Abstract This essay explores references to monkeys as a way of talking about imitation, authenticity, and identity in Greek stories about the ““Monkey Island”” Pithekoussai (modern Ischia) and in Athenian insults, and in Plautus' comedy. In early Greek contexts, monkey business defines what it means to be aristocratic and authoritative. Classical Athenians use monkeys to think about what it means to be authentically Athenian: monkey business is a figure for behavior which threatens democratic culture——sycophancy or other deceptions of the people. Plautus' monkey imagery across the corpus of his plays moves beyond the Athenian use of ““monkey”” as a term of abuse and uses the ““imitative”” relation of monkeys to men as a metapoetic figure for invention and play-making. For Plautus, imitator——and distorter——of Greek plays, monkeys' distorted imitations of men are mapped not onto the relations between inauthentic and authentic citizens, as in Athens, but onto the relation of Roman to Greek comedy and culture at large. Monkey business in Plautus is part of the insistence on difference which was always crucial in Roman encounters with Greek culture.
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