Philocleon's Addiction

John E. Thorburn, Jr.

Baylor University

Aristophanes? Wasps, awarded second prize at the Lenaea in Athens in 422BC, focuses on a conflict between the elderly Philocleon (?Love-Cleon?) and his son Bdelycleon (?Hate-Cleon?). Both men?s names are linked with the most powerful Athenian demagogue of that time, Cleon. Not long before the appearance of Wasps, Cleon had helped raise the pay for jurors and in Aristophanes? comedy, the friction between father and son arises because the son worries that his father has become addicted to judging in the Athenian courts. Although Aristophanes characterizes Philocleon as engaging in reprehensible behavior, modern scholars have both admired and been troubled by him. Gomme calls Philocleon ?a triumph of characterization, one the best comic figures in literature?.[1] MacDowell labels Philocleon ?an old scallywag,? but says that ?one cannot help liking him?.[2] Dover writes that ?Aristophanes has invested Philocleon with such defects of character that beside him Dikaiopolis, Trygaios and Peisetairos are almost prigs?.[3] Even Biles, who considers Bdelycleon the play?s hero, notes that Philocleon ?undoubtedly has a considerable claim on our sympathies?.[4]

This paper, however, will not argue whether Philocleon or Bdelycleon is the play?s hero, or consider the connection between the play?s two halves, which has occupied many scholars.[5] In contrast to Bowie, who compares Philocleon to an Athenian ephebe and hoplite,[6] this paper examines Philocleon?s behavior by employing an inter-disciplinary methodology that may offer those who teach Wasps a way to make Philocleon?s behavior more understandable to a modern audience. Whereas Konstan states that Aristophanes portrays Philocleon?s love of jury service as ?an obsession,? our methodology aims to show that Philocleon?s disease is an addiction.[7] To do so, we shall compare Philocleon?s behavior to that of the male alcoholic. Furthermore, we shall suggest that the similarities between Philocleon and an alcoholic may be intentional. Our study supports Sidwell?s argument that the figure of Aristophanes? rival comic poet Cratinus, an alleged alcoholic, stands behind the character of Philocleon.[8]

Philocleon is the most prominent Aristophanic character with a ?disease?.[9] The term nosos and its cognates appear 19 times in Aristophanes? extant writings and we find seven of these occurrences in Wasps.[10] The only other characters of any consequence in Aristophanes whom the poet describes as suffering from a nosos are the horse-loving Pheidippides in Clouds (243), and the sex-starved males in Lysistrata (1085, 1088). For each of these characters, Philocleon, Pheidippides, and the men in Lysistrata, the term nosos connotes an addiction (the importance of this distinction will soon become apparent). Philocleon is addicted to serving on juries, Pheidippides to the equestrian life, and the men in Lysistrata suffer from a lack of sex.

In Wasps, after Xanthias first mentions Philocleon?s disease (71), the slave invites the audience to guess as to its nature. One person conjectures that Philocleon is a philopotęs (79), ?a lover of drink?.[11] Although this notion is dismissed, we should note several things from this remark. First, Aristophanes? audience would consider habitual, immoderate drinking a nosos. Second, a philopotęs had a recognizable behavior. Furthermore, the behavior of a philopotęs would make appropriate subject matter for the comic stage. Aristophanes? contemporary and fellow-Athenian Eupolis had branded the statesman Cimon a philopotęs in one of his comedies (fragment 221 Kassel-Austin = Plutarch, Cimon 15.4.3-5).[12] Sommerstein writes that the word-root philo- indicates that ?the malady takes the form of an intense desire for, or addiction to, some thing or activity?.[13] We would argue that Philocleon's disease is an addiction.

To better understand the nature of Philocleon?s ?disease,? we shall turn to the classic study of 2000 male alcoholics published in 1952 by E.M. Jellinek, in which the author describes the signs associated with his four phases of alcohol addiction (Pre-alcoholic Symptomatic, Prodromal, Crucial, and Chronic). Thanks to the watchful eye of his son, Bdelycleon, Philocleon never becomes a ?Chronic Courtoholic?. Philocleon?s disease, however, does have parallels in Jellinek's first three phases, and in particular the ?Crucial Stage.? When we compare the characteristics manifested by alcoholics in the disease?s ?Crucial? phase, we find that most of the behavioral patterns exhibited by addicts in this phase of alcoholism correspond to Philocleon?s addiction to law courts. Before we examine the symptoms of the ?Crucial Stage? of alcoholism, let us mention a few characteristics of the first two phases of alcoholism.

      The first stage, which Jellinek terms the ?Pre-alcoholic Symptomatic Phase,? is characterized by the alcoholic?s awareness of ?the contingency between relief and drinking? and ?recourse to alcoholic relief practically daily?.[14] Certainly Philocleon, who tries every trick imaginable to elude the guards his son has posted around his house, is aware of the contingency between relief and judging. Philocleon takes recourse to judicial relief almost daily. So addicted to life at the courts is Philocleon that as soon as he finishes dinner he calls for his shoes and marches off to the court to sleep there instead of at home (103-105).

      Philocleon?s disease, however, has progressed beyond the ?Pre-alcoholic Symptomatic Phase?. During the Prodromal Phase, Jellinek says that alcoholic beverages ?have become sources of a drug which he ?needs.??[15] Philocleon definitely realizes his need to be a jurist. As Niall Slater writes, ?the emotional gratification of judging is all that matters to Philocleon?.[16] At lines 348-49, Philocleon asks his comrades, ?I?m prepared to do anything, so much do I crave to go round past the notice-boards, mussel-shell in hand?.[17] Another aspect of the ?Prodromal Phase? of alcoholism is ?Surreptitious Drinking?.[18] The meaning of this is obvious, and we may view Philocleon?s efforts to escape from his house as attempts to judge surreptitiously. When Philocleon tries to escape from his son?s clutches, the old man becomes anything but human. He is compared with escaping smoke, a magpie, a sparrow, a mouse, and a bee.

      Philocleon?s efforts to escape from the house also have parallels with the third of the four stages of alcoholism, which Jellinek terms the Crucial Phase, a phase in which the male alcoholic begins to exhibit ?marked aggressive behavior,? ?his entire behavior becomes alcohol-centered,? he experiences ?a loss of outside interests,? and he considers or attempts ?geographical escape?.[19] Indeed, Philocleon?s behavior has become centered upon the courts, he shows interest in nothing else, his behavior is aggressive, and he does attempt to escape from his house. In this phase, Jellinek says that the alcoholic experiences a ?loss of control?.[20] Jellinek observes that ?Loss of control means that any drinking of alcohol starts a chain reaction which is felt by the drinker as a physical demand for alcohol?.[21] Indeed, Philocleon has lost control and does have a physical need to judge. For example, his desire to serve on juries causes him sleepless nights (91); he wakes up with his hand pinched as if he were holding a voting pebble (94-96).

      Another behavior of the ?Crucial Phase? of alcoholism is the drinker?s desire ?to protect his supply? by keeping ?a large stock of alcoholic beverages?.[22] Philocleon, of course, keeps his own stock of voting pebbles at home so he will never run short (109-110). Alcoholics in the ?Crucial Phase? also display a ?Neglect of Proper Nutrition?. Although Philocleon may not be malnourished (cf. line 610), his diet has changed as jury service has become the preferred delicacy upon which he dines. At lines 508-11, Philocleon tells his son that he enjoys the savory smell of law-court stew more than pigeon?s milk, mullet and eels. At line 525, Philocleon, in a play on the words oinos (?wine?) and misthos (?wages?), speaks of his jury pay as if it were drink. At lines 616-18, Philocleon even argues that his jury pay allows him ?to purchase his own jug of wine and drink as much as he pleases?.[23] So, although Philocleon may not be malnourished, jury service has become both his daily bread and drink.

During the ?Crucial Phase,? Jellinek also observes that ?frequently the first hospitalization for some alcoholic complaint occurs at this time.? Like the alcoholic, Philocleon has received all manner of therapy and medical treatment for his disease. The play?s prologue informs us that the old man has undergone cleansings and purification (118); an attempt to involve him in Corybantic ritual; and the dormition cure at Ascelpius? temple on Aegina (123). Jellinek also points out that alcoholics in this phase regularly imbibe during the morning.[24] Philocleon awakes with his fingers pinched as if he were holding a voting pebble (94-95), and even sleeps at the court so he can start his jury service as soon as the courts open (103-5).

Also in the Crucial Phase, Jellinek writes that ?Practically simultaneously with the onset of ?loss of control? the alcohol addict begins to rationalize his drinking behaviour: he produces the well-known alcoholic ?alibis?. He finds explanations which convince him that he did not lose control, but that he had a good reason to get intoxicated and that in the absence of such reasons he is able to handle alcohol as well as anybody else?.[25] Jellinek further notes that ?One way of compensation is the grandiose behavior which the addict begins to display at this time. Extravagant expenditures and grandiloquence convince him that he is not as bad as he had thought at times?.[26] Jellinek also points out that ?At this time... the drinking behavior becomes conspicuous, and the parents, wife, friends and employer may begin to reprove and warn the drinker?.[27]

The primary evidence for Philocleon?s view of his judging and reproof by his family appears in the agôn, where Olson notes that ?the old man offers a strikingly rational account of his behavior?.[28] Here, the concerned Bdelycleon reproves and warns this chronic juror that he is a slave to the demagogue Cleon. During the agôn, Philocleon?s grandiloquence becomes manifest as he roars at his son?s suggestion (517-18), ?Stop talking about slavery. Me? I?m the lord of all?. At 550-51, Philocleon muses, ?What creature is there today more happy and enviable, or more pampered, or more to be feared, than a juror, and that though he?s an old man?? Later, Philocleon?s grandiloquence even becomes hubris as he claims that his dominion is the same as that of Zeus himself (620). As Gregory Crane has observed, ?Philocleon praises his life as a juror because of the power it conveys and the respect which this power allows him to extract from others?.[29]

Jellinek points out that the alcoholic?s ?rationalizations quite naturally lead to the idea that the fault lies not within himself but in others, and this results in a progressive withdrawal from social environment. The first sign of this attitude is a marked aggressive behavior. Inevitably, this latter behavior generates guilt?.[30] We have already noted Philocleon?s aggressive behavior. In the agôn, his guilt emerges. When Bdelycleon?s argument begins to win him over, the chorus suggest that Philocleon begins to feel guilt (743-49):

      He has been admonishing himself about the things

      that he used to be mad on; for he has just realized the truth,

      and he reckons all those things to be errors

      which he did not believe to be so when you urged him.

      Now perhaps he is persuaded

      by your arguments

      and indeed has seen sense,

      changing his ways for the future

      and following your advice.

Whereas serving as a juror requires participation in a social environment, Bdelycleon?s establishment of a court at their home isolates Philocleon from the company he previously enjoyed. The ?home court? also points to another of the behaviors of an alcoholic in the Crucial Phase. Jellinek observes that the guilt felt by alcoholics in this phase eventually leads the alcoholic to try ?to control his troubles by changing the pattern of his drinking? and to establish ?rules about not drinking before a certain hour of the day, in certain places only, and so forth?.[31] Philocleon?s experience parallels this as his son persuades him to set up court at his house, and tries to get his father to judge in one specific location. Bdelycleon also manages to break his father?s harsh pattern of judging, by tricking him into acquitting the family dog Labes. Bdelycleon further tries to change his father?s life by introducing him into a new type of society. Ironically, the result of Philocleon?s incursion into this new society results in a failure to consume alcohol in moderation. Taken to a symposium by his son, Philocleon gets drunk, snatches the flute girl, and assaults several people on the way home from the symposium. As Whitman notes, ?Far from cured, Philocleon has merely a new disease, worse than the first?.[32]

Having argued that Philocleon's addiction to judging is modeled upon the behavior of an alcoholic, it now remains to identify the ancient alcoholic of whom Philocleon is a caricature. As noted above, Sidwell has argued that Philocleon ?must be identical with the central character of Pytinę, that is Cratinus?.[33] Because Sidwell has given an extensive discussion of the parallels between Philocleon and Cratinus, we shall limit our remarks here. Two years before the production of Wasps, in the parabasis of Knights (526-36), Aristophanes ?had written off [Cratinus] a washed up, drunken dotard of a poet?.[34] In the year after Knights, Cratinus staged the Pytinę (Flask), in which the author?s wife, Comedy, wanted to divorce him and even obtained leave to bring a suit of kakôsis (literally ?ill-usage?) against him because he would no longer write comedy, and was having an affair with the personification of drunkenness, Methę.[35] Not only did Cratinus? Pytinę defeat Aristophanes? Clouds, which Aristophanes considered his best play to date, but also his play apparently ?charged Aristophanes with plagiarizing from Eupolis?.[36] Aristophanes did not handle this defeat well, and says as much the next year in the parabasis of Wasps, even suggesting that the loss drove him to drink (1046).

Kenneth Reckford wonders ?what Cratinus said about Aristophanes? in the parabasis of the Pytinę, and suggests that the ?continuing agôn, or self-advertising competition must have been vigorous?.[37] In fragment 199 (Kassel-Austin) from Cratinus? Pytinę, the speaker, perhaps hatching a plan to ?reform [Cratinus] and restore him to his art,? says he will smash and shatter the person?s urns and all the other vessels he uses for drinking.[38] The fragment recalls several places in Wasps, but in general reminds us of Bdelycleon?s attempt to change the behavior of his addict father. We would also note that the word Cratinus uses for drinking urns (kadiskos) is the same word Aristophanes thrice employs in Wasps for voting urns (321, 853, 854). Perhaps Aristophanes has transformed Cratinus? drinking urns into voting urns.

Whereas in Wasps the son attempts to reform the father, in Pytinę the wife attempts to reform the husband and Dame Comedy ?manages to persuade Kratinos to pull himself out of these depths of depravity?.[39] Cratinus? artistic skill would have been rejuvenated in the Pytinę after his abstention from alcohol just as Philocleon becomes rejuvenated after casting aside his judicial activities and imbibing heavily. Not only does Philocleon become intoxicated, like the old Cratinus, but he also embraces the dramatic art. After Philocleon has been broken of his judicial habits that we hear him try to quote poetry and see him steal a flute girl. Furthermore, whereas Cratinus? Pytinę will have shown his triumph over younger comic poets like Aristophanes, Aristophanes has Philocleon attempt to prove that the younger tragedians are fools by outdancing them using steps from the old poets such as Thespis and Phrynichus.

Although it is unclear why an alcoholic Cratinus should be transformed into the philęliastęs Philocleon, we would suggest that the alcoholism of Cratinus and Comedy?s suit of kakôsis against Cratinus in Pytinę may have inspired Aristophanes to combine the judicial and sympotic in Wasps. This would help explain why in Wasps ?the law-court theme is dropped in favour of the symposium?.[40] Accordingly, Sidwell proposes that the goal of Wasps was ?to reverse the plot of Pytinę by attributing to its central character a new illness, the cure for which leads directly to the revival of his old drunken habits?.[41] Additionally, if Sidwell is correct in his belief that Aristophanes could have plausibly presented Cratinus as a supporter of Cleon, then casting Cratinus in the role of a philęliastęs may have allowed Aristophanes to take on two opponents with one play.[42] Aristophanes had attacked Cleon many times before and the recent pay-increase for Athenian jurors, of which Cleon is credited as the architect, will have attracted the comic poet's attention. Likewise, Aristophanes? recent defeat by Cratinus? Pytinę and the elder playwright's comic assault on him would prompted a retaliatory response. Thus, transforming an alcoholic Cratinus into a philęliastęs will have allowed Aristophanes to strike back at two of his opponents.

[1] A. W. Gomme, More Essays in Greek History and Literature (Oxford, 1962), 79.

[2] Douglas M. MacDowell, Aristophanes: Wasps, ed. with intro. and comm. (Oxford, 1971),  8.

[3] Kenneth J. Dover, Aristophanic Comedy (Berkeley, 1972), 126.

[4] Zachary P. Biles, Aristophanes? Wasps: A Study in Competitive Poetry (Dissertation: University of Colorado at Boulder, 1999), 63.

[5] See, for example, John Vaio, ?Aristophanes? Wasps. The Relevance of the Final Scenes?, GRBS 12 (1971), 335-51; G. Paduano, Il giudice giudicato (Bologna, 1974), 9-48; A. M. Bowie, ?Ritual Stereotype and Comic Reversal: Aristophanes? Wasps?, BICS 34 (1987), 112-25; S. Douglas Olson, ?Politics and Poetry in Aristophanes? Wasps?, TAPA 126 (1996), 142-45; N.W. Slater, ?Bringing Up Father: Paideia and Ephebeia in the Wasps?, in A.H. Sommerstein and C. Atherton (eds.), Education in Greek Fiction (Bari, 1997), 27-52, with response by A.H. Sommerstein, 53-64.

[6] Bowie (n. 5), 112-25.

[7] David Konstan, ?The Politics of Aristophanes? Wasps?, TAPA 115 (1985), 28.

[8] Keith Sidwell, ?Poetic Rivalry and the Caricature of Comic Poets: Cratinus Pytinę and Aristophanes? Wasps?, in A. Griffith (ed.), Stage Directions: Essays in Ancient Drama in Honour of E.W. Handley (London, 1995), 56-80.

[9] Of course, other Aristophanic heroes display other problems or quirks. Trygaios? mania causes him to sail his redolent ?Pegasus? to Olympus. Aristophanes gives Chremylus a similar mania in the prologue of Plutus. Demos, in Knights, probably comes closest to suffering from a nosos. He is described as being blind, but clearly Demos does not behave in the same way as Philokleon, nor is he the hero of Knights.

[10] See Clouds 243; Wasps 71 (2), 76, 80, 87, 114, 651; Birds 31 (2), 104, 473; Lysistrata 1085, 1088; Thesmophoriazusae 1116; Frogs 1033; Plutus 667, 708. See also Fragments 20 and 322.7. For the fragments of Aristophanes, see R. Kassel and C. Austin, Poetae Comici Graeci, vol. 3.2 (Berlin, 1984). All references to the text of Aristophanes refer to the following edition: V. Coulon and M. van Daele, Aristophane, vols. 1-5. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1923-30 (repr. 1963-67 (1st edn. corr.)).

[11] I have not found the word elsewhere in Aristophanes. Herodotus describes the Egyptian king Amasis as a philopotęs (2.174.1), and apparently his love of drink caused the Egyptians to think badly of him. Despite being king, Amasis? drinking apparently caused him to lose his money, and thus led to him stealing from others and then denying he had done so.

[12] R. Kassel and C. Austin, Poetae Comici Graeci, vol. 5 (Berlin, 1976). For other references to philopotai in comedy, see also Alexis fragment 285 and Amphis fragment 33 in R. Kassel and C. Austin, Poetae Comici Graeci, vol. 2 (Berlin, 1991).

[13] Alan H. Sommerstein, The Comedies of Aristophanes, vol. 4: Wasps (Warminster, 1983), 158.

[14] E.M. Jellinek, ?Phases of Alcohol Addiction,? Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol 13 (1952), 676.

[15] Jellinek (n. 14), 678.

[16] Slater (n. 5), 33.

[17] Unless otherwise noted, translations from Wasps come from Sommerstein (n. 13).

[18] Jellinek (n. 14), 678-79.

[19] Jellinek (n. 14), 680-81.

[20] Jellinek (n. 14), 674.

[21] Jellinek (n. 14), 679.

[22] Jellinek  (n. 14), 681.

[23] Gregory Crane, ?Oikos and Agora: Mapping the Polis in Aristophanes? Wasps,? in Gregory W. Dobrov (ed.),  The City as Comedy: Society and Representation in Athenian Drama (Chapel Hill, 1997), 212.

[24] Jellinek  (n. 14), 681.

[25] Jellinek  (n. 14), 681.

[26] Jellinek (n. 14), 680.

[27] Jellinek (n. 14), 680.

[28] Olson (n. 5), 133.

[29] Crane (n. 23), 211.

[30] Jellinek (n. 14), 681.

[31] Jellinek (n. 14), 681.

[32] Cedric Whitman, Aristophanes and the Comic Hero (Cambridge, Mass., 1964), 160. See also Vaio (n. 5), 351: ?As a drunken symposiast, Philocleon grew more difficult to restrain... But still his son was able to drag him into the house. The old man comes out again, however, inspired by music and wine, an acknowledged manikos. Bdelycleon is no longer on stage to curb him, and his furious antics proceed unhindered.?

[33] Sidwell (n. 8), 70.

[34] Biles (n. 4), 2.

[35] For recent discussions about Cratinus, Pytinę, and Aristophanes? Knights, see Wolfgang Luppe, ?The Rivalry between Aristophanes and Kratinos,? in David Harvey and John Wilkins (eds.), The Rivals of Aristophanes (London, 2000), 15-20, and Ralph M. Rosen, ?Cratinus? Pytinę and the Construction of the Comic Self,? 23-39.

[36] Thomas K. Hubbard, The Mask of Comedy: Aristophanes and the Intertextual Parabasis (Ithaca and London, 1991), 75.

[37] Kenneth J. Reckford, Aristophanes? Old-and-New Comedy (Chapel Hill, 1987), 125.

[38] For the fragments of Cratinus, see R. Kassel and C. Austin, Poetae Comici Graeci, vol. 4 (Berlin, 1973). Charles Burton Gulick, trans., Athenaeus. The Deipnosophists, vol. 5 (Cambridge, Mass., 1980), 201.

[39] Luppe (n. 35), 18.

[40] Sidwell (n. 8), 70.

[41] Sidwell (n. 8), 70.

[42] Sidwell (n. 8), 71.

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