Oh! wretch! oh! infamous man! You are naught but a beggar and
yet you dare to talk to us like this! you insult their worships
By Posidon! he speaks the truth; he has not lied in a single detail.
But though it be true, need he say it? But you'll have no great
cause to be proud of your insolence!
Where are you running to? Don't you move; if you strike this man,
I shall be at you.
Lamachus, whose glance flashes lightning, whose plume
petrifies thy foes, help! Oh! Lamachus, my friend, the hero of my
tribe and all of you, both officers and soldiers, defenders of our
walls, come to my aid; else is it all over with me!
Whence comes this cry of battle? where must I bring my aid?
where must I sow dread? who wants me to uncase my dreadful Gorgon's
Oh, Lamachus, great hero! Your plumes and your cohorts terrify me.
This man, Lamachus, incessantly abuses Athens.
You are but a mendicant and you dare to use language of this sort?
Oh, brave Lamachus, forgive a beggar who speaks at hazard.
Yes, three cuckoos did! If I have concluded peace, 'twas
disgust that drove me; for I see men with hoary heads in the ranks and
young fellows of your age shirking service. Some are in Thrace getting
an allowance of three drachmae, such fellows as Tisamenophoenippus
and Panurgipparchides. The others are with Chares or in Chaonia, men
like Geretotheodorus and Diomialazon; there are some of the same
kidney, too, at Camarina and at Gela, the laughing-stock of all and sundry.
And why do you always receive your pay, when none of these
others ever gets any? Speak, Marilades, you have grey hair; well then,
have you ever been entrusted with a mission? See! he shakes his
head. Yet he is an active as well as a prudent man. And you, Dracyllus,
Euphorides or Prinides, have you knowledge of Ecbatana or
Chaonia? You say no, do you not? Such offices are good for the son
of Caesyra and Lamachus, who, but yesterday ruined with debt, never
pay their shot, and whom all their friends avoid as foot passengers
dodge the folks who empty their slops out of window.
Oh! in freedom's name! are such exaggerations to be borne?
Lamachus is well content; no doubt he is well paid, you know.
But I propose always to war with the Peloponnesians, both at sea, on land
and everywhere to make them tremble, and trounce them soundly.
For my own part, I make proclamation to all Peloponnesians,
Megarians and Boeotians, that to them my markets are open; but I debar
Lamachus from entering them.
Convinced by this man's speech, the folk have changed their view
and approve him for having concluded peace. But let us prepare for the
recital of the parabasis.
Never since our poet presented Comedies, has he praised himself
upon the stage; but, having been slandered by his enemies amongst
the volatile Athenians, accused of scoffing at his country and of
insulting the people, to-day he wishes to reply and regain for himself
the inconstant Athenians. He maintains that he has done much that is
good for you; if you no longer allow yourselves to be too much
hoodwinked by strangers or seduced by flattery, if in politics you are
no longer the ninnies you once were, it is thanks to him. Formerly,
when delegates from other cities wanted to deceive you, they had but
to style you, "the people crowned with violets," and at the word
"violets" you at once sat erect on the tips of your bums. Or if, to
tickle your vanity, someone spoke of "rich and sleek Athens," in
return for that "sleekness" he would get all, because he spoke of you
as he would have of anchovies in oil. In cautioning you against
such wiles, the poet has done you great service as well as
in forcing you to understand what is really the democratic
principle. Thus, the strangers, who came to pay their tributes,
wanted to see this great poet, who had dared to speak the truth to
Athens. And so far has the fame of his boldness reached that one day
the Great King, when questioning the Lacedaemonian delegates, first
asked them which of the two rival cities was the superior at sea,
and then immediately demanded at which it was that the comic poet
directed his biting satire. "Happy that city," he added, "if it
listens to his counsel; it will grow in power, and its victory is
assured." This is why the Lacedaemonians offer you peace, if you
will cede them Aegina; not that they care for the isle, but they
wish to rob you of your poet. As for you, never lose him, who will
always fight for the cause of justice in his Comedies; he promises you
that his precepts will lead you to happiness, though he uses neither
flattery, nor bribery, nor intrigue, nor deceit; instead of loading
you with praise, he will point you to the better way. I scoff at
Cleon's tricks and plotting; honesty and justice shall fight my cause;
never will you find me a political poltroon, a prostitute to the
I invoke thee, Acharnian Muse, fierce and fell as the devouring fire;
sudden as the spark that bursts from the crackling oaken coal when
roused by the quickening fan to fry little fishes, while others knead
the dough or whip the sharp Thasian pickle with rapid hand, so break
forth, my Muse, and inspire thy tribesmen with rough, vigorous,
We others, now old men and heavy with years, we reproach the city;
so many are the victories we have gained for the Athenian fleets
that we well deserve to be cared for in our declining life; yet far
from this, we are ill-used, harassed with law-suits, delivered over to
the scorn of stripling orators. Our minds and bodies being ravaged
with age, Posidon should protect us, yet we have no other support than
a staff. When standing before the judge, we can scarcely stammer forth
the fewest words, and of justice we see but its barest shadow, whereas
the accuser, desirous of conciliating the younger men, overwhelms us
with his ready rhetoric; he drags us before the judge, presses us with
questions, lays traps for us; the onslaught troubles, upsets and ruins
poor old Tithonus, who, crushed with age, stands tongue-tied;
sentenced to a fine, he weeps, he sobs and says to his friend,
"This fine robs me of the last trifle that was to have bought my coffin."
Is this not a scandal? What! the clepsydra is to kill the
white-haired veteran, who, in fierce fighting, has so oft covered
himself with glorious sweat, whose valour at Marathon saved the
country! 'Twas we who pursued on the field of Marathon,
whereas now 'tis wretches who pursue us to the death and crush us!
What would Marpsias reply to this? What an injustice that a man,
bent with age like Thucydides, should be brow-beaten by this braggart
advocate, Cephisodemus, who is as savage as the Scythian desert
he was born in! Is it not to convict him from the outset? I wept tears
of pity when I saw an Archer maltreat this old man, who, by Ceres,
when he was young and the true Thucydides, would not have permitted
an insult from Ceres herself! At that date he would have floored
ten orators, he would have terrified three thousand Archers with his
shouts; he would have pierced the whole line of the enemy with his shafts.
Ah! but if you will not leave the aged in peace, decree that the advocates
be matched; thus the old man will only be confronted with a toothless
greybeard, the young will fight with the braggart, the ignoble
with the son of Clinias; make a law that in the future, the old man
can only be summoned and convicted at the courts by the aged
and the young man by the youth.
These are the confines of my market-place. All Peloponnesians,
Megarians, Boeotians, have the right to come and trade here,
provided they sell their wares to me and not to Lamachus. As
market-inspectors I appoint these three whips of Leprean leather,
chosen by lot. Warned away are all informers and all men of Phasis.
They are bringing me the pillar on which the treaty is inscribed and
I shall erect it in the centre of the market, well in sight of all.
Hail! market of Athens, beloved of Megarians. Let Zeus, the patron
of friendship, witness, I regretted you as a mother mourns her son.
Come, poor little daughters of an unfortunate father, try to find
something to eat; listen to me with the full heed of an empty belly.
Which would you prefer? To be sold or to cry with hunger?
That is my opinion too. But who would make so sorry a deal as to
buy you? Ah! I recall me a Megarian trick; I am going to disguise
you as little porkers, that I am offering for sale. Fit your hands
with these hoofs and take care to appear the issue of a sow of good
breed, for, if I am forced to take you back to the house, by Hermes!
you will suffer cruelly of hunger! Then fix on these snouts and cram
yourselves into this sack. Forget not to grunt and to say wee-wee like
the little pigs that are sacrificed in the Mysteries. I must summon
Dicaeopolis. Where is be? Dicaeopolis, do you want to buy
some nice little porkers?
This is too much! what an incredulous man! He says 'tis not a sow;
but we will stake, an you will, a measure of salt ground up with
thyme, that in good Greek this is called a sow and nothing else.
What sharp squeaks at the name of figs. Come, let some figs be
brought for these little pigs. Will they eat them? Goodness! how
they munch them, what a grinding of teeth, mighty Heracles! I
believe those pigs hail from the land of the Voracians. But surely
'tis impossible they have bolted all the figs!
Yes, certainly, bar this one that I took from them.
Ah! what funny creatures! For what sum will you sell them?
I will give you one for a bunch of garlic, and the other, if you
like, for a quart measure of salt.
Well! may the inopportune wish apply to myself.
Farewell, dear little sows, and seek, far from your father, to
munch your bread with salt, if they give you any.
Here is a man truly happy. See how everything succeeds to his
wish. Peacefully seated in his market, he will earn his living; woe to
Ctesias, and all other informers who dare to enter there! You will not
be cheated as to the value of wares, you will not again see Prepis
wiping his foul rump, nor will Cleonymus jostle you; you will take your
walks, clothed in a fine tunic, without meeting Hyperbolus and his
unceasing quibblings, without being accosted on the public place by
any importunate fellow, neither by Cratinus, shaven in the fashion
of the debauchees, nor by this musician, who plagues us with his silly
improvisations, Artemo, with his arm-pits stinking as foul as a goat,
like his father before him. You will not be the butt of the villainous
Pauson's jeers, nor of Lysistratus, the disgrace
of the Cholargian deme, who is the incarnation of all the vices,
and endures cold and hunger more than thirty days in the month.
By Heracles! my shoulder is quite black and blue. Ismenias, put
the penny-royal down there very gently, and all of you, musicians
from Thebes, pipe with your bone flutes into a dog's rump.
Enough, enough, get you gone. Rascally hornets, away with you!
Whence has sprung this accursed swarm of Charis fellows which comes
assailing my door?
Ah! by Iolas! Drive them off, my dear host, you will please me
immensely; all the way from Thebes, they were there piping behind me
and have completely stripped my penny-royal of its blossom.
But will you buy anything of me, some chickens or some locusts?
Ah! good day, Boeotian, eater of good round loaves. What do you
All that is good in Boeotia, marjoram, penny-royal, rush-mats,
lamp-wicks, ducks, jays, woodcocks, water-fowl, wrens, divers.
'Tis a very hail of birds that beats down on my market.
I also bring geese, hares, foxes, moles, hedgehogs, cats, lyres,
martins, otters and eels from the Copaic lake.
Ah! my friend, you, who bring me the most delicious of fish,
let me salute your eels.
Come, thou, the eldest of my fifty Copaic virgins, come and
complete the joy of our host.
Oh! my well-beloved, thou object of my long regrets, thou art here
at last then, thou, after whom the comic poets sigh, thou, who art
dear to Morychus. Slaves, hither with the stove and the bellows.
Look at this charming eel, that returns to us after six long years
of absence. Salute it, my children; as for myself, I will supply
coal to do honour to the stranger. Take it into my house; death itself
could not separate me from her, if cooked with beet leaves.
It needs but one to set an arsenal afire.
A wick set an arsenal ablaze! But how, great gods?
Should a Boeotian attach it to an insect's wing, and, taking
advantage of a violent north wind, throw it by means of a tube into
the arsenal and the fire once get hold of the vessels, everything
would soon be devoured by the flames.
Ah! wretch! an insect and a wick devour everything!
(HE STRIKES HIM.)
NICARCHUS (TO THE CHORUS)
You will bear witness, that he mishandles me.
Shut his mouth. Give me some hay; I am going to pack him up like
a vase, that he may not get broken on the road.
Pack up your goods carefully, friend; that the stranger may not
break it when taking it away.
I shall take great care with it, for one would say he is cracked already;
he rings with a false note, which the gods abhor.
This is a vase good for all purposes; it will be used as a vessel for holding
all foul things, a mortar for pounding together law-suits, a lamp
for spying upon accounts, and as a cup for the mixing up and poisoning
None could ever trust a vessel for domestic use that has such a
ring about it.
Oh! it is strong, my friend, and will never get broken, if care is
taken to hang it head downwards.
Lamachus wants to keep the Feast of Cups, and I come by his order
to bid you one drachma for some thrushes and three more for a Copaic eel.
And who is this Lamachus, who demands an eel?
'Tis the terrible, indefatigable Lamachus, who is always brandishing
his fearful Gorgon's head and the three plumes which o'ershadow
No, no, he will get nothing, even though he gave me his buckler.
Let him eat salt fish, while he shakes his plumes, and, if he comes
here making any din, I shall call the inspectors. As for myself,
I shall take away all these goods; I go home on thrushes' wings
and black-birds' pinions.
You see, citizens, you see the good fortune which this man owes to
his prudence, to his profound wisdom. You see how, since he has
concluded peace, he buys what is useful in the household and good to
eat hot. All good things flow towards him unsought. Never will I welcome
the god of war in my house; never shall he chant the "Harmodius" at
my table; he is a sot, who comes feasting with those who are
overflowing with good things and brings all manner of mischief at his
heels. He overthrows, ruins, rips open; 'tis vain to make him a
thousand offers, "be seated, pray, drink this cup, proffered in all
friendship," he burns our vine-stocks and brutally pours out the wine
from our vineyards
on the ground. This man, on the other hand, covers his table with
a thousand dishes; proud of his good fortunes, he has had these feathers
cast before his door to show us how he lives.
Oh, Peace! companion of fair Aphrodite and of the sweet Graces,
how charming are thy features and yet I never knew it! Would that Eros
might join me to thee, Eros, crowned with roses as Zeuxis shows him to
us! Perhaps I seem somewhat old to you, but I am yet able to make you a
threefold offering; despite my age I could plant a long row of vines for you;
then beside these some tender cuttings from the fig; finally a young
vine-stock, loaded with fruit and all around the field olive trees, which
would furnish us with oil, wherewith to anoint us both at the New Moons.
List, ye people! As was the custom of your forebears, empty a full
pitcher of wine at the call of the trumpet; he, who first sees the
bottom, shall get a wine-skin as round and plump as Ctesiphon's belly.
Women, children, have you not heard? Faith! do you not heed the
herald? Quick! let the hares boil and roast merrily; keep them
a-turning; withdraw them from the flame; prepare the chaplets;
reach me the skewers that I may spit the thrushes.
I envy you your wisdom and even more your good cheer.
What then will you say when you see the thrushes roasting?
And in return, he prays you to pour a glass of peace into this vase,
that he may not have to go to the front and may stay at home
to do his duty to his young wife.
Take back, take back your viands; for a thousand drachmae I
would not give a drop of peace; but who are you, pray?
I am the bridesmaid; she wants to say something to you
from the bride privately.
Come, what do you wish to say? (THE BRIDESMAID WHISPERS IN
HIS EAR.) Ah! what a ridiculous demand! The bride burns with longing
to keep by her her husband's weapon. Come! bring hither my truce; to
her alone will I give some of it, for she is a woman, and, as such,
should not suffer under the war. Here, friend, reach hither your vial.
And as to the manner of applying this balm, tell the bride, when a
levy of soldiers is made to rub some in bed on her husband, where
most needed. There, slave, take away my truce! Now, quick, bring me
the wine-flagon, that I may fill up the drinking bowls!
I see a man, striding along apace, with knitted brows; he seems
to us the bearer of terrible tidings.
What noise resounds around my dwelling, where shines the glint
The Generals order you forthwith to take your battalions and
your plumes, and, despite the snow, to go and guard our borders.
They have learnt that a band of Boeotians intend taking advantage
of the Feast of Cups to invade our country.
Ah! the Generals! they are numerous, but not good for much!
It's cruel, not to be able to enjoy the feast!
Come quickly to the feast and bring your basket and your cup;
'tis the priest of Bacchus who invites you. But hasten, the guests
have been waiting for you a long while. All is ready--couches,
tables, cushions, chaplets, perfumes, dainties and courtesans to boot;
biscuits, cakes, sesame-bread, tarts, lovely dancing women, the sweetest
charm of the festivity. But come with all haste.
Fasten the strappings to the buckler; personally I shall carry the knapsack
Pack the dinner well into the basket; personally I shall carry the cloak.
Slave, take up the buckler and let's be off. It is snowing! Ah!
'tis a question of facing the winter.
Take up the basket, 'tis a question of getting to the feast.
We wish you both joy on your journeys, which differ so much. One goes
to mount guard and freeze, while the other will drink, crowned
with flowers, and then sleep with a young beauty, who will excite
I say it freely; may Zeus confound Antimachus, the poet-historian,
the son of Psacas! When Choregus at the Lenaea, alas! alas! he
dismissed me dinnerless. May I see him devouring with his eyes a
cuttle-fish, just served, well cooked, hot and properly salted; and
the moment that he stretches his hand to help himself, may a dog seize
it and run off with it. Such is my first wish. I also hope for him a
misfortune at night. That returning all-fevered from horse practice,
he may meet an Orestes, mad with drink, who breaks open his head;
that wishing to seize a stone, he, in the dark, may pick up a fresh stool,
hurl his missile, miss aim and hit Cratinus.
SLAVE OF LAMACHUS
Slaves of Lamachus! Water, water in a little pot! Make it warm, get ready
cloths, cerate greasy wool and bandages for his ankle. In leaping a ditch,
the master has hurt himself against a stake; he has dislocated and twisted
his ankle, broken his head by falling on a stone, while his Gorgon shot far
away from his buckler. His mighty braggadocio plume rolled on the
ground; at this sight he uttered these doleful words, "Radiant star, I gaze
on thee for the last time; my eyes close to all light, I die." Having
said this, he falls into the water, gets out again, meets some runaways and pursues
the robbers with his spear at their backsides. But here he comes,
himself. Get the door open.
Oh! heavens! oh! heavens! What cruel pain! I faint, I tremble! Alas!
I die! the foe's lance has struck me! But what would hurt me most
would be for Dicaeopolis to see me wounded thus and laugh
at my ill-fortune.
DICAEOPOLIS (ENTERS WITH TWO COURTESANS)
Oh! my gods! what bosoms! Hard as a quince! Come, my treasures, give
me voluptuous kisses! Glue your lips to mine. Haha! I was the first to
empty my cup.
Oh! cruel fate! how I suffer! accursed wounds!