INTRODUCTION

I. ARISTOPHANES

Aristophanes composed comedies over a forty-year period, during the Peloponnesian War and after Athens' defeat. The first was Banqueters (

), produced for him in 427 BC by Kallistratos, who was also later the poet's producer ( , lit. 'teacher' 'trainer') for Babylonians (Ba , 426), Acharnians ( , 425), Birds ( , 414) and Lysistrata (411)1; his last two plays, Aiolosikon and Kokalos, were produced by his son Araros some time after 388. Eleven of the over forty plays attributed to him in antiquity survive; the earliest, Acharnians, is his third, and the latest is Wealth ( , 388). However, some of the fragments of lost plays are long enough to give us some idea of their content.

Apart from his plays, we know little of Aristophanes' life. According to the anonymous Life found in our two MSS V and E (see p. 19), he was the son of one Philippos and belonged--as did his enemy Kleon--to the city deme Kydathenaion. For his dates we have only the evidence provided by the dates of his plays.

In Babylonians, produced at the City Dionysia of 426, the young Aristophanes boldly attacked Kleon, the most prominent man in Athenian politics at the time; we know neither the plot of Babylonians nor the precise nature of this attack, but it is clear from defensive allusions in Aristophanes' comedy of the next year ( Ach. 377-82, 502-3) that Kleon was provoked to denounce the poet (or perhaps Kallistratos the producer--it is unclear which) before the Council (

) for having insulted Athens in the presence of foreigners; but the Council, it appears, decided to take no further action. The threat by the chorus in Acharnians (299-302) of a further comic attack on Kleon, 'cutting him up to make shoe-soles for the Horsemen', was promptly fulfilled in Knights ( , 424 BC), which won first prize with an all-out attack on Kleon, dramatically portrayed as a deceitful, flattering servant of Demos (the people); notwithstanding the success of this comedy, Kleon was reelected general shortly afterwards. In Wasps ( , 422 BC) the subject is the operation of the jury-system and Kleon does not

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1
We do not know how usual such collaborations were, but Athenaios mentions ( 216 D) that Eupolis' Autolykos (420 BC) was produced by one Demostratos.

-1-

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Birds
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations viii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes on Metre 29
  • Symbols in Apparatus Criticus 31
  • OpniΘeΣ 39
  • Commentary 105
  • Indexes 530
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