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Encyclopedia > Epicharmus of Kos
A painting by Jacob Philipp Hackert
A painting by Jacob Philipp Hackert

Epicharmus is considered to have lived within the hundred year period between c. 540 and c. 450 BC. He was a Greek dramatist and philosopher often credited with being one of the first comic writers, having originated the Doric or Sicilian comedic form. Aristotle (Poetics 5 1449b5 [1]) writes that he and Phormis invented comic plots (muthos).[2] Most of the information we have about Epicharmus comes from the writings of Athenaeus, Suidas and Diogenes Laertius, but fragments and comments come up in a host of other ancient authors as well. There have also been some papyrus finds of longer sections of text, but these are often so full of holes that it is difficult to make sense of them. Plato mentions Epicharmus in his dialogue Gorgias [3] and in Theaetetus. In the latter, Socrates refers to Epicharmus as "the prince of Comedy", Homer as "the prince of Tragedy", and both as "great masters of either kind of poetry".[4] More references by ancient authors can be found discussed in Pickard-Cambridge's Dithyramb, Tragedy, Comedy [5] and they are collected in Greek in Kassel and Austin's new edition of the fragments in Poetae Comici Graeci, (2001). Image File history File links Download high resolution version (2024x1491, 241 KB) Please see the file description page for further information. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (2024x1491, 241 KB) Please see the file description page for further information. ... Centuries: 7th century BC - 6th century BC - 5th century BC Decades: 590s BC - 580s BC - 570s BC - 560s BC - 550s BC - 540s BC - 530s BC - 520s BC - 510s BC - 500s BC - 490s BC Events and Trends 548 BC -- Croesus, Lydian king, defeated by Cyrus. ... Centuries: 6th century BC - 5th century BC - 4th century BC Decades: 500s BC 490s BC 480s BC 470s BC 460s BC - 450s BC - 440s BC 430s BC 420s BC 410s BC 400s BC 459 BC 458 BC 457 BC 456 BC 455 BC 454 BC 453 BC 452 BC 451... A dramatist is an author of dramatic compositions, usually plays. ... A philosopher is a person who thinks deeply regarding people, society, the world, and/or the universe. ... The word comedy has a classical meaning (comical theatre) and a popular one (the use of humor with an intent to provoke laughter in general). ... [[Im Category: ... Sicily ( in Italian and Sicilian) is an autonomous region of Italy and the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, with an area of 25,708 km² (9,926 sq. ... Athenaeus (ca. ... Suda (Σουδα or alternatively Suidas) is the name of a massive medieval lexicon, not an author as was formerly supposed. ... Diogenes Laërtius, the biographer of the Greek philosophers, is supposed by some to have received his surname from the town of Laerte in Cilicia, and by others from the Roman family of the Laërtii. ... PLATO was one of the first generalized Computer assisted instruction systems, originally built by the University of Illinois (U of I) and later taken over by Control Data Corporation (CDC), who provided the machines it ran on. ... Gorgias (in Greek Γοργἰας, circa 483-376 BC) // Introduction Due to his ushering in of rhetorical innovations involving structure and ornamentation and his introduction of paradoxologia – the idea of paradoxical thought and paradoxical expression – Gorgias of Leontini has been labeled the ‘father of sophistry’ (Wardy 6). ... The Theætetus (Θεαίτητος) is one of Platos dialogues concerning the nature of knowledge. ...


Life and work

Epicharmus' birth place is not known, but late and fairly unreliable ancient commentators suggest a number of alternatives. The Suda (E 2766) records that he was either Syracusan by birth or from the Sikanian city of Krastos. Diogenes Laertius (VIII 78) records that Epicharmus was born in Astypalea, the ancient capital of Kos on the Bay of Kamari, near modern-day Kefalos. Diogenes Laertius also records that his father, was the prominent physician Helothales, moved the family to Megara, Sicily when Epicharmus was just a few months old. Although raised according to the Asclepiad tradition of his father, as an adult Epicharmus became a follower of Pythagoras.[6] All of this biographical information could be treated as suspect. More references to alternative origins and discussion of their likelihood can be found in Pickard-Cambridge's Tragedy, Comedy, Dithyramb, and more recently in Rodriguez Noriega Guillen's Epicarmo di Siracusa: Testimonios y Fragmentos. [7] The standard edition of his fragments by Kaibel has now been updated with the publication of Kassel and Austin's Poetae Comici Graeci. It is most likely that sometime after 484 BC, he lived in Syracuse, and worked as a poet for the tyrants Gelo and Hiero I. The subject matter of his poetry covered a broad range, from exhortations against intoxication and laziness to such unorthodox topics as mythological burlesque, but he also wrote on philosophy, medicine, natural science, linguistics, and ethics. Among many other philosophical and moral lessons, Epicharmus taught that the continuous exercise of virtue could overcome hereditary, so that anyone had the potential to be a good person regardless of birth. He died in his 90s (according to a statement in Lucian, Macrobii, 25, he died at ninety-seven). Astipalea Astipalea (or Astypalea or Astypalaia, Greek: Αστυπάλαια; Italian: Stampalia; Ottoman Turkish: استانبوليه Ä°stanbulya) is a Greek island with 1. ... Port and city view of Kos town on the island Kos. ... Essentially the beach-front annexe of the village Kefalos, on the Greek island of Kos. ... This article or section is not written in the formal tone expected of an encyclopedia article. ... Megara (Greek: Μέγαρα (Big Houses); see also List of traditional Greek place names) is an ancient city in Attica, Greece. ... Sicily ( in Italian and Sicilian) is an autonomous region of Italy and the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, with an area of 25,708 km² (9,926 sq. ... An asclepiad may be: A plant of the former family Asclepiadaceae A a type of metrical line used in lyric poetry An Asclepiad (Greek) was ancient Greek of uncertain profession, possibly, a physician or priest. ... Pythagoras of Samos (Greek: ; between 580 and 572 BC–between 500 and 490 BC) was an Ionian (Greek) philosopher[1] and founder of the religious movement called Pythagoreanism. ... Syracuse (Italian, Siracusa, ancient Syracusa - see also List of traditional Greek place names) is a city on the eastern coast of Sicily and the capital of the province of Syracuse, Italy. ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ... Gelo (d. ... Hiero I was the brother of Gelo, and tyrant of Syracuse from 478 to 467 BC. During his reign he greatly increased the power of Syracuse. ... Photograph of Sally Rand, 1934. ... For other uses, see Philosophy (disambiguation). ... For the chemical substances known as medicines, see medication. ... The Michelson–Morley experiment was used to disprove that light propagated through a luminiferous aether. ... Linguistics is the scientific study of language, which can be theoretical or applied. ... For other uses, see Ethics (disambiguation). ... Lucian. ...

Diogenes Laertius records that there was a bronze statue dedicated to him in Syracuse, by the inhabitants, for which Theocritus composed the following inscription [8]: Theocritus (Greek Θεόκριτος), the creator of Ancient Greek bucolic poetry, flourished in the 3rd century BC. Little is known of him beyond what can be inferred from his writings. ...

"As the bright sun excels the other stars, As the sea far exceeds the river streams: So does sage Epicharmus men surpass, Whom hospitable Syracuse has crowned."

Theocritus Epigram 18 (AP IX 60; Kassel and Austin Test. 18) is also written in his honor.


Epicharmus wrote somewhere between thirty-five and fifty-two comedies, though many have been lost or exist only in fragments. Along with his contemporary Phormis, he was alternately praised or denounced for ridiculing the great mythic heroes. Fragments is a song by The Who and is written by Pete Townshend and Lawrence Ball and is featured on their most recent album Endless Wire. ... For other uses, see Hero (disambiguation). ...

His two most famous works were Agrostinos which dealt humorously with the agricultural lifestyle, and Marriage of Hebe to Hercules, in which Hercules was portrayed as a glutton. Additional works include Odysseus automolos, Cyclops, Amykos, and Promytheus. For other uses, see Hercules (disambiguation). ... Polyphemus the Cyclops. ...


"Judgement, not passion should prevail."

"The mind sees and the mind hears. The rest is blind and deaf."

"A mortal should think mortal thoughts, not immortal thoughts."

"The best thing a man can have, in my view, is health."

"The hand washes the hand: give something and you may get something."

"Then what is the nature of men? Blown up bladders!" [9]


  1. ^ Aristotle, Poetics, 5 1449b5 [1])
  2. ^ cf. P.W.Buckham, p.245
  3. ^ Plato, Gorgias, [505e]: "So that, in Epicharmus's phrase, 'what two men spake erewhile' I may prove I can manage single-handed". [2]
  4. ^ "Summon the great masters of either kind of poetry- Epicharmus, the prince of Comedy, and Homer of Tragedy", Theaetetus, by Plato, section §152e. [3] (translation by Benjamin Jowett [4]). There is some variability in translation of the passage. Words like "king", "chief", "leader", "master" are used in the place of "prince" in different translations. The basic Greek word in Plato is "akroi" from "akros" meaning topmost or high up. In this context it means "of a degree highest of its kind" or "consummate" (cf. Liddell & Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon). [5]
  5. ^ cf. A. W. Pickard-Cambridge, Chapter IV, beginning on p. 230, on Epicharmus works and life, and citations by authors on him. Also it addresses the controversy about when and where he was born.
  6. ^ cf. P.W.Buckham, p.164, "But Epicharmus was a philosopher and a Pythagorean"; and Pickard-Cambridge, p.232, "Epicharmus was a hearer of Pythagoras".
  7. ^ [6]
  8. ^ Theocritus, Epigrams, 17 -- {{cf. [7])
  9. ^ cf. [8]


  • Philip Wentworth Buckham, Theatre of the Greeks, 1827.
  • P.E. Easterling (Series Editor), Bernard M.W. Knox (Editor), Cambridge History of Classical Literature, v.I, Greek Literature, 1985. ISBN 0-521-21042-9, cf. Chapter 12, p.367 on Epicharmus and others.
  • Rudolf Kassel, C. Austin (Editor) Poetae Comici Graeci: Agathenor-Aristonymus (Poetae Comici Graeci), 1991.
  • A. W. Pickard-Cambridge, Dithyramb, Tragedy, and Comedy (1927, repr. 1962).
  • Plato, Theaetetus.
  • William Ridgeway, contrib. The Dramas and Dramatic Dances of Non-European Races. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1915.
  • Xavier Riu, Dionysism and Comedy, 1999. [9]
  • Lucia Rodríguez-Noriega Guillén, Epicarmo de Siracusa. Testimonios y Fragmentos. Edición crítica bilingüe.; Oviedo: Universidad de Oviedo, Servicio de Publicaciones, 1996. Reviewed by Kathryn Bosher, University of Michigan, in Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.10.24
  • Smith, William, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 1870, article on Epicharmus, [10]
  • Theocritus, Idylls and Epigrams. (Theocritus translated into English Verse by C.S. Calverley, [11])
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Sir William Smith (1813 - 1893), English lexicographer, was born at Enfield in 1813 of Nonconformist parents. ... Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology is a encyclopedia/biographical dictionary. ... Encyclopædia Britannica, the eleventh edition The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1910–1911) is perhaps the most famous edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. ... The public domain comprises the body of all creative works and other knowledge—writing, artwork, music, science, inventions, and others—in which no person or organization has any proprietary interest. ...

External links

  • An article on Epicharmus

  Results from FactBites:
Epicharmus of Kos - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (910 words)
In Plato's Theaetetus, Socrates refers to Epicharmus as "the prince of Comedy" and Homer as "the prince of Tragedy", and both as "great masters of either kind of poetry".
Epicharmus' birth place is not known, but late and fairly unreliable ancient commentators suggest a number of alternatives.
Diogenes Laertius (VIII 78) records that Epicharmus was born in Astypalea, the ancient capital of Kos on the Bay of Kamari, near modern-day Kefalos.
  More results at FactBites »



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