Aristophanes and Old Comedy

Stephen V. Tracy

in Pericles

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780520256033
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520943629 | DOI:
Aristophanes and Old Comedy

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In Athens during Pericles' time, one of the major forms of entertainment was the presentation at state expense of comedies that bristled with explicit attacks on public figures, who were often present in the audience. These plays are known as Old Comedy. The only extant complete examples of Old Comedy are the wickedly inventive plays of Aristophanes, who was born about 455 B.C. and was very active throughout the years of the Peloponnesian War. Old Comedy flourished for the greater part of Pericles' public career, and he was naturally very often the butt of attacks. Characters in comedies call Pericles a tyrant, describe him as Zeus-like in his aloofness, and attack him for his womanizing (a common criticism of powerful men in every age). Aspasia, his Milesian common-law wife, was treated very harshly. In the Acharnians of Aristophanes, performed in 425, the lowly Athenian citizen Dicaeopolis—the Everyman and hero of the play—gives a mock-epic account of the origin of the war.

Keywords: Pericles; Old Comedy; Athens; Peloponnesian War; Aristophanes; plays; Aspasia; Dicaeopolis

Chapter.  3703 words. 

Subjects: Greek and Roman Archaeology

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