As indicated below (Influence and legacy) modern adaptations of Lysistrata are often feminist and/or pacifist in their aim. The original play was neither feminist nor unreservedly pacifist. Even when they seemed to demonstrate empathy with the female condition, dramatic poets in classical Athens still reinforced sexual stereotyping of women as irrational creatures in need of protection from themselves and from others. Thus Lysistrata accepted the men's conduct of the war out of female respect for male authority until it became obvious that there were no real men in Athens who could bring an end to the destruction and waste of young lives. She must protect women from their own worst instincts before she can accomplish her primary mission to end the war—she has to persuade them to forgo sexual activity, even binding them with an oath, and later she must rally them with an oracle when they show signs of wavering. She is an exceptional woman and by the end of the play she has demonstrated power over men also—even the leaders of Greece are submissive once caught in her magic (ἴυγγι, íyngi). Her role as an improbable savior of Athens is anticipated in the Knights, where the protagonist is an obscure sausage vendor, Agoracritus. Some points of resemblance:
- Lysistrata uses an oracle to manipulate women, Agoracritus uses oracles to manipulate Demos (the people);
- Lysistrata presents the Athenian and Spartan envoys with the beautiful Reconciliation (Diallage), Agoracritus presents Demos with the beautiful Treaties (Spondai);
- Lysistrata appears to have extraordinary powers (possibly magical powers), Agoracritus emerges as an agent of divine intervention, not only inspired by the gods but also able to be thought of as a god himself.
There are also some parallels between Lysistrata and two other plays written by Aristophanes on a peace theme: The Acharnians and Peace. The allegorical figure Reconciliation, virtually a prostitute in Lysistrata, appears also in the Acharnians and her beauty is celebrated by the Chorus of old Acharnians in a song full of sexual innuendo. In the Peace, the goddess Peace is invoked as Lysimache (She Who Undoes Battle) and her beautiful companion, Sacred Delegation (Theoria), is offered up to the Athenian Boule as a prostitute.
The play is not an attempt to promote universal peace—Lysistrata chides the Athenian and Spartan envoys for allying themselves with barbarians. In fact the play might not even be a plea for an end to the war so much as an imaginative vision of an honorable end to the war at a time when no such ending was possible. According to Sarah Ruden, Lysistrata (Hackett Classics, 2003), the play "nowhere suggests that warfare in itself is intolerable, let alone immoral"(87).