Peace by Aristophanes
Translated by Ian
Aristophanes (ca 446-386 BC), the most famous writer
of Old Comedy in Classical Athens, wrote
during the Peloponnesian
War (the work was first produced in 421 BC). In the play he makes a
passionate, lyrical, and nostalgic plea for peace between the warring
Greek states. The play is justly famous, not merely for the usual Aristophanic blend of robust humour and vitriolic satire, but also for
the way it hearkens back to the rich joys of peaceful agricultural life.
In the play, Trygaeus, a middle-aged Athenian fed up
with the war, flies up to heaven on a dung beetle, in order to release
the goddess Peace (who has been shut up in a cave by other gods, who are
fed up with the way human beings behave). With the help of group of
workers from many different states he succeeds in liberating the goddess
and bringing peace back to Greece. As is common in Aristophanes, the
final celebration has a certain ironic tone, because not all citizens
are happy about the end of the warfare (the arms manufacturers and
ambitious politicians, for example). Shortly after the first production
of the play, the warfare between Athens and Sparta did stop, but, as the
sub-text of the play suggests, peace was too fragile to sustain.
This new translation provides an accurate and
readable text, well suited to dramatic recitation or production. The
translator has provided footnotes to assist readers with the many
references to contemporary events and characters.