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Aristophanes and Frogs

Aristophanes' Frogs and the Peloponnesian War

Tom Atkinson

on 23 October 2012

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Transcript of Aristophanes and Frogs

And the Peloponnesian War Aristophanes' Frogs And Athenian Events Background Alcibiades and Arginusae References to the war in Frogs | | | | | | | | | | | | | The Peloponnesian War 460-445BC 431-404BC 432BC After years of tension, Athens begins a conflict against Sparta's allies, and then against Sparta. A Spartan victory sees the Thirty Year Peace take territories on mainland Greece from Athens The First Peloponnesian War The Thirty Year Peace The peace was tested and ultimately ended by a series of events:
-440 BC Samos, an Athenian ally, rebelled from the alliance, but Sparta and her allies refused to intervene.
-Athenian ships fought against Corinth, allies of Sparta, with Corcyra's navy.
-Potidaea, an Athenian ally but Corinthian Colony, accepted Athenian demands to throw out the Corinthian leaders and tear down the wall - this a direct violation of the Thirty Years Peace.
-Finally, Athens blocked all trade on the Megarians, Spartan allies, which crippled their state and economy Sparta summons the Peloponnesian League to meet. Corinth and many other states, who have grievances against Athens, demand Sparta ends neutrality. Athens reminds Sparta of her recent military successes against Persia. The League decides that Athens has broken the peace and declare war. The Peloponnesian War begins The Peloponnesian War The Archidamian War
431-421 BC Corinth forms a coalition against Athens.
Alcibiades is exiled and secedes to Sparta.
Both sides compete for the alliance of Argos but Argos' military is lost at the Battle of Mantinea, meaning her alliance was meaningless. She allied with Athens shortly after.
415-413 Athenian expedition to Syracuse (Sicily) Under the advice of Alcibiades and command of Lysander, Sparta invades Attica, occupying Decelea, a small town near Athens.
Athens continues to send men and ship to Syracuse though the results are disastrous.
Athenian navy, once superior, falls behind the naval power of Corinth and Syracuse. Sparta uses funds from Cyrus of Persia to build her navy and begins to attack Athenian allies in Ionia.
At the Battle of Aegosotami (405BC), a year after Sparta lost to Athens at the Battle of Arginusae Sparta destroys the Athenian Navy. 431BC 421BC 413BC Athens is successful initially but begins to falter, especially after the siege of Boeotia. 427 BC Athens makes an expedition to Sicily.
A plague hits Athens.
Fearing a loss of allies, Athens signs the Peace of Nicias (Athens loses land in Thrace and Plataea in 421 BC.
(429BC Pericles dies). The Second Stage
421-413 BC Decelean or Ionian War 413 - 404 BC Stage 1: Stage 3: Athenian Surrender 404BC Athens loses its democratic government.
Thirty Tyrants rule Athens. 404BC 405BC Aristophanes' Frogs is performed in Athens 406BC Athens beats the Spartan Navy at the Battle of Arginusae Battle of Arginusae Battle of Aegosotami Alcibiades Arginusae Alcibiades' History Alcibiades was from, and was the last famous member of, a prominent aristocratic family in Athens: the Alcmaeonidae.
He was a talented statesman, general and orator.
Held an aggressive foreign policy against Sparta and thought of the expeditions to Sicily.
Accused by his peers of sacrilege, Alcibiades was exiled and fled to Sparta. As a Spartan strategic adviser he planned and supervised several major campaigns against Athens.
He made powerful enemies in Sparta and again fled, this time to Persia.
In Persia he was an adviser to the Persian satrap (governor) Tissaphernes until he was recalled by Athens.
He served as an influential and successful Strategos (general) in Athens but his enemies soon had him exiled again, after a humiliating defeat at the Battle of Notium, responsibility for which fell on him.
Exiled again, he fled to Phrygia to get the protection of the Persian from the Spartans.
How he died in unclear, it has been suggested that it was either Lysander himself, or a group of assassins. Alcibiades in the Frogs Towards the end of the Frogs, Dionysus asks Euripides and Aeschylus a couple of serious questions to decide who is the winner. The first question asks what Athens should do about Alcibiades. When Euripides asks what the city thinks of him, Dionysus says that the Athenians hate him, yet want him back. Earlier in the play, Aristophanes' gives a clear message that he thinks that the Athenians should call back the aristocratic Athenians, the best men of the city, who have been exiled as they are better than those who hold power now, like slaves.
He gives a metaphor as well on this topic, comparing the aristocratic former rulers of Athens to genuine gold coins, and the current leaders as coins only coated in gold. Finally, in the first parabasis, Aristophanes' writes about a man that continually changes sides, ignoring his Athenian heritage.
While this is most applicable to Theramenes*, the fact that Aristophanes does not give a specific name, means it could also be applicable to Alcibiades. *Theramenes An infamous Athenian turncoat who avoided exile for being one of the 400 Oligarchs and then led Athens in signing peace with the Spartans; setting up the 30 Tyrants. Battle of Arginusae
406 BC KEY PROFILES Lysander Lysander was a talented Spartan general who led Sparta to her successes in the later section of the war.
Lysander was made Spartan Admiral of the Aegean and masterminded the emphatic Spartan naval victories at the Battle of Notim in 407 BC and, more importantly, at the Battle of Aegospotami in 405 BC, which then led to the Athenian surrender.
He then oversaw Sparta's peace negotiations with the Athenians, led by Theramenes, and aided to creation of the Thirty Tyrants in 404 BC, to arrange a Spartan rule in Athens.
He then was responsible for arranging the assassination of the Athenian Alcibiades. Cyrus the Younger Cyrus was a Persian prince and General. Cyrus and Lysander had good relations and Lysander persuaded Cyrus, that Lysander could become absolute ruler of Greece, with the financial backing of Cyrus. Athens and Persia had long been rivals and enemies, and Cyrus was not hesitant in taking sides and pumping all of his funds into the campaigns of Sparta, and Lysander in particular. Cyrus was a satrap (governor) in Phrygia and had access to a large number of Greek-style soldiers and mercenaries, which he used in a Civil War against his brother (Artaxerxes II) for the crown. Cyrus lost the war and was killed in the Battle of Cunaxa. In 406 BC, the new Spartan Admiral, Callicratidas launched his new massive fleet of 190 ships on a campaign in the Aegean. Eventually he came into contact with Athenian Admiral, Conon, who fled from the Battle. Conon's fleet was ill-equiped and only 70 of his 100+ triremes could be manned.
In response, the Athenians melted statues for resources and made slaves man the ships, sending another 155 triremes towards Conon. In an unorthodox strategy, the Athenians shared the command of this fleet between 8 Strategoi, or generals.
Callicratidas led 140 ships to meet the Athenians, leaving 50 behind to watch Conon. Sparta had the most experienced men and generals, but with the use of innovative new tactics, like dividing the fleet into 8 and using a double, not a single, line the Athenians won the battle.
The Spartans lost 70 ships, while the Athenians only lost 25. Callicratidas was also killed in the battle.
The surviving Athenian slaves who had fought in the battle were given citizenship and freed from their status. Arginusae in the Frogs "We don't want the traitor who sides with the foe" Early in the play, the slave Xanthias immediately makes a references to the battle and how he could have been free if he had. "If only I'd been in that sea-battle, I'd be a free man now" Charon, who takes the souls to the Underworld, also makes a reference in refusing to take Xanthias on his ship because he didn't take part in the Battle of Arginusae "I don't take slaves. Not unless they fought in the sea-battle" Alcibiades was exiled by Athens for a second time in 406 BC, just one year before the 'Frogs' was before. When Aristophanes was writing the 'Frogs', the issue of Alcibiades would have dominated Athenian society, and it would still be that way a year later when it was performed. The Battle of Arginusae was a great victory for the Athenians, just a year before the Frogs. While recent defeats would overshadow Arginusae, the Athenians would know of this battle and of the participation of the slaves. In the Frogs, there is a clear message, in the epirrhema of the second Parabasis, that Athens should welcome back the old, more competent, aristocratic nobles (who had been either executed or expelled for their part in the 400 Oligarchs) to rule their city as they had done in years gone by. Leadership This message clearly spells out the need for the return of the more competent leadership, hoping that they can return and either negotiate a preferable peace, or fight on and turn the tide. It may be a desire for the return of the leaders who enjoyed successes in the war, for example, those who led Athens at the outbreak. "The time has come to forgive and forget.
Oh yes, they erred, but it does not seem right,
When slaves who helped us in a single fight
Now vote beside our allies from Plataea
And put on masters' clothes, like Xanthias here.
Not that I disagree with that decision -
No, no, it shows intelligence and vision -
But if we're going to treat these men like brothers,
Let's be consistent and excuse the others." Plataea In 427BC, the city of Plataea was besieged and destroyed by the armies of Thebes and Sparta, as part of the Peloponnesian War.
Those who escaped were granted citizenship by their city's allies, Athens, and were welcomed into the city.
In 386BC, the city of Plataea was rebuilt. "When we have been so wise, it seems a pity
That men of our own kin, who've served the City
In many naval battles - not just one-
Should still be paying for this thing they've done.
Come, wise Athenians, come swallow your pride!
We need those loyal kinsmen on our side" Cleigenes Who was Cleigenes? Cleigenes was a radical democrat who was strongly opposed to making peace with Sparta. He may have owned a bathhouse or laundry and these are referred to in the Frogs. The Message Again, in the epirrhema of the second parabasis, Aristophanes has a clear message about Cleigenes and his viewpoint. Aristophanes suggests that Cleigenes is a greedy cheat and describes him in a such a way to persuade the Athenian audience that he is not a favourable person. He then goes on to comment on Cleigenes' stance on the war, in a way that suggests that those who want the war to continue are the kind of people that are plagues on the City. (The Chorus of Initiates) (The Chorus of Initiates) Chorus-Leader Chorus-Leader Chorus-Leader (Chorus of Initiates) Xanthias Charon (page 140, lines 190-191) (page 134, lines 33-4) (page 148, line 363) (page 160, lines 691-8) (page 160, lines 699-705) Chorus of Initiates (page 161, lines 707-9) Chorus of Initiates (page 161, lines 715-9 "A rascal with whom we have been long encumbered,
Whose days on this earth, I assure you are numbered.
He's sly as a monkey, his voice might be quieter" Messages Others Humour When asked how to save the city from the brink of defeat in the war by Dionysus, Aeschylus and Euripides answer in different. "If we were to stop putting our trust in those we do at the moment, and put it instead in those we don't at the moment... If we're faring badly with the current lot, we're bound to do better if we do the opposite" Euripides (page 188, line 1445-1450) "They must regard enemy soil
As theirs, and let their own land go.
The navy is the city's strength;
And any other wealth is woe." Aeschylus (page 188, line 1464-7) Euripides is saying that a change in leadership is the only way to reverse their downward spiral.
Aeschylus argues that the city should give up all wealth to strengthen the navy, as it is the only instrument with which Athens can succeed. Arginusae Despite the fact it was a serious battle, the Athenians are, or at least Aristophanes is not shy to laugh at things related to this victory. "I was exempted [from the battle] on medical grounds: eye trouble" Xanthias (page 140, line 191) "If only I'd been in that sea-battle, I'd be a free man now." Xanthias (page 134, lines 33-4) Most puns about Arginusae are said by Xanthias because he, as a slave, is the one that it would have been most relevant to.
The idea of being exempt from a deadly battle because of a bad eye is a comically poor excuse and this would have been funny to the Athenian audience.
Lamenting about not fighting in the battle is also amusing because it is unexpected that anyone would wish that they took part in a deadly battle, especially just because your master is not only foolish, but is also making you carry the luggage Mocking the Current Leaders to Convey a Message One message of the Frogs is that a change of leadership is needed and following the epirrhema of the first parabasis, Aristophanes' Chorus of Initiates begins to mock the current Athenian leaders. "But what's come over Cleisthenes? He looks so full of care;
He's lost his precious lover boy, his sad cries rend the air,
As he takes a pair of tweezers to his last superfluous hair" Chorus of Initiates (page 151, lines 421-3) "You've heard of Archedemus? Well, he's not renowned for looks;
His parentage is doubtful, and he isn't on the books;
Yet down among the dead-folk he's the prince of all the crooks Chorus of Initiates (page 150, lines 418-20) By mocking the leaders of Athens, Aristophanes hopes to turn public opinion against them and put forward his view that the old noble leaders, who are the most capable should return.
Hearing the leaders of a state mocked in such a way would have been shockingly funny for the audience Archedemus Archedemus was a key political figure in 406/5 BC. He led the prosecution of one of the generals at Arginusae, despite the victorious outcome. He was also instrumental in condemning the other generals to death. "Wee Cleigenes knows that his joys will soon cease
Yet he won't be persuaded to advocate peace;
A cudgel is one thing on which he'll insist
To save him from thieves when he staggers home pissed." FIN
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