Offering for the first time a student introduction to Aristophanes’ most explosive political satire, this volume is an essential guide to the context, themes and later reception of Cavalry. The ancient comedy is a fascinating insight into power relations between slaves and slaveholders and the upper and lower classes in classical Athens, and its political and social themes resonate with a modern audience more now than ever before.
Originally performed in 424 BCE, Cavalry targets the Athenian demagogue Cleon, who had risen to prominence since the death of Pericles and to pre-eminence after an audacious victory over Sparta in 425. In Cavalry, Aristophanes attacks Cleon’s popularity with the urban underclass, but also targets democracy itself as guilty of gullibility, self-interest, and political short-sightedness. As the play shows, the only hope of escape from this crisis is for Athens to find a leader even more foul-mouthed, depraved, and shameless than Cleon himself. And who better than a sausage-seller, if only because he turns out in the end to have a good heart and a true love of traditional Athenian values?