Athenian Democracy

  • Created by: Mrlo01
  • Created on: 09-06-19 13:39

Aristophanes - An overview

- The father of comedy. 

- Born around 446 BC in Aegina but educated in Athens. 

- Came across as an old conservative (due to charicatures of Socrates, Cleon, etc.) but was not above taking risks in his plays.

- Prosecuted for slander by Cleon after first two plays - we are unsure of the outcome of this, but it did not stop him from roasting Cleon in future plays.

- It can be inferred that Aristophanes did not play an active role in politics - survived the upheaval that Athens went through in the late half of the 5th century. 

1 of 12

What is Old Comedy?

A play that

- Was topical and satirical 

- Poked fun at the "celebrities" of the time 

- Parodied poetry and songs 

- Was unpredictible and embraced the absurd to the point of it being fantastical 

- Broke the fourth wall 

- Flouted the rules of cause and effect 

- Disregarded the rules of space and time 

- Had little interest in maintaining dramatic illusions 

- Had action and character be inconsistent and not lifelike 

- Always engaged with contemporary issues at the highest intellectual level 

2 of 12

Typical structure of a comedy

- Prologue

- Parode (Entrance ode)

- Agon (contest)

- Parabasis (coming forward)

- Episode 

- Exode (Exit ode)

3 of 12

Overview of The Archanians

- The earliest surviving play of Aristophanes 

- Won first place at the Lenaia festival in 425BC


- The main character, Dikaipolis, hates the war but fails to persuade the other Athenians to consider peace being made 

- Obtains a private peace treaty with the Spartans 

- Enjoys the benefits of peace in spite of opposition from fellow Athenians and the chorus made up of old men from Akharnai 

4 of 12

Criticisms of democracy in The Archanians



- POLITICIANS = POOR (Thucydides - no good politicians)


5 of 12

General analysis of the scene - The Archanians

- Private peace deal arranged - contrast drawn between treaties that are just a short break from war vs true 30 year one. 

- Dicaeoplois' acceptance of this is complicated by opposition of Archanians

-  Figures worthy of respect - fought in Marathon and crops destroyed by Spartans in the war

- Dicaepolis' success in explaining position to them (and points he raises cross-examining the generals) - critical in assesing the overall tone of the play.

- Some experts say that in acting in his own self-interest and not worrying about the community, Dicaepolis is not an admirable hero 

6 of 12

Overview of Assemblywomen

- Written in 392 BC - after some of the worst defeats and attendence to the Assembly at an all-time low


- A group of women, led by Praxagora, have decided the women of Athens must convince the men to give them control of the city - the women would do a better job 

- Disguised as men, the women sneak in to the assembly and command the majority of votes needed to carry out their series of revolutionary proposals 

- The play ends with a communist style utopia being put into place by the women 

- They all have a big banquet 

7 of 12

Criticisms of democracy in Assemblywomen

- Rhetores - INCOMPOTENT and DON'T DO WHAT'S BEST for Athens - "Villains", "pointlessly busying themselves"

- CHANGEABLE policies and approaches - "We would send a fleet", "just like the old days"

- People CHOSE the WRONG LEADERS - "Politician ran off and disappeared"

- Good ATTENDENCE but now ONLY to GET PAID - "Those who try to treat the assembly as a wage-earning job deserve to be put to death"

8 of 12

General analysis of the scene - Assemblywomen

- Praxagora's solution to the failings of democracy is to trust the women - by nature conservative and not keen to change approaches that work

- Proposals are radical and the rest of the play engages with questions of what society would be like if equality was pushed even further 

- Whilst the isssues are expressed comedically (here equality also mean no elitism in sex with "ugly" women able to have sex with "handsome" men) they are important issues.

- Aristophanes' true intentions - do we dismiss the scheme because it's so ridiculous? Or is Aristophanes raising some serious issues about the demos' ability to discern the truth?

9 of 12

Aristophanes' plays that focus on the Assemblies

- Assemblywomen

- The Archanians 

10 of 12

Aristophanes' plays about the Demagogues and the d

- Knights 

- Peace 

- Frogs 

11 of 12

Aristophanes' play about the Demagogues and the la

- Wasps 

12 of 12


No comments have yet been made

Similar Classical Civilization resources:

See all Classical Civilization resources »See all Athenian Democracy resources »