He will drive us silly if we do not get rid of him by some present.
Here! you, who have a fur as well as your tunic, take it off
and give it to this clever poet. Come, take this fur; you look to me
to be shivering with cold.
My Muse will gladly accept this gift; but engrave these verses
of Pindar's on your mind.
Oh! what a pest! 'Tis impossible then to be rid of him!
"Straton wanders among the Scythian nomads, but has no linen garment.
He is sad at only wearing an animal's pelt and no tunic."
Do you conceive my bent?
I understand that you want me to offer you a tunic. Hi! you (TO
EUELPIDES), take off yours; we must help the poet.... Come, you,
take it and begone.
I am going, and these are the verses that I address to this city:
"Phoebus of the golden throne, celebrate this shivery,
freezing city; I have travelled through fruitful and snow-covered
plains. Tralala! Tralala!"
What are you chanting us about frosts? Thanks to the tunic, you no
longer fear them. Ah! by Zeus! I could not have believed this cursed
fellow could so soon have learnt the way to our city. Come, priest,
take the lustral water and circle the altar.
'Tis the regions of the air that Bacis indicated in this manner.
"They must first sacrifice a white-fleeced goat to Pandora, and give
the prophet, who first reveals my words, a good cloak and new sandals."
This oracle in no sort of way resembles the one Apollo dictated
to me: "If an impostor comes without invitation to annoy you during
the sacrifice and to demand a share of the victim, apply a stout stick
to his ribs."
"And don't spare him, were he an eagle from out of the clouds,
were it Lampon himself or the great Diopithes."
 Noted Athenian diviner, who, when the power was still shared
between Thucydides and Pericles, predicted that it would soon be
centred in the hands of the latter; his ground for this prophecy was
the sight of a ram with a single horn.
 No doubt another Athenian diviner, and possibly the same person whom
Aristophanes names in 'The Knights' and 'The Wasps' as being a thief.
Tools for measuring the air. In truth, the spaces in the air
have precisely the form of a furnace. With this bent ruler I draw
a line from top to bottom; from one of its points I describe a circle
with the compass. Do you understand?
With the straight ruler I set to work to inscribe a square
within this circle; in its centre will be the market-place, into which
all the straight streets will lead, converging to this centre like
a star, which, although only orbicular, sends forth its rays
in a straight line from all sides.
DEALER IN DECREES
"The Nephelococcygians shall adopt the same weights, measures
and decrees as the Olophyxians."
 A Macedonian people in the peninsula of Chalcidice. This name
is chosen because of its similarity to the Greek word [for] 'to groan.'
It is from another verb, meaning the same thing, that Pisthetaerus coins
the name of Ototyxians, i.e. groaners, because he is about to beat
the dealer. --The mother-country had the right to impose any law
it chose upon its colonies.
And you shall soon be imitating the Ototyxians. (BEATS HIM.)
 Which the inspector had brought with him for the purpose
of inaugurating the assemblies of the people or some tribunal.
Do you recall that evening when you stooled against the column where
the decrees are posted?
Here! here! let him be seized. (THE INSPECTOR RUNS OFF.) Well!
don't you want to stop any longer?
Let us get indoors as quick as possible; we will sacrifice the goat
 So that the sacrifices might no longer be interrupted.
Henceforth it is to me that mortals must address their
sacrifices and their prayers. Nothing escapes my sight nor my might.
My glance embraces the universe, I preserve the fruit in the flower
by destroying the thousand kinds of voracious insects the soil
produces, which attack the trees and feed on the germ when it has
scarcely formed in the calyx; I destroy those who ravage the balmy
terrace gardens like a deadly plague; all these gnawing crawling
creatures perish beneath the lash of my wing. I hear it proclaimed
everywhere: "A talent for him who shall kill Diagoras of Melos,
and a talent for him who destroys one of the dead tyrants."
We likewise wish to make our proclamation: "A talent to him among you
who shall kill Philocrates, the Struthian; four, if he
brings him to us alive. For this Philocrates skewers the finches
together and sells them at the rate of an obolus for seven. He
tortures the thrushes by blowing them out, so that they may look
bigger, sticks their own feathers into the nostrils of blackbirds, and
collects pigeons, which he shuts up and forces them, fastened in a
net, to decoy others." That is what we wish to proclaim. And if anyone
is keeping birds shut up in his yard, let him hasten to let them
loose; those who disobey shall be seized by the birds and we shall put
them in chains, so that in their turn they may decoy other men.
Happy indeed is the race of winged birds who need no cloak in winter!
Neither do I fear the relentless rays of the fiery dog-days;
when the divine grasshopper, intoxicated with the sunlight, when noon
is burning the ground, is breaking out into shrill melody; my home
is beneath the foliage in the flowery meadows. I winter in deep
caverns, where I frolic with the mountain nymphs, while in spring
I despoil the gardens of the Graces and gather the white, virgin berry
on the myrtle bushes.
I want now to speak to the judges about the prize they are going
to award; if they are favourable to us, we will load them with
benefits far greater than those Paris received. Firstly, the owls
of Laurium, which every judge desires above all things, shall never
be wanting to you; you shall see them homing with you, building their
nests in your money-bags and laying coins. Besides, you shall be
housed like the gods, for we shall erect gables over your dwellings;
if you hold some public post and want to do a little pilfering,
we will give you the sharp claws of a hawk. Are you dining in town,
we will provide you with crops. But, if your award is against us,
don't fail to have metal covers fashioned for yourselves, like those
they place over statues; else, look out! for the day you wear
a white tunic all the birds will soil it with their droppings.
 A disciple of Democrites; he passed over from superstition
to atheism. The injustice and perversity of mankind led him to deny
the existence of the gods, to lay bare the mysteries and to break
the idols. The Athenians had put a price on his head, so he left Greece
and perished soon afterwards in a storm at sea.
 By this jest Aristophanes means to imply that tyranny is dead, and
that no one aspires to despotic power, though this silly accusation
was constantly being raised by the demagogues and always favourably
received by the populace.
 A poulterer. --Strouthian, used in joke to designate him, as if
from the name of his 'deme,' is derived from [the Greek for] 'a sparrow.'
The birds' foe is thus grotesquely furnished with an ornithological
 From Aphrodite (Venus), to whom he had awarded the apple, prize
of beauty, in the contest of the "goddesses three."
 Laurium was an Athenian deme at the extremity of the Attic
peninsula containing valuable silver mines, the revenues of which
were largely employed in the maintenance of the fleet and payment
of the crews. The "owls of Laurium," of course, mean pieces of money;
the Athenian coinage was stamped with a representation of an owl,
the bird of Athene.
 A pun, impossible to keep in English, on the two meanings
of [the Greek] word which signifies both an eagle and the gable
of a house or pediment of a temple.
 That is, birds' crops, into which they could stow away plenty
of good things.
 The Ancients appear to have placed metal discs over statues
standing in the open air, to save them from injury from the weather, etc.
Birds! the sacrifice is propitious. But I see no messenger
coming from the wall to tell us what is happening. Ah! here comes
one running himself out of breath as though he were running the Olympic
Where, where is he? Where, where, where is he? Where, where, where
is he? Where is Pisthetaerus, our leader?
'Tis a most beautiful, a most magnificent work of art. The wall is
so broad that Proxenides, the Braggartian, and Theogenes could pass
each other in their chariots, even if they were drawn by steeds as big
as the Trojan horse.
Its length is one hundred stadia; I measured it myself.
A decent length, by Posidon! And who built such a wall?
Birds--birds only; they had neither Egyptian brickmaker, nor
stone-mason, nor carpenter; the birds did it all themselves; I could
hardly believe my eyes. Thirty thousand cranes came from Libya
with a supply of stones, intended for the foundations. The water-
rails chiselled them with their beaks. Ten thousand storks were busy
making bricks; plovers and other water fowl carried water
into the air.
 So as not to be carried away by the wind when crossing the sea,
cranes are popularly supposed to ballast themselves with stones,
which they carry in their beaks.
 Pisthetaerus modifies the Greek proverbial saying, "To what use
cannot hands be put?"
You should have seen how eagerly the ducks carried bricks. To
complete the tale, the swallows came flying to the work, their beaks
full of mortar and their trowel on their back, just the way little
children are carried.
Who would want paid servants after this? But tell me, who did
Birds again, and clever carpenters too, the pelicans, for they
squared up the gates with their beaks in such a fashion that one would
have thought they were using axes; the noise was just like a dockyard.
Now the whole wall is tight everywhere, securely bolted and well
guarded; it is patrolled, bell in hand; the sentinels stand everywhere
and beacons burn on the towers. But I must run off to clean myself;
the rest is your business.
Well! what do you say to it? Are you not astonished at the wall
being completed so quickly?
By the gods, yes, and with good reason. 'Tis really not to be
believed. But here comes another messenger from the wall to bring us
some further news! What a fighting look he has!
A horrible outrage has occurred; a god sent by Zeus has passed
through our gates and has penetrated the realms of the air without
the knowledge of the jays, who are on guard in the daytime.
'Tis an unworthy and criminal deed. What god was it?
We don't know that. All we know is, that he has got wings.
We have d[i]spatched thirty thousand hawks of the legion of Mounted
Archers. All the hook-clawed birds are moving against him, the
kestrel, the buzzard, the vulture, the great-horned owl; they cleave
the air, so that it resounds with the flapping of their wings; they are
looking everywhere for the god, who cannot be far away; indeed, if I
mistake not, he is coming from yonder side.
All arm themselves with slings and bows! This way, all our soldiers;
shoot and strike! Some one give me a sling!
War, a terrible war is breaking out between us and the gods! Come,
let each one guard Air, the son of Erebus, in which the clouds
float. Take care no immortal enters it without your knowledge.
Scan all sides with your glance. Hark! methinks I can hear the
rustle of the swift wings of a god from heaven.
 Chaos, Night, Tartarus, and Erebus alone existed in the beginning;
Eros was born from Night and Erebus, and he wedded Chaos and begot
Earth, Air, and Heaven; so runs the fable.
Hi! you woman! where are you flying to? Halt, don't stir! keep
motionless! not a beat of your wing! --Who are you and from what
country? You must say whence you come.
 Iris appears from the top of the stage and arrests her flight
By Zeus! I know nothing about that, not I. But they won't pass
this way. And you still dare to complain! Why, if you were treated
according to your deserts, no Iris would ever have more justly
You would have died nevertheless. --Oh! 'twould be truly
intolerable! What! should the universe obey us and the gods alone
continue their insolence and not understand that they must submit
to the law of the strongest in their due turn? But tell me, where
are you flying to?
I? The messenger of Zeus to mankind, I am going to tell them to
sacrifice sheep and oxen on the altars and to fill their streets
with the rich smoke of burning fat.
Men now adore the birds as gods, and 'tis to them, by Zeus, that
they must offer sacrifices, and not to Zeus at all!
Oh! fool! fool! Rouse not the wrath of the gods, for 'tis
terrible indeed. Armed with the brand of Zeus, Justice would
annihilate your race; the lightning would strike you as it did
Licymnius and consume both your body and the porticos of your palace.
 Iris' reply is a parody of the tragic style. --'Lycimnius'
is, according to the scholiast, the title of a tragedy by Euripides,
which is about a ship that is struck by lightning.
Here! that's enough tall talk. Just you listen and keep quiet!
Do you take me for a Lydian or a Phrygian and think to frighten me
with your big words? Know, that if Zeus worries me again, I shall go
at the head of my eagles, who are armed with lightning, and reduce his
dwelling and that of Amphion to cinders. I shall send more than six
hundred porphyrions clothed in leopards' skins up to heaven against
him; and formerly a single Porphyrion gave him enough to do. As for
you, his messenger, if you annoy me, I shall begin by stretching your
legs asunder, and so conduct myself, Iris though you be, that despite
my age, you will be astonished. I will show you something that will
make you three times over.
 i.e. for a poltroon, like the slaves, most of whom came to Athens
from these countries.
 A parody of a passage in the lost tragedy of 'Niobe' of Aeschylus.
 Because this bird has a spotted plumage. --Porphyrion is also
the name of one of the Titans who tried to storm heave.
May you perish, you wretch, you and your infamous words!
Won't you be off quickly? Come, stretch your wings or look out for squalls!
If my father does not punish you for your insults...
Ha!... but just you be off elsewhere to roast younger folk than us
with your lightning.
We forbid the gods, the sons of Zeus, to pass through our city and
the mortals to send them the smoke of their sacrifices by this road.
'Tis odd that the messenger we sent to the mortals has never
Oh! blessed Pisthetaerus, very wise, very illustrious, very
gracious, thrice happy, very... Come, prompt me, somebody, do.
All peoples are filled with admiration for your wisdom, and they
award you this golden crown.
I accept it. But tell me, why do the people admire me?
Oh you, who have founded so illustrious a city in the air, you
know not in what esteem men hold you and how many there are who burn
with desire to dwell in it. Before your city was built, all men had
a mania for Sparta; long hair and fasting were held in honour, men
went dirty like Socrates and carried staves. Now all is changed.
Firstly, as soon as 'tis dawn, they all spring out of bed together
to go and seek their food, the same as you do; then they fly off
towards the notices and finally devour the decrees. The bird-madness
is so clear, that many actually bear the names of birds. There is
a halting victualler, who styles himself the partridge; Menippus calls
himself the swallow; Opuntius the one-eyed crow; Philocles the lark;
Theogenes the fox-goose; Lycurgus the ibis; Chaerephon the bat;
Syracosius the magpie; Midias the quail; indeed he looks like
a quail that has been hit hard over the head. Out of love for the birds
they repeat all the songs which concern the swallow, the teal, the
goose or the pigeon; in each verse you see wings, or at all events
a few feathers. This is what is happening down there. Finally,
there are more than ten thousand folk who are coming here from earth
to ask you for feathers and hooked claws; so, mind you supply yourself
with wings for the immigrants.
 All these surnames bore some relation to the character or the build
of the individual to whom the poet applies them. --Chaerephon,
Socrates' disciple, was of white and ashen hue. --Opuntius was one-eyed. --Syracosius was
a braggart. --Midias had a passion for quail-fights, and, besides, resembled that bird
Ah! by Zeus, 'tis not the time for idling. Go as quick as possible
and fill every hamper, every basket you can find with wings. Manes
will bring them to me outside the walls, where I will welcome those
who present themselves.
Begin by putting this heap of wings in order; divide them in three
parts according to the birds from whom they came; the singing, the
prophetic and the aquatic birds; then you must take care
to distribute them to the men according to their character.
 From the inspection of which auguries were taken, e.g. the eagles,
the vultures, the crows.
PISTHETAERUS (TO MANES)
Oh! by the kestrels! I can keep my hands off you no longer; you
are too slow and lazy altogether.
Oh! might I but become an eagle, who soars in the skies! Oh! might
I fly above the azure waves of the barren sea!
 Or rather, a young man who contemplated parricide.
All of them; but the one that pleases me most is, that among the
birds it is considered a fine thing to peck and strangle one's father.
Aye, by Zeus! according to us, he who dares to strike his father, while
still a chick, is a brave fellow.
And therefore I want to dwell here, for I want to strangle my
father and inherit his wealth.
But we have also an ancient law written in the code of the storks,
which runs thus, "When the stork father has reared his young and has
taught them to fly, the young must in their turn support the father."
'Tis hardly worth while coming all this distance to be compelled
to keep my father!
No, no, young friend, since you have come to us with such
willingness, I am going to give you these black wings, as though you
were an orphan bird; furthermore, some good advice, that I received
myself in infancy. Don't strike your father, but take these wings
in one hand and these spurs in the other; imagine you have a
cock's crest on your head and go and mount guard and fight; live
on your pay and respect your father's life. You're a gallant fellow!
Very well, then! Fly to Thrace and fight.
 The Athenians were then besieging Amphipolis in the Thracian Chalcidice.
By Bacchus! 'Tis well spoken; I will follow your counsel.
'Tis on them the whole of our latter-day art depends. The most
brilliant dithyrambs are those that flap their wings in void space
and are clothed in mist and dense obscurity. To appreciate this,
"...now rushing along the tracks of Notus, now nearing Boreas
across the infinite wastes of the ether." (PISTHETAERUS BEATS HIM.}
Ah! old man, that's a pretty and clever idea truly!
What! are you not delighted to be cleaving the air?
 Cinesias makes a bound each time that Pisthetaerus strikes him.
To treat a dithyrambic poet, for whom the tribes dispute with each
other, in this style!
 The tribes of Athens, or rather the rich citizens belonging
to them, were wont on feast-days to give representations of dithyrambic
choruses as well as of tragedies and comedies.
Will you stay with us and form a chorus of winged birds as slender
as Leotrophides for the Cecropid tribe?
 Another dithyrambic poet, a man of extreme leanness.
You are making game of me, 'tis clear; but know that I shall
never leave you in peace if I do not have wings wherewith
to traverse the air.
What are these birds with downy feathers, who look so pitiable
to me? Tell me, oh swallow with the long dappled wings.
 A parody of a hemistich from 'Alcaeus.' --The informer is
dissatisfied at only seeing birds of sombre plumage and poor appearance.
He would have preferred to denounce the rich.
Oh! but 'tis a regular invasion that threatens us. Here comes
another of them, humming along.
Swallow with the long dappled wings, once more I summon you.
It's his cloak I believe he's addressing; 'faith, it stands in great
need of the swallows' return.
 The informer, says the scholiast, was clothed with a ragged cloak,
the tatters of which hung down like wings, in fact, a cloak that could
not protect him from the cold and must have made him long for the
swallows' return, i.e. the spring.
Where is he who gives out wings to all comers?
'Tis I, but you must tell me for what purpose you want them.
Ask no questions. I want wings, and wings I must have.