Introduction: Lysistrata by Aristophanes
Lysistrata by Aristophanes is the second book I am featuring on The Invisible Mentor blog for Banned Books Week. I decided that I would read the book first to see if I could determine why it was banned.
Lysistrata by Aristophanes is a comedic play set during the Peloponnesian War. There is a fair amount of sexual references in the book, but I did not find it offensive. In fact, I found myself laughing a lot. The play is appropriate for adults.
Lysistrata was banned in the US for decades under the Comstock Law of 1873. The Act may sound familiar to you, and that’s because we first encountered it in the profile of Margaret Sanger who was a birth control advocate and founder of Planned Parenthood.
According to the FreeDictionary, the Comstock Law of 1873 was a
“federal law that made it a crime to sell or distribute materials that could be used for contraception or abortion, to send such materials or information about such materials through the federal mail system, or to import such materials from abroad. It was motivated by growing societal concerns over Obscenity, abortion, pre-marital and extra-marital sex, the institution of marriage, the changing role of women in society, and increased procreation by the lower classes.”
Named after the anti-obscenity crusader Anthony Comstock, the Comstock Law of 1873 hinges on the definition of obscenity.
Have you read?
The Story: Lysistrata by Aristophanes
In Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, the Peloponnesian War had been going on for a while, and the women were frustrated because their men were away for months at a time. When Lysistrata asks her husband what had been discussed at the council meetings he either gives her a non-answer or responds in such a way that suggests that women are not intelligent enough to participate in such discourse. Becoming increasingly frustrated, Lysistrata designs an innovative way to force the men to end the war. She calls a meeting and invites the women of Greece to participate.
At the meeting she unfolds her plan, and garners the support of the women leaders – Kleonike, Myrrhine, Lampito and Ismenia. Lysistrata’s extraordinary mission is for the women to withhold sexual privileges from their partners to force them to lay down their arms and end the war. Some of the women balk at first, but Lysistrata is very convincing and the women take an oath, which will make you blush. I have left out most of the oath because high school students sometimes end up at this blog.
“I will withhold all rights or entrance
From every husband, lover or casual acquaintance…
If I this oath maintain,
May I drink this glorious wine.
But if I slip or falter,
Let me drink water.”
The women of Greece take control of the Akropolis where meetings take place. The battle of the sexes begin, and we get insights into what life was like in Ancient Greek in 411 BCE in a male-dominated society. The back and forth between the men and women is illuminating, and one cannot help but wonder how far women have really traveled. The women rise to the occasion, and although they are tempted to give in to their sexual needs and those of their partners, united they are able support each other and withstand temptation.
After a week of not having their wives around, the men start to experience the effects and ultimately lay down their arms and sign a treaty to end the war.
Conclusion: Lysistrata by Aristophanes
Lysistrata is worth the read, even if it’s to see the dynamics between men and women then. Setting the sexual aspect of the book aside, Lysistrata by Aristophanes is important because it shows us how much we can accomplish when we partner with those who want the same things as we do.
UPDATE: First Published in September 2013!