Evil Communication in Other Classical Texts

face of a prisoner

Scholars have cited philological and semantic connections between the evil communication phrase and earlier Greek texts. The evil-communication phrase in Menander probably had significantly different meaning from the evil communication references in these other texts. Theognis of Megara, in Elegies, ll. 31-36, has an older man advise a young male lover:

avoid ‘low’ company,
Mix only with the better sort of men.
Drink with these men, and eat, and sit with them,
And court them, for their power is great; from them
You will learn goodness. Men of little worth
Will spoil the natural virtue of your birth.^

Menander didn’t consider courtesans to be bad persons or “low company.” Courtesans had considerable cultural polish. Keeping a courtesan was high-status behavior. In Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes, Eteocles responds to the scout’s presentation of Amphiaraus:

How wretched is the luck of men that links
the fate of the just with the impious!
In all man does, evil relationships
are the worst evil, with crops not to be reaped.^

Here fate associates the just or pious man with unjust or impious men (as passengers on the same ship or “trapped along with them” in a city; see Seven Against Thebes, ll. 601-3). Menander would not have contrasted good and bad persons. Moreover, the evil communication phrase in Menander undoubtedly concerned women and men acting with considerable personal agency.

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