I had such fun with that Thesmophoriazusae post that I want to focus on Aristophanes again. I tend to have a pretty Hegelian view of history in the sense that I always look for moments of self-awareness and see that as the unfolding of progress. If you think of that Albanian’s interpretation of ancient tragedy as the imitation of wedding and funeral rituals, that is the self-awareness of the Greek people, and Aristophanes is another step of self-awareness after that. I see him as an in-between point of self-awareness that occupies both the world of tragedy that preceded it and the science of Aristotle that it (arguably) led to. In being able to lampoon the prior drama-genres he was something of a scientist. He understood them so well he could laugh at them. This is similar to the dynamic between Socrates’ critical reception of Homer.
So let’s go to the REAL origin- Aristophanes’ very first play. He wrote it when he was 19 years old, and tragically it only exists in fragments. That is Banqueters.
we see the Conventional Son and the Experimental Son switching places (presumably on a dare in the course of their arguments but the portion of the play explaining why has not survived) and trying to live each other’s lifestyles to literally “see how the other half lives” in a political sense.
They’re both incapable of living the other life. To speak in modern parlance, the conservative one couldn’t be a liberal and the liberal one couldn’t be a conservative. The conclusion of the play did not survive! I hate this!
The setting of the play is a banquet in honor of Hercules that is hosted by a conservative Athenian landowner.
The “liberal” one of the two has an interest in the views of the sophists of that time, and remember, Socrates himself was considered one of them. Banqueters was performed in 427, and the Clouds which is the infamous criticism of Socrates, was performed in 423.
This first play of his seems like a proto Platonic dialogue
In one fragment, the adolescent challenges his elder on the meaning of words in Homer and Solon (fr. 233). In another (fr. 205), the older man picks at unusual words in the young man’s speech and connects them to problematic speakers in the public sphere in Athens.
There seems to have been a concern with neologisms that were taught to the youth. For instance, Athenian “conservatives” were labeled with σορέλλη, the equivalent of “coffinette” to imply they’re old and ready for the grave.
This phrasing is attributed to Alcibiades, which the conservatives considered as a form of hocus-pocus
These very speeches will get away on you.
Maybe this can be seen as similar to extremely online people who frequently talk in memes without even realizing it? In any case, Aristophanes himself was on the conservative side of things. And he lambasted Socrates because he saw him as a “liberal”. A prominent theme in the Clouds is actually Oedipal- the conservatives thought if the liberals were to continue teaching the youth chaos would ensue and children would kill their fathers and sleep with their mothers.
Ironically, I think liberals of today can relate to Aristophanes’ conservatism, because they think if conservatives of today get their way then chaos will ensue. The unmuzzled rhetoric of nationalism they believe will cause all kinds of suffering. And so they seek to ban the memers and their neologisms.
Anyway, this is the earliest evidence for the origin of laughter, the conflict between these two political types.
Wouldn’t it be nice if this could be said about reactosphere culture
Aristophanes dramatizes directly or reports explicitly on the three main institutions of the Athenian democracy (the Assembly, the Council and the courts), and he projects an anxiety about the role of the new intellectual style of speech in each of them.
This is like if you started to hear them on Fox news talking about the Radhanites of the Pale or something. Or mainstream academics discussing HBD concepts like impulse-control and time-preference.
Some more context on the nature of the banquet
We know that some private groups in Athens performed the Mysteries in their houses… Such behaviour was regarded to be a dangerous sacrilege by the majority of the public… private dining groups in Athens were by their nature dissident gatherings with fundamental potential for opposition to democracy, and, therefore, they provided space for sacrilegious behaviour and performances. It is implied, however, that the participants themselves had genuine religious motivations to perform those rituals, that were perceived as impious by the majority of the polis
Bankers hate banqueters.