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The Acharnians is a comedic play by the ancient Greek satirist Aristophanes. Written and performed during the Peloponnesian War, it is famous for its anti-war stance. Produced in 425 BC by Callistratus, it won Aristophanes a first prize at the Lenaea.

The play is set in contemporary Athens and is a hard-hitting satire against the politicians of the time, with some satire against the great tragedian Euripides thrown in for good measure. Athens is at war with Sparta, and has declared a trade embargo with neighboring Megara. Dicaeopolis, a war veteran himself, is tired of war. He declares a truce with the enemy, and opens up his home as a sort of free-trade zone.

Throughout the play, Aristophanes takes every opportunity to make fun of the Athenian establishment; Euripides; the Prytanes; the Generals. Cleon, the leading politician in Athens at the time, whom Aristophanes had made a personal enemy, is singled out for particular criticism. Cleon was pro-war. This play takes a pro-truce stance, and a number of speeches made to the audience being directly addressed on his shortcomings. Cleon is also lampooned in Aristophanes' play The Knights.

In the play, a chorus of Acharnian charcoal peddlers wants to stone Dicaeopolis to death, but he holds them off by holding a bucket of charcoal hostage, threatening to dismember it if they attack. They allow him to make a public address, and he goes to the poet Euripides for tragic props in order to make himself seem more piteous. He eloquently denounces the war and the false pretenses under which it was started. General Lamachus shows up, and the two men exchange insults. The chorus is convinced by Dicaeopolis, and is now in favor of peace. They make a moving speech about the justice system in Athens.

Dicaeopolis opens his market. Comedy ensues. A Megarean puts his two young daughters in a sack, and sells them off as suckling pigs. A Boeotian merchant trades his entire stock of poultry and eels for an Athenian police informant: he plans to make money by displaying him as a wild beast back home. In the end, Dicaeopolis enjoys a huge feast with the goods and women he has accumulated: Lamachus returns from battle bloodied, defeated and shamed.

While not as well known as Lysistrata, The Acharnians is widely considered one of Aristophanes' finer efforts.

Links

The text of The Acharnians (in translation) (http://www.textkit.com/learn/ID/31/author_is/8/)

Free eBook of The Acharnians (http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/3012) at Project Gutenberg

The Acharnians , George Theodoridis version, http://www.tonykline.co.uk/theodoridisgacharnians.htm

Aristophanes, Lysistrata & Other Plays: The Acharnians, the Clouds, Lysistrata , Alan H. Sommerstein (Penguin Classics)

Acharnes, Athens


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