Monkey Business: Imitation, Authenticity, and Identity from Pithekoussai to Plautus

Classical Antiquity 23 (2):179-207 (2004)

This essay explores references to monkeys as a way of talking about imitation, authenticity, and identity in Greek stories about the “Monkey Island” Pithekoussai and in Athenian insults, and in Plautus' comedy. In early Greek contexts, monkey business defines what it means to be aristocratic and authoritative. Classical Athenians use monkeys to think about what it means to be authentically Athenian: monkey business is a figure for behavior which threatens democratic culture—sycophancy or other deceptions of the people. Plautus' monkey imagery across the corpus of his plays moves beyond the Athenian use of “monkey” as a term of abuse and uses the “imitative” relation of monkeys to men as a metapoetic figure for invention and play-making. For Plautus, imitator—and distorter—of Greek plays, monkeys' distorted imitations of men are mapped not onto the relations between inauthentic and authentic citizens, as in Athens, but onto the relation of Roman to Greek comedy and culture at large. Monkey business in Plautus is part of the insistence on difference which was always crucial in Roman encounters with Greek culture
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1525/ca.2004.23.2.179
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 46,282
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker.Hermann Diels - 1904 - Journal of Hellenic Studies 24 (6):167.
The Litigious Athenian. [REVIEW]Alastair Blanshard & M. R. Christ - 2000 - Journal of Hellenic Studies 120:180-181.

View all 9 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Scents and Sensibility in Plautus′ Casina.Catherine Connors - 1997 - Classical Quarterly 47 (01):305-.


Added to PP index

Total views
20 ( #461,963 of 2,285,987 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #571,252 of 2,285,987 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature