Aristophanes' Birds, Wasps and Frogs offer the best-kwn examples of the animal choruses of Greek comedy of the fifth century BC, but sixth-century vase-paintings of men costumed as cocks, bulls and horses indicated that comedies were only the last phase of a longer tradition. This book suggests that although the earlier masquerades may have had ritual origins, they should be seen also as products of the culture of the archaic aristocratic symposium. The animal choruses of the late fifth century may have been conscious revivals of an earlier tradition. Moreover, the animals of comedy were t the predators found in other literary genres; they were, instead, social animals who showed that nature and culture could co-exist. The Birds, which tells the story of a city foundation, also parodies fifth-century philosophical accounts of the origins of human civilization. Also discussed are the Wasps, Frogs and fragments of lost comedies.
Kenneth S. Rothwell, Jr is associate professor of classics at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He is the author of Politics and Persuasion in Aristophanes' 'Ecclesiazusae'.