Birds differs from all other fifth-century plays of Aristophanes that survive in having no strong and obvious connection with a topical question of public interest, whether political, literary-theatrical or intellectual-educational. It has, in its own way, plenty of topical and satirical content; in particular as the city of Cuckooville begins to take shape, it proves in many ways to be a replica of Athens, and is soon visited by many of the less desirable elements of the Athenian population. But satire is kept firmly subordinate to fantasy; and as fantasy Birds has no rival in what we possess of Greek literature, until we reach Lucian nearly six centuries later. First published in 1987, this volume is regularly reprinted.
Alan H Sommerstein is Professor of Greek and Director of the Centre for Ancient Drama and its Reception, University of Nottingham; editor of the Aristophanes volumes in the Aris PHIllips Classical Texts series and of Aeschylus Eumenides (Cambridge, 1989); author of Aeschylean Tragedy (Bari, 1996) and of Greek Drama and Dramatists (London, 2002); co-editor of Tragedy, Comedy and the Polis (Bari, 1993), Shards from Kolonos: Studies in Sophoclean Fragments (Bari, forthcoming) and several other multi-author volumes. He is coordinating a collaborative edition of selected fragmentary plays of Sophocles for this series.