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Aristophanes – Lysistrata

April 19, 2013

Why, there isn’t even anyone now to have an affair with – not even the ghost of one. Since the Milesians betrayed us, I haven’t even see one of those six-inch leather jobs which used to help us out when all else failed.

This quote comes from Aristophanes play Lysistrata; the scene is being set for the revelation of the women’s plans to withhold sex from their men in order to end the Peloponnesian War. This is undertaken collaboratively with all of the women of Greece as they realise, unlike the men, that being a war could cause the ruin of all of Greece.

The quote itself demonstrates, what may have possibly been, the commonly held attitude that women had particularly strong sexual urges. If the quote were taken at face value it would appear that women could not resist sex; however Aristophanes is playing the sexual needs of women and the battle of the sexes for laughs (Cartledge, 1990:38-9). This is particularly clear in a later scene where the Athenian women provide Lysistrata with increasingly absurd excuses to sneak out for sex with their husbands (Aristophanes Lysistrata 731-768). The sexual urges of Athenian women are comic portrayals and not representative of reality. Aristophanes intermingles the common place and the absurd to weave the humour of his play and in analysing the text you can identify fragments of reality (Cartledge, 1990:33). One such example of this is contained within the choruses arguments about women’s behaviour; Stratyllis advises ‘we regularly use the lamp to get it closely singed’ (Aristophanes Lysistrata 828-9). I believe that Aristophanes works can provide insight into the lives of some Athenian women through information such as the tidying of pubic hair by singeing.


Cartledge, P. Aristophanes and his Theatre of the Absurd Bristol: Bristol Classical Press, 1990.


From → Greek Comedy

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