The Mask of the Parasite: A Pathology of Roman Patronage
University of Michigan Press, 1997 - History - 307 pages
When Romans applied the term "parasite" to contemporaries in dependent circumstances, or clientes, they were evoking one of the stock characters of ancient Greek comedy. In the Roman world the parasite was moved out of his native genre into the literatures of invective and social criticism, where his Greek origins made him a uniquely useful transmitter of Roman perceptions. Whenever the figure of the parasite is used to mask a person in Roman society, we know that an effort of interpretation is underway. The fit between the mask and its wearer is in the eyes of the beholder, and in Rome the mask seemed to fit people in many different situations: entrepreneurs, tax-farmers, lawyers, female companions, philosophers, and poets.
In The Mask of the Parasite, Cynthia Damon maintains that the parasite of Latin literature is a negative reflection of the cliens. In Part One she assembles a composite picture of the comic parasite using as evidence fragments of Greek comedy, works from Greek writers of the imperial period whose works reflect the comic tradition, and the ten complete plays of Roman comedy in which a parasite appears. In parts two and three she examines the ways in which Cicero and the satirists use the figure of the parasite: Cicero in belittling his opponents in court, Horace and Martial in creating a negative foil for the poeta cliens, Juvenal in painting contemporary patron/client relationships as morally and spiritually bankrupt.
The Mask of the Parasite is a fascinating study of the intersection of literature and society in ancient Rome. However, neither the parasite nor patronage is confined to the Roman world. Students of classical studies as well as students of literature and cultural studies will find this to be a work of utmost importance in understanding these complex issues of human interaction.
Cynthia Damon is Assistant Professor of Classics, Amherst College
What people are saying - Write a review
We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.
The Compleat Parasite
The Parasite in Horace
Martial Like parcel parasite and satyr?
Parasites in the Satires of Juvenal
Parasites in the Speeches of Cicero
Other editions - View all
addressed Aebutius appears Apronius Archias atque behavior belly better called character Cicero cliens comedy comes comic connection course dependent described dinner discussion Epigram Epistle example fact father fellow figure flatterer fragment Gelasimus give given Gnatho Greek guest hope Horace Horace's host interest invitation keep label less lines living look Lucullus Maecenas Martial means mentioned mihi Naevius offers parasite parasite's particular party passage patron patronage Persius Philodemus philosophers Phormio Plautus play poem poet position praise present quam quid quod reference relationship Roman Rome Satire scurra seems seen serve slave social someone sort speaking speech success tell term thing tibi tion Verres