Wasps! An Attic Comic-drama
Welcome to the site of the Atticist, dedicated to a study of one of the earlier works of the Athenian
comic-dramatist Aristophanes. The play which we know as ‘Wasps’, was first performed as part of
the festival of Dionysos, during the winter of 422 B.C., barely ten years since the completion of the
so-called ‘Parthenon’, the main temple of Athens’ guardian-spirit Athene, which still dominates her
citadel. The ancient Akropolis is an imposing monument to Imperial Athens; its vanity, religiosity,
hypocrisy and savagery, but it also forms a back-drop to the remains of the theatre where this play
was first presented.
The survival of the plays of Aristophanes to the present day seems every bit as miraculous as that of
the ‘Parthenon’. Of course, much has been lost. The temple lacks sculptural and painted decoration;
the comic-dramas lack their choreography, costumes and music. But, the remains of both the temple
and dramas can still impress after nearly two and a half millennia.
Like the temple, Aristophanes’ plays are to a great extent the product of reconstruction. The original
texts which circulated were written on papyrus in uncial letters, without word division, punctuation,
colometry, accentuation etc. All these refinements were added by later scholars. Even the attribution
of parts to particular speakers is still a work in progress and the stage-directions essential to modern
performance have had to be deduced from the dialogue. My notes give only a superficial overview
of the immense effort expended by generations of scholars to achieve our present understanding of
the play.
The text is printed as it stood at the beginning of the last century, shorn of its recent accretions. This
should allow the reader to appreciate, via the notes, the currents of scholarly debate since then. The
notes are analytical, critical and explanatory. They reflect my personal idiosyncrasies, for which I
apologize. My translation aims to be true to Aristophanes’ original in such a way that it is accessible
to a general reader today. It may not always succeed.
I. The Greek Text
II. A Commentary in English
III. Appendices (1-5)
IV. An English Translation
I do not intend to provide an introduction to the ‘Wasps’. They will introduce themselves. For those
with deadlines on essays I can suggest the following general introductions:
Bowie, Angus M. - ‘Aristophanes: myth, ritual and comedy’ (Oxford, 1993) 78-101
MacDowell, Douglas M. - ‘Aristophanes and Athens’ (Oxford, 1995) 150-79
Warning: NSFW.
Aristophanes wrote his plays for an audience of adult males. This translation and the notes which
accompany it are meant for adults only. The material they contain is unsuitable for children under
(or over) 18, or narrow-minded, bigoted, self-righteous, or pious people, those who are easily bored
or bores, or pseudo-intellectuals, or those devoid of humour, those with weak hearts, those with no
heart, people who exist to play video-games or live out their vacuous lives via the unsocial media of
Facebook or Twitter. This edition first published November 21st, 2018 byThe Atticist