This Etext prepareed by Derek Davis
[Translator uncredited. Footnotes have been retained because they
provide the meanings of Greek names, terms and ceremonies and explain
puns and references otherwise lost in translation. Occasional Greek words
in the footnotes have not been included. Footnote numbers, in brackets,
start anew at  for each piece of dialogue, and each footnote follows
immediately the dialogue to which it refers, labeled thus: f.
The 'Peace' was brought out four years after 'The Acharnians' (422 B.C.),
when the War had already lasted ten years. The leading motive is the
same as in the former play--the intense desire of the less excitable and
more moderate-minded citizens for relief from the miseries of war.
Trygaeus, a rustic patriot, finding no help in men, resolves to ascend
to heaven to expostulate personally with Zeus for allowing this wretched
state of things to continue. With this object he has fed and trained a
gigantic dung-beetle, which he mounts, and is carried, like Bellerophon
on Pegasus, on an aerial journey. Eventually he reaches Olympus, only
to find that the gods have gone elsewhere, and that the heavenly abode
is occupied solely by the demon of War, who is busy pounding up the
Greek States in a huge mortar. However, his benevolent purpose is not in
vain; for learning from Hermes that the goddess Peace has been cast into
a pit, where she is kept a fast prisoner, he calls upon the different peoples
of Hellas to make a united effort and rescue her, and with their help drags
her out and brings her back in triumph to earth. The play concludes
with the restoration of the goddess to her ancient honours, the festivities
of the rustic population and the nuptials of Trygaeus with Opora (Harvest),
handmaiden of Peace, represented as a pretty courtesan.
Such references as there are to Cleon in this play are noteworthy.
The great Demagogue was now dead, having fallen in the same action as
the rival Spartan general, the renowned Brasidas, before Amphipolis,
and whatever Aristophanes says here of his old enemy is conceived in
the spirit of 'de mortuis nil nisi bonum.' In one scene Hermes is descanting
on the evils which had nearly ruined Athens and declares that
'The Tanner' was the cause of them all. But Trygaeus interrupts him
with the words:
"Hold-say not so, good master Hermes;
Let the man rest in peace where now he lies.
He is no longer of our world, but yours."
Here surely we have a trait of magnanimity on the author's part as
admirable in its way as the wit and boldness of his former attacks
had been in theirs.
TWO SERVANTS OF TRYGAEUS
MAIDENS, DAUGHTERS OF TRYGAEUS
HIEROCLES, a Soothsayer
SON OF LAMACHUS
SON OF CLEONYMUS
CHORUS OF HUSBANDMEN
SCENE: A farmyard, two slaves busy beside a dungheap; afterwards,
Quick, quick, bring the dung-beetle his cake.
Give it to him, and may it kill him!
May he never eat a better.
Now give him this other one kneaded up with ass's dung.
There! I've done that too.
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
Who was it then?
No doubt the Thunderer, Zeus.
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.
f '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!"
Ah! ah! ah!
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.
f 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.
Poor master! Is he crazy?
SECOND SERVANT (TO TRYGAEUS)
But why start up into the air on chance?
'Tis for the weal of all the Greeks; I am attempting a daring
and novel feat.
But what is your purpose? What useless folly!
No words of ill omen! Give vent to joy and command all men to keep
silence, to close down their drains and privies with new tiles and
to stop up their own vent-holes.
f Fearing that if it caught a whiff from earth to its liking, the beetle
might descend from the highest heaven to satisfy itself.
No, I shall not be silent, unless you tell me where you are going.
Why, where am I likely to be going across the sky, if it be not to
For what purpose?
I want to ask him what he reckons to do for all the Greeks.
And if he doesn't tell you?
I shall pursue him at law as a traitor who sells Greece to the Medes.
f 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.
Death seize me, if I let you go.
It is absolutely necessary.
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.
f "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.
No, but this winged steed will.
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
f 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.
f 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.
f 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?
f 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.
f 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?
f 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.
(THE SCENE CHANGES AND HEAVEN IS PRESENTED.)
Meseems I can sniff a man. (HE PERCEIVES TRYGAEUS ASTRIDE HIS
BEETLE.) Why, what plague is this?
Oh! impudent, shameless rascal! oh! scoundrel! triple scoundrel!
the greatest scoundrel in the world! how did you come here? Oh!
scoundrel of all scoundrels! your name? Reply.
My father? Triple scoundrel.
By the Earth, you shall die, unless you tell me your name.
I am Trygaeus of the Athmonian deme, a good vine-dresser, little
addicted to quibbling and not at all an informer.
Why do you come?
I come to bring you this meat.
Ah! my good friend, did you have a good journey?
Glutton, be off! I no longer seem a triple scoundrel to you. Come,
Ah! ah! you are a long way yet from reaching the gods, for they
To what part of the earth?
Eh! of the earth, did you say?
In short, where are they then?
Very far, very far, right at the furthest end of the dome of heaven.
But why have they left you all alone here?
I am watching what remains of the furniture, the little pots and
pans, the bits of chairs and tables, and odd wine-jars.
And why have the gods moved away?
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."
f 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.
Why, where has she gone to then?
War has cast her into a deep pit.
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.
f 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!
f 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!
f 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.
f He throws cheese into the mortar as emblematical of Sicily, on account
of its rich pastures.
f 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.
Hi! Tumult, you slave there!
What do you want?
Out upon you! Standing there with folded arms! Take this cuff o' the head
for your pains.
Oh! how it stings! Master, have you got garlic in your fist, I wonder?
Run and fetch me a pestle.
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!
TUMULT (WHO HAS RETURNED)
You have brought back nothing?
Alas! the Athenians have lost their pestle--the tanner, who ground Greece
f Cleon, who had lately fallen before Amphipolis, in 422 B.C.
Oh! Athene, venerable mistress! 'tis well for our city he is dead,
and before he could serve us with this hash.
Then go and seek one at Sparta and have done with it!
Aye, aye, master!
Be back as quick as ever you can.
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.
f 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
TUMULT (WHO RETURNS)
Alas! alas! thrice again, alas!
What is it? Again you come back without it?
The Spartans too have lost their pestle.
They had lent it to their allies in Thrace, who have lost it for them.
f 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.
f 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.
f Meaning, to start a military expedition.
Let us beware lest the cursed Cerberus prevent us even from
the nethermost hell from delivering the goddess by his furious howling,
just as he did when on earth.
Once we have hold of her, none in the world will be able to take her
from us. Huzza! huzza!
f The Chorus insist on the conventional choric dance.
You will work my death if you don't subdue your shouts. War will
come running out and trample everything beneath his feet.
Well then! LET him confound, let him trample, let him overturn
everything! We cannot help giving vent to our joy.
Oh! cruel fate! My friends! in the name of the gods, what possesses
you? Your dancing will wreck the success of a fine undertaking.
'Tis not I who want to dance; 'tis my legs that bound with delight.
Enough, an you love me, cease your gambols.
There! 'Tis over.
You say so, and nevertheless you go on.
Yet one more figure and 'tis done.
Well, just this one; then you must dance no more.
No, no more dancing, if we can help you.
But look, you are not stopping even now.
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!
f 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.
f 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.
f 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?
Rash reprobate, what do you propose doing?
Nothing bad, as Cillicon said.
f A citizen of Miletus, who betrayed his country to the people of Pirene.
When asked what he purposed, he replied, "Nothing bad," which expression
had therefore passed into a proverb.
You are undone, you wretch.
Yes, if the lot had to decide my life, for Hermes would know how
to turn the chance.
f Hermes was the god of chance.
You are lost, you are dead.
On what day?
But I have not provided myself with flour and cheese yet to
start for death.
f As the soldiers had to do when starting on an expedition.
You ARE kneaded and ground already, I tell you.
f That is, you are predicated.
Hah! I have not yet tasted that gentle pleasure.
Don't you know that Zeus has decreed death for him who is surprised
What! must I really and truly die?
Well then, lend me three drachmae to buy a young pig; I wish to
have myself initiated before I die.
f The initiated were thought to enjoy greater happiness after death.
Oh! Zeus, the Thunderer!
f He summons Zeus to reveal Trygaeus' conspiracy.
I adjure you in the name of the gods, master, don't denounce us!
I may not, I cannot keep silent.
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.
f 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.
f 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.
f 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.
f 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.
Oh! sacred, sacred libations! Keep silence, oh! ye people! keep silence!
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!
Don't say Paean, but simply, Io.
f The pun here cannot be kept. The word [in Greek], Paean, resembles
[that for] to strike; hence the word, as recalling the blows and wounds of
the war, seems of ill omen to Trygaeus.
Very well, then! Io! Io! I'll simply say, Io!
To Hermes, the Graces, Hora, Aphrodite, Eros!
But not to Ares?
Nor doubtless to Enyalius?
Come, all strain at the ropes to tear away the stones. Pull!
Heave away, heave, heave, oh!
Come, pull harder, harder.
Heave away, heave, heave, oh!
Still harder, harder still.
Heave away, heave! Heave away, heave, heave, oh!
Come, come, there is no working together. Come! all pull at the
same instant! you Boeotians are only pretending. Beware!
Come, heave away, heave!
Hi! you two pull as well.
Why, I am pulling, I am hanging on to the rope and straining
till I am almost off my feet; I am working with all my might.
Why does not the work advance then?
Lamachus, this is too bad! You are in the way, sitting there.
We have no use for your Medusa's head, friend.
f The device on his shield was a Gorgon's head. (See 'The Acharnians.')
But hold, the Argives have not pulled the least bit; they have done
nothing but laugh at us for our pains while they were getting gain
with both hands.
f Both Sparta and Athens had sought the alliance of the Argives; they
had kept themselves strictly neutral and had received pay from both sides.
But, the year after the production of 'The Wasps,' they openly joined
Athens, had attacked Epidaurus and got cut to pieces by the Spartans.
Ah! my dear sir, the Laconians at all events pull with vigour.
But look! only those among them who generally hold the plough-tail
show any zeal, while the armourers impede them in their efforts.
f These are the Spartan prisoners from Sphacteria, who were lying in
goal at Athens. They were chained fast to large beams of wood.
And the Megarians too are doing nothing, yet look how they are
pulling and showing their teeth like famished curs; The poor wretches
are dying of hunger!
f 'Twas want of force, not want of will. They had suffered more than
any other people from the war. (See 'The Acharnians.')
This won't do, friends. Come! all together! Everyone to the work
and with a good heart for the business.
Heave away, heave!
Heave away, heave!
Come on then, by heaven.
Heave away, heave! Heave away, heave!
This will never do.
Is it not a shame? some pull one way and others
another. You, Argives there, beware of a thrashing!
Come, put your strength into it.
Heave away, heave!
There are many ill-disposed folk among us.
Do you at least, who long for peace, pull heartily.
But there are some who prevent us.
Off to the Devil with you, Megarians! The goddess hates you. She
recollects that you were the first to rub her the wrong way.
Athenians, you are not well placed for pulling. There you are too busy
with law-suits; if you really want to free the goddess, get down a
little towards the sea.
f Meaning, look chiefly to your fleet. This was the counsel that
Themistocles frequently gave the Athenians.
Come, friends, none but husbandmen on the rope.
Ah! that will do ever so much better.
He says the thing is going well. Come, all of you, together and
with a will.
'Tis the husbandmen who are doing all the work.
Come then, come, and all together! Hah! hah! at last there is some
unanimity in the work. Don't let us give up, let us redouble our efforts.
There! now we have it! Come then, all together! Heave away, heave!
Heave away, heave! Heave away, heave! Heave away, heave! Heave
away, heave! All together! (PEACE IS DRAWN OUT OF THE PIT.)
Oh! venerated goddess, who givest us our grapes, where am I to
find the ten-thousand-gallon words wherewith to greet thee? I have
none such at home. Oh! hail to thee, Opora, and thee, Theoria!
How beautiful is thy face! How sweet thy breath! What gentle fragrance
comes from thy bosom, gentle as freedom from military duty, as
the most dainty perfumes!
f A metaphor referring to the abundant vintages that peace would
f The goddess of fruits.
f Aristophanes personifies under this name the sacred ceremonies
in general which peace would allow to be celebrated with due pomp.
Opora and Theoria come on the stage in the wake of Peace, clothed
and decked out as courtesans.
Is it then a smell like a soldier's knapsack?
Oh! hateful soldier! your hideous satchel makes me sick! it stinks
like the belching of onions, whereas this lovable deity has the odour
of sweet fruits, of festivals, of the Dionysia, of the harmony
of flutes, of the comic poets, of the verses of Sophocles, of the phrases
That's a foul calumny, you wretch! She detests that framer of
subtleties and quibbles.
...of ivy, of straining-bags for wine, of bleating ewes, of
provision-laden women hastening to the kitchen, of the tipsy servant
wench, of the upturned wine-jar, and of a whole heap of other good
Then look how the reconciled towns chat pleasantly together, how
they laugh; and yet they are all cruelly mishandled; their wounds
are bleeding still.
But let us also scan the mien of the spectators; we shall thus
find out the trade of each.
Ah! good gods! Look at that poor crest-maker, tearing at his hair, and
at that pike-maker, who has just broken wind in yon sword-cutler's face.
f Aristophanes has already shown us the husbandmen and workers
in peaceful trades pulling at the rope the extricate Peace, while
the armourers hindered them by pulling the other way.
And do you see with what pleasure this sickle-maker is making long
noses at the spear-maker?
Now ask the husbandmen to be off.
Listen, good folk! Let the husbandmen take their farming tools and
return to their fields as quick as possible, but without either
sword, spear or javelin. All is as quiet as if Peace had been reigning
for a century. Come, let everyone go till the earth, singing the Paean.
Oh, thou, whom men of standing desired and who art good to
husbandmen, I have gazed upon thee with delight; and now I go to greet
my vines, to caress after so long an absence the fig trees I planted
in my youth.
Friends, let us first adore the goddess, who has delivered us from
crests and Gorgons; then let us hurry to our farms, having first
bought a nice little piece of salt fish to eat in the fields.
f An allusion to Lamachus' shield.
By Posidon! what a fine crew they make and dense as the crust of
a cake; they are as nimble as guests on their way to a feast.
See, how their iron spades glitter and how beautifully their
three-pronged mattocks glisten in the sun! How regularly they align
the plants! I also burn myself to go into the country and to turn over
the earth I have so long neglected.--Friends, do you remember the happy
life that Peace afforded us formerly; can you recall the splendid
baskets of figs, both fresh and dried, the myrtles, the sweet wine,
the violets blooming near the spring, and the olives, for which we
have wept so much? Worship, adore the goddess for restoring you so
Hail! hail! thou beloved divinity! thy return overwhelms us with
joy. When far from thee, my ardent wish to see my fields again made me
pine with regret. From thee came all blessings. Oh! much desired
Peace! thou art the sole support of those who spend their lives
tilling the earth. Under thy rule we had a thousand delicious
enjoyments at our beck; thou wert the husbandman's wheaten cake and
his safeguard. So that our vineyards, our young fig-tree woods and all
our plantations hail thee with delight and smile at thy coming.
But where was she then, I wonder, all the long time she spent away
from us? Hermes, thou benevolent god, tell us!
Wise husbandmen, hearken to my words, if you want to know why
she was lost to you. The start of our misfortunes was the exile of
Phidias; Pericles feared he might share his ill-luck, he mistrusted
your peevish nature and, to prevent all danger to himself, he threw
out that little spark, the Megarian decree, set the city aflame, and
blew up the conflagration with a hurricane of war, so that the smoke
drew tears from all Greeks both here and over there. At the very
outset of this fire our vines were a-crackle, our casks knocked
together; it was beyond the power of any man to stop the disaster,
and Peace disappeared.
f Having been commissioned to execute a statue of Athene, Phidias was
accused of having stolen part of the gold given him out of the public
treasury for its decoration. Rewarded for his work by calumny and
banishment, he resolved to make a finer statue than his Athene,
and executed one for the temple of Elis, that of the Olympian Zeus,
which was considered one of the wonders of the world.
f He had issued a decree, which forbade the admission of any Megarian
on Attic soil, and also all trade with that people. The Megarians,
all their provisions from Athens, were thus almost reduced to starvation.
f That is, the vineyards were ravaged from the very outset of the war,
and this increased the animosity.
That, by Apollo! is what no one ever told me; I could not think
what connection there could be between Phidias and Peace.
Nor I; I know it now. This accounts for her beauty, if she is
related to him. There are so many things that escape us.
Then, when the towns subject to you saw that you were angered
one against the other and were showing each other your teeth like
dogs, they hatched a thousand plots to pay you no more dues and gained
over the chief citizens of Sparta at the price of gold. They, being as
shamelessly greedy as they were faithless in diplomacy, chased off
Peace with ignominy to let loose War. Though this was profitable to
them, 'twas the ruin of the husbandmen, who were innocent of all
blame; for, in revenge, your galleys went out to devour their figs.
And 'twas with justice too; did they not break down my black fig tree,
which I had planted and dunged with my own hands?
Yes, by Zeus! yes, 'twas well done; the wretches broke a
chest for me with stones, which held six medimni of corn.
Then the rural labourers flocked into the city and let themselves
be bought over like the others. Not having even a grape-stone to munch
and longing after their figs, they looked towards the orators.
These well knew that the poor were driven to extremity
and lacked even bread; but they nevertheless drove away the Goddess,
each time she reappeared in answer to the wish of the country,
with their loud shrieks that were as sharp as pitchforks; furthermore,
they attacked the well-filled purses of the richest among our allies on
the pretence that they belonged to Brasidas' party. And then you would
tear the poor accused wretch to pieces with your teeth; for the
city, all pale with hunger and cowed with terror, gladly snapped up
any calumny that was thrown it to devour. So the strangers, seeing
what terrible blows the informers dealt, sealed their lips with
gold. They grew rich, while you, alas! you could only see that
Greece was going to ruin. 'Twas the tanner who was the author
of all this woe.
f Driven in from the country parts by the Lacedaemonian invaders.
f The demagogues, who distributed the slender dole given to the poor,
and by that means exercised undue power over them.
f Meaning, the side of the Spartans.
Enough said, Hermes, leave that man in Hades, whither he has
gone; he no longer belongs to us, but rather to yourself. That he was
a cheat, a braggart, a calumniator when alive, why, nothing could be
truer; but anything you might say now would be an insult to one of
your own folk. Oh! venerated Goddess! why art thou silent?
f It was Hermes who conducted the souls of the dead down to the lower
And how could she speak to the spectators? She is too angry at all
that they have made her suffer.
At least let her speak a little to you, Hermes.
Tell me, my dear, what are your feelings with regard to them?
Come, you relentless foe of all bucklers, speak; I am listening to
you. (PEACE WHISPERS INTO HERMES' EAR.) Is that your grievance against
them? Yes, yes, I understand. Hearken, you folk, this is her
complaint. She says, that after the affair of Pylos she came to you
unbidden to bring you a basket full of truces and that you thrice
repulsed her by your votes in the assembly.
f The Spartans had thrice offered to make peace after the Pylos disaster.
Yes, we did wrong, but forgive us, for our mind was then
entirely absorbed in leather.
f i.e. dominated by Cleon.
Listen again to what she has just asked me. Who was her greatest
foe here? and furthermore, had she a friend who exerted himself
to put an end to the fighting?
Her most devoted friend was Cleonymus; it is undisputed.
How then did Cleonymus behave in fights?
Oh! the bravest of warriors! Only he was not born of the father he
claims; he showed it quick enough in the army by throwing away
f There is a pun here that cannot be rendered between [the Greek for]
'one who throws away his weapons' and 'a supposititious child.'
There is yet another question she has just put to me. Who rules
now in the rostrum?
'Tis Hyperbolus, who now holds empire on the Pnyx. (TO PEACE)
What now? you turn away your head!
She is vexed, that the people should give themselves a wretch of
that kind for their chief.
Oh! we shall not employ him again; but the people, seeing
themselves without a leader, took him haphazard, just as a man,
who is naked, springs upon the first cloak he sees.
She asks, what will be the result of such a choice of the city?
We shall be more far-seeing in consequence.
Because he is a lamp-maker. Formerly we only directed our
business by groping in the dark; now we shall only deliberate by
Oh! oh! what questions she does order me to put to you!
What are they?
She wants to have news of a whole heap of old-fashioned things
she left here. First of all, how is Sophocles?
Very well, but something very strange has happened to him.
He has turned from Sophocles into Simonides.
f Simonides was very avaricious, and sold his pen to the highest bidder.
It seems that Sophocles had also started writing for gain.
Into Simonides? How so?
Because, though old and broken-down as he is, he would put to
sea on a hurdle to gain an obolus.
f i.e. he would recoil from no risk to turn an honest penny
And wise Cratinus, is he still alive?
f A comic poet as well known for his love of wine as for his writings;
he died in 431 B.C., the first year of the war, at the age of ninety-seven.
He died about the time of the Laconian invasion.
Of a swoon. He could not bear the shock of seeing one of his casks
full of wine broken. Ah! what a number of other misfortunes our city
has suffered! So, dearest mistress, nothing can now separate us
If that be so, receive Opora here for a wife; take her to the
country, live with her, and grow fine grapes together.
f Opora was the goddess of fruits.
Come, my dear friend, come and accept my kisses. Tell me, Hermes,
my master, do you think it would hurt me to love her a little,
after so long an abstinence?
No, not if you swallow a potion of penny-royal afterwards. But
hasten to lead Theoria to the Senate; 'twas there she lodged before.
f The scholiast says fruit may be eaten with impunity in great quantities
if care is taken to drink a decoction of this herb afterwards.
f Theoria is confided to the care of the Senate, because it was this body
who named the deputies appointed to go and consult the oracles beyond
the Attic borders to be present at feats and games.
Oh! fortunate Senate! Thanks to Theoria, what soups you will
swallow for the space of three days! how you will devour meats and
cooked tripe! Come, farewell, friend Hermes!
f The great festivals, e.g. the Dionysia, lasted three days. Those in
honour of the return of Peace, which was so much desired, could not last
a shorter time.
And to you also, my dear sir, may you have much happiness, and
don't forget me.
Come, beetle, home, home, and let us fly on a swift wing.
Oh! he is no longer here.
Where has he gone to then?
He is harnessed to the chariot of Zeus and bears the thunder bolts.
But where will the poor wretch get his food?
He will eat Ganymede's ambrosia.
Very well then, but how am I going to descend?
Oh! never fear, there is nothing simpler; place yourself beside
Come, my pretty maidens, follow me quickly; there are plenty of
folk awaiting you with ready weapons.
Farewell and good luck be yours! Let us begin by handing over
all this gear to the care of our servants, for no place is less safe
than a theatre; there is always a crowd of thieves prowling around it,
seeking to find some mischief to do. Come, keep a good watch over
all this. As for ourselves, let us explain to the spectators what we
have in our minds, the purpose of our play.
Undoubtedly the comic poet who mounted the stage to praise himself
in the parabasis would deserve to be handed over to the sticks
of the beadles. Nevertheless, oh Muse, if it be right to esteem
the most honest and illustrious of our comic writers at his proper
value, permit our poet to say that he thinks he has deserved
a glorious renown. First of all, 'tis he who has compelled his
rivals no longer to scoff at rags or to war with lice; and as for
those Heracles, always chewing and ever hungry, those poltroons and
cheats who allow themselves to be beaten at will, he was the first
to cover them with ridicule and to chase them from the stage; he has
also dismissed that slave, whom one never failed to set a-weeping before
you, so that his comrade might have the chance of jeering at his
stripes and might ask, "Wretch, what has happened to your hide? Has
the lash rained an army of its thongs on you and laid your back
waste?" .After having delivered us from all these wearisome ineptitudes
and these low buffooneries, he has built up for us a great art, like
a palace with high towers, constructed of fine phrases, great thoughts
and of jokes not common on the streets. Moreover 'tis not obscure
private persons or women that he stages in his comedies; but, bold
as Heracles, 'tis the very greatest whom he attacks, undeterred by
the fetid stink of leather or the threats of hearts of mud. He has
the right to say, "I am the first ever dared to go straight for that beast
with the sharp teeth and the terrible eyes that flashed lambent fire
like those of Cynna, surrounded by a hundred lewd flatterers,
who spittle-licked him to his heart's content; it had a voice like
a roaring torrent, the stench of a seal, a foul Lamia's testicles and
the rump of a camel.
I did not recoil in horror at the sight of such a monster, but fought him
relentlessly to win your deliverance and that of the Islanders. Such
are the services which should be graven in your recollection and entitle me
to your thanks. Yet I have not been seen frequenting the wrestling school
intoxicated with success and trying to tamper with young boys;
but I took all my theatrical gear and returned straight home.
I pained folk but little and caused them much amusement; my conscience
rebuked me for nothing. Hence both grown men and youths should be
on my side and I likewise invite the bald to give me their votes; for,
if I triumph, everyone will say, both at table and at festivals,
"Carry this to the bald man, give these cakes to the bald one, do not
grudge the poet whose talent shines as bright as his own bare skull
the share he deserves."
Oh, Muse! drive the War far from our city and come to preside over
our dances, if you love me; come and celebrate the nuptials of
the gods, the banquets of us mortals and the festivals of the fortunate;
these are the themes that inspire thy most poetic songs. And should
Carcinus come to beg thee for admission with his sons to thy chorus,
refuse all traffic with them; remember they are but gelded birds,
stork-necked dancers, mannikins about as tall as a pat of goat dung,
in fact machine-made poets. Contrary to all expectation, the father
has at last managed to finish a piece, but he owns himself that a cat
strangled it one fine evening.
Such are the songs with which the Muse with the glorious hair
inspires the able poet and which enchant the assembled populace,
when the spring swallow twitters beneath the foliage; but the god
spare us from the chorus of Morsimus and that of Melanthius! Oh!
what a bitter discordancy grated upon my ears that day when the tragic
chorus was directed by this same Melanthius and his brother, these two
Gorgons, these two harpies, the plague of the seas, whose gluttonous
bellies devour the entire race of fishes, these followers of old
women, these goats with their stinking arm-pits. Oh! Muse, spit upon
them abundantly and keep the feast gaily with me.
f In spite of what he says, Aristophanes has not always disdained this
sort of low comedy--for instance, his Heracles in 'The Birds.'
f A celebrated Athenian courtesan of Aristophanes' day.
f Cleon. These four verses are here repeated from the parabasis
of 'The Wasps,' produced 423 B.C., the year before this play.
f Shafts aimed at certain poets, who used their renown as a means
of seducing young men to grant them pederastic favours.
f The poet supplied everything needful for the production of his piece--
vases, dresses, masks, etc.
f Aristophanes was bald himself, it would seem.
f Carcinus and his three sons were both poets and dancers. (See the
closing scene of 'The Wasps.') Perhaps relying little on the literary value
of their work, it seems that they sought to please the people by
the magnificence of its staging.
f He had written a piece called 'The Mice,' which he succeeded
with great difficulty in getting played, but it met with no success.
f This passage really follows on the invocation, "Oh, Muse! drive
the War," etc., from which indeed it is only divided by the interpolated
criticism aimed at Carcinus.
f The scholiast informs us that these verses are borrowed from a poet
of the sixth century B.C.
f Sons of Philocles, of the family of Aeschylus, tragic writers, derided
by Aristophanes as bad poets and notorious gluttons.
f The Gorgons were represented with great teeth, and therefore
the same name was given to gluttons. The Harpies, to whom the two
voracious poets are also compared, were monsters with the face of
a woman, the body of a vulture and hooked beak and claws.
Ah! 'tis a rough job getting to the gods! my legs are as good as
broken through it. How small you were, to be sure, when seen from
heaven! you had all the appearance too of being great rascals; but seen
close, you look even worse.
Is that you, master?
So I've been told.
What has happened to you?
My legs pain me; it is such a plaguey long journey.
Oh! tell me...
Did you see any other man besides yourself strolling about in
No, only the souls of two or three dithyrambic poets.
What were they doing up there?
They were seeking to catch some lyric exordia as they flew by
immersed in the billows of the air.
Is it true, what they tell us, that men are turned into stars after death?
Then who is that star I see over yonder?
That is Ion of Chios, the author of an ode beginning "Morning"; as soon
as ever he got to heaven, they called him "the Morning Star."
f A tragic and dithyrambic poet, who had written many pieces, which
had met with great success at Athens.
And those stars like sparks, that plough up the air as they dart
across the sky?
f The shooting stars.
They are the rich leaving the feast with a lantern and a light inside it.
--But hurry up, show this young girl into my house, clean out the bath,
heat some water and prepare the nuptial couch for herself and me.
When 'tis done, come back here; meanwhile I am off to present this one
to the Senate.
But where then did you get these pretty chattels?
Where? why in heaven.
I would not give more than an obolus for gods who have got to
keeping brothels like us mere mortals.
They are not all so, but there are some up there too who live by this trade.
Come, that's rich! But I bethink me, shall I give her something to eat?
No, for she would neither touch bread nor cake; she is used to
licking ambrosia at the table of the gods.
Well, we can give her something to lick down here too.
Here is a truly happy old man, as far as I can judge.
Ah! but what shall I be, when you see me presently dressed for
Made young again by love and scented with perfumes, your lot
will be one we all shall envy.
And when I lie beside her and caress her bosoms?
Oh! then you will be happier than those spinning-tops who call
Carcinus their father.
f It has already been mentioned that the sons of Carcinus were dancers.
And I well deserve it; have I not bestridden a beetle to save
the Greeks, who now, thanks to me, can make love at their ease and
sleep peacefully on their farms?
The girl has quitted the bath; she is charming from head to foot,
both belly and buttocks; the cake is baked and they are kneading
the sesame-biscuit; nothing is lacking but the bridegroom's virility.
f It was customary at weddings, says Menander, to give the bride
a sesame-caked as an emblem of fruitfulness, because sesame is the most
fruitful of all seeds.
Let us first hasten to lodge Theoria in the hands of the Senate.
But tell me, who is this woman?
Why, 'tis Theoria, with whom we used formerly to go to Brauron,
to get tipsy and frolic. I had the greatest trouble to get hold of her.
f An Attic town on the east coast, noted for a magnificent temple,
in which stood the statue of Artemis, which Orestes and Iphigenia
had brought from the Tauric Chersonese and also for the Brauronia,
festivals that were celebrated every four years in honour of the goddess.
This was one of the festivals which the Attic people kept with the greatest
pomp, and was an occasion for debauchery.
Ah! you charmer! what pleasure your pretty bottom will afford me
every four years!
Let us see, who of you is steady enough to be trusted by the Senate
with the care of this charming wench? Hi! you, friend! what are you
I am drawing the plan of the tent I wish to erect for myself on
f Competitors intending to take part in the great Olympic, Isthmian and
other games took with them a tent, wherein to camp in the open. Further,
there is an obscene allusion which the actor indicates by a gesture.
Come, who wishes to take the charge of her? No one? Come, Theoria,
I am going to lead you into the midst of the spectators and confide you
to their care.
Ah! there is one who makes a sign to you.
Who is it?
'Tis Ariphrades. He wishes to take her home at once.
No, I'm sure he shan't. He would soon have her done for, absorbing
all her life-force. Come, Theoria, put down all this gear.
Senate, Prytanes, look upon Theoria and see what precious blessings
I place in your hands. Hasten to raise its limbs and to immolate
the victim. Admire the fine chimney, it is quite black with smoke,
for 'twas here that the Senate did their cooking before the war.
Now that you have found Theoria again, you can start the most
charming games from to-morrow, wrestling with her on the ground,
either on your hands and feet, or you can lay her on her side, or
stand before her with bent knees, or, well rubbed with oil, you can
boldly enter the lists, as in the Pancratium, belabouring your foe
with blows from your fist or otherwise. The next day you will celebrate
equestrian games, in which the riders will ride side by side, or else
the chariot teams, thrown one on top of another, panting and whinnying,
will roll and knock against each other on the ground, while other rivals,
thrown out of their seats, will fall before reaching the goal, utterly
exhausted by their efforts.--Come, Prytanes, take Theoria. Oh! look how
graciously yonder fellow has received her; you would not have been
in such a hurry to introduce her to the Senate, if nothing were coming
to you through it; you would not have failed to plead some holiday
as an excuse.
f Doubtless the vessels and other sacrificial objects and implements
with which Theoria was laden in her character of presiding deity
at religious ceremonies.
f Where the meats were cooked after sacrifice; this also marks
the secondary obscene sense he means to convey.
f One of the offices of the Prytanes was to introduce those who asked
admission to the Senate, but it would seem that none could obtain this
favour without payment. Without this, a thousand excuses would be made;
for instance, it would be a public holiday, and consequently the Senate
could receive no one. As there was some festival nearly every day,
he whose purse would not open might have to wait a very long while.
Such a man as you assures the happiness of all his fellow-citizens.
When you are gathering your vintages you will prize me even better.
E'en from to-day we hail you as the deliverer of mankind.
Wait until you have drunk a beaker of new wine, before you
appraise my true merits.
Excepting the gods, there is none greater than yourself, and that
will ever be our opinion.
Yea, Trygaeus of Athmonia has deserved well of you, he has freed
both husbandman and craftsman from the most cruel ills; he has
Well then, what must be done now?
You must offer pots of green-stuff to the goddess to consecrate
Pots of green-stuff as we do to poor Hermes--and even he thinks
the fare but mean?
f This was only offered to lesser deities.
What will you offer them? A fatted bull?
Oh no! I don't want to start bellowing the battle-cry.
f In the Greek we have a play upon the similarity of the words [for]
a bull, and to shout the battle-cry.
A great fat swine then?
We don't want any of the swinishness of Theagenes.
f Theagenes, of the Piraeus, a hideous, coarse, debauched and evil-living
character of the day.
What other victim do you prefer then?
But you must give the word the Ionic form.
Purposely. So that if anyone in the assembly says, "We must go
to war," all may start bleating in alarm, "Oi, oi."
f That is the vocative of the Ionic form of the word; in Attic Greek
it is contracted throughout.
A brilliant idea.
And we shall all be lambs one toward the other, yea, and milder
still toward the allies.
Then go for the sheep and haste to bring it back with you; I
will prepare the altar for the sacrifice.
How everything succeeds to our wish, when the gods are willing and
Fortune favours us! how opportunely everything falls out.
Nothing could be truer, for look! here stands the altar all
ready at my door.
Hurry, hurry, for the winds are fickle; make haste, while the
divine will is set on stopping this cruel war and is showering on us
the most striking benefits.
Here is the basket of barley-seed mingled with salt, the chaplet
and the sacred knife; and there is the fire; so we are only waiting
for the sheep.
Hasten, hasten, for, if Chaeris sees you, he will come without
bidding, he and his flute; and when you see him puffing and panting
and out of breath, you will have to give him something.
Come, seize the basket and take the lustral water and hurry to
circle round the altar to the right.
There! 'tis done. What is your next bidding?
Hold! I take this fire-brand first and plunge it into the water.
Be quick! be quick! Sprinkle the altar.
Give me some barley-seed, purify yourself and hand me the basin;
then scatter the rest of the barley among the audience.
You have thrown it?
Yes, by Hermes! and all the spectators have had their share.
But not the women?
Oh! their husbands will give it them this evening.
f An obscene jest.
Let us pray! Who is here? Are there any good men?
f Before sacrificing, the officiating person asked, "Who is here?"
and those present answered, "Many good men."
Come, give, so that I may sprinkle these. Faith! they are indeed good,
You believe so?
I am sure, and the proof of it is that we have flooded them with
lustral water and they have not budged an inch.
f The actors forming the chorus are meant here.
Come, then, to prayers; to prayers, quick!-- Oh! Peace, mighty queen,
venerated goddess, thou, who presidest over choruses and at nuptials,
deign to accept the sacrifices we offer thee.
Receive it, greatly honoured mistress, and behave not like the coquettes,
who half open the door to entice the gallants, draw back when they
are stared at, to return once more if a man passes on. But do not act like this
No, but like an honest woman, show thyself to thy worshippers, who
are worn with regretting thee all these thirteen years. Hush the noise
of battle, be a true Lysimacha to us. Put an end to this
tittle-tattle, to this idle babble, that set us defying one another.
Cause the Greeks once more to taste the pleasant beverage of friendship
and temper all hearts with the gentle feeling of forgiveness. Make
excellent commodities flow to our markets, fine heads of garlic,
early cucumbers, apples, pomegranates and nice little cloaks for the slaves;
make them bring geese, ducks, pigeons and larks from Boeotia
and baskets of eels from Lake Copais; we shall all rush to buy them,
disputing their possession with Morychus, Teleas, Glaucetes and every
other glutton. Melanthius will arrive on the market last of all; 'twill be,
"no more eels, all sold!" and then he'll start a-groaning and exclaiming
as in his monologue of Medea, "I am dying, I am dying! Alas!
I have let those hidden in the beet escape me!" And won't we laugh?
These are the wishes, mighty goddess, which we pray thee to grant.
f Lysimacha is derived from [the Greek for] put an end to, and
[the Greek for] fight.
f A tragic poet, reputed a great gourmand.
f A tragedy by Melanthius.
f Eels were cooked with beet.--A parody on some verses in the 'Medea'
Take the knife and slaughter the sheep like a finished cook.
No, the goddess does not wish it.
f As a matter of fact, the Sicyonians, who celebrated the festival of Peace
on the sixteenth day of the month of Hecatombeon (July), spilled no blood
upon her altar.
And why not?
Blood cannot please Peace, so let us spill none upon her altar.
Therefore go and sacrifice the sheep in the house, cut off the legs
and bring them here; thus the carcase will be saved for the choregus.
You, who remain here, get chopped wood and everything needed for
the sacrifice ready.
Don't I look like a diviner preparing his mystic fire?
Undoubtedly. Will anything that it behooves a wise man to know escape
you? Don't you know all that a man should know, who is distinguished
for his wisdom and inventive daring?
There! the wood catches. Its smoke blinds poor Stilbides. I am now
going to bring the table and thus be my own slave.
f A celebrated diviner, who had accompanied the Athenians on their
expedition to Sicily. Thus the War was necessary to make his calling pay
and the smoke of the sacrifice offered to Peace must therefore be
unpleasant to him.
You have braved a thousand dangers to save your sacred town. All
honour to you! your glory will be ever envied.
Hold! Here are the legs, place them upon the altar. For myself,
I mean to go back to the entrails and the cakes.
I'll see to those; I want you here.
Well then, here I am. Do you think I have been long?
Just get this roasted. Ah! who is this man, crowned with laurel,
who is coming to me?
He has a self-important look; is he some diviner?
No, I' faith! 'tis Hierocles.
Ah! that oracle-monger from Oreus. What is he going to tell us?
f A town in Euboea on the channel which separated that island from
Evidently he is coming to oppose the peace.
No, 'tis the odour of the fat that attracts him.
Let us appear not to see him.
What sacrifice is this? to what god are you offering it?
TRYGAEUS (TO THE SERVANT)
Silence!--(ALOUD.) Look after the roasting and keep your hands off
To whom are you sacrificing? Answer me. Ah! the tail is showing
f When sacrificing, the tail was cut off the victim and thrown into
the fire. From the way in which it burnt the inference was drawn as
to whether or not the sacrifice was agreeable to the deity.
Aye, very favourable, oh, loved and mighty Peace!
Come, cut off the first offering and make the oblation.
f This was the part that belonged to the priests and diviners. As one
of the latter class, Hierocles is in haste to see this piece cut off.
'Tis not roasted enough.
Yea, truly, 'tis done to a turn.
Mind your own business, friend! (TO THE SERVANT.) Cut away. Where is
the table? Bring the libations.
The tongue is cut separately.
We know all that. But just listen to one piece of advice.
And that is?
Don't talk, for 'tis divine Peace to whom we are sacrificing.
Oh! wretched mortals, oh, you idiots!
Keep such ugly terms for yourself.
What! you are so ignorant you don't understand the will of the
gods and you make a treaty, you, who are men, with apes, who are
full of malice?
f The Spartans.
Ha, ha, ha!
What are you laughing at?
Ha, ha! your apes amuse me!
You simple pigeons, you trust yourselves to foxes, who are all
craft, both in mind and heart.
Oh, you trouble-maker! may your lungs get as hot as this meat!
Nay, nay! if only the Nymphs had not fooled Bacis, and Bacis
mortal men; and if the Nymphs had not tricked Bacis a second time...
f Emphatic pathos, incomprehensible even to the diviner himself;
this is a satire on the obscure style of the oracles. Bacis was a famous
May the plague seize you, if you don't stop wearying us with your Bacis!
...it would not have been written in the book of Fate that the
bends of Peace must be broken; but first...
The meat must be dusted with salt.
...it does not please the blessed gods that we should stop the War until
the wolf uniteth with the sheep.
How, you cursed animal, could the wolf ever unite with the sheep?
As long as the wood-bug gives off a fetid odour, when it flies; as
long as the noisy bitch is forced by nature to litter blind pups, so
long shall peace be forbidden.
Then what should be done? Not to stop War would be to leave it
to the decision of chance which of the two people should suffer the most,
whereas by uniting under a treaty, we share the empire of Greece.
You will never make the crab walk straight.
You shall no longer be fed at the Prytaneum; the war done,
oracles are not wanted.
You will never smooth the rough spikes of the hedgehog.
Will you never stop fooling the Athenians?
What oracle ordered you to burn these joints of mutton in honour
of the gods?
This grand oracle of Homer's: "Thus vanished the dark war-clouds
and we offered a sacrifice to new-born Peace. When the flame had
consumed the thighs of the victim and its inwards had appeased our
hunger, we poured out the libations of wine." 'Twas I who arranged
the sacred rites, but none offered the shining cup to the diviner.
f Of course this is not a bona fide quotation, but a whimsical
adaptatioin of various Homeric verses; the last is a coinage of his own,
and means, that he is to have no part, either in the flesh of the victim or
in the wine of the libations.
I care little for that. 'Tis not the Sibyl who spoke it.
f Probably the Sibyl of Delphi is meant.
Wise Homer has also said: "He who delights in the horrors of civil
war has neither country nor laws nor home." What noble words!
Beware lest the kite turn your brain and rob...
Look out, slave! This oracle threatens our meat. Quick, pour the libation,
and give me some of the inwards.
I too will help myself to a bit, if you like.
The libation! the libation!
Pour out also for me and give me some of this meat.
No, the blessed gods won't allow it yet; let us drink; and as for you,
get you gone, for 'tis their will. Mighty Peace! stay ever in our midst.
Bring the tongue hither.
Relieve us of your own.
Here! and this into the bargain (STRIKES HIM).
You will not give me any meat?
We cannot give you any until the wolf unites with the sheep.
I will embrace your knees.
'Tis lost labour, good fellow; you will never smooth the rough
spikes of the hedgehog.... Come, spectators, join us in our feast.
And what am I to do?
You? go and eat the Sibyl.
No, by the Earth! no, you shall not eat without me; if you do not give,
I take; 'tis common property.
TRYGAEUS (TO THE SERVANT)
Strike, strike this Bacis, this humbugging soothsayer.
I take to witness...
And I also, that you are a glutton and an impostor. Hold him tight
and beat the impostor with a stick.
You look to that; I will snatch the skin from him which he has stolen
from us. Are you going to let go that skin, you priest from hell! do you
hear! Oh! what a fine crow has come from Oreus! Stretch your wings
quickly for Elymnium.
f The skin of the victim, that is to say.
f A temple in Euboea, close to Oreus. The servant means, "Return where
you came from."
Oh! joy, joy! no more helmet, no more cheese nor onions! No, I
have no passion for battles; what I love, is to drink with good
comrades in the corner by the fire when good dry wood, cut in
the height of the summer, is crackling; it is to cook pease on the coals
and beechnuts among the embers, 'tis to kiss our pretty Thracian
while my wife is at the bath. Nothing is more pleasing, when the rain
is sprouting our sowings, than to chat with some friend, saying,
"Tell me, Comarchides, what shall we do? I would willingly drink myself,
while the heavens are watering our fields. Come, wife, cook three
measures of beans, adding to them a little wheat, and give us some figs.
Syra! call Manes off the fields, 'tis impossible to prune the vine or to
align the ridges, for the ground is too wet to-day. Let someone bring me
the thrush and those two chaffinches; there were also some curds and
four pieces of hare, unless the cat stole them last evening, for I
know not what the infernal noise was that I heard in the house.
Serve up three of the pieces for me, slave, and give the fourth to
my father. Go and ask Aeschinades for some myrtle branches with
berries on them, and then, for 'tis the same road, you will invite
Charinades to come and drink with me to the honour of the gods who
watch over our crops." When the grasshopper sings his dulcet tune,
I love to see the Lemnian vines beginning to ripen, for 'tis the earliest
plant of all. I love likewise to watch the fig filling out, and when it
has reached maturity I eat with appreciation and exclaim, "Oh!
delightful season!" Then too I bruise some thyme and infuse it in
water. Indeed I grow a great deal fatter passing the summer in this
way than in watching a cursed captain with his three plumes and his
military cloak of a startling crimson (he calls it true Sardian purple),
which he takes care to dye himself with Cyzicus saffron in a battle;
then he is the first to run away, shaking his plumes like a great yellow
prancing cock, while I am left to watch the nets. Once back again
in Athens, these brave fellows behave abominably; they write down these,
they scratch through others, and this backwards and forwards two or
three times at random. The departure is set for to-morrow, and some
citizen has brought no provisions, because he didn't know he had to go;
he stops in front of the statue of Pandion, reads his name, is
dumbfounded and starts away at a run, weeping bitter tears.
The townsfolk are less ill-used, but that is how the husbandmen
are treated by these men of war, the hated of the gods and of men,
who know nothing but how to throw away their shield. For this reason,
if it please heaven, I propose to call these rascals to account, for they
are lions in times of peace, but sneaking foxes when it comes to fighting.
f This was the soldier's usual ration on duty.
f Slaves often bore the name of the country of their birth.
f Because of the new colour which fear had lent his chlamys.
f Meaning, that he deserts his men in mid-campaign, leaving them
to look after the enemy.
f Ancient King of Athens. This was one of the twelve statues,
on the pedestals of which the names of the soldiers chose for departure
on service were written. The decrees were also placarded on them.
Oh! oh! what a crowd for the nuptial feast! Here! dust the
tables with this crest, which is good for nothing else now. Halloa!
produce the cakes, the thrushes, plenty of good jugged hare and the
Trygaeus, where is Trygaeus?
I am cooking the thrushes.
Trygaeus, my best of friends, what a fine stroke of business you
have done for me by bringing back Peace! Formerly my sickles would not
have sold at an obolus apiece; to-day I am being paid fifty drachmae
for every one. And here is a neighbour who is selling his casks for
the country at three drachmae each. So come, Trygaeus, take as many
sickles and casks as you will for nothing. Accept them for nothing;
'tis because of our handsome profits on our sales that we offer you
these wedding presents.
Thanks. Put them all down inside there, and come along quick to
the banquet. Ah! do you see that armourer yonder coming with a
Alas! alas! Trygaeus, you have ruined me utterly.
What! won't the crests go any more, friend?
You have killed my business, my livelihood, and that of this
poor lance-maker too.
Come, come, what are you asking for these two crests?
What do you bid for them?
What do I bid? Oh! I am ashamed to say. Still, as the clasp is
of good workmanship, I would give two, even three measures
of dried figs; I could use 'em for dusting the table.
All right, tell them to bring me the dried figs; 'tis always better
Take them away, be off with your crests and get you gone; they are
moulting, they are losing all their hair; I would not give a single
fig for them.
Good gods, what am I going to do with this fine ten-minae
breastplate, which is so splendidly made?
Oh, you will lose nothing over it.
I will sell it to you at cost price.
'Twould be very useful as a night-stool...
Cease your insults, both to me and my wares.
...if propped on three stones. Look, 'tis admirable.
But how can you wipe, idiot?
I can pass one hand through here, and the other there, and so...
What! do you wipe with both hands?
Aye, so that I may not be accused of robbing the State, by
blocking up an oar-hole in the galley.
f The trierarchs stopped up some of the holes made for the oars, in
order to reduce the number of rowers they had to supply for the galleys;
they thus saved the wages of the rowers they dispensed with.
So you would pay ten minae for a night-stool?
f The mina was equivalent to about three pounds, ten shillings.
Undoubtedly, you rascal. Do you think I would sell my rump for
a thousand drachmae?
f Which is the same thing, since a mina was worth a hundred drachmae.
Come, have the money paid over to me.
No, friend; I find it hurts me to sit on. Take it away, I won't buy it.
What is to be done with this trumpet, for which I gave sixty
drachmae the other day?
Pour lead into the hollow and fit a good, long stick to the top;
and you will have a balanced cottabos.
f For 'cottabos' see note above.
Ha! would you mock me?
Well, here's another notion. Pour in lead as I said, add here a dish
hung on strings, and you will have a balance for weighing the figs
which you give your slaves in the fields.
Cursed fate! I am ruined. Here are helmets, for which I gave a
mina each. What I to do with them? who will buy them?
Go and sell them to the Egyptians; they will do for measuring
f Syrmoea, a kind of purgative syrup much used by the Egyptians,
made of antiscorbutic herbs, such as mustard, horse-radish, etc.
Ah! poor helmet-maker, things are indeed in a bad way.
That man has no cause for complaint.
But helmets will be no more used.
Let him learn to fit a handle to them and he can sell them for
f As wine-pots or similar vessels.
Let us be off, comrade.
No, I want to buy these spears.
What will you give?
If they could be split in two, I would take them at a drachma
per hundred to use as vine-props.
The insolent dog! Let us go, friend.
Ah! here come the guests, children from the table to relieve themselves;
I fancy they also want to hum over what they will be singing presently.
Hi! child! what do you reckon to sing? Stand there and give me
the opening line.
THE SON OF LAMACHUS
"Glory to the young warriors..."
Oh! leave off about your young warriors, you little wretch; we are
at peace and you are an idiot and a rascal.
SON OF LAMACHUS
"The skirmish begins, the hollow bucklers clash against each other."
f These verses and those which both Trygaeus and the son of Lamachus
quote afterwards are borrowed from the 'Iliad.'
Bucklers! Leave me in peace with your bucklers.
SON OF LAMACHUS
"And then there came groanings and shouts of victory."
Groanings! ah! by Bacchus! look out for yourself, you cursed
squaller, if you start wearying us again with your groanings and
SON OF LAMACHUS
Then what should I sing? Tell me what pleases you.
"'Tis thus they feasted on the flesh of oxen," or something
similar, as, for instance, "Everything that could tickle the palate
was placed on the table."
SON OF LAMACHUS
"'Tis thus they feasted on the flesh of oxen and, tired of
warfare, unharnessed their foaming steeds."
That's splendid; tired of warfare, they seat themselves at table;
sing, sing to us how they still go on eating after they are satiated.
SON OF LAMACHUS
"The meal over, they girded themselves..."
With good wine, no doubt?
SON OF LAMACHUS
"...with armour and rushed forth from the towers, and a terrible
Get you gone, you little scapegrace, you and your battles! You sing
of nothing but warfare. Who is your father then?
SON OF LAMACHUS
Why yes, your father.
SON OF LAMACHUS
I am Lamachus' son.
Oh! oh! I could indeed have sworn, when I was listening to you,
that you were the son of some warrior who dreams of nothing but
wounds and bruises, of some Boulomachus or Clausimachus; go and sing
your plaguey songs to the spearmen.... Where is the son of Cleonymus?
Sing me something before going back to the feast. I am at least certain
he will not sing of battles, for his father is far too careful a man.
f Boulomachus is derived from [two Greek words meaning] to wish
for battle; Clausimachus from [two others], the tears that battles cost.
The same root [for] 'battle' is also contained in the name Lamachus.
SON OF CLEONYMUS
"An inhabitant of Sais is parading with the spotless shield which
I regret to say I have thrown into a thicket."
f A distich borrowed from Archilochus, a celebrated poet of the seventh
century B.C., born at Paros, and the author of odes, satires, epigrams and
elegies. He sang his own shame. 'Twas in an expedition against Sais,
not the town in Egypt as the similarity in name might lead one to believe,
but in Thrace, that he had cast away his buckler. "A might calamity truly!"
he says without shame. "I shall buy another."
Tell me, you little good-for-nothing, are you singing that for your father?
SON OF CLEONYMUS
"But I saved my life."
And dishonoured your family. But let us go in; I am very certain,
that being the son of such a father, you will never forget this song
of the buckler. You, who remain to the feast, 'tis your duty
to devour dish after dish and not to ply empty jaws. Come, put heart
into the work and eat with your mouths full. For, believe me,
poor friends, white teeth are useless furniture, if they chew nothing.
Never fear; thanks all the same for your good advice.
You, who yesterday were dying of hunger, come, stuff yourselves
with this fine hare-stew; 'tis not every day that we find cakes
lying neglected. Eat, eat, or I predict you will soon regret it.
Silence! Keep silence! Here is the bride about to appear! Take
nuptial torches and let all rejoice and join in our songs. Then,
when we have danced, clinked our cups and thrown Hyperbolus through
the doorway we will carry back all our farming tools to the fields and
shall pray the gods to give wealth to the Greeks and to cause us all
to gather in an abundant barley harvest, enjoy a noble vintage,
to grant that we may choke with good figs, that our wives may prove
fruitful, that in fact we may recover all our lost blessings, and that
the sparkling fire may be restored to the hearth.
Come, wife, to the fields and seek, my beauty, to brighten and enliven
my nights. Oh! Hymen! oh! Hymenaeus!
Oh! Hymen! oh! Hymenaeus! oh! thrice happy man, who so well deserve
your good fortune!
Oh! Hymen! oh! Hymenaeus!
Oh! Hymen! oh! Hymenaeus!
What shall we do to her?
What shall we do to her?
We will gather her kisses.
We will gather her kisses.
Come, comrades, we who are in the first row, let us pick up
the bridegroom and carry him in triumph. Oh! Hymen! oh! Hymenaeus!
Oh! Hymen! oh! Hymenaeus!
Oh! Hymen! oh! Hymenaeus!
You shall have a fine house, no cares and the finest of figs.
Oh! Hymen! oh! Hymenaeus!
Oh! Hymen! oh! Hymenaeus!
The bridegroom's fig is great and thick; the bride's very soft and tender.
While eating and drinking deep draughts of wine, continue to
repeat: Oh! Hymen! oh! Hymenaeus!
Oh! Hymen! oh! Hymenaeus!
Farewell, farewell, my friends. All who come with me shall have
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