The Acharnians by Aristophanes: Analysis & Quotes

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will analyze the Greek comedy 'The Acharnians' by Aristophanes and examine some of the quotes. This play was first published in 425 B.C. as a means of speaking out against war.

Anti-War Sentiment

''Imagine there's no countries / It isn't hard to do / Nothing to kill or die for / And no religion too…'' sang John Lennon in 1971 as a political commentary on his desire for peace during the Vietnam War. Movies, art, and books are other ways that artists have spread anti-war messages over the past several decades, but did you know that there is evidence that this practice dates back more than two thousand years? ''The Acharnians'' by Aristophanes is a Greek comedy that was performed in 425 B.C. as a form of protest against the Peloponnesian War. Let's analyze this play and examine some its quotes.

Author's Background

In many ways, Aristophanes was the original comic who inspired those who followed him. Like comedians today, he disarmed his audience by freely expressing things that most people keep to themselves, including his criticism of political figures and the Peloponnesian War. In one of Aristophanes' earlier plays, ''The Babylonians,'' Cleon, an Athenian politician who favored the extermination and enslavement of the enemy, was so sharply criticized that Cleon had Aristophanes imprisoned. While Aristophanes convinced someone else to produce ''The Acharnians'' for him, he sent the clear message that he refused to be silenced.

Act I

The play opens with Dicaeopolis, sometimes spelled, Dikaiopolis, the protagonist, attending an assembly in Athens. The first speaker, Amphitheus, calls for an end of the war with Sparta and is arrested for heresy. Dicaeopolis calls out, ''Prytanes, in expelling this citizen, you are offering an outrage to the Assembly. He only desired to secure peace for us and to sheathe the sword.'' Other members of the assembly seem unconcerned about the war as long as it is far away from them.

When Amphitheus returns to assembly, Dicaeopolis tells him, ''Take these eight drachmae and go and conclude a truce with the Lacedaemonians for me, my wife, and my children.'' Amphitheus goes to Sparta to buy peace and returns with three wineskins. One representing five years of peace, another representing ten years of peace, and the third representing 30 years of peace. Dicaeopolis chooses 30 years.

Other members of the assembly are angry that Dicaeopolis has made peace with the Spartans. Dicaeopolis responds by singing, ''…with what joy I return to my farmstead, thanks to the truce I have concluded, freed from cares, from fighting, and from Lamachuses!'' Lamachus is Dicaeopolis' neighbor who is a general in the army.

Act II

Dicaeopolis sets up a business trading goods with people who also believe in peace. He announces, '' All Peloponnesians, Megarians, Boeotians, have the right to come and trade here, provided they sell their wares to me and not to Lamachus.'' A servant attempts to buy for Lamachus, but Dicaeopolis refuses to deal with him.

Lamachus leaves for battle and returns wounded as Dicaeopolis continues to enjoy peace and frivolity. In the end, Dicaeopolis ends up with women and wine while Lamachus' desire for war leaves him with wounds to heal.

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