Aristophanes (/ˌærɪˈstɒfəniːz/; Greek: Ἀριστοφάνης, pronounced [aristopʰánɛːs]; c. 446 – c. 386 BC), son of Philippus, of the deme Kydathenaion (Latin: Cydathenaeum), was a comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his forty plays survive virtually complete. These provide the most valuable examples of a genre of comic drama known as Old Comedy and are used to define it, along with fragments from dozens of lost plays by Aristophanes and his contemporaries.
Also known as "the Father of Comedy" and "the Prince of Ancient Comedy", Aristophanes has been said to recreate the life of ancient Athens more convincingly than any other author. His powers of ridicule were feared and acknowledged by influential contemporaries; Plato singled out Aristophanes' play The Clouds as slander that contributed to the trial and subsequent condemning to death of Socrates, although other satirical playwrights had also caricatured the philosopher.
Aristophanes' second play, The Babylonians (now lost), was denounced by Cleon as a slander against the Athenian polis. It is possible that the case was argued in court, but details of the trial are not recorded and Aristophanes caricatured Cleon mercilessly in his subsequent plays, especially The Knights, the first of many plays that he directed himself. "In my opinion," he says through that play's Chorus, "the author-director of comedies has the hardest job of all." (κωμῳδοδιδασκαλίαν εἶναι χαλεπώτατον ἔργον ἁπάντων)
|Born||c. 446 BC|
|Died||c. 386 BC (aged c. 60)|
|Years active||427 BC – 386 BC|
|Known for||Playwright and director of Old Comedy|
† Although many artists' renderings of Aristophanes portray him with flowing curly hair, several jests in his plays indicate that he may have been prematurely bald.
Less is known about Aristophanes than about his plays. In fact, his plays are the main source of information about him and his life. It was conventional in Old Comedy for the Chorus to speak on behalf of the author during an address called the 'parabasis' and thus some biographical facts can be found there. However, these facts relate almost entirely to his career as a dramatist and the plays contain few clear and unambiguous clues about his personal beliefs or his private life. He was a comic poet in an age when it was conventional for a poet to assume the role of 'teacher' (didaskalos), and though this specifically referred to his training of the Chorus in rehearsal, it also covered his relationship with the audience as a commentator on significant issues.
Aristophanes claimed to be writing for a clever and discerning audience, yet he also declared that 'other times' would judge the audience according to its reception of his plays. He sometimes boasts of his originality as a dramatist yet his plays consistently espouse opposition to radical new influences in Athenian society. He caricatured leading figures in the arts (notably Euripides, whose influence on his own work however he once grudgingly acknowledged), in politics (especially the populist Cleon), and in philosophy/religion (where Socrates was the most obvious target). Such caricatures seem to imply that Aristophanes was an old-fashioned conservative, yet that view of him leads to contradictions.
It has been argued that Aristophanes produced plays mainly to entertain the audience and to win prestigious competitions. His plays were written for production at the great dramatic festivals of Athens, the Lenaia and City Dionysia, where they were judged and awarded prizes in competition with the works of other comic dramatists. An elaborate series of lotteries, designed to prevent prejudice and corruption, reduced the voting judges at the City Dionysia to just five. These judges probably reflected the mood of the audiences yet there is much uncertainty about the composition of those audiences. The theatres were certainly huge, with seating for at least 10,000 at the Theatre of Dionysus. The day's program at the City Dionysia for example was crowded, with three tragedies and a 'satyr' play ahead of a comedy, but it is possible that many of the poorer citizens (typically the main supporters of demagogues like Cleon) occupied the festival holiday with other pursuits. The conservative views expressed in the plays might therefore reflect the attitudes of the dominant group in an unrepresentative audience.
The production process might also have influenced the views expressed in the plays. Throughout most of Aristophanes' career, the Chorus was essential to a play's success and it was recruited and funded by a choregus, a wealthy citizen appointed to the task by one of the archons. A choregus could regard his personal expenditure on the Chorus as a civic duty and a public honour, but Aristophanes showed in The Knights that wealthy citizens might regard civic responsibilities as punishment imposed on them by demagogues and populists like Cleon. Thus the political conservatism of the plays may reflect the views of the wealthiest section of Athenian society, on whose generosity all dramatists depended for putting on their plays.
When Aristophanes' first play The Banqueters was produced, Athens was an ambitious, imperial power and the Peloponnesian War was only in its fourth year. His plays often express pride in the achievement of the older generation (the victors at Marathon) yet they are not jingoistic, and they are staunchly opposed to the war with Sparta. The plays are particularly scathing in criticism of war profiteers, among whom populists such as Cleon figure prominently. By the time his last play was produced (around 386 BC) Athens had been defeated in war, its empire had been dismantled and it had undergone a transformation from being the political to the intellectual centre of Greece. Aristophanes was part of this transformation and he shared in the intellectual fashions of the period—the structure of his plays evolves from Old Comedy until, in his last surviving play, Wealth II, it more closely resembles New Comedy. However it is uncertain whether he led or merely responded to changes in audience expectations.
Aristophanes won second prize at the City Dionysia in 427 BC with his first play The Banqueters (now lost). He won first prize there with his next play, The Babylonians (also now lost). It was usual for foreign dignitaries to attend the City Dionysia, and The Babylonians caused some embarrassment for the Athenian authorities since it depicted the cities of the Delian League as slaves grinding at a mill. Some influential citizens, notably Cleon, reviled the play as slander against the polis and possibly took legal action against the author. The details of the trial are unrecorded but, speaking through the hero of his third play The Acharnians (staged at the Lenaia, where there were few or no foreign dignitaries), the poet carefully distinguishes between the polis and the real targets of his acerbic wit:
ἡμῶν γὰρ ἄνδρες, κοὐχὶ τὴν πόλιν λέγω,
People among us, and I don't mean the polis,
Aristophanes repeatedly savages Cleon in his later plays. But these satirical diatribes appear to have had no effect on Cleon's political career—a few weeks after the performance of The Knights—a play full of anti-Cleon jokes—Cleon was elected to the prestigious board of ten generals. Cleon also seems to have had no real power to limit or control Aristophanes: the caricatures of him continued up to and even beyond his death.
In the absence of clear biographical facts about Aristophanes, scholars make educated guesses based on interpretation of the language in the plays. Inscriptions and summaries or comments by Hellenistic and Byzantine scholars can also provide useful clues. We know however from a combination of these sources, and especially from comments in The Knights and The Clouds, that Aristophanes' first three plays were not directed by him—they were instead directed by Callistratus and Philoneides, an arrangement that seemed to suit Aristophanes since he appears to have used these same directors in many later plays as well (Philoneides for example later directed The Frogs and he was also credited, perhaps wrongly, with directing The Wasps.) Aristophanes's use of directors complicates our reliance on the plays as sources of biographical information because apparent self-references might have been made with reference to his directors instead. Thus for example a statement by the chorus in The Acharnians seems to indicate that the 'poet' had a close, personal association with the island of Aegina, yet the terms 'poet' (poietes) and 'director' (didaskalos) are often interchangeable as dramatic poets usually directed their own plays and therefore the reference in the play could be either to Aristophanes or Callistratus. Similarly, the hero in The Acharnians complains about Cleon "dragging me into court" over "last year's play" but here again it is not clear if this was said in reference to Aristophanes or Callistratus, either of whom might have been prosecuted by Cleon.
Comments made by the Chorus referring to Aristophanes in The Clouds have been interpreted as evidence that he can hardly have been more than 18 years old when his first play The Banqueters was produced. The second parabasis in Wasps appears to indicate that he reached some kind of temporary accommodation with Cleon following either the controversy over The Babylonians or a subsequent controversy over The Knights. It has been inferred from statements in The Clouds and Peace that Aristophanes was prematurely bald.
We know that Aristophanes was probably victorious at least once at the City Dionysia (with Babylonians in 427) and at least three times at the Lenaia, with The Acharnians in 425, Knights in 424, and Frogs in 405. Frogs in fact won the unique distinction of a repeat performance at a subsequent festival. We know that a son of Aristophanes, Araros, was also a comic poet and he could have been heavily involved in the production of his father's play Wealth II in 388. Araros is also thought to have been responsible for the posthumous performances of the now lost plays Aeolosicon II and Cocalus, and it is possible that the last of these won the prize at the City Dionysia in 387. It appears that a second son, Philippus, was twice victorious at the Lenaia and he could have directed some of Eubulus’ comedies. A third son was called either Nicostratus or Philetaerus, and a man by the latter name appears in the catalogue of Lenaia victors with two victories, the first probably in the late 370s.
Plato's The Symposium appears to be a useful source of biographical information about Aristophanes, but its reliability is open to doubt. It purports to be a record of conversations at a dinner party at which both Aristophanes and Socrates are guests, held some seven years after the performance of The Clouds, the play in which Socrates was cruelly caricatured. One of the guests, Alcibiades, even quotes from the play when teasing Socrates over his appearance and yet there is no indication of any ill-feeling between Socrates and Aristophanes. Plato's Aristophanes is in fact a genial character and this has been interpreted as evidence of Plato's own friendship with him (their friendship appears to be corroborated by an epitaph for Aristophanes, reputedly written by Plato, in which the playwright's soul is compared to an eternal shrine for the Graces). Plato was only a boy when the events in The Symposium are supposed to have occurred and it is possible that his Aristophanes is in fact based on a reading of the plays. For example, conversation among the guests turns to the subject of Love and Aristophanes explains his notion of it in terms of an amusing allegory, a device he often uses in his plays. He is represented as suffering an attack of hiccoughs and this might be a humorous reference to the crude physical jokes in his plays. He tells the other guests that he is quite happy to be thought amusing but he is wary of appearing ridiculous. This fear of being ridiculed is consistent with his declaration in The Knights that he embarked on the career of comic playwright warily after witnessing the public contempt and ridicule that other dramatists had incurred.
Aristophanes survived The Peloponnesian War, two oligarchic revolutions and two democratic restorations; this has been interpreted as evidence that he was not actively involved in politics despite his highly political plays. He was probably appointed to the Council of Five Hundred for a year at the beginning of the fourth century but such appointments were very common in democratic Athens. Socrates, in the trial leading up to his own death, put the issue of a personal conscience in those troubled times quite succinctly:
The language of Aristophanes' plays, and in Old Comedy generally, was valued by ancient commentators as a model of the Attic dialect. The orator Quintilian believed that the charm and grandeur of the Attic dialect made Old Comedy an example for orators to study and follow, and he considered it inferior in these respects only to the works of Homer. A revival of interest in the Attic dialect may have been responsible for the recovery and circulation of Aristophanes' plays during the 4th and 5th centuries AD, resulting in their survival today. In Aristophanes' plays, the Attic dialect is couched in verse and his plays can be appreciated for their poetic qualities.
For Aristophanes' contemporaries the works of Homer and Hesiod formed the cornerstones of Hellenic history and culture. Thus poetry had a moral and social significance that made it an inevitable topic of comic satire. Aristophanes was very conscious of literary fashions and traditions and his plays feature numerous references to other poets. These include not only rival comic dramatists such as Eupolis and Hermippus and predecessors such as Magnes, Crates and Cratinus, but also tragedians, notably Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, all three of whom are mentioned in e.g. The Frogs. Aristophanes was the equal of these great tragedians in his subtle use of lyrics. He appears to have modelled his approach to language on that of Euripides in particular, so much so that the comic dramatist Cratinus labelled him a 'Euripidaristophanist' addicted to hair-splitting niceties.
A full appreciation of Aristophanes' plays requires an understanding of the poetic forms he employed with virtuoso skill, and of their different rhythms and associations. There were three broad poetic forms: iambic dialogue, tetrameter verses and lyrics:
The rhythm begins at a typical anapestic gallop, slows down to consider the revered poets Hesiod and Homer, then gallops off again to its comic conclusion at the expense of the unfortunate Pantocles. Such subtle variations in rhythm are common in the plays, allowing for serious points to be made while still whetting the audience's appetite for the next joke.
Though to myself I often seem
A bright chap and not awkward,
None comes close to Amynias,
Son of Sellos of the Bigwig
Clan, a man I once saw
Dine with rich Leogorus.
Now as poor as Antiphon,
He lives on apples and pomegranates
Yet he got himself appointed
Ambassador to Pharsalus,
Way up there in Thessaly,
Home of the poor Penestes:
Happy to be where everyone
Is as penniless as he is!
It can be argued that the most important feature of the language of the plays is imagery, particularly the use of similes, metaphors and pictorial expressions. In 'The Knights', for example, the ears of a character with selective hearing are represented as parasols that open and close. In The Frogs, Aeschylus is said to compose verses in the manner of a horse rolling in a sandpit. Some plays feature revelations of human perfectibility that are poetic rather than religious in character, such as the marriage of the hero Pisthetairos to Zeus's paramour in The Birds and the 'recreation' of old Athens, crowned with roses, at the end of The Knights.
It is widely believed that Aristophanes condemned rhetoric on both moral and political grounds. He states, “a speaker trained in the new rhetoric may use his talents to deceive the jury and bewilder his opponents so thoroughly that the trial loses all semblance of fairness” He is speaking to the “art” of flattery, and evidence points towards the fact that many of Aristophanes’ plays were actually created with the intent to attack the view of rhetoric. The most noticeable attack can be seen in his play Banqueters, in which two brothers from different educational backgrounds argue over which education is better. One brother comes from a background of “old-fashioned” education while the other brother appears to be a product of the sophistic education 
The chorus was mainly used by Aristophanes as a defense against rhetoric and would often talk about topics such as the civic duty of those who were educated in classical teachings. In Aristophanes’ opinion it was the job of those educated adults to protect the public from the deception and to stand as a beacon of light for those who were more gullible than others. One of the main reasons why Aristophanes was so against the sophists came into existence from the requirements listed by the leaders of the organization. Money was essential, which meant that roughly all of the pupils studying with the sophists came from upper-class backgrounds and excluded the rest of the polis. Aristophanes believed that education and knowledge was a public service and that anything that excluded willing minds was nothing but an abomination. He concludes that all politicians that study rhetoric must have "doubtful citizenships, unspeakable morals, and too much arrogance”
The Greek word for comedy (kōmōidía) derives from the words for 'revel' and 'song' (kōmos and ōdē) and according to Aristotle comic drama actually developed from song. The first official comedy at the City Dionysia was not staged until 487/6 BC, by which time tragedy had already been long established there. The first comedy at the Lenaia was staged later still, only about 20 years before the performance there of The Acharnians, the first of Aristophanes' surviving plays. According to Aristotle, comedy was slow to gain official acceptance because nobody took it seriously, yet only 60 years after comedy first appeared at the City Dionysia, Aristophanes observed that producing comedies was the most difficult work of all. Competition at the Dionysian festivals needed dramatic conventions for plays to be judged, but it also fuelled innovations. Developments were quite rapid and Aristotle could distinguish between 'old' and 'new' comedy by 330 BC.
The trend from Old Comedy to New Comedy saw a move away from highly topical concerns with real individuals and local issues towards generalized situations and stock characters. This was partly due to the internationalization of cultural perspectives during and after the Peloponnesian War. For ancient commentators such as Plutarch, New Comedy was a more sophisticated form of drama than Old Comedy. However, Old Comedy was in fact a complex and sophisticated dramatic form incorporating many approaches to humour and entertainment. In Aristophanes' early plays, the genre appears to have developed around a complex set of dramatic conventions, and these were only gradually simplified and abandoned.
The City Dionysia and the Lenaia were celebrated in honour of Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstasy. (Euripides' play The Bacchae offers the best insight into 5th century ideas about this god.) Old Comedy can be understood as a celebration of the exuberant sense of release inherent in his worship It was more interested in finding targets for satire than in any kind of advocacy. During the City Dionysia, a statue of the god was brought to the theatre from a temple outside the city, and it remained in the theatre throughout the festival, overseeing the plays like a privileged member of the audience. In The Frogs, the god appears also as a dramatic character, and he enters the theatre ludicrously disguised as Hercules. He observes to the audience that every time he is on hand to hear a joke from a comic dramatist like Phrynichus (one of Aristophanes' rivals) he ages by more than a year. This scene opens the play, and it is a reminder to the audience that nobody is above mockery in Old Comedy—not even its patron god and its practitioners. Gods, artists, politicians and ordinary citizens were legitimate targets, comedy was a kind of licensed buffoonery, and there was no legal redress for anyone who was slandered in a play. There were certain limits to the scope of the satire, but they are not easily defined. Impiety could be punished in 5th century Athens, but the absurdities implicit in the traditional religion were open to ridicule. The polis was not allowed to be slandered, but as stated in the biography section of this article, that could depend on who was in the audience and which festival was involved.
For convenience, Old Comedy, as represented by Aristophanes' early plays, is analysed below in terms of three broad characteristics— topicality, festivity and complexity. Dramatic structure contributes to the complexity of Aristophanes' plays. However, it is associated with poetic rhythms and meters that have little relevance to English translations and it is therefore treated in a separate section.
Old Comedy's emphasis on real personalities and local issues makes the plays difficult to appreciate today without the aid of scholarly commentaries—see for example articles on The Knights, The Wasps and Peace for lists of topical references. The topicality of the plays had unique consequences for both the writing and the production of the plays in ancient Athens.
The Lenaia and City Dionysia were religious festivals, but they resembled a gala rather than a church service.
The development of New Comedy involved a trend towards more realistic plots, a simpler dramatic structure and a softer tone. Old Comedy was the comedy of a vigorously democratic polis at the height of its power and it gave Aristophanes the freedom to explore the limits of humour, even to the point of undermining the humour itself.
The structural elements of a typical Aristophanic plot can be summarized as follows:
The rules of competition did not prevent a playwright arranging and adjusting these elements to suit his particular needs. In The Acharnians and Peace, for example, there is no formal agon whereas in The Clouds there are two agons.
The parabasis is an address to the audience by the chorus or chorus leader while the actors leave or have left the stage. In this role, the chorus is sometimes out of character, as the author's voice, and sometimes in character, although these capacities are often difficult to distinguish. Generally the parabasis occurs somewhere in the middle of a play and often there is a second parabasis towards the end. The elements of a parabasis have been defined and named by scholars but it is probable that Aristophanes' own understanding was less formal. The selection of elements can vary from play to play and it varies considerably within plays between first and second parabasis. The early plays (The Acharnians to The Birds) are fairly uniform in their approach however and the following elements of a parabasis can be found within them.
|Elements in The Wasps||1st parabasis||2nd parabasis|
|parabasis proper||lines 1015–50||---|
|strophe||lines 1060–70||lines 1265–74|
|epirrhema||lines 1071–90||lines 1275–83|
|antepirrhema||lines 1102–1121||lines 1284–91|
Textual corruption is probably the reason for the absence of the antistrophe in the second parabasis. However, there are several variations from the ideal even within the early plays. For example, the parabasis proper in The Clouds (lines 518–62) is composed in eupolidean meter rather than in anapests and the second parabasis includes a kommation but it lacks strophe, antistrophe and antepirrhema (The Clouds lines 1113–30). The second parabasis in The Acharnians lines 971–99 can be considered a hybrid parabasis/song (i.e. the declaimed sections are merely continuations of the strophe and antistrophe) and, unlike the typical parabasis, it seems to comment on actions that occur on stage during the address. An understanding of Old Comedy conventions such as the parabasis is necessary for a proper understanding of Aristophanes' plays; on the other hand, a sensitive appreciation of the plays is necessary for a proper understanding of the conventions.
The tragic dramatists, Sophocles and Euripides, died near the end of the Peloponnesian War and the art of tragedy thereafter ceased to develop, yet comedy did continue to evolve after the defeat of Athens and it is possible that it did so because, in Aristophanes, it had a master craftsman who lived long enough to help usher it into a new age. Indeed, according to one ancient source (Platonius, c.9th Century AD), one of Aristophanes's last plays, Aioliskon, had neither a parabasis nor any choral lyrics (making it a type of Middle Comedy), while Kolakos anticipated all the elements of New Comedy, including a rape and a recognition scene. Aristophanes seems to have had some appreciation of his formative role in the development of comedy, as indicated by his comment in Clouds that his audience would be judged by other times according to its reception of his plays. Clouds was awarded third (i.e. last) place after its original performance and the text that has come down to the modern age was a subsequent draft that Aristophanes intended to be read rather than acted. The circulation of his plays in manuscript extended their influence beyond the original audience, over whom in fact they seem to have had little or no practical influence: they did not affect the career of Cleon, they failed to persuade the Athenians to pursue an honourable peace with Sparta and it is not clear that they were instrumental in the trial and execution of Socrates, whose death probably resulted from public animosity towards the philosopher's disgraced associates (such as Alcibiades), exacerbated of course by his own intransigence during the trial. The plays, in manuscript form, have been put to some surprising uses—as indicated earlier, they were used in the study of rhetoric on the recommendation of Quintilian and by students of the Attic dialect in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries AD. It is possible that Plato sent copies of the plays to Dionysius of Syracuse so that he might learn about Athenian life and government.
Latin translations of the plays by Andreas Divus (Venice 1528) were circulated widely throughout Europe in the Renaissance and these were soon followed by translations and adaptations in modern languages. Racine, for example, drew Les Plaideurs (1668) from The Wasps. Goethe (who turned to Aristophanes for a warmer and more vivid form of comedy than he could derive from readings of Terence and Plautus) adapted a short play Die Vögel from The Birds for performance in Weimar. Aristophanes has appealed to both conservatives and radicals in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—Anatoly Lunacharsky, first Commissar of Enlightenment for the USSR in 1917, declared that the ancient dramatist would have a permanent place in proletarian theatre and yet conservative, Prussian intellectuals interpreted Aristophanes as a satirical opponent of social reform. The avant-gardist stage-director Karolos Koun directed a version of The Birds under the Acropolis in 1959 that established a trend in modern Greek history of breaking taboos through the voice of Aristophanes.
The plays have a significance that goes beyond their artistic function, as historical documents that open the window on life and politics in classical Athens, in which respect they are perhaps as important as the writings of Thucydides. The artistic influence of the plays is immeasurable. They have contributed to the history of European theatre and that history in turn shapes our understanding of the plays. Thus for example the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan can give us insights into Aristophanes' plays and similarly the plays can give us insights into the operettas. The plays are a source of famous sayings, such as "By words the mind is winged."
Listed below is a random and very tiny sample of works influenced (more or less) by Aristophanes.
Most of these are traditionally referred to by abbreviations of their Latin titles; Latin remains a customary language of scholarship in classical studies.
The standard modern edition of the fragments is Kassel-Austin, Poetae Comici Graeci III.2.
Ancient Greek comedy was one of the final three principal dramatic forms in the theatre of classical Greece (the others being tragedy and the satyr play). Athenian comedy is conventionally divided into three periods: Old Comedy, Middle Comedy, and New Comedy. Old Comedy survives today largely in the form of the eleven surviving plays of Aristophanes, while Middle Comedy is largely lost, i.e. preserved only in relatively short fragments by authors such as Athenaeus of Naucratis. New Comedy is known primarily from the substantial papyrus fragments of Menander.
The philosopher Aristotle wrote in his Poetics (c. 335 BC) that comedy is a representation of laughable people and involves some kind of blunder or ugliness which does not cause pain or disaster. C. A. Trypanis wrote that comedy is the last of the great species of poetry Greece gave to the world.Aristophanes (vase painter)
Aristophanes (Greek: Ἀριστοφάνης; active between 430 and 400 BC in Athens) was an ancient Greek vase painter of the Attic red-figure style. Three pieces signed by him are known. Two of them are bowls made by the potter Erginos, now in Berlin (Antikensammlung Berlin) and Boston (Museum of Fine Arts), the third is the fragment of a krater in Agrigento (Museo Archeologico Regionale). A number of further works are attributed to him. Aristophanes strove to make his figures appear as lively as possible. His paintings are characterised by carefully drawn separate lines. In some cases, the drawing of garment folds or women's hair leads to a somewhat artificial impression.Aristophanes of Byzantium
Aristophanes of Byzantium (Greek: Ἀριστοφάνης ὁ Βυζάντιος; c. 257 – c. 185/180 BC) was a Hellenistic Greek scholar, critic and grammarian, particularly renowned for his work in Homeric scholarship, but also for work on other classical authors such as Pindar and Hesiod. Born in Byzantium about 257 BC, he soon moved to Alexandria and studied under Zenodotus, Callimachus, and Dionysius Iambus. He succeeded Eratosthenes as head librarian of the Library of Alexandria at the age of sixty.
Aristophanes was the first to deny that the Precepts of Chiron was the work of Hesiod.Aristophanes is credited with the invention of the accent system used in Greek to designate pronunciation, as the tonal, pitched system of archaic and Classical Greek was giving way (or had given way) to the stress-based system of Koine. This was also a period when Greek, in the wake of Alexander's conquests, was beginning to act as a lingua franca for the Eastern Mediterranean (replacing various Semitic languages). The accents were designed to assist in the pronunciation of Greek in older literary works.
He also invented one of the first forms of punctuation in ca. 200 BC; single dots (théseis, Latin distinctiones) that separated verses (colometry), and indicated the amount of breath needed to complete each fragment of text when reading aloud (not to comply with rules of grammar, which were not applied to punctuation marks until thousands of years later). For a short passage (a komma), a stigmḕ mésē dot was placed mid-level (·). This is the origin of the modern comma punctuation mark, and its name. For a longer passage (a kolon), a hypostigmḗ dot was placed level with the bottom of the text (.), similar to a modern colon or semicolon, and for very long pauses (periodos), a stigmḕ teleía point near the top of the line of text (·).As a lexicographer he compiled collections of archaic and unusual words. He died in Alexandria around 185–180 BC. His students included Callistratus, Aristarchus of Samothrace, and perhaps Agallis.
All that has survived of Aristophanes of Byzantium's voluminous writings are a few fragments preserved through quotation in the literary commentaries, or scholia, of later writers, several argumenta to works of Greek drama, and part of a glossary. The most recent edition of the extant fragments was edited by William J. Slater.Assemblywomen
Assemblywomen (Greek: Ἐκκλησιάζουσαι Ekklesiazousai; also translated as, Congresswomen, Women in Parliament, Women in Power, and A Parliament of Women) is a comedy written by the Greek playwright Aristophanes in 391 BC. The play invents a scenario where the women of Athens assume control of the government and instate pseudo-communist reforms that ban private wealth and enforce sexual equality for the old and unattractive. In addition to Aristophanes' political and social satire, Assemblywomen derives its comedy through sexual and scatological humor. It is important to note that the play's central concepts of women in government and communism were not legitimate suggestions from Aristophanes, but rather an outlandish premise that aimed to criticize the Athenian government at the time.Cleon
Cleon (; Greek: Κλέων Kleon, Ancient Greek: [kléɔːn]; died 422 BC) was an Athenian general during the Peloponnesian War. He was the first prominent representative of the commercial class in Athenian politics, although he was an aristocrat himself. His contemporaries, the historian Thucydides and the comedic playwright Aristophanes, both represent him as an unscrupulous, warmongering demagogue, but both of them had strong motives to present Cleon unfavorably.Koalemos
In Greek mythology, Koalemos is the god of stupidity, mentioned once by Aristophanes, and being found also in Lives by Plutarch. Coalemus is the Latin spelling of the name. Sometimes it is referred to as a dæmon, more of a spirit and minor deity.
Otherwise, the word κοάλεμος was used in the sense of "stupid person" or also "idiots".An ancient false etymology derives κοάλεμος from κοέω (koeō) "perceive" and ἡλεός (ēleos) "distraught, crazed". Its etymology is not established, however.Kydoimos
Cerdomus (Greek: Κυδοιμός Kudoimós) was the personification of the din of battle, confusion, uproar and hubbub. He is mentioned together with other personifications having to do with war. A figure similar to him is Homados.
Kydoimos appears in Aristophanes' Peace as a character.Life imitating art
Anti-mimesis is a philosophical position that holds the direct opposite of Aristotelian mimesis. Its most notable proponent is Oscar Wilde, who opined in his 1889 essay The Decay of Lying that, "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life". In the essay, written as a Platonic dialogue, Wilde holds that anti-mimesis "results not merely from Life's imitative instinct, but from the fact that the self-conscious aim of Life is to find expression, and that Art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realise that energy."What is found in life and nature is not what is really there, but is that which artists have taught people to find there, through art. As in an example posited by Wilde, although there has been fog in London for centuries, one notices the beauty and wonder of the fog because "poets and painters have taught the loveliness of such effects...They did not exist till Art had invented them."McGrath places the antimimetic philosophy in a tradition of Irish writing, including Wilde and writers such as Synge and Joyce in a group that "elevate blarney (in the form of linguistic idealism) to aesthetic and philosophical distinction", noting that Terry Eagleton observes an even longer tradition that stretches "as far back in Irish thought as the ninth-century theology of John Scottus Eriugena" and "the fantastic hyperbole of the ancient sagas". Wilde's antimimetic idealism, specifically, McGrath describes to be part of the late nineteenth century debate between Romanticism and Realism. Wilde's antimimetic philosophy has also had influence on later Irish writers, including Brian Friel.
Halliwell asserts that the idea that life imitates art derives from classical notions that can be traced as far back as the writings of Aristophanes of Byzantium, and does not negate mimesis but rather "displace[s] its purpose onto the artlike fashioning of life itself". Halliwell draws a parallel between Wilde's philosophy and Aristophanes' famous question about the comedies written by Menander: "O Menander and Life! Which of you took the other as your model?", noting, however, that Aristophanes was a precursor to Wilde, and not necessarily espousing the positions that Wilde was later to propound.In George Bernard Shaw's preface to Three Plays he wrote, "I have noticed that when a certain type of feature appears in painting and is admired as beautiful, it presently becomes common in nature; so that the Beatrices and Francescas in the picture galleries of one generation come to life as the parlor-maids and waitresses of the next." He stated that he created the aristocratic characters in Cashel Byron's Profession as unrealistically priggish even without his later understanding that "the real world does not exist...men and women are made by their own fancies in the image of the imaginary creatures in my youthful fictions, only much stupider." Shaw, however, disagreed with Wilde on some points. He considered most attempts by life to imitate art to be reprehensible, in part because the art that people generally chose to imitate was idealistic and romanticized.Lopadotemachoselachogaleokranioleipsanodrimhypotrimmatosilphioparaomelitokatakechymenokichlepikossyphophattoperisteralektryonoptekephalliokigklopeleiolagoiosiraiobaphetraganopterygon
Lopadotemachoselachogaleokranioleipsanodrimhypotrimmatosilphioparaomelitokatakechymenokichlepikossyphophattoperisteralektryonoptekephalliokigklopeleiolagoiosiraiobaphetraganopterygon is a fictional dish mentioned in Aristophanes' comedy Assemblywomen.It is a transliteration of the Ancient Greek word λοπαδοτεμαχοσελαχογαλεοκρανιολειψανοδριμυποτριμματοσιλφιοκαραβομελιτοκατακεχυμενοκιχλεπικοσσυφοφαττοπεριστεραλεκτρυονοπτοκεφαλλιοκιγκλοπελειολαγῳοσιραιοβαφητραγανοπτερύγων. Liddell & Scott (LSJ) translate this as "name of a dish compounded of all kinds of dainties, fish, flesh, fowl, and sauces."
The Greek word has 172 letters and 78 syllables. The transliteration has 182 Latin characters. It is the longest word ever to appear in literature according to Guinness World Records (1990).Lysistrata
Lysistrata ( or ; Attic Greek: Λυσιστράτη, Lysistrátē, "Army Disbander") is an ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes, originally performed in classical Athens in 411 BC. It is a comic account of a woman's extraordinary mission to end the Peloponnesian War between Greek city states by denying all the men of the land any sex, which was the only thing they truly and deeply desired. Lysistrata persuades the women of the warring cities to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers as a means of forcing the men to negotiate peace—a strategy, however, that inflames the battle between the sexes.
The play is notable for being an early exposé of sexual relations in a male-dominated society. Additionally, its dramatic structure represents a shift from the conventions of Old Comedy, a trend typical of the author's career. It was produced in the same year as the Thesmophoriazusae, another play with a focus on gender-based issues, just two years after Athens' catastrophic defeat in the Sicilian Expedition. At this time, Greek theatre was a profound form of entertainment, which was extremely popular for all audiences as it addressed political issues relevant to that time.Old Comedy
Old Comedy (archaia) is the first period of the ancient Greek comedy, according to the canonical division by the Alexandrian grammarians. The most important Old Comic playwright is Aristophanes – whose works, with their daring political commentary and abundance of sexual innuendo, effectively define the genre today.On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates
On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates (Danish: Om Begrebet Ironi med stadigt Hensyn til Socrates) is Søren Kierkegaard's 1841 doctoral thesis under Frederik Christian Sibbern. This thesis is the culmination of three years of extensive study on Socrates, as seen from the view point of Xenophon, Aristophanes, and Plato.His thesis dealt with irony, and in particular, Socratic irony. In Part One, Kierkegaard regards Aristophanes' portrayal of Socrates, in Aristophanes' The Clouds to be the most accurate representation of the man. Whereas Xenophon and Plato portrayed Socrates seriously, Kierkegaard felt that Aristophanes best understood the intricacies of Socratic irony.
In the shorter Part Two of the dissertation, Kierkegaard compares Socratic irony with contemporary interpretations of irony. Here, he offers analysis of major 19th century writers and philosophers including Fichte, Schlegel, and Hegel. One English translation of the book also contains his notes on Schelling's Berlin Lectures of 1841, which Kierkegaard attended shortly after he had finished his dissertation.Polemos
In Greek mythology, Polemos or Polemus (Greek: Πόλεμος Pólemos; "war") was a Daemon; a divine personification or embodiment of war. No cult practices or myths are known for him, and as an abstract representation he figures mainly in allegory and philosophical discourse. The Roman counterpart of this figure was Bellum.Symposium (Plato)
The Symposium (Ancient Greek: Συμπόσιον, Sympósion [sympósi̯on]) is a philosophical text by Plato dated c. 385–370 BC. It depicts a friendly contest of extemporaneous speeches given by a group of notable men attending a banquet. The men include the philosopher Socrates, the general and political figure Alcibiades, and the comic playwright Aristophanes. The speeches are to be given in praise of Eros, who is the god of love and desire, and the son of Aphrodite. In the Symposium, Eros is recognized both as erotic love, and as a phenomenon that is capable of inspiring courage, valor, great deeds and works, and vanquishing man's natural fear of death. It is seen as transcending its earthly origins, and attaining spiritual heights. This extraordinary elevation of the concept of love raises a question of whether some of the most extreme extents of meaning might be intended as humor or farce. Eros is almost always translated as “love”, and the English word has its own varieties and ambiguities that provide additional challenges to the effort to understand the Eros of ancient Athens.The event depicted in the Symposium is a banquet attended by a group of men, who have come to the symposium, which was, in ancient Greece, a traditional part of the same banquet that took place after the meal, when drinking for pleasure was accompanied by music, dancing, recitals, or conversation. The setting means that the participants will be drinking wine; this suggests that the men might be induced to say things they wouldn't say elsewhere or when sober. They might speak frankly, or take risks, or be prone to hubris — they might even be inspired to make speeches that are particularly heartfelt and noble.The host has challenged the men to deliver, each in turn, an encomium – a speech in praise of Love (Eros). The party takes place at the house of the tragedian Agathon in Athens. This dialogue is one of Plato's major works; it is appreciated for its philosophical content and literary quality.The Acharnians
The Acharnians or Acharnians (Ancient Greek: Ἀχαρνεῖς Akharneîs; Attic: Ἀχαρνῆς) is the third play — and the earliest of the eleven surviving plays — by the Athenian playwright Aristophanes. It was produced in 425 BCE on behalf of the young dramatist by an associate, Callistratus, and it won first place at the Lenaia festival.
The Acharnians is about an Athenian citizen, Dikaiopolis, who miraculously obtains a private peace treaty with the Spartans and enjoys the benefits of peace in spite of opposition from some of his fellow Athenians. The play is notable for its absurd humour, its imaginative appeal for an end to the Peloponnesian War and for the author's spirited response to condemnations of his previous play, The Babylonians, by politicians such as Cleon, who had reviled it as a slander against the Athenian polis. In The Acharnians, Aristophanes reveals his resolve not to yield to attempts at political intimidation.
Along with the other surviving plays of Aristophanes, The Acharnians is one of the few – and oldest – surviving examples of a highly satirical genre of drama known as Old Comedy.The Birds (play)
The Birds (Greek: Ὄρνιθες Ornithes) is a comedy by the Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes. It was performed in 414 BC at the City Dionysia where it won second prize. It has been acclaimed by modern critics as a perfectly realized fantasy remarkable for its mimicry of birds and for the gaiety of its songs. Unlike the author's other early plays, it includes no direct mention of the Peloponnesian War and there are few references to Athenian politics, and yet it was staged not long after the commencement of the Sicilian Expedition, an ambitious military campaign that greatly increased Athenian commitment to the war effort. In spite of that, the play has many indirect references to Athenian political and social life. It is the longest of Aristophanes' surviving plays and yet it is a fairly conventional example of Old Comedy.The Clouds
The Clouds (Ancient Greek: Νεφέλαι Nephelai) is a Greek comedy play written by the playwright Aristophanes. A lampooning of intellectual fashions in classical Athens, it was originally produced at the City Dionysia in 423 BC and was not as well received as the author had hoped, coming last of the three plays competing at the festival that year. It was revised between 420 and 417 BC and was thereafter circulated in manuscript form.No copy of the original production survives, and scholarly analysis indicates that the revised version is an incomplete form of Old Comedy. This incompleteness, however, is not obvious in translations and modern performances.Retrospectively, The Clouds can be considered the world's first extant "comedy of ideas" and is considered by literary critics to be among the finest examples of the genre. The play also, however, remains notorious for its caricature of Socrates and is mentioned in Plato's Apology as a contributor to the philosopher's trial and execution.The Frogs
The Frogs (Greek: Βάτραχοι Bátrachoi, "Frogs"; Latin: Ranae, often abbreviated Ran. or Ra.) is a comedy written by the Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes. It was performed at the Lenaia, one of the Festivals of Dionysus in Athens, in 405 BC, and received first place.Thesmophoriazusae
Thesmophoriazusae (Greek: Θεσμοφοριάζουσαι Thesmophoriazousai; meaning Women Celebrating the Festival of the Thesmophoria), or Women at the Thesmophoria (sometimes also called The Poet and the Women) is one of eleven surviving plays by Aristophanes. It was first produced in 411 BC, probably at the City Dionysia. The play's focuses include the subversive role of women in a male-dominated society; the vanity of contemporary poets, such as the tragic playwrights Euripides and Agathon; and the shameless, enterprising vulgarity of an ordinary Athenian, as represented in this play by the protagonist, Mnesilochus. The work is also notable for Aristophanes' free adaptation of key structural elements of Old Comedy and for the absence of the anti-populist and anti-war comments that pepper his earlier work. It was produced in the same year as Lysistrata, another play with sexual themes.
How The Poet and the Women fared in the City Dionysia drama competition is unknown, but the play has been considered one of Aristophanes' most brilliant parodies of Athenian society.