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Greek Mythology > People, Places, & Things > Lysistrata
Labdakos to Lethe Leto to Lysizonos
A comedy by the Athenian poet, Aristophanes, produced in 411 BCE.
The women of Athens, led by a woman named Lysistrata, took a solemn and wine fueled oath to resist all amorous advances from their husbands until the war ended; their plan was simple, their husbands would have to choose between love and war; the women bared themselves in the Akropolis (Acropolis) and traded verbal jabs with the men who were trying to dislodge them.
At one point, Lysistrata gives a sincere and moving account of how she worked as a child to help her mother and then, as a young woman, how she participated in the Athenian festivals to celebrate the beauty and dignity of her homeland but now, with the war dominating all civic life, she feels helpless to save her family and her city from the hatred and brutality which the war has forced upon them all.
This is a political comedy and, as such, the dialogue is humorous as well as poignant; the play concludes with the love starved Athenian and Spartan men relenting to the women’s demands and agreeing to sign a peace treaty.
It’s easy to forgive Aristophanes for his unrealistic optimism in a speedy conclusion to the Peloponnesian War; he completely underestimated the complexity of the problems which separated the Athenians and Spartans and prevented any form of negotiated peace; despite his sincere protests against the ongoing war, the hostilities enveloped all of Greece and continued from 431 to 404 BCE, i.e. 27 years.
Aristophanes’ plays are sometimes difficult to appreciate because he was a very contemporary poet, i.e. he was writing for the Athenian audience of his day; he would use puns, parody regional accents and speak directly to the audience in ways that force modern translators to seek out the contextual meaning rather than the literal meaning of the poet’s words; for that reason, I suggest that if you find a translation that is difficult to enjoy, please don’t blame Aristophanes, simply look for a translation that you can enjoy.
When trying to find a readable translator, I suggest Patric Dickinson; you may find his books at your local library in the 882 section but his books are out of print and sometimes difficult to find; I also recommend the Penguin Classics book Lysistrata & Other Plays: The Acharnians, the Clouds, Lysistrata by Aristophanes, Alan H. Sommerstein (Translator), ISBN 0140448144; you can also find this book at your local library or you can purchase it through the Book Shop on this site which is linked to Amazon.com.
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