The Classical Quarterly (New Series)

Research Article

A Eupolidean Precedent for the Rowing Scene in Aristophanes' Frogs?

A. M. Wilsona1

a1 University of Durham

The scene in Aristophanes' Frogs where Dionysus rows Charon's boat across the Styx to the accompaniment of the chorus of frogs is, of course, one of the most famous passages of Greek Comedy, and an essential element of the humour of the passage is the ineptitude of Dionysus as a rower. As a large part of the Athenian audience would have served in triremes as rowers, Dionysus' inability to perform this familiar task adequately will have been immediately ridiculous. Aristophanes was thus exploiting an easy source of humour in depicting Dionysus as an unaccomplished rower battling against the difficulties and discomforts of the task. Had so obvious a source of humour been neglected by the playwrights of Athenian Old Comedy till the time of Frogs? We should have been obliged to answer that we had no positive indications to the contrary till the publication in 1968 of Pap. Ox. 2740, but this now furnishes us with grounds to infer that some other Old Comedy, very probably the Taxiarchs of Eupolis, contained a scene where some person was represented as rowing ineptly.