In This Article Aristophanes

  • Introduction
  • Biography
  • General Overviews
  • Collections of Papers
  • Bibliographies
  • Texts and Commentaries: General
  • Scholia and Ancient Criticism
  • Lexica
  • Translations
  • Criticism: Special Approaches
  • Chorus
  • Theater, Staging, Festival Context
  • Actors, Performance, Audience
  • Humor
  • Formal Structure
  • Language and Style
  • Characterization
  • Reception

Classics Aristophanes
by
David Konstan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 June 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 October 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0005

Introduction

Aristophanes was recognized in antiquity as one of the greatest poets of Old Comedy, along with Eupolis and Cratinus; of his plays, eleven survive, or about a quarter of those he wrote. No other example of the genre has come down to us, save for fragments cited in later writers or, occasionally, on papyrus. Aristophanes’ plays are topical and set in the Athenian present (his comedies based on mythological themes are lost). Among those that survive, a first sequence was produced each year from 425 to 421 BCE (Acharnians, Knights, Clouds, Wasps, Peace). The next group includes Birds (414 BCE), Lysistrata and Thesmophoriazusae (both 411 BCE). Frogs, which commemorates the recent deaths of Euripides and Sophocles, was produced in 405 BCE. Finally, two plays date to the 4th century BCE: Assemblywomen (c. 391 BCE) and Wealth (388 BCE).

Biography

From the life of Aristophanes transmitted in manuscripts and other sources, we know that his father was Philippus, of the deme of Cydathenaeum (Cleon’s deme as well); however, his date of birth is unknown (Aristophanes 1968). His first play, Banqueters, was produced in 427 BCE, followed in the next year by Babylonians: both of these survive only in fragments. If, as is plausible, he began his career as a young man (his earliest plays were produced by others), he may have been born as late as the mid-440s BCE (see Halliwell 1980). The earliest of the eleven surviving comedies (about one-quarter of his total production) is Acharnians, produced in 425 BCE; the latest is Wealth, produced in 388 BCE, though two further plays were staged posthumously under his name. The date of his death is unknown. Two of his sons, Ararus and Philippus, were comic poets in their own right (Ararus may have staged his father’s last comedies), and it is possible that a third was as well.

  • Aristophanes. 1968. Clouds. Edited by Kenneth J. Dover. Oxford: Clarendon.

    E-mail Citation »

    Reprinted in 1989. Includes an excellent introduction on Aristophanes’ life and career.

  • Halliwell, Stephen. 1980. Aristophanes’ apprenticeship. Classical Quarterly 30:33–45.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0009838800041161E-mail Citation »

    Examines evidence for Aristophanes’ early career, including the possible contributions of others to the scripts and production of his comedies. A fundamental article; reprinted in Oxford Readings in Aristophanes, edited by Erich Segal (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996).

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