AristophanesAristophanes was a comic writer who lived between 450 and 385 BC and composed about forty plays in his lifetime. His plays were all comedies, which usually addressed very serious political and social issues in a direct and crude manner, which, like much of today’s comedy, is what made them funny for the audience to watch and appreciate. Many of the comedies would even go as far as mocking members of the audience or making personal attacks upon contemporary political personalities.
Aristophanes Lysistrata is no exception to this crude comedy, ridiculing what he thinks is the absurdity of the Peloponnesian War. The comedy is a brilliantly constructed piece with an extremely profound underlying message encouraging a Panhellenic society. He does not see the point of the battles within the country and wishes a unification of the city-states. Therefore through his work he wishes to enlighten the people of Greece.In order to understand the meaning behind Aristophanes play, some background history of the events leading up to the war is needed. There are three important occurrences, which ultimately led to the outbreak. It all started when Epidamnus (a colony of Corcyra) became involved in a political struggle.
Democratic factions had taken control of the colonys government and forced the aristocrats out of power. In retaliation for this action the aristocrats joined with barbaric forces and attacked the city and its surrounding areas. Seeking help, the colony sent a request to Corcyra, its motherland, for military intervention. Corcyra however refused to help the Epidamnians in their political struggle, and so the colony went to the city-state of Corinth for assistance. Being itself distantly related to the people of this colony, the Corinthians sent ships to suppress the violence.
This move greatly displeased the Corcyraeans who saw the Corinthians as interfering with their affairs. So in turn, they sent their own ships to intercept the Corinthians. To counter the Corinthian action, the Corcyraeans made an alliance with Athens (who had a very bitter relationship with Corinth). Acting according to a duty to protect the Epidamnians and possibly just to stand up to the Athenians, the Corinthian fleet attacked the Corcyraeans anyway.
The resulting engagement was won decisively by Corcyraeans because of the Athenian support. This act further embittered Corinth even more toward Athens. The final straw leading up to the Peloponnesian War was when Potidaea, a member of the Athenian Empire revolted against Athenian rule.
The city-state built blockades to resist occupation by the Athenian army and sparked revolt elsewhere in the area, in Chalcidice and Bottiaea. Since negotiations failed, the Athenians sent troops into the region by ship. However the Athenians also had their hands full with the Macedonians in the same region and had difficulty suppressing the revolt. When Athens finally made a treaty with Perdiccas, the Macedonian leader, she found herself betrayed as the Macedonians joined alongside the Corinthians, who had come to the defense of the Potidaeans.
In spite of all of this, the Athenians were able to recapture control of most of the region with the arrival of reinforcements. Seeing that their own citizens were now trapped, Corinth called a meeting of the Peloponnesian assembly at Sparta. During this meeting the complaints against the Athenian Empire reached their peak.
After another meeting a month later the Peloponnesian assembly decided that war was in order. However, it was winter and war did not begin immediately. In fact the Spartans sent three different ambassadors to Athens over the course of the winter in an attempt to secure peace. The Spartans demanded that the Athenians withdraw from Potidaea and that all the city-states in northern Greece be given their freedom. Pericles response to this demand was”Men of Athens, I hold to the opinion that I have maintained consistently: do not yield to the Peloponnesians. .
.” (Thucydides)So in the following summer of 431 BC the Thebans, a member of the Peloponnesian League, attacked Plataea, Athens oldest ally. This drew Athens to Plataeas defense, which in turn brought the Spartans and Corinthians to the side of their ally. The Peloponnesian war had begun.This is the setting behind the comedy Lysistrata, which is ridiculed by Aristophanes.
While the matter at hand is a serious one, the author attempts a comedic approach to it, as a plausible solution seems hopeless. Lysistrata calls together the women of Greece in an attempt to put an end to this warSo fine it comes to this-Greece saved by Woman! Then Ill expose my mighty mystery. O women, if we could compel the men to bow to Peace, we must refrain- We must refrain form all touch of baubled love. (Lysistrata, Pg. 289, 292)She has come to the conclusion that the women of Greece can put an end to the Peloponnesian War by engaging in a sex strike, until peace is declared.
She reminds the women, that the only time their men come back from battle is to rest up and have sex with their wives. She is convinced that the women can hold up, and eventually the men would succumb to their desires. As a result the women set up camp in the Acropolis taking control of the military supplies. The final outcome is that the men are finally driven out of their minds and finally give into Lysistratas demands to put an end to the war. While this is quite the ridiculous story, it does get Aristophanes point across of a unified Greece and also reflects the absurdity of a war that is fought amongst fellow countrymen. In the story the women are representative of the different city states present in the country.
Individually each woman doesnt stand a chance, but by unifying they are able to outsmart, out strategize, and conquer the men of war. Aristophanes illustrates the benefits of working together, a good example is when some of the women become weak and almost give inYou wicked women, cease from juggling lies. You want your men. But what of them as well? They toss as sleepless in the lustful night. But persevere a teeny-weeny longer.
An oracle has promised Victory if we dont wrangle. (Lysistrata, P. 313)Even though some of the women were weakened, it was the support of others that helped them overcome their cravings. This gives us a reference to the good that comes out of a united group. Aristophanes using more comical examples putting light on the stupidities of this war. In a scene involving Myrrhine and her husband, Myrrhine puts her husband through tortureIm dead: the womans worn me all away. Shes gone and left me with an anguished pulse. What shall I put thee in (O woe!) Since into something thou must go, Poor little lad he pines and peeks.
Our lovely girl has proved a curse. (Lysistrata, P. 319)This is all a comical twist, which appeals to the audience. Whether they realize it or not, they are being exposed to the faults of the war. Aristophanes is able to get his message across to a lot of people and in turn the word is spread.
Aristophanes play serves a greater purpose than a mere comical work. He addresses his views on the Peloponnesian War. He expresses his resentment of the war and pokes fun at how illogical it truly is. Through this comedy he is able to reach the public crowd and spread his views.Words/ Pages : 1,233 / 24