And where's what you gave him just now; surely he can't have devoured
Indeed he has; he snatched it, rolled it between his feet and
Come, hurry up, knead up a lot and knead them stiffly.
Oh, scavengers, help me in the name of the gods, if you do not
wish to see me fall down choked.
Come, come, another made from the stool of a young scapegrace catamite.
'Twill be to the beetle's taste; he likes it well ground.
There! I am free at least from suspicion; none will accuse me of
tasting what I mix.
Faugh! come, now another! keep on mixing with all your might.
I' faith, no. I can stand this awful cesspool stench no longer, so I
bring you the whole ill-smelling gear.
Pitch it down the sewer sooner, and yourself with it.
Maybe, one of you can tell me where I can buy a stopped-up nose,
for there is no work more disgusting than to mix food for a
beetle and to carry it to him. A pig or a dog will at least pounce
upon our excrement without more ado, but this foul wretch
affects the disdainful, the spoilt mistress, and won't eat unless I
offer him a cake that has been kneaded for an entire day.... But let
us open the door a bit ajar without his seeing it. Has he done eating?
Come, pluck up courage, cram yourself till you burst! The cursed
creature! It wallows in its food! It grips it between its claws like a
wrestler clutching his opponent, and with head and feet together rolls
up its paste like a rope-maker twisting a hawser. What an indecent,
stinking, gluttonous beast! I know not what angry god let this
monster loose upon us, but of a certainty it was neither Aphrodite nor
But perhaps some spectator, some beardless youth, who thinks
himself a sage, will say, "What is this? What does the beetle mean?"
And then an Ionian, sitting next him, will add, "I think 'tis an
allusion to Cleon, who so shamelessly feeds on filth all by
himself."--But now I'm going indoors to fetch the beetle a drink.
 'Peace' was no doubt produced at the festival of the Apaturia, which
was kept at the end of October, a period when strangers were numerous in
As for me, I will explain the matter to you all, children, youths,
grownups and old men, aye, even to the decrepit dotards. My master
is mad, not as you are, but with another sort of madness, quite a
new kind. The livelong day he looks open-mouthed towards heaven and
never stops addressing Zeus. "Ah! Zeus," he cries, "what are thy
intentions? Lay aside thy besom; do not sweep Greece away!"
Hush, hush! Mehinks I hear his voice!
Oh! Zeus, what art thou going to do for our people? Dost thou
not see this, that our cities will soon be but empty husks?
As I told you, that is his form of madness. There you have a
sample of his follies. When his trouble first began to seize him, he
said to himself, "By what means could I go straight to Zeus?" Then he
made himself very slender little ladders and so clambered up towards
heaven; but he soon came hurtling down again and broke his head.
Yesterday, to our misfortune, he went out and brought us back this
thoroughbred, but from where I know not, this great beetle, whose
groom he has forced me to become. He himself caresses it as though
it were a horse, saying, "Oh! my little Pegasus, my noble aerial
steed, may your wings soon bear me straight to Zeus!" But what is my
master doing? I must stoop down to look through this hole. Oh! great
gods! Here! neighbours, run here quick! here is my master flying off
mounted on his beetle as if on horseback.
 The winged steed of Perseus--an allusion to a lost tragedy of Euripides,
in which Bellerophon was introduced riding on Pegasus.
Gently, gently, go easy, beetle; don't start off so proudly, or
trust at first too greatly to your powers; wait till you have sweated,
till the beating of your wings shall make your limb joints supple.
Above all things, don't let off some foul smell, I adjure you; else
I would rather have you stop in the stable altogether.
I shall pursue him at law as a traitor who sells Greece to the Medes.
 The Persians and the Spartans were not then allied as the scholiast
states, since a treaty between them was only concluded in 412 B.C., i.e.
eight years after the production of 'Peace'; the great king, however, was
trying to derive advantages out of the dissensions in Greece.
Alas! alas! dear little girls, your father is deserting you secretly to go
to heaven. Ah! poor orphans, entreat him, beseech him.
Father! father! what is this I hear? Is it true? What! you would
leave me, you would vanish into the sky, you would go to the crows?
'Tis impossible! Answer, father, an you love me.
 "Go to the crows," a proverbial expression equivalent to our "Go
to the devil."
Yes, I am going. You hurt me too sorely, my daughters, when you
ask me for bread, calling me your daddy, and there is not the ghost of
an obolus in the house; if I succeed and come back, you will have a
barley loaf every morning--and a punch in the eye for sauce!
But how will you make the journey? 'Tis not a ship that will
carry you thither.
But what an idea, daddy, to harness a beetle, on which to fly to the gods.
We see from Aesop's fables that they alone can fly to the abode of
 Aesop tells us that the eagle and the beetle were at war; the eagle
devoured the beetle's young and the latter got into its nest and tumbled
out its eggs. On this the eagle complained to Zeus, who advised it to lay its
eggs in his bosom; but the beetle flew up to the abode of Zeus, who,
forgetful of the eagle's eggs, at once rose to chase off the objectionable
insect. The eggs fell to earth and were smashed to bits.
Father, father, 'tis a tale nobody can believe! that such a stinking
creature can have gone to the gods.
It went to have vengeance on the eagle and break its eggs.
Why not saddle Pegasus? you would have a more TRAGIC appearance
the eyes of the gods.
 Pegasus is introduced by Euripides both in his 'Andromeda' and his
Eh! don't you see, little fool, that then twice the food would
be wanted? Whereas my beetle devours again as filth what I have
And if it fell into the watery depths of the sea, could it
escape with its wings?
TRYGAEUS (EXPOSING HIMSELF)
I am fitted with a rudder in case of need, and my Naxos beetle
will serve me as a boat.
 Boats, called 'beetles,' doubtless because in form they resembled these
insects, were built at Naxos.
And what harbour will you put in at?
Why is there not the harbour of Cantharos at the Piraeus?
 Nature had divided the Piraeus into three basins--Cantharos,
Aphrodisium and Zea. [Cantharos] is Greek for dung-beetle.
Take care not to knock against anything and so fall off into
space; once a cripple, you would be a fit subject for Euripides, who
would put you into a tragedy.
 In allusion to Euripides' fondness for introducing lame heroes in
I'll see to it. Good-bye! (TO THE ATHENIANS.) You, for love of whom
I brave these dangers, do ye neither let wind nor go to stool for the
space of three days, for, if, while cleaving the air, my steed should scent
anything, he would fling me head foremost from the summit of my hopes.
Now come, my Pegasus, get a-going with up-pricked ears and make
your golden bridle resound gaily. Eh! what are you doing? What are you
up to? Do you turn your nose towards the cesspools? Come, pluck up a
spirit; rush upwards from the earth, stretch out your speedy wings and
make straight for the palace of Zeus; for once give up foraging in
your daily food.--Hi! you down there, what are you after now? Oh! my
god! 'tis a man emptying his belly in the Piraeus, close to the house
where the bad girls are. But is it my death you seek then, my death?
Will you not bury that right away and pile a great heap of earth upon
it and plant wild thyme therein and pour perfumes on it? If I were to fall
from up here and misfortune happened to me, the town of Chios would
owe a fine of five talents for my death, all along of your cursed rump.
Alas! how frightened I am! oh! I have no heart for jests. Ah!
machinist, take great care of me. There is already a wind whirling
round my navel; take great care or, from sheer fright, I shall form
food for my beetle.... But I think I am no longer far from the gods;
aye, that is the dwelling of Zeus, I perceive. Hullo! Hi! where is the
doorkeeper? Will no one open?
 An allusion to the proverbial nickname applied to the Chians [in
Greek]--'crapping Chian.' There is a further joke, of course, in connection
with the hundred and one frivolous pretexts which the Athenians invented
for exacting contributions from the maritime allies.
Because of their wrath against the Greeks. They have located War
in the house they occupied themselves and have given him full power
to do with you exactly as he pleases; then they went as high up as ever
they could, so as to see no more of your fights and to hear no more of
What reason have they for treating us so?
Because they have afforded you an opportunity for peace more
than once, but you have always preferred war. If the Laconians got
the very slightest advantage, they would exclaim, "By the Twin Brethren!
the Athenians shall smart for this." If, on the contrary, the latter
triumphed and the Laconians came with peace proposals, you would
say, "By Demeter, they want to deceive us. No, by Zeus, we will not
hear a word; they will always be coming as long as we hold Pylos."
 Masters of Pylos and Sphacteria, the Athenians had brought home
the three hundred prisoners taken in the latter place in 425 B.C.; the Spartans
had several times sent envoys to offer peace and to demand back both
Pylos and the prisoners, but the Athenian pride had caused these
proposals to be long refused. Finally the prisoners had been given up
in 423 B.C., but the War was continued nevertheless.
Yes, that is quite the style our folk do talk in.
So that I don't know whether you will ever see Peace again.
Down there, at the very bottom. And you see what heaps of stones
he has piled over the top, so that you should never pull her out again.
Tell me, what is War preparing against us?
All I know is that last evening he brought along a huge mortar.
And what is he going to do with his mortar?
He wants to pound up all the cities of Greece in it.... But I must say
good-bye, for I think he is coming out; what an uproar he is making!
Ah! great gods! let us seek safety; meseems I already hear the
noise of this fearful war mortar.
WAR (ENTERS, CARRYING A HUGE MORTAR)
Oh! mortals, mortals, wretched mortals, how your jaws will snap!
Oh! divine Apollo! what a prodigious big mortar! Oh, what misery
the very sight of War causes me! This then is the foe from whom I fly,
who is so cruel, so formidable, so stalwart, so solid on his legs!
Oh! Prasiae! thrice wretched, five times, aye, a thousand times
wretched! for thou shalt be destroyed this day.
 An important town in Eastern Laconia on the Argolic gulf, celebrated
for a temple where a festival was held annually in honour of Achilles.
It had been taken and pillaged by the Athenians in the second year of
the Peloponnesian War, 430 B.C. As he utters this imprecation, War
throws some leeks, the root-word of the name Praisae, into his mortar.
This does not concern us over much; 'tis only so much the worse for
Oh! Megara! Megara! how utterly are you going to be ground up! what
fine mincemeat are you to be made into!
 War throws some garlic into his mortar as emblematical of the city of
Megara, where it was grown in abundance.
Alas! alas! what bitter tears there will be among the Megarians!
 Because the smell of bruised garlic causes the eyes to water.
Oh, Sicily! you too must perish! Your wretched towns shall be grated
like this cheese. Now let us pour some Attic honey into the mortar.
 He throws cheese into the mortar as emblematical of Sicily, on account
of its rich pastures.
 Emblematical of Athens. They honey of Mount Hymettus was famous.
Oh! I beseech you! use some other honey; this kind is worth four obols;
be careful, oh! be careful of our Attic honey.
But we haven't got one; 'twas only yesterday we moved.
Go and fetch me one from Athens, and hurry, hurry!
Aye, I hasten there; if I return without one, I shall have no cause
for laughing. (EXIT.)
Ah! what is to become of us, wretched mortals that we are? See the
danger that threatens if he returns with the pestle, for War will
quietly amuse himself with pounding all the towns of Hellas to pieces.
Ah! Bacchus! cause this herald of evil to perish on his road!
TRYGAEUS (TO THE AUDIENCE)
What is going to happen, friends? 'Tis the critical hour. Ah! if there
is some initiate of Samothrace among you, 'tis surely the moment
to wish this messenger some accident--some sprain or strain.
 An island in the Aegean Sea, on the coast of Thrace and opposite
the mouth of the Hebrus; the Mysteries are said to have found their first
home in this island, where the Cabirian gods were worshipped; this cult,
shrouded in deep mystery to even the initiates themselves, has remained
an almost insoluble problem for the modern critic. It was said that
the wishes of the initiates were always granted, and they were feared as
to-day the 'jettatori' (spell-throwers, casters of the evil eye) in Sicily
They had lent it to their allies in Thrace, who have lost it for them.
 Brasidas perished in Thrace in the same battle as Cleon at Amphipolis,
Long life to you, Thracians! My hopes revive, pluck up courage,
Take all this stuff away; I am going in to make a pestle for myself.
'Tis now the time to sing as Datis did, as he abused himself at high
noon, "Oh pleasure! oh enjoyment! oh delights!" 'Tis now, oh Greeks!
the moment when freed of quarrels and fighting, we should rescue sweet
Peace and draw her out of this pit, before some other pestle
prevents us. Come, labourers, merchants, workmen, artisans, strangers,
whether you be domiciled or not, islanders, come here, Greeks of all
countries, come hurrying here with picks and levers and ropes!
'Tis the moment to drain a cup in honour of the Good Genius.
Come hither all! quick, hasten to the rescue! All peoples of Greece, now is
the time or never, for you to help each other. You see yourselves
freed from battles and all their horrors of bloodshed. The day, hateful
to Lamachus, has come. Come then, what must be done? Give your
orders, direct us, for I swear to work this day without ceasing, until
with the help of our levers and our engines we have drawn back into light
the greatest of all goddesses, her to whom the olive is so dear.
 An Athenian general as ambitious as he was brave. In 423 B.C. he
had failed in an enterprise against Heracles, a storm having destroyed
his fleet. Since then he had distingued himself in several actions, and
was destined, some years later, to share the command of the expedition
to Sicily with Alcibiades and Nicias.
Silence! if War should hear your shouts of joy he would bound
forth from his retreat in fury.
Such a decree overwhelms us with joy; how different to the
edict, which bade us muster with provisions for three days.
By Zeus, I am only throwing up my right leg, that's all.
Come, I grant you that, but pray, annoy me no further.
Ah! the left leg too will have its fling; well, 'tis but its right.
I am so happy,
so delighted at not having to carry my buckler any more. I sing and
I laugh more than if I had cast my old age, as a serpent does its skin.
No, 'tis not time for joy yet, for you are not sure of success.
But when you have got the goddess, then rejoice, shout and laugh;
thenceforward you will be able to sail or stay at home, to make love
or sleep, to attend festivals and processions, to play at cottabos,
live like true Sybarites and to shout, Io, io!
 One of the most favourite games with the Greeks. A stick was set
upright in the ground and to this the beam of a balance was attached
by its centre. Two vessels were hung from the extremities of the beam
so as to balance; beneath these two other and larger dishes were placed
and filled with water, and in the middle of each a brazen figure, called
Manes, was stood. The game consisted in throwing drops of wine from
an agreed distance into one or the other vessel, so that, dragged
downwards by the weight of the liquor, it bumped against Manes.
Ah! God grant we may see the blessed day. I have suffered so much;
have so oft slept with Phormio on hard beds. You will no longer find
me an acid, angry, hard judge as heretofore, but will find me turned
indulgent and grown younger by twenty years through happiness.
We have been killing ourselves long enough, tiring ourselves out
with going to the Lyceum and returning laden with spear and buckler.
--But what can we do to please you? Come, speak; for 'tis a good Fate
that has named you our leader.
 A general of austere habits; he disposed of all his property to pay
the cost of a naval expedition, in which he beat the fleet of the foe off
the promontory of Rhium in 429 B.C.
 The Lyceum was a portico ornamented with paintings and surrounded
with gardens, in which military exercises took place.
How shall we set about removing these stones?
In the name of the meats which I brought you so good-naturedly.
Why, wretched man, Zeus will annihilate me, if I do not shout
out at the top of my voice, to inform him what you are plotting.
Oh, no! don't shout, I beg you, dear little Hermes.... And what
are you doing, comrades? You stand there as though you were stocks
and stones. Wretched men, speak, entreat him at once; otherwise he
will be shouting.
Oh! mighty Hermes! don't do it; no, don't do it! If ever you
have eaten some young pig, sacrificed by us on your altars, with
pleasure, may this offering not be without value in your sight to-day.
Do you not hear them wheedling you, mighty god?
Be not pitiless toward our prayers; permit us to deliver the goddess.
Oh! the most human, the most generous of the gods, be favourable
toward us, if it be true that you detest the haughty crests and proud brows
of Pisander; we shall never cease, oh master, offering you sacred victims
and solemn prayers.
 An Athenian captain who later had the recall of Alcibiades decreed by
the Athenian people; in 'The Birds' Aristophanes represents him as a
cowardly beggar. He was the reactionary leader who estalbished the
Oligarchical Government of the Four Hundred, 411 B.C., after the failure of
the Syracusan expedition.
Have mercy, mercy, let yourself be touched by their words; never was
your worship so dear to them as to-day.
I' truth, never have you been greater thieves.
 Among other attributes, Hermes was the god of theieves.
I will reveal a great, a terrible conspiracy against the gods to you.
Hah! speak and perchance I shall let myself be softened.
Know then, that the Moon and that infamous Sun are plotting against you,
and want to deliver Greece into the hands of the Barbarians.
Because it is to you that we sacrifice, whereas the barbarians
worship them; hence they would like to see you destroyed, that they
alone might receive the offerings.
'Tis then for this reason that these untrustworthy charioteers
have for so long been defrauding us, one of them robbing us
of daylight and the other nibbling away at the other's disk.
 Alluding to the eclipses of the sun and the moon.
Yes, certainly. So therefore, Hermes, my friend, help us with your
whole heart to find and deliver the captive and we will celebrate
the great Panathenaea in your honour as well as all the festivals of
the other gods; for Hermes shall be the Mysteries, the Dipolia, the
Adonia; everywhere the towns, freed from their miseries, will
sacrifice to Hermes the Liberator; you will be loaded with benefits of
every kind, and to start with, I offer you this cup for libations as
your first present.
 The Panathenaea were dedicated to Athene, the Mysteries
to Demeter, the Dipolia to Zeus, the Adonia to Aphrodite and Adonis.
Trygaeus promises Hermes that he shall be worshipped in the place
of the other gods.
Ah! how golden cups do influence me! Come, friends, get to work.
To the pit quickly, pick in hand, and drag away the stones.
We go, but you, cleverest of all the gods, supervise our
labours; tell us, good workman as you are, what we must do; we shall
obey your orders with alacrity.
Quick, reach me your cup, and let us preface our work by
addressing prayers to the gods.
Let us offer our libations and our prayers, so that this day may begin
an era of unalloyed happiness for Greece and that he who has bravely
pulled at the rope with us may never resume his buckler.
Aye, may we pass our lives in peace, caressing our mistresses
and poking the fire.
May he who would prefer the war, oh Dionysus, be ever drawing
barbed arrows out of his elbows.
If there be a citizen, greedy for military rank and honours who
refuses, oh, divine Peace! to restore you to daylight. may he behave
as cowardly as Cleonymus on the battlefield.
If a lance-maker or a dealer in shields desires war for the sake
of better trade, may he be taken by pirates and eat nothing but barley.
If some ambitious man does not help us, because he wants to become
a General, or if a slave is plotting to pass over to the enemy, let his limbs
be broken on the wheel, may he be beaten to death with rods! As for us,
may Fortune favour us! Io! Paean, Io!