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The Acharnians in Greek
The Acharnians (Ancient Greek: Ἀχαρνεῖς / Akharneĩs) 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 (Greek for "just city" - sometimes rendered Dikaiopolis), a war veteran himself and representative of an average Athenian, 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.
While not as well known as Lysistrata, The Acharnians is widely considered one of Aristophanes' finer efforts.
The play opens on the Pnyx, where the Athenian Assembly met. Dicaeopolis attempts to have the subject of peace with Sparta addressed by the Assembly, but he is ignored. Indignant, Dicaeopolis decides to form a private truce with the enemy for only himself and his family. A chorus of Acharnian charcoal peddlers wants to stone Dicaeopolis to death because of this; as residents of Acharnae, they suffered tremendously in the Peloponnesian War and were famous for their bellicose nature. Dicaeopolis 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, using a modified version of Telephus's speech. 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 to Dicaeopolis. A Boeotian merchant trades his entire stock of poultry and eels to Dicaeopolis, before Nicarchus appears and arrests the Boeotian merchant for selling wicks that could burn the dockyard. In the end, Dicaeopolis enjoys a huge feast with the goods and women he has accumulated: Lamachus returns from battle bloodied, defeated and shamed.