Places: Lysistrata

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First produced: Lysistratē, 411 b.c.e. (English translation, 1812)

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Satire

Time of work: Fifth century b.c.e.

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Athens

*Athens. LysistrataCapital and city-state of the peninsula of Attica, a province of east central Greece. Firmly established as a cultural, political, and commercial center by 429 b.c.e., Athens became an imperialistic empire and naval power. In 431 b.c.e. it began its war with Sparta, the powerful city-state of southern Greece’s Peloponnesian Peninsula. Aristophanes depicts Athens at a time when it was suffering naval and military disasters and undergoing chaotic political and social conditions, which he uses to give Athenian women a motivation for striking. It is significant that the play’s women consist of the strong and weak-willed, suggestive of the city’s fickle population. Their strike ends the war. (The historical Athens surrendered in 404 b.c.e. and lost its empire and military power.)


*Acropolis. Citadel and highest point in Athens, and the place containing the city’s treasury and the Parthenon, a temple significantly holding a statue of Athena, goddess of wisdom, arts, and the preserver of the state. On the Acropolis Lysistrata has the women seize the treasury that finances Athens’s war. They are aided by Athenian old women and repel an attacking group of Athenian old men and male officials trying to oust them. Suffering the effects of sexual abstinence, warriors throughout Greece come to the Acropolis, where they agree to make peace on the women’s terms, and reunite with them for a joyous celebration.


*Greece. In addition to Athens, Lysistrata’s female company come from other Greek city-states that represent Athens’s most bitter enemies whose defecting women signify the theme of antiwar Panhellenism. These cities also bear features that characterize superior Athenian attitudes toward their inhabitants. Sparta is the Peloponnesian capital known for its military prowess and physically fit women, such as the play’s Lampito. Corinth, noted for general dissoluteness produces a full-figured lass of possibly easy virtue; and from Boeotia a fertile east central Grecian land with people reputedly dulled by plenty, comes a pretty, well-fed girl.

BibliographyBowie, A. M. Aristophanes: Myth, Ritual, and Comedy. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1993. An interesting structural anthropological approach that places Aristoph-anes’ plays in their contemporary context. The analysis of Lysistrata includes a discussion of earlier myths and rituals that demonstrate feminist power.Dover, K. J. Aristophanic Comedy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972. A tribute to Artistophanes’ plays in their cultural context by a distinguished classical Greek scholar. A separate chapter on Lysistrata provides a synopsis and examines the lyrics and characters. Also includes a discussion of war and incorporates useful notes on transliteration.Reckford, Kenneth J. Aristophanes’ Old-and-New Comedy. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987. Six essays on interpreting Aristophanes. The author, who views Lysistrata as living theater, offers unusual staging possibilities and discusses the play within the context of loyalty to comic truths, ritual, and sexual equality. Lengthy bibliography included.Solomos, Alexis. The Living Aristophanes. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1974. The author, the director who first staged all of Aristophanes’ plays at the classic theater at Epidaurus, discusses Lysistrata as Aristophanes’ first attempt at comedy as popular entertainment. Argues that Aristophanes was indulging his theatrical fancies rather than moralizing as a social reformer.Spatz, Lois. Aristophanes. Boston: Twayne, 1978. Sound introduction to Aristophanes’ plays. A separate chapter on Lysistrata examines the political and historical background, secondary role of women in Athenian society, and the elusive and idyllic quest for peace. Also includes chronology, notes, and selected bibliography.
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