Part 1 out of 7
Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Thomas Berger, and the Online Distributed
The Athenian Society
THE ELEVEN COMEDIES
Now For The First Time Literally And Completely Translated From The Greek
Tongue Into English
With Translator's Foreword An Introduction To Each Comedy And Elucidatory
The First Of Two Volumes
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CONTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME
Text And Notes
Text And Notes
Text And Notes
Text And Notes
Text And Notes
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Perhaps the first thing to strike us--paradoxical as it may sound to say
so--about the Athenian 'Old Comedy' is its _modernness_. Of its very
nature, satiric drama comes later than Epic and Lyric poetry, Tragedy or
History; Aristophanes follows Homer and Simonides, Sophocles and
Thucydides. Of its essence, it is free from many of the conventions and
restraining influences of earlier forms of literature, and enjoys much of
the liberty of choice of subject and licence of method that marks
present-day conditions of literary production both on and off the stage.
Its very existence presupposes a fuller and bolder intellectual life, a
more advanced and complex city civilization, a keener taste and livelier
faculty of comprehension in the people who appreciate it, than could
anywhere be found at an earlier epoch. Speaking broadly and generally,
the Aristophanic drama has more in common with modern ways of looking at
things, more in common with the conditions of the modern stage,
especially in certain directions--burlesque, extravaganza, musical farce,
and even 'pantomime,' than with the earlier and graver products of the
The eleven plays, all that have come down to us out of a total of over
forty staged by our author in the course of his long career, deal with
the events of the day, the incidents and personages of contemporary
Athenian city life, playing freely over the surface of things familiar to
the audience and naturally provoking their interest and rousing their
prejudices, dealing with contemporary local gossip, contemporary art and
literature, and above all contemporary politics, domestic and foreign.
All this _farrago_ of miscellaneous subjects is treated in a frank,
uncompromising spirit of criticism and satire, a spirit of broad fun,
side-splitting laughter and reckless high spirits. Whatever lends itself
to ridicule is instantly seized upon; odd, eccentric and degraded
personalities are caricatured, social foibles and vices pilloried,
pomposity and sententiousness in the verses of the poets, particularly
the tragedians, and most particularly in Euripides--the pet aversion and
constant butt of Aristophanes' satire--are parodied. All is fish that
comes to the Comic dramatists net, anything that will raise a laugh is
"It is difficult to compare the Aristophanic Comedy to any one form of
modern literature, dramatic or other. It perhaps most resembles what we
now call burlesque; but it had also very much in it of broad farce and
comic opera, and something also (in the hits at the fashions and follies
of the day with which it abounded) of the modern pantomime. But it was
something more, and more important to the Athenian public than any or all
of these could have been. Almost always more or less political, and
sometimes intensely personal, and always with some purpose more or less
important underlying its wildest vagaries and coarsest buffooneries, it
supplied the place of the political journal, the literary review, the
popular caricature and the party pamphlet, of our own times. It combined
the attractions and influence of all these; for its grotesque masks and
elaborate 'spectacle' addressed the eye as strongly as the author's
keenest witticisms did the ear of his audience."
Rollicking, reckless, uproarious fun is the key-note; though a more
serious intention is always latent underneath. Aristophanes was a
strong--sometimes an unscrupulous--partisan; he was an uncompromising
Conservative of the old school, an ardent admirer of the vanishing
aristocratic régime, an anti-Imperialist--'Imperialism' was a
_democratic_ craze at Athens--and never lost an opportunity of throwing
scorn on Cleon the demagogue, his political _bête noïre_ and personal
enemy, Cleon's henchmen of the popular faction, and the War party
generally. Gravity, solemnity, seriousness, are conspicuous by their
absence; even that 'restraint' which is the salient characteristic of
Greek expression in literature no less than in Art, is largely relaxed in
the rough-and-tumble, informal, miscellaneous _modern_ phantasmagoria of
these diverting extravaganzas.
At the same time we must not be misled by the word 'Comedy' to bring
Aristophanes' work into comparison with what we call Comedy now. This is
quite another thing--confined to a representation of incidents of
private, generally polite life, and made up of the intrigues and
entanglements of social and domestic situations. Such a Comedy the Greeks
did produce, but at a date fifty or sixty years subsequent to
Aristophanes' day, and recognized by themselves as belonging to an
entirely different genre. Hence the distinction drawn between 'The Old
Comedy,' of which Cratinus and his younger contemporaries, Eupolis and
Aristophanes, were the leading representatives, and which was at
high-water mark just before and during the course of the great struggle
of the Peloponnesian War, and 'The New Comedy,' a comedy of manners, the
two chief exponents of which were Philemon and Menander, writing after
Athens had fallen under the Macedonian yoke, and politics were excluded
altogether from the stage. Menander's plays in turn were the originals of
those produced by Plautus and Terence at Rome, whose existing Comedies
afford some faint idea of what the lost masterpieces of their Greek
predecessor must have been. Unlike the 'Old,' the 'New Comedy' had no
Chorus and no 'Parabasis.'
This remarkable and distinctive feature, by-the-bye, of the Old Comedy,
the 'Parabasis' to wit, calls for a word of explanation. It was a direct
address on the Author's part to the audience, delivered in verse of a
special metre, generally towards the close of the representation, by the
leader of the Chorus, but expressing the personal opinions and
predilections of the poet, and embodying any remarks upon current topics
and any urgent piece of advice which he was particularly anxious to
insist on. Often it was made the vehicle for special appeal to the
sympathetic consideration of the spectators for the play and its merits.
These 'parabases,' so characteristic of the Aristophanic comedy, are
conceived in the brightest and wittiest vein, and abound in topical
allusions and personal hits that must have constituted them perhaps the
most telling part of the whole performance.
Aristophanes deals with all questions; for him the domain of the Comic
Poet has no limits, his mission is as wide as human nature. It is to
Athens he addresses himself, to the city as a whole; his criticism
embraces morals no less than politics, poetry no less than philosophy; he
does not hesitate to assail the rites and dogmas of Paganism; whatever
affords subject for laughter or vituperation lies within his province;
there he is in his element, scourge in hand, his heart ablaze with
indignation, pitiless, and utterly careless of all social distinctions.
In Politics Aristophanes belongs to the party of the Aristocracy. He
could not do otherwise, seeing that the democratic principle was then
triumphant; Comedy is never laudatory, it lives upon criticism, it must
bite to the quick to win a hearing; its strength, its vital force is
contradiction. Thus the abuses of democracy and demagogy were the most
favourable element possible for the development of Aristophanes' genius,
just because his merciless satire finds more abundant subject-matter
there than under any other form of civil constitution. Then are we
actually to believe that the necessity of his profession as a comic poet
alone drove him into the faction of the malcontents? This would surely be
to wilfully mistake the dignity of character and consistency of
conviction which are to be found underlying all his productions.
Throughout his long career as a dramatist his predilections always remain
the same, as likewise his antipathies, and in many respects the party he
champions so ardently had claims to be regarded as representing the best
interests of the state. It is but just therefore to proclaim
Aristophanes as having deserved well of his country, and to admit the
genuine courage he displayed in attacking before the people the people's
own favourites, assailing in word those who held the sword. To mock at
the folly of a nation that lets itself be cajoled by vain and empty
flatteries, to preach peace to fellow-citizens enamoured of war, was to
fulfil a dangerous rôle, that would never have appealed, we may feel
sure, to a mere vulgar ambition.
Moreover his genius, pre-eminently Greek as it is, has an instinctive
horror of all excesses, and hits out at them wherever he marks their
existence, whether amongst the great or the humble of the earth.
Supposing the Aristocracy, having won the victory the Poet desired, had
fallen in turn into oppression and misgovernment, doubtless Aristophanes
would have lashed its members with his most biting sarcasms. It is just
because Liberty is dear to his heart that he hates government by
Demagogues; he would fain free the city from the despotism of a clique of
wretched intriguers that oppressed her. But at the same time the
Aristocracy favoured by our Author was not such as comes by birth and
privilege, but such as is won and maintained by merit and high service to
In matters of morality his satires have the same high aims. How should a
corrupted population recover purity, if not by returning to the old
unsullied sources from which earlier generations had drawn their
inspiration? Accordingly we find Aristophanes constantly bringing on the
stage the "men of Marathon," the vigorous generation to which Athens owed
her freedom and her greatness. It is no mere childish commonplace with
our poet, this laudation of a past age; the facts of History prove he was
in the right, all the novelties he condemns were as a matter of fact so
many causes that brought about Athenian decadence. Directly the citizen
receives payment for attending the Assembly, he is no longer a perfectly
free agent in the disposal of his vote; besides, the practice is
equivalent to setting a premium on idleness, and so ruining all proper
activity; a populace maintained by the state loses all energy, falls into
a lethargy and dies. The life of the forum is a formidable solvent of
virtue and vigour; by dint of speechifying, men forget how to act.
Another thing was the introduction of 'the new education,' imported by
'the Sophists,' which substituted for serious studies, definitely limited
and systematically pursued, a crowd of vague and subtle speculations; it
was a mental gymnastic that gave suppleness to the wits, it is true, but
only by corrupting and deteriorating the moral sense, a system that in
the long run was merely destructive. Such, then, was the threefold poison
that was destroying Athenian morality--the triobolus, the noisy
assemblies in the Agora, the doctrines of the Sophists; the antidote was
the recollection of former virtue and past prosperity, which the Poet
systematically revives in contrast with the turpitudes and trivialities
of the present day. There is no turning back the course of history; but
if Aristophanes' efforts have remained abortive, they are not therefore
inglorious. Is the moralist to despair and throw away his pen, because in
so many cases his voice finds no echo?
Again we find Aristophanes' literary views embodying the same good sense
which led him to see the truth in politics and morals. Here likewise it
is not the individual he attacks; his criticism is general. His adversary
is not the individual Euripides, but under his name depraved taste and
the abandonment of that noble simplicity which had produced the
masterpieces of the age of Pericles. Euripides was no ordinary writer,
that is beyond question; but the very excellence of his qualities made
his influence only the more dangerous.
Literary reform is closely connected with moral regeneration, the
decadence of the one being both cause and effect of the deterioration of
the other. The author who should succeed in purifying the public taste
would come near restoring to repute healthy and honest views of life.
Aristophanes essayed the task both by criticism and example--by
criticism, directing the shafts of his ridicule at over-emphasis and
over-subtlety, by example, writing himself in inimitable perfection the
beautiful Attic dialect, which was being enervated and effeminated and
spoiled in the hands of his opponents.
Even the Gods were not spared by the Aristophanic wit and badinage; in
'Plutus,' in 'The Birds,' in 'The Frogs,' we see them very roughly
handled. To wonder at these profane drolleries, however, is to fail
altogether to grasp the privileges of ancient comedy and the very nature
of Athenian society. The Comic Poets exercised unlimited rights of making
fun; we do not read in history of a single one of the class having ever
been called to the bar of justice to answer for the audacity of his
dramatic efforts. The same liberty extended to religious matters; the
Athenian people, keen, delicately organized, quick to see a joke and
loving laughter for its own sake, even when the point told against
themselves, this people of mockers felt convinced the Gods appreciated
raillery just as well as men did. Moreover, the Greeks do not appear to
have had any very strong attachment to Paganism as a matter of dogmatic
belief. To say nothing of the enlightened classes, who saw in this vast
hierarchy of divinities only an ingenious allegory, the populace even was
mainly concerned with the processions and songs and dances, the banquets
and spectacular shows and all the external pomp and splendour of a cult
the magnificence and varied rites of which amused its curiosity. But
serious faith, ardent devotion, dogmatic discussion, is there a trace of
these things? A sensual and poetic type of religion, Paganism was
accepted at Athens only by the imagination, not by the reason; its
ceremonies were duly performed, without any real piety touching the
heart. Thus the audience felt no call to champion the cause of their
deities when held up to ribaldry on the open stage; they left them to
defend themselves--if they could.
Thus Aristophanes, we see, covered the whole field of thought; he
scourged whatever was vicious or ridiculous, whether before the altars of
the Gods, in the schools of the Sophists, or on the Orators' platform.
But the wider the duty he undertook, the harder it became to fulfil this
duty adequately. How satisfy a public made up of so many and such diverse
elements, so sharply contrasted by birth, fortune, education, opinion,
interest? How hold sway over a body of spectators, who were at the same
time judges? To succeed in the task he was bound to be master of all
styles of diction--at one and the same time a dainty poet and a diverting
buffoon. It is just this universality of genius, this combination of the
most eminent and various qualities, that has won Aristophanes a place
apart among satirists; and if it be true to say that well-written works
never die, the style alone of his Comedies would have assured their
No writer, indeed, has been more pre-eminent in that simple, clear,
precise, elegant diction that is the peculiar glory of Attic literature,
the brilliant yet concise quality of which the authors of no other Greek
city were quite able to attain. He shows, each in its due turn, vigour
and suppleness of language, he exercises a sure and spontaneous choice of
correct terms, the proper combination of harmonious phrases, he goes
straight to his object, he aims well and hits hard, even when he seems to
be merely grazing the surface. Under his apparent negligence lies
concealed the high perfection of accomplished art. This applies to the
dialogues. In the choruses, Aristophanes speaks the tongue of Pindar and
Sophocles; he follows the footsteps of those two mighty masters of the
choric hymn into the highest regions of poetry; his lyric style is bold,
impetuous, abounding in verve and brilliance, yet without the high-flown
inspiration ever involving a lapse from good taste.
One of the forms in which he is fondest of clothing his conceptions is
allegory; it may truly lie said that the stage of Aristophanes is a
series of caricatures where every idea has taken on a corporeal
presentment and is reproduced under human lineaments. To personify the
abstract notion, to dress it up in the shape of an animated being for its
better comprehension by the public, is in fact a proceeding altogether in
harmony with the customs and conventions of Ancient Comedy. The Comic
Poet never spares us a single detail of everyday life, no matter how
commonplace or degrading; he pushes the materialistic delineation of the
passions and vices to the extreme limit of obscene gesture and the most
cynical shamelessness of word and act.
This scorn of propriety, this unchecked licence of speech, has often been
made a subject of reproach against Aristophanes, and it appears to the
best modern critics that the poet would have been not a whit less
diverting or effective had he respected the dictates of common decency.
But it is only fair, surely, before finally condemning our Author, to
consider whether the times in which he lived, the origin itself of the
Greek Comedy, and the constitution of the audience, do not entitle him at
any rate to claim the benefit of extenuating circumstances. We must not
forget that Comedy owes its birth to those festivals at which Priapus was
adored side by side with Bacchus, and that 'Phallophoria' (carrying the
symbols of generation in procession) still existed as a religious rite at
the date when Aristophanes was composing his plays. Nor must we forget
that theatrical performances were at Athens forbidden pleasures to women
and children. Above all we should take full account of the code of social
custom and morality then prevailing. The Ancients never understood
modesty quite in the same way as our refined modern civilization does;
they spoke of everything without the smallest reticence, and expressions
which would revolt the least squeamish amongst ourselves did not surprise
or shock the most fastidious. We ought not, therefore, to blame too
severely the Comic Poet, who after all was only following in this respect
the habits of his age; and if his pictures are often repulsively bestial,
let us lay most blame to the account of a state of society which deserved
to be painted in such odiously black colours. Doubtless Aristophanes
might have given less Prominence to these cynical representations,
instead of revelling in them, as he really seems to have done; men of
taste and refinement, and there must have been such even among his
audience, would have thought all the better of him! But it was the
populace filled the bulk of the benches, and the populace loved coarse
laughter and filthy words. The Poet supplied what the majority demanded;
he was not the man to sacrifice one of the easiest and surest means of
winning applause and popularity.
Aristophanes enjoyed an ample share of glory in his lifetime, and
posterity has ratified the verdict given by his contemporaries. The
epitaph is well-known which Plato composed for him, after his death: "The
Graces, seeking an imperishable sanctuary, found the soul of
Aristophanes." Such eulogy may appear excessive to one who re-peruses
after the lapse of twenty centuries these pictures of a vanished world.
But if, despite the profound differences of custom, taste and opinion
which separate our own age from that of the Greeks, despite the obscurity
of a host of passages whose especial point lay in their reference to some
topic of the moment, and which inevitably leave us cold at the present
day--if, despite all this, we still feel ourselves carried away, charmed,
diverted, dominated by this dazzling _verve_, these copious outpourings
of imagination, wit and poesy, let us try to realize in thought what must
have been the unbounded pleasure of an Athenian audience listening to one
of our Author's satires. Then every detail was realized, every nuance of
criticism appreciated; every allusion told, and the model was often
actually sitting in the semicircle of the auditorium facing the copy at
that time being presented on the stage. "What a passion of excitement!
What transports of enthusiasm and angry protest! What bursts of
uncontrollable merriment! What thunders of applause! How the Comic Poet
must have felt himself a King, indeed, in presence of these popular
storms which, like the god of the sea, he could arouse and allay at his
good will and pleasure!"
To return for a moment to the coarseness of language so often pointed to
as a blot in Aristophanes. "The great comedian has been censured and
apologized for on this ground, over and over again. His personal
exculpation must always rest upon the fact, that the wildest licence in
which he indulged was not only recognized as permissible, but actually
enjoined as part of the ceremonial at these festivals of Bacchus; that it
was not only in accordance with public taste, but was consecrated as a
part of the national religion.... But the coarseness of Aristophanes is
not corrupting. There is nothing immoral in his plots, nothing really
dangerous in his broadest humour. Compared with some of our old English
dramatists, he is morality itself. And when we remember the plots of some
French and English plays which now attract fashionable audiences, and the
character of some modern French and English novels not unfrequently found
(at any rate in England) upon drawing-room tables, the least that can be
said is, that we had better not cast stones at Aristophanes."
Moreover, it should be borne in mind that Athenian custom did not
sanction the presence of women--at least women of reputable character--at
The particular plays, though none are free from it, which most abound in
this ribald fun--for fun it always is, never mere pruriency for its own
sake, Aristophanes has a deal of the old 'esprit gaulois' about him--are
the 'Peace' and, as might be expected from its theme, lending itself so
readily to suggestive allusions and situations, above all the
'Lysistrata.' The 'Thesmophoriazusae' and 'Ecclesiazusae' also take ample
toll in this sort of the 'risqué' situations incidental to their plots,
the dressing up of men as women in the former, and of women as men in the
latter. Needless to say, no faithful translator will emasculate his
author by expurgation, and the reader will here find Aristophanes'
Comedies as Aristophanes wrote them, not as Mrs. Grundy might wish him to
have written them.
These performances took place at the Festivals of Dionysus (Bacchus),
either the Great Dionysia or the minor celebration of the Lenaea, and
were in a sense religious ceremonials--at any rate under distinct
religious sanction. The representations were held in the Great Theatre of
Dionysus, under the slope of the Acropolis, extensive remains of which
still exist; several plays were brought out at each festival in
competition, and prizes, first and second, were awarded to the most
successful productions--rewards which were the object of the most intense
Next to nothing is known of the private life of Aristophanes, and that
little, beyond the two or three main facts given below, is highly
dubious, not to say apocryphal. He was born about 444 B.C., probably at
Athens. His father held property in Aegina, and the family may very
likely have come originally from that island. At any rate, this much is
certain, that the author's arch-enemy Cleon made more than one judicial
attempt to prove him of alien birth and therefore not properly entitled
to the rights of Athenian citizenship; but in this he entirely failed.
The great Comedian had three sons, but of these and their career history
says nothing whatever. Such incidents and anecdotes of our author's
literary life as have come down to us are all connected with one or other
of the several plays, and will be found alluded to in the special
Introductions prefixed to these. He died about 380 B.C.--the best and
central years of his life and work thus coinciding with the great
national period of stress and struggle, the Peloponnesian War, 431-404
B.C. He continued to produce plays for the Athenian stage for the long
period of thirty-seven years; though only eleven Comedies, out of a
reputed total of forty, have survived.
A word or two as to existing translations of Aristophanes. These, the
English ones at any rate, leave much to be desired; indeed it is not too
much to say that there is no version of our Author in the language which
gives the general reader anything like an adequate notion of these Plays.
We speak of prose renderings. Aristophanes has been far more fortunate in
his verse translators--Mitchell, who published four Comedies in this form
in 1822, old-fashioned, but still helpful, Hookham Frere, five plays
(1871), both scholarly and spirited, and last but not least, Mr. Bickley
Rogers, whose excellent versions have appeared at intervals since 1867.
But from their very nature these cannot afford anything like an exact
idea of the 'ipsissima verba' of the Comedies, while all slur over or
omit altogether passages in any way 'risqué.' There remains only our old
friend 'Bohn' ("The Comedies of Aristophanes; a literal Translation by W.
J. Hickie"), and what stuff 'Bohn' is! By very dint of downright
literalness--though not, by-the-bye, always downright accuracy--any true
notion of the Author's meaning is quite obscured. The letter kills the
The French prose versions are very good. That by C. Poyard (in the series
of "Chefs-d'oeuvre des Littératures Anciennes") combines scholarly
precision with an easy, racy, vernacular style in a way that seems
impossible to any but a French scholar.
The order here adopted for the successive plays differs slightly from
that observed in most editions; but as these latter do not agree amongst
themselves, this small assumption of licence appears not unwarrantable.
Chronologically 'The Acharnians' (426 B.C.) should come first; but it
seems more convenient to group it with the two other "Comedies of the
War," the whole trilogy dealing with the hardships involved by the
struggle with the Lacedaemonians and the longings of the Athenian people
for the blessings of peace. This leaves 'The Knights' to open the whole
series--the most important politically of all Aristophanes' productions,
embodying as it does his trenchant attack on the great demagogue Cleon
and striking the keynote of the author's general attitude as advocate of
old-fashioned conservatism against the new democracy, its reckless
'Imperialism' and the unscrupulous and self-seeking policy, so the
aristocratic party deemed it, of its accredited leaders.
Order, as thus rearranged, approximate date, and _motif_ (in brief) of
each of the eleven Comedies are given below:
'The Knights': 424 B.C.--eighth year of the War. Attacks Cleon, the
Progressives, and the War policy generally.
Comedies of the War:--
'The Acharnians': 426 B.C.--sixth year of the War. Insists on the
miseries consequent on the War, especially affecting the rural
population, as represented by the Acharnian Dicaeopolis and his
fellow demesmen. Incidentally makes fun of the tragedian Euripides.
'Peace': 422 B.C.--tenth year of the War. Further insists on the same
theme, and enlarges on the blessings of Peace. The hero Trygaeus
flies to Olympus, mounted on a beetle, to bring back the goddess
Peace to earth.
'Lysistrata': 411 B.C.--twenty-first year of the War. A burlesque
conspiracy entered into by the confederated women of Hellas, led by
Lysistrata the Athenian, to compel the men to conclude peace.
'The Clouds': 423 B.C.--satirizes Socrates, the 'Sophists,' and the
'The Wasps': 422 B.C. Makes fun of the Athenian passion for
litigation, and the unsatisfactory organization of the Courts.
Contains the incident of the mock trial of the thievish house-dog.
'The Birds': 414 B.C. Euelpides and Pisthetaerus, disgusted with the
state of things at Athens, build a new and improved city,
Cloud-cuckoo-town, in the kingdom of the birds. Some see an allusion
to the Sicilian expedition, and Alcibiades' Utopian schemes.
'The Frogs': 405 B.C. A satire on Euripides and the 'New Tragedy.'
Dionysus, patron of the Drama, dissatisfied with the contemporary
condition of the Art, goes down to Hades to bring back to earth a
poet of the older and worthier school.
'The Thesmophoriazusae': 412 B.C. Another literary satire; Euripides,
summoned as a notorious defamer of women to defend himself before the
dames of Athens assembled in solemn conclave at the Thesmophoria, or
festival of Demeter and Persephone, induces his father-in-law,
Mnesilochus, to dress up in women's clothes, penetrate thus disguised
into the assemblage, and plead the poet's cause, but with scant
'The Ecclesiazusae': 392 B.C. Pokes fun at the ideal Utopias, such as
Plato's 'Republic,' based on sweeping social and economic changes,
greatly in vogue with the Sophists of the day. The women of the city
disguise themselves as men, slip into the Public Assembly and secure
a majority of votes. They then pass a series of decrees providing for
community of goods and community of women, which produce,
particularly the latter, a number of embarrassing and diverting
'Plutus': 408 and 388 B.C. A whimsical allegory more than a regular
comedy. Plutus, the god of wealth, has been blinded by Zeus;
discovered in the guise of a ragged beggarman and succoured by
Chremylus, an old man who has ruined himself by generosity to his
friends, he is restored to sight by Aesculapius. He duly rewards
Chremylus, and henceforth apportions this world's goods among mankind
on juster principles--enriching the just, but condemning the unjust
List Of Editions, Commentaries, Etc., Used Or Consulted
Text: edit. Dindorf, Oxford
Text: edit. Blaydes. 1886.
Text, with Notes, etc.: edit. Immanuel Bekker. 5 vols. 1829.
Text, with Notes, etc.: Brunck.
Text, with (German) Notes, etc.: Separate Plays: edit. Kock.
Text, with Notes, etc.: Separate Plays: edit. Rev. W. W. Merry.
Translation: English, by W. J. Hickie. (Bohn's Classical Library.)
Translation: English verse, 'Knights,' 'Acharnians,' 'Clouds,' 'Wasps,'
by Mitchell. 1822.
Translation: English verse, 'Knights,' 'Acharnians,' 'Birds,' 'Frogs,'
'Peace,' by Hookham Frere. 1871.
Translation: English verse, Various Plays, by B. Bickley Rogers. 1867
Translation: French, by C. Poyard. ("Chefs-d'oeuvre des Littératures
Anciennes." Paris, Hachette. 1875.)
Translation: French, by Eugène Talbot, with Preface by Sully Prudhomme. 2
vols. Paris, Lemerre. 1897.
Translation: German, by Droysen.
"Aristophanes" (Ancient Classics for English Readers): edit. W. Lucas
"Aristophane et l'ancienne Comédie attique," par Auguste Couat. Paris.
"Aristophane et les Partis à Athens," par Maurice Croiset. Paris,
"Beiträge zur inneren Geschichte Athens im Zeitalter des Pelopon.
Krieges," G. Gilbert. Leipzig. 1877.
"Die attischen Politik seit Perikles," J. Beloch. Leipzig. 1884.
"Aristophanes und die historische Kritik," Müller-Strübing. Leipzig.
 Ancient Classics for English Readers: Aristophanes, by Lucas Collins,
Introductory Chapter, p. 2.
 "Aristophane": Traduction Nouvelle, par C. Poyard (Paris, 1875):
 Ancient Classics for English Readers: "Aristophanes," by Lucas
Collins. Introductory Chapter, p. 12.
This was the fourth play in order of time produced by Aristophanes on the
Athenian stage; it was brought out at the Lenaean Festival, in January,
424 B.C. Of the author's previous efforts, two, 'The Revellers' and 'The
Babylonians,' were apparently youthful essays, and are both lost. The
other, 'The Acharnians,' forms the first of the three Comedies dealing
directly with the War and its disastrous effects and urging the
conclusion of Peace; for this reason it is better ranged along with its
sequels, the 'Peace' and the 'Lysistrata,' and considered in conjunction
In many respects 'The Knights' may be reckoned the great Comedian's
masterpiece, the direct personal attack on the then all-powerful Cleon,
with its scathing satire and tremendous invective, being one of the most
vigorous and startling things in literature. Already in 'The Acharnians'
he had threatened to "cut up Cleon the Tanner into shoe-leather for the
Knights," and he now proceeds to carry his menace into execution,
"concentrating the whole force of his wit in the most unscrupulous and
merciless fashion against his personal enemy." In the first-mentioned
play Aristophanes had attacked and satirized the whole general policy of
the democratic party--and incidentally Cleon, its leading spirit and
mouthpiece since the death of Pericles; he had painted the miseries of
war and invasion arising from this mistaken and mischievous line of
action, as he regarded it, and had dwelt on the urgent necessity of peace
in the interests of an exhausted country and ruined agriculture. Now he
turns upon Cleon personally, and pays him back a hundredfold for the
attacks the demagogue had made in the Public Assembly on the daring
critic, and the abortive charge which the same unscrupulous enemy had
brought against him in the Courts of having "slandered the city in the
presence of foreigners." "In this bitterness of spirit the play stands in
strong contrast with the good-humoured burlesque of 'The Acharnians' and
the 'Peace,' or, indeed, with any other of the author's productions which
has reached us."
The characters are five only. First and foremost comes Demos, 'The
People,' typifying the Athenian democracy, a rich householder--a
self-indulgent, superstitious, weak creature. He has had several
overseers or factors in succession, to look after his estate and manage
his slaves. The present one is known as 'the Paphlagonian,' or sometimes
as 'the Tanner,' an unprincipled, lying, cheating, pilfering scoundrel,
fawning and obsequious to his master, insolent towards his subordinates.
Two of these are Nicias and Demosthenes. Here we have real names. Nicias
was High Admiral of the Athenian navy at the time, and Demosthenes one of
his Vice-Admirals; both held still more important commands later in
connection with the Sicilian Expedition of 415-413 B.C. Fear of
consequences apparently prevented the poet from doing the same in the
case of Cleon, who is, of course, intended under the names of 'the
Paphlagonian' and 'the Tanner.' Indeed, so great was the terror inspired
by the great man that no artist was found bold enough to risk his
powerful vengeance by caricaturing his features, and no actor dared to
represent him on the stage. Aristophanes is said to have played the part
himself, with his face, in the absence of a mask, smeared with wine-lees,
roughly mimicking the purple and bloated visage of the demagogue. The
remaining character is 'the Sausage-seller,' who is egged on by Nicias
and Demosthenes to oust 'the Paphlagonian' from Demos' favour by outvying
him in his own arts of impudent flattery, noisy boasting and unscrupulous
allurement. After a fierce and stubbornly contested trial of wits and
interchange of 'Billingsgate,' 'the Sausage-seller' beats his rival at
his own weapons and gains his object; he supplants the disgraced
favourite, who is driven out of the house with ignominy.
The Comedy takes its title, as was often the case, from the Chorus, which
is composed of Knights--the order of citizens next to the highest at
Athens, and embodying many of the old aristocratic preferences and
The drama was adjudged the first prize--the 'Satyrs' of Cratinus being
placed second--by acclamation, as such a masterpiece of wit and
intrepidity certainly deserved to be; but, as usual, the political result
was nil. The piece was applauded in the most enthusiastic manner, the
satire on the sovereign multitude was forgiven, and--Cleon remained in as
much favour as ever.
* * * * *
AGORACRITUS, a Sausage-seller.
DEMOS, an old man, typifying the Athenian people.
CHORUS OF KNIGHTS.
SCENE: In front of Demos' house at Athens.
* * * * *
DEMOSTHENES. Oh! alas! alas! Oh! woe! oh! woe! Miserable Paphlagonian!
may the gods destroy both him and his cursed advice! Since that evil day
when this new slave entered the house he has never ceased belabouring us
NICIAS. May the plague seize him, the arch-fiend--him and his lying
DEMOSTHENES. Hah! my poor fellow, what is your condition?
NICIAS. Very wretched, just like your own.
DEMOSTHENES. Then come, let us sing a duet of groans in the style of
DEMOSTHENES AND NICIAS. Boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo, hoo!
DEMOSTHENES. Bah! 'tis lost labour to weep! Enough of groaning! Let us
consider how to save our pelts.
NICIAS. But how to do it! Can you suggest anything?
DEMOSTHENES. Nay! you begin. I cede you the honour.
NICIAS. By Apollo! no, not I. Come, have courage! Speak, and then I will
say what I think.
DEMOSTHENES. "Ah! would you but tell me what I should tell you!"
NICIAS. I dare not. How could I express my thoughts with the pomp of
DEMOSTHENES. Oh! prithee, spare me! Do not pelt me with those
vegetables, but find some way of leaving our master.
NICIAS. Well, then! Say "Let-us-bolt," like this, in one breath.
DEMOSTHENES. I follow you--"Let-us-bolt."
NICIAS. Now after "Let-us-bolt" say "at-top-speed!"
NICIAS. Splendid! Just as if you were masturbating yourself; first
slowly, "Let-us-bolt"; then quick and firmly, "at-top-speed!"
DEMOSTHENES. Let-us-bolt, let-us-bolt-at-top-speed!
NICIAS. Hah! does that not please you?
DEMOSTHENES. I' faith, yes! yet I fear me your omen bodes no good to my
NICIAS. How so?
DEMOSTHENES. Because hard rubbing abrades the skin when folk masturbate
NICIAS. The best thing we can do for the moment is to throw ourselves at
the feet of the statue of some god.
DEMOSTHENES. Of which statue? Any statue? Do you then believe there are
DEMOSTHENES. What proof have you?
NICIAS. The proof that they have taken a grudge against me. Is that not
DEMOSTHENES. I'm convinced it is. But to pass on. Do you consent to my
telling the spectators of our troubles?
NICIAS. 'Twould not be amiss, and we might ask them to show us by their
manner, whether our facts and actions are to their liking.
DEMOSTHENES. I will begin then. We have a very brutal master, a perfect
glutton for beans, and most bad-tempered; 'tis Demos of the Pnyx,
an intolerable old man and half deaf. The beginning of last month he
bought a slave, a Paphlagonian tanner, an arrant rogue, the incarnation
of calumny. This man of leather knows his old master thoroughly; he plays
the fawning cur, flatters, cajoles; wheedles, and dupes him at will with
little scraps of leavings, which he allows him to get. "Dear Demos," he
will say, "try a single case and you will have done enough; then take
your bath, eat, swallow and devour; here are three obols." Then the
Paphlagonian filches from one of us what we have prepared and makes a
present of it to our old man. T'other day I had just kneaded a Spartan
cake at Pylos; the cunning rogue came behind my back, sneaked it and
offered the cake, which was my invention, in his own name. He keeps us at
a distance and suffers none but himself to wait upon the master; when
Demos is dining, he keeps close to his side with a thong in his hand and
puts the orators to flight. He keeps singing oracles to him, so that the
old man now thinks of nothing but the Sibyl. Then, when he sees him
thoroughly obfuscated, he uses all his cunning and piles up lies and
calumnies against the household; then we are scourged and the
Paphlagonian runs about among the slaves to demand contributions with
threats and gathers 'em in with both hands. He will say, "You see how I
have had Hylas beaten! Either content me or die at once!" We are forced
to give, for else the old man tramples on us and makes us spew forth all
our body contains. There must be an end to it, friend. Let us see! what
can be done? Who will get us out of this mess?
NICIAS. The best thing, chum, is our famous "Let-us-bolt!"
DEMOSTHENES. But none can escape the Paphlagonian, his eye is everywhere.
And what a stride! He has one leg on Pylos and the other in the Assembly;
his rump is exactly over the land of the Chaonians, his hands are with
the Aetolians and his mind with the Clopidians.
NICIAS. 'Tis best then to die; but let us seek the most heroic death.
DEMOSTHENES. Let me bethink me, what is the most heroic?
NICIAS. Let us drink the blood of a bull; 'tis the death which
DEMOSTHENES. No, not that, but a bumper of good unmixed wine in honour of
the Good Genius; perchance we may stumble on a happy thought.
NICIAS. Look at him! "Unmixed wine!" Your mind is on drink intent? Can a
man strike out a brilliant thought when drunk?
DEMOSTHENES. Without question. Go, ninny, blow yourself out with water;
do you dare to accuse wine of clouding the reason? Quote me more
marvellous effects than those of wine. Look! when a man drinks, he is
rich, everything he touches succeeds, he gains lawsuits, is happy and
helps his friends. Come, bring hither quick a flagon of wine, that I may
soak my brain and get an ingenious idea.
NICIAS. Eh, my god! What can your drinking do to help us?
DEMOSTHENES. Much. But bring it to me, while I take my seat. Once drunk,
I shall strew little ideas, little phrases, little reasonings everywhere.
NICIAS (_returning with a flagon_). It is lucky I was not caught in the
house stealing the wine.
DEMOSTHENES. Tell me, what is the Paphlagonian doing now?
NICIAS. The wretch has just gobbled up some confiscated cakes; he is
drunk and lies at full-length a-snoring on his hides.
DEMOSTHENES. Very well, come along, pour me out wine and plenty of it.
NICIAS. Take it and offer a libation to your Good Genius; taste, taste
the liquor of the genial soil of Pramnium.
DEMOSTHENES. Oh, Good Genius! 'Tis thy will, not mine.
NICIAS. Prithee, tell me, what is it?
DEMOSTHENES. Run indoors quick and steal the oracles of the Paphlagonian,
while he is asleep.
NICIAS. Bless me! I fear this Good Genius will be but a very Bad Genius
DEMOSTHENES. And set the flagon near me, that I may moisten my wit to
invent some brilliant notion.
NICIAS (_enters the house and returns at once_). How the Paphlagonian
grunts and snores! I was able to seize the sacred oracle, which he was
guarding with the greatest care, without his seeing me.
DEMOSTHENES. Oh! clever fellow! Hand it here, that I may read. Come, pour
me out some drink, bestir yourself! Let me see what there is in it. Oh!
prophecy! Some drink! some drink! Quick!
NICIAS. Well! what says the oracle?
DEMOSTHENES. Pour again.
NICIAS. Is "pour again" in the oracle?
DEMOSTHENES. Oh, Bacis!
NICIAS. But what is in it?
DEMOSTHENES. Quick! some drink!
NICIAS. Bacis is very dry!
DEMOSTHENES. Oh! miserable Paphlagonian! This then is why you have so
long taken such precautions; your horoscope gave you qualms of terror.
NICIAS. What does it say?
DEMOSTHENES. It says here how he must end.
NICIAS. And how?
DEMOSTHENES. How? the oracle announces clearly that a dealer in oakum
must first govern the city.
NICIAS. First dealer. And after him, who?
DEMOSTHENES. After him, a sheep-dealer.
NICIAS. Two dealers, eh? And what is this one's fate?
DEMOSTHENES. To reign until a greater scoundrel than he arises; then he
perishes and in his place the leather-seller appears, the Paphlagonian
robber, the bawler, who roars like a torrent.
NICIAS. And the leather-seller must destroy the sheep-seller?
NICIAS. Oh! woe is me! Where can another seller be found, is there ever a
DEMOSTHENES. There is yet one, who plies a firstrate trade.
NICIAS. Tell me, pray, what is that?
DEMOSTHENES. You really want to know?
DEMOSTHENES. Well then! 'tis a sausage-seller who must overthrow him.
NICIAS. A sausage-seller! Ah! by Posidon! what a fine trade! But where
can this man be found?
DEMOSTHENES. Let us seek him.
NICIAS. Lo! there he is, going towards the market-place; 'tis the gods,
the gods who send him!
DEMOSTHENES. This way, this way, oh, lucky sausage-seller, come forward,
dear friend, our saviour, the saviour of our city.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. What is it? Why do you call me?
DEMOSTHENES. Come here, come and learn about your good luck, you who are
NICIAS. Come! Relieve him of his basket-tray and tell him the oracle of
the god; I will go and look after the Paphlagonian.
DEMOSTHENES. First put down all your gear, then worship the earth and the
SAUSAGE-SELLER. 'Tis done. What is the matter?
DEMOSTHENES. Happiness, riches, power; to-day you have nothing, to-morrow
you will have all, oh! chief of happy Athens.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Why not leave me to wash my tripe and to sell my sausages
instead of making game of me?
DEMOSTHENES. Oh! the fool! Your tripe! Do you see these tiers of
DEMOSTHENES. You shall be master to them all, governor of the market, of
the harbours, of the Pnyx; you shall trample the Senate under foot, be
able to cashier the generals, load them with fetters, throw them into
gaol, and you will play the debauchee in the Prytaneum.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. What! I?
DEMOSTHENES. You, without a doubt. But you do not yet see all the glory
awaiting you. Stand on your basket and look at all the islands that
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I see them. What then?
DEMOSTHENES. Look at the storehouses and the shipping.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Yes, I am looking.
DEMOSTHENES. Exists there a mortal more blest than you? Furthermore, turn
your right eye towards Caria and your left towards Chalcedon.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. 'Tis then a blessing to squint!
DEMOSTHENES. No, but 'tis you who are going to trade away all this.
According to the oracle you must become the greatest of men.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Just tell me how a sausage-seller can become a great man.
DEMOSTHENES. That is precisely why you will be great, because you are a
sad rascal without shame, no better than a common market rogue.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I do not hold myself worthy of wielding power.
DEMOSTHENES. Oh! by the gods! Why do you not hold yourself worthy? Have
you then such a good opinion of yourself? Come, are you of honest
SAUSAGE-SELLER. By the gods! No! of very bad indeed.
DEMOSTHENES. Spoilt child of fortune, everything fits together to ensure
SAUSAGE-SELLER. But I have not had the least education. I can only read,
and that very badly.
DEMOSTHENES. That is what may stand in your way, almost knowing how to
read. The demagogues will neither have an educated nor an honest man;
they require an ignoramus and a rogue. But do not, do not let go this
gift, which the oracle promises.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. But what does the oracle say?
DEMOSTHENES. Faith! it is put together in very fine enigmatical style, as
elegant as it is clear: "When the eagle-tanner with the hooked claws
shall seize a stupid dragon, a blood-sucker, it will be an end to the hot
Paphlagonian pickled garlic. The god grants great glory to the
sausage-sellers unless they prefer to sell their wares."
SAUSAGE-SELLER. In what way does this concern me? Pray instruct my
DEMOSTHENES. The eagle-tanner is the Paphlagonian.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. What do the hooked claws mean?
DEMOSTHENES. It means to say, that he robs and pillages us with his
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And the dragon?
DEMOSTHENES. That is quite clear. The dragon is long and so also is the
sausage; the sausage like the dragon is a drinker of blood. Therefore the
oracle says, that the dragon will triumph over the eagle-tanner, if he
does not let himself be cajoled with words.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. The oracles of the gods summon me! Faith! I do not at all
understand how I can be capable of governing the people.
DEMOSTHENES. Nothing simpler. Continue your trade. Mix and knead together
all the state business as you do for your sausages. To win the people,
always cook them some savoury that pleases them. Besides, you possess all
the attributes of a demagogue; a screeching, horrible voice, a perverse,
cross-grained nature and the language of the market-place. In you all is
united which is needful for governing. The oracles are in your favour,
even including that of Delphi. Come, take a chaplet, offer a libation to
the god of Stupidity and take care to fight vigorously.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Who will be my ally? for the rich fear the Paphlagonian
and the poor shudder at the sight of him.
DEMOSTHENES. You will have a thousand brave Knights, who detest him,
on your side; also the honest citizens amongst the spectators, those who
are men of brave hearts, and finally myself and the god. Fear not, you
will not see his features, for none have dared to make a mask resembling
him. But the public have wit enough to recognize him.
NICIAS. Oh! mercy! here is the Paphlagonian!
CLEON. By the twelve gods! Woe betide you, who have too long been
conspiring against Demos. What means this Chalcidian cup? No doubt you
are provoking the Chalcidians to revolt. You shall be killed, butchered,
you brace of rogues.
DEMOSTHENES. What! are you for running away? Come, come, stand firm, bold
Sausage-seller, do not betray us. To the rescue, oh! Knights. Now is the
time. Simon, Panaetius, get you to the right wing; they are coming
on; hold tight and return to the charge. I can see the dust of their
horses' hoofs; they are galloping to our aid. Courage! Repel, attack
them, put them to flight.
CHORUS. Strike, strike the villain, who has spread confusion amongst the
ranks of the Knights, this public robber, this yawning gulf of plunder,
this devouring Charybdis, this villain, this villain, this villain! I
cannot say the word too often, for he _is_ a villain a thousand times a
day. Come, strike, drive, hurl him over and crush him to pieces; hate him
as we hate him; stun him with your blows and your shouts. And beware lest
he escape you; he knows the way Eucrates took straight to a bran sack
CLEON. Oh! veteran Heliasts, brotherhood of the three obols, whom
I fostered by bawling at random, help me; I am being beaten to death by
CHORUS. And 'tis justice; you devour the public funds that all should
share in; you treat the officers answerable for the revenue like the
fruit of the fig tree, squeezing them to find which are still green or
more or less ripe; and, when you find one simple and timid, you force him
to come from the Chersonese, then you seize him by the middle,
throttle him by the neck, while you twist his shoulder back; he falls and
you devour him. Besides, you know very well how to select from among
the citizens those who are as meek as lambs, rich, without guile and
loathers of lawsuits.
CLEON. Eh! what! Knights, are you helping them? But, if I am beaten, 'tis
in your cause, for I was going to propose to erect you a statue in the
city in memory of your bravery.
CHORUS. Oh! the impostor! the dull varlet! See! he treats us like old
dotards and crawls at our feet to deceive us; but the cunning wherein
lies his power shall this time recoil on himself; he trips up himself by
resorting to such artifices.
CLEON. Oh Citizens! oh people! see how these brutes are bursting my
CHORUS. What shouts! but 'tis this very bawling that incessantly upsets
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I can shout too--and so loud that you will flee with
CHORUS. If you shout louder than he does, I will strike up the triumphal
hymn; if you surpass him in impudence, the cake is ours.
CLEON. I denounce this fellow; he has had tasty stews exported from
Athens for the Spartan fleet.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I denounce him, who runs into the Prytaneum with
empty belly and comes out with it full.
DEMOSTHENES. And by Zeus! he carries off bread, meat, and fish, which is
forbidden. Pericles himself never had this right.
CLEON. You are travelling the right road to get killed.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I'll bawl three times as loud as you.
CLEON. I will deafen you with my yells.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I you with my bellowing.
CLEON. I shall calumniate you, if you become a Strategus.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Dog, I will lay your back open with the lash.
CLEON. I will make you drop your arrogance.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I will baffle your machinations.
CLEON. Dare to look me in the face!
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I too was brought up in the market-place.
CLEON. I will cut you to shreds if you whisper a word.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I will daub you with dung if you open your mouth.
CLEON. I own I am a thief; do you admit yourself another.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. By our Hermes of the market-place, if caught in the act,
why, I perjure myself before those who saw me.
CLEON. These are my own special tricks. I will denounce you to the
Prytanes as the owner of sacred tripe, that has not paid tithe.
CHORUS. Oh! you scoundrel! you impudent bawler! everything is filled with
your daring, all Attica, the Assembly, the Treasury, the decrees, the
tribunals. As a furious torrent you have overthrown our city; your
outcries have deafened Athens and, posted upon a high rock, you have lain
in wait for the tribute moneys as the fisherman does for the tunny-fish.
CLEON. I know your tricks; 'tis an old plot resoled.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. If you know naught of soling, I understand nothing of
sausages; you, who cut bad leather on the slant to make it look stout and
deceive the country yokels. They had not worn it a day before it had
stretched some two spans.
DEMOSTHENES 'Tis the very trick he served me; both my neighbours and my
friends laughed heartily at me, and before I reached Pergasae I was
swimming in my shoes.
CHORUS. Have you not always shown that blatant impudence, which is the
sole strength of our orators? You push it so far, that you, the head of
the State, dare to milk the purses of the opulent aliens and, at sight of
you, the son of Hippodamus melts into tears. But here is another man,
who gives me pleasure, for he is a much greater rascal than you; he will
overthrow you; 'tis easy to see, that he will beat you in roguery, in
brazenness and in clever turns. Come, you, who have been brought up among
the class which to-day gives us all our great men, show us that a liberal
education is mere tomfoolery.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Just hear what sort of fellow that fine citizen is.
CLEON. Will you not let me speak?
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Assuredly not, for I also am a sad rascal.
CHORUS. If he does not give in at that, tell him your parents were sad
CLEON. Once more, will you not let me speak?
SAUSAGE-SELLER. No, by Zeus!
CLEON. Yes, by Zeus, but you shall!
SAUSAGE-SELLER. No, by Posidon! We will fight first to see who shall
CLEON. I will die sooner.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I will not let you....
CHORUS. Let him, in the name of the gods, let him die.
CLEON. What makes you so bold as to dare to speak to my face?
SAUSAGE-SELLER. 'Tis that I know both how to speak and how to cook.
CLEON. Hah! the fine speaker! Truly, if some business matter fell your
way, you would know thoroughly well how to attack it, to carve it up
alive! Shall I tell you what has happened to you? Like so many others,
you have gained some petty lawsuit against some alien. Did you drink
enough water to inspire you? Did you mutter over the thing sufficiently
through the night, spout it along the street, recite it to all you met?
Have you bored your friends enough with it? 'Tis then for this you deem
yourself an orator. Ah! poor fool!
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And what do you drink yourself then, to be able all alone
by yourself to dumbfound and stupefy the city so with your clamour?
CLEON. Can you match me with a rival? Me! When I have devoured a good hot
tunny-fish and drunk on top of it a great jar of unmixed wine, I hold up
the Generals of Pylos to public scorn.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I, when I have bolted the tripe of an ox together
with a sow's belly and swallowed the broth as well, I am fit, though
slobbering with grease, to bellow louder than all orators and to terrify
CHORUS. I admire your language so much; the only thing I do not approve
is that you swallow all the broth yourself.
CLEON. E'en though you gorged yourself on sea-dogs, you would not beat
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Give me a bullock's breast to devour, and I am a man to
traffic in mines.
CLEON. I will rush into the Senate and set them all by the ears.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I will lug out your gut to stuff like a sausage.
CLEON. As for me, I will seize you by the rump and hurl you head foremost
through the door.
CHORUS. In any case, by Posidon, 'twill only be when you have thrown _me_
CLEON. Beware of the carcan!
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I denounce you for cowardice.
CLEON. I will tan your hide.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I will flay you and make a thief's pouch with the skin.
CLEON. I will peg you out on the ground.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I will slice you into mince-meat.
CLEON. I will tear out your eyelashes.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I will slit your gullet.
DEMOSTHENES. We will set his mouth open with a wooden stick as the cooks
do with pigs; we will tear out his tongue, and, looking down his gaping
throat, will see whether his inside has any pimples.
CHORUS. Thus then at Athens we have something more fiery than fire, more
impudent than impudence itself! 'Tis a grave matter; come, we will push
and jostle him without mercy. There, you grip him tightly under the arms;
if he gives way at the onset, you will find him nothing but a craven; I
know my man.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. That he has been all his life and he has only made
himself a name by reaping another's harvest; and now he has tied up the
ears he gathered over there, he lets them dry and seeks to sell them.
CLEON. I do not fear you as long as there is a Senate and a people which
stands like a fool, gaping in the air.
CHORUS. What unparalleled impudence! 'Tis ever the same brazen front. If
I don't hate you, why, I'm ready to take the place of the one blanket
Cratinus wets; I'll offer to play a tragedy by Morsimus. Oh! you
cheat! who turn all into money, who flutter from one extortion to
another; may you disgorge as quickly as you have crammed yourself! Then
only would I sing, "Let us drink, let us drink to this happy event!"
Then even the son of Iulius, the old niggard, would empty his cup
with transports of joy, crying, "Io, Paean! Io, Bacchus!"
CLEON. By Posidon! You! would you beat me in impudence! If you succeed,
may I no longer have my share of the victims offered to Zeus on the city
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I, I swear by the blows that have so oft rained upon
my shoulders since infancy, and by the knives that have cut me, that I
will show more effrontery than you; as sure as I have rounded this fine
stomach by feeding on the pieces of bread that had cleansed other folk's
CLEON. On pieces of bread, like a dog! Ah! wretch! you have the nature of
a dog and you dare to fight a cynecephalus?
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I have many another trick in my sack, memories of my
childhood's days. I used to linger around the cooks and say to them,
"Look, friends, don't you see a swallow? 'tis the herald of springtime."
And while they stood, their noses in the air, I made off with a piece of
CHORUS. Oh! most clever man! How well thought out! You did as the eaters
of artichokes, you gathered them before the return of the swallows.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. They could make nothing of it; or, if they suspected a
trick, I hid the meat in my breeches and denied the thing by all the
gods; so that an orator, seeing me at the game, cried, "This child will
get on; he has the mettle that makes a statesman."
CHORUS. He argued rightly; to steal, perjure yourself and make a receiver
of your rump are three essentials for climbing high.
CLEON. I will stop your insolence, or rather the insolence of both of
you. I will throw myself upon you like a terrible hurricane ravaging both
land and sea at the will of its fury.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Then I will gather up my sausages and entrust myself to
the kindly waves of fortune so as to make you all the more enraged.
DEMOSTHENES. And I will watch in the bilges in case the boat should make
CLEON. No, by Demeter! I swear, 'twill not be with impunity that you have
thieved so many talents from the Athenians.
CHORUS (_to the Sausage-seller_). Oh! oh! reef your sail a bit! Here is
Boreas blowing calumniously.
CLEON. I know that you got ten talents out of Potidaea.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Hold! I will give you one; but keep it dark!
CHORUS. Hah! that will please him mightily; now you can travel under full
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Yes, the wind has lost its violence.
CLEON. I will bring four suits against you, each of one hundred
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I twenty against you for shirking duty and more than
a thousand for robbery.
CLEON. I maintain that your parents were guilty of sacrilege against the
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I, that one of your grandfathers was a satellite....
CLEON. To whom? Explain!
SAUSAGE-SELLER. To Byrsina, the mother of Hippias.
CLEON. You are an impostor.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And you are a rogue.
CHORUS. Hit him hard.
CLEON. Oh, oh, dear! The conspirators are murdering me!
CHORUS. Strike, strike with all your might; bruise his belly, lashing him
with your guts and your tripe; punish him with both arms! Oh! vigorous
assailant and intrepid heart! Have you not routed him totally in this
duel of abuse? how shall I give tongue to my joy and sufficiently praise
CLEON. Ah! by Demeter! I was not ignorant of this plot against me; I knew
it was forming, that the chariot of war was being put together.
CHORUS (_to Sausage-seller_). Look out, look out! Come, outfence him with
some wheelwright slang?
SAUSAGE-SELLER. His tricks at Argos do not escape me. Under pretence of
forming an alliance with the Argives, he is hatching a plot with the
Lacedaemonians there; and I know why the bellows are blowing and the
metal that is on the anvil; 'tis the question of the prisoners.
CHORUS. Well done! Forge on, if he be a wheelwright.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And there are men at Sparta who are hammering the
iron with you; but neither gold nor silver nor prayers nor anything else
shall impede my denouncing your trickery to the Athenians.
CLEON. As for me, I hasten to the Senate to reveal your plotting, your
nightly gatherings in the city, your trafficking with the Medes and with
the Great King, and all you are foraging for in Boeotia.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. What price then is paid for forage by Boeotians?
CLEON. Oh! by Heracles! I will tan your hide.
CHORUS. Come, if you have both wit and heart, now is the time to show it,
as on the day when you hid the meat in your breeches, as you say. Hasten
to the Senate, for he will rush there like a tornado to calumniate us all
and give vent to his fearful bellowings.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I am going, but first I must rid myself of my tripe and
my knives; I will leave them here.
CHORUS. Stay! rub your neck with lard; in this way you will slip between
the fingers of calumny.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Spoken like a finished master of fence.
CHORUS. Now, bolt down these cloves of garlic.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Pray, what for?
CHORUS. Well primed with garlic, you will have greater mettle for the
fight. But hurry, hurry, bestir yourself!
SAUSAGE-SELLER. That's just what I am doing.
CHORUS. And, above all, bite your foe, rend him to atoms, tear off his
comb and do not return until you have devoured his wattles. Go! make
your attack with a light heart, avenge me and may Zeus guard you! I burn
to see you return the victor and laden with chaplets of glory. And you,
spectators, enlightened critics of all kinds of poetry, lend an ear to my
CHORUS. Had one of the old authors asked to mount this stage to recite
his verses, he would not have found it hard to persuade me. But our poet
of to-day is likewise worthy of this favour; he shares our hatred, he
dares to tell the truth, he boldly braves both waterspouts and
hurricanes. Many among you, he tells us, have expressed wonder, that he
has not long since had a piece presented in his own name, and have asked
the reason why. This is what he bids us say in reply to your
questions; 'tis not without grounds that he has courted the shade, for,
in his opinion, nothing is more difficult than to cultivate the comic
Muse; many court her, but very few secure her favours. Moreover, he knows
that you are fickle by nature and betray your poets when they grow old.
What fate befell Magnes, when his hair went white? Often enough has
he triumphed over his rivals; he has sung in all keys, played the lyre
and fluttered wings; he turned into a Lydian and even into a gnat, daubed
himself with green to become a frog. All in vain! When young, you
applauded him; in his old age you hooted and mocked him, because his
genius for raillery had gone. Cratinus again was like a torrent of
glory rushing across the plain, uprooting oak, plane tree and rivals and
bearing them pell-mell in its wake. The only songs at the banquet were,
'Doro, shod with lying tales' and 'Adepts of the Lyric Muse'; so
great was his renown. Look at him now! he drivels, his lyre has neither
strings nor keys, his voice quivers, but you have no pity for him, and
you let him wander about as he can, like Connas, his temples circled
with a withered chaplet; the poor old fellow is dying of thirst; he who,
in honour of his glorious past, should be in the Prytaneum drinking at
his ease, and instead of trudging the country should be sitting amongst
the first row of the spectators, close to the statue of Dionysus and
loaded with perfumes. Crates, again, have you done hounding him with
your rage and your hisses? True, 'twas but meagre fare that his sterile
Muse could offer you; a few ingenious fancies formed the sole
ingredients, but nevertheless he knew how to stand firm and to recover
from his falls. 'Tis such examples that frighten our poet; in addition,
he would tell himself, that before being a pilot, he must first know how
to row, then to keep watch at the prow, after that how to gauge the
winds, and that only then would he be able to command his vessel. If
then you approve this wise caution and his resolve that he would not bore
you with foolish nonsense, raise loud waves of applause in his favour
this day, so that, at this Lenaean feast, the breath of your favour may
swell the sails of his trumphant galley and the poet may withdraw proud
of his success, with head erect and his face beaming with delight.
Posidon, god of the racing steed, I salute you, you who delight in their
neighing and in the resounding clatter of their brass-shod hoofs, god of
the swift galleys, which, loaded with mercenaries, cleave the seas with
their azure beaks, god of the equestrian contests, in which young rivals,
eager for glory, ruin themselves for the sake of distinction with their
chariots in the arena, come and direct our chorus; Posidon with the
trident of gold, you, who reign over the dolphins, who are worshipped at
Sunium and at Geraestus beloved of Phormio, and dear to the whole
city above all the immortals, I salute you!
Let us sing the glory of our forefathers; ever victors, both on land and
sea, they merit that Athens, rendered famous by these, her worthy sons,
should write their deeds upon the sacred peplus. As soon as they saw
the enemy, they at once sprang at him without ever counting his strength.
Should one of them fall in the conflict, he would shake off the dust,
deny his mishap and begin the struggle anew. Not one of these Generals of
old time would have asked Cleaenetus to be fed at the cost of the
state; but our present men refuse to fight, unless they get the honours
of the Prytaneum and precedence in their seats. As for us, we place our
valour gratuitously at the service of Athens and of her gods; our only
hope is, that, should peace ever put a term to our toils, you will not
grudge us our long, scented hair nor our delicate care for our toilet.
Oh! Pallas, guardian of Athens, you, who reign over the most pious city,
the most powerful, the richest in warriors and in poets, hasten to my
call, bringing in your train our faithful ally in all our expeditions and
combats, Victory, who smiles on our choruses and fights with us against
our rivals. Oh! goddess! manifest yourself to our sight; this day more
than ever we deserve that you should ensure our triumph.
We will sing likewise the exploits of our steeds! they are worthy of our
praises; in what invasions, what fights have I not seen them helping
us! But especially admirable were they, when they bravely leapt upon the
galleys, taking nothing with them but a coarse wine, some cloves of
garlic and onions; despite this, they nevertheless seized the sweeps just
like men, curved their backs over the thwarts and shouted, "Hippopopoh!
Give way! Come, all pull together! Come, come! How! Samphoras! Are
you not rowing?" They rushed down upon the coast of Corinth, and the
youngest hollowed out beds in the sand with their hoofs or went to fetch
coverings; instead of luzern, they had no food but crabs, which they
caught on the strand and even in the sea; so that Theorus causes a
Corinthian crab to say, "'Tis a cruel fate, oh Posidon! neither my
deep hiding-places, whether on land or at sea, can help me to escape the
Welcome, oh, dearest and bravest of men! How distracted I have been
during your absence! But here you are back, safe and sound. Tell us about
the fight you have had.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. The important thing is that I have beaten the Senate.
CHORUS. All glory to you! Let us burst into shouts of joy! You speak
well, but your deeds are even better. Come, tell me everything in detail;
what a long journey would I not be ready to take to hear your tale! Come,
dear friend, speak with full confidence to your admirers.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. The story is worth hearing. Listen! From here I rushed
straight to the Senate, right in the track of this man; he was already
letting loose the storm, unchaining the lightning, crushing the Knights
beneath huge mountains of calumnies heaped together and having all the
air of truth; he called you conspirators and his lies caught root like
weeds in every mind; dark were the looks on every side and brows were
knitted. When I saw that the Senate listened to him favourably and was
being tricked by his imposture, I said to myself, "Come, gods of rascals
and braggarts, gods of all fools, toad-eaters and braggarts and thou,
market-place, where I was bred from my earliest days, give me unbridled
audacity, an untiring chatter and a shameless voice." No sooner had I
ended this prayer than a lewd man broke wind on my right. "Hah! 'tis a
good omen," said I, and prostrated myself; then I burst open the door by
a vigorous push with my back, and, opening my mouth to the utmost,
shouted, "Senators, I wanted you to be the first to hear the good news;
since the War broke out, I have never seen anchovies at a lower price!"
All faces brightened at once and I was voted a chaplet for my good
tidings; and I added, "With a couple of words I will reveal to you, how
you can have quantities of anchovies for an obol; 'tis to seize on all
the dishes the merchants have." With mouths gaping with admiration, they
applauded me. However, the Paphlagonian winded the matter and, well
knowing the sort of language which pleases the Senate best, said,
"Friends, I am resolved to offer one hundred oxen to the goddess in
recognition of this happy event." The Senate at once veered to his side.
So when I saw myself defeated by this ox filth, I outbade the fellow,
crying, "Two hundred!" And beyond this I moved, that a vow be made to
Diana of a thousand goats if the next day anchovies should only be worth
an obol a hundred. And the Senate looked towards me again. The other,
stunned with the blow, grew delirious in his speech, and at last the
Prytanes and the guards dragged him out. The Senators then stood talking
noisily about the anchovies. Cleon, however, begged them to listen to the
Lacedaemonian envoy, who had come to make proposals of peace; but all
with one accord, cried, "'Tis certainly not the moment to think of peace
now! If anchovies are so cheap, what need have we of peace? Let the war
take its course!" And with loud shouts they demanded that the Prytanes
should close the sitting and then leapt over the rails in all directions.
As for me, I slipped away to buy all the coriander seed and leeks there
were on the market and gave it to them gratis as seasoning for their
anchovies. 'Twas marvellous! They loaded me with praises and caresses;
thus I conquered the Senate with an obol's worth of leeks, and here I am.
CHORUS. Bravo! you are the spoilt child of Fortune. Ah! our knave has
found his match in another, who has far better tricks in his sack, a
thousand kinds of knaveries and of wily words. But the fight begins
afresh; take care not to weaken; you know that I have long been your most
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Ah! ah! here comes the Paphlagonian! One would say, 'twas
a hurricane lashing the sea and rolling the waves before it in its fury.
He looks as if he wanted to swallow me up alive! Ye gods! what an
CLEON. To my aid, my beloved lies! I am going to destroy you, or my name
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Oh! how he diverts me with his threats! His bluster makes
me laugh! And I dance the _mothon_ for joy, and sing at the top of my
CLEON. Ah! by Demeter! if I do not kill and devour you, may I die!
SAUSAGE-SELLER. If you do not devour me? and I, if I do not drink your
blood to the last drop, and then burst with indigestion.
CLEON. I, I will strangle you, I swear it by the precedence which Pylos
SAUSAGE-SELLER. By the precedence! Ah! might I see you fall from your
precedence into the hindmost seat!
CLEON. By heaven! I will put you to the torture.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. What a lively wit! Come, what's the best to give you to
eat? What do you prefer? A purse?
CLEON. I will tear out your inside with my nails.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I will cut off your victuals at the Prytaneum.
CLEON. I will haul you before Demos, who will mete out justice to you.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I too will drag you before him and belch forth more
calumnies than you.
CLEON. Why, poor fool, he does not believe you, whereas I play with him
SAUSAGE-SELLER. So that Demos is your property, your contemptible
CLEON. 'Tis because I know the dishes that please him.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And these are little mouthfuls, which you serve to him
like a clever nurse. You chew the pieces and place some in small
quantities in his mouth, while you swallow three parts yourself.
CLEON. Thanks to my skill, I know exactly how to enlarge or contract this
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I can do as much with my rump.
CLEON. Hah! my friend, you tricked me at the Senate, but have a care! Let
us go before Demos.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. That's easily done; come, let's along without delay.
CLEON. Oh, Demos! Come, I adjure you to help me, my father!
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Come, oh, my dear little Demos; come and see how I am
DEMOS. What a hubbub! To the Devil with you, bawlers! alas! my olive
branch, which they have torn down! Ah! 'tis you, Paphlagonian. And
who, pray, has been maltreating you?
CLEON. You are the cause of this man and these young people having
covered me with blows.
DEMOS. And why?
CLEON Because you love me passionately, Demos.
DEMOS. And you, who are you?
SAUSAGE-SELLER. His rival. For many a long year have I loved you, have I
wished to do you honour, I and a crowd of other men of means. But this
rascal here has prevented us. You resemble those young men who do not
know where to choose their lovers; you repulse honest folk; to earn your
favours, one has to be a lamp-seller, a cobbler, a tanner or a currier.
CLEON. I am the benefactor of the people.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. In what way, an it please you?
CLEON. In what way? I supplanted the Generals at Pylos, I hurried thither
and I brought back the Laconian captives.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I, whilst simply loitering, cleared off with a pot
from a shop, which another fellow had been boiling.
CLEON. Demos, convene the assembly at once to decide which of us two
loves you best and most merits your favour.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Yes, yes, provided it be not at the Pnyx.
DEMOS. I could not sit elsewhere; 'tis at the Pnyx, that you must appear
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Ah! great gods! I am undone! At home this old fellow is
the most sensible of men, but the instant he is seated on those cursed
stone seats, he is there with mouth agape as if he were hanging up
figs by their stems to dry.
CHORUS. Come, loose all sail. Be bold, skilful in attack and entangle him
in arguments which admit of no reply. It is difficult to beat him, for he
is full of craft and pulls himself out of the worst corners. Collect all
your forces to come forth from this fight covered with glory, but take
care! Let him not assume the attack, get ready your grapples and advance
with your vessel to board him!
CLEON. Oh! guardian goddess of our city! oh! Athené! if it be true that
next to Lysicles, Cynna and Salabaccha none have done so much good
for the Athenian people as I, suffer me to continue to be fed at the
Prytaneum without working; but if I hate you, if I am not ready to fight
in your defence alone and against all, may I perish, be sawn to bits
alive and my skin be cut up into thongs.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I, Demos, if it be not true, that I love and cherish
you, may I be cooked in a stew; and if that is not saying enough, may I
be grated on this table with some cheese and then hashed, may a hook be
passed through my testicles and let me be dragged thus to the
CLEON. Is it possible, Demos, to love you more than I do? And firstly, as
long as you have governed with my consent, have I not filled your
treasury, putting pressure on some, torturing others or begging of them,
indifferent to the opinion of private individuals, and solely anxious to
SAUSAGE-SELLER. There is nothing so wonderful in all that, Demos; I will
do as much; I will thieve the bread of others to serve up to you. No, he
has neither love for you nor kindly feeling; his only care is to warm
himself with your wood, and I will prove it. You, who, sword in hand,
saved Attica from the Median yoke at Marathon; you, whose glorious
triumphs we love to extol unceasingly, look, he cares little whether he
sees you seated uncomfortably upon a stone; whereas I, I bring you this
cushion, which I have sewn with my own hands. Rise and try this nice soft
seat. Did you not put enough strain on your breeches at Salamis?
DEMOS. Who are you then? Can you be of the race of Harmodius? Upon my
faith, 'tis nobly done and like a true friend of Demos.
CLEON. Petty flattery to prove him your goodwill!
SAUSAGE-SELLER. But you have caught him with even smaller baits!
CLEON. Never had Demos a defender or a friend more devoted than myself;
on my head, on my life, I swear it!
SAUSAGE-SELLER. You pretend to love him and for eight years you have seen
him housed in casks, in crevices and dovecots, where he is blinded
with the smoke, and you lock him in without pity; Archeptolemus brought
peace and you tore it to ribbons; the envoys who come to propose a truce
you drive from the city with kicks in their backsides.
CLEON. This is that Demos may rule over all the Greeks; for the oracles
predict that, if he is patient, he must one day sit as judge in Arcadia
at five obols per day. Meanwhile, I will nourish him, look after him and,
above all, I will ensure to him his three obols.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. No, little you care for his reigning in Arcadia, 'tis to
pillage and impose on the allies at will that you reckon; you wish the
War to conceal your rogueries as in a mist, that Demos may see nothing of
them, and harassed by cares, may only depend on yourself for his bread.
But if ever peace is restored to him, if ever he returns to his lands to
comfort himself once more with good cakes, to greet his cherished olives,
he will know the blessings you have kept him out of, even though paying
him a salary; and, filled with hatred and rage, he will rise, burning
with desire to vote against you. You know this only too well; 'tis for
this you rock him to sleep with your lies.
CLEON. Is it not shameful, that you should dare thus to calumniate me
before Demos, me, to whom Athens, I swear it by Demeter, already owes
more than it ever did to Themistocles?
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Oh! citizens of Argos, do you hear what he says? You
dare to compare yourself to Themistocles, who found our city half empty
and left it full to overflowing, who one day gave us the Piraeus for
dinner, and added fresh fish to all our usual meals. You, on the
contrary, you, who compare yourself with Themistocles, have only sought
to reduce our city in size, to shut it within its walls, to chant oracles
to us. And Themistocles goes into exile, while you gorge yourself on the
most excellent fare.
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
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.
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; 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, 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. 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.
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
DEMOS. Faugh! may the plague seize you! You stink of leather
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 was so
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!
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.
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
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 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, 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
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
SAUSAGE-SELLER. What was your device?
DEMOS. A fig-leaf, stuffed with bullock's fat.
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.
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
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And mine.
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
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And mine say that, clothed in an embroidered purple robe,
you shall pursue Smicythes and her spouse, 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." 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."
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
DEMOS. What are these?
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?