March 03, 2003
Lysistrata Update

A few weeks ago, I blogged on The Lysistrata Project, in which various groups are giving public readings of Aristophanes' Lysistrata to protest war on Iraq.

James Capozzola of The Rittenhouse Review quotes five substantial passages from the play (the first is here and the others follow without interruption). I'm guessing he didn't translate them himself, so he really should have (a) credited the translator, and (b) omitted his usual copyright notice at the end of each post, since he can hardly claim copyright on someone else's work.

As I noted in my previous post, it's odd that no one is promising to do without sex as a means of stopping war on Iraq: that's what the women do in Lysistrata, and it's the one thing every educated person knows about the play. I'm curious about after-action (after-reading?) reports, but for now I have three hypotheses to explain this curious omission:

  1. Do project participants not care enough about peace to give up sex even temporarily? At first I thought that Capozzola might be planning to do so, at least for one day. Here is what he wrote on Saturday: "I will be reading Lysistrata here, in my humble abode, out loud, to myself and to Mildred (assuming she's awake)". However, further reading makes it clear that Mildred is a dog, so I don't suppose he'd be having sex with her even if he weren't protesting the imminent liberation of Iraq.
  2. Are none of these thousands of peace activists sleeping with any of our hundreds of thousands of soldiers or sailors to start with? If so, is it because they find members of the military unattractive, or is it the other way around, or perhaps a bit of each? Do we have a 'Two Cultures' problem here?
  3. Has it never occurred to these intellectuals (or pseudo-intellectuals) to try to match their actions to their words? Is Lysistrata just a cultural fetish waved at the rest of us to intimidate us? Count me as unintimidated.

When I wrote my previous post, I hadn't thought of this third possibility, but now it seems the likeliest of the three.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at March 03, 2003 11:50 PM

It's more unwarrented deputization of all things into the anti-war cause. "See? The Greeks were opposed to war, why aren't you?"

What was in Iraq at the time Lysistrata was written? I'm guessing whoever lived there, a few of them were on the recieving end of a Spartian companion cavalry's spear at some point.

Posted by: Sean Kirby on March 3, 2003 11:54 PM

Yeah, they did that Lysistrata Project performance here at my campus today - didn't watch it, though.

Does anyone else think it speaks for the absolute desperateness of the anti-war crowd if they have to resort to putting on ancient Greek plays? As if the war with Iraq and the Peloppenisian War have anything in common.

Posted by: PatrickM on March 4, 2003 01:43 AM

PatrickM wrote:

"As if the war with Iraq and the Peloppenisian War have anything in common."

Agreed, but don't tell the loony anti-war types! If anything, the Iraq situation, if one *must* find a parallel in antiquity, resembles Alexander's reduction of Tyre. That siege lasted seven months, which is starting to look about right...

In addition, isn't the play in question supposed to be a comedy? Just because it's an *old* comedy doesn't make hijacking the Lysistrata valuable political commentary.

Posted by: Xenophon on March 4, 2003 10:29 AM

Uh, Sean, there was a little thing called the Persian Empire in (what's now) Iraq at the time Lysistrata was written. Ask Xenophon, two comments down; he had a disastrous experience there a few years later.

They say those who forget history are doomed to repeat it....

Posted by: language hat on March 4, 2003 03:12 PM

"Ask Xenophon, two comments down; he had a disastrous experience there a few years later."

The Greek mercs DID make it to Trebizond though, having had to fight through the pugnacious forebears of the Kurds after escaping those wily Persians and their civil war. Xenophon did grossly inflate his own role in the matter, though ;)

Posted by: Xenophon on March 4, 2003 03:37 PM

If the peaceniks want to destroy morale they should be out trying to seduce the wives, girlfriends, husband and boyfriends of our deployed troops. Of course, the peaceniks may be incapable of succeeding at this tactic.

The only ones who could pull a Lysistrata are Laura Bush, Lynne Cheney, Alma Powell and Mrs. Rumsfeld, and I don't think they're susceptible to giant papier-mache puppets. Just a guess.

Posted by: Joanne Jacobs on March 5, 2003 12:51 AM

Good grief,

Why is it that conservatives and war-lover types are so downright unfunny. Your comments lead me to three conclusions:

a. You truly do not understand the concept of comic satire. In which case I would gladly pay to see you explaining to students that Swift condoned the eating of infants.

b. You seem preoccupied with the whole sex lives of free-lovin hippie peaceniks. Honestly though, it wouldn't surprise me if the people who in their hearts hate the war the most are the spouses of those whose lives are put on the line. In fact in Lysistrata, it is the wives and mistresses tired of losing their men and their children to war that stop having sex.

c. I am curious as to what on earth your third remark is supposed to mean. Either you're being dishonest in your taking Lysistrata at face value as defining a course of action for those opposed to war, or you really do believe everything you read.


Posted by: gherimiah on March 6, 2003 02:09 PM


a) Au contraire; I'm sure that the Doctor (and hopefully the rest of us) DOES understand it; I'd say it's the people using this moldy oldie as their bullhorn that do not the understand satire...or the irony.

b)I don't think it is our host that is pre-occupied with the sex lives of hippies. After all, it is the hippies in question who are using sex (in a literary or theatrical sense, anyway) to further their ends. I took his point as a musing on whether or not they put their money where their mouths are. If you still feel that our host is the one with the "hang-ups", perhaps you could forgive the good Doctor for this infraction. It probably pains him, on many levels (that is, professionally and aesthetically, at minimum), to see a gaggle of people (whose likely only acquaintance with the Classics is having seen Ben Hur in high school) take an ancient comedy, rip it from its context, and use it for their cheap, ill-considered spectacle.

c) If we're not supposed to take the Lysistrata at face value in this context (as an anti-war statement), then why on earth are the organizers using it as a vehicle at all? If this whole charade isn't about sex-denial or sex-withdrawal to stop a war, and just about "peace" in general, then why aren't they using a more specifically appropriate drama as their totem?

Lastly, I'll address your opening statement:

"Why is it that conservatives and war-lover types are so downright unfunny."

Dr. Weevil is quite funny; this is the primary reason for my daily visit. If you are a regular visitor, then you hopefully know this already. If not, I urge you to spend a bit of time perusing the archives. Sure, his sense of humor tends to dryness, but that's what I like about it. The guy speaks (or at least reads) Latin...what do you expect? If he were a stand-up comic, he'd be more like Eddie Izzard rather than like your run-of-the-mill prop-gag bawd.

Posted by: Xenophon on March 7, 2003 12:48 AM

Thanks for the plug, Xenophon.

Anyone who cares to judge the humor and honesty of 'gherimiah' is welcome to read his long comment on this post from last September 29th. His second comment on the same post was offensive enough to be deleted. I banned him then, and will most likely delete any further comments here.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on March 9, 2003 10:51 PM

Then there's also the world-wide wave of naked anti-war protests... The words and actions don't match in the "peace" movement. One might think that the two forms of protest negate one another. It would be interesting to set the anti-sex group against the nudist group and watch them sort out their differences. It could make a hell of a reality TV show.

Find more such images with comments here -

Posted by: Ollie Abbot on March 13, 2003 09:46 PM