Part 5 out of 7
LYSISTRATA. By Artemis, the virgin goddess! if he touches me with the tip
of his finger, officer of the public peace though he be, let him look out
MAGISTRATE (_to the officer_). How now, are you afraid? Seize her, I tell
you, round the body. Two of you at her, and have done with it!
FIRST WOMAN. By Pandrosos! if you lay a hand on her, I'll trample you
underfoot till you shit your guts!
MAGISTRATE. Oh, there! my guts! Where is my other officer? Bind that minx
first, who speaks so prettily!
SECOND WOMAN. By Phoebé, if you touch her with one finger, you'd better
call quick for a surgeon!
MAGISTRATE. What do you mean? Officer, where are you got to? Lay hold of
her. Oh! but I'm going to stop your foolishness for you all!
THIRD WOMAN. By the Tauric Artemis, if you go near her, I'll pull out
your hair, scream as you like.
MAGISTRATE. Ah! miserable man that I am! My own officers desert me. What
ho! are we to let ourselves be bested by a mob of women? Ho! Scythians
mine, close up your ranks, and forward!
LYSISTRATA. By the holy goddesses! you'll have to make acquaintance with
four companies of women, ready for the fray and well armed to boot.
MAGISTRATE. Forward, Scythians, and bind them!
LYSISTRATA. Forward, my gallant companions; march forth, ye vendors of
grain and eggs, garlic and vegetables, keepers of taverns and bakeries,
wrench and strike and tear; come, a torrent of invective and insult!
(_They beat the officers._) Enough, enough! now retire, never rob the
MAGISTRATE. Here's a fine exploit for my officers!
LYSISTRATA. Ah, ha! so you thought you had only to do with a set of
slave-women! you did not know the ardour that fills the bosom of
MAGISTRATE. Ardour! yes, by Apollo, ardour enough--especially for the
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. Sir, sir! what use of words? they are of no avail with
wild beasts of this sort. Don't you know how they have just washed us
down--and with no very fragrant soap!
CHORUS OF WOMEN. What would you have? You should never have laid rash
hands on us. If you start afresh, I'll knock your eyes out. My delight is
to stay at home as coy as a young maid, without hurting anybody or moving
any more than a milestone; but 'ware the wasps, if you go stirring up the
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. Ah! great gods! how get the better of these ferocious
creatures? 'tis past all bearing! But come, let us try to find out the
reason of the dreadful scourge. With what end in view have they seized
the citadel of Cranaus, the sacred shrine that is raised upon the
inaccessible rock of the Acropolis? Question them; be cautious and not
too credulous. 'Twould be culpable negligence not to pierce the mystery,
if we may.
MAGISTRATE (_addressing the women_). I would ask you first why ye have
barred our gates.
LYSISTRATA. To seize the treasury; no more money, no more war.
MAGISTRATE. Then money is the cause of the War?
LYSISTRATA. And of all our troubles. 'Twas to find occasion to steal that
Pisander and all the other agitators were for ever raising
revolutions. Well and good! but they'll never get another drachma here.
MAGISTRATE. What do you propose to do then, pray?
LYSISTRATA. You ask me that! Why, we propose to administer the treasury
MAGISTRATE. _You_ do?
LYSISTRATA. What is there in that to surprise you? Do we not administer
the budget of household expenses?
MAGISTRATE. But that is not the same thing.
LYSISTRATA How so--not the same thing?
MAGISTRATE. It is the treasury supplies the expenses of the War.
LYSISTRATA. That's our first principle--no War!
MAGISTRATE. What! and the safety of the city?
LYSISTRATA. We will provide for that.
LYSISTRATA Yes, just we.
MAGISTRATE. What a sorry business!
LYSISTRATA. Yes, we're going to save you, whether you will or no.
MAGISTRATE. Oh! the impudence of the creatures!
LYSISTRATA. You seem annoyed! but there, you've got to come to it.
MAGISTRATE. But 'tis the very height of iniquity!
LYSISTRATA. We're going to save you, my man.
MAGISTRATE. But if I don't want to be saved?
LYSISTRATA. Why, all the more reason!
MAGISTRATE. But what a notion, to concern yourselves with questions of
Peace and War!
LYSISTRATA. We will explain our idea.
MAGISTRATE. Out with it then; quick, or ... (_threatening her_).
LYSISTRATA. Listen, and never a movement, please!
MAGISTRATE. Oh! it is too much for me! I cannot keep my temper!
A WOMAN. Then look out for yourself; you have more to fear than we have.
MAGISTRATE. Stop your croaking, old crow, you! (_To Lysistrata._) Now
you, say your say.
LYSISTRATA. Willingly. All the long time the War has lasted, we have
endured in modest silence all you men did; we never allowed ourselves to
open our lips. We were far from satisfied, for we knew how things were
going; often in our homes we would hear you discussing, upside down and
inside out, some important turn of affairs. Then with sad hearts, but
smiling lips, we would ask you: Well, in to-day's Assembly did they vote
Peace?--But, "Mind your own business!" the husband would growl, "Hold
your tongue, do!" And I would say no more.
A WOMAN. I would not have held my tongue though, not I!
MAGISTRATE. You would have been reduced to silence by blows then.
LYSISTRATA. Well, for my part, I would say no more. But presently I would
come to know you had arrived at some fresh decision more fatally foolish
than ever. "Ah! my dear man," I would say, "what madness next!" But he
would only look at me askance and say: "Just weave your web, do; else
your cheeks will smart for hours. War is men's business!"
MAGISTRATE. Bravo! well said indeed!
LYSISTRATA. How now, wretched man? not to let us contend against your
follies, was bad enough! But presently we heard you asking out loud in
the open street: "Is there never a man left in Athens?" and, "No, not
one, not one," you were assured in reply. Then, then we made up our minds
without more delay to make common cause to save Greece. Open your ears to
our wise counsels and hold your tongues, and we may yet put things on a
MAGISTRATE. _You_ put things indeed! Oh! 'tis too much! The insolence of
the creatures! Silence, I say.
LYSISTRATA. Silence yourself!
MAGISTRATE. May I die a thousand deaths ere I obey one who wears a veil!
LYSISTRATA. If that's all that troubles you, here, take my veil, wrap it
round your head, and hold your tongue. Then take this basket; put on a
girdle, card wool, munch beans. The War shall be women's business.
CHORUS OF WOMEN. Lay aside your water-pots, we will guard them, we will
help our friends and companions. For myself, I will never weary of the
dance; my knees will never grow stiff with fatigue. I will brave
everything with my dear allies, on whom Nature has lavished virtue,
grace, boldness, cleverness, and whose wisely directed energy is going to
save the State. Oh! my good, gallant Lysistrata, and all my friends, be
ever like a bundle of nettles; never let your anger slacken; the winds of
fortune blow our way.
LYSISTRATA. May gentle Love and the sweet Cyprian Queen shower seductive
charms on our bosoms and all our person. If only we may stir so amorous a
lust among the men that their tools stand stiff as sticks, we shall
indeed deserve the name of peace-makers among the Greeks.
MAGISTRATE. How will that be, pray?
LYSISTRATA. To begin with, we shall not see you any more running like mad
fellows to the Market holding lance in fist.
A WOMAN. That will be something gained, anyway, by the Paphian goddess,
LYSISTRATA. Now we see 'em, mixed up with saucepans and kitchen stuff,
armed to the teeth, looking like wild Corybantes!
MAGISTRATE. Why, of course; that's how brave men should do.
LYSISTRATA. Oh! but what a funny sight, to behold a man wearing a
Gorgon's-head buckler coming along to buy fish!
A WOMAN. 'Tother day in the Market I saw a phylarch with flowing
ringlets; he was a-horseback, and was pouring into his helmet the broth
he had just bought at an old dame's stall. There was a Thracian warrior
too, who was brandishing his lance like Tereus in the play; he had
scared a good woman selling figs into a perfect panic, and was gobbling
up all her ripest fruit.
MAGISTRATE. And how, pray, would you propose to restore peace and order
in all the countries of Greece?
LYSISTRATA. 'Tis the easiest thing in the world!
MAGISTRATE. Come, tell us how; I am curious to know.
LYSISTRATA. When we are winding thread, and it is tangled, we pass the
spool across and through the skein, now this way, now that way; even so,
to finish off the War, we shall send embassies hither and thither and
everywhere, to disentangle matters.
MAGISTRATE. And 'tis with your yarn, and your skeins, and your spools,
you think to appease so many bitter enmities, you silly women?
LYSISTRATA. If only you had common sense, you would always do in politics
the same as we do with our yarn.
MAGISTRATE. Come, how is that, eh?
LYSISTRATA. First we wash the yarn to separate the grease and filth; do
the same with all bad citizens, sort them out and drive them forth with
rods--'tis the refuse of the city. Then for all such as come crowding up
in search of employments and offices, we must card them thoroughly; then,
to bring them all to the same standard, pitch them pell-mell into the
same basket, resident aliens or no, allies, debtors to the State, all
mixed up together. Then as for our Colonies, you must think of them as so
many isolated hanks; find the ends of the separate threads, draw them to
a centre here, wind them into one, make one great hank of the lot, out of
which the Public can weave itself a good, stout tunic.
MAGISTRATE. Is it not a sin and a shame to see them carding and winding
the State, these women who have neither art nor part in the burdens of
LYSISTRATA. What! wretched man! why, 'tis a far heavier burden to us than
to you. In the first place, we bear sons who go off to fight far away
MAGISTRATE. Enough said! do not recall sad and sorry memories!
LYSISTRATA. Then secondly, instead of enjoying the pleasures of love and
making the best of our youth and beauty, we are left to languish far from
our husbands, who are all with the army. But say no more of ourselves;
what afflicts me is to see our girls growing old in lonely grief.
MAGISTRATE. Don't the men grow old too?
LYSISTRATA. That is not the same thing. When the soldier returns from the
wars, even though he has white hair, he very soon finds a young wife. But
a woman has only one summer; if she does not make hay while the sun
shines, no one will afterwards have anything to say to her, and she
spends her days consulting oracles, that never send her a husband.
MAGISTRATE. But the old man who can still erect his organ ...
LYSISTRATA. But you, why don't you get done with it and die? You are
rich; go buy yourself a bier, and I will knead you a honey-cake for
Cerberus. Here, take this garland. (_Drenching him with water._)
FIRST WOMAN. And this one too. (_Drenching him with water._)
SECOND WOMAN. And these fillets. (_Drenching him with water._)
LYSISTRATA. What do you lack more? Step aboard the boat; Charon is
waiting for you, you're keeping him from pushing off.
MAGISTRATE. To treat me so scurvily! What an insult! I will go show
myself to my fellow-magistrates just as I am.
LYSISTRATA. What! are you blaming us for not having exposed you according
to custom? Nay, console yourself; we will not fail to offer up the
third-day sacrifice for you, first thing in the morning.
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. Awake, friends of freedom; let us hold ourselves aye
ready to act. I suspect a mighty peril; I foresee another Tyranny like
Hippias'. I am sore afraid the Laconians assembled here with
Cleisthenes have, by a stratagem of war, stirred up these women, enemies
of the gods, to seize upon our treasury and the funds whereby I
lived. Is it not a sin and a shame for them to interfere in advising
the citizens, to prate of shields and lances, and to ally themselves with
Laconians, fellows I trust no more than I would so many famished wolves?
The whole thing, my friends, is nothing else but an attempt to
re-establish Tyranny. But I will never submit; I will be on my guard for
the future; I will always carry a blade hidden under myrtle boughs; I
will post myself in the Public Square under arms, shoulder to shoulder
with Aristogiton; and now, to make a start, I must just break a few
of that cursed old jade's teeth yonder.
CHORUS OF WOMEN. Nay, never play the brave man, else when you go back
home, your own mother won't know you. But, dear friends and allies, first
let us lay our burdens down; then, citizens all, hear what I have to say.
I have useful counsel to give our city, which deserves it well at my
hands for the brilliant distinctions it has lavished on my girlhood. At
seven years of age, I was bearer of the sacred vessels; at ten, I pounded
barley for the altar of Athené; next, clad in a robe of yellow silk, I
was _little bear_ to Artemis at the Brauronia; presently, grown a
tall, handsome maiden, they put a necklace of dried figs about my neck,
and I was Basket-Bearer. So surely I am bound to give my best advice
to Athens. What matters that I was born a woman, if I can cure your
misfortunes? I pay my share of tolls and taxes, by giving men to the
State. But you, you miserable greybeards, you contribute nothing to the
public charges; on the contrary, you have wasted the treasure of our
forefathers, as it was called, the treasure amassed in the days of the
Persian Wars. You pay nothing at all in return; and into the bargain
you endanger our lives and liberties by your mistakes. Have you one word
to say for yourselves? ... Ah! don't irritate me, you there, or I'll lay
my slipper across your jaws; and it's pretty heavy.
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. Outrage upon outrage! things are going from bad to
worse. Let us punish the minxes, every one of us that has a man's
appendages to boast of. Come, off with our tunics, for a man must savour
of manhood; come, my friends, let us strip naked from head to foot.
Courage, I say, we who in our day garrisoned Lipsydrion; let us be
young again, and shake off eld. If we give them the least hold over us,
'tis all up! their audacity will know no bounds! We shall see them
building ships, and fighting sea-fights, like Artemisia; nay, if
they want to mount and ride as cavalry, we had best cashier the knights,
for indeed women excel in riding, and have a fine, firm seat for the
gallop. Just think of all those squadrons of Amazons Micon has
painted for us engaged in hand-to-hand combat with men. Come then,
we must e'en fit collars to all these willing necks.
CHORUS OF WOMEN. By the blessed goddesses, if you anger me, I will let
loose the beast of my evil passions, and a very hailstorm of blows will
set you yelling for help. Come, dames, off tunics, and quick's the word;
women must scent the savour of women in the throes of passion.... Now
just you dare to measure strength with me, old greybeard, and I warrant
you you'll never eat garlic or black beans more. No, not a word! my anger
is at boiling point, and I'll do with you what the beetle did with the
eagle's eggs. I laugh at your threats, so long as I have on my side
Lampito here, and the noble Theban, my dear Ismenia.... Pass decree on
decree, you can do us no hurt, you wretch abhorred of all your fellows.
Why, only yesterday, on occasion of the feast of Hecaté, I asked my
neighbours of Boeotia for one of their daughters for whom my girls have a
lively liking--a fine, fat eel to wit; and if they did not refuse, all
along of your silly decrees! We shall never cease to suffer the like,
till someone gives you a neat trip-up and breaks your neck for you!
CHORUS OF WOMEN (_addressing Lysistrata_). You, Lysistrata, you who are
leader of our glorious enterprise, why do I see you coming towards me
with so gloomy an air?
LYSISTRATA. 'Tis the behaviour of these naughty women, 'tis the female
heart and female weakness so discourages me.
CHORUS OF WOMEN. Tell us, tell us, what is it?
LYSISTRATA. I only tell the simple truth.
CHORUS OF WOMEN. What has happened so disconcerting; come, tell your
LYSISTRATA. Oh! the thing is so hard to tell--yet so impossible to
CHORUS OF WOMEN. Nay, never seek to hide any ill that has befallen our
LYSISTRATA. To blurt it out in a word--we are in heat!
CHORUS OF WOMEN. Oh! Zeus, oh! Zeus!
LYSISTRATA. What use calling upon Zeus? The thing is even as I say. I
cannot stop them any longer from lusting after the men. They are all for
deserting. The first I caught was slipping out by the postern gate near
the cave of Pan; another was letting herself down by a rope and pulley; a
third was busy preparing her escape; while a fourth, perched on a bird's
back, was just taking wing for Orsilochus' house, when I seized her
by the hair. One and all, they are inventing excuses to be off home.
Look! there goes one, trying to get out! Halloa there! whither away so
FIRST WOMAN. I want to go home; I have some Miletus wool in the house,
which is getting all eaten up by the worms.
LYSISTRATA. Bah! you and your worms! go back, I say!
FIRST WOMAN. I will return immediately, I swear I will by the two
goddesses! I only have just to spread it out on the bed.
LYSISTRATA. You shall not do anything of the kind! I say, you shall not
FIRST WOMAN. Must I leave my wool to spoil then?
LYSISTRATA. Yes, if need be.
SECOND WOMAN. Unhappy woman that I am! Alas for my flax! I've left it at
LYSISTRATA. So, here's another trying to escape to go home and strip her
SECOND WOMAN. Oh! I swear by the goddess of light, the instant I have put
it in condition I will come straight back.
LYSISTRATA. You shall do nothing of the kind! If once you began, others
would want to follow suit.
THIRD WOMAN. Oh! goddess divine, Ilithyia, patroness of women in labour,
stay, stay the birth, till I have reached a spot less hallowed than
LYSISTRATA. What mean you by these silly tales?
THIRD WOMAN. I am going to have a child--now, this minute.
LYSISTRATA. But you were not pregnant yesterday!
THIRD WOMAN. Well, I am to-day. Oh! let me go in search of the midwife,
Lysistrata, quick, quick!
LYSISTRATA. What is this fable you are telling me? Ah! what have you got
there so hard?
THIRD WOMAN. A male child.
LYSISTRATA. No, no, by Aphrodité! nothing of the sort! Why, it feels like
something hollow--a pot or a kettle. Oh! you baggage, if you have not got
the sacred helmet of Pallas--and you said you were with child!
THIRD WOMAN. And so I am, by Zeus, I am!
LYSISTRATA. Then why this helmet, pray?
THIRD WOMAN. For fear my pains should seize me in the Acropolis; I mean
to lay my eggs in this helmet, as the doves do.
LYSISTRATA. Excuses and pretences every word! the thing's as clear as
daylight. Anyway, you must stay here now till the fifth day, your day of
THIRD WOMAN. I cannot sleep any more in the Acropolis, now I have seen
the snake that guards the Temple.
FOURTH WOMAN. Ah! and those confounded owls with their dismal hooting! I
cannot get a wink of rest, and I'm just dying of fatigue.
LYSISTRATA. You wicked women, have done with your falsehoods! You want
your husbands, that's plain enough. But don't you think they want you
just as badly? They are spending dreadful nights, oh! I know that well
enough. But hold out, my dears, hold out! A little more patience, and the
victory will be ours. An Oracle promises us success, if only we remain
united. Shall I repeat the words?
FIRST WOMAN. Yes, tell us what the Oracle declares.
LYSISTRATA. Silence then! Now--"Whenas the swallows, fleeing before the
hoopoes, shall have all flocked together in one place, and shall refrain
them from all amorous commerce, then will be the end of all the ills of
life; yea, and Zeus, which doth thunder in the skies, shall set above
what was erst below...."
CHORUS OF WOMEN. What! shall the men be underneath?
LYSISTRATA. "But if dissension do arise among the swallows, and they take
wing from the holy Temple, 'twill be said there is never a more wanton
bird in all the world."
CHORUS OF WOMEN. Ye gods! the prophecy is clear. Nay, never let us be
cast down by calamity! let us be brave to bear, and go back to our posts.
'Twere shameful indeed not to trust the promises of the Oracle.
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. I want to tell you a fable they used to relate to me
when I was a little boy. This is it: Once upon a time there was a young
man called Melanion, who hated the thought of marriage so sorely that he
fled away to the wilds. So he dwelt in the mountains, wove himself nets,
kept a dog and caught hares. He never, never came back, he had such a
horror of women. As chaste as Melanion, we loathe the jades just as
much as he did.
AN OLD MAN. You dear old woman, I would fain kiss you.
A WOMAN. I will set you crying without onions.
OLD MAN. ... And give you a sound kicking.
OLD WOMAN. Ah, ha! what a dense forest you have there! (_Pointing._)
OLD MAN. So was Myronides one of the best-bearded of men o' this side;
his backside was all black, and he terrified his enemies as much as
CHORUS OF WOMEN. I want to tell you a fable too, to match yours about
Melanion. Once there was a certain man called Timon, a tough
customer, and a whimsical, a true son of the Furies, with a face that
seemed to glare out of a thorn-bush. He withdrew from the world because
he couldn't abide bad men, after vomiting a thousand curses at 'em. He
had a holy horror of ill-conditioned fellows, but he was mighty tender
A WOMAN. Suppose I up and broke your jaw for you!
AN OLD MAN. I am not a bit afraid of you.
A WOMAN. Suppose I let fly a good kick at you?
OLD MAN. I should see your backside then.
WOMAN. You would see that, for all my age, it is very well attended to,
and all fresh singed smooth.
LYSISTRATA. Ho there! come quick, come quick!
FIRST WOMAN. What is it? Why these cries?
LYSISTRATA. A man! a man! I see him approaching all afire with the flames
of love. Oh! divine Queen of Cyprus, Paphos and Cythera, I pray you still
be propitious to our emprise.
FIRST WOMAN. Where is he, this unknown foe?
LYSISTRATA. Yonder--beside the Temple of Demeter.
FIRST WOMAN. Yes, indeed, I see him; but who is it?
LYSISTRATA. Look, look! does any of you recognize him?
FIRST WOMAN. I do, I do! 'tis my husband Cinesias.
LYSISTRATA. To work then! Be it your task to inflame and torture and
torment him. Seductions, caresses, provocations, refusals, try every
means! Grant every favour,--always excepting what is forbidden by our
oath on the wine-bowl.
MYRRHINÉ. Have no fear, I undertake the work.
LYSISTRATA. Well, I will stay here to help you cajole the man and set his
passions aflame. The rest of you, withdraw.
CINESIAS. Alas! alas! how I am tortured by spasm and rigid convulsion!
Oh! I am racked on the wheel!
LYSISTRATA. Who is this that dares to pass our lines?
CINESIAS. It is I.
LYSISTRATA. What, a man?
CINESIAS. Yes, no doubt about it, a man!
CINESIAS. But who are you that thus repulses me?
LYSISTRATA. The sentinel of the day.
CINESIAS. By all the gods, call Myrrhiné hither.
LYSISTRATA. Call Myrrhiné hither, quotha? And pray, who are you?
CINESIAS. I am her husband, Cinesias, son of Peon.
LYSISTRATA. Ah! good day, my dear friend. Your name is not unknown
amongst us. Your wife has it for ever on her lips; and she never touches
an egg or an apple without saying: "'Twill be for Cinesias."
CINESIAS. Really and truly?
LYSISTRATA. Yes, indeed, by Aphrodité! And if we fall to talking of men,
quick your wife declares: "Oh! all the rest, they're good for nothing
compared with Cinesias."
CINESIAS. Oh! I beseech you, go and call her to me.
LYSISTRATA. And what will you give me for my trouble?
This, if you like (_handling his tool_). I will give you what I have
LYSISTRATA. Well, well, I will tell her to come.
CINESIAS. Quick, oh! be quick! Life has no more charms for me since she
left my house. I am sad, sad, when I go indoors; it all seems so empty;
my victuals have lost their savour. Desire is eating out my heart!
MYRRHINÉ. I love him, oh! I love him; but he won't let himself be loved.
No! I shall not come.
CINESIAS. Myrrhiné, my little darling Myrrhiné, what are you saying? Come
down to me quick.
MYRRHINÉ. No indeed, not I.
CINESIAS. I call you, Myrrhiné, Myrrhiné; will you not come?
MYRRHINÉ. Why should you call me? You do not want me.
CINESIAS. Not want you! Why, my weapon stands stiff with desire!
CINESIAS. Oh! Myrrhiné, Myrrhiné, in our child's name, hear me; at any
rate hear the child! Little lad, call your mother.
CHILD. Mammy, mammy, mammy!
CINESIAS. There, listen! Don't you pity the poor child? It's six days now
you've never washed and never fed the child.
MYRRHINÉ. Poor darling, your father takes mighty little care of you!
CINESIAS. Come down, dearest, come down for the child's sake.
MYRRHINÉ. Ah! what a thing it is to be a mother! Well, well, we must come
down, I suppose.
CINESIAS. Why, how much younger and prettier she looks! And how she looks
at me so lovingly! Her cruelty and scorn only redouble my passion.
MYRRHINÉ. You are as sweet as your father is provoking! Let me kiss you,
my treasure, mother's darling!
CINESIAS. Ah! what a bad thing it is to let yourself be led away by other
women! Why give me such pain and suffering, and yourself into the
MYRRHINÉ. Hands off, sir!
CINESIAS. Everything is going to rack and ruin in the house.
MYRRHINÉ. I don't care.
CINESIAS. But your web that's all being pecked to pieces by the cocks and
hens, don't you care for that?
MYRRHINÉ. Precious little.
CINESIAS. And Aphrodite, whose mysteries you have not celebrated for so
long? Oh! won't you come back home?
MYRRHINÉ. No, at least, not till a sound Treaty put an end to the War.
CINESIAS. Well, if you wish it so much, why, we'll make it, your Treaty.
MYRRHINÉ. Well and good! When that's done, I will come home. Till then, I
am bound by an oath.
CINESIAS. At any rate, let's have a short time together.
MYRRHINÉ. No, no, no! ... all the same I cannot say I don't love you.
CINESIAS. You love me? Then why refuse what I ask, my little girl, my
MYRRHINÉ. You must be joking! What, before the child!
CINESIAS. Manes, carry the lad home. There, you see, the child is gone;
there's nothing to hinder us; let us to work!
MYRRHINÉ. But, miserable man, where, where are we to do it?
CINESIAS. In the cave of Pan; nothing could be better.
MYRRHINÉ. But how to purify myself, before going back into the citadel?
CINESIAS. Nothing easier! you can wash at the Clepsydra.
MYRRHINÉ. But my oath? Do you want me to perjure myself?
CINESIAS. I take all responsibility; never make yourself anxious.
MYRRHINÉ. Well, I'll be off, then, and find a bed for us.
CINESIAS. Oh! 'tis not worth while; we can lie on the ground surely.
MYRRHINÉ. No, no! bad man as you are, I don't like your lying on the bare
CINESIAS. Ah! how the dear girl loves me!
MYRRHINÉ (_coming back with a bed_). Come, get to bed quick; I am going
to undress. But, plague take it, we must get a mattress.
CINESIAS. A mattress! Oh! no, never mind!
MYRRHINÉ. No, by Artemis! lie on the bare sacking, never! That were too
CINESIAS. A kiss!
MYRRHINÉ. Wait a minute!
CINESIAS. Oh! by the great gods, be quick back!
MYRRHINÉ (_coming back with a mattress_). Here is a mattress. Lie down, I
am just going to undress. But, but you've got no pillow.
CINESIAS. I don't want one, no, no.
MYRRHINÉ. But _I_ do.
CINESIAS. Oh! dear, oh, dear! they treat my poor penis for all the world
MYRRHINÉ (_coming back with a pillow_). There, lift your head, dear!
CINESIAS. That's really everything.
MYRRHINÉ. Is it everything, I wonder.
CINESIAS. Come, my treasure.
MYRRHINÉ. I am just unfastening my girdle. But remember what you promised
me about making Peace; mind you keep your word.
CINESIAS. Yes, yes, upon my life I will.
MYRRHINÉ. Why, you have no blanket.
CINESIAS. Great Zeus! what matter of that? 'tis you I want to fuck.
MYRRHINÉ Never fear--directly, directly! I'll be back in no time.
CINESIAS. The woman will kill me with her blankets!
MYRRHINÉ (_coming back with a blanket_). Now, get up for one moment.
CINESIAS. But I tell you, our friend here is up--all stiff and ready!
MYRRHINÉ. Would you like me to scent you?
CINESIAS. No, by Apollo, no, please!
MYRRHINÉ. Yes, by Aphrodité, but I will, whether you wish it or no.
CINESIAS. Ah! great Zeus, may she soon be done!
MYRRHINÉ (_coming back with a flask of perfume_). Hold out your hand; now
rub it in.
CINESIAS. Oh! in Apollo's name, I don't much like the smell of it; but
perhaps 'twill improve when it's well rubbed in. It does not somehow
smack of the marriage bed!
MYRRHINÉ. There, what a scatterbrain I am; if I have not brought Rhodian
CINESIAS. Never mind, dearest, let be now.
MYRRHINÉ. You are joking!
CINESIAS. Deuce take the man who first invented perfumes, say I!
MYRRHINÉ (_coming back with another flask_). Here, take this bottle.
CINESIAS. I have a better all ready for your service, darling. Come, you
provoking creature, to bed with you, and don't bring another thing.
MYRRHINÉ. Coming, coming; I'm just slipping off my shoes. Dear boy, will
you vote for peace?
CINESIAS. I'll think about it. (_Myrrhiné runs away._) I'm a dead man,
she is killing me! She has gone, and left me in torment! I must have
someone to fuck, I must! Ah me! the loveliest of women has choused and
cheated me. Poor little lad (_addressing his penis_), how am I to give
you what you want so badly? Where is Cynalopex? quick, man, get him a
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. Poor, miserable wretch, baulked in your amorousness!
what tortures are yours! Ah! you fill me with pity. Could any man's back
and loins stand such a strain? His organ stands stiff and rigid, and
there's never a wench to help him!
CINESIAS. Ye gods in heaven, what pains I suffer!
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. Well, there it is; 'tis her doing, that abandoned
CINESIAS. Nay, nay! rather say that sweetest, dearest darling.
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. That dearest darling? no, no, that hussy, say I! Zeus,
thou god of the skies, canst not let loose a hurricane, to sweep them all
up into the air, and whirl 'em round, then drop 'em down crash! and
impale them on the point of his weapon!
A HERALD. Say, where shall I find the Senate and the Prytanes? I am
bearer of despatches.
MAGISTRATE. But are you a man or a Priapus, pray?
HERALD. Oh! but he's mighty simple. I am a herald, of course, I swear I
am, and I come from Sparta about making peace.
MAGISTRATE. But look, you are hiding a lance under your clothes, surely.
HERALD. No, nothing of the sort.
MAGISTRATE. Then why do you turn away like that, and hold your cloak out
from your body? Have you gotten swellings in the groin with your journey?
HERALD. By the twin brethren! the man's an old maniac.
MAGISTRATE. Ah, ha! my fine lad, why I can see it standing, oh fie!
HERALD. I tell you no! but enough of this foolery.
MAGISTRATE. Well, what is it you have there then?
HERALD. A Lacedaemonian 'skytalé.'
MAGISTRATE. Oh, indeed, a 'skytalé,' is it? Well, well, speak out
frankly; I know all about these matters. How are things going at Sparta
HERALD. Why, everything is turned upside down at Sparta; and all the
allies are half dead with lusting. We simply must have Pellené.
MAGISTRATE. What is the reason of it all? Is it the god Pan's doing?
HERALD. No, but Lampito's and the Spartan women's, acting at her
instigation; they have denied the men all access to their cunts.
MAGISTRATE. But whatever do you do?
HERALD. We are at our wits' end; we walk bent double, just as if we were
carrying lanterns in a wind. The jades have sworn we shall not so much as
touch their cunts till we have all agreed to conclude peace.
MAGISTRATE. Ha, ha! So I see now, 'tis a general conspiracy embracing all
Greece. Go you back to Sparta and bid them send Envoys with plenary
powers to treat for peace. I will urge our Senators myself to name
Plenipotentiaries from us; and to persuade them, why, I will show them
this. (_Pointing to his erect penis._)
HERALD. What could be better? I fly at your command.
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. No wild beast is there, no flame of fire, more fierce
and untameable than woman; the panther is less savage and shameless.
CHORUS OF WOMEN. And yet you dare to make war upon me, wretch, when you
might have me for your most faithful friend and ally.
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. Never, never can my hatred cease towards women.
CHORUS OF WOMEN. Well, please yourself. Still I cannot bear to leave you
all naked as you are; folks would laugh at me. Come, I am going to put
this tunic on you.
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. You are right, upon my word! it was only in my
confounded fit of rage I took it off.
CHORUS OF WOMEN. Now at any rate you look like a man, and they won't make
fun of you. Ah! if you had not offended me so badly, I would take out
that nasty insect you have in your eye for you.
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. Ah! so that's what was annoying me so! Look, here's a
ring, just remove the insect, and show it me. By Zeus! it has been
hurting my eye this ever so long.
CHORUS OF WOMEN. Well, I agree, though your manners are not over and
above pleasant. Oh! what a huge great gnat! just look! It's from
Tricorysus, for sure.
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. A thousand thanks! the creature was digging a regular
well in my eye; now it's gone, my tears flow freely.
CHORUS OF WOMEN. I will wipe them for you--bad, naughty man though you
are. Now, just one kiss.
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. No--a kiss, certainly not!
CHORUS OF WOMEN. Just one, whether you like it or not.
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. Oh! those confounded women! how they do cajole us! How
true the saying: "'Tis impossible to live with the baggages, impossible
to live without 'em"! Come, let us agree for the future not to regard
each other any more as enemies; and to clinch the bargain, let us sing a
CHORUS OF WOMEN. We desire, Athenians, to speak ill of no man; but on the
contrary to say much good of everyone, and to _do_ the like. We have had
enough of misfortunes and calamities. Is there any, man or woman, wants a
bit of money--two or three minas or so; well, our purse is full. If
only peace is concluded, the borrower will not have to pay back. Also I'm
inviting to supper a few Carystian friends, who are excellently well
qualified. I have still a drop of good soup left, and a young porker I'm
going to kill, and the flesh will be sweet and tender. I shall expect you
at my house to-day; but first away to the baths with you, you and your
children; then come all of you, ask no one's leave, but walk straight up,
as if you were at home; never fear, the door will be ... shut in your
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. Ah! here come the Envoys from Sparta with their long
flowing beards; why, you would think they wore a cage between their
thighs. (_Enter the Lacedaemonian Envoys._) Hail to you, first of all,
Laconians; then tell us how you fare.
A LACONIAN. No need for many words; you see what a state we are in.
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. Alas! the situation grows more and more strained! the
intensity of the thing is just frightful.
LACONIAN. 'Tis beyond belief. But to work! summon your Commissioners, and
let us patch up the best peace we may.
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. Ah! our men too, like wrestlers in the arena, cannot
endure a rag over their bellies; 'tis an athlete's malady, which only
exercise can remedy.
AN ATHENIAN. Can anybody tell us where Lysistrata is? Surely she will
have some compassion on our condition.
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. Look! 'tis the very same complaint. (_Addressing the
Athenian._) Don't you feel of mornings a strong nervous tension?
ATHENIAN. Yes, and a dreadful, dreadful torture it is! Unless peace is
made very soon, we shall find no resource but to fuck Clisthenes.
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. Take my advice, and put on your clothes again; one of
the fellows who mutilated the Hermae might see you.
ATHENIAN. You are right.
LACONIAN. Quite right. There, I will slip on my tunic.
ATHENIAN. Oh! what a terrible state we are in! Greeting to you, Laconian
LACONIAN (_addressing one of his countrymen_). Ah! my boy, what a thing
it would have been if these fellows had seen us just now when our tools
were on full stand!
ATHENIAN. Speak out, Laconians, what is it brings you here?
LACONIAN. We have come to treat for peace.
ATHENIAN. Well said; we are of the same mind. Better call Lysistrata
then; she is the only person will bring us to terms.
LACONIAN. Yes, yes--and Lysistratus into the bargain, if you will.
CHORUS OF OLD MEN. Needless to call her; she has heard your voices, and
here she comes.
ATHENIAN. Hail, boldest and bravest of womankind! The time is come to
show yourself in turn uncompromising and conciliatory, exacting and
yielding, haughty and condescending. Call up all your skill and
artfulness. Lo! the foremost men in Hellas, seduced by your fascinations,
are agreed to entrust you with the task of ending their quarrels.
LYSISTRATA. 'Twill be an easy task--if only they refrain from mutual
indulgence in masculine love; if they do, I shall know the fact at once.
Now, where is the gentle goddess Peace? Lead hither the Laconian Envoys.
But, look you, no roughness or violence; our husbands always behaved so
boorishly. Bring them to me with smiles, as women should. If any
refuse to give you his hand, then catch him by the penis and draw him
politely forward. Bring up the Athenians too; you may take them just how
you will. Laconians, approach; and you, Athenians, on my other side. Now
hearken all! I am but a woman; but I have good common sense; Nature has
dowered me with discriminating judgment, which I have yet further
developed, thanks to the wise teachings of my father and the elders of
the city. First I must bring a reproach against you that applies equally
to both sides. At Olympia, and Thermopylae, and Delphi, and a score of
other places too numerous to mention, you celebrate before the same
altars ceremonies common to all Hellenes; yet you go cutting each other's
throats, and sacking Hellenic cities, when all the while the Barbarian is
yonder threatening you! That is my first point.
ATHENIAN. Ah, ah! concupiscence is killing me!
LYSISTRATA. Now 'tis to you I address myself, Laconians. Have you
forgotten how Periclides, your own countryman, sat a suppliant
before our altars? How pale he was in his purple robes! He had come to
crave an army of us; 'twas the time when Messenia was pressing you sore,
and the Sea-god was shaking the earth. Cimon marched to your aid at the
head of four thousand hoplites, and saved Lacedaemon. And, after such a
service as that, you ravage the soil of your benefactors!
ATHENIAN. They do wrong, very wrong, Lysistrata.
LACONIAN. We do wrong, very wrong. Ah! great gods! what lovely thighs she
LYSISTRATA. And now a word to the Athenians. Have you no memory left of
how, in the days when ye wore the tunic of slaves, the Laconians came,
spear in hand, and slew a host of Thessalians and partisans of Hippias
the Tyrant? They, and they only, fought on your side on that eventful
day; they delivered you from despotism, and thanks to them our Nation
could change the short tunic of the slave for the long cloak of the free
LACONIAN. I have never seen a woman of more gracious dignity.
ATHENIAN. I have never seen a woman with a finer cunt!
LYSISTRATA. Bound by such ties of mutual kindness, how can you bear to be
at war? Stop, stay the hateful strife, be reconciled; what hinders you?
LACONIAN. We are quite ready, if they will give us back our rampart.
LYSISTRATA. What rampart, my dear man?
LACONIAN. Pylos, which we have been asking for and craving for ever so
ATHENIAN. In the Sea-god's name, you shall never have it!
LYSISTRATA. Agree, my friends, agree.
ATHENIAN. But then what city shall we be able to stir up trouble in?
LYSISTRATA. Ask for another place in exchange.
ATHENIAN. Ah! that's the ticket! Well, to begin with, give us Echinus,
the Maliac gulf adjoining, and the two legs of Megara.
LACONIAN. Oh! surely, surely not all that, my dear sir.
LYSISTRATA. Come to terms; never make a difficulty of two legs more or
ATHENIAN. Well, I'm ready now to off coat and cultivate my land.
LACONIAN. And I too, to dung it to start with.
LYSISTRATA. That's just what you shall do, once peace is signed. So, if
you really want to make it, go consult your allies about the matter.
ATHENIAN. What allies, I should like to know? Why, we are _all_ on the
stand; not one but is mad to be fucking. What we all want, is to be abed
with our wives; how should our allies fail to second our project?
LACONIAN. And ours the same, for certain sure!
ATHENIANS. The Carystians first and foremost, by the gods!
LYSISTRATA. Well said, indeed! Now be off to purify yourselves for
entering the Acropolis, where the women invite you to supper; we will
empty our provision baskets to do you honour. At table, you will exchange
oaths and pledges; then each man will go home with his wife.
ATHENIAN. Come along then, and as quick as may be.
LACONIAN. Lead on; I'm your man.
ATHENIAN. Quick, quick's the word, say I.
CHORUS OF WOMEN. Embroidered stuffs, and dainty tunics, and flowing
gowns, and golden ornaments, everything I have, I offer them you with all
my heart; take them all for your children, for your girls, against they
are chosen "basket-bearers" to the goddess. I invite you every one to
enter, come in and choose whatever you will; there is nothing so well
fastened, you cannot break the seals, and carry away the contents. Look
about you everywhere ... you won't find a blessed thing, unless you have
sharper eyes than mine. And if any of you lacks corn to feed his
slaves and his young and numerous family, why, I have a few grains of
wheat at home; let him take what I have to give, a big twelve-pound loaf
included. So let my poorer neighbours all come with bags and wallets; my
man, Manes, shall give them corn; but I warn them not to come near my
door, or--beware the dog!
A MARKET-LOUNGER. I say, you, open the door!
A SLAVE. Go your way, I tell you. Why, bless me, they're sitting down
now; I shall have to singe 'em with my torch to make 'em stir! What an
impudent lot of fellows!
MARKET-LOUNGER. I don't mean to budge.
SLAVE. Well, as you _must_ stop, and I don't want to offend you--but
you'll see some queer sights.
MARKET-LOUNGER. Well and good, I've no objection.
SLAVE. No, no, you must be off--or I'll tear your hair out, I will; be
off, I say, and don't annoy the Laconian Envoys; they're just coming out
from the banquet-hall.
AN ATHENIAN. Such a merry banquet I've never seen before! The Laconians
were simply charming. After the drink is in, why, we're all wise men,
all. It's only natural, to be sure, for sober, we're all fools. Take my
advice, my fellow-countrymen, our Envoys should always be drunk. We go to
Sparta; we enter the city sober; why, we must be picking a quarrel
directly. We don't understand what they say to us, we imagine a lot they
don't say at all, and we report home all wrong, all topsy-turvy. But,
look you, to-day it's quite different; we're enchanted whatever happens;
instead of Clitagoras, they might sing us Telamon, and we should
clap our hands just the same. A perjury or two into the bargain, la! what
does that matter to merry companions in their cups?
SLAVE. But here they are back again! Will you begone, you loafing
MARKET-LOUNGER. Ah ha! here's the company coming out already.
A LACONIAN. My dear, sweet friend, come, take your flute in hand; I would
fain dance and sing my best in honour of the Athenians and our noble
AN ATHENIAN. Yes, take your flute, i' the gods' name. What a delight to
see him dance!
CHORUS OF LACONIANS. Oh Mnemosyné! inspire these men, inspire my muse who
knows our exploits and those of the Athenians. With what a godlike ardour
did they swoop down at Artemisium on the ships of the Medes! What a
glorious victory was that! For the soldiers of Leonidas, they were
like fierce wild-boars whetting their tushes. The sweat ran down their
faces, and drenched all their limbs, for verily the Persians were as many
as the sands of the seashore. Oh! Artemis, huntress queen, whose arrows
pierce the denizens of the woods, virgin goddess, be thou favourable to
the Peace we here conclude; through thee may our hearts be long united!
May this treaty draw close for ever the bonds of a happy friendship! No
more wiles and stratagems! Aid us, oh! aid us, maiden huntress!
LYSISTRATA. All is for the best; and now, Laconians, take your wives away
home with you, and you, Athenians, yours. May husband live happily with
wife, and wife with husband. Dance, dance, to celebrate our bliss, and
let us be heedful to avoid like mistakes for the future.
CHORUS OF ATHENIANS Appear, appear, dancers, and the Graces with you! Let
us invoke, one and all, Artemis, and her heavenly brother, gracious
Apollo, patron of the dance, and Dionysus, whose eye darts flame, as he
steps forward surrounded by the Maenad maids, and Zeus, who wields the
flashing lightning, and his august, thrice-blessed spouse, the Queen of
Heaven! These let us invoke, and all the other gods, calling all the
inhabitants of the skies to witness the noble Peace now concluded under
the fond auspices of Aphrodité. Io Paean! Io Paean! dance, leap, as in
honour of a victory won. Evoé! Evoé! And you, our Laconian guests, sing
us a new and inspiring strain!
CHORUS OF LACONIANS. Leave once more, oh! leave once more the noble
height of Taygetus, oh! Muse of Lacedaemon, and join us in singing the
praises of Apollo of Amyclae, and Athena of the Brazen House, and the
gallant twin sons of Tyndarus, who practise arms on the banks of Eurotas
river. Haste, haste hither with nimble-footed pace, let us sing
Sparta, the city that delights in choruses divinely sweet and graceful
dances, when our maidens bound lightly by the river side, like frolicsome
fillies, beating the ground with rapid steps and shaking their long locks
in the wind, as Bacchantes wave their wands in the wild revels of the
Wine-god. At their head, oh! chaste and beauteous goddess, daughter of
Latona, Artemis, do thou lead the song and dance. A fillet binding thy
waving tresses, appear in thy loveliness; leap like a fawn; strike thy
divine hands together to animate the dance, and aid us to renown the
valiant goddess of battles, great Athené of the Brazen House!
* * * * *
FINIS OF "LYSISTRATA"
* * * * *
 At Athens more than anywhere the festivals of Bacchus (Dionysus)
were celebrated with the utmost pomp--and also with the utmost licence,
not to say licentiousness.
Pan---the rustic god and king of the Satyrs; his feast was similarly an
occasion of much coarse self-indulgence.
Aphrodité Colias--under this name the goddess was invoked by courtesans
as patroness of sensual, physical love. She had a temple on the
promontory of Colias, on the Attic coast--whence the surname.
The Genetyllides were minor deities, presiding over the act of
generation, as the name indicates. Dogs were offered in sacrifice to
them--presumably because of the lubricity of that animal.
At the festivals of Dionysus, Pan and Aphrodité women used to perform
lascivious dances to the accompaniment of the beating of tambourines.
Lysistrata implies that the women she had summoned to council cared
really for nothing but wanton pleasures.
 An obscene _double entendre_; Calonicé understands, or pretends to
understand, Lysistrata as meaning a long and thick "membrum virile"!
 The eels from Lake Copaïs in Boeotia were esteemed highly by
 This is the reproach Demosthenes constantly levelled against his
Athenian fellow-countrymen--their failure to seize opportunity.
 An island of the Saronic Gulf, lying between Magara and Attica. It
was separated by a narrow strait--scene of the naval battle of Salamis,
in which the Athenians defeated Xerxes--only from the Attic coast, and
was subject to Athens.
 A deme, or township, of Attica, lying five or six miles north of
Athens. The Acharnians were throughout the most extreme partisans of the
warlike party during the Peloponnesian struggle. See 'The Acharnians.'
 The precise reference is uncertain, and where the joke exactly
comes in. The Scholiast says Theagenes was a rich, miserly and
superstitious citizen, who never undertook any enterprise without first
consulting an image of Hecaté, the distributor of honour and wealth
according to popular belief; and his wife would naturally follow her
 A deme of Attica, a small and insignificant community--a 'Little
Pedlington' in fact.
 In allusion to the gymnastic training which was _de rigueur_ at
Sparta for the women no less than the men, and in particular to the dance
of the Lacedaemonian girls, in which the performer was expected to kick
the fundament with the heels--always a standing joke among the Athenians
against their rivals and enemies the Spartans.
 The allusion, of course, is to the 'garden of love,' the female
parts, which it was the custom with the Greek women, as it is with the
ladies of the harem in Turkey to this day, to depilate scrupulously, with
the idea of making themselves more attractive to men.
 Corinth was notorious in the Ancient world for its prostitutes and
 An Athenian general strongly suspected of treachery; Aristophanes
pretends his own soldiers have to see that he does not desert to the
 A town and fortress on the west coast of Messenia, south-east part
of Peloponnese, at the northern extremity of the bay of Sphacteria--the
scene by the by of the modern naval battle of Navarino--in Lacedaemonian
territory; it had been seized by the Athenian fleet, and was still in
their possession at the date, 412 B.C., of the representation of the
'Lysistrata,' though two years later, in the twenty-second year of the
War, it was recovered by Sparta.
 The Athenian women, rightly or wrongly, had the reputation of being
over fond of wine. Aristophanes, here and elsewhere, makes many jests on
this weakness of theirs.
 The lofty range of hills overlooking Sparta from the west.
 In the original "we are nothing but Poseidon and a boat"; the
allusion is to a play of Sophocles, now lost, but familiar to
Aristophanes' audience, entitled 'Tyro,' in which the heroine, Tyro,
appears with Poseidon, the sea-god, at the beginning of the tragedy, and
at the close with the two boys she had had by him, whom she exposes in an
 "By the two goddesses,"--a woman's oath, which recurs constantly in
this play; the two goddesses are always Demeter and Proserpine.
 One of the Cyclades, between Naxos and Cos, celebrated, like the
latter, for its manufacture of fine, almost transparent silks, worn in
Greece, and later at Rome, by women of loose character.
 The proverb, quoted by Pherecrates, is properly spoken of those who
go out of their way to do a thing already done--"to kill a dead horse,"
but here apparently is twisted by Aristophanes into an allusion to the
leathern 'godemiche' mentioned a little above; if the worst comes to the
worst, we must use artificial means. Pherecrates was a comic playwright,
a contemporary of Aristophanes.
 Literally "our Scythian woman." At Athens, policemen and ushers in
the courts were generally Scythians; so the revolting women must have
_their_ Scythian "Usheress" too.
 In allusion to the oath which the seven allied champions before
Thebes take upon a buckler, in Aeschylus' tragedy of 'The Seven against
Thebes,' v. 42.
 A volcanic island in the northern part of the Aegaean, celebrated
for its vineyards.
 The old men are carrying faggots and fire to burn down the gates of
the Acropolis, and supply comic material by their panting and wheezing as
they climb the steep approaches to the fortress and puff and blow at
their fires. Aristophanes gives them names, purely fancy ones--Draces,
Strymodorus, Philurgus, Laches.
 Cleomenes, King of Sparta, had in the preceding century commanded a
Lacedaemonian expedition against Athens. At the invitation of the
Alcmaeonidae, enemies of the sons of Peisistratus, he seized the
Acropolis, but after an obstinately contested siege was forced to
capitulate and retire.
 Lemnos was proverbial with the Greeks for chronic misfortune and a
succession of horrors and disasters. Can any good thing come out of
 That is, a friend of the Athenian people; Samos had just before the
date of the play re-established the democracy and renewed the old
alliance with Athens.
 A second Chorus enters--of women who are hurrying up with water to
extinguish the fire just started by the Chorus of old men. Nicodicé,
Calycé, Crityllé, Rhodippé, are fancy names the poet gives to different
members of the band. Another, Stratyllis, has been stopped by the old men
on her way to rejoin her companions.
 Bupalus was a celebrated contemporary sculptor, a native of
Clazomenae. The satiric poet Hipponax, who was extremely ugly, having
been portrayed by Bupalus as even more unsightly-looking than the
reality, composed against the artist so scurrilous an invective that the
latter hung himself in despair. Apparently Aristophanes alludes here to a
verse in which Hipponax threatened to beat Bupalus.
 The Heliasts at Athens were the body of citizens chosen by lot to
act as jurymen (or, more strictly speaking, as judges and jurymen, the
Dicast, or so-called Judge, being merely President of the Court, the
majority of the Heliasts pronouncing sentence) in the Heliaia, or High
Court, where all offences liable to public prosecution were tried. They
were 6000 in number, divided into ten panels of 500 each, a thousand
being held in reserve to supply occasional vacancies. Each Heliast was
paid three obols for each day's attendance in court.
 Women only celebrated the festivals of Adonis. These rites were not
performed in public, but on the terraces and flat roofs of the houses.
 The Assembly, or Ecclesia, was the General Parliament of the
Athenian people, in which every adult citizen had a vote. It met on the
Pnyx hill, where the assembled Ecclesiasts were addressed from the Bema,
 An orator and statesman who had first proposed the disastrous
Sicilian Expedition, of 415-413 B.C. This was on the first day of the
festival of Adonis--ever afterwards regarded by the Athenians as a day of
 An island in the Ionian Sea, on the west of Greece, near
Cephalenia, and an ally of Athens during the Peloponnesian War.
 Cholozyges, a nickname for Demostratus.
 The State treasure was kept in the Acropolis, which the women had
 The second (mythical) king of Athens, successor of Cecrops.
 The leader of the Revolution which resulted in the temporary
overthrow of the Democracy at Athens (413, 412 B.C.), and the
establishment of the Oligarchy of the Four Hundred.
 Priests of Cybelé, who indulged in wild, frenzied dances, to the
accompaniment of the clashing of cymbals, in their celebrations in honour
of the goddess.
 Captain of a cavalry division; they were chosen from amongst the
_Hippeis_, or 'Knights' at Athens.
 In allusion to a play of Euripides, now lost, with this title.
Tereus was son of Ares and king of the Thracians in Daulis.
 An allusion to the disastrous Sicilian Expedition (415-413 B.C.),
in which many thousands of Athenian citizens perished.
 The dead were laid out at Athens before the house door.
 An offering made to the Manes of the deceased on the third day
after the funeral.
 Hippias and Hipparchus, the two sons of Pisistratus, known as the
Pisistratidae, became Tyrants of Athens upon their father's death in 527
B.C. In 514 the latter was assassinated by the conspirators, Harmodius
and Aristogiton, who took the opportunity of the Panathenaic festival and
concealed their daggers in myrtle wreaths. They were put to death, but
four years later the surviving Tyrant Hippias was expelled, and the young
and noble martyrs to liberty were ever after held in the highest honour
by their fellow-citizens. Their statues stood in the Agora or Public
 That is, the three obols paid for attendance as a Heliast at the
 See above, under note 3 [433. Transcriber.].
 The origin of the name was this: in ancient days a tame bear
consecrated to Artemis, the huntress goddess, it seems, devoured a young
girl, whose brothers killed the offender. Artemis was angered and sent a
terrible pestilence upon the city, which only ceased when, by direction
of the oracle, a company of maidens was dedicated to the deity, to act
the part of she-bears in the festivities held annually in her honour at
the _Brauronia_, her festival so named from the deme of Brauron in
 The Basket-Bearers, Canephoroi, at Athens were the maidens who,
clad in flowing robes, carried in baskets on their heads the sacred
implements and paraphernalia in procession at the celebrations in honour
of Demeter, Dionysus and Athené.
 A treasure formed by voluntary contributions at the time of the
Persian Wars; by Aristophanes' day it had all been dissipated, through
the influence of successive demagogues, in distributions and gifts to the
public under various pretexts.
 A town and fortress of Southern Attica, in the neighbourhood of
Marathon, occupied by the Alcmaeonidae--the noble family or clan at
Athens banished from the city in 595 B.C., restored 560, but again
expelled by Pisistratus--in the course of their contest with that Tyrant.
Returning to Athens on the death of Hippias (510 B.C.), they united with
the democracy, and the then head of the family, Cleisthenes, gave a new
constitution to the city.
 Queen of Halicarnassus, in Caria; an ally of the Persian King
Xerxes in his invasion of Greece; she fought gallantly at the battle of
 A _double entendre_--with allusion to the posture in sexual
intercourse known among the Greeks as [Greek: hippos], in Latin 'equus,'
the horse, where the woman mounts the man in reversal of the ordinary
 Micon, a famous Athenian painter, decorated the walls of the
Poecilé Stoa, or Painted Porch, at Athens with a series of frescoes
representing the battles of the Amazons with Theseus and the Athenians.
 To avenge itself on the eagle, the beetle threw the former's eggs
out of the nest and broke them. See the Fables of Aesop.
 Keeper of a house of ill fame apparently.
 "As chaste as Melanion" was a Greek proverb. Who Melanion was is
 Myronides and Phormio were famous Athenian generals. The former was
celebrated for his conquest of all Boeotia, except Thebes, in 458 B.C.;
the latter, with a fleet of twenty triremes, equipped at his own cost,
defeated a Lacedaemonian fleet of forty-seven sail, in 429.
 Timon, the misanthrope; he was an Athenian and a contemporary of
Aristophanes. Disgusted by the ingratitude of his fellow-citizens and
sickened with repeated disappointments, he retired altogether from
society, admitting no one, it is said, to his intimacy except the
brilliant young statesman Alcibiades.
 A spring so named within the precincts of the Acropolis.
 The comic poets delighted in introducing Heracles (Hercules) on the
stage as an insatiable glutton, whom the other characters were for ever
tantalizing by promising toothsome dishes and then making him wait
indefinitely for their arrival.
 The Rhodian perfumes and unguents were less esteemed than the
 'Dog-fox,' nickname of a certain notorious Philostratus, keeper of
an Athenian brothel of note in Aristophanes' day.
 The god of gardens--and of lubricity; represented by a grotesque
figure with an enormous penis.
 A staff in use among the Lacedaemonians for writing cipher
despatches. A strip of leather or paper was wound round the 'skytalé,' on
which the required message was written lengthwise, so that when unrolled
it became unintelligible; the recipient abroad had a staff of the same
thickness and pattern, and so was enabled by rewinding the document to
decipher the words.
 A city of Achaia, the acquisition of which had long been an object
of Lacedaemonian ambition. To make the joke intelligible here, we must
suppose Pellené was also the name of some notorious courtesan of the day.
 A deme of Attica, abounding in woods and marshes, where the gnats
were particularly troublesome. There is very likely also an allusion to
the spiteful, teasing character of its inhabitants.
 A mina was a little over £4; 60 minas made a talent.
 Carystus was a city of Euboea notorious for the dissoluteness of
its inhabitants; hence the inclusion of these Carystian youths in the
 A [Greek: para prosdokian]; i.e. exactly the opposite of the word
expected is used to conclude the sentence--to move the sudden hilarity of
the audience as a finale to the scene.
 A wattled cage or pen for pigs.
 An effeminate, a pathic; failing women, they will have to resort to
 These _Hermae_ were half-length figures of the god Hermes, which
stood at the corners of streets and in public places at Athens. One
night, just before the sailing of the Sicilian Expedition, they were all
mutilated--to the consternation of the inhabitants. Alcibiades and his
wild companions were suspected of the outrage.
 They had repeatedly dismissed with scant courtesy successive
Lacedaemonian embassies coming to propose terms of peace after the
notable Athenian successes at Pylos, when the Island of Sphacteria was
captured and 600 Spartan citizens brought prisoners to Athens. This was
in 425 B.C., the seventh year of the War.
 Chief of the Lacedaemonian embassy which came to Athens, after the
earthquake of 464 B.C., which almost annihilated the town of Sparta, to
invoke the help of the Athenians against the revolted Messenians and
 Echinus was a town on the Thessalian coast, at the entrance to the
Maliac Gulf, near Thermopylae and opposite the northern end of the
Athenian island of Euboea. By the "legs of Megara" are meant the two
"long walls" or lines of fortification connecting the city of Megara with
its seaport Nisaea--in the same way as Piraeus was joined to Athens.
 Examples of [Greek: para prosdokian] again; see above.
 Clitagoras was a composer of drinking songs, Telamon of war songs.
 Here, off the north coast of Euboea, the Greeks defeated the
Persians in a naval battle, 480 B.C.
 The hero of Thermopylae, where the 300 Athenians arrested the
advance of the invading hosts of Xerxes in the same year.
 Amyclae, an ancient town on the Eurotas within two or three miles
of Sparta, the traditional birthplace of Castor and Pollux; here stood a
famous and magnificent Temple of Apollo.
"Of the Brazen House," a surname of Athené, from the Temple dedicated to
her worship at Chalcis in Euboea, the walls of which were covered with
plates of brass.
Sons of Tyndarus, that is, Castor and Pollux, "the great twin brethren,"
held in peculiar reverence at Sparta.
The satire in this, one of the best known of all Aristophanes' comedies,
is directed against the new schools of philosophy, or perhaps we should
rather say dialectic, which had lately been introduced, mostly from
abroad, at Athens. The doctrines held up to ridicule are those of the
'Sophists'--such men as Thrasymachus from Chalcedon in Bithynia, Gorgias
from Leontini in Sicily, Protagoras from Abdera in Thrace, and other
foreign scholars and rhetoricians who had flocked to Athens as the
intellectual centre of the Hellenic world. Strange to say, Socrates of
all people, the avowed enemy and merciless critic of these men and their
methods, is taken as their representative, and personally attacked with
pitiless raillery. Presumably this was merely because he was the most
prominent and noteworthy teacher and thinker of the day, while his
grotesque personal appearance and startling eccentricities of behaviour
gave a ready handle to caricature. Neither the author nor his audience
took the trouble, or were likely to take the trouble, to discriminate
nicely; there was, of course, a general resemblance between the Socratic
'elenchos' and the methods of the new practitioners of dialectic; and
this was enough for stage purposes. However unjustly, Socrates is taken
as typical of the newfangled sophistical teachers, just as in 'The
Acharnians' Lamachus, with his Gorgon shield, is introduced as
representative of the War party, though that general was not specially
responsible for the continuance of hostilities more than anybody else.
Aristophanes' point of view, as a member of the aristocratical party and
a fine old Conservative, is that these Sophists, as the professors of the
new education had come to be called, and Socrates as their protagonist,
were insincere and dangerous innovators, corrupting morals, persuading
young men to despise the old-fashioned, home-grown virtues of the State
and teaching a system of false and pernicious tricks of verbal fence
whereby anything whatever could be proved, and the worse be made to seem
the better--provided always sufficient payment were forthcoming. True,
Socrates refused to take money from his pupils, and made it his chief
reproach against the lecturing Sophists that they received fees; but what
of that? The Comedian cannot pay heed to such fine distinctions, but
belabours the whole tribe with indiscriminate raillery and scurrility.
The play was produced at the Great Dionysia in 423 B.C., but proved
unsuccessful, Cratinus and Amipsias being awarded first and second prize.
This is said to have been due to the intrigues and influence of
Alcibiades, who resented the caricature of himself presented in the
sporting Phidippides. A second edition of the drama was apparently
produced some years later, to which the 'Parabasis' of the play as we
possess it must belong, as it refers to events subsequent to the date
The plot is briefly as follows: Strepsiades, a wealthy country gentleman,
has been brought to penury and deeply involved in debt by the
extravagance and horsy tastes of his son Phidippides. Having heard of the
wonderful new art of argument, the royal road to success in litigation,
discovered by the Sophists, he hopes that, if only he can enter the
'Phrontisterion,' or Thinking-Shop, of Socrates, he will learn how to
turn the tables on his creditors and avoid paying the debts which are
dragging him down. He joins the school accordingly, but is found too old
and stupid to profit by the lessons. So his son Phidippides is
substituted as a more promising pupil. The latter takes to the new
learning like a duck to water, and soon shows what progress he has made
by beating his father and demonstrating that he is justified by all laws,
divine and human, in what he is doing. This opens the old man's eyes, who
sets fire to the 'Phrontisterion,' and the play ends in a great
conflagration of this home of humbug.
* * * * *
SERVANT OF STREPSIADES.
DISCIPLES OF SOCRATES.
PASIAS, a Money-lender.
AMYNIAS, another Money-lender.
CHORUS OF CLOUDS.
SCENE: A sleeping-room in Strepsiades' house; then in front of Socrates'
* * * * *
STREPSIADES. Great gods! will these nights never end? will daylight
never come? I heard the cock crow long ago and my slaves are snoring
still! Ah! 'twas not so formerly. Curses on the War! has it not done me
ills enough? Now I may not even chastise my own slaves. Again
there's this brave lad, who never wakes the whole long night, but,
wrapped in his five coverlets, farts away to his heart's content. Come!
let me nestle in well and snore too, if it be possible ... oh! misery,
'tis vain to think of sleep with all these expenses, this stable, these
debts, which are devouring me, thanks to this fine cavalier, who only
knows how to look after his long locks, to show himself off in his
chariot and to dream of horses! And I, I am nearly dead, when I see the
moon bringing the third decade in her train and my liability falling
due.... Slave! light the lamp and bring me my tablets. Who are all my
creditors? Let me see and reckon up the interest. What is it I owe? ...
Twelve minae to Pasias.... What! twelve minae to Pasias? ... Why did I
borrow these? Ah! I know! 'Twas to buy that thoroughbred, which cost me
so dear. How I should have prized the stone that had blinded him!
PHIDIPPIDES (_in his sleep_). That's not fair, Philo! Drive your chariot
straight, I say.
STREPSIADES. 'Tis this that is destroying me. He raves about horses, even
in his sleep.
PHIDIPPIDES (_still sleeping_). How many times round the track is the
race for the chariots of war?
STREPSIADES. 'Tis your own father you are driving to death ... to ruin.
Come! what debt comes next, after that of Pasias? ... Three minae to
Amynias for a chariot and its two wheels.
PHIDIPPIDES (_still asleep_). Give the horse a good roll in the dust and
lead him home.
STREPSIADES. Ah! wretched boy! 'tis my money that you are making roll. My
creditors have distrained on my goods, and here are others again, who
demand security for their interest.
PHIDIPPIDES (_awaking_). What is the matter with you, father, that you
groan and turn about the whole night through?
STREPSIADES. I have a bum-bailiff in the bedclothes biting me.
PHIDIPPIDES. For pity's sake, let me have a little sleep.
STREPSIADES. Very well, sleep on! but remember that all these debts will
fall back on your shoulders. Oh! curses on the go-between who made me
marry your mother! I lived so happily in the country, a commonplace,
everyday life, but a good and easy one--had not a trouble, not a care,
was rich in bees, in sheep and in olives. Then forsooth I must marry the
niece of Megacles, the son of Megacles; I belonged to the country, she
was from the town; she was a haughty, extravagant woman, a true
Coesyra. On the nuptial day, when I lay beside her, I was reeking of
the dregs of the wine-cup, of cheese and of wool; she was redolent with
essences, saffron, tender kisses, the love of spending, of good cheer and
of wanton delights. I will not say she did nothing; no, she worked hard
... to ruin me, and pretending all the while merely to be showing her the
cloak she had woven for me, I said, "Wife, you go too fast about your
work, your threads are too closely woven and you use far too much wool."
A SLAVE. There is no more oil in the lamp.
STREPSIADES. Why then did you light such a guzzling lamp? Come here, I am
going to beat you!
SLAVE. What for?
STREPSIADES. Because you have put in too thick a wick.... Later, when we
had this boy, what was to be his name? 'Twas the cause of much
quarrelling with my loving wife. She insisted on having some reference to
a horse in his name, that he should be called Xanthippus, Charippus or
Callippides. I wanted to name him Phidonides after his
grandfather. We disputed long, and finally agreed to style him
Phidippides.... She used to fondle and coax him, saying, "Oh! what a
joy it will be to me when you have grown up, to see you, like my father,
Megacles, clothed in purple and standing up straight in your chariot
driving your steeds toward the town." And I would say to him, "When, like
your father, you will go, dressed in a skin, to fetch back your goats
from Phelleus." Alas! he never listened to me and his madness for
horses has shattered my fortune. But by dint of thinking the livelong
night, I have discovered a road to salvation, both miraculous and divine.
If he will but follow it, I shall be out of my trouble! First, however,
he must be awakened, but let it be done as gently as possible. How shall
I manage it? Phidippides! my little Phidippides!
PHIDIPPIDES. What is it, father!
STREPSIADES. Kiss me and give me your hand.
PHIDIPPIDES. There! What's it all about?
STREPSIADES. Tell me! do you love me?
PHIDIPPIDES. By Posidon, the equestrian Posidon! yes, I swear I do.
STREPSIADES. Oh, do not, I pray you, invoke this god of horses; 'tis he
who is the cause of all my cares. But if you really love me, and with
your whole heart, my boy, believe me.
PHIDIPPIDES. Believe you? about what?
STREPSIADES. Alter your habits forthwith and go and learn what I tell
PHIDIPPIDES. Say on, what are your orders?
STREPSIADES. Will you obey me ever so little?
PHIDIPPIDES. By Bacchus, I will obey you.
STREPSIADES. Very well then! Look this way. Do you see that little door
and that little house?
PHIDIPPIDES. Yes, father. But what are you driving at?
STREPSIADES. That is the school of wisdom. There, they prove that we are
coals enclosed on all sides under a vast extinguisher, which is the
sky. If well paid, these men also teach one how to gain
law-suits, whether they be just or not.
PHIDIPPIDES. What do they call themselves?
STREPSIADES. I do not know exactly, but they are deep thinkers and most
PHIDIPPIDES. Bah! the wretches! I know them; you mean those quacks with
livid faces, those barefoot fellows, such as that miserable Socrates
STREPSIADES. Silence! say nothing foolish! If you desire your father not
to die of hunger, join their company and let your horses go.
PHIDIPPIDES. No, by Bacchus! even though you gave me the pheasants that
STREPSIADES. Oh! my beloved son, I beseech you, go and follow their
PHIDIPPIDES. And what is it I should learn?
STREPSIADES. 'Twould seem they have two courses of reasoning, the true
and the false, and that, thanks to the false, the worst law-suits can be
gained. If then you learn this science, which is false, I shall not pay
an obolus of all the debts I have contracted on your account.
PHIDIPPIDES. No, I will not do it. I should no longer dare to look at our
gallant horsemen, when I had so tarnished my fair hue of honour.
STREPSIADES. Well then, by Demeter! I will no longer support you, neither
you, nor your team, nor your saddle-horse. Go and hang yourself, I turn
you out of house and home.
PHIDIPPIDES. My uncle Megacles will not leave me without horses; I shall
go to him and laugh at your anger.
STREPSIADES. One rebuff shall not dishearten me. With the help of the
gods I will enter this school and learn myself. But at my age, memory has
gone and the mind is slow to grasp things. How can all these fine
distinctions, these subtleties be learned? Bah! why should I dally thus
instead of rapping at the door? Slave, slave! (_He knocks and calls._)
A DISCIPLE. A plague on you! Who are you?
STREPSIADES. Strepsiades, the son of Phido, of the deme of Cicynna.
DISCIPLE. 'Tis for sure only an ignorant and illiterate fellow who lets
drive at the door with such kicks. You have brought on a miscarriage--of
STREPSIADES. Pardon me, pray; for I live far away from here in the
country. But tell me, what was the idea that miscarried?
DISCIPLE. I may not tell it to any but a disciple.
STREPSIADES. Then tell me without fear, for I have come to study among
DISCIPLE. Very well then, but reflect, that these are mysteries. Lately,
a flea bit Chaerephon on the brow and then from there sprang on to the
head of Socrates. Socrates asked Chaerephon, "How many times the length
of its legs does a flea jump?"
STREPSIADES. And how ever did he set about measuring it?
DISCIPLE. Oh! 'twas most ingenious! He melted some wax, seized the flea
and dipped its two feet in the wax, which, when cooled, left them shod
with true Persian buskins. These he slipped off and with them
measured the distance.
STREPSIADES. Ah! great Zeus! what a brain! what subtlety!
DISCIPLE. I wonder what then would you say, if you knew another of
STREPSIADES. What is it? Pray tell me.
DISCIPLE. Chaerephon of the deme of Sphettia asked him whether he thought
a gnat buzzed through its proboscis or through its rear.
STREPSIADES. And what did he say about the gnat?
DISCIPLE. He said that the gut of the gnat was narrow, and that, in
passing through this tiny passage, the air is driven with force towards
the breech; then after this slender channel, it encountered the rump,
which was distended like a trumpet, and there it resounded sonorously.
STREPSIADES. So the rear of a gnat is a trumpet. Oh! what a splendid
discovery! Thrice happy Socrates! 'Twould not be difficult to succeed in
a law-suit, knowing so much about the gut of a gnat!
DISCIPLE. Not long ago a lizard caused him the loss of a sublime thought.
STREPSIADES. In what way, an it please you?
DISCIPLE. One night, when he was studying the course of the moon and its
revolutions and was gazing open-mouthed at the heavens, a lizard shitted
upon him from the top of the roof.
STREPSIADES. This lizard, that relieved itself over Socrates, tickles me.
DISCIPLE. Yesternight we had nothing to eat.
STREPSIADES. Well! What did he contrive, to secure you some supper?
DISCIPLE. He spread over the table a light layer of cinders, bending an
iron rod the while; then he took up a pair of compasses and at the same
moment unhooked a piece of the victim which was hanging in the
STREPSIADES. And we still dare to admire Thales! Open, open this
home of knowledge to me quickly! Haste, haste to show me Socrates; I long
to become his disciple. But do, do open the door. (_The disciple admits
Strepsiades._) Ah! by Heracles! what country are those animals from?
DISCIPLE. Why, what are you astonished at? What do you think they
STREPSIADES. The captives of Pylos. But why do they look so fixedly
on the ground?
DISCIPLE. They are seeking for what is below the ground.
STREPSIADES. Ah! 'tis onions they are seeking. Do not give yourselves so
much trouble; I know where there are some, fine and large ones. But what
are those fellows doing, who are bent all double?
DISCIPLE. They are sounding the abysses of Tartarus.
STREPSIADES. And what is their rump looking at in the heavens?
DISCIPLE. It is studying astronomy on its own account. But come in; so
that the master may not find us here.
STREPSIADES. Not yet, not yet; let them not change their position. I want
to tell them my own little matter.
DISCIPLE. But they may not stay too long in the open air and away from
STREPSIADES. In the name of all the gods, what is that? Tell me.
(_Pointing to a celestial globe._)
DISCIPLE. That is astronomy.
STREPSIADES. And that? (_Pointing to a map._)
STREPSIADES. What is that used for?
DISCIPLE. To measure the land.
STREPSIADES. But that is apportioned by lot.
DISCIPLE. No, no, I mean the entire earth.
STREPSIADES. Ah! what a funny thing! How generally useful indeed is this
DISCIPLE. There is the whole surface of the earth. Look! Here is Athens.
STREPSIADES. Athens! you are mistaken; I see no courts sitting.
DISCIPLE. Nevertheless it is really and truly the Attic territory.
STREPSIADES. And where are my neighbours of Cicynna?
DISCIPLE. They live here. This is Euboea; you see this island, that is so
long and narrow.
STREPSIADES. I know. 'Tis we and Pericles, who have stretched it by dint
of squeezing it. And where is Lacedaemon?
DISCIPLE. Lacedaemon? Why, here it is, look.
STREPSIADES. How near it is to us! Think it well over, it must be removed
to a greater distance.
DISCIPLE. But, by Zeus, that is not possible.
STREPSIADES. Then, woe to you! And who is this man suspended up in a
DISCIPLE. 'Tis _he himself_.
STREPSIADES. Who himself?
STREPSIADES. Socrates! Oh! I pray you, call him right loudly for me.
DISCIPLE. Call him yourself; I have no time to waste.
STREPSIADES. Socrates! my little Socrates!
SOCRATES. Mortal, what do you want with me?
STREPSIADES. First, what are you doing up there? Tell me, I beseech you.
SOCRATES. I traverse the air and contemplate the sun.
STREPSIADES. Thus 'tis not on the solid ground, but from the height of
this basket, that you slight the gods, if indeed....
SOCRATES. I have to suspend my brain and mingle the subtle essence of my
mind with this air, which is of the like nature, in order to clearly
penetrate the things of heaven. I should have discovered nothing,
had I remained on the ground to consider from below the things that are
above; for the earth by its force attracts the sap of the mind to itself.
'Tis just the same with the water-cress.
STREPSIADES. What? Does the mind attract the sap of the water-cress? Ah!
my dear little Socrates, come down to me! I have come to ask you for
SOCRATES. And for what lessons?
STREPSIADES. I want to learn how to speak. I have borrowed money, and my
merciless creditors do not leave me a moment's peace; all my goods are at
SOCRATES. And how was it you did not see that you were getting so much
STREPSIADES. My ruin has been the madness for horses, a most rapacious
evil; but teach me one of your two methods of reasoning, the one whose
object is not to repay anything, and, may the gods bear witness, that I
am ready to pay any fee you may name.
SOCRATES. By which gods will you swear? To begin with, the gods are not a
coin current with us.
STREPSIADES. But what do you swear by then? By the iron money of
SOCRATES. Do you really wish to know the truth of celestial matters?
STREPSIADES. Why, truly, if 'tis possible.
SOCRATES. ... and to converse with the clouds, who are our genii?
STREPSIADES. Without a doubt.
SOCRATES. Then be seated on this sacred couch.
STREPSIADES. I am seated.
SOCRATES. Now take this chaplet.
STREPSIADES. Why a chaplet? Alas! Socrates, would you sacrifice me, like
SOCRATES. No, these are the rites of initiation.
STREPSIADES. And what is it I am to gain?
SOCRATES. You will become a thorough rattle-pate, a hardened old stager,
the fine flour of the talkers.... But come, keep quiet.