Scholtz, Andrew. 2007. Concordia discors: Eros and Dialogue in Classical Athenian Literature. Hellenic Studies Series 24. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_ScholtzA.Concordia_Discors.2007.
Chapter 4. Forgive and Forget: Concordia discors in Aristophanes’ Assemblywomen and Lysistrata
Stasis as Subtext?
The reference to Phyromachus’ famous slip-up, evidently, heteras “others,” mispronounced as hetairas “prostitutes,” flags what precedes as an elaborate pun on the noun hetaira (a) in the neutral sense of “companion,” (b) in the sexual-professional sense of “call girl” (cf. thêkas, “seats” or “derrieres”: LSJ s.v. ἕδρα III.), and (c) in the political-social sense of members of a hetaireia or sunômosia, a “club” leaning toward, or committed to, anti-democratic politics.  Whatever else, Praxagora playfully stumbles over resonances suggesting comparison between this revolution in the works and earlier conspiracies.
Contrasting the vulgar crassness of today’s democracy with the aristocratically inflected Athens of yesteryear (“noble Myronides,” active 470s–450s), these women hearken back to similar nostalgia in Knights, and to late fifth-century Athens’ preoccupation with what it called the “ancestral constitution” (patrioi nomoi, patrios politeia), the restoration of which provided a rallying cry for oligarchic “reformers” in 411 and 404. 
Isocrates is not, of course, in the passage just quoted addressing gynaecocracy. Still, his comments on the benefits of eliminating want will clarify for us the unstated goal of Praxagora’s revolution: concord and the avoidance of stasis.
Forgive and Forget
Further insights come from discourse analysis. According to John Shotter and Michael Billig, memory and remembering—how the past is constructed—can be understood in social-discursive terms. When we remember, we adopt a stance not just to the past itself, but to what it symbolizes for us and others. Memory thus represents a field within which we demarcate our ideological investments and social alignments.  That will, naturally, involve rejection as well as identification, social blindness as well as shared cognizance. And so it did in 403 BCE, when, if one wanted to take advantage of the chance to rejoin the Athenian dêmos, one had to jump through one very important hoop: to swear to ignore whole areas of active memory. That gained one entry into a community of individuals like-minded on at least one crucial point: that “we,” committed democrats (for such we are in swearing not to remember), refuse to acknowledge divisive thoughts within our midst.
Peithô on Trial: Lysistrata
By cutting passageways between houses to form one vast residence, Praxagora will extend the principle of commonality (koinê diaita, “shared life”) to all corners of the city (the astu). Given the centrality of this totalizing transformation, not just of residential architecture, but of a citizenry united as one, we can think of her achievement in Greek terms as sunoikein, “synoecism.” This term’s elements (sun- “together,” oikos “house”) can refer to the banding together of husband and wife to form a household, or of population units (households, villages, etc.) to form a civic community, a polis (LSJ s.v. συνοικέω I. 1., 2., II.). Thus Praxagora, mastermind of a politically transformative oikos-amalgamation, emerges as a latter-day Theseus, mythical king and orchestrator of Athens’ legendary synoecism. We are told that Theseus, in carrying out the original merger (sunôikise) of Attic populations, made astute use of persuasion (Plutarch Theseus 2.2, 24.1–25.1), whose part in the merger he commemorated with a temple to Aphrodite Pandemos partnered with Peitho, persuasion personified (Pausanias 1.22.3). Which is to say that he recognized the role of a quasi-erotic, integrative dynamic in forging this union of demes. Just so Praxagora, insofar as she spares no resource of persuasion to reinaugurate the Athenian state, embodies a feminine-gendered peithô prized as the antithesis of political chaos and violence.  Herself a cross between Theseus and Aphrodite, she has hit upon a plan to form that more perfect union Lysistrata could only dream of (Aristophanes Lysistrata 565–586): take over the state for real this time, and take responsibility out of the hands of men. In the earlier play, Lysistrata floated an optimistic view of the polis as an extension of the feminine-private sphere.  In Assemblywomen, that vision translates into action.
Let me be clear: I am not claiming that Praxagora’s oikos amalgamation corresponds exactly to penetration of the house by would-be burglars, adulterers, or rapists, the sort of intrusion herms seem to have been envisaged as preventing. But it matters that she would tear down demarcations symbolizing an Athenian citizen’s autonomy and masculine integrity. Though meant in the service of a higher egalitarianism, these demolitions would tear down the old egalitarianism, the patriarchal democracy. And that is, of course, just what gynaecocratic communalism intends, namely, to “unman” Athenian government for its own good; to end, once and for all, the divisiveness of egocentric, pleonectic erôs; to unite Athenians in the spirit of koinônia, a broad-based sharing. Thus Praxagora faces the challenge not just of planning the city’s salvation, but of selling her plan to a citizenry with much to gain from it, though at a price all may not be willing to pay.
Peithô on Trial: Assemblywomen
Why, one wonders, would a bearded woman remind herself of a lightly braised cuttlefish? “Because,” explains the scholiast, “cuttlefish are white.” That is, women, indoor creatures that they are, cannot easily pass for deeply tanned men. But these women have, in fact, worked hard on their tans (63–65). Still, all they can show for it is the complexion of “pasty-faced cobblers,” which is to say, male effeminates. 
Praxagora does, to be sure, want voters to consider all the benefits women have to offer (232–238). But she discourages deliberation, disparaged as so much “blather” (mê perilalômen; cf. LSJ s.v. λαλέω), the same term already used twice to disparage women’s speech generally, and men’s pre-assembly chatter specifically, as inconsequential.  The alternative? “Let’s just let them rule” (all’ haplôi tropôi | eômen arkhein). This jussive formulation, one recalling Clytemnestra’s plea to a resistant Agamemnon,
coaxingly seeks to nudge Praxagora’s male audience into compliance. Heading off attempts to meet her arguments head on, Praxagora maneuvers men into accepting as leaders women whose aversion to change, and whose connection to past traditions (arkhaion nomon, ‘ancient custom,’ 215–229), suggest a matriarchal version of Bakhtin’s “word of the fathers.” 
the Skeptic responds with the following, rather startling, outburst:
Projecting, as he does, a deeply paranoid antisociality, this counter-revolutionary is probably not meant by the playwright to earn our sympathy. Yet his misogyny manifests what can only be described as bias deeply ingrained in Greek culture of the time. Democritus, the fifth-century BCE philosopher, is said to have written that “to be ruled by a woman would be extreme hubris for a man” (fr. 111 D-K). Aristophanes’ Skeptic seems to have something similar in mind. Sommerstein explains “piss on me” as “treat me (sc. and all men) with arrogant contempt, in revenge for the way men have so long treated them”—gynaecocracy, in other words, as a kind of hubris avenging the hubris of patriarchy (the Neighbor’s “Then we ruled”).  This Skeptic seems, then, to respond to women’s rule much as men do to a supposedly gynaecocratic coup in Lysistrata. Only here, it is specifically confiscation that the Skeptic feels threatened by (cf. 746–747).
I cite the passage from Thucydides to suggest affinities between, on the one hand, the attitudes and behavior of Aristophanes’ Skeptic, on the other hand, the hyper-proactive selfishness of stasis as described by the historian. But they are not exactly alike. What sets this Skeptic apart is the paradox that consensus and conformity, not factionalism, provoke his own hyper-proactive and contrarian conduct.
Pestered by the Skeptic with visions of non-compliance, the Neighbor invokes the coercive power of the state, the “We” to whom the Neighbor refers. But what if, as the Skeptic says, the noncompliant element will enjoy a numerical edge? Indeed, what if the whole operation goes awry, and an unspecified, unsupervised, unscrupulous “they” commandeer the goods? A silly question, perhaps, especially in view of the evident groundswell of compliance (805–806; cf. 771–774). Yet the question cannot simply be made to go away. If the point of communalization and related policy (amalgamation of housing, of families) is, ultimately, to bring Athenians together into a close-knit, harmonious whole, then what does it mean that implementation of that policy might, in however many cases, produce resistance, cheating, ill-will, fighting? Of course, to the Neighbor, the question is moot: all around them, team spirit prevails. But that spirit of cooperation, sine qua non for Praxagora’s plan to succeed, also represents her plan’s implicit goal. Yet if concord relies at every turn on concord, that necessarily implies a hurdle, discord, to be surmounted at every turn, too. Homonoia and stasis, diametrical opposites, would seem, then, to go hand in hand.
Tug of War