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The fact that Aristophanes is a most important witness to the social and economic conditions prevailing in Athens in the latter part of the fifth century B. C. is generally recognized, even when his testimony has not been critically studied. The interest of the dramatist in social and economic problems, his tentative studies and theories along these lines, the testimony of his writings to the fact that many of the problems which a little later engaged the attention of Plato were commonly discussed in Athens a generation before Plato began to handle them these matters have not been so generally either studied or recognized. In the present paper I have endeavored to collect some of the data on these lines and to classify them for further investigation. I shall speak first of Aristophanes's treatment of the motives of social activity and the fundamental postulates of society; secondly, of his analysis of the family and the state; and, thirdly, of his discussion of property and related economic questions.

THE ELEMENTS OF SOCIAL LIFE. The theory of society which may be traced in the work of Aristophanes starts with the fact that economic needs — the need of food, of clothing, and of shelter-are at the basis of society. In perhaps the earliest of Greek dreams of the systematic reorganization of society on a communistic basis, in the Ecclesiazouse of Aristophanes, these needs are to be supplied by the state itself. After land, money, and other property have been turned over to the women in control of the state, then they will care for its citizens; "everyone will have everythingbread, fish, cakes, clothing, wine, crowns," and women (605). Under ordinary circumstances, however, a man must earn the money to supply these needs, and thus they serve as the stimulus which gives rise to all the different arts and trades. “All arts and devices among men were discovered by reason of you [Wealth]; for one of us sits at the shoemaker's bench, another is a



blacksmith, another a carpenter, another gets gold from you and fashions it, another is a thief and a burglar, by Zeus, another cards wool, another tans leather," etc.; and all by reason of wealth. In the defense which poverty offers it is set forth clearly that it is the need of money to meet the fundamental necessities of life which makes men work; "if Wealth were to distribute himself equally, no man would trouble himself about skill in the arts or practical wisdom; and after these were gone, who would want to carry on the different arts, provided he could live in idleness neglecting them ?”. So then, the argument runs, poverty is a benefit both to the individual in that it makes him work, and to society in that it causes the production of much to satisfy human needs and in so doing binds society together. Conversely, the satisfaction of all needs by means of wealth breeds gout and inactivity and crime. Even the religious side of social life, from the materialistic standpoint set forth by the poet, depends ultimately on physical needs and the desire for money to satisfy these needs. Men no longer sacrifice to the gods when they have money to buy what they want, so that the priest who had shared these sacrifices complains bitterly that the presence of Plutus among men has taken away his livelihood; men no longer sacrifice to the gods, but to the birds, when it is the birds who look after the


and cause human activities to prosper.5

The general thesis of the Acharnians is that war should cease because it interferes with natural pleasures. The war had seriously interfered with agriculture; it had limited the variety of food at Athens, nor could men get enough food of any kind; it had prevented the simple joys of the rural Dionysia; it broke up the new family by carrying off the bridegroom to serve as a soldier. In Megara there was famine such that the citizen brought his daughters to sell them in the market of Dicæopolis; in this case, also, hunger is a fundamental reason for commercial activity.

Again the Lysistrata is an absurd and obscene presentation of * Plut., 160 f.; cf. 188 f., 533. 3 Ibid., 560 f. e Ibid., 510 f.

* Ibid., 133, 1114 f. 5 Av., 1058 f.


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the fact that appetite and passion are fundamental factors in social life; in that it interferes with these, war is to be brought to an end. Finally the same motives which are behind normal social life are noted as causes of crime, so that under the system of communism proposed in the Ecclesiazousæ crime will cease ;' moreover, the same distribution of wealth which would check commercial activity would also check crime.?

Imitation as a factor in social life is recognized by the poet. In Athens, and in the parody of Athens in the Birds, men are subject to crazes of imitation :

In the time before
There was a Spartan mania, and people went
Stalking about the streets, with Spartan staves,
With their long hair, unwashed and slovenly,
Like so many Socrates's; but, of late,
Birds are the fashion Birds are all in all -
Their modes of life are grown to be mere copies
Of the birds' habits; rising with the lark,
Scratching and scrabbling suits and informations;
Picking and pecking upon points of law;

Brooding and hatching evidence.3 An example of this trait in the Athenian appears in the Ecclesiazouse (787). Before yielding to the demands of the new communism, the citizen waits to see whether others propose to obey the law before he obeys it and turns in his property.

Aristophanes clearly recognizes that habit and tradition are conservative forces which lend stability to society. The birds lack stability of manner and persistence of purpose, a feature of the bird-city in which the Athenians could not but see reflected a lack of their own. One advantage in the new rule of the women proposed in the Ecclesiazouse is to be that love of the good old ways which marks women (215), while men are always ready to try some new thing (584 f.). Strepsiades in the opening of the Clouds laments that slaves are no longer under the control of masters, because the old social conditions are disturbed by war. In the discussion between the two logoi the value of conservative custom in giving permanence to society is clearly set forth; in fact, this might be treated as the main thesis of the Clouds.

* Eccl., 698 f., 670.
a Plut., 165 and 565 f.
3 Av., 1280; FRERE's translation.

* Ibid., 165.
5 Cf. Eccl., 813 f.

That the love of excitement was a potent factor in Athenian life is quite generally recognized. The popularity of the law courts, which was due in a measure to this love of excitement, is a theme of which Aristophanes never tires. It is treated at a " greatest length in the Wasps, in which Philocleon is represented as fairly crazy on the subject; at the end of the play, however, it appears that the craze can be overcome. After the "homeopathic” treatment of a mimic court, an appeal to appetite and to the Athenian fondness for display quite wins over the old


The ethical postulates at the basis of society are not passed over without recognition. In the Clouds Strepsiades is most anxious to discover a means of repudiating his debts.” In spite of warnings, he places first himself, then his son, under the tutelage of Socrates in order to learn how to make "the worse appear the better reason;" he succeeds in shaking off two of his creditors, but he is soon taught that the weapon he is using may be turned against himself. In the end the man most inclined to protest against the demands of social justice learns his own dependence on it. The result of the dramatic action is emphasized in the discussion; in particular, the argument of the two logoi bring out the poet's conception of the value of education and religion as ethical forces which underlie anything that deserves the name of society. In the Birds the effort of two Athenians to escape social and political obligations meets with the most fantastic success. It was not the aim of the Clouds to preach the value of justice, but rather to hit off the characteristic traits of the sophist in such a way as to amuse the audience; so it was not the aim of the Birds to demonstrate that a man can escape from the demands of society or that he cannot escape them; the aim was to amuse the audience by an extravagant picture of the results which took place when a man attempted *Cf. Eccl., 450, 560, 585.

Nub., 444 f., 1142 f.


to escape these demands. The extravagance of the poet is indication enough that he knew the futility of such efforts as were made by Euelpides and Peithetærus.

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The family is treated by Aristophanes from three points of view. First, as to the relation of husband and wife, the poet sees their mutual dependence and makes this fact the central feature of the Lysistrata. In the parabasis of the Thesmophoriazouse (786 f.) the attitude of husbands toward their wives, the way they speak ill of their wives while at the same time they guard these "plagues” as most precious, is cleverly described :

They're always abusing the women,

As a terrible plague to men:
They say we're the root of all evil,

And repeat it again and again.
And pray, then, why do you marry us,

If we're all the plagues you say?
And why do you take such care of us,

And keep us so safe at home,
And are never easy a moment,

If ever we chance to roam ?
When you ought to be thanking heaven

That your plague is out of the way." Finally in the Clouds the fact that Strepsiades has taken a wife from a higher social station than his own is one of the factors that complicate the plot. Their tastes differ at every point; she involves her husband in the debts from which he is trying to escape, and she wants to bring up their son as a member of the class in society from which she came.

Secondly, Aristophanes points out that the home is the woman's sphere, and that she wins credit by proper manage. ment of it. His women complain that the dramas of Euripides had made the Athenians very suspicious of their wives.” were to take the representation of the women by comedy as the criterion, he would regard the opinion attributed to Euripides as only too well founded; Aristophanes, however, is consciously

If one

Collin's translation.

? Thesm., 385, 419; Batr., 980.


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