Athena was the tutelary wisdom goddess of Athens, and she was worshiped chiefly at her temple in the Acropolis, a great citadel that served as the political and religious center of Athens, home to the Athenian war treasury. In Lysistrata, Athena is a shadowy but important presence. She symbolizes the wisdom that the Athenian men, in their greed and ambition, have forgotten. Relatedly, the Acropolis symbolizes political control over Athens; it is the mind of the Athenian body politic, where Athena’s wisdom should reign. Under the control of the men, however, this mind has gone mad, and so the women under Lysistrata’s leadership storm the Acropolis to restore sanity, wisdom, and peace. Over the course of the play, Aristophanes cleverly modulates this symbol so that the Acropolis, fiercely besieged by the men and even more fiercely defended by the women, also comes to be associated with the female anatomy. When wisdom is forgotten, a reminder of our basic needs might be just what we need to bring us to our senses. By the end of the play, Athens and Sparta make peace, Athena as the goddess of wisdom once again rules in the Acropolis, and sex and wisdom are unified into what Douglass Parker calls “the civilizing force of love.”
Athena and the Acropolis Quotes in Lysistrata
What a catastrophe—
They’ve brought Athene’s statue to heel,
they’ve put the Akropolis under a seal,
they’ve copped the whole damned commonweal…
What is there left for them to steal?
Preserve me, Athene, from gazing on any
maiden or maid auto-da fé’d.
Cover with grace these redeemers of Greece
from battles, insanity, Man’s inhumanity.
Gold-browed goddess, hither to aid us!
Fight as our ally, join in our sally
against pyromaniac slaughter—
Koryphaios of Women:
I’ll crop your lungs and reap your bowels, bite by bite,
and leave no balls on the body for other bitches to
Koryphaios of Men:
Can’t beat Euripides for insight. And I quote:
No creature’s found
so lost to shame as Woman.
Talk about realist playwrights!
I DO NOT WANT TO BE SAVED, DAMMIT!
All the more reason.
It’s not only Sparta: now we’ll have to save you from
I’ve lost my grip on the girls—they’re mad for men!
But sly—they slip out in droves.
Melanion is our ideal:
his loathing makes us free.
Our dearest aim is the gemlike flame
of his misogyny.
—Life is a husk. She left our home, and happiness
went with her. Now pain is the tenant. Oh, to enter
that wifeless house, to sense that awful emptiness,
to eat that tasteless, joyless food—it makes
it hard, I tell you.