The language(s) of love in Aristophanes

Robson, James (2013). The language(s) of love in Aristophanes. In: Sanders, Ed.; Thumiger, Chiara; Carey, Christopher and Lowe, Nick eds. Eros in Ancient Greece. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 251–266.



This chapter explores the different ways in which Aristophanes’ comedies employ erotic vocabulary – ‘the language(s) of love’ – the thesis being that each play has its own, distinct erotic landscape. The chapter begins with an overview of erotic vocabulary in Aristophanes and the uses to which three key words in particular are put: erōs, pothos and philia. Studies of three comedies follow in which the thematic importance of erotic vocabulary is examined. In Acharnians, erōs and pothos are shown to be linked to peace, food, sex and the countryside, while philia plays a crucial role in defining the shifting network of allegiances between characters. In Lysistrata, philia is an all-important gendered concept, intimately linked to the female sphere and the struggle for peace. In Wasps, Philocleon’s strong passions, such as his erōs for the law-courts, are ultimately shown to be less enduring than his son’s philia for his father and city.

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