49. Peace, by Aristophanes (421 BC)

Plot : Trygaeus flies up to heaven on the back of a giant dung beetle (wisely surmising that he will only need to carry enough food for himself for the trip!) to speak to Zeus. Finding all the gods except Hermes have retreated higher where they cannot hear the constant cries from Earth, Trygaeus instead discovers that Peace has been held captive in a deep well, from which he and other Greeks (including Spartans, Athenians and representatives from other cities) work together to pull her out into the light, accompanied by the beautiful young Harvest and Festival. Trygaeus returns to Earth, is praised by the peace loving farmers and merchants and the play ends with his marriage to Harvest.

My version is the Penguin Black Classic The Birds and other plays, translated by David Barrett and Alan Sommerstein (ISBN 9780140449518)

My thoughts :  A fortnight before the Peace of Nicias brought about an end (albeit temporarily) to the Peloponnesian War,  Aristophanes presented this play, which is not as strong or satisfying as his earlier plays, yet still won second prize at the City Dionysia.

Even though Cleon is dead, Aristophanes still can’t resist a parting dig or two

First Slave : “he’s eating shit these days, down amerng the dead men”     p. 99.

There is also a lot more bawdiness in this play than earlier – presumably in peace time there is more time for partying and seduction.

Personal rating : 6

Kimmy’s rating : Asleep on my lap throughout. One ear flicker.

Also in that year :  As mentioned, the Peace of Nicias is agreed between Sparta and Athens, ending ten years of hostilities. Designed to stand for half a century, it was broken the following year when Sparta signed a treaty with Boeotia, and the War resumed.

Next: Electra by Euripides



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