Have you not often heard the father say to young men in the
barbers' shops, "It's astonishing how Diitrephes' advice has made
my son fly to horse-riding." --"Mine," says another, "has flown
towards tragic poetry on the wings of his imagination."
I won't belie my breeding; from generation to generation we have
lived by informing. Quick, therefore, give me quickly some light,
swift hawk or kestrel wings, so that I may summon the islanders,
sustain the accusation here, and haste back there again on flying
I see. In this way the stranger will be condemned even before
Take your flight, clear off, you miserable cur, or you will soon
see what comes of quibbling and lying. Come, let us gather up our wings
In my ethereal flights I have seen many things new and strange and
wondrous beyond belief. There is a tree called Cleonymus belonging
to an unknown species; it has no heart, is good for nothing and is
as tall as it is cowardly. In springtime it shoots forth calumnies
instead of buds and in autumn it strews the ground with bucklers in
place of leaves.
Far away in the regions of darkness, where no ray of light ever
enters, there is a country, where men sit at the table of the heroes
and dwell with them always--save always in the evening. Should any
mortal meet the hero Orestes at night, he would soon be stripped and
covered with blows from head to foot.
 Cleonymous is a standing butt of Aristophanes' wit, both as an informer
and a notorious poltroon.
 In allusion to the cave of the bandit Orestes; the poet terms him a hero
only because of his heroic name Orestes.
Ah! by the gods! if only Zeus does not espy me! Where is Pisthetaerus?
H'sh! h'sh! Don't call me by my name; you will be my ruin, if Zeus
should see me here. But, if you want me to tell you how things are
going in heaven, take this umbrella and shield me, so that the gods
don't see me.
I can recognize Prometheus in this cunning trick. Come, quick
then, and fear nothing; speak on.
Since you founded this city in the air. There is not a man who now
sacrifices to the gods; the smoke of the victims no longer reaches us.
Not the smallest offering comes! We fast as though it were the
festival of Demeter. The barbarian gods, who are dying of hunger,
are bawling like Illyrians and threaten to make an armed descent
upon Zeus, if he does not open markets where joints of the victims
 The third day of the festival of Demeter was a fast.
 A semi-savage people, addicted to violence and brigandage.
What! there are other gods besides you, barbarian gods who dwell
If there were no barbarian gods, who would be the patron of
 Who, being reputed a stranger despite his pretension to the title
of a citizen, could only have a strange god for his patron or
Most likely. But one thing I can tell you for certain, namely,
that Zeus and the celestial Triballi are going to send deputies here
to sue for peace. Now don't you treat, unless Zeus restores the sceptre
to the birds and gives you Basileia in marriage.
 i.e. the 'supremacy' of Greece, the real object of the war.
Towards them I am a veritable Timon; but I must return in all
haste, so give me the umbrella; if Zeus should see me from up there,
he would think I was escorting one of the Canephori.
 A celebrated misanthrope, contemporary to Aristophanes. Hating
the society of men, he had only a single friend, Apimantus, to whom
he was attached, because of their similarity of character; he also
liked Alcibiades, because he foresaw that this young man would be
the ruin of his country.
 The Canephori were young maidens, chosen from the first families
of the city, who carried baskets wreathed with myrtle at the feast
of Athene, while at those of Bacchus and Demeter they appeared
with gilded baskets. --The daughters of 'Metics,' or resident aliens,
walked behind them, carrying an umbrella and a stool.
Near by the land of the Sciapodes there is a marsh, from the
borders whereof the odious Socrates evokes the souls of men.
Pisander came one day to see his soul, which he had left there when
still alive. He offered a little victim, a camel, slit his throat
and, following the example of Ulysses, stepped one pace backwards.
Then that bat of a Chaerephon came up from hell to drink the camel's
 According to Ctesias, the Sciapodes were a people who dwelt
on the borders of the Atlantic. Their feet were larger than the rest
of their bodies, and to shield themselves from the sun's rays they
held up one of their feet as an umbrella. --By giving the Socratic
philosophers the name of Sciapodes here Aristophanes wishes to convey
that they are walking in the dark and busying themselves with
the greatest nonsense.
 This Pisander was a notorious coward; for this reason the poet
jestingly supposes that he had lost his soul, the seat of courage.
 Considering the shape and height of the camel, [it] can certainly
not be included in the list of SMALL victims, e.g. the sheep and
 In the evocation of the dead, Book XI of the Odyssey.
 Chaerephon was given this same title by the Herald earlier
in this comedy. --Aristophanes supposes him to have come from hell
because he is lean and pallid.
This is the city of Nephelococcygia, Cloud-cuckoo-town, whither we come
as ambassadors. (TO TRIBALLUS) Hi! what are you up to? you are
throwing your cloak over the left shoulder. Come, fling it quick over
the right! And why, pray, does it draggle in this fashion? Have you
ulcers to hide like Laespodias? Oh! democracy! whither, oh!
whither are you leading us? Is it possible that the gods have chosen
such an envoy?
 Posidon appears on the stage accompanied by Heracles and
a Triballian god.
 An Athenian general. --Neptune is trying to give Triballus some
notions of elegance and good behaviour.
 Aristophanes supposes that democracy is in the ascendant in Olympus
as it is in Athens.
And yet the birds must be thoroughly basted with it.
 He pretends to forget the presence of the ambassadors.
We have no interest to serve in fighting you; as for you, be
friends and we promise that you shall always have rain-water in your
pools and the warmest of warm weather. So far as these points go we
are armed with plenary authority.
We have never been the aggressors, and even now we are as well
disposed for peace as yourselves, provided you agree to one
equitable condition, namely, that Zeus yield his sceptre to the birds.
If only this is agreed to, I invite the ambassadors to dinner.
That's good enough for me. I vote for peace.
You wretch! you are nothing but a fool and a glutton. Do you
want to dethrone your own father?
What an error! Why, the gods will be much more powerful if the
birds govern the earth. At present the mortals are hidden beneath
the clouds, escape your observation, and commit perjury in your
name; but if you had the birds for your allies, and a man, after
having sworn by the crow and Zeus, should fail to keep his oath,
the crow would dive down upon him unawares and pluck out his eye.
 The barbarian god utters some gibberish which Pisthetaerus
interprets into consent.
D'you see? he also approves. But hear another thing in which we can
serve you. If a man vows to offer a sacrifice to some god, and then
procrastinates, pretending that the gods can wait, and thus does not
keep his word, we shall punish his stinginess.
Oh! you ninny! do you always want to be fooled? Why, you are seeking
your own downfall. If Zeus were to die, after having yielded
them the sovereignty, you would be ruined, for you are the heir of all
the wealth he will leave behind.
Oh! by the gods! how he is cajoling you. Step aside, that I may
have a word with you. Your uncle is getting the better of you, my poor
friend. The law will not allow you an obolus of the paternal
property, for you are a bastard and not a legitimate child.
 Heracles, the god of strength, was far from being remarkable
in the way of cleverness.
Why, certainly; are you not born of a stranger woman? Besides,
is not Athene recognized as Zeus' sole heiress? And no daughter
would be that, if she had a legitimate brother.
But what if my father wished to give me his property on his
death-bed, even though I be a bastard?
The law forbids it, and this same Posidon would be the first to
lay claim to his wealth, in virtue of being his legitimate brother.
Listen; thus runs Solon's law: "A bastard shall not inherit, if
there are legitimate children; and if there are no legitimate
children, the property shall pass to the nearest kin."
And I get nothing whatever of the paternal property?
Absolutely nothing. But tell me, has your father had you entered
on the registers of his phratria?
 The poet attributes to the gods the same customs as those
which governed Athens, and according to which no child was
looked upon as legitimate unless his father had entered him
on the registers of his phratria. The phratria was a division
of the tribe and consisted of thirty families.
No, and I have long been surprised at the omission.
What ails you, that you should shake your fist at heaven? Do you want
to fight it? Why, be on my side, I will make you a king and will feed
you on bird's milk and honey.
Your further condition seems fair to me. I cede you the young
Why no, he does not say anything of the sort, that he gives her; else
I cannot understand any better than the swallows.
Exactly so. Does he not say she must be given to the swallows?
Very well! you two arrange the matter; make peace, since you
wish it so; I'll hold my tongue.
We are of a mind to grant you all that you ask. But come up
there with us to receive Basileia and the celestial bounty.
Here are birds already cut up, and very suitable for a nuptial feast.
You go and, if you like, I will stay here to roast them.
You to roast them! you are too much the glutton; come along with us.
Ah! how well I would have treated myself!
Let some[one] bring me a beautiful and magnificent tunic for the
At Phanae, near the Clepsydra, there dwells a people who have
neither faith nor law, the Englottogastors, who reap, sow, pluck
the vines and the figs with their tongues; they belong to a barbaric
race, and among them the Philippi and the Gorgiases are to be found;
'tis these Englottogastorian Philippi who introduced the custom all over
Attica of cutting out the tongue separately at sacrifices.
 The chorus continues to tell what it has seen on its flights.
 The harbour of the island of Chios; but this name is here used
in the sense of being the land of informers ([from the Greek for]
 i.e. near the orators' platform, in the Public Assembly, or because
there stood the water-clock, by which speeches were limited.
 A coined name, made up of [the Greek for] the tongue, and [for]
the stomach, and meaning those who fill their stomach with what they
gain with their tongues, to wit, the orators.
 [The Greek for] a fig forms part of the word which in Greek means
 Because they consecrated it specially to the god of eloquence.
Oh, you, whose unbounded happiness I cannot express in words,
thrice happy race of airy birds, receive your king in your fortunate
dwellings. More brilliant than the brightest star that illumes the
earth, he is approaching his glittering golden palace; the sun
itself does not shine with more dazzling glory. He is entering with
his bride at his side, whose beauty no human tongue can express; in
his hand he brandishes the lightning, the winged shaft of Zeus;
perfumes of unspeakable sweetness pervade the ethereal realms. 'Tis
a glorious spectacle to see the clouds of incense wafting in light
whirlwinds before the breath of the Zephyr! But here he is himself.
Divine Muse! let thy sacred lips begin with songs of happy omen.
Fall back! to the right! to the left! advance! Fly around this
happy mortal, whom Fortune loads with her blessings. Oh! oh! what
grace! what beauty! Oh, marriage so auspicious for our city! All
honour to this man! 'tis through him that the birds are called to such
glorious destinies. Let your nuptial hymns, your nuptial songs,
greet him and his Basileia! 'Twas in the midst of such festivities
that the Fates formerly united Olympian Here to the King who governs
the gods from the summit of his inaccessible throne. Oh! Hymen! oh!
Hymenaeus! Rosy Eros with the golden wings held the reins and guided
the chariot; 'twas he, who presided over the union of Zeus and the
fortunate Here. Oh! Hymen! oh! Hymenaeus!
I am delighted with your songs, I applaud your verses. Now
celebrate the thunder that shakes the earth, the flaming lightning
of Zeus and the terrible flashing thunderbolt.
Oh, thou golden flash of the lightning! oh, ye divine shafts
of flame, that Zeus has hitherto shot forth! Oh, ye rolling thunders,
that bring down the rain! 'Tis by the order of OUR king that ye
shall now stagger the earth! Oh, Hymen! 'tis through thee that he
commands the universe and that he makes Basileia, whom he has robbed
from Zeus, take her seat at his side. Oh! Hymen! oh! Hymenaeus!
Let all the winged tribes of our fellow-citizens follow the bridal
couple to the palace of Zeus and to the nuptial couch! Stretch forth
your hands, my dear wife! Take hold of me by my wings and let us
dance; I am going to lift you up and carry you through the air.