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Athena and the Paphlagonian in Aristophanes' Knights. Re-considering Equites 1090-5, 1172-81

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image of Mnemosyne

This paper re-examines the treatment of Athena in some passages of Aristophanes' Knights along the lines of a previous study by C.A. Anderson (1991 and 1995). Two topics will be considered: the dream-oracles of Athena (Eq. 1090-5), and some epithets characterizing the goddess during the food-serving contest (Eq. 1172-81). The Paphlagonian's and Sausage-Seller's portraits of Athena are self-referential images in that they are able both to play a significant 'dramatic' role in the contest for the steward-ship of Dêmos, by preparing for the final fate of each character within the comic plot (Eq. 1090-5), and to mirror, respectively, the war-mongering, grasping and violent nature of Cleon (Eq. 1172-81), and the poet's and Athenians' political ideal. By focusing on the self-referential nature of the Paphlagonian's portrait of Athena, I shall argue that Athena's image also resonates with a particular trait of Cleon, which is a constant object of Aristophanes' denunciation concerning the manipulative politics of the demagogue, i.e. his tendency to make people believe that the polis' welfare is his main concern; in other words, his pretense to be a good leader, sincerely interested in the citizens' well-being. This meaning of the Paphlagonian's portrait of Athena is corroborated by the characterization of the goddess through specific epithets in the food-serving contest.


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