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  for each piece of dialogue, and each footnote follows
immediately the dialogue to which it refers, labeled thus: f.
This is the first of the series of three Comedies--'The Acharnians,' 'Peace'
and 'Lysistrata'--produced at intervals of years, the sixth, tenth and
twenty-first of the Peloponnesian War, and impressing on the Athenian
people the miseries and disasters due to it and to the scoundrels who by
their selfish and reckless policy had provoked it, the consequent ruin of
industry and, above all, agriculture, and the urgency of asking Peace. In
date it is the earliest play brought out by the author in his own name and
his first work of serious importance. It was acted at the Lenaean Festival,
in January, 426 B.C., and gained the first prize, Cratinus being second.
Its diatribes against the War and fierce criticism of the general policy of
the War party so enraged Cleon that, as already mentioned, he
endeavoured to ruin the author, who in 'The Knights' retorted by a direct
and savage personal attack on the leader of the democracy.
The plot is of the simplest. Dicaeopolis, an Athenian citizen, but a native of
Acharnae, one of the agricultural demes and one which had especially
suffered in the Lacedaemonian invasions, sick and tired of the ill-success
and miseries of the War, makes up his mind, if he fails to induce the
people to adopt his policy of "peace at any price," to conclude a private and
particular peace of his own to cover himself, his family, and his estate. The
Athenians, momentarily elated by victory and over-persuaded by the
demagogues of the day--Cleon and his henchmen, refuse to hear of such a
thing as coming to terms. Accordingly Dicaeopolis dispatches an envoy to
Sparta on his own account, who comes back presently with a selection of
specimen treaties in his pocket. The old man tastes and tries, special terms
are arranged, and the play concludes with a riotous and uproarious rustic
feast in honour of the blessings of Peace and Plenty.
Incidentally excellent fun is poked at Euripides and his dramatic methods,
which supply matter for so much witty badinage in several others of our
Other specially comic incidents are: the scene where the two young
daughters of the famished Megarian are sold in the market at Athens as
suck[l]ing-pigs--a scene in which the convenient similarity of the Greek
words signifying a pig and the 'pudendum muliebre' respectively is
utilized in a whole string of ingenious and suggestive 'double entendres'
and ludicrous jokes; another where the Informer, or Market-Spy, is packed
up in a crate as crockery and carried off home by the Boeotian buyer.Download<<BackPagesMainNext>>