For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Frogs. Assemblywomen. Wealth

by Aristophanes (2002)


Aristophanes, one of the world's greatest comic dramatists, has been admired since antiquity for his iridescent wit and beguiling fantasy, exuberant language, and brilliant satire of the social, intellectual, and political life of Athens at its height. This is the fourth and final volume in the new Loeb Classical Library edition of his plays.Frogs was produced in 405 BCE, shortly after the deaths of Sophocles and Euripides. Dionysus, the patron god of theater, journeys to the underworld to retrieve Euripides. There he is recruited to judge a contest between the traditional Aeschylus and the modern Euripides, a contest that yields both sparkling comedy and insight on ancient literary taste. In Assemblywomen Athenian women plot to save Athens from male misgovernance. They transfer power to themselves and institute a new social order in which all inequalities based on wealth, age, and beauty are eliminated—with raucously comical results. The gentle humor and straightforward morality of Wealth made it the most popular of Aristophanes' plays from classical times to the Renaissance. Here the god Wealth is cured of his blindness; his newfound ability to distinguish good people from bad brings playfully portrayed social consequences.

Key Passage

(Wealth) chremylus Well, don’t we say that Poverty is the sister of Beggary? poverty And you’re the ones who also say that Dionysius is the same as Thrasybulus! No, the life I represent is certainly nothing like that and never will be. You see, you’re describing the beggar’s life, which means living without possessions; by contrast, the poor man’s life means being thrifty and hard working, and though he has nothing to spare, he doesn’t lack the necessities either. chremylus By Demeter, how blessed you make his life sound, scrimping and toiling and then having nothing left for his own funeral! poverty You’re using ridicule and caricature and not taking this seriously, since you’re unaware that I produce better men than Wealth does in both mind and body. With him you’ll find men with gout, potbellies, bloated legs, and disgustingly fat, while with me they’re lean, wasp-waisted, and hard on the enemy. (p.507)


Aristophanes, Ancient Greece, Play, Poverty


Aristophanes, Ancient Greece

Links to Reference


Henderson, J.



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