Notes on the Samia

The Samia, or the “Girl From Samos,” is the second most complete play that has come down to us from Menander’s collection of comedies (the Samia has 132 lines missing, while Dyskolos has 39). The Samia was recovered with the “Cairo Codex” in 1907 along with other fragments of Menander comedies (“Men at Arbitration” and “She Who Was Sheared”) and other portions of the Samia were recovered in other papyri.

The plot of the Samia follows a characteristically laughable storyline: an accident happens, and the characters attempt to conceal the truth, only for the secret to cause greater confusion and consternation among the characters.

The comedy takes place within the city of Athens. A rich Athenian named Demeas lives next door to a poor man, Nikeratos. Demeas has an adopted son named Moschion, and Nikeratos has a daughter named Plangon. Moschion delivers a soliloquy to the set the scene at the outset of the play. He tells of a drama in which he had ‘accidentally’ violated Plangon in a confusing situation, she gave birth to a child and then gave it away to Chrysis (his father, Demeas’s concubine) to care for. Both of their fathers have been away are returning from a trip to Pontos (south of Athens) soon. Upon their return, it is jointly decided that Demeas will marry Plangon. As the play progresses (with certain fragments missing) Demeas discovers (by overhearing from Moschion’s nurse) that Chrysis’s child is in fact the offspring of Moschion. Demeas believes his son has been seduced by Chrysis so he sends her away – she is taken in by Demeas’s neighbor, Nikeratos. Eventually, Moschion reveals the truth to his father, Demeas, and after a series of chaotic situations, Moschion and Nikeratos find common ground, and the play ends with Moschion marrying Plangon.

Notably, Menander’s plays (so-called “New Comedy”) are remarkably distinct from Aristophanes’s comedies. Menander’s plays are lighter, sillier, social satires of ridiculous situations. They are amusing, but they lack the depth of the Aristophanean comedies. The following is a 4th century mosaic depicting the events of Act IV of Menander’s Samia:

File:Samia (Girl from Samos) Mytilene 3cAD.jpg

For this reading I used the late Maurice Balme’s translation.

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