Main Text


Aristophanes' Lysistrata was last edited by Cantarella in 1956 and last annotated by Wilamowitz in 1927. The most recent English edition, by Rogers, was published in 1911. Meanwhile Aristophanic studies have continued to advance. The extent to which improvements have been made in editorial technique, in our knowledge of the transmission of Ar., and in our understanding of his art and his world has been demonstrated by my predecessors in this series. As an editor my aim has accordingly been to bring the text of Lys. into line with current knowledge and editorial practice, in particular by providing for the first time a full report of all the MSS and testimonial sources.

The format of the text closely follows the others in this series, so that readers may easily turn from play to play, and in the apparatus criticus I have used the same symbols and abbreviations. For the common ancestor of Vp2 and H, which are used for the first time in an edition of Lys., I use the symbol p, which I used in my repertory in HSCP 82 (1978) 87 ff. and which Alan Sommerstein uses in his editions of Ar.'s plays.

In the introduction and commentary I approach the play solely in historical terms, not as a book written for readers but as the script of a performance. I therefore leave to critics the task of judging the play's artistic, literary, and theatrical merits. In my mind's eye I attempt to restage the performance as far as is possible from the evidence of the text itself, and to consider what effect its various parts are likely to have produced among the spectators in 411 bc. In particular, I try to assess the social and political import of the play's many topical references and historical recollections, keeping in mind all the while that they came from the imagination of a comic poet writing for a particular group of performers and spectators and competing for a prize.

pg viI also keep an eye on relevant aspects of the text's physical experience since it left Ar.'s own hands. In the introduction I devote more space to the history of the Aristophanic corpus in antiquity than is usual, and perhaps appropriate, in the edition of a single play. But this information (conveniently summarized in PCG III. 2, pp. 28–30) is not currently available in English in a concise and straightforward account, and I see no harm in taking this opportunity to provide one.

In discussing textual and interpretative problems I have tried to confine myself to primary evidence: the text itself, other contemporary texts, inscriptions, and material remains. Where I have been unable to locate such evidence, I indicate an insoluble problem and invite others to take it up. Thus I do not cite or evaluate the writings of other scholars unless they have already collected and interpreted the evidence necessary to explain a difficulty or to solve a problem, or unless their discussions point the way to an eventual solution.

This work has benefited along the way from the friendly advice and helpful criticism of many scholars, but there are a few whose generosity requires special acknowledgement. Ludwig Koenen of Michigan, Colin Austin of Cambridge, Hugh Lloyd-Jones of Oxford, Lowell Edmunds of Johns Hopkins, and Bernhard Zimmermann of Konstanz have in not a few cases shown me that matters are more complicated than I thought. Jack Winkler and his students at Stanford, who used an earlier draft in a seminar, were kind enough to keep track of the weaknesses which were thus exposed. Above all, Alan Sommerstein of Nottingham has been a source of sane advice, acute criticism, and sheer encouragement from the beginning. If the benefits of our lively correspondence are mostly on my side it is because they tend to flow in the direction of greater need.

I am grateful to John K. Cordy of the Oxford University Press for his many good suggestions and unfailing patience, and congratulate the typesetter on a work of exemplary craftsmanship.

pg viiSuch words as kindness and generosity are quite inadequate to describe the contribution of Sir Kenneth Dover of Oxford, who corrected and otherwise improved the final draft in hundreds of places, completely overhauled the metrical analyses, and generally showed me how to make my presentation of the play most effective. In our time no one has done more to advance Aristophanic scholarship than Professor Dover, and if readers find this to be a useful edition of Lys. they, like me, stand once more in his debt.

  • J.J.H.
  • Los Angeles
  • September 1985

pg viii

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