Birds was produced at the City Dionysia in the spring of 414 BC. It differs from all the other fifth-century plays of Aristophanes that survive in having no strong and obvious connection with a topical question of public interest, whether political (like Acharnians, Knights, Wasps, Peace and Lysistrata), literary-theatrical (like Thesmophoriazusae and Frogs), or intellectual-educational (like Clouds). It has, indeed, in its own way, plenty of topical and satirical content: in particular, as the city of Cloudcuckooville 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 taking the play as a whole, 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. Alan Sommerstein's celebrated edition, reprinted with revisions in 1991, presents the Greek text with facing-page translation, commentary and notes.
Alan H. Sommerstein is Professor of Greek and Director for Ancient Drama and its Reception, University of Nottingham, and editor of a celebrated complete edition of Aristophanes volumes in the Aris & Phillips Classical Texts series. His many other publications include Aeschylean Tragedy (1996), an edition of Aeschylus Eumenides (1989), Greek Drama and Dramatists (2002) and Sophocles: Selected Fragmentary Plays Volumes 1 and 2 (2006, 2011) in this series.
‘For an overall series of the entire corpus, including critical text, commentary, translation, and full introduction, all subsumed to one man’s intelligent analysis and wide-ranging scholarship, Sommerstein stands triumphantly alone. […] Aristophanes is lucky to have so devoted, erudite, and witty a modern celebrant.’