Athenian Society In The Classical Period Based On The Plays By Aristophanes

1862 words - 7 pages

Little is known of Aristophanes (446-386 B.C.), except that he was one of the most popular playwrights of the Ancient Greece in 500B.C. He wrote a new style of comedies, and out of forty he has been said to have produced, eleven of them have stood the test of time. . These comedies expose Aristophanes' perspective of the way of life in Athens through social, literal, and philosophical means and portray the way of Athenian life, including the impact of war, the role of the state and polis, the role of gods in human affairs, the role of women, and the nature of barbarism.During Aristophanes' lifetime Athens underwent a period of convulsive cultural and social change, and he found a ready target in the politicians, poets, and philosophers of his day. It would nevertheless be misleading to describe Aristophanes as a reactionary or a conservative, since his works show no sympathy for the aristocratic party in Athenian politics. The main event that occurred through his life and can be reflected through most of his plays is the impact of the Peloponnesian war against Sparta.An example of his reflections is in the play 'Lysistrata' he wrote in 411 B.C. In this play Lysistrata, the first Ancient Greek comic heroine, organizes a sex- strike for young Athenian wives to persuade their husbands to vote for peace with Sparta and thus cease the Peloponnesian war. The idea of women seizing the control of the polis, to surpass the politics and warfare of the men was seen as a fantasy as it was set at a time where women did not have rights to vote and men had ample opportunities to satisfy their sexual desires else where. 'Lysistrata' was approximately produced twenty years into the war - when Athens' situation looked utterly bleak. An army had been lost in Sicily, Persia (the center of power) was actively supporting Sparta and by the end of the year, the democratic government was abandoned. While the play is a light-hearted comedy, Aristophanes bases his plot on serious events impacted by the war such as the Athenian wives who cannot bear losing their sons to the battlefield anymore and the grief over the thousands of Athenians who had recently lost their lives in the terrible defeat at Syracuse.In his comedies Aristophanes attacks political figures of all types. His political plays indicated that he supported the landowners and farmers, and vigorously opposed war policies which brought suffering and hardship to them. However, he mocked all the leaders in turn, and humiliated contemporary customs and unfavourable politicians including Socrates. In his comedy 'The Clouds' written in 423 B.C., Strepsiades enrolls as a pupil in Socrates' school and catches his master swinging high up in the clouds in a basket.Strepsiades: What are you doing? Please tell me.Socrates: I'm walking about in the air, allowing my thoughts to move round the sun. . . I couldn't have made my remarkable discoveries about things above the ear without suspending my thoughts and blending them...

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