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214 GREEK LITERATURE.
are pressed into his service: frogs chaunt choruses; a dog is tried for stealing a cheese ; and an iambic verse is composed of the squeakings of a pig. Words are invented of a length which must have made the speakers breathless.
Suidas tells us that Aristophanes was the author, in all, of fifty-foui plays. Of these we have only eleven remaining. In the year B.C. 427, the poet brought out his first play, entitled AcuraAe?s, or "the Feasters," which gained the second prize of the contending pieces. His chief object in this play was to censure the system of education and manners then prevalent at Athens, and to advocate a return to the habits of former times. In it he held up to public contempt the character of the spendthrift. This play was brought out in the name of Callistratus, not in his own. Some have thought that this was done because the poet was under thirty years of age, and because an express law, as they maintain, forbade a poet to exhibit a drama in his own name while he was under thirty. But Bergk has shown that such a law is a mere fiction of the commentators; for -^Eschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides are all known to have brought out plays in their own name while they were under thirty. The true reason for the step is given by Aristophanes himself in the parcibasis of the " Knights,"1 where he states that he had pursued this course, not from want of thought, but from a sense of the difficulty of his profession, and from a fear that he might suffer from that fickleness of taste which the Athenians had shown toward other poets, as Magnes, Crates, and Cratinus. It was the dread of this same fickleness that induced him, even when his fame was established, to have recourse to the same expedient in the case of many of his other plays.2 The ancient grammarians state that he transferred to Callistratus the political dramas, and to Philonides those which belonged to private life.
The next year he brought out the " Babylonians," also in the name of Callistratus. In this play he ridiculed some of the democratical institutions of Athens, especially the system of appointing to office by lot, and attacked Cleon, the most powerful demagogue of the day, in the presence of the allies and foreign ambassadors. Cleon brought an action, not against Callistratus, in whose name the play appeared, but against Aristophanes himself, on the ground of his having calumniated the government and its officers in the presence of foreigners. The action failed, and the poet was the more encouraged to pursue the course he had begun. In the following play, the " Acharnians," B.C. 425, again exhibited by Callistratus, he renewed the attack upon Cleon, and followed up the attack subsequently in the " Knights."
The following is a list of the extant comedies of Aristophanes, with the year in which they were performed: 1. Acharnians, B.C. 425. Produced, as we have said, in the name of Callistratus. It gained the first prize. The poet in this play exhorts his countrymen to peace. 2. Knights (or Horsemen}, B.C. 424. The first play produced in the name of Aristophanes himself. It gained the first prize, Cratinus being second. This
1 v. 5]4. Compare Nub., 530.
2 Compare Bergk, in Meineke's Fragm. Com. Grcec., p. 939.