The Knights



  • A satirical comedy by Aristophanes. Written during the Peloponnesianwar, the play is a savage attack on Cleon, the Athenian demagogue,who had turned down a peace offer from the Spartans in 425 BC,on the entire political leadership in Athens, and on the nature ofpolitics itself. Aristophanes had targeted the same Cleon in his playThe Babylonians two years earlier; as a result he had been prosecuted by his victim and suffered a mild 'impeachment'.

    The play is set in the household of Demos (the populace), whichis now tyrannized by a dishonest slave who clearly stands for Cleon.When an oracle predicts that 'Cleon' will be replaced by a demagogicsausage-seller, two other servants (probably standing for the generalsDemosthenes and Nicias) conspire to put forward the first sausage-seller they meet. The conspirators are protected by a chorus of knights, and the sausage-seller, Agoracritus, wins over Demos, who decides to abolish Cleon's rule and restore honest government.