The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.



have, however, given rise to a number of traditions of his being a Rhodian, an Egyptian, an Aegi-netan, a native of Camirus or of Naucratis.

The comedies of Aristophanes are of the highest historical interest, containing as they do an admir­able series of caricatures on the leading men of the day, and a contemporary commentary on the evils existing at Athens. Indeed, the caricature is the only feature in modern social life which at all re­sembles them. Aristophanes was a bold and often a wise patriot. He had the strongest affection for Athens, and longed to see her restored to the state in which she was flourishing in the previous gene­ration, and almost in his own childhood, before Pericles became the head of the government, and when the age of Miltiades and Aristeides had but just passed away. The first great evil of his own time against which he inveighs, is the Peloponne-sian war, which he regards as the work of Pericles, and even attributes it (Pax, 606) to his fear of punishment for having connived at a robbery said to have been committed by Phidias on the statue of Athene in the Parthenon, and to the influence of Aspasia. (Ach. 500.) To this fatal war, among a host of evils, he ascribes the influence of vulgar demagogues like Cleon at Athens, of which also the example was set by the more refined demagog-ism of Pericles. - Another great object of his indig­nation was the recently adopted system of educa­tion which had been introduced by the Sophists, acting on the speculative and inquiring turn given to the Athenian mind by the Ionian and Eleatic philosophers, and the extraordinary intellectual de­velopment of the age following the Persian war. The new theories introduced by the Sophists threatened to overthrow the foundations of mora­lity, by making persuasion and not truth the object of man in his intercourse with his fellows, and to substitute a universal scepticism for the religious creed of the people. The worst effects of such a system were seen in Alcibiades, who, caring for nothing but his own ambition, valuing eloquence only for its worldly advantages, and possessed of great talents which he utterly misapplied, com­bined all the elements which Aristophanes most disliked, heading the war party in politics, and protecting the sophistical school in philosophy and also in literature. Of this latter school—the lite­rary and poetical Sophists—Euripides was the chief, whose works are full of that /jLereocpocrofyia which contrasts so offensively with the moral dig­nity of Aeschylus and Sophocles, and for which Aristophanes introduces him as soaring in the air to 'write his tragedies (Ach. 374), caricaturing thereby his own account of himself. (Ale. 971.) Another feature of the times was the excessive love for litigation at Athens, the consequent impor­tance of the dicasts, and disgraceful abuse of their power; all of which enormities are made by Aris­tophanes objects of continual attack. But though he saw what were the evils of his time, he had not wisdom to iind a remedy for them, except the hopeless and undesirable one of a movement back­wards ; and therefore, though we allow him to have been honest and bold, we must deny him the epithet of great. We subjoin a catalogue of the comedies of Aristophanes on which we possess in­formation, and a short account of the most remark­able. Those marked =tc are extant.

b. c. 427. AatTaA.e7y, Banquetters. Second prize. The play was produced under the name of Philo-


nides, as Aristophanes was below the legal, age for competing for a prize. Fifth year of the war.

426. Babylonians (sv acrre:).

42x5. f Acharnians. (Lenaea,) Produced in the name of Callistratus. First prize.

424. ^ 'liriretSy Knights or Horsemen. (Lenaea.) The first play produced in the name of Aristo­phanes himself. First prize ; second Cratinus.

423. ^ Clouds (iv dVret). First prize, Cratinus; second Ameipsias.

422. + Wasps. (Lenaea.) Second prize.

Tt]f>as (?) (ev dVrei), according to the probable conjecture of Silvern. (Essay on the Trjpas, trans­lated by Mr. Hamilton.)

Clouds (second edition), failed in obtaining a prize. But Ranke places this b. c. 411, and the whole subject is very uncertain.

419. ^ Peace (zv cscrrei). Second prize ; Eu-polis first.

414. Amphiaraus. (Lenaea.) Second prize.

^ Birds (<ev atrrei), second prize; Ameipsias first; Phrynichus third. Second campaign in Sicily.

Tevpyoi (?). Exhibited in the time of Nicias. (Plut. Nic. c. 8.)

411. "f* Lysistrata.

^ Thesmophoriazusae. During the Oligarchy.

408. + First Plutus.

405. >f Frogs. (Lenaea.) First prize ; Phry-nicus second ; Plato third. Death of Sophocles.

392. *\" Ecclesiazusae. Corinthian war.

388. Second edition of the Plutus.

The last two comedies of Aristophanes were the Aeolosicon and Cocalus, produced about b. c. 387 (date of the peace of Antalcidas) by Araros, one of his sons. The first was a parody on the Aeolus of Euripides, the name being compounded of Aeolus and Sicon, a famous cook. (Rheinisches Museum^ 1828, p. 50.) The second was probably a similar parody of a poem on the death of Minos, said to have been killed by Cocalus, king of Sicily. Of the Aeolosicon there were two editions.

In the Acura/XeTs the object of Aristophanes was to censure generally the abandonment of those an­cient manners and feelings which it was the labour of his life to restore. He attacked the modern schemes of education by introducing a father with two sons, one of whom had been educated accord­ing to the old system, the other in the sophistries of later days. The chorus consisted of a party who had been feasting in the temple of Hercules; and Bp. Thirlwall supposes, that as the play was written when the plague was at its height (Schol. ad Ran. 502), the poet recommended a return to the gymnastic exercises of which that god was the patron (comp. Eq. 1379), and to the old system of education, as the means most likely to prevent its continuance.

In the Babylonians we are told, that he " at­tacked the system of appointing to offices by lot." ( Vit. Aristoph. Bekk. p. xiii.) The chorus consisted of barbarian slaves employed in a mill, which Ranke has conjectured was represented as belong­ing to the demagogue Eucrates (Eq. 129, &c.), who united the trade of a miller with that of a vender of tow, Cleon also must have been a main object of the poet's satire, and probably the public functionaries of the day in general, since an action was brought by Cleon against Callistratus, in whose name it was produced, accusing him of ridiculing the government in the presence of the allies. But the attack appears to have failed.

About | First



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of