Aristophanes, the great comic dramatist of Athens, was born about 444 B.C. His opponents maintained that he was not by birth an Athenian citizen, but probably without good reason. It is rumoured that he studied under the Sophist Prodicus, but this is doubtful. He certainly attached himself to the old aristocratic and conservative party, and his talents were employed in satirising the democratic influences that he conceived to be undermining the Athenian constitution and character. Not that Aristophanes limited his sarcasm to the field of politics; the religious and judicial systems, the education imparted by Sophists, the tragic drama, the habits of the men and women of the day, all provided marks for the shafts of his keen wit. Reckless humour, often degenerating into wild buffoonery and utter coarseness, gives the key-note to his dramas, but his play of fancy is marvellous. He occasionally utters wise and noble sentiments, and his Attic style found an admirer in so strict a judge as Plato. Whether he aimed honestly at social and political reform is a matter of doubt. The persons who incurred the severest chastisement at his hands were Socrates in The Clouds, Euripides in the Achanians, The Frogs, and The Thesmophoriazusae, and Cleon in The Knights. His first play appeared in 427 B.C., and he is said to have written fifty-four in all, eleven of which have come down to us. He died in 380, eight years after a law had been passed to check the licence of the stage in presenting real characters for public derision.