(1) Popular farces that were especially common in the fourth to third centuries B.C. in the Greek islands, in some regions of the Balkan Peninsula, and in the Greek colonies in southern Italy.
Phlyakes, which are sometimes referred to by other names, consisted of comic improvisations parodying comedies and tragedies. They depicted everyday life and the humorous adventures of such gods and heroes as Zeus, Dionysus, and Heracles. The plots and costumes of phlyakes are known principally from vase paintings. The phlyakes assumed a literary form about 300 B.C. with the works of Rhinthon of Tarentum. Subsequent writers in the genre included Sciras, Blaesus of Capreae, Pyrrhus of Miletus, Timochares, and Sopater. The phlyakes influenced the Roman Atellan farces.
(2) Actors who performed in phlyakes. They covered their faces with comic or grotesque masks and wore costumes consisting of close-fitting garments with padding that bizarrely exaggerated certain parts of the body. Female roles were generally played by men.