A comic account of a Greek woman’s extraordinary mission to end the Peloponnesian War by denying all the men of the land any sex
Lysistrata was written and produced in 412 BC, 2,369 years ago . The Peloponesian War between Athens, Sparta and their allies had already been waging for twenty years, but the final destruction of Athens was still seven years ahead. Aristophanes had already attacked repeatedly the insanity of war and war-poetry, notably in ‘Peace’ and ‘Acharnians’. Beside the personal courage of the poet, one must remember that Greek Comedy, unlike all forms of classical comedy since, did not relate a story, and did not rely mainly on plot and character. It consisted of very free comic variations on a subject of public interest, interspersed with singing and dancing choruses, topical satirical references, and was popular and important precisely because of its extreme licence. Although likened often to present day revue, it had, within the framework of Athenian Democracy, the sacred function of a liberating outburst against everything sacred.
Lysistrata was state-produced in a besieged city, as part of the festival of Dionysos, the great dark god who liberates the hidden forces of mind and body. The comic enormities and the bawdiness were part of the ritual. Greek civilisation was based on the acceptance and the glorification of the human lot and the human body. Lysistrata is a serious play, not only because it takes war seriously but because it takes sex seriously and laughter seriously.