Aristophanes

Aristophanes is one of my favourite writers of antiquity.  Through his characteristic satirical methods, he gives a powerful insight into the lives of ordinary Athenians during the Pelopponesian War.  His approach to the leaders of the day, especially Cleon has inspired modern satirists to find ways to mock and make light of our current leaders.  The fact that his plays often wonder prizes at competitions shows that his approach was popular, but, as was shown when he made too much fun at the expense of Cleon, he could make powerful enemies.  It seems, though, on the whole that he was well liked by his peers, as Plato says he was a friend of So crates despite the cruel mockery in The Clouds.  This shows his lighthearted nature was popular in its day.  In this entry,  I will make two key points about Aristophanes. First, he shows us that the sense of humour which is common among most of us today, was also common among the ancient Greeks.  His ludicrous storyline, such as that of The Birds, where two men encourage the birds to create a city in the sky in order to rule over both gods and men, is still funny today, as to some extent are the regular jokes about breaking wind.  My second key point is about his response to war.  Clearly he is very much against the current war and disappointed that the leaders of the day have encouraged it and refused to bring peace back, but it would be wrong to call him a pacifist.  In fact, as he shows in his praise for the veterans of Marathon in The Acharnians,  he does not hate war if the circumstances are correct, and would not give up his current life for peace, but he merely misses his former life of farming in peacetime and wants to return.  In my opinion, he is a must read from the mass of ancient literature, and for anyone who wants to laugh, read one of his comedies, and look forward to my section about tragedy.

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One thought on “Aristophanes

  1. Excellent post. Aristophanes was my first introduction to Classical literature and really gave me a love of it! Swiftly followed by Juvenal, though he’s a bit more controversial.

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