The 'Peace' was brought out four years after 'The Acharnians' (422 B.C.), when the War
had already lasted ten years. The leading motive is the same as in the former play--the
intense desire of the less excitable and more moderate-minded citizens for relief from the
miseries of war.
Trygaeus, a rustic patriot, finding no help in men, resolves to ascend to heaven to
expostulate personally with Zeus for allowing this wretched state of things to continue.
With this object he has fed and trained a gigantic dung-beetle, which he mounts, and is
carried, like Bellerophon on Pegasus, on an aerial journey. Eventually he reaches
Olympus, only to find that the gods have gone elsewhere, and that the heavenly abode is
occupied solely by the demon of War, who is busy pounding up the Greek States in a
huge mortar. However, his benevolent purpose is not in vain; for learning from Hermes
that the goddess Peace has been cast into a pit, where she is kept a fast prisoner, he calls
upon the different peoples of Hellas to make a united effort and rescue her, and with their
help drags her out and brings her back in triumph to earth. The play concludes with the
restoration of the goddess to her ancient honours, the festivities of the rustic population
and the nuptials of Trygaeus with Opora (Harvest), handmaiden of Peace, represented as
a pretty courtesan.
Such references as there are to Cleon in this play are noteworthy. The great Demagogue
was now dead, having fallen in the same action as the rival Spartan general, the renowned
Brasidas, before Amphipolis, and whatever Aristophanes says here of his old enemy is
conceived in the spirit of 'de mortuis nil nisi bonum.' In one scene Hermes is descanting
on the evils which had nearly ruined Athens and declares that 'The Tanner' was the cause
of them all. But Trygaeus interrupts him with the words:
"Hold-say not so, good master Hermes;
Let the man rest in peace where now he lies.
He is no longer of our world, but yours."
Here surely we have a trait of magnanimity on the author's part as admirable in its way as
the wit and boldness of his former attacks had been in theirs.