Aristophanes Biography

( Comic Playwright of Ancient Athens and a Poet of Old Attic Comedy.)

Born: 446 BC

Born In: Athens, Greece

Aristophanes was a playwright in ancient Greek best known as a writer of comedies. While most of his plays have been lost or partially destroyed, eleven of them survive almost intact to this day. Much respected as a playwright, he was also known as The Father of Comedy and The Prince of Ancient Comedy. Not much is known about him; whatever is known about him is known only through his own works. What is known is that he was an Athenian citizen hailing from a clan named Pandionis. He began his career as a playwright probably around 427 BCE. Society and politics are recurring themes in his plays and it is believed he generally wrote for an educated and mature audience. He was known for his witty dialogues, parodies, and imaginative fantasies. He was a regular participant in competitions and the recipient of numerous awards, including the first prize at the City Dionysia for his second play, The Babylonians. Many of his plays were directed by Callistratus and Philoneides. Aristophanes wasn’t directly involved in politics despite writing highly political plays. Like many other playwrights of his time, he was also a teacher with numerous pupils under his tutelage.

Quick Facts

Died At Age: 60


father: Philippus

children: Araros, Nicostratus, Philippus

Born Country: Greece

Quotes By Aristophanes Playwrights

Died on: 386 BC

place of death: Delphi, Greece

City: Athens, Greece

  • 1

    What are some famous works by Aristophanes?

    Some famous works by Aristophanes include "Lysistrata," "The Clouds," "The Birds," "The Frogs," and "The Knights."
  • 2

    What is the significance of Aristophanes in ancient Greek literature?

    Aristophanes is considered one of the greatest comedic playwrights of ancient Greece, known for his satire, wit, and social commentary in his works.
  • 3

    How did Aristophanes' plays reflect the political and social issues of his time?

    Aristophanes used his plays to criticize and parody prominent figures, politicians, and societal norms of ancient Athens, addressing political and social issues through humor and satire.
  • 4

    What themes are commonly explored in Aristophanes' comedies?

    Themes commonly explored in Aristophanes' comedies include political satire, gender roles, war and peace, power dynamics, and the role of intellectuals in society.
  • 5

    How did Aristophanes' comedic style influence later generations of playwrights?

    Aristophanes' innovative comedic style, use of satire, and sharp wit have had a lasting influence on the development of comedy in literature, influencing later playwrights and satirists.

Not much is known about Aristophanes’ childhood or early life. It is known that he was born around 446 BCE in Greece. He was an Athenian citizen though his exact place of birth is disputed.

His father’s name was Philippus, and the family belonged to a clan called Pandionis. It is believed that Philippus owned property on the island of Aegina, and young Aristophanes spent some time there.

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Literary Career

Aristophanes started staging his plays around 427 BCE. His first play, directed by Callistratus and Philoneides, was The Banqueters. The play won the second prize at the City Dionysia. His second play, The Babylonians, won the first prize there.

His third play, The Acharnians or Acharnians, was produced in 425 BCE. It is the earliest of his eleven surviving plays. The play became popular owing to its absurd humor and went on to win the first prize at the Lenaia festival.

Produced in 424 BCE, his play The Knights is considered a masterpiece in the Old Comedy genre. It was a satirical take on the socio-political scene in classical Athens during the Peloponnesian War. It won the first prize at the Lenaia festival.

Aristophanes condemned rhetoric on both political and moral grounds. In his fourth play, The Clouds, originally produced at the City Dionysia in 423 BCE, he lampooned the intellectual fashions prevalent in classical Athens. This play is considered a fine example of the Old Comedy genre.

His play The Wasps was produced at the Lenaia festival in 422 BCE. Athens was experiencing a short-lived respite from the Peloponnesian War during the play’s original production. He ridiculed the law courts and satirized the Athenian general Cleon in this work.

Staged a few days before the Peace of Nicias was validated in 421 BCE, his play Peace emerged as the winner of the second prize at the City Dionysia. The play showcases the citizens’ joyous anticipation of peace following the ending of a major war.

He produced the plays The Birds in 414 BCE. The play tells the story of an Athenian, Pisthetaerus, who convinces the birds to create a great city in the sky. Eventually, he transforms into a bird-like god himself and goes on to replace Zeus as the king of the gods.

This was followed by Lysistrata (411 BCE) and The Poet & The Women or Thesmophoriazusae (411 BCE). Both these plays focused on gender-based issues and the role of women in a male-dominant society. 

His comedy The Frogs was performed at the Lenaia in 405 BCE. It was a story about the god Dionysus who travels to Hades (the underworld) to bring the deceased playwright Euripides back from the dead.

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The last of his surviving plays is Wealth. It was first produced in 408 BCE and was revised and performed again in c. 388 BCE. It is a satire featuring an elderly Athenian citizen, Chremylos, and his slave Cario.

Major Works

Aristophanes’ play The Birds is considered by modern critics to be a “perfectly realized fantasy.” It is one of the playwright’s longest surviving plays and has many allusions to Athenian political life. The play won the second prize at the City Dionysia.

In his play Lysistrata, he presented a comic account of a woman's outlandishly ambitious mission to end the Peloponnesian War by denying the men of the land any sex. While the original play wasn’t feminist, the modern adaptations of the same often are.

Family & Personal Life

There is hardly any information available about Aristophanes’ wife. However, it is known that he was married and had at least three sons. One of his sons, Araros, was also a comic poet and is believed to have been involved in the staging of the play Wealth. Aristophanes also had at least two other sons called Philippus and Nicostratus or Philetaerus.

He died around 386 BCE, at the age of around 60.

Facts About Aristophanes

Aristophanes was known for his sharp wit and satire, but he was also a talented poet and playwright who wrote around 40 plays in his lifetime.

Despite his comedic style, Aristophanes was a respected figure in ancient Greece and his works were performed at prestigious festivals like the Dionysia.

Aristophanes often used fantastical elements in his plays, such as talking animals and surreal landscapes, to create a sense of whimsy and imagination.

He was a master of wordplay and clever puns, showcasing his linguistic creativity and skill in crafting dialogue that was both humorous and thought-provoking.

Aristophanes' works often tackled important social and political issues of his time, offering commentary on topics like war, democracy, and the role of women in society.

See the events in life of Aristophanes in Chronological Order

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