Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Aristophanes’ comedy in which the women of Athens and Sparta, led by Lysistrata, secure peace in the long-running war between them by staging a sex strike. To the men in the audience in 411BC, the idea that peace in the Peloponnesian War could be won so easily was ridiculous and the thought that their wives could have so much power over them was even more so. However Aristophanes’ comedy also has the women seizing the treasure in the Acropolis that was meant to fund more fighting in an emergency, a fund the Athenians had recently had to draw on. They were in a perilous position and, much as they might laugh at Aristophanes’ jokes, they knew there were real concerns about the actual cost of the war in terms of wealth and manpower.

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  • Paul Cartledge 21 episodes
    AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge
  • Sarah Miles No other episodes
    Associate Professor in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at Durham University
  • James Robson No other episodes
    Professor of Classical Studies at the Open University

Reading list

  • Lysistrata
    Aristophanes (ed. Jeffrey Henderson) (Oxford University Press, 1987) Google Books →
  • Three Plays by Aristophanes: Staging Women
    Aristophanes (ed. Jeffrey Henderson) (Routledge, 2010)
  • Birds; Lysistrata; Women at the Thesmophoria
    Aristophanes (ed. Jeffrey Henderson) (Loeb Classical Library series, Harvard University Press, 2014) Google Books →
  • Lysistrata and Other Plays: The Acharnians; The Clouds; Lysistrata
    Aristophanes (ed. Alan H. Sommerstein) (Penguin, 2002) Google Books →
  • Lysistrata
    Aristophanes (ed. Alan H. Sommerstein) (Aris & Phillips, 1998) Google Books →
  • Aristophanes and his Theatre of the Absurd
    Paul Cartledge (Bristol Classical Press, 1999) Google Books →
  • Aristophanic Comedy
    Kenneth Dover (University of California Press, 1972) Google Books →
  • Lysistrata: The Sex Strike: After Aristophanes
    Germaine Greer (Aurora Metro Press, 2000) Google Books →
  • The Common Chorus: A Version of Aristophanes' Lysistrata
    Tony Harrison (Faber & Faber, 1992) Google Books →
  • Aristophanes and Athens: An Introduction to the Plays
    Douglas M. MacDowell (Oxford University Press, 1995) Google Books →
  • Ancient Comedy and Reception: Essays in Honor of Jeffrey Henderson
    S. Douglas Olson (ed.) (De Gruyter, 2013) Google Books →
  • Aristophanes: Lysistrata
    James Robson (Bloomsbury ancient comedy companions, 2023) Google Books →
  • Aristophanes: An Introduction
    James Robson (Duckworth, 2009) Google Books →
  • Aristophanes and Politics. New Studies
    Ralph M. Rosen and Helene P. Foley (eds.) (Brill, 2020) Google Books →
  • Parody, Politics and the Populace in Greek Old Comedy
    Donald Sells (Bloomsbury, 2018) Google Books →
  • Looking at Lysistrata: Eight Essays and a New Version of Aristophanes' Provocative Comedy
    David Stuttard (ed.) (Bristol Classical Press, 2010)

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Programme ID: m001y2z4

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Auto-category: 882.01 (Greek drama (Comedy) - Ancient Greece)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 411 BC, Athenians watched Aristophanes' new comedy, Lysistrata, for the first and only time.