Lysistrata (Attic: Λυσιστράτη, Doric: Λυσιστράτα), Aristophanes' anti-war comedy, written in 411 BC, has female characters, led by the eponymous Lysistrata, barricading the public funds building and withholding sex from their husbands to secure peace and end the Peloponnesian War. In doing so, Lysistrata engages the support of women from Sparta, Boeotia, and Corinth. All of them are at first aghast at the suggestion of withholding sex, but they finally agree and swear an oath to support each other. The woman from Sparta, Lampito, returns home to spread the word there.
The play was originally performed at either the Dionysia or a smaller Festival of Dionysus, called the Lenaia festival. A different comedy by Aristophanes, Women at the Thesmophoria, was also produced that year, and it is not clear which play was produced at which festival.
The play also addresses the contribution that women could make to society and to policy making, but cannot because their views are ignored: All such questions are considered the purview of men only. See the exchange between Lysistrata and the Magistrate who comes to try to browbeat the women into giving up their plans.
Lysistrata touches upon the poignancy of young women left with no eligible young men to marry because of deaths in the wars: "Nay, but it isn't the same with a man/Grey though he be when he comes from the battlefield/still if he wishes to marry he can/Brief is the spring and the flower of our womanhood/once let slip, and it comes not again/Sit as we may with our spells and our auguries/never a husband shall marry us then."
One of the humorous aspects of the play was that the main actors portraying male characters wore phalluses.
The play focuses on the effects of the internecine bloodletting of the Peloponnesian War, but is now known as a broad anti-war statement since in effect all humans are of one blood. Stopping this is Lysistrata's objective: "That ye, all of one blood, all brethren sprinkling/The selfsame altars from the selfsame laver/At Pylae, Pytho, and Olympia, ay/And many others which 'twere long to name/That ye, Hellenes--with barbarian foes/Armed, looking on---fight and destroy Hellenes!"
An updated version of the play, which was made into a Mozart like opera in the '60's, was published in 1979. (See link below). The opera was to be performed at Wayne State University (Detroit) in 1968, but was cancelled when the tenor was drafted into the army 4 days before the performance. The opera director got cold feet about its anti-Vietnam war protest libretto, and used the tenor's draft notice as an excuse to perform the opera in a small room with a new unrehearsed tenor, but no room for a normal-sized audience. That was unacceptable censorship to the composer who then withdrew the opera. News story.
In reaction to the Iraq disarmament crisis, this play was the focus of a peace protest initiative called The Lysistrata Project in which readings of the play were held on March 3, 2003 internationally.
In 2004, a 100 person version of show called Lysistrata 100 was performed in Brooklyn, New York. The new adaptation was written by Edward Einhorn and performed in a former warehouse which had been converted to a pub. The play was set at the Dionysia, much like the original may have been.