Aristophanes: the sarcasm of the Athenian demos
In democratic Athens, with its widely developed political life, political life itself provided the richest material for comedies. The Athenian comedy of the classical era was predominantly a political comedy. Aristophanes (450 - 388), a native of Athens, was considered the unsurpassed master of political comedy, the only writer of political comedy, from whom eleven plays have come down to us. The distinctive properties of Aristophanes' work are: the artistic beauty of form, inexhaustible wit, a combination of dramatic, comic and lyrical moods. In his comedies, Aristophanes expresses the interests of the Attic peasantry and the middle strata of urban democracy.
The main target of Aristophanes' sarcasm was the leader of the Athenian demos, Cleon, who appeared in two comedies: "The Babylonians" (only fragments survived) and then in "Horsemen", which was mentioned in another connection. The plot of the Horsemen (424) is as follows. The Athenian Demos, a decrepit old man who has gone out of his mind, has two honest, but weak-willed slaves - Nicias and Demosthenes. Along with them there is also a third national servant - Cleon, a Paphlagonian tanner, a rogue, a fool and impudent. Promising Demos a bunch of benefits, the Paphlagonian actually deceives and ruins the unfortunate Athenian people. Outraged by the behavior of their colleague, Nikias and Demosthenes embark on a trick, hoping to knock out a wedge with a wedge. To this end, they incite a certain sausage maker, an even greater rogue and demagogue. The sausage-maker enters into competition with the Paphlagonian, promising even greater benefits to Demos. In the end, the sausage man wins. The angry people drive away their recent idol, the Paphlagonian. After this, a miraculous rejuvenation of Demos takes place, digested with a sausage in a cauldron. The rejuvenated Demos begins a new, healthy life, takes up his own mind and drives away the demagogues. In comparison with our previous presentation, it is clear to what extent the image of Cleon in the image of Aristophanes is far from historical reality.
Aristophanes lived in a difficult and turbulent period of Athenian history - during the Peloponnesian War. All the major events and phenomena of this remarkable era of world history are reflected in his comedies. Thus, in the comedy "The World" (421), the military party, which involved Athens in the Peloponnesian adventure and destroyed all the well-being of Athens, was cruelly ridiculed. The protagonist of the comedy Trigeus rises to heaven on a dung beetle and learns there that the cause of all the disasters of the Athenians is the goddess of the world locked in a cave, who now cannot scatter her blessings on the Athenian policy, on vineyards, olive groves, rivers and seas. The vine grower Trigeus frees the goddess of peace, and then everything returns to a normal, peaceful track. People live, rejoice, drink, eat and love. Everyone rejoices, except for some gunsmiths, the main culprits of the war, immersed in deep sadness. The same idea of the world is carried out in the comedy Lysistrata staged on the Athenian stage in 411. This time the women demand peace and achieve it by parting with their husbands. The conspiracy of women is led by Lysistrata, after whom the comedy is named. In the Women's Ekklesia, staged in 392, Aristophanes introduces us to the social struggle of the Athenian parties and introduces us to the political slogans and programs of this period. The comedy "Plutos" ("Wealth") (388) is dedicated to depicting the all-consuming passion of the Athenians to acquire wealth by any means. staged in 392, Aristophanes introduces us to the social struggle of the Athenian parties and introduces us to the political slogans and programs of this period. The comedy "Plutos" ("Wealth") (388) is dedicated to depicting the all-consuming passion of the Athenians to acquire wealth by any means. staged in 392, Aristophanes introduces us to the social struggle of the Athenian parties and introduces us to the political slogans and programs of this period. The comedy "Plutos" ("Wealth") (388) is dedicated to depicting the all-consuming passion of the Athenians to acquire wealth by any means.
The poisonous arrows of Aristophanes flew not only on the heads of politicians, but also on the heads of writers and philosophers. In "The Frogs" (405) Aristophanes brings out the famous Athenian tragedians Aeschylus and Euripides intriguing against each other. The historical value of this comedy lies in the fact that it introduces us to the life of the Athenian intelligentsia, showing it from the everyday, mostly negative side.
The god Dionysus, who was present at the dispute, tired of these absurd bickering, finally stops the arguing, saying:
"It's not the point, after all, that the tragedians scolded like peddlers"
The sympathies of Aristophanes himself are definitely on the side of the conservative Aeschylus, and not the innovator Euripides.
"But isn't there," Hera intervenes in the conversation, "there are not in Athens a mass of a different kind of youngsters who produce thousands of tragedies and are a thousand times more mediocre and talkative than Euripides?"
To this, Dionysus, speaking on behalf of Aristophanes, replies: “Yes, but these are small, dry branches, talkers, chirping like breaker swallows, whose creative power is depleted by one play, which immediately spit out their talent to the tragic muse.” In "The Clouds" (423) Aristophanes gives a satire on the sophists, among whom he also ranks Socrates, and on the new principles of education. In "Wasps" (422) Aristophanes laughs at the Athenians' mania for litigation, in "Birds" (413) demagogues are ridiculed, involving the Athenians in all kinds of risky enterprises. Aristophanes was undoubtedly referring to the Sicilian expedition, which brought so much misfortune to the Athenians. The influence of Aristophanes on his contemporaries was very great. It was a simple, easy, but at the same time very effective form of political agitation,
The lyrics of the second half of the 5th century were of less importance; its development is connected more with the time of tyranny and oligarchy than with the era of developed democratic life. From prose works of the 5th century. Historical writings are of particular importance. Herodotus wrote the History of the Greco-Persian Wars, and Thucydides wrote the History of the Peloponnesian War. Both of these works contributed to the development of the historical genre.