PHORMIS

This document was written by William Ridgeway and originally published in The Dramas and Dramatic Dances of Non-European Races. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1915. pp. 407-408.

Respecting Phormis we fortunately possess some very important facts. In the first place, like Epicharmus he was neither a born Megarian nor even a Sicilian, and was most certainly not a Dorian, for we know from Pausanias that he was a native of Maenalus in Arcadia, that from thence he emigrated to Sicily to the court of Gelon, son of Deinomenes, and that by distinguishing himself in the campaign of that king and afterwards in those of his brother Hieron, he attained to such wealth that he was able to set up certain dedications at Olympia seen there by Pausanias, and others also at Delphi. Those at Olympia were statues of two horses, each with a groom beside it. There were also three statues of Phormis himself in a row, confronting in each case a foeman. The legend on these set forth that they were dedicated by Lycortas of Syracuse, apparently a friend and admirer. Like Aeschylus, the true founder of Attic tragedy, and Cyril Tourneur, one of the most potent spirits of the Elizabethan drama, Phormis was thus a soldier as well as a dramatist. Indeed, in view of the fact that the Arcadians in every age went forth in considerable numbers from their native mountains, like the Highlanders of Scotland, to take service with any one who wanted a man who could wield a good spear and draw a good sword, it was probable in such a capacity that Phormis went to seek and found his fortune at the court of Gelon. According to Suidas he became a member of that monarch's household and tutor to his children, and wrote eight comedies--Admetus, Alcinous, The Fall of Ilium, Perseus, Cepheus or Cephaleia, Alcyones, Hippus and Atalanta. From their names it is obvious that his plays were all burlesque of familiar epic and tragic themes, not excepting that on his own national heroine, Atalanta. He was the first who arrayed a (comic) actor in a robe reaching to the feet, and employed a background (skene) adorned with skins dyed red. The use in Comedy for the first time of long dignified robes was probably, like the plot, a consequence of the burlesquing of heroic themes.

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