Classics and Ancient History seminar series – School of Humanities Classics and Ancient History seminar series – School of Humanities

Olympia sculpture

Classics and Ancient History seminar series

Robert Cowan | The University of Sydney

‘‘The third lifecycle of Philokleon in Aristophanes’ Wasps.’’

Welcome to the Classics and Ancient History Online Research Seminars for Semester 1, 2020.
We are very grateful to our presenters for contributing to the program. Each paper or presentation will be between 20 and 30 minutes in length, and will be followed by an informal question and answer/discussion session. Supporting materials for each presentation will be circulated prior to the event.


The mutability of Philokleon’s generational identity—both absolute and relative to his son Bdelykleon—in Aristophanes’ Wasps is well established. Critics routinely write of his ‘rejuvenation’ in the second half of the play, and it is in the scene with the flute-girl, Dardanis, that the old man most explicitly plays the part of an irresponsible youth waiting for his son (in the role of father) to die. However, inversions and perversions of generational identity pervade the whole play. Even before Philokleon has undergone his liberating transformation at the symposion, the educational roles of father and son are reversed as Bdelykleon schools him in the proper way to behave in polite society. More subtly and extensively, Angus Bowie has shown how the three agones in which Philokleon (unsuccessfully) engages during the first half of the play correspond to the three stages of an Athenian male citizen’s life: ephebeia, maturity in the hoplite phalanx, and old age in the jury.

However, critics have not observed that Philokleon goes through another, parallel journey from youth through maturity to old age in the three ‘iambic scenes’ where he is confronted by the victims of his outrageous behaviour on his way home from the symposion. Moreover, unlike the three defeats in Bowie’s agones, which successively strip him of his three identities, his victories in the iambic scenes enable him to inhabit the roles of neaniasanêr, and gerôn simultaneously. This paper will show how Aristophanes constructs this third lifecycle (counting his literal maturation before the play’s action begins) before considering its implications for the wider characterization of Philokleon and in particular the final scene.


The Department of Classics and Ancient History hosts a lively departmental research seminar series. Everyone is welcome to attend.

On Zoom
If you haven’t received an email with the Zoom meeting details, please click here to register your interest in the seminar.

7 May 2020, 4:00-5:00pm

An extra note on recording of seminars 

As part of a School initiative to preserve our online content for potential future use, we intend to record our seminars. If you would not like to be inadvertently recorded, please turn off your video and microphone after joining the meeting.

Seminar Series convenors:
Louise Pryke and Emma Barlow
Click here to email

The Department of Classics and Ancient History is part of the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI).

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May 07 2020


4:00 pm - 5:00 pm


This event is free

Other Organizers

Classics and Ancient History

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