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Restoring and Overturning Athenian Democracy in Aristophanes: Paradigmatic Truths and ‘Carnival’ Reversals

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image of Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought

The two historical examples used by Lysistrata in her peace speech (Ar. Lys. 1137-1156) are not comical distortions, but, just as in actual assembly orations, they rather represent a characteristic ‘modulation du paradigme’, according to which the examples are adapted to support the orator’s objective. The aim of Lysistrata’s speech, in particular, is to enable a shift from the upside-down world of gynecocracy that she herself established, to a full restoration of democratic Athens. Quite different is the situation in Ecclesiazusai, where the upside-down world created by Praxagora is an anti-democratic state from which it is impossible to return. It seems necessary to distinguish Aristophanes’ older dramas in which the subverted society returns to normal democracy, from his later works (Ecclesiazusai, Plutus), the only ones in which the overturning is permanent.

Affiliations: 1: Sapienza – Università di Roma RomaItaly


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