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Questions of Class

Peter Green: Alcibiades the Vandal, 25 April 2013

The Mutilation of the Herms: Unpacking an Ancient Mystery 
by Debra Hamel.
CreateSpace, 54 pp., £5, March 2012, 978 1 4750 5193 3
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... less well with the old guard, for whom rash and dangerous ventures abroad were anathema. They (as Aristophanes’ comedies make all too clear) regarded men like Cleon as vulgar lower-class tradesmen. The misfortunes of war and the consequent diminution of Periclean-style prestige, had, after Pericles’ death, not only helped men like Cleon, but also much ...

Image Problems

Peter Green: Pericles of Athens, 6 November 2014

Pericles of Athens 
by Vincent Azoulay, translated by Janet Lloyd.
Princeton, 291 pp., £24.95, July 2014, 978 0 691 15459 6
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... as it threw up, with bewildering richness, such disparate characters as Socrates, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Alcibiades and the sculptor Pheidias. The virtues of creative and morally justified imperialism had a peculiar attraction for a governing class that was increasingly, as the 20th century advanced, facing challenges to its own rule. But by 1992, when ...

On Hope Mirrlees

Clair Wills, 10 September 2020

... of stations.’ She chose not to gloss the message on the weighing machine, nor the quotation from Aristophanes’ The Frogs (in a translation by Harrison’s friend and colleague Gilbert Murray). ‘Brekekekek co-ax co-ax’ is what Dionysus yells to the frogs (aka the French) to shut them up while Charon ferries him across to Hades – a detail I learned not ...

At Tate Britain

Rosemary Hill: Aubrey Beardsley, 24 September 2020

... latter became something of a theme, reaching its apotheosis in the illustrations to Lysistrata, Aristophanes’ comedy about the Athenian women’s sex strike. As Clare Barlow writes in her catalogue essay (Tate, £25), Beardsley’s work includes ‘a striking range of sexual practices’, as well as fantastic, sometimes nightmarish figures of ...

Art and Mimesis in Plato’s ‘Republic’

M.F. Burnyeat: Plato, 21 May 1998

... presence in the society he describes. Yes, he did banish Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes – the greatest names of Greek literature. But not because they were poets. He banished them because they produced the wrong sort of poetry. To rebut Plato’s critique of poetry, what is needed is not a defence of poetry, but a defence of the ...
... the stage image of women along with the way female characters expressed themselves in music. In Aristophanes’ comedy Frogs (the first documented response to Euripides), Aeschylus complains that Euripides ‘picked up Cretan monodies’ and dragged gamous (‘marriages, fucking’) into tragedy. ‘Cretan monodies’, whatever they are, go with ...

Old Flames

Peter Parsons, 10 January 1983

The Latin Sexual Vocabulary 
by J.N. Adams.
Duckworth, 272 pp., £24, September 1982, 9780715616482
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Ovid: The Erotic Poems 
translated by Peter Green.
Penguin, 450 pp., £2.95, November 1982, 0 14 044360 6
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Women’s Life in Greece and Rome 
by Mary Lefkowitz and Maureen Fant.
Duckworth, 294 pp., £24, September 1982, 0 7156 1434 7
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Heroines and Hysterics 
by Mary Lefkowitz.
Duckworth, 96 pp., £8.95, September 1982, 0 7156 1518 1
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... out of the bag; when women get together, they must have a mind to drink or sex (so the husbands in Aristophanes, and their blood brother, King Pentheus in the Bacchae); ‘she had her face made up, although her brother was not yet a month dead’ (so the cuckold in Lysias). There is the long-enduring stereotype of the shrew, after Hipponax: ‘You get two good ...


Jonathan Barnes, 6 September 1984

by George Steiner.
Oxford, 326 pp., £15, June 1984, 0 19 812665 4
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... to insist on the occasional shortcomings in scholarship. There certainly are a few odd slips. Aristophanes of Byzantium was an Alexandrian critic and should not be described as a Byzantine scholiast. Anaxagoras was not a contemporary of Solon – nor was Protagoras with whom he is apparently confused. If ‘Homeric resonances give to the discourse of ...

The Case for Negative Thinking

V.S. Pritchett, 20 March 1980

Peacock Displayed: A Satirist in his Context 
by Marilyn Butler.
Routledge, 361 pp., £10.95, October 1979, 0 7100 0293 9
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... of the Roman Empire: in the revolutionary century, he turned to the Athens of Socrates, Plato and Aristophanes – ‘the long Greek twilight’ – whose times called upon them to be critics. But there was a difficulty: Without faith in Man, the Apollo Belvedere is no longer a fit model. Instead of proclaiming a common ideology for an upper-class world in ...

Writing it down

Peter Parsons, 31 August 1989

Oral Tradition and Written Record in Classical Athens 
by Rosalind Thomas.
Cambridge, 321 pp., £27.50, March 1989, 0 521 35025 5
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... and restrictive practice (so long as the tradition of live performance continues) may play a part. Aristophanes makes jokes about books, Plato insists on the values of the ear (the book, he remarks in the Phaedrus, is not interactive) – the culture of reading can be seen, even in the fifth century, as a fad of the avant-garde. This did not stop the IT ...

Worrying Wives

Helen King: The Invention of Sparta, 7 August 2003

Spartan Women 
by Sarah Pomeroy.
Oxford, 198 pp., £45, July 2002, 0 19 513066 9
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... of all things bad or held it up as an ideal to which their own states should aspire. In Birds, Aristophanes created the verb lakonomanein, ‘to go Sparta-crazy’, suggesting that some Athenians in 414 BC so greatly admired Sparta that they were trying to look and act like Spartans. The contradictions have caused some to abandon the search for the real ...


Frank Kermode: The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 by Martin Amis., 10 May 2001

The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 506 pp., £20, April 2001, 0 224 05059 1
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... you’re so naive.’ No expensive talk about Descartes, Marivaux, Lemprière and Aristophanes can procure a pardon for that sort of thing. Other reviewers may commend Thomas Harris for committing ‘not a single ugly or dead sentence’ but Amis finds enough of them to label Harris ‘a serial murderer of English sentences’ and Hannibal ...

Tired of Being Boring

Katharine Weber: Murder at Harvard, 4 February 1999

Halfway Heaven: Diary of a Harvard Murder 
by Melanie Thernstrom.
Virago, 219 pp., £9.99, November 1998, 9781860494963
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... A kindred spirit – a perfect partner to complete and mirror her, like the missing half of Aristophanes’ divided egg – was something Sinedu seems to have believed, at one point, she had found in Trang. Through her single act of violence, Sinedu’s reality became the ultimate one, linking the two girls through death in a common fate, so that in ...


Peter Parsons: Rooting around Oxyrhyncus, 4 June 2015

... which filled many gaps by inferring the life from the plays, and taking seriously the jokes that Aristophanes and others had made about the Poet of Rags and his mother the greengrocer. For further intimacy with the illustrious dead, nothing served so well as their private letters. Fraudsters or funsters duly invented the correspondence of Alexander with the ...

Respectful Perversion

John Pemble: Gilbert and Sullivan, 16 June 2011

Gilbert and Sullivan: Gender, Genre, Parody 
by Carolyn Williams.
Columbia, 454 pp., £24, January 2011, 978 0 231 14804 7
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... and elliptical billiard balls belong with a paraphernalia of satire and absurdity as timeless as Aristophanes. Beyond that, Savoy opera complicates definition and eludes judgment because it’s always on the point of turning into something else. The music works to humanise and historicise the text; the text works to dehumanise and dehistoricise the music ...

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