sought to revive an idealized, aristocratic Golden Age. See PCG ad loc.; Ameling 1981:400–402; Schwartze 1971:43–54.