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“Lysistrata” and War’s Impact on the Homefront in Ancient Greece


Lysistrata and War’s Impact on the Homefront in Ancient Greece

Michael Watts

On Tuesday, February 5, a lecture was given in the Pickle Lounge. The topic was the Greek play, Lysistrata, and war’s impact on the home front in Ancient Greece given by Dr. Kurt A. Raaflaub. He studies the social and political history of the Roman Republic, the intellectual history of archaic and classical Greece, and the comparative history of the ancient world. He retired from teaching at Brown University in 2009 and continues to offer his services and is connected with the college and his department. He has a Master’s Degree in Latin and minors in Greek Philosophy and Modern History, and a Ph.D. in Ancient History and minors in Latin and Greek. He also has made many publications and has won various awards, such as the American Historical Association’s James Henry Breasted Prize for best book in English on any period before 1000 CE for his book called, The Discovery of Freedom in Ancient Greece. He is currently a professor of Classics and History Emeritus at David Herlihy University.

In the lecture he talked about the Hoplites, heavily armed infantry soldiers. They had many weapons such as shields, breastplates, and helmets. They also carried spears and swords for close combat. During Ancient Greece, just before the Peloponnesian War, they already had a casualty list from a previous war, such as the list of our fallen soldiers from the Vietnam War we have today. The list was ordered in the time the soldier died. Approximately, 177 men lost their lives, which was about 3.5% – 4.5% of the overall population.

Children, who lost their mothers and fathers during the war would become orphans and were cared for by farmers until they grew old enough to take part in the war. Women would usually fight the enemy by throwing stone tiles off from the roofs of buildings and other structures. Slaves were used for engineering the equipment such as manufacturing weapons, shields, and even ships. During the bloody battles, an injured soldier would have to be removed from the battlefield with four soldiers. Two comrades had to carry the injured and two other soldiers to fight off any attackers. Prisoners of war would be tortured by drowning, which may possibly be the first time water-boarding was used.

In connection with the Greek satire Lysistrata, it parodies the war between Greece and Sparta. The fighting men were viewed as selfish and foolish because they fought to gain land and power when they could just become allies. The women on the other hand, had the goal to stop the war by ignoring their husbands’ need for sex when they arrived home from fighting their bloody battles. In the end, the men were so enraged at their wives for teasing them, the Athenian and Spartan soldiers formed a peace treaty.