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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 April 2015

R.B. Rutherford*
Christ Church, Oxford


Among the many points of interest in N.G. Wilson's admirable new text of Aristophanes is his handling of the closing scene of Lysistrata, and in particular the question of the heroine's role in that scene. In the new OCT we find the short speech 1273–8 ascribed to Lysistrata, while the apparatus notes ‘legato tribuunt quidam’ (in other words, to one of the Athenian males already on stage). The song which follows (1279–90) is also given to Lysistrata, but the apparatus comments ‘quis canat incertum est.’ Finally Lysistrata is presumed to speak the single line 1295 inviting the Spartan ambassador to sing a fresh song.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 2015 

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I am grateful to Angus Bowie, Stephen Halliwell and CQ's anonymous reader for helpful suggestions; remaining errors and exaggerations are my own.


1 Wilson, N.G. (ed.), Aristophanis fabulae, 2 vols. OCT (2007)Google Scholar, 2.63. In the companion volume, Aristophanea (Oxford, 2007)Google Scholar, Wilson does not discuss the attributions.

2 Of course, manuscript attributions have no authority and should not carry weight in deciding such matters; as Wilson comments in his praefatio, ‘Ratio et res ipsa must be the basis for decisions’ (Wilson [n. 1], Aristophanis Fabulae, 1.viii).

3 Besides A.H. Sommerstein's note on Lys. 1273–90 (partly anticipated in his review of Zimmermann in CR 36 (1986), 203–4Google Scholar), see the addenda in his edition of Aristophanes: Wealth (Warminster, 2001) 302–3Google Scholar, and Talking about Laughter (Oxford, 2009), 244–6Google Scholar, 252–3. For a review of opinions, see G. Mastromarco in Mastromarco, G. and Totaro, P., Commedie di Aristofane, vol. 2 (Turin, 2006), 428–9 n. 236Google Scholar. Mastromarco attaches more weight to the first person plural in 1277 than does Sommerstein, who somewhat understates its importance. If the speech is ascribed to Lysistrata, this seems to make her include herself among the culpable. Revermann, M., Comic Business (Oxford, 2006), 253Google Scholar n. 44 supports Lysistrata's presence as a speaker in the final scene, while allowing that the question is disputed.

4 Points 1–4 appear in his edition, Aristophanes, Lysistrata (Warminster, 1990), 221–3Google Scholar; for point 5 see n. 6 below.

5 MacDowell, D.M., Aristophanes and Athens (Oxford, 1995), 241Google Scholar, emphasizing lines 507–20. Sommerstein's note on 503 appears to accept this.

6 The fifth argument appears in Sommerstein, Wealth (n. 3 above), 304, and is restated in his Talking about Laughter (n. 3), 252–3.

7 Not printed in Sommerstein's own text, but see Wilson (n. 1, Aristophanis fabulae), 2.4 (lines 31–2).

8 This qualification alludes to the disappearance of Praxagora in the latter scenes of Eccl.: see below.

9 Lewis, D.M., ‘Who was Lysistrata?’, BSA 50 (1955), 112Google Scholar, repr. in id., Selected Papers in Greek and Near Eastern History, ed. Rhodes, P.J. (Cambridge, 1997), 187202Google Scholar. Sommerstein's endorsement of this position in his commentary is whole-hearted (more cautious formulation in Talking about Laughter [n. 3], 64–5, but the caution does not seem to affect his willingness to extend Lewis' argument, see n. 13 below). Others have expressed more reserve: see e.g. Dover, K.J., Aristophanic Comedy (London, 1972), 152 n. 3Google Scholar; Heath, M., Political Comedy in Aristophanes (Göttingen, 1987), 15CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Henderson, J., Aristophanes: Lysistrata (Oxford, 1987), xxxvii–xliCrossRefGoogle Scholar; Halliwell, S., Aristophanes: Birds and other Plays (Oxford, 1998), 84–5 n. 7Google Scholar.

10 Many commentators have accepted that these represent Nicias and Demosthenes, but their names are never used, and Dover, K.J., ‘Aristophanes, Knights 11–20’, CR 9 (1959), 196–9Google Scholar (= Greek and the Greeks [London, 1997], 307–10Google Scholar) took a very sceptical position.

11 For a recent discussion of this, see Bakola, E., Cratinus and the Art of Comedy (Oxford, 2010), 183–8Google Scholar.

12 Sommerstein, The naming of women in Greek and Roman comedy’, QS 11 (1980), 393418Google Scholar (= Talking about Laughter [n. 3], Chapter 2).

13 Sommerstein in the addenda to Lysistrata at the end of his edition of Wealth (n. 2), and in Talking about Laughter (n. 3), 244–5, adds the further suggestion (made by E. Sibley in 1995) that in the final scene Lysistrata is actually wearing the aegis of the goddess Athena Polias. That takes the assimilation of Lysistrata and Lysimache to its extremes.

14 Note Halliwell's, S. remarks in ‘Aristophanic sex: the erotics of shamelessness’, in Nussbaum, M. and Sihvola, J. (edd.), The Sleep of Reason (Chicago, 2002), 120–42, at 125Google Scholar.

15 Already in the opening scene she advocates the use of dildos to help them endure privation (158), and she shares the wine as eagerly as her companions (238; one of them cautions her to take only her share).

16 I am here assuming a greater degree of coherence in Lysistrata's characterization than would be allowed by Silk, M., Aristophanes and the Definition of Comedy (Oxford, 2000)Google Scholar, Chapter 5, who argues for systematic discontinuity in Aristophanic characterization. Silk does however concede that Lysistrata is ‘broadly noble’ (p. 244; cf. p. 280).

17 Notable here are the lines Thesm. 1204–6, in which Euripides dispatches him to be reunited with a previously unmentioned wife and children.

18 See further Austin, C. and Olson, S.D., Aristophanes: Thesmophoriazusae (Oxford, 2004), lxivviiiCrossRefGoogle Scholar.

19 It is not of great importance that she has not sung at any earlier stage of the play. Given the figures I present in what follows, this is statistically unsurprising. In any case, even in tragedy a character may break into song for the first time at a very late stage in the drama: e.g. Creon in Soph. Ant., Iphigenia in Eur. IA (as the text now stands).

20 See the data presented in Parker, L., The Songs of Aristophanes (Oxford, 1997)Google Scholar.

21 Satyr-drama too seems reasonably welcoming to women. Although Cyclops has none, Ichneutae includes Maia, Hermes' mother, and Dictyulci has Danae; and some satyr-plays are named after women (e.g. Aesch. Amymone, Circe, perhaps Soph. Marriage of Helen, Nausicaa [if the last two were satyr-plays]).

22 See esp. Barner, W., ‘Die Monodie’, in Jens, W. (ed.), Die Bauformen der griechischen Tragödie (Tübingen, 1971), 277320Google Scholar; Hall, E., ‘Actors' song in tragedy’, in Goldhill, S. and Osborne, R.G. (edd.), Performance Culture and Athenian Democracy (Cambridge, 1999), 96122Google Scholar, revised as Singing roles in tragedy’ in The Theatrical Cast of Athens (Oxford, 2006), 288320CrossRefGoogle Scholar; also Hall, E., ‘The singing actors of antiquity’, in Easterling, P. and Hall, E. (edd.), Greek and Roman Actors: Aspects of an Ancient Profession (Cambridge, 2002), 338Google Scholar. Hall's account of tragic song is seminal, but she does not address the question of comedy (comic song is mentioned only briefly in the 2002 paper at 30–1).

23 Henderson, J., ‘Pherecrates and the women of Old Comedy’, in Harvey, D. and Wilkins, J. (edd.), The Rivals of Aristophanes (London, 2000), 135–50Google Scholar.

24 The CQ referee comments: ‘I personally don't see the problem of there being women treated with seriousness, pity or compassion. My vision of Aristophanes can accommodate all these things, I think.’ My own reading leads me to question how much evidence can be found in the dramas to justify this more positive vision of Aristophanes' representation of women.

25 The relative's response to the song of the sexually ambiguous Agathon (Thesm. 130–3) is worth bearing in mind in this context.

26 I have no fresh arguments to advance discussion of whether women could attend the dramatic performances: see Pickard-Cambridge, A.W., The Dramatic Festivals of Athens (2nd edn by Gould, J. and Lewis, D.M., [Oxford, 1968, rev. 1988]), 264–5Google Scholar, Henderson, J., ‘Women and the Athenian dramatic festivals’, TAPhA 121 (1991), 133–47Google Scholar, Goldhill, S., ‘Representing democracy: women at the Great Dionysia’, in Osborne, R. and Hornblower, S. (edd.), Ritual, Finance, Politics: Athenian Democratic Accounts Presented to David Lewis (Oxford, 1994), 347–69Google Scholar, Gerö, E.C. and H.-Johnsson, R., ‘Where were the women when the men laughed at Lysistrata? An inquiry into the question whether the audience of the Old Comedy also included female spectators’, Eranos 99 (2001), 8799Google Scholar. A blanket prohibition seems to me improbable, but it is likely that the audience was predominantly male.

27 Olson, S.D., ‘The “love duet” in Aristophanes' Ecclesiazusae’, CQ 38 (1998), 328–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

28 Halliwell (n. 14), 126–35.

29 Sommerstein, A.H., Aristophanes: Ecclesiazusae (Warminster, 1998), 21Google Scholar.

30 See e.g. Aesch. Supp. 57–62, Ag. 1142–9, Soph. El. 147–9; Barker, A., ‘Transforming the nightingale: aspects of Athenian musical discourse in the late fifth century’, in Murray, P. and Wilson, P. (edd.), Music and the Muses (Oxford, 2004), 185204CrossRefGoogle Scholar, who argues for a very different reading of the nightingale's role.

31 See esp. MacDowell, D.M., ‘The number of speaking actors in Old Comedy’, CQ 44 (1984), 325–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

32 For admirable analyses of the hoopoe's song, see Fraenkel, E., ‘Notes on the hoopoe's song’, Eranos 48 (1950), 7584Google Scholar (= Kleine Beiträge, vol. 1 [Rome, 1964], 453–61Google Scholar); Dunbar, N.V., Aristophanes: Birds (Oxford, 1995), 209–13Google Scholar.

33 For an interesting contrast between tragedy and comedy in the handling of this myth, see Buxton, R., Forms of Astonishment (Oxford, 2009)Google Scholar, Chapter 2.

34 The CQ referee suggests that the horror may be the point: that Procne has a good reason for remaining mute, and the audience are meant to notice. But if this were the case I would expect someone to draw attention to the point (as in e.g. Eur. Hipp. 909–15, Ar. Thesm. 144); as things stand, I prefer to suppose that Aristophanes avoids drawing attention to the mythological past.

35 Ar. Anagyrus fr. 53 parodies Phaedra in Eur. Hipp. 219–22, but these are anapaests.

36 I am basically working from the remnants of those dramatists classified as Old Comedy in the recent Loeb edition produced by I.C. Storey (3 vols., Cambridge, MA and London, 2011).

37 Seidensticker, B., Palintonos Harmonia (Hypomnemata 72, Göttingen 1982CrossRefGoogle Scholar); Taplin, O., ‘Fifth-century comedy and tragedy’, JHS 106 (1986), 163–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Comedy and the tragic’, in Silk, M. (ed.), Tragedy and the Tragic (Oxford, 1996) 183202Google Scholar; Silk (n. 16), Chapter 2; see also Sommerstein, A., ‘Comic elements in tragic language: the case of Aeschylus' Oresteia’, in Willi, A. (ed.), The Language of Old Comedy (Oxford, 2002), 151–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar.