The Eleven Comedies - Vol. I
by Aristophanes et al
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

CLEON. Oh! Demos! Am I compelled to hear myself thus abused, and merely because I love you?

DEMOS. Silence! stop your abuse! All too long have I been your tool.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Ah! my dear little Demos, he is a rogue, who has played you many a scurvy trick; when your back is turned, he taps at the root the lawsuits initiated by the peculators, swallows the proceeds wholesale and helps himself with both hands from the public funds.

CLEON. Tremble, knave; I will convict you of having stolen thirty thousand drachmae.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. For a rascal of your kidney, you shout rarely! Well! I am ready to die if I do not prove that you have accepted more than forty minae from the Mitylenaeans.[94]

CHORUS. This indeed may be termed talking. Oh, benefactor of the human race, proceed and you will be the most illustrious of the Greeks. You alone shall have sway in Athens, the allies will obey you, and, trident in hand, you will go about shaking and overturning everything to enrich yourself. But, stick to your man, let him not go; with lungs like yours you will soon have him finished.

CLEON. No, my brave friends, no, you are running too fast; I have done a sufficiently brilliant deed to shut the mouth of all enemies, so long as one of the bucklers of Pylos remains.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Of the bucklers! Hold! I stop you there and I hold you fast. For if it be true, that you love the people, you would not allow these to be hung up with their rings;[95] but 'tis with an intent you have done this. Demos, take knowledge of his guilty purpose; in this way you no longer can punish him at your pleasure. Note the swarm of young tanners, who really surround him, and close to them the sellers of honey and cheese; all these are at one with him. Very well! you have but to frown, to speak of ostracism and they will rush at night to these bucklers, take them down and seize our granaries.

DEMOS. Great gods! what! the bucklers retain their rings! Scoundrel! ah! too long have you had me for your tool, cheated and played with me!

CLEON. But, dear sir, never you believe all he tells you. Oh! never will you find a more devoted friend than me; unaided, I have known how to put down the conspiracies; nothing that is a-hatching in the city escapes me, and I hasten to proclaim it loudly.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. You are like the fishers for eels; in still waters they catch nothing, but if they thoroughly stir up the slime, their fishing is good; in the same way 'tis only in troublous times that you line your pockets. But come, tell me, you, who sell so many skins, have you ever made him a present of a pair of soles for his slippers? and you pretend to love him!

DEMOS. No, he has never given me any.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. That alone shows up the man; but I, I have bought you this pair of shoes; accept them.

DEMOS. None ever, to my knowledge, has merited so much from the people; you are the most zealous of all men for your country and for my toes.

CLEON. Can a wretched pair of slippers make you forget all that you owe me? Is it not I who curbed Gryttus,[96] the filthiest of the lewd, by depriving him of his citizen rights?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Ah! noble inspector of back passages, let me congratulate you. Moreover, if you set yourself against this form of lewdness, this pederasty, 'twas for sheer jealousy, knowing it to be the school for orators.[97] But you see this poor Demos without a cloak and that at his age too! so little do you care for him, that in mid-winter you have not given him a garment with sleeves. Here, Demos, here is one, take it!

DEMOS. This even Themistocles never thought of; the Piraeus was no doubt a happy idea, but meseems this tunic is quite as fine an invention.

CLEON. Must you have recourse to such jackanapes' tricks to supplant me?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. No, 'tis your own tricks that I am borrowing, just as a guest, driven by urgent need, seizes some other man's shoes.[98]

CLEON. Oh! you shall not outdo me in flattery! I am going to hand Demos this garment; all that remains to you, you rogue, is to go and hang yourself.

DEMOS. Faugh! may the plague seize you! You stink of leather horribly.[99]

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Why, 'tis to smother you that he has thrown this cloak around you on top of the other; and it is not the first plot he has planned against you. Do you remember the time when silphium[100] was so cheap?

DEMOS. Aye, to be sure I do!

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Very well! it was Cleon who had caused the price to fall so low so that all could eat it and the jurymen in the Courts were almost poisoned with farting in each others' faces.

DEMOS. Hah! why, indeed, a scavenger told me the same thing.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Were you not yourself in those days quite red in the gills with farting?

DEMOS. Why, 'twas a trick worthy of Pyrrandrus![101]

CLEON. With what other idle trash will you seek to ruin me, you wretch!

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Oh! I shall be more brazen than you, for 'tis the goddess who has commanded me.[102]

CLEON. No, on my honour, you will not! Here, Demos, feast on this dish; it is your salary as a dicast, which you gain through me for doing naught.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Hold! here is a little box of ointment to rub into the sores on your legs.

CLEON. I will pluck out your white hairs and make you young again.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Take this hare's scut to wipe the rheum from your eyes.

CLEON. When you wipe your nose, clean your fingers on my head.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. No, on mine.

CLEON. On mine. (To the Sausage-seller.) I will have you made a trierarch[103] and you will get ruined through it; I will arrange that you are given an old vessel with rotten sails, which you will have to repair constantly and at great cost.

CHORUS. Our man is on the boil; enough, enough, he is boiling over; remove some of the embers from under him and skim off his threats.

CLEON. I will punish your self-importance; I will crush you with imposts; I will have you inscribed on the list of the rich.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. For me no threats—only one simple wish. That you may be having some cuttle-fish fried on the stove just as you are going to set forth to plead the cause of the Milesians,[104] which, if you gain, means a talent in your pocket; that you hurry over devouring the fish to rush off to the Assembly; suddenly you are called and run off with your mouth full so as not to lose the talent and choke yourself. There! that is my wish.

CHORUS. Splendid! by Zeus, Apollo and Demeter!

DEMOS. Faith! here is an excellent citizen indeed, such as has not been seen for a long time. 'Tis truly a man of the lowest scum! As for you, Paphlagonian, who pretend to love me, you only feed me on garlic. Return me my ring, for you cease to be my steward.

CLEON. Here it is, but be assured, that if you bereave me of my power, my successor will be worse than I am.

DEMOS. This cannot be my ring; I see another device, unless I am going purblind.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. What was your device?

DEMOS. A fig-leaf, stuffed with bullock's fat.[105]

SAUSAGE-SELLER. No, that is not it.

DEMOS. What is it then?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. 'Tis a gull with beak wide open, haranguing from the top of a stone.[106]

DEMOS. Ah! great gods!

SAUSAGE-SELLER. What is the matter?

DEMOS. Away! away out of my sight! 'Tis not my ring he had, 'twas that of Cleonymus. (To the Sausage-seller.) Hold, I give you this one; you shall be my steward.

CLEON. Master, I adjure you, decide nothing till you have heard my oracles.[107]


CLEON. If you believe him, you will have to suck his tool for him.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. If you listen to him, you'll have to let him skin your penis to the very stump.

CLEON. My oracles say that you are to reign over the whole earth, crowned with chaplets.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. And mine say that, clothed in an embroidered purple robe, you shall pursue Smicythes and her spouse,[108] standing in a chariot of gold and with a crown on your head.

DEMOS. Go, fetch me your oracles, that the Paphlagonian may hear them.


DEMOS. And you yours.

CLEON. I run.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I run too; nothing could suit me better!

CHORUS. Oh! happy day for us and for our children, if Cleon perish. Yet just now I heard some old cross-grained pleaders on the market-place who hold not this opinion discoursing together. Said they, "If Cleon had not had the power we should have lacked two most useful tools, the pestle and the soup-ladle."[109] You also know what a pig's education he has had; his school-fellows can recall that he only liked the Dorian style and would study no other; his music-master in displeasure sent him away, saying: "This youth in matters of harmony, will only learn the Dorian style because 'tis akin to bribery."[110]

CLEON. There, behold and look at this heap; and yet I do not bring all.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Ugh! I pant and puff under the weight and yet I do not bring all.

DEMOS. What are these?

CLEON. Oracles.

DEMOS. All these?

CLEON. Does that astonish you? Why, I have another whole boxful of them.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I the whole of my attics and two rooms besides.

DEMOS. Come, let us see, whose are these oracles?

CLEON. Mine are those of Bacis.[111]

DEMOS (to the Sausage-seller). And whose are yours?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Glanis's, the elder brother of Bacis.[112]

DEMOS. And of what do they speak?

CLEON. Of Athens, of Pylos, of you, of me, of all.

DEMOS. And yours?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Of Athens, of lentils, of Lacedaemonians, of fresh mackerel, of scoundrelly flour-sellers, of you, of me. Ah! ha! now let him gnaw his own penis with chagrin!

DEMOS. Come, read them out to me and especially that one I like so much, which says that I shall become an eagle and soar among the clouds.

CLEON. Then listen and be attentive! "Son of Erectheus,[113] understand the meaning of the words, which the sacred tripods set resounding in the sanctuary of Apollo. Preserve the sacred dog with the jagged teeth, that barks and howls in your defence; he will ensure you a salary and, if he fails, will perish as the victim of the swarms of jays that hunt him down with their screams."

DEMOS. By Demeter! I do not understand a word of it. What connection is there between Erectheus, the jays and the dog?

CLEON. 'Tis I who am the dog, since I bark in your defence. Well! Phoebus commands you to keep and cherish your dog.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. 'Tis not so spoken by the god; this dog seems to me to gnaw at the oracles as others gnaw at doorposts. Here is exactly what Apollo says of the dog.

DEMOS. Let us hear, but I must first pick up a stone; an oracle which speaks of a dog might bite me.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. "Son of Erectheus, beware of this Cerberus that enslaves freemen; he fawns upon you with his tail, when you are dining, but he is lying in wait to devour your dishes, should you turn your head an instant; at night he sneaks into the kitchen and, true dog that he is, licks up with one lap of his tongue both your dishes and ... the islands."[114]

DEMOS. Faith, Glanis, you speak better than your brother.

CLEON. Condescend again to hear me and then judge: "A woman in sacred Athens will be delivered of a lion, who shall fight for the people against clouds of gnats with the same ferocity as if he were defending his whelps; care ye for him, erect wooden walls around him and towers of brass." Do you understand that?

DEMOS. Not the least bit in the world.

CLEON. The god tells you here to look after me, for, 'tis I who am your lion.

DEMOS. How! You have become a lion and I never knew a thing about it?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. There is only one thing which he purposely keeps from you; he does not say what this wall of wood and brass is in which Apollo warns you to keep and guard him.

DEMOS. What does the god mean, then?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. He advises you to fit him into a five-holed wooden collar.

DEMOS. Hah! I think that oracle is about to be fulfilled.

CLEON. Do not believe it; these are but jealous crows, that caw against me; but never cease to cherish your good hawk; never forget that he brought you those Lacedaemonian fish, loaded with chains.[115]

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Ah! if the Paphlagonian ran any risk that day, 'twas because he was drunk. Oh, too credulous son of Cecrops,[116] do you accept that as a glorious exploit? A woman would carry a heavy burden if only a man had put it on her shoulders. But to fight! Go to! he would shit himself, if ever it came to a tussle.

CLEON. Note this Pylos in front of Pylos, of which the oracle speaks, "Pylos is before Pylos."[117]

DEMOS. How "in front of Pylos"? What does he mean by that?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. He says he will seize upon your bath-tubs.[118]

DEMOS. Then I shall not bathe to-day.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. No, as he has stolen our baths. But here is an oracle about the fleet, to which I beg your best attention.

DEMOS. Read on! I am listening; let us first see how we are to pay our sailors.[119]

SAUSAGE-SELLER. "Son of Aegeus,[120] beware of the tricks of the dog-fox,[121] he bites from the rear and rushes off at full speed; he is nothing but cunning and perfidy." Do you know what the oracle intends to say?

DEMOS. The dog-fox is Philostratus.[122]

SAUSAGE-SELLER. No, no, 'tis Cleon; he is incessantly asking you for light vessels to go and collect the tributes, and Apollo advises you not to grant them.

DEMOS. What connection is there between a galley and a dog-fox?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. What connection? Why, 'tis quite plain—a galley travels as fast as a dog.

DEMOS. Why, then, does the oracle not say dog instead of dog-fox?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Because he compares the soldiers to young foxes, who, like them, eat the grapes in the fields.

DEMOS. Good! Well then! how am I to pay the wages of my young foxes?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. I will undertake that, and in three days too! But listen to this further oracle, by which Apollo puts you on your guard against the snares of the greedy fist.

DEMOS. Of what greedy fist?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. The god in this oracle very clearly points to the hand of Cleon, who incessantly holds his out, saying, "Fill it."

CLEON. 'Tis false! Phoebus means the hand of Diopithes.[123] But here I have a winged oracle, which promises you shall become an eagle and rule over all the earth.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. I have one, which says that you shall be King of the Earth and of the Sea, and that you shall administer justice in Ecbatana, eating fine rich stews the while.

CLEON. I have seen Athen[124] in a dream, pouring out full vials of riches and health over the people.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. I too have seen the goddess, descending from the Acropolis with an owl perched upon her helmet; on your head she was pouring out ambrosia, on that of Cleon garlic pickle.

DEMOS. Truly Glanis is the wisest of men. I shall yield myself to you; guide me in my old age and educate me anew.

CLEON. Ah! I adjure you! not yet; wait a little; I will promise to distribute barley every day.

DEMOS. Ah! I will not hear another word about barley; you have cheated me too often already, both you and Theophanes.[125]

CLEON. Well then! you shall have flour-cakes all piping hot.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. I will give you cakes too, and nice cooked fish; you will only have to eat.

DEMOS. Very well, mind you keep your promises. To whichever of you twain shall treat me best I hand over the reins of state.

CLEON. I will be first.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. No, no, I will.

CHORUS. Demos, you are our all-powerful sovereign lord; all tremble before you, yet you are led by the nose. You love to be flattered and fooled; you listen to the orators with gaping mouth and your mind is led astray.

DEMOS. 'Tis rather you who have no brains, if you think me so foolish as all that; it is with a purpose that I play this idiot's role, for I love to drink the lifelong day, and so it pleases me to keep a thief for my minister. When he has thoroughly gorged himself, then I overthrow and crush him.

CHORUS. What profound wisdom! If it be really so, why! all is for the best. Your ministers, then, are your victims, whom you nourish and feed up expressly in the Pnyx, so that, the day your dinner is ready, you may immolate the fattest and eat him.

DEMOS. Look, see how I play with them, while all the time they think themselves such adepts at cheating me. I have my eye on them when they thieve, but I do not appear to be seeing them; then I thrust a judgment down their throat as it were a feather, and force them to vomit up all they have robbed from me.

CLEON. Oh! the rascal!

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Oh! the scoundrel!

CLEON. Demos, all is ready these three hours; I await your orders and I burn with desire to load you with benefits.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I ten, twelve, a thousand hours, a long, long while, an infinitely long while.

DEMOS. As for me, 'tis thirty thousand hours that I have been impatient; very long, infinitely long that I have cursed you.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Do you know what you had best do?

DEMOS. If I do not, tell me.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Declare the lists open[126] and we will contend abreast to determine who shall treat you the best.

DEMOS. Splendid! Draw back in line![126]

CLEON. I am ready.

DEMOS. Off you go!

SAUSAGE-SELLER (to Cleon). I shall not let you get to the tape.

DEMOS. What fervent lovers! If I am not to-day the happiest of men, 'tis because I shall be the most disgusted.

CLEON. Look! 'tis I who am the first to bring you a seat.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I a table.

CLEON. Hold, here is a cake kneaded of Pylos barley.[127]

SAUSAGE—SELLER. Here are crusts, which the ivory hand of the goddess has hallowed.[128]

DEMOS. Oh! Mighty Athen! How large are your fingers!

CLEON. This is pea-soup, as exquisite as it is fine; 'tis Pallas the victorious goddess at Pylos who crushed the peas herself.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Oh, Demos! the goddess watches over you; she is stretching forth over your head ... a stew-pan full of broth.

DEMOS. And should we still be dwelling in this city without this protecting stew-pan?

CLEON. Here are some fish, given to you by her who is the terror of our foes.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. The daughter of the mightiest of the gods sends you this meat cooked in its own gravy, along with this dish of tripe and some paunch.

DEMOS. 'Tis to thank me for the Peplos I offered to her; 'tis well.

CLEON. The goddess with the terrible plume invites you to eat this long cake; you will row the harder on it.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Take this also.

DEMOS. And what shall I do with this tripe?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. She sends it you to belly out your galleys, for she is always showing her kindly anxiety for our fleet. Now drink this beverage composed of three parts of water to two of wine.

DEMOS. Ah! what delicious wine, and how well it stands the water.[129]

SAUSAGE-SELLER. 'Twas the goddess who came from the head of Zeus that mixed this liquor with her own hands.

CLEON. Hold, here is a piece of good rich cake.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. But I offer you an entire cake.

CLEON. But you cannot offer him stewed hare as I do.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Ah! great gods! stewed hare! where shall I find it? Oh! brain of mine, devise some trick!

CLEON. Do you see this, poor fellow?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. A fig for that! Here are folk coming to seek me.

CLEON. Who are they?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Envoys, bearing sacks bulging with money.

CLEON. (Hearing money mentioned Clean turns his head, and Agoracritus seizes the opportunity to snatch away the stewed hare.) Where, where, I say?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Bah! What's that to you? Will you not even now let the strangers alone? Demos, do you see this stewed hare which I bring you?

CLEON. Ah! rascal! you have shamelessly robbed me.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. You have robbed too, you robbed the Laconians at Pylos.

DEMOS. An you pity me, tell me, how did you get the idea to filch it from him?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. The idea comes from the goddess; the theft is all my own.

CLEON. And I had taken such trouble to catch this hare.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. But 'twas I who had it cooked.

DEMOS (to Cleon). Get you gone! My thanks are only for him who served it.

CLEON. Ah! wretch! have you beaten me in impudence!

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Well then, Demos, say now, who has treated you best, you and your stomach? Decide!

DEMOS. How shall I act here so that the spectators shall approve my judgment?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. I will tell you. Without saying anything, go and rummage through my basket, and then through the Paphlagonian's, and see what is in them; that's the best way to judge.

DEMOS. Let us see then, what is there in yours?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Why, 'tis empty, dear little father; I have brought everything to you.

DEMOS. This is a basket devoted to the people.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Now hunt through the Paphlagonian's. Well?

DEMOS. Oh! what a lot of good things! Why! 'tis quite full! Oh! what a huge great part of this cake he kept for himself! He had only cut off the least little tiny piece for me.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. But this is what he has always done. Of everything he took, he only gave you the crumbs, and kept the bulk.

DEMOS. Oh! rascal! was this the way you robbed me? And I was loading you with chaplets and gifts!

CLEON. 'Twas for the public weal I robbed.

DEMOS (to Cleon). Give me back that crown;[130] I will give it to him.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Return it quick, quick, you gallows-bird.

CLEON. No, for the Pythian oracle has revealed to me the name of him who shall overthrow me.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. And that name was mine, nothing can be clearer.

CLEON. Reply and I shall soon see whether you are indeed the man whom the god intended. Firstly, what school did you attend when a child?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. 'Twas in the kitchens I was taught with cuffs and blows.

CLEON. What's that you say? Ah! this is truly what the oracle said. And what did you learn from the master of exercises?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. I learnt to take a false oath without a smile, when I had stolen something.

CLEON. Oh! Phoebus Apollo, god of Lycia! I am undone! And when you had become a man, what trade did you follow?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. I sold sausages and did a bit of fornication.

CLEON. Oh! my god! I am a lost man! Ah! still one slender hope remains. Tell me, was it on the market-place or near the gates that you sold your sausages?

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Near the gates, in the market for salted goods.

CLEON Alas! I see the prophecy of the god is verily come true. Alas! roll me home.[131] I am a miserable, ruined man. Farewell, my chaplet! 'Tis death to me to part with you. So you are to belong to another; 'tis certain he cannot be a greater thief, but perhaps he may be a luckier one.[132]

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Oh! Zeus, the protector of Greece! 'tis to you I owe this victory!

DEMOSTHENES. Hail! illustrious conqueror, but forget not, that if you have become a great man, 'tis thanks to me; I ask but a little thing; appoint me secretary of the law-court in the room of Phanus.

DEMOS (to the Sausage-seller). But what is your name then? Tell me.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. My name is Agoracritus, because I have always lived on the market-place in the midst of lawsuits.[133]

DEMOS. Well then, Agoracritus, I stand by you; as for the Paphlagonian, I hand him over to your mercy.

AGORACRITUS. Demos, I will care for you to the best of my power, and all shall admit that no citizen is more devoted than I to this city of simpletons.

CHORUS. What fitter theme for our Muse, at the close as at the beginning of his work, than this, to sing the hero who drives his swift steeds down the arena? Why afflict Lysistratus with our satires on his poverty,[134] and Thumantis,[135] who has not so much as a lodging? He is dying of hunger and can be seen at Delphi, his face bathed in tears, clinging to your quiver, oh, Apollo! and supplicating you to take him out of his misery.

An insult directed at the wicked is not to be censured; on the contrary, the honest man, if he has sense, can only applaud. Him, whom I wish to brand with infamy, is little known himself; 'tis the brother of Arignotus.[136] I regret to quote this name which is so dear to me, but whoever can distinguish black from white, or the Orthian mode of music from others, knows the virtues of Arignotus, whom his brother, Ariphrades,[137] in no way resembles. He gloats in vice, is not merely a dissolute man and utterly debauched—but he has actually invented a new form of vice; for he pollutes his tongue with abominable pleasures in brothels licking up that nauseous moisture and befouling his beard as he tickles the lips of lewd women's private parts.[138] Whoever is not horrified at such a monster shall never drink from the same cup with me.

At times a thought weighs on me at night; I wonder whence comes this fearful voracity of Cleonymus.[139] 'Tis said, that when dining with a rich host, he springs at the dishes with the gluttony of a wild beast and never leaves the bread-bin until his host seizes him round the knees, exclaiming, "Go, go, good gentleman, in mercy go, and spare my poor table!"

'Tis said that the triremes assembled in council and that the oldest spoke in these terms, "Are you ignorant, my sisters, of what is plotting in Athens? They say, that a certain Hyperbolus,[140] a bad citizen and an infamous scoundrel, asks for a hundred of us to take them to sea against Chalcedon."[141] All were indignant, and one of them, as yet a virgin, cried, "May god forbid that I should ever obey him! I would prefer to grow old in the harbour and be gnawed by worms. No! by the gods I swear it, Nauphant, daughter of Nauson, shall never bend to his law; 'tis as true as I am made of wood and pitch. If the Athenians vote for the proposal of Hyperbolus, let them! we will hoist full sail and seek refuge by the temple of Theseus or the shrine of the Euminides.[142] No! he shall not command us! No! he shall not play with the city to this extent! Let him sail by himself for Tartarus, if such please him, launching the boats in which he used to sell his lamps."

AGORACRITUS. Maintain a holy silence! Keep your mouths from utterance! call no more witnesses; close these tribunals, which are the delight of this city, and gather at the theatre to chant the Paean of thanksgiving to the gods for a fresh favour.

CHORUS. Oh! torch of sacred Athens, saviour of the Islands, what good tidings are we to celebrate by letting the blood of the victims flow in our market-places?

AGORACRITUS. I have freshened Demos up somewhat on the stove and have turned his ugliness into beauty.

CHORUS. I admire your inventive genius; but, where is he?

AGORACRITUS. He is living in ancient Athens, the city of the garlands of violets.

CHORUS. How I should like to see him! What is his dress like, what his manner?

AGORACRITUS. He has once more become as he was in the days when he lived with Aristides and Miltiades. But you will judge for yourselves, for I hear the vestibule doors opening. Hail with your shouts of gladness the Athens of old, which now doth reappear to your gaze, admirable, worthy of the songs of the poets and the home of the illustrious Demos.

CHORUS. Oh! noble, brilliant Athens, whose brow is wreathed with violets, show us the sovereign master of this land and of all Greece.

AGORACRITUS. Lo! here he is coming with his hair held in place with a golden band and in all the glory of his old-world dress; perfumed with myrrh, he spreads around him not the odour of lawsuits, but of peace.

CHORUS. Hail! King of Greece, we congratulate you upon the happiness you enjoy; it is worthy of this city, worthy of the glory of Marathon.

DEMOS. Come, Agoracritus, come, my best friend; see the service you have done me by freshening me up on your stove.

AGORACRITUS. Ah! if you but remembered what you were formerly and what you did, you would for a certainty believe me to be a god.

DEMOS. But what did I? and how was I then?

AGORACRITUS. Firstly, so soon as ever an orator declared in the assembly "Demos, I love you ardently; 'tis I alone, who dream of you and watch over your interests"; at such an exordium you would look like a cock flapping his wings or a bull tossing his horns.

DEMOS. What, I?

AGORACRITUS. Then, after he had fooled you to the hilt, he would go.

DEMOS. What! they would treat me so, and I never saw it!

AGORACRITUS. You knew only how to open and close your ears like a sunshade.

DEMOS. Was I then so stupid and such a dotard?

AGORACRITUS. Worse than that; if one of two orators proposed to equip a fleet for war and the other suggested the use of the same sum for paying out to the citizens, 'twas the latter who always carried the day. Well! you droop your head! you turn away your face?

DEMOS. I redden at my past errors.

AGORACRITUS. Think no more of them; 'tis not you who are to blame, but those who cheated you in this sorry fashion. But, come, if some impudent lawyer dared to say, "Dicasts, you shall have no wheat unless you convict this accused man!" what would you do? Tell me.

DEMOS. I would have him removed from the bar, I would bind Hyperbolus about his neck like a stone and would fling him into the Barathrum.[143]

AGORACRITUS. Well spoken! but what other measures do you wish to take?

DEMOS. First, as soon as ever a fleet returns to the harbour, I shall pay up the rowers in full.

AGORACRITUS. That will soothe many a worn and chafed bottom.

DEMOS. Further, the hoplite enrolled for military service shall not get transferred to another service through favour, but shall stick to that given him at the outset.

AGORACRITUS. This will strike the buckler of Cleonymus full in the centre.

DEMOS. None shall ascend the rostrum, unless their chins are bearded.

AGORACRITUS. What then will become of Clisthenes and of Strato?[144]

DEMOS. I wish only to refer to those youths, who loll about the perfume shops, babbling at random, "What a clever fellow is Pheax![145] How cleverly he escaped death! how concise and convincing is his style! what phrases! how clear and to the point! how well he knows how to quell an interruption!"

AGORACRITUS. I thought you were the lover of those pathic minions.

DEMOS. The gods forefend it! and I will force all such fellows to go a-hunting instead of proposing decrees.

AGORACRITUS. In that case, accept this folding-stool, and to carry it this well-grown, big-testicled slave lad. Besides, you may put him to any other purpose you please.

DEMOS. Oh! I am happy indeed to find myself as I was of old!

AGORACRITUS. Aye, you deem yourself happy, when I shall have handed you the truces of thirty years. Truces! step forward![146]

DEMOS. Great gods! how charming they are! Can I do with them as I wish? where did you discover them, pray?

AGORACRITUS. 'Twas that Paphlagonian who kept them locked up in his house, so that you might not enjoy them. As for myself, I give them to you; take them with you into the country.

DEMOS. And what punishment will you inflict upon this Paphlagonian, the cause of all my troubles?

AGORACRITUS. 'Twill not be over-terrible. I condemn him to follow my old trade; posted near the gates, he must sell sausages of asses' and dogs'-meat; perpetually drunk, he will exchange foul language with prostitutes and will drink nothing but the dirty water from the baths.

DEMOS. Well conceived! he is indeed fit to wrangle with harlots and bathmen; as for you, in return for so many blessings, I invite you to take the place at the Prytaneum which this rogue once occupied. Put on this frog-green mantle and follow me. As for the other, let 'em take him away; let him go sell his sausages in full view of the foreigners, whom he used formerly so wantonly to insult.

* * * * *


* * * * *


[4] Mitchell's "Aristophanes." Preface to "The Knights."

[5] A generic name, used to denote a slave, because great numbers came from Paphlagonia, a country in Asia Minor. Aristophanes also plays upon the word, [Greek: Paphlag_on], Paphlagonian, and the verb, [Greek: pathlazein], to boil noisily, thus alluding to Cleon's violence and bluster when speaking.

[6] A musician, belonging to Phrygia, who had composed melodies intended to describe pain.

[7] Line 323 of the 'Hyppolytus,' by Euripides.

[8] Euripides' mother was said to have sold vegetables on the market.

[9] The whole of this passage seems a satire on the want of courage shown by these two generals. History, however, speaks of Nicias as a brave soldier.

[10] i.e. living on his salary as a judge. The Athenians used beans for recording their votes.

[11] Place where the Public Assembly of Athens, the [Greek: ekkl_esia], was held.

[12] This was the salary paid to the Ecclesiasts, the jury of citizens who tried cases. It was one obol at first, but Cleon had raised it to three.

[13] A town in Messina, opposite the little island of Sphacteria; Demosthenes had seized it, and the Spartans had vainly tried to retake it, having even been obliged to leave four hundred soldiers shut up in Sphacteria. Cleon, sent out with additional forces, had forced the Spartans to capitulate and had thus robbed Demosthenes of the glory of the capture. (See Introduction.)

[14] Literally, his rump is among the Chaonians ([Greek: chain_o], to gape open), because his anus is distended by pederastic practices; his hands with the Aetolians ([Greek: aite_o], to ask, to beg); his mind with the Clopidians ([Greek: klept_o], to steal).

[15] The versions of his death vary. He is said to have taken poison in order to avoid fighting against Athens.

[16] A minor god, supposed by the ancients to preside over the life of each man; each empire, each province, each town had its titular Genius. Everyone offered sacrifice to his Genius on each anniversary of his birth with wine, flowers and incense.

[17] A hill in Asia Minor, near Smyrna. Homer mentions the wine of Pramnium.

[18] The common people, who at Athens were as superstitious as everywhere else, took delight in oracles, especially when they were favourable, and Cleon served them up to suit their taste and to advance his own ambition.

[19] Famous seer of Boeotia.

[20] Eucrates, who was the leading statesman at Athens after Pericles.

[21] Lysicles, who married the courtesan Aspasia.

[22] Literally, like Cycloborus, a torrent in Attica.

[23] He points to the spectators.

[24] The public meals were given in the Prytaneum; to these were admitted those whose services merited that they should be fed at the cost of the State. This distinction depended on the popular vote, and was very often bestowed on demagogues very unworthy of the privilege.

[25] Islands of the Aegaean, subject to Athens, which paid considerable tributes.

[26] Caria and Chalcedon were at the two extremities of Asia Minor; the former being at the southern, the latter at the northern end of that extensive coast.

[27] As though stupidity were an essential of good government.

[28] The Athenian citizens were divided into four classes—the Pentacosiomedimni, who possessed five hundred minae; the Knights, who had three hundred and were obliged to maintain a charger (hence their name); the Zeugitae and the Thetes. In Athens, the Knights never had the high consideration and the share in the magistracy which they enjoyed at Rome.

[29] It is said that Aristophanes played the part of Cleon himself, as no one dared to assume the role. (See Introduction.)

[30] They were two leaders of the knightly order.

[31] The famous whirlpool, near Sicily.

[32] Eucrates, the oakum-seller, already mentioned, when the object of a riot, took refuge in a mill and there hid himself in a sack of bran.

[33] The chief Athenian tribunal only next in dignity to the Areopagus; it generally consisted of two hundred members; it tried civil cases of the greatest importance and some crimes beyond the competence of other courts, e.g. rape, adultery, extortion. The sittings were in the open air, hence the name ([Greek: _Elios], the sun).

[34] The Heliasts' salary. (See above.)

[35] Tributary to Athens; Olynthus and Potidaea were the chief towns of this important Peninsula.

[36] Meaning he frightens him with the menace of judicial prosecution forces him to purchase silence.

[37] The strategi were the heads of the military forces.

[38] They presided at the Public Assemblies; they were also empowered to try the most important cases.

[39] An allusion to Cleon's former calling.

[40] A country deme of Attica.

[41] Archeptolemus, a resident alien, who lived in Piraeus. He had loaded Athens with gifts and was nevertheless maltreated by Cleon.

[42] This was easier than against a citizen because of the inferiority, in which the pride of the Athenian held those born on other soil.

[43] When drunk he conceives himself rich and the man to buy up the rich silver mines of Laurium, in south-east Attica.

[44] The Chorus throws itself between Cleon and Agoracritus to protect the latter.

[45] An iron collar, an instrument of torture and of punishment.

[46] A disease among swine.

[47] Cleon wanted the Spartans to purchase the prisoners of Sphacteria from him.

[48] With piss—the result of his drunken habits.

[49] A tragic poet, apparently proverbial for feebleness of style.

[50] Beginning of a song of Simonides.

[51] A miser.

[52] Guests used pieces of bread to wipe their fingers at table.

[53] 'Dog's head,' a vicious species of ape.

[54] They were allowed to remain in the ground throughout the winter so that they might grow tender.

[55] An allusion to the pederastic habits ascribed to some of the orators by popular rumour.

[56] He imputes the crime to Agoracritus of which he is guilty himself.

[57] A town in Thrace and subject to Athens. It therefore paid tribute to the latter. It often happened that the demagogues extracted considerable sums from the tributaries by threats or promises.

[58] It was customary in Athens for the plaintiff himself to fix the fine to be paid by the defendant.

[59] Athen, the tutelary divinity of Athens.

[60] And wife of Pisistratus. Anything belonging to the ancient tyrants was hateful to the Athenians.

[61] An allusion to the language used by the democratic orators, who, to be better understood by the people, constantly affected the use of terms belonging to the different trades.

[62] He accuses Cleon of collusion with the enemy.

[63] Cleon retorts upon his adversary the charge brought against himself. The Boeotians were the allies of Sparta.

[64] Allusion to cock-fighting.

[65] The tripping metre usually employed in the parabasis.

[66] Hitherto Aristophanes had presented his pieces under an assumed name.

[67] A comic poet, who had carried off the prize eleven times; not a fragment of his works remains to us.

[68] An allusion to the titles of some of his pieces, viz. "the Flute Players, the Birds, the Lydians, the Gnats, the Frogs."

[69] The Comic Poet, rival of Aristophanes, several times referred to above.

[70] These were the opening lines of poems by Cratinus, often sung at festivities.

[71] A poet, successful at the Olympic games, and in old age reduced to extreme misery.

[72] The place of honour in the Dionysiac Theatre, reserved for distinguished citizens.

[73] A Comic Poet, who was elegant but cold; he had at first played as an actor in the pieces of Cratinus.

[74] Besides the oarsmen and the pilot, there was on the Grecian vessels a sailor, who stood at the prow to look out for rocks, and another, who observed the direction of the wind.

[75] Two promontories, one in Attica, the other in Euboea, on which temples to Posidon were erected.

[76] An Athenian general, who had gained several naval victories. He had contributed to the success of the expedition to Samos (Thucydides, Book I), and had recently beaten a Peloponnesian fleet (Thucydides, Book II).

[77] At the Panathenaea, a festival held every fourth year, a peplus, or sail, was carried with pomp to the Acropolis. On this various mythological scenes, having reference to Athen, were embroidered—her exploits against the giants, her fight with Posidon concerning the name to be given to Athens, etc. It had also become customary to add the names and the deeds of such citizens as had deserved well of their country.

[78] Cleaenetus had passed a law to limit the number of citizens to be fed at the Prytaneum; it may be supposed, that those, who aspired to this distinction, sought to conciliate Cleaenetus in their favour.

[79] The Chorus of Knights, not being able to sing their own praises, feign to divert these to their chargers.

[80] A horse branded with the obsolete letter [Greek: sn]—[Symbol: Letter 'san'], as a mark of breed or high quality.

[81] Crab was no doubt a nickname given to the Corinthians on account of the position of their city on an isthmus between two seas. In the 'Acharnians' Theorus is mentioned as an ambassador, who had returned from the King of Persia.

[82] The Senate was a body composed of five hundred members, elected annually like the magistrates from the three first classes to the exclusion of the fourth, the Thetes, which was composed of the poorest citizens.

[83] The [Greek: moth_on], a rough, boisterous, obscene dance.

[84] At the festival of the Pyanepsia, held in honour of Athen as the protectress of Theseus in his fight with the Minotaur, the children carried olive branches in procession, round which strips of linen were wound; they were then fastened up over the entrances of each house.

[85] On which the citizens sat in the Public Assembly in the Pnyx to hear the orators. In the centre of the semicircular space the tribune stood, a square block of stone, [Greek: B_ema], and from this the people were addressed.

[86] Lysicles was a dealer in sheep, who had wielded great power in Athens after the death of Pericles. Cynna and Salabaccha were two celebrated courtesans.

[87] Place of interment for those who died for the country.

[88] Seated on the banks for the rowers.

[89] Assassin of the tyrant Hippias, the son of Pisistratus. His memory was held in great honour at Athens.

[90] Driven out by the invasions of the Peloponnesians, the people of the outlying districts had been obliged to seek refuge within the walls of Athens, where they were lodged wherever they could find room.

[91] A verse borrowed from Euripides' lost play of 'Telephus.'

[92] Themistocles joined the Piraeus to Athens by the construction of the Long Walls.

[93] Which were caught off the Piraeus.

[94] Mitylen, chief city of the Island of Lesbos, rebelled against the Athenians and was retaken by Chares. By a popular decree the whole manhood of the town was to suffer death, but this decree was withdrawn the next day. Aristophanes insinuates that Cleon, bought over with Mitylenaean gold, brought about this change of opinion. On the contrary, Thucydides says that the decree was revoked in spite of Cleon's opposition.

[95] When bucklers were hung up as trophies, it was usual to detach the ring or brace, so as to render them useless for warlike purposes.

[96] An orator of debauched habits.

[97] An accusation frequently hurled at the orators.

[98] Guests took off their shoes before entering the festal hall.

[99] An allusion to Cleon's former calling of a tanner.

[100] A plant from Cyrenaca, which was imported into Athens in large quantities after the conclusion of a treaty of navigation, which Cleon made with this country. It was a very highly valued flavouring for sauces.

[101] The name of a supposed informer. The adjective, [Greek: pyrrhos], yellow, the colour of ordure, is contained in the construction of this name; thus a most disgusting piece of word-play is intended.

[102] The orators were for ever claiming the protection of Athen.

[103] A very expensive burden, which was imposed upon the rich citizen. The trierarchs had to furnish both the equipment of the triremes or war-galleys and their upkeep. They varied considerably in number and ended in reaching a total of 1200; the most opulent found the money, and were later repaid partly and little by little by those not so well circumstanced. Later it was permissible for anyone, appointed as a trierarch, to point out someone richer than himself and to ask to have him take his place with the condition that if the other preferred, he should exchange fortunes with him and continue his office of trierarch.

[104] This is an allusion to some extortion of Cleon's.

[105] The Greek word [Greek: d_emos] means both "The People" and fat, grease. The pun cannot well be kept in English.

[106] A voracious bird—in allusion to Cleon's rapacity and to his loquacity in the Assembly.

[107] The orators were fond of supporting their arguments with imaginary oracles—and Cleon was an especial adept at this dodge.

[108] Smicythes, King of Thrace, spoken of in the oracle as a woman, doubtless on account of his cowardice. The word pursue is here used in a double sense, viz. in battle and in law. It is on account of this latter meaning, that Aristophanes adds "and her spouse," because in cases in which women were sued at law, their husbands were summoned as conjointly liable.

[109] Because he had smashed up and turned upside down the fortunes of Athens.

[110] The pun—rather a far-fetched one—is between the words [Greek: D_orh_osti] (in the Dorian mode) and [Greek: d_orhon] (a bribe).

[111] A Boeotian soothsayer.

[112] A name invented by the Sausage-seller on the spur of the moment, to cap Cleon's boast.

[113] That is, Athenian; Erectheus was an ancient mythical King of Athens.

[114] That is, the tributes paid to Athens by the Aegaean Islands, whether allies or subjects.

[115] The Lacedaemonian prisoners from Sphacteria, so often referred to.

[116] That is, Athenian; Cecrops was the first King of Athens, according to the legends.

[117] There were three towns of this name in different parts of Greece.

[118] There is a pun here which it is impossible to render in English; the Greek [Greek: Pylos](Pylos) differs by only one letter from the word meaning a bath-tub ([Greek: Pyelos]).

[119] Cleon was reproached by his enemies with paying small attention to the regular payment of the sailors.

[120] Another poetical term to signify Athenian; Aegeus, an ancient mythical King of Athens, father of Theseus.

[121] Impudent as a dog and cunning as a fox.

[122] An orator and statesman of the day; practically nothing is known about him.

[123] Another orator and statesman, accused apparently of taking bribes.

[124] As pointed out before, the orators were fond of dragging Athen continually into their speeches.

[125] One of Cleon's protgs and flatterers. The scholiasts say he was his secretary.

[126] Terms borrowed from the circus races.

[127] That is, at the expense of other folk.

[128] Pieces of bread, hollowed out, which were filled with mincemeat or soup.

[129] Both Greeks and Romans drank their wine mixed with water.

[130] After his success in the Sphacteria affair Cleon induced the people to vote him a chaplet of gold.

[131] That is, by means of the mechanical device of the Greek stage known as the [Greek: ekkukl_ema].

[132] Parody of a well-known verse from Euripides' 'Alcestis.'

[133] The name Agoracritus is compounded: cf. [Greek: agora], a market-place, and [Greek: krinein], to judge.

[134] This grandiloquent opening is borrowed from Pindar.

[135] Mentioned in the 'Acharnians.'

[136] A soothsayer.

[137] A flute-player.

[138] An allusion to the vice of the 'cunnilingue,' apparently a novel form of naughtiness at Athens in Aristophanes' day.

[139] As well known for his gluttony as for his cowardice.

[140] One of the most noisy demagogues of Cleon's party; he succeeded him, but was later condemned to ostracism.

[141] A town in Bithynia, situated at the entrance of the Bosphorus and nearly opposite Byzantium. It was one of the most important towns in Asia Minor. Doubtless Hyperbolus only demanded so large a fleet to terrorize the towns and oppress them at will.

[142] These temples were inviolable places of refuge, where even slaves were secure.

[143] A rocky cleft at the back of the Acropolis into which criminals were hurled.

[144] Young and effeminate orators of licentious habits.

[145] By adroit special pleading he had contrived to get his acquittal, when charged with a capital offence.

[146] They were personified on the stage as pretty little filles de joie.



This is the first of the series of three Comedies—'The Acharnians,' 'Peace' and 'Lysistrata'—produced at intervals of years, the sixth, tenth and twenty-first of the Peloponnesian War, and impressing on the Athenian people the miseries and disasters due to it and to the scoundrels who by their selfish and reckless policy had provoked it, the consequent ruin of industry and, above all, agriculture, and the urgency of asking Peace. In date it is the earliest play brought out by the author in his own name and his first work of serious importance. It was acted at the Lenaean Festival, in January, 426 B.C., and gained the first prize, Cratinus being second.

Its diatribes against the War and fierce criticism of the general policy of the War party so enraged Cleon that, as already mentioned, he endeavoured to ruin the author, who in 'The Knights' retorted by a direct and savage personal attack on the leader of the democracy. The plot is of the simplest. Dicaeopolis, an Athenian citizen, but a native of Acharnae, one of the agricultural demes and one which had especially suffered in the Lacedaemonian invasions, sick and tired of the ill-success and miseries of the War, makes up his mind, if he fails to induce the people to adopt his policy of "peace at any price," to conclude a private and particular peace of his own to cover himself, his family, and his estate. The Athenians, momentarily elated by victory and over-persuaded by the demagogues of the day—Cleon and his henchmen, refuse to hear of such a thing as coming to terms. Accordingly Dicaeopolis dispatches an envoy to Sparta on his own account, who comes back presently with a selection of specimen treaties in his pocket. The old man tastes and tries, special terms are arranged, and the play concludes with a riotous and uproarious rustic feast in honour of the blessings of Peace and Plenty. Incidentally excellent fun is poked at Euripides and his dramatic methods, which supply matter for so much witty badinage in several others of our author's pieces.

Other specially comic incidents are: the scene where the two young daughters of the famished Megarian are sold in the market at Athens as sucking-pigs—a scene in which the convenient similarity of the Greek words signifying a pig and the 'pudendum muliebre' respectively is utilized in a whole string of ingenious and suggestive 'double entendres' and ludicrous jokes; another where the Informer, or Market-Spy, is packed up in a crate as crockery and carried off home by the Boeotian buyer.

The drama takes its title from the Chorus, composed of old men of Acharnae.

* * * * *




SCENE: The Athenian Ecclesia on the Pnyx; afterwards Dicaeopolis' house in the country.

* * * * *


DICAEOPOLIS[147] (alone). What cares have not gnawed at my heart and how few have been the pleasures in my life! Four, to be exact, while my troubles have been as countless as the grains of sand on the shore! Let me see of what value to me have been these few pleasures? Ah! I remember that I was delighted in soul when Cleon had to disgorge those five talents;[148] I was in ecstasy and I love the Knights for this deed; 'it is an honour to Greece.'[149] But the day when I was impatiently awaiting a piece by Aeschylus,[150] what tragic despair it caused me when the herald called, "Theognis,[151] introduce your Chorus!" Just imagine how this blow struck straight at my heart! On the other hand, what joy Dexitheus caused me at the musical competition, when he played a Boeotian melody on the lyre! But this year by contrast! Oh! what deadly torture to hear Chaeris[152] perform the prelude in the Orthian mode![153]—Never, however, since I began to bathe, has the dust hurt my eyes as it does to-day. Still it is the day of assembly; all should be here at daybreak, and yet the Pnyx[154] is still deserted. They are gossiping in the market-place, slipping hither and thither to avoid the vermilioned rope.[155] The Prytanes[156] even do not come; they will be late, but when they come they will push and fight each other for a seat in the front row. They will never trouble themselves with the question of peace. Oh! Athens! Athens! As for myself, I do not fail to come here before all the rest, and now, finding myself alone, I groan, yawn, stretch, break wind, and know not what to do; I make sketches in the dust, pull out my loose hairs, muse, think of my fields, long for peace, curse town life and regret my dear country home,[157] which never told me to 'buy fuel, vinegar or oil'; there the word 'buy,' which cuts me in two, was unknown; I harvested everything at will. Therefore I have come to the assembly fully prepared to bawl, interrupt and abuse the speakers, if they talk of aught but peace. But here come the Prytanes, and high time too, for it is midday! As I foretold, hah! is it not so? They are pushing and fighting for the front seats.

HERALD. Move on up, move on, move on, to get within the consecrated area.[158]

AMPHITHEUS. Has anyone spoken yet?

HERALD. Who asks to speak?


HERALD. Your name?

AMPHITHEUS. Amphitheus.

HERALD. You are no man.[159]

AMPHITHEUS. No! I am an immortal! Amphitheus was the son of Ceres and Triptolemus; of him was born Celeus. Celeus wedded Phaencret, my grandmother, whose son was Lucinus, and, being born of him, I am an immortal; it is to me alone that the gods have entrusted the duty of treating with the Lacedaemonians. But, citizens, though I am immortal, I am dying of hunger; the Prytanes give me naught.[160]


AMPHITHEUS. Oh, Triptolemus and Ceres, do ye thus forsake your own blood?

DICAEOPOLIS. Prytanes, in expelling this citizen, you are offering an outrage to the Assembly. He only desired to secure peace for us and to sheathe the sword.

PRYTANIS. Sit down and keep silence!

DICAEOPOLIS. No, by Apollo, will I not, unless you are going to discuss the question of peace.

HERALD. The ambassadors, who are returned from the Court of the King!

DICAEOPOLIS. Of what King? I am sick of all those fine birds, the peacock ambassadors and their swagger.

HERALD. Silence!

DICAEOPOLIS. Oh! oh! by Ecbatana,[161] what assumption!

AN AMBASSADOR. During the archonship of Euthymenes, you sent us to the Great King on a salary of two drachmae per diem.

DICAEOPOLIS. Ah! those poor drachmae!

AMBASSADOR. We suffered horribly on the plains of the Caster, sleeping under a tent, stretched deliciously on fine chariots, half dead with weariness.

DICAEOPOLIS. And I was very much at ease, lying on the straw along the battlements![162]

AMBASSADOR. Everywhere we were well received and forced to drink delicious wine out of golden or crystal flagons....

DICAEOPOLIS. Oh, city of Cranaus,[163] thy ambassadors are laughing at thee!

AMBASSADOR. For great feeders and heavy drinkers are alone esteemed as men by the barbarians.

DICAEOPOLIS. Just as here in Athens, we only esteem the most drunken debauchees.

AMBASSADOR. At the end of the fourth year we reached the King's Court, but he had left with his whole army to ease himself, and for the space of eight months he was thus easing himself in midst of the golden mountains.[164]

DICAEOPOLIS. And how long was he replacing his dress?

AMBASSADOR. The whole period of a full moon; after which he returned to his palace; then he entertained us and had us served with oxen roasted whole in an oven.

DICAEOPOLIS. Who ever saw an oxen baked in an oven? What a lie!

AMBASSADOR. On my honour, he also had us served with a bird three times as large as Cleonymus,[165] and called the Boaster.

DICAEOPOLIS. And do we give you two drachmae, that you should treat us to all this humbug?

AMBASSADOR. We are bringing to you, Pseudartabas,[166] the King's Eye.

DICAEOPOLIS. I would a crow might pluck out thine with his beak, thou cursed ambassador!

HERALD. The King's Eye!

DICAEOPOLIS. Eh! Great gods! Friend, with thy great eye, round like the hole through which the oarsman passes his sweep, you have the air of a galley doubling a cape to gain the port.

AMBASSADOR. Come, Pseudartabas, give forth the message for the Athenians with which you were charged by the Great King.

PSEUDARTABAS. Jartaman exarx 'anapissonnai satra.[167]

AMBASSADOR. Do you understand what he says?

DICAEOPOLIS. By Apollo, not I!

AMBASSADOR. He says, that the Great King will send you gold. Come, utter the word 'gold' louder and more distinctly.

DICAEOPOLIS. Thou shalt not have gold, thou gaping-arsed Ionian.[168]

DICAEOPOLIS. Ah! may the gods forgive me, but that is clear enough.

AMBASSADOR. What does he say?

DICAEOPOLIS. That the Ionians are debauchees and idiots, if they expect to receive gold from the barbarians.

AMBASSADOR. Not so, he speaks of medimni[169] of gold.

DICAEOPOLIS. What medimni? Thou art but a great braggart; but get your way, I will find out the truth by myself. Come now, answer me clearly, if you do not wish me to dye your skin red. Will the Great King send us gold? (Pseudartabas makes a negative sign.) Then our ambassadors are seeking to deceive us? (Pseudartabas signs affirmatively.) These fellows make signs like any Greek; I am sure that they are nothing but Athenians. Oh, ho! I recognize one of these eunuchs; it is Clisthenes, the son of Sibyrtius.[170] Behold the effrontery of this shaven rump! How! great baboon, with such a beard do you seek to play the eunuch to us? And this other one? Is it not Straton?

HERALD. Silence! Let all be seated. The Senate invites the King's Eye to the Prytaneum.[171]

DICAEOPOLIS. Is this not sufficient to drive one to hang oneself? Here I stand chilled to the bone, whilst the doors of the Prytaneum fly wide open to lodge such rascals. But I will do something great and bold. Where is Amphitheus? Come and speak with me.


DICAEOPOLIS. Take these eight drachmae and go and conclude a truce with the Lacedaemonians for me, my wife and my children; I leave you free, my dear citizens, to send out embassies and to stand gaping in the air.

HERALD. Bring in Theorus, who has returned from the Court of Sitalces.[172]

THEORUS. I am here.

DICAEOPOLIS. Another humbug!

THEORUS. We should not have remained long in Thrace....

DICAEOPOLIS. Forsooth, no, if you had not been well paid.

THEORUS. ... If the country had not been covered with snow; the rivers were ice-bound at the time that Theognis[173] brought out his tragedy here; during the whole of that time I was holding my own with Sitalces, cup in hand; and, in truth, he adored you to such a degree, that he wrote on the walls, "How beautiful are the Athenians!" His son, to whom we gave the freedom of the city, burned with desire to come here and eat chitterlings at the feast of the Apaturia;[174] he prayed his father to come to the aid of his new country and Sitalces swore on his goblet that he would succour us with such a host that the Athenians would exclaim, "What a cloud of grasshoppers!"

DICAEOPOLIS. May I die if I believe a word of what you tell us! Excepting the grasshoppers, there is not a grain of truth in it all!

THEORUS. And he has sent you the most warlike soldiers of all Thrace.

DICAEOPOLIS. Now we shall begin to see clearly.

HERALD. Come hither, Thracians, whom Theorus brought.

DICAEOPOLIS. What plague have we here?

THEORUS. 'Tis the host of the Odomanti.[175]

DICAEOPOLIS. Of the Odomanti? Tell me what it means. Who has mutilated their tools like this?

THEORUS. If they are given a wage of two drachmae, they will put all Boeotia[176] to fire and sword.

DICAEOPOLIS. Two drachmae to those circumcised hounds! Groan aloud, ye people of rowers, bulwark of Athens! Ah! great gods! I am undone; these Odomanti are robbing me of my garlic![177] Will you give me back my garlic?

THEORUS. Oh! wretched man! do not go near them; they have eaten garlic.[178]

DICAEOPOLIS. Prytanes, will you let me be treated in this manner, in my own country and by barbarians? But I oppose the discussion of paying a wage to the Thracians; I announce an omen; I have just felt a drop of rain.[179]

HERALD. Let the Thracians withdraw and return the day after to-morrow; the Prytanes declare the sitting at an end.

DICAEOPOLIS. Ye gods, what garlic I have lost! But here comes Amphitheus returned from Lacedaemon. Welcome, Amphitheus.

AMPHITHEUS. No, there is no welcome for me and I fly as fast as I can, for I am pursued by the Acharnians.

DICAEOPOLIS. Why, what has happened?

AMPHITHEUS. I was hurrying to bring your treaty of truce, but some old dotards from Acharnae[180] got scent of the thing; they are veterans of Marathon, tough as oak or maple, of which they are made for sure—rough and ruthless. They all set to a-crying, "Wretch! you are the bearer of a treaty, and the enemy has only just cut our vines!" Meanwhile they were gathering stones in their cloaks, so I fled and they ran after me shouting.

DICAEOPOLIS. Let 'em shout as much as they please! But have you brought me a treaty?

AMPHITHEUS. Most certainly, here are three samples to select from,[181] this one is five years old; take it and taste.



DICAEOPOLIS. It does not please me; it smells of pitch and of the ships they are fitting out.[182]

AMPHITHEUS. Here is another, ten years old; taste it.

DICAEOPOLIS. It smells strongly of the delegates, who go round the towns to chide the allies for their slowness.[183]

AMPHITHEUS. This last is a truce of thirty years, both on sea and land.

DICAEOPOLIS. Oh! by Bacchus! what a bouquet! It has the aroma of nectar and ambrosia; this does not say to us, "Provision yourselves for three days." But it lisps the gentle numbers, "Go whither you will."[184] I accept it, ratify it, drink it at one draught and consign the Acharnians to limbo. Freed from the war and its ills, I shall keep the Dionysia[185] in the country.

AMPHITHEUS. And I shall run away, for I'm mortally afraid of the Acharnians.

CHORUS. This way all! Let us follow our man; we will demand him of everyone we meet; the public weal makes his seizure imperative. Ho, there! tell me which way the bearer of the truce has gone; he has escaped us, he has disappeared. Curse old age! When I was young, in the days when I followed Phayllus,[186] running with a sack of coals on my back, this wretch would not have eluded my pursuit, let him be as swift as he will; but now my limbs are stiff; old Lacratides[187] feels his legs are weighty and the traitor escapes me. No, no, let us follow him; old Acharnians like ourselves shall not be set at naught by a scoundrel, who has dared, great gods! to conclude a truce, when I wanted the war continued with double fury in order to avenge my ruined lands. No mercy for our foes until I have pierced their hearts like a sharp reed, so that they dare never again ravage my vineyards. Come, let us seek the rascal; let us look everywhere, carrying our stones in our hands; let us hunt him from place to place until we trap him; I could never, never tire of the delight of stoning him.

DICAEOPOLIS. Peace! profane men![188]

CHORUS. Silence all! Friends, do you hear the sacred formula? Here is he, whom we seek! This way, all! Get out of his way, surely he comes to offer an oblation.

DICAEOPOLIS. Peace, profane men! Let the basket-bearer[189] come forward, and thou, Xanthias, hold the phallus well upright.[190]

WIFE OF DICAEOPOLIS. Daughter, set down the basket and let us begin the sacrifice.

DAUGHTER OF DICAEOPOLIS. Mother, hand me the ladle, that I may spread the sauce on the cake.

DICAEOPOLIS. It is well! Oh, mighty Bacchus, it is with joy that, freed from military duty, I and all mine perform this solemn rite and offer thee this sacrifice; grant, that I may keep the rural Dionysia without hindrance and that this truce of thirty years may be propitious for me.

WIFE OF DICAEOPOLIS. Come, my child, carry the basket gracefully and with a grave, demure face. Happy he, who shall be your possessor and embrace you so firmly at dawn,[191] that you belch wind like a weasel. Go forward, and have a care they don't snatch your jewels in the crowd.

DICAEOPOLIS. Xanthias, walk behind the basket-bearer and hold the phallus well erect; I will follow, singing the Phallic hymn; thou, wife, look on from the top of the terrace.[192] Forward! Oh, Phales,[193] companion of the orgies of Bacchus, night reveller, god of adultery, friend of young men, these past six[194] years I have not been able to invoke thee. With what joy I return to my farmstead, thanks to the truce I have concluded, freed from cares, from fighting and from Lamachuses![195] How much sweeter, Phales, oh, Phales, is it to surprise Thratta, the pretty wood-maid, Strymodorus' slave, stealing wood from Mount Phelleus, to catch her under the arms, to throw her on the ground and possess her! Oh, Phales, Phales! If thou wilt drink and bemuse thyself with me, we will to-morrow consume some good dish in honour of the peace, and I will hang up my buckler over the smoking hearth.

CHORUS. It is he, he himself. Stone him, stone him, stone him, strike the wretch. All, all of you, pelt him, pelt him!

DICAEOPOLIS. What is this? By Heracles, you will smash my pot.[196]

CHORUS. It is you that we are stoning, you miserable scoundrel.

DICAEOPOLIS. And for what sin, Acharnian Elders, tell me that!

CHORUS. You ask that, you impudent rascal, traitor to your country; you alone amongst us all have concluded a truce, and you dare to look us in the face!

DICAEOPOLIS. But you do not know why I have treated for peace. Listen!

CHORUS. Listen to you? No, no, you are about to die, we will annihilate you with our stones.

DICAEOPOLIS. But first of all, listen. Stop, my friends.

CHORUS. I will hear nothing; do not address me; I hate you more than I do Cleon,[197] whom one day I shall flay to make sandals for the Knights. Listen to your long speeches, after you have treated with the Laconians! No, I will punish you.

DICAEOPOLIS. Friends, leave the Laconians out of debate and consider only whether I have not done well to conclude my truce.

CHORUS. Done well! when you have treated with a people who know neither gods, nor truth, nor faith.

DICAEOPOLIS. We attribute too much to the Laconians; as for myself, I know that they are not the cause of all our troubles.

CHORUS. Oh, indeed, rascal! You dare to use such language to me and then expect me to spare you!

DICAEOPOLIS. No, no, they are not the cause of all our troubles, and I who address you claim to be able to prove that they have much to complain of in us.

CHORUS. This passes endurance; my heart bounds with fury. Thus you dare to defend our enemies.

DICAEOPOLIS. Were my head on the block I would uphold what I say and rely on the approval of the people.

CHORUS. Comrades, let us hurl our stones and dye this fellow purple.

DICAEOPOLIS. What black fire-brand has inflamed your heart! You will not hear me? You really will not, Acharnians?

CHORUS. No, a thousand times, no.

DICAEOPOLIS. This is a hateful injustice.

CHORUS. May I die, if I listen.

DICAEOPOLIS. Nay, nay! have mercy, have mercy, Acharnians.

CHORUS. You shall die.

DICAEOPOLIS. Well, blood for blood! I will kill your dearest friend. I have here the hostages of Acharnae;[198] I shall disembowel them.

CHORUS. Acharnians, what means this threat? Has he got one of our children in his house? What gives him such audacity?

DICAEOPOLIS. Stone me, if it please you; I shall avenge myself on this. (Shows a basket.) Let us see whether you have any love for your coals.

CHORUS. Great gods! this basket is our fellow-citizen. Stop, stop, in heaven's name!

DICAEOPOLIS. I shall dismember it despite your cries; I will listen to nothing.

CHORUS. How! will you kill this coal-basket, my beloved comrade?

DICAEOPOLIS. Just now, you did not listen to me.

CHORUS. Well, speak now, if you will; tell us, tell us you have a weakness for the Lacedaemonians. I consent to anything; never will I forsake this dear little basket.

DICAEOPOLIS. First, throw down your stones.

CHORUS. There! 'tis done. And you, do you put away your sword.

DICAEOPOLIS. Let me see that no stones remain concealed in your cloaks.

CHORUS. They are all on the ground; see how we shake our garments. Come, no haggling, lay down your sword; we threw away everything while crossing from one side of the stage to the other.[199]

DICAEOPOLIS. What cries of anguish you would have uttered had these coals of Parnes[200] been dismembered, and yet it came very near it; had they perished, their death would have been due to the folly of their fellow-citizens. The poor basket was so frightened, look, it has shed a thick black dust over me, the same as a cuttle-fish does. What an irritable temper! You shout and throw stones, you will not hear my arguments—not even when I propose to speak in favour of the Lacedaemonians with my head on the block; and yet I cling to my life.

CHORUS. Well then, bring out a block before your door, scoundrel, and let us hear the good grounds you can give us; I am curious to know them. Now mind, as you proposed yourself, place your head on the block and speak.

DICAEOPOLIS. Here is the block; and, though I am but a very sorry speaker, I wish nevertheless to talk freely of the Lacedaemonians and without the protection of my buckler. Yet I have many reasons for fear. I know our rustics; they are delighted if some braggart comes, and rightly or wrongly loads both them and their city with praise and flattery; they do not see that such toad-eaters[201] are traitors, who sell them for gain. As for the old men, I know their weakness; they only seek to overwhelm the accused with their votes.[202] Nor have I forgotten how Cleon treated me because of my comedy last year;[203] he dragged me before the Senate and there he uttered endless slanders against me; 'twas a tempest of abuse, a deluge of lies. Through what a slough of mud he dragged me! I nigh perished. Permit me, therefore, before I speak, to dress in the manner most likely to draw pity.

CHORUS. What evasions, subterfuges and delays! Hold! here is the sombre helmet of Pluto with its thick bristling plume; Hieronymus[204] lends it to you; then open Sisyphus'[205] bag of wiles; but hurry, hurry, pray, for our discussion does not admit of delay.

DICAEOPOLIS. The time has come for me to manifest my courage, so I will go and seek Euripides. Ho! slave, slave!

SLAVE. Who's there?

DICAEOPOLIS. Is Euripides at home?

SLAVE. He is and he isn't; understand that, if you have wit for't.

DICAEOPOLIS. How? He is and he isn't![206]

SLAVE. Certainly, old man; busy gathering subtle fancies here and there, his mind is not in the house, but he himself is; perched aloft, he is composing a tragedy.

DICAEOPOLIS. Oh, Euripides, you are indeed happy to have a slave so quick at repartee! Now, fellow, call your master.

SLAVE. Impossible!

DICAEOPOLIS. So much the worse. But I will not go. Come, let us knock at the door. Euripides, my little Euripides, my darling Euripides, listen; never had man greater right to your pity. It is Dicaeopolis of the Chollidan Deme who calls you. Do you hear?

EURIPIDES. I have no time to waste.

DICAEOPOLIS. Very well, have yourself wheeled out here.[207]

EURIPIDES. Impossible.

DICAEOPOLIS. Nevertheless....

EURIPIDES. Well, let them roll me out; as to coming down, I have not the time.

DICAEOPOLIS. Euripides....

EURIPIDES. What words strike my ear?

DICAEOPOLIS. You perch aloft to compose tragedies, when you might just as well do them on the ground. I am not astonished at your introducing cripples on the stage.[208] And why dress in these miserable tragic rags? I do not wonder that your heroes are beggars. But, Euripides, on my knees I beseech you, give me the tatters of some old piece: for I have to treat the Chorus to a long speech, and if I do it ill it is all over with me.

EURIPIDES. What rags do you prefer? Those in which I rigged out Aeneus[209] on the stage, that unhappy, miserable old man?

DICAEOPOLIS. No, I want those of some hero still more unfortunate.

EURIPIDES. Of Phoenix, the blind man?

DICAEOPOLIS. No, not of Phoenix, you have another hero more unfortunate than him.

EURIPIDES. Now, what tatters does he want? Do you mean those of the beggar Philoctetes?

DICAEOPOLIS. No, of another far more the mendicant.

EURIPIDES. Is it the filthy dress of the lame fellow, Bellerophon?

DICAEOPOLIS. No, 'tis not Bellerophon; he, whom I mean, was not only lame and a beggar, but boastful and a fine speaker.

EURIPIDES. Ah! I know, it is Telephus, the Mysian.

DICAEOPOLIS. Yes, Telephus. Give me his rags, I beg of you.

EURIPIDES. Slave! give him Telephus' tatters; they are on top of the rags of Thyestes and mixed with those of Ino.

SLAVE. Catch hold! here they are.

DICAEOPOLIS. Oh! Zeus, whose eye pierces everywhere and embraces all, permit me to assume the most wretched dress on earth. Euripides, cap your kindness by giving me the little Mysian hat, that goes so well with these tatters. I must to-day have the look of a beggar; "be what I am, but not appear to be";[210] the audience will know well who I am, but the Chorus will be fools enough not to, and I shall dupe 'em with my subtle phrases.

EURIPIDES. I will give you the hat; I love the clever tricks of an ingenious brain like yours.

DICAEOPOLIS. Rest happy, and may it befall Telephus as I wish. Ah! I already feel myself filled with quibbles. But I must have a beggar's staff.

EURIPIDES. Here you are, and now get you gone from this porch.

DICAEOPOLIS. Oh, my soul! You see how you are driven from this house, when I still need so many accessories. But let us be pressing, obstinate, importunate. Euripides, give me a little basket with a lamp alight inside.

EURIPIDES. Whatever do you want such a thing as that for?

DICAEOPOLIS. I do not need it, but I want it all the same.

EURIPIDES. You importune me; get you gone!

DICAEOPOLIS. Alas! may the gods grant you a destiny as brilliant as your mother's.[211]

EURIPIDES. Leave me in peace.

DICAEOPOLIS. Oh! just a little broken cup.

EURIPIDES. Take it and go and hang yourself. What a tiresome fellow!

DICAEOPOLIS. Ah! you do not know all the pain you cause me. Dear, good Euripides, nothing beyond a small pipkin stoppered with a sponge.

EURIPIDES. Miserable man! You are robbing me of an entire tragedy.[212] Here, take it and be off.

DICAEOPOLIS. I am going, but, great gods! I need one thing more; unless I have it, I am a dead man. Hearken, my little Euripides, only give me this and I go, never to return. For pity's sake, do give me a few small herbs for my basket.

EURIPIDES. You wish to ruin me then. Here, take what you want; but it is all over with my pieces!

DICAEOPOLIS. I won't ask another thing; I'm going. I am too importunate and forget that I rouse against me the hate of kings.—Ah! wretch that I am! I am lost! I have forgotten one thing, without which all the rest is as nothing. Euripides, my excellent Euripides, my dear little Euripides, may I die if I ask you again for the smallest present; only one, the last, absolutely the last; give me some of the chervil your mother left you in her will.

EURIPIDES. Insolent hound! Slave, lock the door.

DICAEOPOLIS. Oh, my soul! I must go away without the chervil. Art thou sensible of the dangerous battle we are about to engage upon in defending the Lacedaemonians? Courage, my soul, we must plunge into the midst of it. Dost thou hesitate and art thou fully steeped in Euripides? That's right! do not falter, my poor heart, and let us risk our head to say what we hold for truth. Courage and boldly to the front. I wonder I am so brave!

CHORUS. What do you purport doing? what are you going to say? What an impudent fellow! what a brazen heart! To dare to stake his head and uphold an opinion contrary to that of us all! And he does not tremble to face this peril! Come, it is you who desired it, speak!

DICAEOPOLIS. Spectators, be not angered if, although I am a beggar, I dare in a Comedy to speak before the people of Athens of the public weal; Comedy too can sometimes discern what is right. I shall not please, but I shall say what is true. Besides, Cleon shall not be able to accuse me of attacking Athens before strangers;[213] we are by ourselves at the festival of the Lenaea; the period when our allies send us their tribute and their soldiers is not yet. Here is only the pure wheat without chaff; as to the resident strangers settled among us, they and the citizens are one, like the straw and the ear.

I detest the Lacedaemonians with all my heart, and may Posidon, the god of Taenarus,[214] cause an earthquake and overturn their dwellings! My vines also have been cut. But come (there are only friends who hear me), why accuse the Laconians of all our woes? Some men (I do not say the city, note particularly, that I do not say the city), some wretches, lost in vices, bereft of honour, who were not even citizens of good stamp, but strangers, have accused the Megarians of introducing their produce fraudulently, and not a cucumber, a leveret, a sucking-pig, a clove of garlic, a lump of salt was seen without its being said, "Halloa! these come from Megara," and their being instantly confiscated. Thus far the evil was not serious, and we were the only sufferers. But now some young drunkards go to Megara and carry off the courtesan Simaetha; the Megarians, hurt to the quick, run off in turn with two harlots of the house of Aspasia; and so for three gay women Greece is set ablaze. Then Pericles, aflame with ire on his Olympian height, let loose the lightning, caused the thunder to roll, upset Greece and passed an edict, which ran like the song, "That the Megarians be banished both from our land and from our markets and from the sea and from the continent."[215] Meanwhile the Megarians, who were beginning to die of hunger, begged the Lacedaemonians to bring about the abolition of the decree, of which those harlots were the cause; several times we refused their demand; and from that time there was a horrible clatter of arms everywhere. You will say that Sparta was wrong, but what should she have done? Answer that. Suppose that a Lacedaemonian had seized a little Seriphian[216] dog on any pretext and had sold it, would you have endured it quietly? Far from it, you would at once have sent three hundred vessels to sea, and what an uproar there would have been through all the city! there 'tis a band of noisy soldiery, here a brawl about the election of a Trierarch; elsewhere pay is being distributed, the Pallas figure-heads are being regilded, crowds are surging under the market porticos, encumbered with wheat that is being measured, wine-skins, oar-leathers, garlic, olives, onions in nets; everywhere are chaplets, sprats, flute-girls, black eyes; in the arsenal bolts are being noisily driven home, sweeps are being made and fitted with leathers; we hear nothing but the sound of whistles, of flutes and fifes to encourage the work-folk. That is what you assuredly would have done, and would not Telephus have done the same? So I come to my general conclusion; we have no common sense.

FIRST SEMI-CHORUS. Oh! wretch! oh! infamous man! You are naught but a beggar and yet you dare to talk to us like this! you insult their worships the informers!

SECOND SEMI-CHORUS. By Posidon! he speaks the truth; he has not lied in a single detail.

FIRST SEMI-CHORUS. But though it be true, need he say it? But you'll have no great cause to be proud of your insolence!

SECOND SEMI-CHORUS. Where are you running to? Don't you move; if you strike this man I shall be at you.

FIRST SEMI-CHORUS. Lamachus, whose glance flashes lightning, whose plume petrifies thy foes, help! Oh! Lamachus, my friend, the hero of my tribe and all of you, both officers and soldiers, defenders of our walls, come to my aid; else is it all over with me!

LAMACHUS. Whence comes this cry of battle? where must I bring my aid? where must I sow dread? who wants me to uncase my dreadful Gorgon's head?[217]

DICAEOPOLIS. Oh, Lamachus, great hero! Your plumes and your cohorts terrify me.

CHORUS. This man, Lamachus, incessantly abuses Athens.

LAMACHUS. You are but a mendicant and you dare to use language of this sort?

DICAEOPOLIS. Oh, brave Lamachus, forgive a beggar who speaks at hazard.

LAMACHUS. But what have you said? Let us hear.

DICAEOPOLIS. I know nothing about it; the sight of weapons makes me dizzy. Oh! I adjure you, take that fearful Gorgon somewhat farther away.


DICAEOPOLIS. Now place it face downwards on the ground.

LAMACHUS. It is done.

DICAEOPOLIS. Give me a plume out of your helmet.

LAMACHUS. Here is a feather.

DICAEOPOLIS. And hold my head while I vomit; the plumes have turned my stomach.

LAMACHUS. Hah! what are you proposing to do? do you want to make yourself vomit with this feather?

DICAEOPOLIS. Is it a feather? what bird's? a braggart's?

LAMACHUS. Ah! ah! I will rip you open.

DICAEOPOLIS. No, no, Lamachus! Violence is out of place here! But as you are so strong, why did you not circumcise me? You have all you want for the operation there.

LAMACHUS. A beggar dares thus address a general!

DICAEOPOLIS. How? Am I a beggar?

LAMACHUS. What are you then?

DICAEOPOLIS. Who am I? A good citizen, not ambitious; a soldier, who has fought well since the outbreak of the war, whereas you are but a vile mercenary.

LAMACHUS. They elected me....

DICAEOPOLIS. Yes, three cuckoos did![218] If I have concluded peace, 'twas disgust that drove me; for I see men with hoary heads in the ranks and young fellows of your age shirking service. Some are in Thrace getting an allowance of three drachmae, such fellows as Tisameophoenippus and Panurgipparchides. The others are with Chares or in Chaonia, men like Geretotheodorus and Diomialazon; there are some of the same kidney, too, at Camarina and at Gela,[219] the laughing-stock of all and sundry.

LAMACHUS. They were elected.

DICAEOPOLIS. And why do you always receive your pay, when none of these others ever get any? Speak, Marilades, you have grey hair; well then, have you ever been entrusted with a mission? See! he shakes his head. Yet he is an active as well as a prudent man. And you, Dracyllus, Euphorides or Prinides, have you knowledge of Ecbatana or Chaonia? You say no, do you not? Such offices are good for the son of Caesyra[220] and Lamachus, who, but yesterday ruined with debt, never pay their shot, and whom all their friends avoid as foot passengers dodge the folks who empty their slops out of window.

LAMACHUS. Oh! in freedom's name! are such exaggerations to be borne?

DICAEOPOLIS. Lamachus is well content; no doubt he is well paid, you know.

LAMACHUS. But I propose always to war with the Peloponnesians, both at sea, on land and everywhere to make them tremble, and trounce them soundly.

DICAEOPOLIS. For my own part, I make proclamation to all Peloponnesians, Megarians and Boeotians, that to them my markets are open; but I debar Lamachus from entering them.

CHORUS. Convinced by this man's speech, the folk have changed their view and approve him for having concluded peace. But let us prepare for the recital of the parabasis.[221]

Never since our poet presented Comedies, has he praised himself upon the stage; but, having been slandered by his enemies amongst the volatile Athenians, accused of scoffing at his country and of insulting the people, to-day he wishes to reply and regain for himself the inconstant Athenians. He maintains that he has done much that is good for you; if you no longer allow yourselves to be too much hoodwinked by strangers or seduced by flattery, if in politics you are no longer the ninnies you once were, it is thanks to him. Formerly, when delegates from other cities wanted to deceive you, they had but to style you, "the people crowned with violets," and, at the word "violets" you at once sat erect on the tips of your bums. Or, if to tickle your vanity, someone spoke of "rich and sleek Athens," in return for that 'sleekness' he would get all, because he spoke of you as he would have of anchovies in oil. In cautioning you against such wiles, the poet has done you great service as well as in forcing you to understand what is really the democratic principle. Thus, the strangers, who came to pay their tributes, wanted to see this great poet, who had dared to speak the truth to Athens. And so far has the fame of his boldness reached that one day the Great King, when questioning the Lacedaemonian delegates, first asked them which of the two rival cities was the superior at sea, and then immediately demanded at which it was that the comic poet directed his biting satire. "Happy that city," he added, "if it listens to his counsel; it will grow in power, and its victory is assured." This is why the Lacedaemonians offer you peace, if you will cede them Aegina; not that they care for the isle, but they wish to rob you of your poet.[222] As for you, never lose him, who will always fight for the cause of justice in his Comedies; he promises you that his precepts will lead you to happiness, though he uses neither flattery, nor bribery, nor intrigue, nor deceit; instead of loading you with praise, he will point you to the better way. I scoff at Cleon's tricks and plotting; honesty and justice shall fight my cause; never will you find me a political poltroon, a prostitute to the highest bidder.

I invoke thee, Acharnian Muse, fierce and fell as the devouring fire; sudden as the spark that bursts from the crackling oaken coal when roused by the quickening fan to fry little fishes, while others knead the dough or whip the sharp Thasian pickle with rapid hand, so break forth, my Muse, and inspire thy tribesmen with rough, vigorous, stirring strains.

We others, now old men and heavy with years, we reproach the city; so many are the victories we have gained for the Athenian fleets that we well deserve to be cared for in our declining life; yet far from this, we are ill-used, harassed with law-suits, delivered over to the scorn of stripling orators. Our minds and bodies being ravaged with age, Posidon should protect us, yet we have no other support than a staff. When standing before the judge, we can scarcely stammer forth the fewest words, and of justice we see but its barest shadow, whereas the accuser, desirous of conciliating the younger men, overwhelms us with his ready rhetoric; he drags us before the judge, presses us with questions, lays traps for us; the onslaught troubles, upsets and rends poor old Tithonus, who, crushed with age, stands tongue-tied; sentenced to a fine,[223] he weeps, he sobs and says to his friend, "This fine robs me of the last trifle that was to have bought my coffin."

Is this not a scandal? What! the clepsydra[224] is to kill the white-haired veteran, who, in fierce fighting, has so oft covered himself with glorious sweat, whose valour at Marathon saved the country! 'Twas we who pursued on the field of Marathon, whereas now 'tis wretches who pursue us to the death and crush us! What would Marpsias reply to this?[225] What an injustice, that a man, bent with age like Thucydides, should be brow-beaten by this braggart advocate, Cephisodemus,[226] who is as savage as the Scythian desert he was born in! Is it not to convict him from the outset? I wept tears of pity when I saw an Archer[227] maltreat this old man, who, by Ceres, when he was young and the true Thucydides, would not have permitted an insult from Ceres herself! At that date he would have floored ten miserable orators, he would have terrified three thousand Archers with his shouts; he would have pierced the whole line of the enemy with his shafts. Ah! but if you will not leave the aged in peace, decree that the advocates be matched; thus the old man will only be confronted with a toothless greybeard, the young will fight with the braggart, the ignoble with the son of Clinias[228]; make a law that in future, the old man can only be summoned and convicted at the courts by the aged and the young man by the youth.

DICAEOPOLIS. These are the confines of my market-place. All Peloponnesians, Megarians, Boeotians, have the right to come and trade here, provided they sell their wares to me and not to Lamachus. As market-inspectors I appoint these three whips of Leprean[229] leather, chosen by lot. Warned away are all informers and all men of Phasis.[230] They are bringing me the pillar on which the treaty is inscribed[231] and I shall erect it in the centre of the market, well in sight of all.

A MEGARIAN. Hail! market of Athens, beloved of Megarians. Let Zeus, the patron of friendship, witness, I regretted you as a mother mourns her son. Come, poor little daughters of an unfortunate father, try to find something to eat; listen to me with the full heed of an empty belly. Which would you prefer? To be sold or to cry with hunger.

DAUGHTERS. To be sold, to be sold!

MEGARIAN. That is my opinion too. But who would make so sorry a deal as to buy you? Ah! I recall me a Megarian trick; I am going to disguise you as little porkers, that I am offering for sale. Fit your hands with these hoofs and take care to appear the issue of a sow of good breed, for, if I am forced to take you back to the house, by Hermes! you will suffer cruelly of hunger! Then fix on these snouts and cram yourselves into this sack. Forget not to grunt and to say wee-wee like the little pigs that are sacrificed in the Mysteries. I must summon Dicaeopolis. Where is he? Dicaeopolis, will you buy some nice little porkers?

DICAEOPOLIS. Who are you? a Megarian?

MEGARIAN. I have come to your market.

DICAEOPOLIS. Well, how are things at Megara?[232]

MEGARIAN. We are crying with hunger at our firesides.

DICAEOPOLIS. The fireside is jolly enough with a piper. But what else is doing at Megara, eh?

MEGARIAN. What else? When I left for the market, the authorities were taking steps to let us die in the quickest manner.

DICAEOPOLIS. That is the best way to get you out of all your troubles.


DICAEOPOLIS. What other news of Megara? What is wheat selling at?

MEGARIAN. With us it is valued as highly as the very gods in heaven!

DICAEOPOLIS. Is it salt that you are bringing?

MEGARIAN. Are you not holding back the salt?

DICAEOPOLIS. 'Tis garlic then?

MEGARIAN. What! garlic! do you not at every raid grub up the ground with your pikes to pull out every single head?

DICAEOPOLIS. What do you bring then?

MEGARIAN. Little sows, like those they immolate at the Mysteries.

DICAEOPOLIS. Ah! very well, show me them.

MEGARIAN. They are very fine; feel their weight. See! how fat and fine.

DICAEOPOLIS. But what is this?

MEGARIAN. A sow, for a certainty.[233]

DICAEOPOLIS. You say a sow! of what country, then?

MEGARIAN. From Megara. What! is that not a sow then?

DICAEOPOLIS. No, I don't believe it is.

MEGARIAN. This is too much! what an incredulous man! He says 'tis not a sow; but we will stake, an you will, a measure of salt ground up with thyme, that in good Greek this is called a sow and nothing else.

DICAEOPOLIS. But a sow of the human kind.

MEGARIAN. Without question, by Diocles! of my own breed! Well! What think you? will you hear them squeal?

DICAEOPOLIS. Well, yes, i' faith, I will.

MEGARIAN. Cry quickly, wee sowlet; squeak up, hussy, or by Hermes! I take you back to the house.

GIRL. Wee-wee, wee-wee!

MEGARIAN. Is that a little sow, or not?

DICAEOPOLIS. Yes, it seems so; but let it grow up, and it will be a fine fat cunt.

MEGARIAN. In five years it will be just like its mother.

DICAEOPOLIS. But it cannot be sacrificed.

MEGARIAN. And why not?

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse