Machon’s Alexandrian comedy and earlier comic tradition
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Machon’s plays, staged in Ptolemaic Alexandria, seem to have employed the stock plots and characters of New Comedy. A few of their elements, however, are hardly typical of that genre. The mageiros in fr. 2 introduces himself as a lover of good food, intent on tasting his own dishes. This trait is not attested in cooks of extant Middle and New Comedy, but recalls figures of the earlier comic tradition: the Megarian Maison; some cooking personages in Epicharmus’ Sirens; the gourmand Cyclops of Cratinus’ Odysseˆs; Aristophanic protagonists preparing food for their own enjoyment; and the greedy Heracles of the Birds. The philological study of earlier comic texts flourished in Alexandria during that period, and Machon also seems to have been a scholar. His familiarity with older comic forms perhaps inspired him to borrow ideas from them and combine those borrowings with the standard materials of his contemporary comedy for innovative purposes. Dioscorides’ funerary epigram for Machon implies similar practices, stating that this poet revived the pungent spirit of ancient comic art.
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