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Background to Menander's Girl from Samos (Samia)
by John Porter, University of Saskatchewan

Notice: This material is the copyrighted property of the author and should not be reproduced without the author's permission.

The plot of the Samia requires little in the way of introduction, but deciding how to respond to that plot is a bit more of a challenge — both for a modern audience, that is going to find several elements of the plot a challenge to accept, but also for the ancient viewer, who is going to be presented with several questions in the early going regarding just what to make of the various characters in this play.

Begin by reading the play and see what you make of it.

A young man named Moschion has raped the girl who lives next door (Plangon) and gotten her pregnant. He is immediately repentant and expresses his fierce desire to marry the girl. As it happens, however, his adoptive father (the wealthy Demeas) is out of town on an extended business trip, along with the girl's father (Niceratus, who, although somewhat poorer than Demeas, is his friend). The fathers are away for such a long time that the girl's baby is in fact born before they return. The women of the two households conspire, along with the family slaves, to keep the birth a secret until Demeas and Niceratus return and a marriage can be arranged.

Demeas is not, as it turns out, married, but has a living arrangement with a poorer woman (Chrysis) from the island of Samos who, as a foreign woman living in Athens without male relatives, enjoys few options for making a living. From what we are told in the prologue, it is clear that she was just turning toward the life of a professional *hetaira ("companion" — i.e., courtesan, prostitute) when Demeas was encouraged by Moschion to invite her to live with him, rather than face the expensive and rather humiliating prospect of having to vie for her affections in competition with younger male rivals. As a result, Chrysis moved in with Demeas to join in a loving relationship, but one that enjoyed no legal recognition or protections: she became his *pallakē (concubine).

David Konstan has noted that, as a pallakē, Chrysis is situated somewhere between a courtesan and a wife. Because she is not a citizen, she cannot bear legitimate children: any children that she and Demeas might have would be denied citizen rights and the right to inherit. [FN 1] Since the principal rationale and goal of marriage is the production of legitimate heirs, Demeas cannot even claim that this is a form of common-law union: it is a union in which a woman, in order to improve her economic situation, has given herself on her own authority to a man on the understanding that she will provide him with "companionship" (i.e., friendship and comfort as well as sexual favors). It is, viewed in one way, a form of prostitution that is distinguished by the fact that both the terms of payment and the length of the commitment are much more loosely defined and open-ended than in the case of the typical affair with a hetaira. But this arrangement binds neither party to the other: as the course of this play shows, Demeas is free to drive Chrysis from his house at any time and (as illustrated in Menander's Girl with the Shaved Head) Chrysis enjoys a similar freedom on her side.

The fact that this relationship could be regarded as a from of prostitution accounts for Demeas' initial shame in revealing his affection for Chrysis and actually bringing her into his house: it was accepted that younger men would engage in such affairs, but older men were expected to have outgrown such things — to have greater self-control and more serious purposes in life. Yet it would seem that many older men of means did enter into such arrangements in Athens, especially if they were widowers: it gave them the comforts of a loving, long-term relationship without the obligation to produce more children and the challenge of providing for further heirs. [FN 2] Nor does it seem, from the evidence of the early scenes, that either Demeas or Chrysis regard this as a mercantile arrangement: they would seem to be as much in love as any of the other married couples in Menander, while Niceratus and his family clearly regard Chrysis, not as a "hussy," but as Demeas' spouse.

Still, the opening of the play presents its audience with several challenges. Demeas (who has an adopted son) would seem to be a life-long bachelor — i.e., a man who never lived up to his obligation to marry and produce heirs. It would be easy to see him as a wealthy hedonist: a selfish individual who lives only for his own pleasure. Meanwhile, Chrysis has the name of a professional hetaira ("Goldie") [FN 3] and comes from the island of Samos, which was renowned for its courtesans: she too is a figure of whom the audience might be suspicious. Finally, there is Moschion himself, the youthful rapist.

In the early scenes of the play, each of the characters is presented in situations that permit them to allay the audience's concerns and demonstrate that they are in fact decent individuals. First there is Moschion, who in the prologue indicates his gratefulness and devotion to Demeas — his awareness of how much he owes to his adoptive father — and shows that gratitude in action when he actively urges Demeas to bring Chrysis into his home. After all, a step-mother — even one from the demimonde — is always a potential threat to a previous child: there was always the chance that Chrysis would persuade Demeas to adopt a child that he had with her, or otherwise manipulate him into diverting his estate her way, [FN 4] and, in any case, she represented an additional expense and a potential drain on Demeas' wealth. Moschion ignores all such concerns in urging his adoptive father to pursue his own happiness.

On the matter of the rape of Plangon, Moschion shows himself to be suitably repentant and passionately eager to marry the girl. There is no way to make this element of the play palatable to a modern audience — either the notion that Moschion's action is somehow to be considered "understandable," or that Plangon would somehow agree to marry the man who assaulted her. Added to this is the fact that we never actually get to see Plangon until the final fifteen lines of the play (when, portrayed by a non-speaking extra, she is handed over to her new husband without a word on her part), nor do we get to hear anything of her own perspective on what has occurred: she remains a non-entity, whose love for Moschion and their child is merely taken as a given. Each reader of the play will have to decide for him/herself what to make of this, but the prologue does provide evidence that Menander has to convince his audience that Moschion is worthy of sympathy despite his earlier actions. It is clear that the ancient audience was much more ready to accept that such an act was in some sense to be expected of young men, under certain conditions, and regarded it as the duty of the girl's family to guard her against such an assault. But the treatment of the rape in the prologue could be taken to indicate that this was merely a traditional feature of such plays — a feature inherited from the tradition of divine rapes in earlier mythology and employed to generate a "romantic" crisis — and that it was accepted as such. The fact is, there was no other way to create an erotic relationship between a nice young boy and a nice young girl — no opportunity for a Romeo and Juliet — without resorting to rape as a plot device: if the girl was anything but an altogether innocent and passive victim, she was no longer a "nice" girl. Menander does his best to give us a sense that the act was out of character for Moschion and something that he thoroughly regrets; then we move on to the romantic plot and the threats that stand in the way of the future happiness of the two young lovers. [FN 5]

Chrysis is also vindicated early in the play and shown to be a sympathetic character with the best interests of her new "family" at heart. There is an unfortunate gap in Moschion's prologue speech, but there is a good chance that Chrysis was pregnant when Demeas departed on his business trip and was expected, by both the audience and Demeas himself, to discard any child that she might have with him. This brings us to the second crux faced by the modern reader of this play. It was standard practice in antiquity to abandon unwanted new-born children. This is a very difficult topic for us moderns to assess, but, in instances where the child was severely deformed or disabled, the view was clearly that this was a cruel but necessary step: life in antiquity was often simply too harsh, and the financial situation of many families too precarious, to offer much hope for such children. But children were also abandoned for other reasons — for example, if they were illegitimate or female. To a certain degree, arguments of the same sort could be applied to these children as to the severely handicapped: poorer families might not have felt that they could bear the burden of raising an illegitimate child who would have trouble finding a place in society, or of providing a dowry for yet another daughter. But a modern reader is going to find all such arguments difficult to accept, no matter what the child's situation. [FN 6]

In part, this chasm between the modern outlook and that of Greek and Roman antiquity reflects the overall harshness of life in antiquity, which many of us moderns have difficulty imagining, and which generates many such sites of ideological disagreement. But there is also a religious element. Perhaps because the infant mortality rate was so high, a child was not considered a member of the family, with the concomitant rights and privileges, until it had been officially recognized by the father (likely on the fifth or seventh day after birth). Prior to this ceremony, the child was still an outsider, and could be abandoned without consequences (legal or religious). [FN 7]

The question is: what were these children abandoned to? In the case of those with obvious physical disabilities, it was clearly a death sentence: the child was left out to perish of starvation, dehydration, and exposure, much like Ion, the baby Oedipus, and many other well-known figures from myth. Many modern scholars would like to think that in other cases the child was left in a generally recognized spot, to be taken up and raised by someone else (as we hear of in some medieval communities and, more recently, in modern China). The lot of such children would not have been a happy one — they would most likely be raised as slaves — but the practice seems somewhat less inhuman, an approximation of the modern practice of adoption. It is difficult to know for certain how the practice worked in different times and places, but the following letter, that survives on papyrus from first century BC Roman Egypt, does not suggest a great deal of concern about the child's fate:

Hilarion to Alis his sister (i.e., dear one), heartiest greetings, and to my dear Berous and Apollonarion. Know that we are still even now in Alexandria. Do not worry if when all the others return I remain in Alexandria. I beg and beseech of you to take care of the little child, and as soon as we receive wages I will send them to you. If — good luck to you! —you bear offspring, if it is a male, let it live; if it is a female, expose it. You told Aphrodisias, "Do not forget me." How can I forget you? I beg you therefore not to worry.
        The 29th year of Caesar, Pauni 23. [FN 8]

So it is likely that we are also to think it reasonable for the kindly Demeas to have ordered the exposure of Chrysis' baby before he left on his business-trip. [FN 9] In any case, Chrysis is in a position to assist the young couple by pretending that their baby is hers, thus providing cover for the child until such time as a wedding can be arranged. The generosity with which she does this, and her confidence that Demeas will accept the discovery that his pallakē is raising a bastard child, both speak to Chrysis' kindness and her faith in the strength of Demeas' affection for her. [FN 10]

All seems to point to a happy denouement when the two fathers return home and, as it turns out, have already agreed to have their children marry. As predicted, Demeas is far from happy when he finds out about "Chrysis'" baby: he sees this as an unwarranted infringement on his rights as the head of his household, and expresses his indignation in quite blunt terms when he declares, at 130, that he seems to have "a lawfully-wedded hetaira" on his hands (i.e., a live-in prostitute who is assuming the mantle of a wedded wife). He immediately suspects that Chrysis' presumption, or her actual lack of obedience, might be a sign of a still more egregious infidelity (136 — i.e., that she has been manipulating him all along and that the child belongs to another man) and determines to kick her out of the house. Unfortunately, the papyrus remains for the next few lines are mutilated, but it is clear that Demeas, although a bit hot-headed, soon reins in his anger and, as Chrysis predicted, accepts the presence of "her" child. He passes the first test to which he is put and, on learning that Moschion in fact already loves Plangon, sets about arranging the wedding.

All seems to be going swimmingly when, at the opening of Act III, disaster strikes. Demeas enters the stage from his house and, in a type of messenger speech, reports that, as he was helping the household slaves prepare the wedding feast, he overheard Moschion's old nurse playing with the baby and addressing it as the child of Moschion. Rather than losing his temper, he very carefully weighs what to make of this potentially explosive news. The circumstances under which he has overheard the nurse, and her devotion to Moschion, suggest that she was speaking the truth. Moreover, the slave Parmenon happens by and, thinking that Demeas has discovered the whole truth, casually explains that, yes, the baby is Moschion's, but the household didn't want that to become common knowledge (!). Parmenon is thoroughly nonplussed by Demeas' angry response and goes running off, leaving Demeas to try to understand what to make of all of this. Demeas knows his son: Moschion could never willfully betray him in such a fashion. This leaves Demeas with only one conclusion: Chrysis, the "professional," has seduced Moschion in his absence, no doubt trying to cement her position in the household against the possibility of Demeas' death. As in Act II, Demeas is quick to recall Chrysis' origins as a member of the demimonde, and assumes that she has employed the seductive wiles of the professional prostitute to lead his son astray. [FN 11]

For the modern audience, the lack of trust and bald sexism that inform this conclusion is offensive: Demeas is much too quick to call upon misogynistic paradigms (Chrysis as another "Helen") and dismiss the relationship that he and Chrysis have evidently enjoyed. But the ancient audience seems to be expected to place its focus elsewhere: on Demeas' profound devotion to, and faith in, his adopted son, and at the strength he displays in looking out for his son's interests. Rather than seek revenge, Demeas decides to employ the presence of "Chrysis'" child as an excuse for kicking her out of his home, thus preserving his son's reputation and his chance for a happy marriage with Plangon. He does this at great personal cost, since it is clear that he is still madly in love with Chrysis (349ff.). But he does his duty by his son and drives Chrysis forcefully from his home. We moderns might condemn Demeas for his sexist and classist views, but, in the end, he is a pawn of the same sort of confusions and misapprehensions as those that beset the characters of Euripides' Ion.

Unfortunately, Demeas' attempt to protect Moschion's reputation also prevents anyone else from understanding his suspicions. Chrysis flees to Niceratus' house for refuge, where she is welcomed with full sympathy. Moschion and Niceratus then come to consult with Demeas and show him the folly of his ways. As Moschion keeps pressing for Demeas to take Chrysis back, Demeas finds it ever more difficult to maintain his view that his son was an innocent victim in all of this. Eventually, with Niceratus standing off at a distance, he reveals to Moschion that he knows that the baby is Moschion's; when Moschion responds by asking how that should affect Demeas' relationship with Chrysis, Demeas begins to lose his self-control altogether. At this point, the much more irascible Niceratus has overheard enough to understand the nature of Demeas' suspicions, and chaos ensues (the closest thing to high comedy that one generally finds in Menander).

Here Menander makes the full extent of his cleverness obvious (line 498). The plot of Samia assumes, as its paradigm, a scenario derived from the traditional story of the Greek hero Phoenix, son of Amyntor (from Dolopia, in north-central Greece). [FN 12] Here is the tale as it is told by Phoenix himself when addressing Achilles in Book 9 of Homer's Iliad:

"[Your father] sent me with you to train you in all excellence of speech and action. Therefore, my son, I will not stay here without you — no, not though heaven itself vouchsafe to strip my years from off me, and make me young as I was when I first left Hellas the land of fair women. I was then flying the anger of father Amyntor, son of Ormenus, who was furious with me in the matter of his concubine, of whom he was enamoured to the wronging of his wife my mother. My mother, therefore, prayed me without ceasing to lie with the woman myself, that so she hate my father, and in the course of time I yielded. But my father soon came to know, and cursed me bitterly, calling the dread Erinyes to witness. He prayed that no son of mine might ever sit upon knees — and the gods, Jove of the world below and awful Proserpine, fulfilled his curse. I took counsel to kill him, but some god stayed my rashness and bade me think on men's evil tongues and how I should be branded as the murderer of my father: nevertheless I could not bear to stay in my father's house with him so bitter a against me. My cousins and clansmen came about me, and pressed me sorely to remain; many a sheep and many an ox did they slaughter, and many a fat hog did they set down to roast before the fire; many a jar, too, did they broach of my father's wine. Nine whole nights did they set a guard over me taking it in turns to watch, and they kept a fire always burning, both in the cloister of the outer court and in the inner court at the doors of the room wherein I lay; but when the darkness of the tenth night came, I broke through the closed doors of my room, and climbed the wall of the outer court after passing quickly and unperceived through the men on guard and the women servants. I then fled through Hellas till I came to fertile Phthia, mother of sheep, and to King Peleus, who made me welcome and treated me as a father treats an only son who will be heir to all his wealth. He made me rich and set me over much people, establishing me on the borders of Phthia where I was chief ruler over the Dolopians." [FN 13]

Phoenix's mother, jealous of her husband's relationship with a concubine (pallakis), convinces Phoenix to have sex with the woman and so cause her to feel distaste for the older man. In return, Amyntor curses Phoenix with childlessness or (in the more earthy non-Homeric tradition) blinds him.

Menander, it turns out, has combined the traditional elements of a New Comic romance with the tale of Phoenix to introduce a clever twist in the conventional mistaken identities and near disasters that define the genre. The audience, secure in their knowledge of Moschion's innocence and Demeas' love for his son, can enjoy the increasingly passionate declarations of Demeas — who, in his anger, begins to approach "tragic" heights — and, still more, the ludicrously excessive response of the much more simple-minded Niceratus, knowing all the while that all will turn out well in the end. Euripides had taken tragedy and brought it down to earth by transforming it into something that pointed toward a comedy of manners; Menander takes that comedy of manners and has it re-engage with its tragic roots by cleverly integrating tragic exemplars and tragic "modes." In a sense, Menander is producing the sort of "tragedy" that his generation could favor — one that is heavily invested in an examination of various non-vicious character types, and in the role of character in determining one's fate. Moschion, Demeas, and Chrysis each, in their own way, earn their salvation, despite whatever faults they might display, through their generosity of spirit and, in the end, their willingness to trust others.

One final observation on the plot: the last act of Menander's plays are often weakly motivated and have the feeling of rather gratuitous appendices. The Samia is often criticized in this regard. Act V does, however, provide the occasion for Demeas to assert his own merits in the way he had looked out for Moschion's interests earlier. It also continues the interplay with the myth of Phoenix: see the Homeric account of Phoenix's response to his father's curses, cited above, which provides the model for Moschion's plan in Act V.

Appendix: Marriage in Antiquity

Although the state had an interest in ensuring that marriages were contracted between legally qualified individuals, the mechanisms for ensuring and determining that a particular match was legitimate were social. Since women in ancient Athens were, in legal terms, perpetual minors — unable take part in the popular assembly, hold political office, own land, initiate lawsuits on their own behalf, etc. — they were represented by a guardian (their *kyrios) — usually their father, but if necessary their brother, uncle, or even son. In theory, marriages were contracted between the kyrioi of the two young people, as at the end of Act I of Samia, where Demeas and Niceratus agree that their two children should be wed. (Roman women — at least by the time of the Late Republic [first century BC] — enjoyed a bit more political and economic freedom, but the system worked in much the same way, with the woman represented by her *tutor.)

Technically, the engaged couple had no say in the matter, nor did their mothers, sisters, aunts, etc. In real life, of course, the women of the household likely did have some role in at least approving the match: we can see something of this in Terence's Mother-in-Law, and a real-life instance is available in the case of Cicero's daughter. [FN 14] But the likelihood is that the views of the young bride, in particular, were of relatively little concern.

While families no doubt had a general interest in the future happiness of the couple, the main purpose of marriage was not the joining of two hearts that beat as one, but the production of legitimate heirs: it was the interests of the two families that were of principal concern. [FN 15] This helps in part to account for the "happy" outcomes of so many of our plays, where the young rapist marries the woman he assaulted and the couple already are the parents of what is now regarded as a legitimate child. Given that couples were expected to grow into their relationship with one another and develop mutual affection through long habituation and the joys of shared children, one might argue that, in the ancient view, the couples of New Comedy are simply facing a bit steeper "learning curve" than the typical young married pair. (The acceptability of the match is also helped by the fact that the young man invariably comes from a well-to-do family, while the girl is either from a poorer family or is thought, initially at least, to lack legitimate status and a sure means of support altogether. It is, as we so often hear in 18th-/19th-century novels, a "good" match, from the girl's point of view.) Given that the alternative was the abandonment of the infant and, likely, the social and economic ruin of its mother, the ancient audience could readily accept such a union as constituting a happy ending.

In general, then, marriage was not about wildly romantic love or (much less!) hot sex. We hear, in some instances, of matches that must truly have been difficult — for example (in the Roman context) the arranged marriage between the still "vigorous" Cato the Elder (who, as his name implies, was quite old!) and the young daughter of one of Cato's clients (who could scarcely decline when Cato suggested the match). [FN 16] Frequently, however, the arrangement must have been similar to what we find in Samia: marriage to the son of a family friend or neighbor. Quite often, in Athens, a girl would be married to a cousin or similar relation, as a means of binding together branches of the family and keeping the family property together. But it's important to recall that this sort of relationship is what all involved, including the young girl, regarded as normal. If you have ever known a couple whose marriage was arranged in this fashion, you will likely have found that there was little to distinguish that couple, once they reached middle age, from the pair who united because they were passionately in love in their early 20s. (That is why most romances conclude with the wedding!)

The case of Cato points to an interesting tension between the comedies and our other sources. Discussions of marriage in antiquity suggest that in both Greece and Rome it was expected that the husband would be substantially older than his wife — that, e.g., in the typical first marriage the groom would be in his late twenties or thirties, while the bride would be 16 or so. Given the dangers of childbirth in antiquity, it was likely not uncommon for men to find themselves widowed later in life, and, like Cato, to marry a teenager. (Thus, e.g., you will find instances where a man laments the loss of his wife as having the same pathos as if he had lost a daughter.) This arrangement no doubt was felt to cement the husband's authority in a suitable fashion, and it allowed men to marry at a time when they were likely to be inheriting the family estate, while the girls were just entering their child-bearing years. In New Comedy, however, the couple seem to be much closer in age. While there are the occasional allusions that might suggest that the groom in comedy is older (e.g., Moschion speaks in the prologue of being a choregus and serving as a cavalry-commander, both of which, in the mid-fourth century, would have suggested that he was in his 30s, or older), his behavior, and the way he is treated by others, suggest that he is in his latter teens. [FN 17] Transforming the groom into a boy makes it easier to gloss over the act of rape as a thoughtless and impulsive act, and allows the young man to assume the essentially passive and somewhat ninnyish role that is often imposed upon him by the plot (an adult Moschion, for example, who dealt with the consequences of his actions, would leave no occasion for Menander's comic misunderstandings). But it is difficult to think that the audience watching these plays regarded such a fundamental element of the comic scenario as completely unrealistic. [FN 18]

Somewhat more problematic, perhaps, was the lot of the "heiress" (*epikleros). If a man died in Athens having produced only daughters, an immediate problem arose regarding the estate. Women could not own property (beyond their personal clothing and jewelry), so a daughter could not inherit. She could, however, pass property along to any sons she might bear. As a result, a girl in this situation would have been compelled to marry a male relative (e.g., a cousin or uncle) in order to keep the property in the family. (This was likely the case even if she was already married to someone else.) Her husband acted in effect as the trustee of the as yet unborn male heir: he was required to look after the property in a responsible manner and regularly to perform his duties so far as the task of producing such an heir was concerned. Menander has a play that deals with this issue: The Shield (which is composed in a much more high comic style than many of his other works, but unfortunately breaks off just when the comic mechanema gets under way.) This arrangement sounds rather dreadful, but remember: this is a society where the chance that you would find yourself marrying a cousin or the like was quite high in any case.

The young girl was attended by a dowry, which, if large, provided her with a certain status within the marriage (Menander has a couple of fragments where a husband complains bitterly about being lorded over by the wealthy epikleros he has married: see Balme's translation, p. 271), but, more importantly, also provided her with some security should the union be dissolved (since the dowry went with her). Exactly how the terms of the dowry were set out in Menander's Athens is somewhat uncertain, but in Hellenistic/Roman Egypt and in ancient Rome there would have been a marriage contract that defined in great detail what the bride was bringing to the match, the manner in which she was to be maintained by her husband, and what was to happen to the girl's property in the case of various kinds of break-up. (For the Romans, the signing of the marriage contract was one of the principal features of the wedding ceremony — rather like the giving away of the bride by the father in the modern ceremony.) A number of these contracts survive from Egypt: [FN 19] they make for compelling reading and give a sense of the sort of security that Chrysis in Samia lacks.

Some Relevant Bibliography


[FN 1] In accordance with Pericles' citizenship law of 451. For more on the complex history of this issue, see C.B. Patterson, "Those Athenian Bastards," Classical Antiquity 9 (1990) 40-73.   [Return to text]

[FN 2] Cf. the situation of Stephanus, the defendant in the speech "Against Neaera" (ps.-Demosthenes 59): D. Hamel, Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece (New Haven, 2003).   [Return to text]

[FN 3] There were respectable women with this name, but in comedy it would seem to indicate a member of the demimonde.   [Return to text]

[FN 4] Concern about this was quite real in the case of elderly widowers: there was in fact a law in Athens that nullified any will effected by one who was ill, drugged, senile, insane, coerced, or acting under a woman's influence. For an indication of just how messy cases of inheritence could become, consult the speeches of the early 4th-century orator Isaeus. (See, e.g., J.M. Dillon, Salt and Olives: Morality and Custom in Ancient Greece [Edinburgh, 2004] 50-77.)   [Return to text]

[FN 5] Clearly, there is more to be said here. I've done my best to give a sense of how the ancient audience seems to have responded to this feature of the plays, but many modern readers are going to have difficulty, e.g., listening to the nice young Moschion allude to rape as something that "thousands" of men have done (486-87). (Taken in context, the latter is a "set-up" line, intended to infuriate Demeas, who believes that they are discussing the issue of a son who has had sex with his father's mistress, but such a line could never be used in a modern family-oriented comedy.) In The Girl with the Shaved Head, Menander will treat it as understandable that a passionate young lover should physically humiliate his beloved; the title Rhapizomene (The Slapped Girl) points in a similar direction. (Not to be too complacent: one has only to Google "rape jokes" to find that rape is still very much alive in the world of stand-up comedy, the edgier sit-coms, and, of all things, advertising. Viewed in light of some of the latter material, Menander can seem fairly humane: consider, e.g., a recent ad for Belvedere Vodka.) A useful contrast to Menander's approach can be found in the utterly cavalier treatment of rape in Terence's Mother-in-Law, based on a Greek original by Menander's younger contemporary, Apollodorus of Carystus.   [Return to text]

[FN 6] On the other hand, studies claim that, among those couples that opt for prenatal screening, roughly 80%-90% elect to terminate a pregnancy when informed of a high risk that the child could suffer from Down Syndrome.   [Return to text]

[FN 7] So it is that Pataicus, in The Girl with the Shaved Head, can abandon his two newborn children when their mother — his lawfully married wife — dies in childbirth and he suffers a business misfortune that wipes him out.   [Return to text]

[FN 8] From M.R. Lefkowitz and M.B. Fant, Women's Life in Greece and Rome, #249: See further:;4;744, and cf. the instructions given by a husband at Terence, Self-Tormentor 626-30 (based on an original by Menander). For an attempt to soften the import of this letter, see S. West, "Whose Baby? A Note on P. Oxy. 744," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 121 (1998) 167-72;   answered by P. McKechnie, "An Errant Husband and a Rare Idiom (P.Oxy. 744)," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 127 (1999) 157-61. On the experience of families in modern China, cf. K. Evans, The Lost Daughters of China: Abandoned Girls, Their Journey to America, and the Search for a Missing Past (New York, 2000).   [Return to text]

[FN 9] Demeas certainly feels free to regard it as an outrage when he returns and finds Chrysis nursing a baby that he thinks is his.   [Return to text]

[FN 10] Some readers have found signs of the manipulative femme fatale in Chrysis' words at 81ff. but that is to place a malicious spin on her meaning.   [Return to text]

[FN 11] For a somewhat similar case, compare the first speech of the fifth-century orator Antiphon: "Against the Stepmother for Poisoning" (which might be a fictional work):   [Return to text]

[FN 12] See   [Return to text]

[FN 13] Homer, Iliad 9.442-84 (Samuel Butler, tr.).   [Return to text]

[FN 14] See, e.g., J.H. Collins, "Tullia's Engagement and Marriage to Dolabella," Classical Journal 47.5 (1952) 164-68+186;   S. Treggiari, Terentia, Tullia, and Publilia: The Women of Cicero's Family (New York, 2007).   [Return to text]

[FN 15] This is evident in the betrothal formula employed by the girl's father or guardian in addressing the prospective groom when he formally assented to the match: "I hand over this woman to you for the plowing of legitimate children" — a rather earthy expression, to be sure, but it reflects the concerns of all involved, and gives an indication of the pressures that could come to bear upon a woman who failed to produce an heir.   [Return to text]

[FN 16] Plutarch, Life of Cato 24:*.html#24.   [Return to text]

[FN 17] In Terence's Eunuch, the young rapist is 16 years old (line 693). Otherwise it is the age of the girl that is generally specified (or implied): Menander, Hero 94 (18 years); Com. Adesp. 14.26-27 (16 years); Terence, Eunuch 318 and 526 (16 years) and Phormio 1017 (15 years). (Whether the 17-year-old boy in Damoxenus 3 is relevant to this question is uncertain.) Cf., e.g., the youthful Habrocomes and Anthia of Xenophon of Ephesus' Ephesian Tale: the former is around 16 years old when they meet (1.2.2), the latter around 14 (1.2.5). Regarding Moschion's public services, the speaker of Lysias 21, in recounting his past services, indicates that he sponsored a number of choral/dramatic performances when he was approximately 19 or 20 years old, and served as trierarch (someone who fitted out and commanded a warship) several times while apparently in his 20s.   [Return to text]

[FN 18] It might seem odd that there is uncertainty about such a fundamental element of people's lives as the typical age of marriage, but this is precisely the sort of data that often disappears from the historical record. As Peter Ward notes (Courtship, Love and Marriage in Nineteenth-century English Canada [Montreal, 1990] 50-51) it is difficult to establish a typical age of marriage even for 19th-century English Canada.   [Return to text]

[FN 19] See (unfortunately the links to most of the translations are broken).     See A.S. Hunt and C.C. Edgar, eds., Select papyri, vol. 1 (Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1959-1970).     Only one such papyrus seems to date from within Menander's lifetime:   [Return to text]

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