I wrote a small creative paper responding to Lysistrata without turning it into a book report. While it’s probably not the best piece in the world, maybe it can help inspire some of your own writing.
Following the stream of energized Mycenaeans out of the theatron where Lysistrata by Aristophanes had finished its first performance, I walked with my husband, Thanos, to my father’s home for the meeting that had been arranged only a few days earlier. The agora of Mycenae was crowed as merchants hawked their wares and criers shouted the daily news. The acropolis rose above the busy scene, with men bartering for the best price and women staying near their men, occasionally gossiping with other women near them about the daily chores and their neighbors.
“Lysistrata performing in the theatron today! Aristophanes present for today only!” A crier shouted at the base of the path that led up to the acropolis. Another enthusiastically shouted closer to the center of the agora that Aristophanes had been waiting to release the play in 413, only 2 years earlier and when a peace treaty between Laconia and Attica was far from the horizon. Thankfully, Caerus, the god of luck, had been on my side as Thanos escaped military service and assisting in Attica’s war effort, using a favor to end his military career by 4 years in order to marry and help Mycenae prosper as a merchant (greek-gods-and-goddesses.com). Thanos ignored the criers, occasionally stopping to talk politics with a fellow merchant before we continued down the path to my small family home just outside of the agora. When we reached the modest home, my father, Dorian, stepped into the doorway and my younger brother ran out to greet me.
“Irene!” Alexander shouted as he ran toward me, his sandals crunching on the ground “Guess what happened to me today.” He stopped in front of me as Thanos continued to the door now that my brother, in his 10th year, was with me. Smiling, I walked the small distance to my child-hood home with Alexander at my side.
“You finished your lesson in school and you were praised by your teacher?”
“Yep! Though father is upset because I didn’t get all perfect marks on the speech I did last night.” Alexander grumbled under his breath. I chuckled quietly at his disgruntlement and moved to the back room where my mother, Nani, waved me over while she worked on the base of a raw piece of pottery. She didn’t look up from her work as I took a seat beside her on the stool where she’d taught me as she worked on how to be the best Mycenaean I could be.
“Hello mother, Thanos took me to see Lysistrata this morning.” I spoke as I remsoved some stray scraps of clay from the table she was using. Without looking up, she gave me a sharp signal to be quiet. I waited for her to invite more conversation, using the time to organize my thoughts on the play. Nani blew a short puff of air near the bottom to clear away any remaining pieces of clay, then she turned on her stool and brushed away the clay dust on her shift.
“How was the play, Irene? Have you and Thanos started a family yet? I can’t wait forever to see the future of Mycenae you know.” Nani spoke softly, her lips turning up in a maternal smile.
I cleared my throat delicately, “My husband and I have yet to conceive the future of Mycenae, mother. As for the play, we were in Athens and the women were going to stop the men from going to war, in Laconia and Attica, by no longer having sex with them.”
Nani’s eyes widened some in mock disbelief, “Not having sex? Why, that’s tragic!” She barely kept the laughter at bay.
“It’s true! I think it suited Athens perfectly because of the overall silliness of the play.” I paused to let my mother catch her breath as mirth rocked her 35 year-old frame. Once she had regained her composure, I continued. “And it was not just the women of Athens, Lysistrata brought women from every polis into this pact. Mycenae, Sparta, and Thebes were all brought into this pact to be celibate (Aristophanes, pg. 142).” I paused when one of the servants came in, dropping off some unwanted supplies before returning outside. I brushed aside an irritant strand of hair. “While I enjoyed the play greatly, mother, Aristophanes exaggerated some of our… weakest points. For example, a man in the play calls women ‘sub-human creatures’ (Aristophanes, pg. 159).” I crinkled my nose in disgust.
Nani nodded in that all-knowing fashion that only mothers could. “I think that was his point, Irene, to make us want change. Of course, without us women, there wouldn’t be any men or sons for the foolish wars that Laconia and Attica seem intent on fighting.” Nani’s voice was dry as she moved the prepped vase off of the table and began to knead another ball of clay. “Your brother would probably welcome the chance to speak with you about the play, just don’t tell your father. You know how he has been in his old age and sticking to the traditions. Alexander has been going on about how he has been learning about the ‘fine arts’ due to Lysistrata’s release. I can hardly get him to be quiet for dinner with Dorian, always chattering about Sappho of Lesbos and Pindar of Thebes from times gone by.”
My lips curved up in a small smile. “He has always enjoyed the lyrical poetry of the past, mother.” I quietly slipped out of the kitchen and past the men in the main area to the front yard where Alexander could be seen drawing in the dirt with a slender stick. I stood behind him so as not to interrupt his work. As he finally looked up, he nearly jumped away in surprise but stopped himself for he was only a couple years away from being a man fully grown.
“By Zeus Irene! You should not sneak up on people.” Alexander scowled for a minute before brushing his sandal across the dirt scribbling he’d done. “Did mother send you out her because you were pestering her?”
Shaking my head, I kept a straight face for my brother, “Mother sent me to be your audience. She stated that you’d enjoy hearing about the ‘impossible fantasy’ that is Lysistrata (Aristophanes, pg. 135).”
Alexander’s irritation vanished in a blink of an eye. “Really? Well it is an impossible play. Can you ever imagine that happening, Irene? The summary of the play is that women stop the war between Sparta and Athens. That could never happen in reality. And how could women just stop and…” He continued and I just sat quietly in front of him. Listening to what he thought about the play, seeing hints of Dorian in his speech. By the time he finished his analysis of the Lysistrata, when he had yet to see the play and was basing his argument on the criers of the agora, Thanos was stepping outside to join us in the front yard.
“Irene, it is time to return home. Dorian is taking Alexander to see Lysistrata to teach him how to truly learn from a play.” Thanos said this as he walked toward me, gently ushering me in the direction of our home, even as my mind whirled with the conflicting stances of Nani and my brother. Nani, agreeing with me that the basis of the play was amusing and silly; while Alexander thought it was “ridiculous and unfounded.” Chuckling quietly to myself I thought of a line in the play that had struck a chord in me. “I didn’t realize we were such a total lot of nymphos” (Aristophanes, pg. 146) had rung in my soul. Are we truly so weak that all we women are capable of is listening to our older husbands and letting them make the decisions? I thought, as I prepared dinner. Shrugging, I hummed softly to myself. If we truly are so weak, then why must they rely on us for the sons of war? Perhaps there is more power in women of Mycenae than the men know and Aristophanes emphasized this in Lysistrata by having other poli? Shaking my head, as if shaking the thoughts free, I ignored them. No, we remain in the shadows. Quiet as the shades that prowl the Underworld, and peace will come when death stops his meals.
According to babynames.com, Thanos means Death, Irene means Peace, Nani means Grace, and Alexander means Defender of the People in Greek.