Alexis (Greek: Ἄλεξις; c. 375 BC – c. 275 BC) was a Greek comic poet of the Middle Comedy period. He was born at Thurii (in present-day Calabria, Italy) in Magna Graecia and taken early to Athens, where he became a citizen, being enrolled in the deme Oion (Οἶον) and the tribe Leontides. It is thought he lived to the age of 106 and died on the stage while being crowned. According to the Suda, a 10th-century encyclopedia, Alexis was the paternal uncle of the dramatist Menander and wrote 245 comedies, of which only fragments now survive, including some 130 preserved titles.
He won his first Lenaean victory in the 350s BC, most likely, where he was sixth after Eubulus, and fourth after Antiphanes. While being a Middle Comic poet, Alexis was contemporary with several leading figures of New Comedy, such as Philippides, Philemon, Diphilus, and even Menander. There is also some evidence that, during his old age, he wrote plays in the style of New Comedy.
Plutarch says that he lived to the age of 106 and 5 months, and that he died on the stage while being crowned victor. He was certainly alive after 345 BC, for Aeschines mentions him as alive in that year. He was also living at least as late as 288 BC, from which his birth date is calculated. According to the Suda he wrote 245 comedies, of which only fragments including some 130 titles survive. His plays include Meropis, Ankylion, Olympiodoros, Parasitos (exhibited in 360 BC, in which he ridiculed Plato), Agonis (in which he ridiculed Misgolas), and the Adelphoi and the Stratiotes, in which he satirized Demosthenes, and acted shortly after 343 BC. Also Hippeis (316 BC) (in which he referred to the decree of Sophocles against the philosophers), Pyraunos (312 BC), Pharmakopole (306 BC), Hypobolimaios (306 BC), and Ankylion.
Because he wrote a lot of plays, the same passages often appear in more than 3 plays. It was said that he also borrowed from Eubulus and many other playwrights in some of his plays. According to Carytius of Pergamum, Alexis was the first to use the part of the parasite. Alexis was known in Roman times; Aulus Gellius noted that Alexis' poetry was used by Roman comedians, including Turpilius and possibly Plautus.
Surviving titles and fragments
Only fragments of any of the plays have survived - about 340 in all, totaling about 1,000 lines. They attest to the wit and refinement of the author, which Athenaeus praises. The surviving fragments also show that Alexis invented a great deal of words, mostly compound words, that he used normal words in an unusual way, and made strange and unusual forms of common words. The main sources of the fragments of Alexis are Stobaeus and Athenaeus.
The following 139 titles of Alexis's plays have been preserved:
- Suda s.v. Ἀλέξης
- Stephanus of Byzantium, s.v. Ἀλέξης
- Greenhill, William Alexander (1867). "Alexis (1)". In William Smith. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology 1. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. pp. 128–129.
- Suda s.v. Ἀλέξης
- Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae viii. p. 344
- Plutarch, Defect. Orac. p. 420 e
- Athenaeus, i. p.25, f.
- Athen. vi. p.235, f. This is incorrect, because Epicharmus had already introduced it 250 years earlier. However, Alexis may have been the first to develop the part into its common form.
- Athenaeus. ii. p.59, f.
Editions of fragments
- Augustus Meineke. Poetarum Graecorum comicorum fragmenta, (1855).
- Theodor Kock. Comicorum Atticorum fragmenta, i. (1880).
- Colin Austin and Rudolf Kassel. Poetae Comici Graeci. vol. 1.
- W. Geoffrey Arnott (12 September 1996). Alexis: The Fragments: A Commentary. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-55180-9.
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