first scene  ·  noder's notes and commentary

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Aristophanes: Peace — Introduction


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This Etext prepared by Derek Davis
reformatted (with minor corrections) for E2 by ebbixx


by Aristophanes

[Translator uncredited. Footnotes have been retained because they
provide the meanings of Greek names, terms and ceremonies and explain
puns and references otherwise lost in translation. Occasional Greek words
in the footnotes have not been included. Footnote numbers, in brackets,
start anew at [1] for each piece of dialogue, and each footnote follows
immediately the dialogue to which it refers, labeled thus: f[1]].

The footnote format has been modified to take advantage of E2's HTML tag capabilities.
Each footnote, however, continues to follow immediately the speech in which it appears. (note ebbixx's)


The 'Peace' was brought out four years after 'The Acharnians' (422 B.C.),
when the War had already lasted ten years. The leading motive is the
same as in the former play--the intense desire of the less excitable and
more moderate-minded citizens for relief from the miseries of war.

Trygaeus, a rustic patriot, finding no help in men, resolves to ascend
to heaven to expostulate personally with Zeus for allowing this wretched
state of things to continue. With this object he has fed and trained a
gigantic dung-beetle, which he mounts, and is carried, like Bellerophon
on Pegasus, on an aerial journey. Eventually he reaches Olympus, only
to find that the gods have gone elsewhere, and that the heavenly abode is occupied
solely by the demon of War, who is busy pounding up the Greek States
in a huge mortar. However, his benevolent purpose is not in
vain; for learning from Hermes that the goddess Peace has been cast into
a pit, where she is kept a fast prisoner, he calls upon the different peoples
of Hellas to make a united effort and rescue her, and with their help drags
her out and brings her back in triumph to earth. The play concludes
with the restoration of the goddess to her ancient honours, the festivities
of the rustic population and the nuptials of Trygaeus with Opora (Harvest),
handmaiden of Peace, represented as a pretty courtesan.

Such references as there are to Cleon in this play are noteworthy.
The great Demagogue was now dead, having fallen in the same action as
the rival Spartan general, the renowned Brasidas, before Amphipolis,
and whatever Aristophanes says here of his old enemy is conceived in
the spirit of 'de mortuis nil nisi bonum.' In one scene Hermes is descanting
on the evils which had nearly ruined Athens and declares that
'The Tanner' was the cause of them all. But Trygaeus interrupts him
with thc words:

"Hold-say not so, good master Hermes;
Let the man rest in peace where now he lies.
He is no longer of our world, but yours."

Here surely we have a trait of magnanimity on the author's part as
admirable in its way as the wit and boldness of his former attacks
had been in theirs.


HIEROCLES, a Soothsayer

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