Here’s this week’s entry into Monday’s Finish the Story flash fiction challenge, run by Barbara W. Beacham. This challenge gives you a picture prompt and the first line and asks that you finish the story in 100-150 words. The given line is in italics.
Despite the mention of Zeus in the opening I decided not to include him in my story but to just use the setting of Ancient Greece…
Feeding the Imagination
“Zeus was not having a good day and he made sure everyone knew it.”
The storm’s ferocity halted their journey.
With his father’s forbidding presence beside him Ari resisted the urge to curse as they settled into a corner of the room. With the Lenaia so near he hadn’t wanted to leave Athens. Watching the festival’s comedies was the highlight of his year, as his father knew. He wouldn’t be surprised if the trip was timed for that very reason.
The place was busy; many forced to take shelter at Hermes’ shrine. As his father conversed with a group of traders, Ari sat and listened, each snippit of conversation feeding his imagination.
“…the banquet descended into mayhem…”
“…lost all our vines…”
“…his wife knows exactly how to get her way…”
Maybe his head was in the clouds, as his father accused – but he would not abandon his dream. Someday he’d be lauded as Athen’s greatest comic poet. He, Aristophanes, would be remembered forever.
Word Count: 150
I’ll admit – this story is somewhat geeky. I studied Ancient History and Classics at university and the plays of Aristophanes were some of my favourites to read. To fully pay homage to him I probably ought to have written a comic piece – but that’s not an area I’m particularly comfortable with! For those of you who have no idea who he is I thought I’d add a few historical notes. Hopefully the story will then make a little more sense!
Aristophanes has been called both ‘The Father of Comedy’ and ‘The Prince of Ancient Comedy’. His plays are the only real examples of Athenian comedy to have survived the centuries. His first play, The Banqueters, is thought to have been written and performed when he was only 18 years of age. As with many of his plays, it is now lost. Only eleven out of the thirty or forty plays he wrote have survived.
He was born around 446BC, though the exact date of his birth is unknown. Little is known of his background other than the name of his father – Phillipus – and that he was from the relatively wealthy Athenian deme (district) of Kydathenaion, an area of the city that included the Acropolis. I don’t know whether his father opposed his decision to become a comic poet (that’s my own addition) but Aristophanes did sometimes write about the tension between fathers and sons – most notably in his plays The Clouds and The Wasps.
One of my favourite plays is Lysistrata, the tale of an Athenian woman who persuades the women of Greece to withhold sex in order to persuade the men to end the Peloponnesian War. In The Birds he introduced the phrase ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’, when two men attempt to build the perfect town among the clouds. Most of his plays deal with issues around the war and Athenian politics. He was a great satirical writer, caricaturing familiar figures in city life. Plato blamed Aristophanes’ portrayal of Socrates in The Clouds for the philosopher’s subsequent trial and execution.
Comedy plays were performed at two particular festivals in the Athenian calendar: the Lenaia, a festival to Dionysus Lenaius held in Athens in January, and the City Dionysia, held in March or April. The audiences voted for their favourite play and Aristophanes is known to have regularly won first or second place.
If you’d like to read any of his plays you can go here.
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