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Re-eroticizing the Hoopoe: Tereus in Aristophanes' Birds

From: Syllecta Classica
Volume 22 (2011)
pp. 1-20 | 10.1353/syl.2011.0005



In Aristophanes' Birds the character Tereus plays a pivotal role in persuading the bird chorus to hear Peisetairus' plan for founding a powerful bird-polis. One must ask how Peisetairus achieves his initial persuasion of Tereus, who has happily left behind the violent tyranny of his tragic role, to take on the gods and jeopardize his tranquility. Unlike Dobrov and others, who argue that the comic Tereus is a complete inversion of the tragic character from Sophocles' Tereus, I argue that Aristophanes depicts a comic Tereus who shows from the beginning latent tyrannical and, in particular, erotic qualities that Peisetairus exploits and who thus provides the bridge for erotic human beings to establish an imperial, aerial polis among the contentedly self-sufficient birds.

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