The Eleven Comedies
Aristophanes et al
Part 5 out of 8
 These were comic poets contemporary with Aristophanes. Phrynichus,
the best known, gained the second prize with his 'Muses' when the present
comedy was put upon the stage. Amipsias had gained the first prize over
our author's first edition of 'The Clouds' and again over his 'Birds.'
Aristophanes is ridiculing vulgar and coarse jests, which, however, he
does not always avoid himself.
 Instead of the expected "son of Zeus," he calls himself the "son of
 At the sea-fight at Arginusae the slaves who had distinguished
themselves by their bravery were presented with their freedom. This
battle had taken place only a few months before the production of 'The
Frogs.' Had Xanthias been one of these slaves he could then have treated
his master as he says, for he would have been his equal.
 The door of the Temple of Heracles, situated in the deme of Melité,
close to Athens. This temple contained a very remarkable statue of the
god, the work of Eleas, the master of Phidias.
 A fabulous monster, half man and half horse.
 So also, in 'The Thesmophoriazusae,' Agathon is described as
wearing a saffron robe, which was a mark of effeminacy.
 A woman's foot-gear.
 He speaks of him as though he were a vessel. Clisthenes, who was
scoffed at for his ugliness, was completely beardless, which fact gave
him the look of a eunuch. He was accused of prostituting himself.
 Heracles cannot believe it. Dionysus had no repute for bravery. His
cowardice is one of the subjects for jesting which we shall most often
come upon in 'The Frogs.'
 A tragedy by Euripides, produced some years earlier, some fragments
of which are quoted by Aristophanes in his 'Thesmophoriazusae.'
 An actor of immense stature.
 The gluttony of Heracles was a byword. See 'The Birds.'
 Euripides, weary, it is said, of the ridicule and envy with which
he was assailed in Athens, had retired in his old age to the court of
Archelaus, King of Macedonia, where he had met with the utmost
hospitality. We are assured that he perished through being torn to pieces
by dogs, which set upon him in a lonely spot. His death occurred in 407
B.C., the year before the production of 'The Frogs.'
 This is a hemistich, the Scholiast says, from Euripides.
 The son of Sophocles. Once, during his father's lifetime, he gained
the prize for tragedy, but it was suspected that the piece itself was
largely the work of Sophocles himself. It is for this reason that
Dionysus wishes to try him when he is dependent on his own resources, now
that his father is dead. The death of the latter was quite recent at the
time of the production of 'The Frogs,' and the fact lent all the greater
interest to this piece.
 Agathon was a contemporary of Euripides, and is mentioned in terms
of praise by Aristotle for his delineation of the character of Achilles,
presumably in his tragedy of 'Telephus.' From the fragments which remain
of this author it appears that his style was replete with ornament,
 Son of Caminus, an inferior poet, often made the butt of
 A poet apparently, unknown.
 Expressions used by Euripides in different tragedies.
 Parody of a verse in Euripides' 'Andromeda,' a lost play.
 Heracles, being such a glutton, must be a past master in matters of
cookery, but this does not justify him in posing as a dramatic critic.
 Xanthias, bent double beneath his load, gets more and more out of
patience with his master's endless talk with Heracles.
 The mortar in which hemlock was pounded.
 An allusion to the effect of hemlock.
 A quarter of Athens where the Lampadephoria was held in honour of
Athené, Hephaestus, and Prometheus, because the first had given the
mortals oil, the second had invented the lamp, and the third had stolen
fire from heaven. The principal part of this festival consisted in the
_lampadedromia_, or torch-race. This name was given to a race in which
the competitors for the prize ran with a torch in their hand; it was
essential that the goal should be reached with the torch still alight.
The signal for starting was given by throwing a torch from the top of the
tower mentioned a few verses later on.
 Theseus had descended into Hades with Pirithous to fetch away
Persephoné. Aristophanes doubtless wishes to say that in consequence of
this descent Pluto established a toll across Acheron, in order to render
access to his kingdom less easy, and so that the poor and the greedy, who
could not or would not pay, might be kept out.
 Morsimus was a minor poet, who is also mentioned with disdain in
'The Knights,' and is there called the son of Philocles. Aristophanes
jestingly likens anyone who helps to disseminate his verses to the worst
 The Pyrrhic dance was a lively and quick-step dance. Cinesias was
not a dancer, but a dithyrambic poet, who declaimed with much
gesticulation and movement that one might almost think he was performing
 Those initiated into the Mysteries of Demeter, who, according to
the belief of the ancients, enjoyed a kind of beatitude after death.
 Xanthias, his strength exhausted and his patience gone, prepares to
lay down his load. Asses were used for the conveyance from Athens to
Eleusis of everything that was necessary for the celebration of the
Mysteries. They were often overladen, and from this fact arose the
proverb here used by Xanthias, as indicating any heavy burden.
 The Ancients believed that meeting this or that person or thing at
the outset of a journey was of good or bad omen. The superstition is not
entirely dead even to-day.
 Dionysus had seated himself _on_ instead of _at_ the oar.
 One of the titles given to Dionysus, because of the worship
accorded him at Nysa, a town in Ethiopia, where he was brought up by the
 This was the third day of the Anthesteria or feasts of Dionysus.
All kinds of vegetables were cooked in pots and offered to Dionysus and
Athené. It was also the day of the dramatic contests.
 Dionysus' temple, the Lenaeum, was situated in the district of
Athens known as the _Linnae_, or Marshes, on the south side of the
 He points to the audience.
 A spectre, which Hecaté sent to frighten men. It took all kinds of
hideous shapes. It was exorcised by abuse.
 This was one of the monstrosities which credulity attributed to the
 He is addressing a priest of Bacchus, who occupied a seat reserved
for him in the first row of the audience.
 A verse from the Orestes of Euripides.--Hegelochus was an actor
who, in a recent representation, had spoken the line in such a manner as
to lend it an absurd meaning; instead of saying, [Greek: gal_en_en],
which means _calm_, he had pronounced it [Greek: gal_en], which means _a
 The priest of Bacchus, mentioned several verses back.
 High-flown expressions from Euripides' Tragedies.
 A second Chorus, comprised of Initiates into the Mysteries of
Demeter and Dionysus.
 A philosopher, a native of Melos, and originally a dithyrambic
poet. He was prosecuted on a charge of atheism.
 A comic and dithyrambic poet.
 This Thorycion, a toll collector at Aegina, which then belonged to
Athens, had taken advantage of his position to send goods to Epidaurus,
an Argolian town, thereby defrauding the treasury of the duty of 5 per
cent, which was levied on every import and export.
 An allusion to Alcibiades, who is said to have obtained a subsidy
for the Spartan fleet from Cyrus, satrap of Asia Minor.
 An allusion to the dithyrambic poet, Cinesias, who was accused of
having sullied, by stooling against it, the pedestal of a statue of
Hecaté at one of the street corners of Athens.
 The route of the procession of the Initiate was from the Ceramicus
(a district of Athens) to Eleusis, a distance of twenty-five stadia.
 A shaft shot at the _choragi_ by the poet, because they had failed
to have new dresses made for the actors on this occasion.
 It was at the age of seven that children were entered on the
registers of their father's tribe. Aristophanes is accusing Archidemus,
who at that time was the head of the popular party, of being no citizen,
because his name is not entered upon the registers of any tribe.
 At funerals women tore their hair, rent their garments, and beat
their bosoms. Aristophanes parodies these demonstrations of grief and
attributes them to the effeminate Clisthenes. Sebinus the Anaphlystian is
a coined name containing an obscene allusion, implying he was in the
habit of allowing connexion with himself a posteriori, and being
masturbated by the other in turn.
 Callias, the son of Hipponicus, which the poet turns into
Hippobinus, i.e. one who treads a mare, was an Athenian general, who had
distinguished himself at the battle of Arginusae; he was notorious for
his debauched habits, which he doubtless practised even on board his
galleys. He is called a new Heracles, because of the legend that Heracles
triumphed over fifty virgins in a single night; no doubt the poet alludes
to some exploit of the kind here.
 A proverb applied to silly boasters. The Corinthians had sent an
envoy to Megara, who, in order to enhance the importance of his city,
incessantly repeated the phrase, "_The Corinth of Zeus_."
 Tartessus was an Iberian town, near the Avernian marshes, which
were said to be tenanted by reptiles, the progeny of vipers and muraenae,
a kind of fish.
 Tithrasios was a part of Libya, fabled to be peopled by Gorgons.
 "Invoke the god" was the usual formula which immediately followed
the offering of the libation in the festival of Dionysus. Here he uses
the words after a libation of a new kind and induced by fear.
 That is, Heracles, whose temple was at Melité, a suburban deme of
 Whose statues were placed to make the boundaries of land.
 One of the Thirty Tyrants, noted for his versatility.
 Celon and Hyperbolus were both dead, and are therefore supposed to
have become the leaders and patrons of the populace in Hades, the same as
they had been on earth.
 Already mentioned; one of the chiefs of the popular party in 406
 Heracles had carried of Cerberus.
 Names of Thracian slaves.
 As was done to unruly children; he allows every kind of torture
with the exception of the mildest.
 A deme of Attica, where there was a temple to Heracles. No doubt
those present uttered the cry "Oh! oh!" in honour of the god.
 He pretends it was not a cry of pain at all, but of astonishment
 Pretending that it was the thorn causing him pain, and not the lash
of the whip.
 According to the Scholiast this is a quotation from the 'Laocoon,'
a lost play of Sophocles.
 A general known for his cowardice; he was accused of not being a
citizen, but of Thracian origin; in 406 B.C. he was in disfavour, and he
perished shortly after in a popular tumult.
 According to Athenian law, the accused was acquitted when the
voting was equal.
 He had helped to establish the oligarchical government of the Four
Hundred, who had just been overthrown.
 The fight of Arginusae; the slaves who had fought there had been
accorded their freedom.--The Plataeans had had the title of citizens
since the battle of Marathon.
 Things were not going well for Athens at the time; it was only two
years later, 404 B.C., that Lysander took the city.
 A demagogue; because he deceived the people, Aristophanes compares
him with the washermen who cheated their clients by using some mixture
that was cheaper than potash.
 Callistrates says that Clidemides was one of Sophocles' sons;
Apollonius states him to have been an actor.
 Dionysus was, of course, the patron god of the drama and dramatic
 The majestic grandeur of Aeschylus' periods, coupled with a touch
of parody, is to be recognized in this piece.
 It is said that Euripides was the son of a fruit-seller.
 Euripides is constantly twitted by Aristophanes with his
predilection for ragged beggars and vagabonds as characters in his plays.
 Bellerophon, Philoctetes, and Telephus, were all characters in
different Tragedies of Euripides.
 Sailors, when in danger, sacrificed a black lamb to Typhon, the god
 An allusion to a long monologue of Icarus in the tragedy called
 In 'Aeolus,' Macareus violates his own sister; in 'The Clouds,'
this incest, which Euripides introduced upon the stage, is also
 The title of one of Euripides' pieces.
 The titles of three lost Tragedies of Euripides.
 A verse from one of the lost Tragedies of Euripides; the poet was
born at Eleusis.
 Aristophanes often makes this accusation of religious heterodoxy
 A dramatic poet, who lived about the end of the sixth century B.C.,
and a disciple of Thespis; the scenic art was then comparatively in its
 The Scholiast tells us that Achilles remained mute in the tragedy
entitled 'The Phrygians' or 'The Ransom of Hector,' and that his face was
veiled; he only spoke a few words at the beginning of the drama during a
dialogue with Hermes.--We have no information about the Niobé mentioned
 The Scholiast tells us that this expression ([Greek:
hippalektru_on]) was used in 'The Myrmidons' of Aeschylus; Aristophanes
ridicules it again both in the 'Peace' and in 'The Birds.'
 An individual apparently noted for his uncouth ugliness.
 The beet and the decoctions are intended to indicate the insipidity
of Euripides' style.
 An intimate friend of Euripides, who is said to have worked with
him on his Tragedies, to have been 'ghost' to him in fact.
 An allusion to Euripides' obscure birth; his mother had been, so it
was said, a vegetable-seller in the public market.
 Euripides had introduced every variety of character into his
pieces, whereas Aeschylus only staged divinities or heroes.
 There are two Cycni, one, the son of Ares, was killed by Heracles
according to the testimony of Hesiod in his description of the "Shield of
Heracles"; the other, the son of Posidon, who, according to Pindar,
perished under the blows of Achilles. It is not known in which Tragedy of
Aeschylus this character was introduced.
 Memnon, the son of Aurora, was killed by Achilles; in the list of
the Tragedies of Aeschylus there is one entitled 'Memnon.'
 These two were not poets, but Euripides supposes them disciples of
Aeschylus, because of their rude and antiquated manners.
 Clitophon and Theramenes were elegants of effeminate habits and
 A proverb which was applied to versatile people; the two Greek
names [Greek: Chios] and [Greek: Keios] might easily be mistaken for one
another. Both, of course, are islands of the Cyclades.
 A verse from the 'Myrmidons' of Aeschylus; here Achilles is
 The 'Persae' of Aeschylus (produced 472 B.C.) was received with
transports of enthusiasm, reviving as it did memories of the glorious
defeat of Xerxes at Salamis, where the poet had fought, only a few years
before, 480 B.C.
 Nothing is known of this Pantacles, whom Eupolis, in his 'Golden
Age,' also describes as awkward ([Greek: skaios]).
 Aristophanes had by this time modified his opinion of this general,
whom he had so flouted in 'The Acharnians.'
 Son of Telamon, the King of Salamis and brother of Ajax.
 The wife of Proetus, King of Argos. Bellerophon, who had sought
refuge at the court of this king after the accidental murder of his
brother Bellerus, had disdained her amorous overtures. Therefore she
denounced him to her husband as having wanted to attempt her virtue and
urged him to cause his death. She killed herself immediately after the
departure of the young hero.
 Cephisophon, Euripides' friend, is said to have seduced his wife.
 Meaning, they have imitated Sthenoboea in everything; like her,
they have conceived adulterous passions and, again like her, they have
 Lycabettus, a mountain of Attica, just outside the walls of Athens,
the "Arthur's Seat" of the city. Parnassus, the famous mountain of
Phocis, the seat of the temple and oracle of Delphi and the home of the
Muses. The whole passage is, of course, in parody of the grandiloquent
style of Aeschylus.
 An allusion to Oeneus, King of Aetolia, and to Telephus, King of
Mysia; characters put upon the stage by Euripides.
 It was only the rich Athenians who could afford fresh fish, because
of their high price; we know how highly the gourmands prized the eels
from the Copaic lake.
 If Aristophanes is to be believed, the orators were of depraved
habits, and exacted infamous complaisances as payment for their lessons
 Aristophanes attributes the general dissoluteness to the influence
of Euripides; he suggests that the subtlety of his poetry, by sharpening
the wits of the vulgar and even of the coarsest, has instigated them to
 Augé, who was seduced by Heracles, was delivered in the temple of
Athené (Scholiast); it is unknown in what piece this fact is
mentioned.--Macareus violates his sister Canacé in the 'Aeolus.'
 i.e. they busy themselves with philosophic subtleties. This line is
taken from 'The Phryxus,' of which some fragments have come down to us.
 In the torch-race the victor was the runner who attained the goal
first without having allowed his torch to go out. This race was a very
ancient institution. Aristophanes means to say that the old habits had
fallen into disuse.
 A tetralogy composed of three tragedies, the 'Agamemnon,' the
'Choëphorae,' the 'Eumenides,' together with a satirical drama, the
 This is the opening of the 'Choëphorae.' Aeschylus puts the words
in the mouth of Orestes, who is returning to his native land and visiting
his father's tomb.
 i.e. your jokes are very coarse.
 He was one of the Athenian generals in command at Arginusae; he and
his colleagues were condemned to death for not having given burial to the
men who fell in that naval fight.
 As Euripides had done to those of Aeschylus; that sort of criticism
was too low for him.
 [Greek: D_ekuthion ap_olesa], _oleum perdidi,_ I have lost my
labour, was a proverbial expression, which was also possibly the refrain
of some song. Aeschylus means to say that all Euripides' phrases are cast
in the same mould, and that his style is so poor and insipid that one can
adapt to it any foolery one wishes; as for the phrase he adds to every
one of the phrases his rival recites, he chooses it to insinuate that the
work of Euripides is _labour lost_, and that he would have done just as
well not to meddle with tragedy. The joke is mediocre at its best and is
kept up far too long.
 Prologue of the 'Archelaus' of Euripides, a tragedy now lost.
 From prologue of the 'Hypsipilé' of Euripides, a play now lost.
 From prologue of the 'Sthenoboea' of Euripides, a play now lost.
 From prologue of the 'Phryxus' of Euripides, a play now lost.
 From prologue of the 'Iphigeneia in Tauris' of Euripides.
 Prologue of 'The Meleager' by Euripides, lost.
 Prologue of 'The Menalippé Sapiens,' by Euripides, lost.
 The whole of these fragments are quoted at random and have no
meaning. Euripides, no doubt, wants to show that the choruses of
Aeschylus are void of interest or coherence. As to the refrain, "haste to
sustain the assault," Euripides possibly wants to insinuate that
Aeschylus incessantly repeats himself and that a wearying monotony
pervades his choruses. However, all these criticisms are in the main
devoid of foundation.
 This ridiculous couplet pretends to imitate the redundancy and
nonsensicality of Aeschylus' language; it can be seen how superficial and
unfair the criticism of Euripides is; probably this is just what
Aristophanes wanted to convey by this long and wearisome scene.
 The Scholiast conjectures this Melitus to be the same individual
who later accused Socrates.
 The most infamous practices were attributed to the Lesbian women,
amongst others, that of _fellation_, that is the vile trick of taking a
man's penis in the mouth, to give him gratification by sucking and
licking it with the tongue. Dionysus means to say that Euripides takes
pleasure in describing shameful passions.
 Here the criticism only concerns the rhythm and not either the
meaning or the style. This passage was sung to one of the airs that
Euripides had adopted for his choruses and which have not come down to
us; we are therefore absolutely without any data that would enable us to
understand and judge a criticism of this kind.
 A celebrated courtesan, who was skilled in twelve different
postures of Venus. Aeschylus returns to his idea, which he has so often
indicated, that Euripides' poetry is low and impure; he at the same time
scoffs at the artifices to which Euripides had recourse when inspiration
and animation failed him.
 No monologue of Euripides that has been preserved bears the
faintest resemblance to this specimen which. Aeschylus pretends to be
 Beginning of Euripides' 'Medea.'
 Fragment from Aeschylus 'Philoctetes.' The Sperchius is a river in
Thessaly, which has its source in the Pindus range and its mouth in the
 A verse from Euripides' 'Antigoné.' Its meaning is, that it is
better to speak well than to speak the truth, if you want to persuade.
 From the 'Niobe,' a lost play, of Aeschylus.
 From the 'Telephus' of Euripides, in which he introduces Achilles
playing at dice. This line was also ridiculed by Eupolis.
 From Euripides' 'Meleager.' All these plays, with the one exception
of the 'Medea,' are lost.
 From the 'Glaucus Potniensis,' a lost play of Aeschylus.
 i.e. one hundred porters, either because many of the Athenian
porters were Egyptians, or as an allusion to the Pyramids and other great
works, which had habituated them to carrying heavy burdens.
 Euripides' friend and collaborator.
 The invention of weights and measures, of dice, and of the game of
chess are attributed to him, also that of four additional letters of the
 i.e. that cannot decide for either party.
 i.e. that a country can always be invaded and that the fleet alone
is a safe refuge. This is the same advice as that given by Pericles, and
which Thucydides expresses thus, "Let your country be devastated, or even
devastate it yourself, and set sail for Laconia with your fleet."
 An allusion to the fees of the dicasts, or jurymen; we have already
seen that at this period it was two obols, and later three.
 A half-line from Euripides' 'Hippolytus.' The full line is: [Greek:
h_e gl_ott' om_omok', h_e de phr_en an_omotos,] "my tongue has taken an
oath, but my mind is unsworn," a bit of casuistry which the critics were
never tired of bringing up against the author.
 A verse from the 'Aeolus' of Euripides, but slightly altered.
Euripides said, "Why is is shameful, if the spectators, who enjoy it, do
not think so?"
 A verse from the 'Phrixus' of Euripides; what follows is a parody.
 We have already seen Aeschylus pretending that it was possible to
adapt any foolish expression one liked to the verses of Euripides: "a
little bottle, a little bag, a little fleece."
 Pluto speaks as though he were an Athenian himself.
 That they should hang themselves. Cleophon is said to have been an
influential alien resident who was opposed to concluding peace; Myrmex
and Nicomachus were two officials guilty of peculation of public funds;
Archenomus is unknown.
 He would brand them as fugitive slaves, if, despite his orders,
they refused to come down.
 An Athenian admiral.
 The real name of the father of Adimantus was Leucolophides, which
Aristophanes jestingly turns into Leucolophus, i.e. _White Crest_.
 i.e. in a foreign country; Cleophon, as we have just seen, was not
The Women's Festival
Like the 'Lysistrata,' the 'Thesmophoriazusae, or Women's Festival,' and
the next following play, the 'Ecclesiazusae, or Women in Council' are
comedies in which the fair sex play a great part, and also resemble that
extremely _scabreux_ production in the plentiful crop of doubtful 'double
entendres' and highly suggestive situations they contain.
The play has more of a proper intrigue and formal dénouement than is
general with our Author's pieces, which, like modern extravaganzas and
musical comedies, are often strung on a very slender thread of plot. The
idea of the 'Thesmophoriazusae' is as follows.
Euripides is summoned as a notorious woman-hater and detractor of the
female sex to appear for trial and judgment before the women of Athens
assembled to celebrate the Thesmophoria, a festival held in honour of the
goddesses Demeter and Persephone, from which men were rigidly excluded.
The poet is terror-stricken, and endeavours to persuade his confrère, the
tragedian Agathon, to attend the meeting in the guise of a woman to plead
his cause, Agathon's notorious effeminacy of costume and way of life
lending itself to the deception; but the latter refuses point-blank. He
then prevails on his father-in-law, Mnesilochus, to do him this favour,
and shaves, depilates, and dresses him up accordingly. But so far from
throwing oil on the troubled waters, Mnesilochus indulges in a long
harangue full of violent abuse of the whole sex, and relates some
scandalous stories of the naughty ways of peccant wives. The assembly
suspects at once there is a man amongst them, and on examination of the
old fellow's person, this is proved to be the case. He flies for
sanctuary to the altar, snatching a child from the arms of one of the
women as a hostage, vowing to kill it if they molest him further. On
investigation, however, the infant turns out to be a wine-skin dressed in
In despair Mnesilochus sends urgent messages to Euripides to come and
rescue him from his perilous predicament. The latter then appears, and in
successive characters selected from his different Tragedies--now Menelaus
meeting Helen again in Egypt, now Echo sympathising with the chained
Andromeda, presently Perseus about to release the heroine from her
rock--pleads for his unhappy father-in-law. At length he succeeds in
getting him away in the temporary absence of the guard, a Scythian
archer, whom he entices from his post by the charms of a dancing-girl.
As may be supposed, the appearance of Mnesilochus among the women dressed
in women's clothes, the examination of his person to discover his true
sex and his final detection, afford fine opportunities for a display of
the broadest Aristophanic humour. The latter part of the play also, where
various pieces of Euripides are burlesqued, is extremely funny; and must
have been still more so when represented before an audience familiar with
every piece and almost every line parodied, and played by actors trained
and got up to imitate every trick and mannerism of appearance and
delivery of the tragic actors who originally took the parts.
The 'Thesmophoriazusae' was produced in the year 412 B.C., six years
before the death of Euripides, who is held up to ridicule in it, as he is
in 'The Wasps' and several other of our Author's comedies.
* * * * *
The Women's Festival
MNESILOCHUS, Father-in-law of Euripides.
SERVANT OF AGATHON.
CHORUS attending AGATHON.
A PRYTANIS or Member of the Council.
A SCYTHIAN or Police Officer.
CHORUS OF THESMOPHORIAZUSAE--women keeping the Feast of Demeter.
SCENE: In front of Agathon's house; afterwards in the precincts of the
Temple of Demeter.
* * * * *
The Women's Festival
MNESILOCHUS. Great Zeus! will the swallow never appear to end the winter
of my discontent? Why the fellow has kept me on the run ever since early
this morning; he wants to kill me, that's certain. Before I lose my
spleen entirely, Euripides, can you at least tell me whither you are
EURIPIDES. What need for you to hear what you are going to see?
MNESILOCHUS. How is that? Repeat it. No need for me to hear....
EURIPIDES. What you are going to see.
MNESILOCHUS. Nor consequently to see....
EURIPIDES. What you have to hear.
MNESILOCHUS. What is this wiseacre stuff you are telling me? I must
neither see nor hear.
EURIPIDES. Ah! but you have two things there that are essentially
MNESILOCHUS. Seeing and hearing.
MNESILOCHUS. In what way distinct?
EURIPIDES. In this way. Formerly, when Ether separated the elements and
bore the animals that were moving in her bosom, she wished to endow them
with sight, and so made the eye round like the sun's disc and bored ears
in the form of a funnel.
MNESILOCHUS. And because of this funnel I neither see nor hear. Ah! great
gods! I am delighted to know it. What a fine thing it is to talk with
EURIPIDES. I will teach you many another thing of the sort.
MNESILOCHUS. That's well to know; but first of all I should like to find
out how to grow lame, so that I need not have to follow you all about.
EURIPIDES. Come, hear and give heed!
MNESILOCHUS. I'm here and waiting.
EURIPIDES. Do you see that little door?
MNESILOCHUS. Yes, certainly.
MNESILOCHUS. Silence about what? About the door?
EURIPIDES. Pay attention!
MNESILOCHUS. Pay attention and be silent about the door? Very well.
EURIPIDES. 'Tis there that Agathon, the celebrated tragic poet,
MNESILOCHUS. Who is this Agathon?
EURIPIDES. 'Tis a certain Agathon....
MNESILOCHUS. Swarthy, robust of build?
EURIPIDES. No, another. You have never seen him?
MNESILOCHUS. He has a big beard?
EURIPIDES. No, no, evidently you have never seen him.
MNESILOCHUS. Never, so far as I know.
EURIPIDES. And yet you have pedicated him. Well, it must have been
without knowing who he was. Ah! let us step aside; here is one of his
slaves bringing a brazier and some myrtle branches; no doubt he is going
to offer a sacrifice and pray for a happy poetical inspiration for
SERVANT OF AGATHON. Silence! oh, people! keep your mouths sedately shut!
The chorus of the Muses is moulding songs at my master's hearth. Let the
winds hold their breath in the silent Ether! Let the azure waves cease
murmuring on the shore!...
MNESILOCHUS. Brououou! brououou! (_Imitates the buzzing of a fly._)
EURIPIDES. Keep quiet! what are you saying there?
SERVANT. ... Take your rest, ye winged races, and you, ye savage
inhabitants of the woods, cease from your erratic wandering ...
MNESILOCHUS. Broum, broum, brououou.
SERVANT. ... for Agathon, our master, the sweet-voiced poet, is going ...
MNESILOCHUS. ... to be pedicated?
SERVANT. Whose voice is that?
MNESILOCHUS. 'Tis the silent Ether.
SERVANT. ... is going to construct the framework of a drama. He is
rounding fresh poetical forms, he is polishing them in the lathe and is
welding them; he is hammering out sentences and metaphors; he is working
up his subject like soft wax. First he models it and then he casts it in
MNESILOCHUS. ... and sways his buttocks amorously.
SERVANT. Who is the rustic who approaches this sacred enclosure?
MNESILOCHUS. Take care of yourself and of your sweet-voiced poet! I have
a strong instrument here both well rounded and well polished, which will
pierce your enclosure and penetrate your bottom.
SERVANT. Old man, you must have been a very insolent fellow in your
EURIPIDES (_to the servant_). Let him be, friend, and, quick, go and call
Agathon to me.
SERVANT. 'Tis not worth the trouble, for he will soon be here himself. He
has started to compose, and in winter it is never possible to round
off strophes without coming to the sun to excite the imagination. (_He
MNESILOCHUS. And what am I to do?
EURIPIDES. Wait till he comes.... Oh, Zeus! what hast thou in store for
MNESILOCHUS. But, great gods, what is the matter then? What are you
grumbling and groaning for? Tell me; you must not conceal anything from
EURIPIDES. Some great misfortune is brewing against me.
MNESILOCHUS. What is it?
EURIPIDES. This day will decide whether it is all over with Euripides or
MNESILOCHUS. But how? Neither the tribunals nor the Senate are sitting,
for it is the third of the five days consecrated to Demeter.
EURIPIDES. That is precisely what makes me tremble; the women have
plotted my ruin, and to-day they are to gather in the Temple of Demeter
to execute their decision.
MNESILOCHUS. Why are they against you?
EURIPIDES. Because I mishandle them in my tragedies.
MNESILOCHUS. By Posidon, you would seem to have thoroughly deserved your
fate. But how are you going to get out of the mess?
EURIPIDES. I am going to beg Agathon, the tragic poet, to go to the
MNESILOCHUS. And what is he to do there?
EURIPIDES. He would mingle with the women, and stand up for me, if
MNESILOCHUS. Would he be openly present or secretly?
EURIPIDES. Secretly, dressed in woman's clothes.
MNESILOCHUS. That's a clever notion, thoroughly worthy of you. The prize
for trickery is ours.
MNESILOCHUS. What's the matter?
EURIPIDES. Here comes Agathon.
MNESILOCHUS. Where, where?
EURIPIDES. That's the man they are bringing out yonder on the
MNESILOCHUS. I am blind then! I see no man here, I only see Cyrené.
EURIPIDES. Be still! He is getting ready to sing.
MNESILOCHUS. What subtle trill, I wonder, is he going to warble to us?
AGATHON. Damsels, with the sacred torch in hand, unite your dance to
shouts of joy in honour of the nether goddesses; celebrate the freedom of
CHORUS. To what divinity is your homage addressed? I wish to mingle mine
AGATHON. Oh! Muse! glorify Phoebus with his golden bow, who erected the
walls of the city of the Simois.
CHORUS. To thee, oh Phoebus, I dedicate my most beauteous songs; to thee,
the sacred victor in the poetical contests.
AGATHON. And praise Artemis too, the maiden huntress, who wanders on the
mountains and through the woods....
CHORUS. I, in my turn, celebrate the everlasting happiness of the chaste
Artemis, the mighty daughter of Latona!
AGATHON. ... and Latona and the tones of the Asiatic lyre, which wed so
well with the dances of the Phrygian Graces.
CHORUS. I do honour to the divine Latona and to the lyre, the mother of
songs of male and noble strains. The eyes of the goddess sparkle while
listening to our enthusiastic chants. Honour to the powerful Phoebus!
Hail! thou blessed son of Latona!
MNESILOCHUS. Oh! ye venerable Genetyllides, what tender and
voluptuous songs! They surpass the most lascivious kisses in sweetness; I
feel a thrill of delight pass up my rectum as I listen to them. Young
man, whoever you are, answer my questions, which I am borrowing from
Aeschylus' 'Lycurgeia.' Whence comes this effeminate? What is his
country? his dress? What contradictions his life shows! A lyre and a
hair-net! A wrestling school oil flask and a girdle! What could be
more contradictory? What relation has a mirror to a sword? And you
yourself, who are you? Do you pretend to be a man? Where is the sign of
your manhood, your penis, pray? Where is the cloak, the footgear that
belong to that sex? Are you a woman? Then where are your breasts? Answer
me. But you keep silent. Oh! just as you choose; your songs display your
character quite sufficiently.
AGATHON. Old man, old man, I hear the shafts of jealousy whistling by my
ears, but they do not hit me. My dress is in harmony with my thoughts. A
poet must adopt the nature of his characters. Thus, if he is placing
women on the stage, he must contract all their habits in his own person.
MNESILOCHUS. Then you ride the high horse when you are composing a
AGATHON. If the heroes are men, everything in him will be manly. What we
don't possess by nature, we must acquire by imitation.
MNESILOCHUS. When you are staging Satyrs, call me; I will do my best to
help you from behind with standing tool.
AGATHON. Besides, it is bad taste for a poet to be coarse and hairy. Look
at the famous Ibycus, at Anacreon of Teos, and at Alcaeus, who
handled music so well; they wore headbands and found pleasure in the
lascivious dances of Ionia. And have you not heard what a dandy
Phrynichus was and how careful in his dress? For this reason his
pieces were also beautiful, for the works of a poet are copied from
MNESILOCHUS. Ah! so it is for this reason that Philocles, who is so
hideous, writes hideous pieces; Xenocles, who is malicious, malicious
ones, and Theognis, who is cold, such cold ones?
AGATHON. Yes, necessarily and unavoidably; and 'tis because I knew this
that I have so well cared for my person.
MNESILOCHUS. How, in the gods' name?
EURIPIDES. Come, leave off badgering him; I was just the same at his age,
when I began to write.
MNESILOCHUS. At! then, by Zeus! I don't envy you your fine manners.
EURIPIDES (_to Agathon_). But listen to the cause that brings me here.
AGATHON. Say on.
EURIPIDES. Agathon, wise is he who can compress many thoughts into few
words. Struck by a most cruel misfortune, I come to you as a
AGATHON. What are you asking?
EURIPIDES. The women purpose killing me to-day during the Thesmophoria,
because I have dared to speak ill of them.
AGATHON. And what can I do for you in the matter?
EURIPIDES. Everything. Mingle secretly with the women by making yourself
pass as one of themselves; then do you plead my cause with your own lips,
and I am saved. You, and you alone, are capable of speaking of me
AGATHON. But why not go and defend yourself?
EURIPIDES. 'Tis impossible. First of all, I am known; further, I have
white hair and a long beard; whereas you, you are good-looking, charming,
and are close-shaven; you are fair, delicate, and have a woman's voice.
AGATHON. Have you not said in one of your pieces, "You love to see the
light, and don't you believe your father loves it too?"
AGATHON. Then never you think I am going to expose myself in your stead;
'twould be madness. 'Tis for you to submit to the fate that overtakes
you; one must not try to trick misfortune, but resign oneself to it with
MNESILOCHUS. This is why you, you wretch, offer your posterior with a
good grace to lovers, not in words, but in actual fact.
EURIPIDES. But what prevents your going there?
AGATHON. I should run more risk than you would.
AGATHON. Why? I should look as if I were wanting to trespass on secret
nightly pleasures of the women and to ravish their Aphrodité.
MNESILOCHUS. Of wanting to ravish indeed! you mean wanting to be
ravished--in the rearward mode. Ah! great gods! a fine excuse truly!
EURIPIDES. Well then, do you agree?
AGATHON. Don't count upon it.
EURIPIDES. Oh! I am unfortunate indeed! I am undone!
MNESILOCHUS. Euripides, my friend, my son-in-law, never despair.
EURIPIDES. What can be done?
MNESILOCHUS. Send him to the devil and do with me as you like.
EURIPIDES. Very well then, since you devote yourself to my safety, take
off your cloak first.
MNESILOCHUS. There, it lies on the ground. But what do you want to do
EURIPIDES. To shave off this beard of yours, and to remove your hair
below as well.
MNESILOCHUS. Do what you think fit; I yield myself entirely to you.
EURIPIDES. Agathon, you have always razors about you; lend me one.
AGATHON. Take if yourself, there, out of that case.
EURIPIDES. Thanks. Sit down and puff out the right cheek.
MNESILOCHUS. Oh! oh! oh!
EURIPIDES. What are you shouting for? I'll cram a spit down your gullet,
if you're not quiet.
MNESILOCHUS. Oh! oh! oh! oh! oh! oh! (_He springs up and starts running
EURIPIDES. Where are you running to now?
MNESILOCHUS. To the temple of the Eumenides. No, by Demeter I won't
let myself be gashed like that.
EURIPIDES. But you will get laughed at, with your face half-shaven like
MNESILOCHUS. Little care I.
EURIPIDES. In the gods' names, don't leave me in the lurch. Come here.
MNESILOCHUS. Oh! by the gods! (_Resumes his seat._)
EURIPIDES. Keep still and hold up your head. Why do you want to fidget
about like this?
MNESILOCHUS. Mu, mu.
EURIPIDES. Well! why, mu, mu? There! 'tis done and well done too!
MNESILOCHUS Ah! great god! It makes me feel quite light.
EURIPIDES. Don't worry yourself; you look charming. Do you want to see
MNESILOCHUS. Aye, that I do; hand the mirror here.
EURIPIDES. Do you see yourself?
MNESILOCHUS. But this is not I, it is Clisthenes!
EURIPIDES. Stand up; I am now going to remove your hair. Bend down.
MNESILOCHUS. Alas! alas! they are going to grill me like a pig.
EURIPIDES. Come now, a torch or a lamp! Bend down and take care of the
tender end of your tail!
MNESILOCHUS. Aye, aye! but I'm afire! oh! oh! Water, water, neighbour, or
my rump will be alight!
EURIPIDES. Keep up your courage!
MNESILOCHUS. Keep my courage, when I'm being burnt up?
EURIPIDES. Come, cease your whining, the worst is over.
MNESILOCHUS. Oh! it's quite black, all burnt below there all about the
EURIPIDES. Don't worry! that will be washed off with a sponge.
MNESILOCHUS. Woe to him who dares to wash my rump!
EURIPIDES. Agathon, you refuse to devote yourself to helping me; but at
any rate lend me a tunic and a belt. You cannot say you have not got
AGATHON. Take them and use them as you like; I consent.
MNESILOCHUS. What must be taken?
EURIPIDES. What must be taken? First put on this long saffron-coloured
MNESILOCHUS. By Aphrodité! what a sweet odour! how it smells of a man's
genitals! Hand it me quickly. And the belt?
EURIPIDES. Here it is.
MNESILOCHUS. Now some rings for my legs.
EURIPIDES. You still want a hair-net and a head-dress.
AGATHON. Here is my night-cap.
EURIPIDES. Ah! that's capital.
MNESILOCHUS. Does it suit me?
AGATHON. It could not be better.
EURIPIDES. And a short mantle?
AGATHON. There's one on the couch; take it.
EURIPIDES. He wants slippers.
AGATHON. Here are mine.
MNESILOCHUS. Will they fit me? You like a loose fit.
AGATHON. Try them on. Now that you have all you need, let me be taken
EURIPIDES. You look for all the world like a woman. But when you talk,
take good care to give your voice a woman's tone.
MNESILOCHUS. I'll try my best.
EURIPIDES. Come, get yourself to the temple.
MNESILOCHUS. No, by Apollo, not unless you swear to me ...
MNESILOCHUS. ... that, if anything untoward happen to me, you will leave
nothing undone to save me.
EURIPIDES Very well! I swear it by the Ether, the dwelling-place of the
king of the gods.
MNESILOCHUS. Why not rather swear it by the disciples of
EURIPIDES. Come, I swear it by all the gods, both great and small.
MNESILOCHUS. Remember, 'tis the heart, and not the tongue, that has
sworn; for the oaths of the tongue concern me but little.
EURIPIDES. Hurry yourself! The signal for the meeting has just been
displayed on the Temple of Demeter. Farewell. [_Exit._
MNESILOCHUS. Here, Thratta, follow me. Look, Thratta, at the cloud
of smoke that arises from all these lighted torches. Ah! beautiful
Thesmophorae! grant me your favours, protect me, both within the
temple and on my way back! Come, Thratta, put down the basket and take
out the cake, which I wish to offer to the two goddesses. Mighty
divinity, oh, Demeter, and thou, Persephoné, grant that I may be able to
offer you many sacrifices; above all things, grant that I may not be
recognized. Would that my young daughter might marry a man as rich as he
is foolish and silly, so that she may have nothing to do but amuse
herself. But where can a place be found for hearing well? Be off,
Thratta, be off; slaves have no right to be present at this
HERALD. Silence! Silence! Pray to the Thesmophorae, Demeter and Cora;
pray to Plutus, Calligenia, Curotrophos, the Earth, Hermes
and the Graces, that all may happen for the best at this gathering, both
for the greatest advantage of Athens and for our own personal happiness!
May the award be given her, who, by both deeds and words, has most
deserved it from the Athenian people and from the women! Address these
prayers to heaven and demand happiness for yourselves. Io Paean! Io
Paean! Let us rejoice!
CHORUS. May the gods deign to accept our vows and our prayers! Oh!
almighty Zeus, and thou, god with the golden lyre, who reignest on
sacred Delos, and thou, oh, invincible virgin, Pallas, with the eyes of
azure and the spear of gold, who protectest our illustrious city, and
thou, the daughter of the beautiful Latona, the queen of the
forests, who art adored under many names, hasten hither at my call.
Come, thou mighty Posidon, king of the Ocean, leave thy stormy whirlpools
of Nereus; come goddesses of the seas, come, ye nymphs, who wander on the
mountains. Let us unite our voices to the sounds of the golden lyre, and
may wisdom preside at the gathering of the noble matrons of Athens.
HERALD. Address your prayers to the gods and goddesses of Olympus, of
Delphi, Delos and all other places; if there be a man who is plotting
against the womenfolk or who, to injure them, is proposing peace to
Euripides and the Medes, or who aspires to usurping the tyranny, plots
the return of a tyrant, or unmasks a supposititious child; or if there be
a slave who, a confidential party to a wife's intrigues, reveals them
secretly to her husband, or who, entrusted with a message, does not
deliver the same faithfully; if there be a lover who fulfils naught of
what he has promised a woman, whom he has abused on the strength of his
lies, if there be an old woman who seduces the lover of a maiden by dint
of her presents and treacherously receives him in her house; if there be
a host or hostess who sells false measure, pray the gods that they will
overwhelm them with their wrath, both them and their families, and that
they may reserve all their favours for you.
CHORUS. Let us ask the fulfilment of these wishes both for the city and
for the people, and may the wisest of us cause her opinion to be
accepted. But woe to those women who break their oaths, who speculate on
the public misfortune, who seek to alter the laws and the decrees, who
reveal our secrets to the foe and admit the Medes into our territory so
that they may devastate it! I declare them both impious and criminal. Oh!
almighty Zeus! see to it that the gods protect us, albeit we are but
HERALD. Hearken, all of you! this is the decree passed by the Senate of
the Women under the presidency of Timoclea and at the suggestion of
Sostrata; it is signed by Lysilla, the secretary: "There will be a
gathering of the people on the morning of the third day of the
Thesmophoria, which is a day of rest for us; the principal business there
shall be the punishment that it is meet to inflict upon Euripides for the
insults with which he has loaded us." Now who asks to speak?
FIRST WOMAN. I do.
HERALD. First put on this garland, and then speak. Silence! let all be
quiet! Pay attention! for here she is spitting as orators generally do
before they begin; no doubt she has much to say.
FIRST WOMAN. If I have asked to speak, may the goddesses bear me witness,
it was not for sake of ostentation. But I have long been pained to see us
women insulted by this Euripides, this son of the green-stuff woman,
who loads us with every kind of indignity. Has he not hit us enough,
calumniated us sufficiently, wherever there are spectators, tragedians,
and a chorus? Does he not style us gay, lecherous, drunken, traitorous,
boastful? Does he not repeat that we are all vice, that we are the curse
of our husbands? So that, directly they come back from the theatre, they
look at us doubtfully and go searching every nook, fearing there may be
some hidden lover. We can do nothing as we used to, so many are the false
ideas which he has instilled into our husbands. Is a woman weaving a
garland for herself? 'Tis because she is in love. Does she let some
vase drop while going or returning to the house? her husband asks her in
whose honour she has broken it, "It can only be for that Corinthian
stranger." Is a maiden unwell? Straightway her brother says, "That
is a colour that does not please me." And if a childless woman
wishes to substitute one, the deceit can no longer be a secret, for the
neighbours will insist on being present at her delivery. Formerly the old
men married young girls, but they have been so calumniated that none
think of them now, thanks to the verse: "A woman is the tyrant of the old
man who marries her." Again, it is because of Euripides that we are
incessantly watched, that we are shut up behind bolts and bars, and that
dogs are kept to frighten off the gallants. Let that pass; but formerly
it was we who had the care of the food, who fetched the flour from the
storeroom, the oil and the wine; we can do it no more. Our husbands now
carry little Spartan keys on their persons, made with three notches and
full of malice and spite. Formerly it sufficed to purchase a ring
marked with the same sign for three obols, to open the most securely
sealed-up door; but now this pestilent Euripides has taught men to
hang seals of worm-eaten wood about their necks. My opinion,
therefore, is that we should rid ourselves of our enemy by poison or by
any other means, provided he dies. That is what I announce publicly; as
to certain points, which I wish to keep secret, I propose to record them
on the secretary's minutes.
CHORUS. Never have I listened to a cleverer or more eloquent woman.
Everything she says is true; she has examined the matter from all sides
and has weighed up every detail. Her arguments are close, varied, and
happily chosen. I believe that Xenocles himself, the son of Carcinus,
would seem to talk mere nonsense, if placed beside her.
SECOND WOMAN. I have only a very few words to add, for the last speaker
has covered the various points of the indictment; allow me only to tell
you what happened to me. My husband died at Cyprus, leaving me five
children, whom I had great trouble to bring up by weaving chaplets on the
myrtle market. Anyhow, I lived as well as I could until this wretch had
persuaded the spectators by his tragedies that there were no gods; since
then I have not sold as many chaplets by half. I charge you therefore and
exhort you all to punish him, for does he not deserve it in a thousand
respects, he who loads you with troubles, who is as coarse toward you as
the green-stuff upon which his mother reared him? But I must back to the
market to weave my chaplets; I have twenty to deliver yet.
CHORUS. This is even more animated and more trenchant than the first
speech; all she has just said is full of good sense and to the point; it
is clever, clear and well calculated to convince. Yes! we must have
striking vengeance on the insults of Euripides.
MNESILOCHUS. Oh, women! I am not astonished at these outbursts of fiery
rage; how could your bile not get inflamed against Euripides, who has
spoken so ill of you? As for myself, I hate the man, I swear it by my
children; 'twould be madness not to hate him! Yet, let us reflect a
little; we are alone and our words will not be repeated outside. Why be
so bent on his ruin? Because he has known and shown up two or three of
our faults, when we have a thousand? As for myself, not to speak of other
women, I have more than one great sin upon my conscience, but this is the
blackest of them. I had been married three days and my husband was asleep
by my side; I had a lover, who had seduced me when I was seven years old;
impelled by his passion, he came scratching at the door; I understood at
once he was there and was going down noiselessly. "Where are you going?"
asked my husband. "I am suffering terribly with colic," I told him, "and
am going to the closet." "Go," he replied, and started pounding together
juniper berries, aniseed, and sage. As for myself, I moistened the
door-hinge and went to find my lover, who embraced me,
half-reclining upon Apollo's altar and holding on to the sacred
laurel with one hand. Well now! Consider! that is a thing of which
Euripides has never spoken. And when we bestow our favours on slaves and
muleteers for want of better, does he mention this? And when we eat
garlic early in the morning after a night of wantonness, so that our
husband, who has been keeping guard upon the city wall, may be reassured
by the smell and suspect nothing, has Euripides ever breathed a word
of this? Tell me. Neither has he spoken of the woman who spreads open a
large cloak before her husband's eyes to make him admire it in full
daylight to conceal her lover by so doing and afford him the means of
making his escape. I know another, who for ten whole days pretended to be
suffering the pains of labour until she had secured a child; the husband
hurried in all directions to buy drugs to hasten her deliverance, and
meanwhile an old woman brought the infant in a stew-pot; to prevent its
crying she had stopped up its mouth with honey. With a sign she told the
wife that she was bringing a child for her, who at once began exclaiming,
"Go away, friend, go away, I think I am going to be delivered; I can feel
him kicking his heels in the belly ... of the stew-pot." The husband
goes off full of joy, and the old wretch quickly picks the honey out of
the child's mouth, which sets a-crying; then she seizes the babe, runs to
the father and tells him with a smile on her face, "'Tis a lion, a lion,
that is born to you; 'tis your very image. Everything about it is like
you, even to its little tool, which is all twisty like a fir-cone." Are
these not our everyday tricks? Why certainly, by Artemis, and we are
angry with Euripides, who assuredly treats us no worse than we deserve!
CHORUS. Great gods! where has she unearthed all that? What country gave
birth to such an audacious woman? Oh! you wretch! I should not have
thought ever a one of us could have spoken in public with such impudence.
'Tis clear, however, that we must expect everything and, as the old
proverb says, must look beneath every stone, lest it conceal some
orator ready to sting us. There is but one thing in the world worse
than a shameless woman, and that's another woman.
THIRD WOMAN. By Aglaurus! you have lost your wits, friends! You must
be bewitched to suffer this plague to belch forth insults against us all.
Is there no one has any spirit at all? If not, we and our maid-servants
will punish her. Run and fetch coals and let's depilate her cunt in
proper style, to teach her not to speak ill of her sex.
MNESILOCHUS. Oh! no! have mercy, friends. Have we not the right to speak
frankly at this gathering? And because I have uttered what I thought
right in favour of Euripides, do you want to depilate me for my trouble?
THIRD WOMAN. What! we ought not to punish you, who alone have dared to
defend the man who has done us so much harm, whom it pleases to put all
the vile women that ever were upon the stage, who only shows us
Melanippés Phaedras? But of Penelopé he has never said a word, because
she was reputed chaste and good.
MNESILOCHUS. I know the reason. 'Tis because not a single Penelopé exists
among the women of to-day, but all without exception are Phaedras.
THIRD WOMAN. Women, you hear how this creature still dares to speak of us
MNESILOCHUS. And, 'faith, I have not said all that I know. Do you want
THIRD WOMAN. You cannot tell us any more; you have emptied your bag.
MNESILOCHUS. Why, I have not told the thousandth part of what we women
do. Have I said how we use the hollow handles of our brooms to draw up
wine unbeknown to our husbands.
THIRD WOMAN. The cursed jade!
MNESILOCHUS. And how we give meats to our lovers at the feast of the
Apaturia and then accuse the cat....
THIRD WOMAN. She's mad!
MNESILOCHUS. ... Have I mentioned the woman who killed her husband with a
hatchet? Of another, who caused hers to lose his reason with her potions?
And of the Acharnian woman ...
THIRD WOMAN. Die, you bitch!
MNESILOCHUS. ... who buried her father beneath the bath?
THIRD WOMAN. And yet we listen to such things?
MNESILOCHUS. Have I told how you attributed to yourself the male child
your slave had just borne and gave her your little daughter?
THIRD WOMAN. This insult calls for vengeance. Look out for your hair!
MNESILOCHUS. By Zeus! don't touch me.
THIRD WOMAN. There!
MNESILOCHUS. There! tit for tat! (_They exchange blows._)
THIRD WOMAN. Hold my cloak, Philista!
MNESILOCHUS. Come on then, and by Demeter ...
THIRD WOMAN. Well! what?
MNESILOCHUS. ... I'll make you disgorge the sesame-cake you have
CHORUS. Cease wrangling! I see a woman running here in hot haste.
Keep silent, so that we may hear the better what she has to say.
CLISTHENES. Friends, whom I copy in all things, my hairless chin
sufficiently evidences how dear you are to me; I am women-mad and make
myself their champion wherever I am. Just now on the market-place I heard
mention of a thing that is of the greatest importance to you; I come to
tell it you, to let you know it, so that you may watch carefully and be
on your guard against the danger which threatens you.
CHORUS. What is it, my child? I can well call you child, for you have so
smooth a skin.
CLISTHENES. 'Tis said that Euripides has sent an old man here to-day, one
of his relations ...
CHORUS. With what object? What is his purpose?
CLISTHENES. ... so that he may hear your speeches and inform him of your
deliberations and intentions.
CHORUS. But how would a man fail to be recognized amongst women?
CLISTHENES. Euripides singed and depilated him and disguised him as a
MNESILOCHUS. This is pure invention! What man is fool enough to let
himself be depilated? As for myself, I don't believe a word of it.
CLISTHENES. Are you mad? I should not have come here to tell you, if I
did not know it on indisputable authority.
CHORUS. Great gods! what is it you tell us! Come, women, let us not lose
a moment; let us search and rummage everywhere! Where can this man have
hidden himself escape our notice? Help us to look, Clisthenes; we shall
thus owe you double thanks, dear friend.
CLISTHENES (_to a fourth woman_). Well then! let us see. To begin with
you; who are you?
MNESILOCHUS (_aside_). Wherever am I to stow myself?
CLISTHENES. Each and every one must pass the scrutiny.
MNESILOCHUS (_aside_). Oh! great gods!
FOURTH WOMAN. You ask me who I am? I am the wife of Cleonymus.
CLISTHENES. Do you know this woman?
CHORUS. Yes, yes, pass on to the rest.
CLISTHENES. And she who carries the child?
MNESILOCHUS (_aside_). I'm a dead man. (_He runs off._)
CLISTHENES (_to Mnesilochus_). Hi! you there! where are you off to? Stop
there. What are you running away for?
MNESILOCHUS. I want to relieve myself.
CLISTHENES. The shameless thing! Come, hurry yourself; I will wait here
CHORUS. Wait for her and examine her closely; 'tis the only one we do
CLISTHENES. You are a long time about your business.
MNESILOCHUS. Aye, my god, yes; 'tis because I am unwell, for I ate cress
CLISTHENES. What are you chattering about cress? Come here and be quick.
MNESILOCHUS. Oh! don't pull a poor sick woman about like that.
CLISTHENES. Tell me, who is your husband?
MNESILOCHUS. My husband? Do you know a certain individual at
CLISTHENES. Whom do you mean? Give his name.
MNESILOCHUS. 'Tis an individual to whom the son of a certain individual
CLISTHENES. You are drivelling! Let's see, have you ever been here
MNESILOCHUS. Why certainly, every year.
CLISTHENES. Who is your tent companion?
MNESILOCHUS. 'Tis a certain.... Oh! my god!
CLISTHENES. You don't answer.
FIFTH WOMAN. Withdraw, all of you; I am going to examine her thoroughly
about last year's mysteries. But move away, Clisthenes, for no man may
hear what is going to be said. Now answer my questions! What was done
MNESILOCHUS. Let's see then. What was done first? Oh! we drank.
FIFTH WOMAN. And then?
MNESILOCHUS. We drank to our healths.
FIFTH WOMAN. You will have heard that from someone. And then?
MNESILOCHUS. Xenylla relieved herself in a cup, for there was no other
FIFTH WOMAN. You trifle. Here, Clisthenes, here! This is the man of whom
CLISTHENES. What is to be done then?
FIFTH WOMAN. Take off his clothes, I can get nothing out of him.
MNESILOCHUS. What! are you going to strip a mother of nine children
CLISTHENES. Come, undo your girdle, you shameless thing.
FIFTH WOMAN. Ah! what a sturdy frame! but she has no breasts like we
MNESILOCHUS. That's because I'm barren. I never had any children.
FIFTH WOMAN. Oh! indeed! just now you were the mother of nine.
CLISTHENES. Stand up straight. Hullo! what do I see there? Why, a penis
sticking out behind.
FIFTH WOMAN. There's no mistaking it; you can see it projecting, and a
fine red it is.
CLISTHENES. Where has it gone to now?
FIFTH WOMAN. To the front.
FIFTH WOMAN. Ah! 'tis behind now.
CLISTHENES. Why, friend, 'tis for all the world like the Isthmus; you
keep pulling your tool backwards and forwards just as the Corinthians do
FIFTH WOMAN. Ah! the wretch! this is why he insulted us and defended
MNESILOCHUS. Aye, wretch indeed, what troubles have I not got into now!
FIFTH WOMAN. What shall we do?
CLISTHENES. Watch him closely, so that he does not escape. As for me, I
go to report the matter to the magistrates, the Prytanes.
CHORUS. Let us kindle our lamps; let us go firmly to work and with
courage, let us take off our cloaks and search whether some other man has
not come here too; let us pass round the whole Pnyx, examine the
tents and the passages. Come, be quick, let us start off on a light
toe and rummage all round in silence. Let us hasten, let us finish
our round as soon as possible. Look quickly for the traces that might
show you a man hidden here, let your glance fall on every side; look well
to the right and to the left. If we seize some impious fellow, woe to
him! He will know how we punish the outrage, the crime, the sacrilege.
The criminal will then acknowledge at last that gods exist; his fate will
teach all men that the deities must be revered, that justice must be
observed and that they must submit to the sacred laws. If not, then woe
to them! Heaven itself will punish sacrilege; being aflame with fury and
mad with frenzy, all their deeds will prove to mortals, both men and
women, that the deity punishes injustice and impiety, and that she is not
slow to strike. But I think I have now searched everywhere and that no
other man is hidden among us.
SIXTH WOMAN. Where is he flying to? Stop him! stop him! Ah! miserable
woman that I am, he has torn my child from my breast and has disappeared
MNESILOCHUS. Scream as loud as you will, but he shall never suck your
bosom more. If you do not let me go this very instant, I am going to cut
open the veins of his thighs with this cutlass and his blood shall flow
over the altar.
SIXTH WOMAN. Oh! great gods! oh! friends, help me! terrify him with your
shrieks, triumph over this monster, permit him not to rob me of my only
CHORUS. Oh! oh! venerable Parcae, what fresh attack is this? 'Tis the
crowning act of audacity and shamelessness! What has he done now,
friends, what has he done?
MNESILOCHUS. Ah! this insolence passes all bounds, but I shall know how
to curb it.
CHORUS. What a shameful deed! the measure of his iniquities is full!
SIXTH WOMAN. Aye, 'tis shameful that he should have robbed me of my
CHORUS. 'Tis past belief to be so criminal and so impudent!
MNESILOCHUS. Ah! you're not near the end of it yet.
SIXTH WOMAN. Little I care whence you come; you shall not return to boast
of having acted so odiously with impunity, for you shall be punished.
MNESILOCHUS. You won't do it, by the gods!
CHORUS. And what immortal would protect you for your crime?
MNESILOCHUS. 'Tis in vain you talk! I shall not let go the child.
CHORUS. By the goddesses, you will not laugh presently over your crime
and your impious speech. For with impiety, as 'tis meet, shall we reply
to your impiety. Soon fortune will turn round and overwhelm you. Come!
bring wood along. Let us burn the wretch, let us roast him as quickly as
SIXTH WOMAN. Bring faggots, Mania! (_To Mnesilochus._) You will be mere
CHORUS. Grill away, roast me, but you, my child, take off this Cretan
robe and blame no one but your mother for your death. But what does this
mean? The little girl is nothing but a skin filled with wine and shod
with Persian slippers. Oh! you wanton, you tippling woman, who think
of nothing but wine; you are a fortune to the drinking-shops and are our
ruin; for the sake of drink, you neglect both your household and your
SIXTH WOMAN. Faggots, Mania, plenty of them.
MNESILOCHUS. Bring as many as you like. But answer me; are you the mother
of this brat?
SIXTH WOMAN. I carried it ten months.
MNESILOCHUS. You carried it?
SIXTH WOMAN. I swear it by Artemis.
MNESILOCHUS. How much does it hold? Three cotylae? Tell me.
SIXTH WOMAN. Oh! what have you done? You have stripped the poor child
quite naked, and it is so small, so small.
MNESILOCHUS. So small?
SIXTH WOMAN. Yes, quite small, to be sure.
MNESILOCHUS. How old is it? Has it seen the feast of cups thrice or four
SIXTH WOMAN. It was born about the time of the last Dionysia. But
give it back to me.
MNESILOCHUS. No, may Apollo bear me witness.
SIXTH WOMAN. Well, then we are going to burn him.
MNESILOCHUS. Burn me, but then I shall rip this open instantly.
SIXTH WOMAN. No, no, I adjure you, don't; do anything you like to me
rather than that.
MNESILOCHUS. What a tender mother you are; but nevertheless I shall rip
it open. (_Tears open the wine-skin_.)
SIXTH WOMAN. Oh, my beloved daughter! Mania, hand me the sacred cup, that
I may at least catch the blood of my child.
MNESILOCHUS. Hold it below; 'tis the sole favour I grant you.
SIXTH WOMAN. Out upon you, you pitiless monster!
MNESILOCHUS. This robe belongs to the priestess.
SIXTH WOMAN. What belongs to the priestess?
MNESILOCHUS. Here, take it. (_Throws her the Cretan robe._)
SEVENTH WOMAN. Ah! unfortunate Mica! who has robbed you of your daughter,
your beloved child?
SIXTH WOMAN. That wretch. But as you are here, watch him well, while I go
with Clisthenes to the Prytanes and denounce him for his crimes.
MNESILOCHUS. Ah! how can I secure safety? what device can I hit on? what
can I think of? He whose fault it is, he who hurried me into this
trouble, will not come to my rescue. Let me see, whom could I best send
to him? Ha! I know a means taken from Palamedes; like him, I will write
my misfortune on some oars, which I will cast into the sea. But there are
no oars here. Where might I find some? Where indeed? Bah! what if I
took these statues instead of oars, wrote upon them and then threw
them towards this side and that. 'Tis the best thing to do. Besides, like
oars they are of wood. Oh! my hands, keep up your courage, for my safety
is at stake. Come, my beautiful tablets, receive the traces of my stylus
and be the messengers of my sorry fate. Oh! oh! this B looks miserable
enough! Where is it running to then? Come, off with you in all
directions, to the right and to the left; and hurry yourselves, for
there's much need indeed!
CHORUS. Let us address ourselves to the spectators to sing our praises,
despite the fact that each one says much ill of women. If the men are to
be believed, we are a plague to them; through us come all their troubles,
quarrels, disputes, sedition, griefs and wars. But if we are truly such a
pest, why marry us? Why forbid us to go out or show ourselves at the
window? You want to keep this pest, and take a thousand cares to do it.
If your wife goes out and you meet her away from the house, you fly into
a fury. Ought you not rather to rejoice and give thanks to the gods? for
if the pest has disappeared, you will no longer find it at home. If we
fall asleep at friends' houses from the fatigue of playing and sporting,
each of you comes prowling round the bed to contemplate the features of
this pest. If we seat ourselves at the window, each one wants to see the
pest, and if we withdraw through modesty, each wants all the more to see
the pest perch herself there again. It is thus clear that we are better
than you, and the proof of this is easy. Let us find out which is worse
of the two sexes. We say, "'Tis you," while you aver, 'tis we. Come, let
us compare them in detail, each individual man with a woman. Charminus is
not equal to Nausimaché, that's certain. Cleophon is in every
respect inferior to Salabaccho. 'Tis long now since any of you has
dared to contest the prize with Aristomaché, the heroine of Marathon, or
Among the last year's Senators, who have just yielded their office to
other citizens, is there one who equals Eubulé? Therefore we
maintain that men are greatly our inferiors. You see no woman who has
robbed the State of fifty talents rushing about the city in a magnificent
chariot; our greatest peculations are a measure of corn, which we steal
from our husbands, and even then we return it them the very same day. But
we could name many amongst you who do quite as much, and who are, even
more than ourselves, gluttons, parasites, cheats and kidnappers of
slaves. We know how to keep our property better than you. We still have
our cylinders, our beams, our baskets and our sunshades; whereas
many among you have lost the wood of your spears as well as the iron, and
many others have cast away their bucklers on the battlefield.
There are many reproaches we have the right to bring against men. The
most serious is this, that the woman, who has given birth to a useful
citizen, whether taxiarch or strategus should receive some
distinction; a place of honour should be reserved for her at the Sthenia,
the Scirophoria, and the other festivals that we keep. On the other
hand, she of whom a coward was born or a worthless man, a bad
trierarch or an unskilful pilot, should sit with shaven head, behind
her sister who had borne a brave man. Oh! citizens! is it just, that the
mother of Hyperbolus should sit dressed in white and with loosened
tresses beside that of Lamachus and lend out money on usury? He, who
may have done a deal of this nature with her, so far from paying her
interest, should not even repay the capital, saying, "What, pay you
interest? after you have given us this delightful son?"
MNESILOCHUS. I have contracted quite a squint by looking round for him,
and yet Euripides does not come. Who is keeping him? No doubt he is
ashamed of his cold Palamedes. What will attract him? Let us see! By
which of his pieces does he set most store? Ah! I'll imitate his
Helen, his lastborn. I just happen to have a complete woman's
SEVENTH WOMAN. What are you ruminating over now again? Why are you
rolling up your eyes? You'll have no reason to be proud of your Helen, if
you don't keep quiet until one of the Prytanes arrives.
MNESILOCHUS (_as Helen_). "These shores are those of the Nile with the
beautiful nymphs, these waters take the place of heaven's rain and
fertilize the white earth, that produces the black syrmea."
SEVENTH WOMAN. By bright Hecaté, you're a cunning varlet.
MNESILOCHUS. "Glorious Sparta is my country and Tyndareus is my
SEVENTH WOMAN. He your father, you rascal! Why, 'tis Phrynondas.
MNESILOCHUS. "I was given the name of Helen."
SEVENTH WOMAN. What! you are again becoming a woman, before we have
punished you for having pretended it a first time!
MNESILOCHUS. "A thousand warriors have died on my account on the banks of
SEVENTH WOMAN. Why have you not done the same?
MNESILOCHUS. "And here I am upon these shores; Menelaus, my unhappy
husband, does not yet come. Ah! how life weighs upon me! Oh! ye cruel
crows, who have not devoured my body! But what sweet hope is this that
sets my heart a-throb? Oh, Zeus! grant it may not prove a lying one!"
EURIPIDES (_as Menelaus_). "To what master does this splendid palace
belong? Will he welcome strangers who have been tried on the billows of
the sea by storm and shipwreck?"
MNESILOCHUS. "This is the palace of Proteus."
EURIPIDES. "Of what Proteus?"
SEVENTH WOMAN. Oh! the thrice cursed rascal! how he lies! By the
goddesses, 'tis ten years since Proteas died.
EURIPIDES. "What is this shore whither the wind has driven our boat?"
MNESILOCHUS. "It's Egypt."
EURIPIDES. "Alas! how far we are from our own country!"
SEVENTH WOMAN. But don't believe that cursed fool. This is Demeter's
EURIPIDES. "Is Proteus in these parts?"
SEVENTH WOMAN. Ah, now, stranger, it must be sea-sickness that makes you
so distraught! You have been told that Proteas is dead, and yet you ask
if he is in these parts.
EURIPIDES. "He is no more! Oh! woe! where lie his ashes?"
MNESILOCHUS. 'Tis on his tomb you see me sitting.
SEVENTH WOMAN. You call an altar a tomb! Beware of the rope!
EURIPIDES. "And why remain sitting on this tomb, wrapped in this long
veil, oh, stranger lady?"
MNESILOCHUS. "They want to force me to marry a son of Proteus."
SEVENTH WOMAN. Ah! wretch, why tell such shameful lies? Stranger, this is
a rascal who has slipped in amongst us women to rob us of our trinkets.
MNESILOCHUS (_to Seventh Woman_) "Shout! load me with your insults, for
little care I."
EURIPIDES. "Who is the old woman who reviles you, stranger lady?"
MNESILOCHUS. "'Tis Theonoé, the daughter of Proteus."
SEVENTH WOMAN. I! Why, my name's Critylla, the daughter of
Antitheus, of the deme of Gargettus; as for you, you are a
MNESILOCHUS. "Your entreaties are vain. Never shall I wed your brother;
never shall I betray the faith I owe my husband Menelaus, who is fighting
EURIPIDES. "What are you saying? Turn your face towards me."
MNESILOCHUS. "I dare not; my cheeks show the marks of the insults I have
been forced to suffer."
EURIPIDES "Oh! great gods! I cannot speak, for very emotion.... Ah! what
do I see? Who are you?"
MNESILOCHUS. "And you, what is your name? for my surprise is as great as
EURIPIDES. "Are you Grecian or born in this country?"
MNESILOCHUS. "I am Grecian. But now your name, what is it?"
EURIPIDES. "Oh! how you resemble Helen!"
MNESILOCHUS. And you Menelaus, if I can judge by those pot-herbs.
EURIPIDES. "You are not mistaken, 'tis that unfortunate mortal who stands
MNESILOCHUS. "Ah! how you have delayed coming to your wife's arms! Press
me to your heart, throw your arms about me, for I wish to cover you with
kisses. Carry me away, carry me away, quick, quick, far, very far from
SEVENTH WOMAN. By the goddesses, woe to him who would carry you away! I
should thrash him with my torch.
EURIPIDES. "Do you propose to prevent me from taking my wife, the
daughter of Tyndareus, to Sparta?"
SEVENTH WOMAN You seem to me to be a cunning rascal too; you are in
collusion with this man, and 'twas not for nothing that you kept babbling
about Egypt. But the hour for punishment has come; here is the magistrate
come with his archer.
EURIPIDES. This grows awkward. Let me hide myself.
MNESILOCHUS. And what is to become of me, poor unfortunate man?
EURIPIDES. Be at ease. I shall never abandon you, as long as I draw
breath and one of my numberless artifices remains untried.
MNESILOCHUS. The fish has not bitten this time.
THE PRYTANIS. Is this the rascal of whom Clisthenes told us? Why are you
trying to make yourself so small? Archer, arrest him, fasten him to the
post, then take up your position there and keep guard over him. Let none
approach him. A sound lash with your whip for him who attempts to break
SEVENTH WOMAN. Excellent, for just now a rogue almost took him from me.
MNESILOCHUS. Prytanis, in the name of that hand which you know so well
how to bend, when money is placed in it, grant me a slight favour before
PRYTANIS. What favour?
MNESILOCHUS. Order the archer to strip me before lashing me to the post;
the crows, when they make their meal on the poor old man, would laugh too
much at this robe and head-dress.
PRYTANIS. 'Tis in that gear that you must be exposed by order of the
Senate, so that your crime may be patent to the passers-by.
MNESILOCHUS. Oh! cursed robe, the cause of all my misfortune! My last
hope is thus destroyed!
CHORUS. Let us now devote ourselves to the sports which the women are
accustomed to celebrate here, when time has again brought round the
mighty Mysteries of the great goddesses, the sacred days which
Pauson himself honours by fasting and would wish feast to succeed
feast, that he might keep them all holy. Spring forward with a light
step, whirling in mazy circles; let your hands interlace, let the eager
and rapid dancers sway to the music and glance on every side as they
move. Let the chorus sing likewise and praise the Olympian gods in their
'Tis wrong to suppose that, because I am a woman and in this Temple, I am
going to speak ill of men; but since we want something fresh, we are
going through the rhythmic steps of the round dance for the first time.
Start off while you sing to the god of the lyre and to the chaste goddess
armed with the bow. Hail! thou god who flingest thy darts so far,
grant us the victory! The homage of our song is also due to Heré, the
goddess of marriage, who interests herself in every chorus and guards the
approach to the nuptial couch. I also pray Hermes, the god of the
shepherds, and Pan and the beloved Graces to bestow a benevolent smile
upon our songs.
Let us lead off anew, let us double our zeal during our solemn days, and
especially let us observe a close fast; let us form fresh measures that
keep good time, and may our songs resound to the very heavens. Do thou,
oh divine Bacchus, who art crowned with ivy, direct our chorus; 'tis to
thee that both my hymns and my dances are dedicated; oh, Evius, oh,
Bromius, oh, thou son of Semelé, oh, Bacchus, who delightest to
mingle with the dear choruses of the nymphs upon the mountains, and who
repeatest, while dancing with them, the sacred hymn, Evius, Evius, Evoe.
Echo, the nymph of Cithaeron returns thy words, which resound beneath the
dark vaults of the thick foliage and in the midst of the rocks of the
forest; the ivy enlaces thy brow with its tendrils charged with flowers.
SCYTHIAN ARCHER. You shall stay here in the open air to wail.
MNESILOCHUS. Archer, I adjure you.
SCYTHIAN. 'Tis labour lost.
MNESILOCHUS. Loosen the wedge a little.
SCYTHIAN. Aye, certainly.
MNESILOCHUS. Oh! by the gods! why, you are driving it in tighter.
SCYTHIAN. Is that enough?
MNESILOCHUS. Oh! la, la! oh! la, la! May the plague take you!
SCYTHIAN. Silence! you cursed old wretch! I am going to get a mat to lie
upon, so as to watch you close at hand at my ease.
MNESILOCHUS. Ah! what exquisite pleasures Euripides is securing for me!
But, oh, ye gods! oh, Zeus the Deliverer, all is not yet lost! I don't
believe him the man to break his word; I just caught sight of him
appearing in the form of Perseus, and he told me with a mysterious sign
to turn myself into Andromeda. And in truth am I not really bound? 'Tis
certain, then, that he is coming to my rescue; for otherwise he would not
have steered his flight this way.
EURIPIDES (_as Perseus_). Oh Nymphs, ye virgins who are dear to me, how
am I to approach him? how can I escape the sight of this Scythian? And
Echo, thou who reignest in the inmost recesses of the caves, oh! favour
my cause and permit me to approach my spouse.
MNESILOCHUS (_as Andromeda_). A pitiless ruffian has chained up the
most unfortunate of mortal maids. Alas! I had barely escaped the filthy
claws of an old fury, when another mischance overtook me! This Scythian
does not take his eye off me and he has exposed me as food for the crows.
Alas! what is to become of me, alone here and without friends! I am not
seen mingling in the dances nor in the games of my companions, but
heavily loaded with fetters I am given over to the voracity of a
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