The Political Theory of Aristophanes: Explorations in Poetic Wisdom

The Political Theory of Aristophanes: Explorations in Poetic Wisdom

Language: English

Pages: 370

ISBN: 1438450044

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Examines the political dimensions of Aristophanes’ comic poetry.

This original and wide-ranging collection of essays offers, for the first time, a comprehensive examination of the political dimensions of that madcap comic poet Aristophanes. Rejecting the claim that Aristophanes is little more than a mere comedian, the contributors to this fascinating volume demonstrate that Aristophanes deserves to be placed in the ranks of the greatest Greek political thinkers. As these essays reveal, all of Aristophanes’ plays treat issues of fundamental political importance, from war and peace, poverty and wealth, the relation between the sexes, demagoguery and democracy to the role of philosophy and poetry in political society. Accessible to students as well as scholars, The Political Theory of Aristophanes can be utilized easily in the classroom, but at the same time serve as a valuable source for those conducting more advanced research. Whether the field is political philosophy, classical studies, history, or literary criticism, this work will make it necessary to reconceptualize how we understand this great Athenian poet and force us to recognize the political ramifications and underpinnings of his uproarious comedies.

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grows bigger each day as time flows (huporreontos). Strepsiades then asks whether the Seeing Democracy in the Clouds 23 sea is bigger now than it had been previously, and the creditor answers that it is equal in size, because it would not be right (dikaion) for it to be larger. Strepsiades concludes that if it is not right for the sea to increase, even though rivers flow into it (epirreontōn), then the creditor has no right to demand that his money so increase. What makes Strepsiades’

Press, 2004), 209–13, 278–83. 15. Stout, Democracy and Tradition, 279, offers the following example: “As in street soccer or sandlot baseball, all of the participants have the authority to ‘keep score,’ and each of them necessarily does so in light of his or her already-adopted commitments. That I have the authority to track commitments and entitlements, and thus to draw the fundamental normative distinction from my own point of view, does not make my commitments correct; nor does it make me

second passage comes from Aristophanes’ latest surviving play, Wealth. Produced in 388 BCE, Wealth’s plot imagines the success of its hero, Chremylus, in bringing economic justice to the world. He does so by restoring the sight of the heretofore blind god Wealth. He must first, though, defeat the goddess Poverty in a rhetorical agon. As Poverty makes powerful arguments about how she spurs humans to hard work while Wealth makes them lazy, Chremylus defiantly declares: “Now get lost and stop your

is clear. In the world of comedy, however, this is perfectly compatible with a claim that the city itself is irrational, which is the claim that has been built up over the course of the play. Unlike the idea of a private peace or a city in the clouds, the basic law that governs the Knights—that in Athens the viler you are, the more certain you are to succeed—is not on its surface absurd. The absurdity lies not in the idea itself, but rather in its acceptance by Athenians. Just as there is nothing

where the name points, and to how its various meanings fit together. Like Philomela, the ingenuity of the gods is transcendent. Unlike the bird-gods fostered by Pisthetairos, the hoopoe into which the gods transform Tereus points beyond him. And in having Tereus passively announce the last eighteen birds as they enter during the parodos, providing a last word of sorts, it seems Aristophanes does, too. Aristophanes’ punishment rivals that of the gods. Tereus took Philomela’s tongue but could not

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