Places Discussed


*Athens. Capital and city-state of the peninsula of Attica, a province of east central Greece. Firmly established as a cultural, political, and commercial center by 429 b.c.e., Athens became an imperialistic empire and naval power. In 431 b.c.e. it began its war with Sparta, the powerful city-state of southern Greece’s Peloponnesian Peninsula. Aristophanes depicts Athens at a time when it was suffering naval and military disasters and undergoing chaotic political and social conditions, which he uses to give Athenian women a motivation for striking. It is significant that the play’s women consist of the strong and weak-willed, suggestive of the city’s fickle population. Their strike ends the war. (The historical Athens surrendered in 404 b.c.e. and lost its empire and military power.)


*Acropolis. Citadel and highest point in Athens, and the place containing the city’s treasury and the Parthenon, a temple significantly holding a statue of Athena, goddess of wisdom, arts, and the preserver of the state. On the Acropolis Lysistrata has the women seize the treasury that finances Athens’s war. They are aided by Athenian old women and repel an attacking group of Athenian old men and male officials trying to oust them. Suffering the effects of sexual abstinence, warriors throughout Greece come to the Acropolis, where they agree to make peace on the women’s terms, and reunite with them for a joyous celebration.


*Greece. In addition to Athens, Lysistrata’s female company come from other Greek city-states that represent Athens’s most bitter enemies whose defecting women signify the theme of antiwar Panhellenism. These cities also bear features that characterize superior Athenian attitudes toward their inhabitants. Sparta is the Peloponnesian capital known for its military prowess and physically fit women, such as the play’s Lampito. Corinth, noted for general dissoluteness produces a full-figured lass of possibly easy virtue; and from Boeotia a fertile east central Grecian land with people reputedly dulled by plenty, comes a pretty, well-fed girl.

Historical Context

The Peloponnesian War was in its twentieth year when Aristophanes wrote Lysistrata. Athens and Sparta had been long-standing enemies,...

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Literary Style

The people for whom a drama is performed. Authors usually write with an audience in mind. Aristophanes writes for an...

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Compare and Contrast

c. 411 B.C.: The democracy of Athens is overthrown by extremists, who are in open negotiation with Sparta. These extremists are soon...

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Topics for Further Study

How does the comedy in Lysistrata differ from the comedy of one of William Shakespeare’s comedies, such as Taming of the...

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Media Adaptations

There are no filmed adaptations of this play. However, Lysistrata, was adapted as an opera in 1963–1967, to be performed by the...

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What Do I Read Next?

Thesmophoriazusae, also by Aristophanes, was produced in 411 B.C. Like Lysistrata, this play also depicts women as an important...

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Bibliography and Further Reading

Aristophanes, Lysistrata, edited by Jeffrey Henderson, The Focus Classical Library, 1992.


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(Great Characters in Literature)

Bowie, A. M. Aristophanes: Myth, Ritual, and Comedy. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1993. An interesting structural anthropological approach that places Aristoph-anes’ plays in their contemporary context. The analysis of Lysistrata includes a discussion of earlier myths and rituals that demonstrate feminist power.

Dover, K. J. Aristophanic Comedy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972. A tribute to Artistophanes’ plays in their cultural context by a distinguished classical Greek scholar. A separate chapter on Lysistrata provides a synopsis and examines the lyrics and characters. Also...

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