SCENE: The Athenian Ecclesia on the Pnyx; afterwards Dicaeopolis' house in
What cares have not gnawed at my heart and how few have been the
pleasures in my life! Four, to be exact, while my troubles have been
as countless as the grains of sand on the shore! Let me see! of what
value to me have been these few pleasures? Ah! I remember that I was
delighted in soul when Cleon had to disgorge those five talents; I was
in ecstasy and I love the Knights for this deed; 'it is an honour to
Greece.' But the day when I was impatiently awaiting a piece by
Aeschylus, what tragic despair it caused me when the herald called,
"Theognis, introduce your Chorus!" Just imagine how this blow struck
straight at my heart! On the other hand, what joy Dexitheus caused
me at the musical competition, when he played a Boeotian melody
on the lyre! But this year by contrast! Oh! what deadly torture
to hear Chaeris perform the prelude in the Orthian mode!
--Never, however, since I began to bathe, has the dust hurt my
eyes as it does to-day. Still it is the day of assembly; all should be
here at daybreak, and yet the Pnyx is still deserted. They are
gossiping in the marketplace, slipping hither and thither to avoid
the vermilioned rope. The Prytanes even do not come; they will be
late, but when they come they will push and fight each other for a
seat in the front row. They will never trouble themselves with the
question of peace. Oh! Athens! Athens! As for myself, I do not fail to
come here before all the rest, and now, finding myself alone, I groan,
yawn, stretch, break wind, and know not what to do; I make sketches in
the dust, pull out my loose hairs, muse, think of my fields, long for
peace, curse town life and regret my dear country home, which never
told me to 'buy fuel, vinegar or oil'; there the word 'buy,' which
cuts me in two, was unknown; I harvested everything at will. Therefore
I have come to the assembly fully prepared to bawl, interrupt and
abuse the speakers, if they talk of anything but peace. But here come the
Prytanes, and high time too, for it is midday! As I foretold, hah! is it
not so? They are pushing and fighting for the front seats.
Move on up, move on, move on, to get within the consecrated area.
No! I am an immortal! Amphitheus was the son of Ceres and
Triptolemus; of him was born Celeus. Celeus wedded Phaenerete, my
grandmother, whose son was Lucinus, and, being born of him I am an
immortal; it is to me alone that the gods have entrusted the duty of
treating with the Lacedaemonians. But, citizens, though I am immortal,
I am dying of hunger; the Prytanes give me naught.
We suffered horribly on the plains of the Cayster, sleeping under a tent,
stretched deliciously on fine chariots, half dead with weariness.
And I was very much at ease, lying on the straw along the
Everywhere we were well received and forced to drink delicious
wine out of golden or crystal flagons....
Oh, city of Cranaus, thy ambassadors are laughing at thee!
For great feeders and heavy drinkers are alone esteemed as men
by the barbarians.
Just as here in Athens, we only esteem the most drunken debauchees.
At the end of the fourth year we reached the King's Court, but
he had left with his whole army to ease himself, and for the space of
eight months he was thus easing himself in the midst of the golden
What medimni? Thou are but a great braggart; but get your way; I
will find out the truth by myself. Come now, answer me clearly, if you
do not wish me to dye your skin red. Will the Great King send us gold?
(PSEUDARTABAS MAKES A NEGATIVE SIGN.) Then our ambassadors
are seeking to deceive us? (PSEUDARTABAS SIGNS AFFIRMATIVELY.)
These fellows make signs like any Greek; I am sure that they are
nothing but Athenians. Oh! ho! I recognize one of these eunuchs; it is
Clisthenes, the son of Sibyrtius. Behold the effrontery of this shaven
rump! How! great baboon, with such a beard do you seek to play the
eunuch to us? And this other one? Is it not Straton?
Silence! Let all be seated. The Senate invites the King's Eye to the
Is this not sufficient to drive one to hang oneself? Here I
stand chilled to the bone, whilst the doors of the Prytaneum fly
wide open to lodge such rascals. But I will do something great and
bold. Where is Amphitheus? Come and speak with me.
Take these eight drachmae and go and conclude a truce with the
Lacedaemonians for me, my wife and my children; I leave you free,
my dear citizens, to send out embassies and to stand gaping in the air.
Bring in Theorus, who has returned from the Court of Sitalces.
We should not have remained long in Thrace...
Forsooth, no, if you had not been well paid.
...if the country had not been covered with snow; the rivers were
ice-bound at the time that Theognis brought out his tragedy here;
during the whole of that time I was holding my own with
Sitalces, cup in hand; and, in truth, he adored you to such a degree,
that he wrote on the walls, "How beautiful are the Athenians!" His
son, to whom we gave the freedom of the city, burned with desire to
come here and eat chitterlings at the feast of the Apaturia; he prayed
his father to come to the aid of his new country and Sitalces swore on
his goblet that he would succour us with such a host that the Athenians
would exclaim, "What a cloud of grasshoppers!"
May I die if I believe a word of what you tell us! Excepting the
grasshoppers, there is not a grain of truth in it all!
And he has sent you the most warlike soldiers of all Thrace.
Of the Odomanti? Tell me what it means. Who has mutilated them
If they are given a wage of two drachmae, they will put all
Boeotia to fire and sword.
Two drachmae to those circumcised hounds! Groan aloud, ye people
of rowers, bulwark of Athens! Ah! great gods! I am undone; these
Odomanti are robbing me of my garlic! Will you give me back
Oh! wretched man! do not go near them; they have eaten garlic.
Prytanes, will you let me be treated in this manner, in my own
country and by barbarians? But I oppose the discussion of paying
a wage to the Thracians; I announce an omen; I have just felt a drop
Let the Thracians withdraw and return the day after tomorrow;
the Prytanes declare the sitting at an end.
Ye gods, what garlic I have lost! But here comes Amphitheus
returned from Lacedaemon. Welcome, Amphitheus.
No, there is no welcome for me and I fly as fast as I can, for I
am pursued by the Acharnians.
I was hurrying to bring your treaty of truce, but some old dotards
from Acharnae got scent of the thing; they are veterans of Marathon,
tough as oak or maple, of which they are made for sure--rough and
ruthless. They all started a-crying: "Wretch! you are the bearer of
a treaty, and the enemy has only just cut our vines!" Meanwhile they
were gathering stones in their cloaks, so I fled and they ran after
Let 'em shout as much as they please! But HAVE you brought me
Most certainly, here are three samples to select from, this one is
five years old; take it and taste.
It does not please me; it smells of pitch and of the ships they are
Here is another, ten years old; taste it.
It smells strongly of the delegates, who go around the towns
to chide the allies for their slowness.
This last is a truce of thirty years, both on sea and land.
Oh! by Bacchus! what a bouquet! It has the aroma of nectar and
ambrosia; this does not say to us, "Provision yourselves for three
days." But it lisps the gentle numbers, "Go whither you will."
I accept it, ratify it, drink it at one draught and consign the
Acharnians to limbo. Freed from the war and its ills, I shall
keep the Dionysia in the country.
And I shall run away, for I'm mortally afraid of the Acharnians.
This way all! Let us follow our man; we will demand him of
everyone we meet; the public weal makes his seizure imperative. Ho,
there! tell me which way the bearer of the truce has gone; he has escaped
us, he has disappeared. Curse old age! When I was young, in the days
when I followed Phayllus, running with a sack of coals on my back, this
wretch would not have eluded my pursuit, let him be as swift as he will;
but now my limbs are stiff; old Lacratides feels his legs are
weighty and the traitor escapes me. No, no, let us follow him; old
Acharnians like ourselves shall not be set at naught by a
scoundrel, who has dared, great gods! to conclude a truce, when I wanted
the war continued with double fury in order to avenge my ruined lands.
No mercy for our foes until I have pierced their hearts like sharp
reed, so that they dare never again ravage my vineyards.
Come, let us seek the rascal; let us look everywhere, carrying our
stones in our hands; let us hunt him from place to place until we trap
him; I could never, never tire of the delight of stoning him.
Silence all! Friends, do you hear the sacred formula? Here is he,
whom we seek! This way, all! Get out of his way, surely he comes
to offer an oblation.
Peace, profane men! Let the basket-bearer come forward, and thou
Xanthias, hold the phallus well upright.
WIFE OF DICAEOPOLIS
Daughter, set down the basket and let us begin the sacrifice.
DAUGHTER OF DICAEOPOLIS
Mother, hand me the ladle, that I may spread the sauce on the
It is well! Oh, mighty Bacchus, it is with joy that, freed from
military duty, I and all mine perform this solemn rite and offer
thee this sacrifice; grant that I may keep the rural Dionysia
without hindrance and that this truce of thirty years may be
propitious for me.
WIFE OF DICAEOPOLIS
Come, my child, carry the basket gracefully and with a grave, demure
face. Happy he, who shall be your possessor and embrace you so firmly
at dawn, that you belch wind like a weasel. Go forward, and have a care
they don't snatch your jewels in the crowd.
Xanthias, walk behind the basket-bearer and hold the phallus well
erect; I will follow, singing the Phallic hymn; thou, wife, look on from
the top of the terrace. Forward! Oh, Phales, companion of the orgies
of Bacchus, night reveller, god of adultery, friend of young men, these
past six years I have not been able to invoke thee. With what joy I
return to my farmstead, thanks to the truce I have concluded, freed
from cares, from fighting and from Lamachuses! How much sweeter,
oh Phales, oh, Phales, is it to surprise Thratta, the pretty woodmaid,
Strymodorus' slave, stealing wood from Mount Phelleus, to catch her
under the arms, to throw her on the ground and possess her, Oh, Phales,
Phales! If thou wilt drink and bemuse thyself with me, we shall
to-morrow consume some good dish in honour of the peace, and I will
hang up my buckler over the smoking hearth.
It is he, he himself. Stone him, stone him, stone him, strike
the wretch. All, all of you, pelt him, pelt him!
What is this? By Heracles, you will smash my pot.
It is you that we are stoning, you miserable scoundrel.
And for what sin, Acharnian Elders, tell me that!
You ask that, you impudent rascal, traitor to your country; you
alone amongst us all have concluded a truce, and you dare to look us
in the face!
But you do not know WHY I have treated for peace. Listen!
Listen to you? No, no, you are about to die, we will annihilate
you with our stones.
But first of all, listen. Stop, my friends.
I will hear nothing; do not address me; I hate you more than I
do Cleon, whom one day I shall flay to make sandals for the Knights.
Listen to your long speeches, after you have treated with the
Laconians? No, I will punish you.
Friends, leave the Laconians out of debate and consider only
whether I have not done well to conclude my truce.
Done well! when you have treated with a people who know neither
gods, nor truth, nor faith.
We attribute too much to the Laconians; as for myself, I know that
they are not the cause of all our troubles.
Oh, indeed, rascal! You dare to use such language to me and then
expect me to spare you!
No, no, they are not the cause of all our troubles, and I who
address you claim to be able to prove that they have much to
complain of in us.
This passes endurance; my heart bounds with fury. Thus you dare to
defend our enemies.
Were my head on the block I would uphold what I say and rely on
the approval of the people.
Comrades, let us hurl our stones and dye this fellow purple.
What black fire-brand has inflamed your heart! You will not hear
me? You really will not, Acharnians?
There! 'tis done. And you, do put away your sword.
Let me see that no stones remain concealed in your cloaks.
They are all on the ground; see how we shake our garments. Come,
no haggling, lay down your sword; we threw away everything while
crossing from one side of the stage to the other.
What cries of anguish you would have uttered had these coals of
Parnes been dismembered, and yet it came very near it; had they
perished, their death would have been due to the folly of their
fellow-citizens. The poor basket was so frightened, look, it has
shed a thick black dust over me, the same as a cuttle-fish does.
What an irritable temper! You shout and throw stones, you will not
hear my arguments--not even when I propose to speak in favour of the
Lacedaemonians with my head on the block; and yet I cling to life.
Well then, bring out a block before your door, scoundrel, and
let us hear the good grounds you can give us; I am curious to know
them. Now mind, as you proposed yourself, place your head on the block
Here is the block; and, though I am but a very sorry speaker, I
wish nevertheless to talk freely of the Lacedaemonians and without the
protection of my buckler. Yet I have many reasons for fear. I know our
rustics; they are delighted if some braggart comes, and rightly or
wrongly, loads both them and their city with praise and flattery; they
do not see that such toad-eaters are traitors, who sell them for gain.
As for the old men, I know their weakness; they only seek to overwhelm
the accused with their votes. Nor have I forgotten how Cleon treated
me because of my comedy last year; he dragged me before the Senate
and there he uttered endless slanders against me; 'twas a tempest of
abuse, a deluge of lies. Through what a slough of mud he dragged me! I
almost perished. Permit me, therefore, before I speak, to dress in the
manner most likely to draw pity.
What evasions, subterfuges and delays! Hold! here is the sombre
helmet of Pluto with its thick bristling plume; Hieronymus lends it to
you; then open Sisyphus' bag of wiles; but hurry, hurry, pray, for
discussion does not admit of delay.
The time has come for me to manifest my courage, so I will go
and seek Euripides. Ho! slave, slave!
So much the worse. But I will not go. Come, let us knock at the door.
Euripides, my little Euripides, my darling Euripides, listen;
never had man greater right to your pity. It is Dicaeopolis of the
Chollidan Deme who calls you. Do you hear?
You perch aloft to compose tragedies, when you might just as
well do them on the ground. I am not astonished at your introducing
cripples on the stage. And why dress in these miserable tragic rags?
I do not wonder that your heroes are beggars. But, Euripides, on my knees
I beseech you, give me the tatters of some old piece; for I have to
treat the Chorus to a long speech, and if I do it ill it is all over
What rags do you prefer? Those in which I rigged out Aeneus on
the stage, that unhappy, miserable old man?
No, I want those of some hero still more unfortunate.
Oh! Zeus, whose eye pierces everywhere and embraces all, permit me
to assume the most wretched dress on earth. Euripides, cap your
kindness by giving me the little Mysian hat, that goes so well with
these tatters. I must to-day have the look of a beggar; "be what I am,
but not appear to be"; the audience will know well who I am, but
the Chorus will be fools enough not to, and I shall dupe 'em with my
I will give you the hat; I love the clever tricks of an ingenious
brain like yours.
Rest happy, and may it befall Telephus as I wish. Ah! I already
feel myself filled with quibbles. But I must have a beggar's staff.
Here you are, and now get you gone from this porch.
Oh, my soul! You see how you are driven from this house, when I
still need so many accessories. But let us be pressing, obstinate,
importunate. Euripides, give me a little basket with a lamp alight inside.
Whatever do you want such a thing as that for?
I do not need it, but I want it all the same.
Take it and go and hang yourself. What a tiresome fellow!
Ah! you do not know all the pain you cause me. Dear, good
Euripides, nothing beyond a small pipkin stoppered with a sponge.
Miserable man! You are robbing me of an entire tragedy. Here, take it
and be off.
I am going, but, great gods! I need one thing more; unless I
have it, I am a dead man. Hearken, my little Euripides, only give me
this and I go, never to return. For pity's sake, do give me a few
small herbs for my basket.
You wish to ruin me then. Here, take what you want; but it is
all over with my pieces!
I won't ask another thing; I'm going. I am too importunate and
forget that I rouse against me the hate of kings.--Ah! wretch that I am!
I am lost! I have forgotten one thing, without which all the rest is
as nothing. Euripides, my excellent Euripides, my dear little Euripides,
may I die if I ask you again for the smallest present; only one, the last,
absolutely the last; give me some of the chervil your mother left
you in her will.
Oh, my soul! I must go away without the chervil. Art thou
sensible of the dangerous battle we are about to engage upon in
defending the Lacedaemonians? Courage, my soul, we must plunge
into the midst of it. Dost thou hesitate and art thou fully steeped
in Euripides? That's right! do not falter, my poor heart, and let us risk
our head to say what we hold for truth. Courage and boldly to
the front. I wonder I am so brave.
What do you purport doing? what are you going to say? What an
impudent fellow! what a brazen heart! to dare to stake his head and
uphold an opinion contrary to that of us all! And he does not
tremble to face this peril. Come, it is you who desired it, speak!
Spectators, be not angered if, although I am a beggar, I dare in
a Comedy to speak before the people of Athens of the public weal;
Comedy too can sometimes discern what is right. I shall not please,
but I shall say what is true. Besides, Cleon shall not be able to accuse
me of attacking Athens before strangers; we are by ourselves at the
festival of the Lenaea; the period when our allies send us their tribute
and their soldiers is not yet. Here is only the pure wheat
without chaff; as to the resident strangers settled among us, they
and the citizens are one, like the straw and the ear.
I detest the Lacedaemonians with all my heart, and may Posidon,
the god of Taenarus, cause an earthquake and overturn their dwellings!
My vines also have been cut. But come (there are only friends who
hear me), why accuse the Laconians of all our woes? Some men (I do not
say the city, note particularly that I do not say the city), some
wretches, lost in vices, bereft of honour, who were not even
citizens of good stamp, but strangers, have accused the Megarians of
introducing their produce fraudulently, and not a cucumber, a leveret,
a sucking pig, a clove of garlic, a lump of salt was seen without its
being said, "Halloa! these come from Megara," and their being
instantly confiscated. Thus far the evil was not serious and we were
the only sufferers. But now some young drunkards go to Megara and
carry off the courtesan Simaetha; the Megarians, hurt to the quick, run
off in turn with two harlots of the house of Aspasia; and so for three
gay women Greece is set ablaze. Then Pericles, aflame with ire on his
Olympian height, let loose the lightning, caused the thunder to
roll, upset Greece and passed an edict, which ran like the song, "That
the Megarians be banished both from our land and from our markets
and from the sea and from the continent." Meanwhile the Megarians,
who were beginning to die of hunger, begged the Lacedaemonians to bring
about the abolition of the decree, of which those harlots were the
cause; several times we refused their demand; and from that time there
was horrible clatter of arms everywhere. You will say that Sparta
was wrong, but what should she have done? Answer that. Suppose that
a Lacedaemonian had seized a little Seriphian dog on any pretext and
had sold it, would you have endured it quietly? Far from it, you would
at once have sent three hundred vessels to sea, and what an uproar
there would have been through all the city! there 'tis a band of
noisy soldiery, here a brawl about the election of a Trierarch;
elsewhere pay is being distributed, the Pallas figure-heads are
being regilded, crowds are surging under the market porticos,
encumbered with wheat that is being measured, wine-skins,
oar-leathers, garlic, olives, onions in nets; everywhere are chaplets,
sprats, flute-girls, black eyes; in the arsenal bolts are being
noisily driven home, sweeps are being made and fitted with leathers;
we hear nothing but the sound of whistles, of flutes and fifes to
encourage the work-folk. That is what you assuredly would have done,
and would not Telephus have done the same? So I come to my general
conclusion; we have no common sense.