/meuh nan"deuhr/, n.
342?-291 B.C., Greek writer of comedies.

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born с 342
died с 292 BC

Athenian dramatist.

He produced his first play in 321 BC, and in 316 he won a festival prize with Dyscolus ("The Misanthrope"), the only one of his plays for which a complete text still exists. By the end of his career he had written more than 100 plays and had won eight victories at Athenian dramatic festivals. Menander was considered by ancient critics the supreme poet of Greek New Comedy. He excelled at presenting characters such as stern fathers, young lovers, and intriguing slaves. As adapted by the Romans Plautus and Terence, his plays influenced the later development of Renaissance comedy.

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▪ Greek dramatist

born c. 342 BC
died c. 292 BC

      Athenian dramatist whom ancient critics considered the supreme poet of Greek New Comedyi.e., the last flowering of Athenian stage comedy. During his life, his success was limited; although he wrote more than 100 plays, he won only eight victories at Athenian dramatic festivals.

      Comedy had by his time abandoned public affairs and was concentrating instead on fictitious characters from ordinary life; the role of the chorus was generally confined to the performance of interludes between acts. Actors' masks were retained but were elaborated to provide for the wider range of characters required by a comedy of manners and helped an audience without playbills to recognize these characters for what they were. Menander, who wrote in a refined Attic, by his time the literary language of the Greek-speaking world, was masterly at presenting such characters as stern fathers, young lovers, greedy demimondaines, intriguing slaves, and others.

      Menander's nicety of touch and skill at comedy in a light vein is clearly evident in the Dyscolus in the character of the gruff misanthrope Knemon, while the subtle clash and contrast of character and ethical principle in such plays as Perikeiromenē (interesting for its sympathetic treatment of the conventionally boastful soldier) and Second Adelphoe constitute perhaps his greatest achievement.

      Menander's works were much adapted by the Roman writers Plautus and Terence, and through them he influenced the development of European comedy from the Renaissance. Their work also supplements much of the lost corpus of his plays, of which no complete text exists, except that of the Dyscolus, first printed in 1958 from some leaves of a papyrus codex acquired in Egypt.

      The known facts of Menander's life are few. He was allegedly rich and of good family, and a pupil of the philosopher Theophrastus, a follower of Aristotle. In 321 Menander produced his first play, Orgē (“Anger”). In 316 he won a prize at a festival with the Dyscolus and gained his first victory at the Dionysia festival the next year. By 301 Menander had written more than 70 plays. He probably spent most of his life in Athens and is said to have declined invitations to Macedonia and Egypt. He allegedly drowned while swimming at the Piraeus (Athens' port).

▪ Indo-Greek king
also spelled  Minedra , or  Menadra , Pāli  Milinda 
flourished 160 BC?—135 BC?

      the greatest of the Indo-Greek kings and the one best known to Western and Indian classical authors; he is believed to have been a patron of the Buddhist religion and the subject of an important Buddhist work, the Milinda-pañha (“The Questions of Milinda”).

      Menander was born in the Caucasus; but the Greek biographer Plutarch calls him a king of Bactria, and Strabo, the Greek geographer and historian, includes him among the Bactrian Greeks “who conquered more tribes than Alexander.” It is possible that he ruled over Bactria, and it has been suggested that he aided the Seleucid ruler Demetrius II against the Parthians. His kingdom in the Indian subcontinent consisted of an area extending from the Kābul Valley in the west to the Rāvi River in the east, and from the Swāt Valley (in modern Pakistan) in the north to Arachosia in Afghanistan to the south. Ancient Indian writers indicate that he probably led expeditions into Rājputāna and as far east along the Ganges Valley as Pāṭaliputra, in the present-day Indian state of Bihār.

      Menander was probably the Indo-Greek king who was converted to Buddhism by the holy man Nāgasena after a prolonged and intelligent discussion, which has been recorded in the Milinda-pañha. The style may have been influenced by Plato's dialogues. The wheel engraved on some of Menander's coins is probably connected with Buddhism, and Plutarch's statement that when Menander died his earthly remains were divided equally among the cities of his kingdom and that monuments, possibly stūpas, were to be erected to enshrine them indicates that he had probably become a Buddhist.

      The only inscription referring to Menander has been found in Bājaur, the tribal territory between the Swāt and Kunār rivers; but large numbers of Menander's coins have been unearthed, mostly of silver and copper, attesting to both the duration of his reign and the flourishing commerce of his realm.

      According to Buddhist tradition he handed over his kingdom to his son and retired from the world, but Plutarch relates that he died in camp while on campaign.

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Universalium. 2010.

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