The wit and wisdom of Aristophanes

Aristophanes was born in Athens between 450 and 445 B.C.E. into a wealthy family. He had an excellent education and was well versed in literature, especially the poetry of Homer (eighth century B.C.E.) and other great Athenian writers. His writings also suggest a strong knowledge of the latest philosophical theories.

All of Aristophanes’ boyhood was spent while Athens was one of the two leading Greek political powers and the center of artistic and intellectual activity. Between the ages of seventeen and twenty-three Aristophanes began submitting his comedies for the annual Athens competition. His easy humor and good choice of words made most laugh and at least one politician take him to court. Whatever punishment resulted was mild enough to allow Aristophanes to continue his clever remarks at the leader’s expense in his forthcoming comedies.

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Love is simply the name for the desire and the pursuit of the whole.

You cannot teach a crab to walk straight.

Your lost friends are not dead, but gone before, advanced a stage or two upon that road which you must travel in the steps they trod.

Let each man exercise the art he knows, the skills he has mastered.

Open your mouth and shut your eyes and see what Zeus will send you.

Under every stone lurks a politician.

Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever.

High thoughts must have high language.

These impossible women! How they do get around us! The poet was right: Can’t live with them, or without them.

Men of sense often learn from their enemies. It is from their foes, not their friends, that cities learn the lesson of building high walls and ships of war.

A man’s homeland is wherever he prospers.

Why, I’d like nothing better than to achieve some bold adventure, worthy of our trip.

Why, I’d like nothing better than to achieve some bold adventure, worthy of our trip.

Hunger knows no friend but its feeder.

A man may learn wisdom even from a foe.

Wise people, even though all laws were abolished, would still lead the same life.

The wise learn many things from their enemies.

Characteristics of a popular politician: a horrible voice, bad breeding, and a vulgar manner.

Shrines! Shrines! Surely you don’t believe in the gods. What’s your argument? Where’s your proof?

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To learn more about Aristophanes and his work, please click here.

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