The Acharnians  

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"With the Bacchic comus, which turned a noisy festal banquet into a boisterous procession of revellers, a custom was from the earliest times connected, which was the first cause of the origin of comedy. The symbol of the productive power of nature was carried about by this band of revellers, and a wild, jovial song was recited in honour of the god in whom dwells this power of nature, namely, Bacchus himself, or one of his companions. Such phallophoric or ithyphallic songs were customary in various regions of Greece. The ancients give us many hints about the variegated garments, the coverings for the face, such as masks or thick chaplets of flowers, and the processions and songs of these comus singers. Aristophanes, in his Acharnians, gives a most vivid picture of the Attic usages in this respect : in that play, the worthy Dicaeopolis, while war is raging around, alone peacefully celebrates the country Dionysia on his own farm ; he has sacrificed with his slaves, and now prepares for the sacred procession; his daughter carries the basket as Canephorus; behind her the slave holds the phallus aloft; and, while his wife regards the procession from the roof of the house, he himself begins the phallus song, "O Phales, boon companion of Bacchus, thou nightly reveller!" with that strange mixture of wantonness and serious piety which was possible only in the elementary religions of the ancient world."--History of the Literature of Ancient Greece (1841) by Karl Otfried Müller

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The Acharnians is the third play - and the earliest of the eleven surviving plays - by the great Athenian playwright Aristophanes. It was produced in 425 BCE on behalf of the young dramatist by an associate, Callistratus, and it won first place at the Lenaia festival. The play is notable for its absurd humour, its imaginative appeal for an end to the Peloponnesian War and for the author's spirited response to condemnations of his previous play, The Babylonians, by politicians such as Cleon, who had reviled it as a slander against the Athenian polis. In The Acharnians, Aristophanes reveals his resolve not to yield to attempts at political intimidation. Along with the other surviving plays of Aristophanes, The Acharnians is one of the few examples we have of a highly satirical genre of drama known as Old Comedy.



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