Places Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 333


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*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

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 544

The Peloponnesian War was in its twentieth year when Aristophanes wrote Lysistrata . Athens and Sparta had been long-standing enemies, but they had finally negotiated an uneasy peace in 445 B.C. When Athens wanted to extend its empire, the uneasy peace was broken, and war erupted. When the war began in 431 B.C., Greece was not a country as we know it today. Instead it was a collection of small, rival city-states, located both on the mainland and on the surrounding islands. The war began after Sparta demanded certain concessions of Athens, and the Athenian leader Pericles convinced the Athenians to refuse, and instead, go to war. There was a short truce after ten years of fighting, when it appeared that the war was deadlocked between the two city-states; but soon the war resumed. Initially Athens seemed to be winning; in spite of having lost many people to the plague, they were winning some battles and appeared to be stronger than their enemy, Sparta. Sparta even suggested peace, which Athens rejected. But soon, the war changed, with Sparta in the stronger position. Athens had a stronger navy than Sparta, and the Athenian forces commanded the seas, but when the battle shifted, Sparta emerged as the stronger force. A major shift in the war occurred when Athens attempted to invade Sicily. This unsuccessful attack led to serious losses at land and at sea. These losses made Athens more vulnerable to Sparta’s land forces, which had always been stronger than those of Athens. In addition, Athens’ navy, which had always been its strongest force, had been destroyed in the ill-fated...

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Critical Essays