From Aspasia to Lysistrata. Literary Versions and Intertextual Diffusions of the Feminine Other in Classical Athens


If the Peloponnesian war burst out because of three prostitutes, two of them belonging to Aspasia, according to Aristophanes’ (mis?)information in Acharnians of 425 bc , by contrast, in 411, Aristophanes assigned to a woman, Lysistrata, the extraordinary mission to end the Peloponnesian War, using once more the power of sex. Is (the fictional, Athenian, socially and morally respectful) Lysistrata of 411 bc a cryptic reverse image of (the real, non-Athenian, socially and morally ambiguous) Aspasia, who both employ the power of sex, the one to set off the war, the other one to end it? Using the figure of Aspasia as a par excellence “case” of the Other in ancient Greek society, this paper reviews her obvious and latent traces in extant fifth- and fourth-century literature, focusing on Aristophanes’ overt or allusive references in his Acharnians, Peace and, last but not least, Lysistrata.