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Greek Laughter and TearsAntiquity and After$
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Margaret Alexiou and Douglas Cairns

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474403795

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474403795.001.0001

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‘Do you Think you’re Clever? Solve this Riddle, then!’ The Comic Side of Byzantine Enigmatic Poetry

‘Do you Think you’re Clever? Solve this Riddle, then!’ The Comic Side of Byzantine Enigmatic Poetry

Chapter:
(p.87) 6 ‘Do you Think you’re Clever? Solve this Riddle, then!’ The Comic Side of Byzantine Enigmatic Poetry
Source:
Greek Laughter and Tears
Author(s):

Simone Beta

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474403795.003.0006

‘Comic’ is not an adjective one would normally use in connection with or ancient Greek Byzantine riddles. Yet Greek riddles began to show their comic side after the fifth century BCE, when they became typical sympotic pastimes. At some point, ainigmata turned into griphoi and, according to the definition given by the Peripatetic philosopher Clearchus of Soli, became a ‘a problem put in jest’. The comicality we see in in the many griphoi Athenaeus took from Attic comedy in the tenth book of the Deipnosophists is more evident, and less dangerous; and it is generally agreed that such drollery is mostly absent from Byzantine riddles. A survey shows how the unknown Byzantine authors who took pleasure in composing these little conundrums were even able, in some circumstances, to jest with Holy Scripture and to linger on topics more suitable for Old Comedy.

Keywords:   Riddles, Humour, Ainigmata, Griphos, Scatology, John Eugenikos

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