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Courage in the Democratic PolisIdeology and Critique in Classical Athens$
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Ryan K. Balot

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199982158

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199982158.001.0001

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Cocky Athenian Men?

Cocky Athenian Men?

(p.256) Chapter 12 Cocky Athenian Men?
Courage in the Democratic Polis

Ryan K. Balot

Oxford University Press

The traditional Greek culture represented courage as the cardinal virtue of men; the Greek word for courage was, literally, “manliness.” This chapter explores the relationship between courage and gender in democratic Athens, through offering a detailed interpretation of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. Contrary to previous interpretations, this one focuses on the play’s male characters. Aristophanes’ chorus of Athenian men are presented as excessively beholden to traditional, “fiery,” or hot-headed ideals of manhood, which turn out to be harmful to their families, households, and city. Aristophanes’ critique of the Athenians’ “manly” bellicosity is balanced by his approbatory representation of the Greek women, and especially the title character, who supersedes the traditional attributes of her gender and exemplifies an androgynous ideal embodying courage, moderation, and good sense. Without substituting a proto-feminist ideal for traditional values, Aristophanes offered a telling criticism of conventional manliness and a novel understanding of the appropriate means and ends of courage.

Keywords:   Aristophanes, Lysistrata, manliness, machismo, androgyny

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