Greek literature creates acute awareness of the social and cultural dimensions of the auctorial identity. It also has a close relationship that is woven between the fields of the real social, cultural, and economic changes, the imaginary, and ideology. In this context, the literature either reinforces or challenges ancient Greek attitudes, ideologies, taboos, and morals. Aeschylus’s Oresteia and Aristophanes’s Lysistrata offered some interesting Greek literature works that fit the typical representation of literature, in this context, Greek literature. These works evaluate how the literature either reinforce or challenge ancient Greek attitudes, ideologies, taboos, and morals.
The composition of Lysistrata is set in a dramatic period of Greek history: the Peloponnesian War, which lasted from 431 to 404 BC and ended with Athens’ defeat by its great rival Sparta. The work of Aristophanes is deeply rooted in the values and beliefs at the time. The period that interests most is the one that goes from the Sicilian expedition to the establishment of the regime of Four Hundred (415-411 BC).The values and beliefs are represented in the comedy in form the daily life of the characters. The characters and the action reflect the norms at values that guided this ancient Greek society.
The old comedy is more of a magazine than a vaudeville. Aristophanes is the main representative but he has some predecessors. Aristophanes mentioned the subject of war and peace many times during his career (Alan 38). In four of his comedies, The Acharnians, The Horsemen, The Peace, and Lysistrata, he tries to show the absurdity of the war and exhorts his fellow citizens to peace (Parker and Richmond 25). The first three pieces were written during the first part of the war while Lysistrata was composed during the second part.
The play highlights three themes: war and peace, unbridled sexuality, and the place of women in Greek society. None, however, conceals the others. Aristophanes is not a pacifist in the modern sense of the term since there are two kinds of wars for him: an unjust war between Greeks and a just war against the barbarians. One would commit an anachronism by wanting to see a make love not war antique version in this piece.
Further, there is the issue of sexuality. Sexuality did not have the same function in antiquity as it does today. The male sex is depicted as superior to female. As a matter of fact, the males were depicted as heroes and gods. Through such representations, the play highlights the distinct perception of males and females during that period and as such, reflect the culture and values associated with the ancient Greek society (Parker and Richmond 29). Sex had an apotropaic value and a connotation of abundance and fertility. Sensitivity in this area has changed considerably over time.
Aristophanes gives an important place to women in her work. He composed three comedies in which the women take the first place: the Thesmophories, The Assembly of Women, and Lysistrata. However, it would be an anachronism to think that he claims for them a different place in Greek society. In ancient Greece, the woman lived in seclusion in a gynoecium and she had no civil rights. Few women have played a role in Greek history (Parker and Richmond 25). in the comedies in which Aristophanes staged women, he appealed to a utopia similar to that found in Les Oiseaux, where the winged creature built a real city. He seems to suggest that since his fellow citizens are not able to govern the city wisely, they should appeal to women for help.
None of these three themes, pacifism, reflection on sexuality, feminism, could be highlighted without significantly distorting the play. In addition, the ensemble that we form has gathered around another idea: the defense and the illustration of the literature of antiquity. In Switzerland and especially in Neuchâtel, the old languages do not attract many pupils, especially in the lower and middle levels of education (Parker and Richmond 31). The main purpose of this show is to make antiquity known in a new, less austere light and to draw the attention of the authorities to the growing interest in studying Greek or Latin and other branches associated with them, such as classical archeology and ancient history.
Religion and mythology are omnipresent in the text. The characters constantly swear by this or that god, this or that goddess. These interjections have been either deleted or modified. When lysistrata sees cinésias in heat, she invokes aphrodite. Religion and its rites are even parodied. At the end of the first scene, we witness an oath of all women. At the end of the scene between lysistrata and the magistrate, the women make the latter undergo a parody of funeral dress (parker and richmond 25). At the end of the scene in which the women are defecting, lysistrata pulls out of her sleeve an oracle that aims to reassure her companions and convince them to stay in the acropolis. This reflects a society where women, originally sidelined, is claiming a more proactive involvement in decision making.
The play also touches on dressing. The women of athens wear warm colors, fabrics printed with floral motifs reminiscent of spring. The shapes are long and elegant with generously distributed sections of fabric. The citizens of the other cities of greece (spartan, corinthian, boeotian) are short-clad, in more athletic outfits, more austere in their colors.. The men are all dressed in cold green, in a short ensemble with a coat. The opposition of the colors of the female and male costumes corresponds to that found in the colors of the buildings. The accessories are modern. The jugs are replaced by a jet of water, the wine bottle or amphora by a magnum, the helmet of the goddess athena by a fire helmet of the beginning of the century. In the final, the actors wear party favors and launch coils.through their dressing, their way of life, values and culture are reflected by the literary work.
The literature focuses on the ways of life at the time and how the society itself found ways of rebelling against practices and ways of life that were detrimental to it. From dressing to behavior, the reality of the time is presented in these literature works. It covers all aspects of life at the time while also attempting to make foresight into the desired way of life guided by peace and quest for prosperity. However, based on the literature, it is evident that Greek attitudes, ideologies, taboos, and morals motivated the writings in the authors quest to represent and possible recreate the society at the time.
Alan H. Sommerstein. Clouds, Acharnians, Lysistrata: a Compnion to the Penguin Translation of Alan H. Sommerstein. Bristol Classical Press, 1992.
Parker, Douglass, and Richmond Lattimore. Four Comedies by Aristophanes: Lysistrata, the Acharnians, the Congresswoman. University of Michigan Press, 1969.