Aristophanes (?450-?385 BCE) - in Greek 'Αριστοφάνης; English pronunciation 'arr-y-STOFF-en-eez' IPA: /ˌærɪˈstɒfəˌniːz/ - was the greatest of the Greek comic playwrights. He was an Athenian citizen and spent his entire life in Athens. In 426 he was the subject of a private prosecution for libel by the demagogue Cleon, whom he had attacked earlier that year in his comedy Babylonians. Aristophanes seems to have been conservative and aristocratic in his sympathies and in favour of a swift end to the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Apart from this little is known about the details of his life - though he had a son, Aratus, who was responsible for producing some of the later comedies.
Aristophanes' comedies were presented - as were all comedies at the time in Athens - at the dramatic competition which formed part of the Lenaea, a religious festival, celebrated annually in January, in honour of the god Dionysus. (In a similar way Greek tragedies at the time were presented at the dramatic competition which formed part of the Great Dionysia, the spring festival in honour of Dionysus.)
Of the many plays Aristophanes wrote only eleven have survived in their entirety. They are (with their dates of first production): Acharnians (425), Knights (424), Clouds (423), Wasps (422), Peace (421), Birds (414), Lysistrata (411), Thesmophoriazousai (411), Frogs (405), Ecclesiazousai (391), and Plutus (388). Of these plays all but the last two belong to the so-called Old comedy, which was typically characterised by a large measure of personal invective against politicians or other well-known individuals. (Aristophanes' attack on the demagogue Cleon has already been mentioned, but there are also attacks on, for example, the philosopher Socrates in Clouds, and the tragic dramatist Euripides in Frogs. Despite the fact that the comedies are usually about persons and events of Aristophanes' own time and place, his wit, his capacity to invent genuinely comic situations, and the poetic qualities of many of the choruses mean that they are still easily enjoyed today.
For help with the pronunciation of Greek names see Pronunciation of Greek Proper Names.