- Farting for Dollars:A Note on Agyrrhios in Aristophanes Wealth 176
Early in aristophanes wealth,1 Khremylos and his slave, Karion, are trying to persuade the blind god of Wealth that he is the mightiest of all divinities. Men sacrifice to Zeus but for wealth. All professions exist for the pursuit of wealth. The mighty King of Persia grooms himself because of it. Karion next focuses on Athens in particular:
Doesn't the Assembly meet because of it (wealth)?
Karion follows with examples of money supporting military efforts and then returns to the formula:
Won't Pamphilos suffer because of it?
Scholia explain that Pamphilos had a reputation, at least in comedy, for demagoguery and embezzlement. Around this time, he was facing a trial. Karion's next example is more enigmatic:
Doesn't Agyrrhios fart because of it?
Precisely why Agyrrhios should fart on account of wealth has eluded critics and commentators. While modern scholars have long recognized that the scholia to this line contain no reliable information, interpretations still rely on the scholiasts' best guesses. Comparison with other comic [End Page 549] references to farting, however, and to Agyrrhios and his philoi, suggest that farting here refers not directly to his excessive wealth, as is generally supposed, but to his activity as a corrupt orator.
Agyrrhios (PA 179, PAA 107660) is known for several key events in his political career, including his role in instituting pay for attending the Ekklesia and his generalship of 389.2 His skill in tax farming made him wealthy, but his financial dealings also landed him in prison for a time (Dem. 24.135). Why he should be associated with the troubles of wealth is clear enough, but not why he should fart on its account. The scholiasts clearly had no more context for the line than we possess now. Older scholia offer two categories of explanations for Agyrrhios' incontinence. It may have resulted from Agyrrhios' extravagant living, perhaps from the overeating characteristic of the rich. On the other hand, it may refer to Agyrrhios' sexual perversions.3 Later scholia expand on the latter explanation, probably by comparing this line with the reference to Agyrrhios' sexuality at Ecc. 102.4 In no case, however, do the scholiasts seem to operate on information unavailable to us. Indeed, modern scholars have rightly dismissed the scholia altogether but have tended to fall back on the older scholia's suggestion of farting as a mark of extravagant living.5 Confidence in this interpretation erodes in the face of comparisons with other instances of farting in Greek comedy.
This explanation can appear logical enough, and it is often assumed that the reference thus fits an established typology of the overstuffed rich man farting from excess, but, in fact, there is no parallel in ancient Greek comedy for farting in this context. Forms and variations on occupy a wide semantic range in Greek comedy, but some groups and trends can be usefully demarcated. For example, the similarity [End Page 550] in sound of snoring and farting means sleeping people fart (an equation explicit at Kn. 115 and implied at Cl. 9). Farting can come as a surprise substitute in a mock religious ritual (as part of an oath at Wa. 394; as a good omen in place of a sneeze at Kn. 639). Although religious fear leads Strepsiades to fart at Cl. 293, more properly covers semantic ranges associated with fear.6 The frightening bogey Lamia, however, is associated with (Ecc. 78, 1177). Collapse from physical pain can also result in farting (Fr. 10 and 1097). Farting can accompany idleness and boredom (Ach. 30; Ecc. 464). More often, however, someone farts as part of a triumphal celebration, which may include aggressively farting on or at one's opponent (Wa. 1305; Pc. 335, 547; We. 618; Cratinus fr. 6.3; Epicrates fr. 10.29; Sosipater fr. 1.12). Isolated jokes specific to context also occur (a joke about conditions for rowers at Fr. 1074; a homely example of physics at Cl. 392; a feed for a joke about physicians at We. 699). All of these instances showcase a lower class, rustic, or foolish individual farting...