The Eleven Comedies
Aristophanes et al
Part 6 out of 8
Glaucetes. Sing no bridal hymn for me, oh women, but rather the hymn
of captivity, and in tears. Ah! how I suffer! great gods! how I suffer!
Alas! alas! and through my own relatives too! My misery would make
Tartarus dissolve into tears! Alas! in my terrible distress, I implore
the mortal who first shaved me and depilated me, then dressed me in this
long robe, and then sent me to this Temple into the midst of the women,
to save me. Oh, thou pitiless Fate! I am then accursed, great gods! Ah!
who would not be moved at the sight of the appalling tortures under which
I succumb? Would that the blazing shaft of the lightning would wither...
this barbarian for me! (_pointing to the Scythian archer_) for the
immortal light has no further charm for my eyes since I have been
descending the shortest path to the dead, tied up, strangled, and
maddened with pain.
EURIPIDES (as _Echo_). Hail! beloved girl. As for your father, Cepheus,
who has exposed you in this guise, may the gods annihilate him.
MNESILOCHUS (_as Andromeda_). And who are you whom my misfortunes have
moved to pity?
EURIPIDES. I am Echo, the nymph who repeats all she hears. 'Tis I, who
last year lent my help to Euripides in this very place. But, my
child, give yourself up to the sad laments that belong to your pitiful
MNESILOCHUS. And you will repeat them?
EURIPIDES. I will not fail you. Begin.
MNESILOCHUS. "Oh! thou divine Night! how slowly thy chariot threads its
way through the starry vault, across the sacred realms of the Air and
EURIPIDES. Mighty Olympus.
MNESILOCHUS. "Why is it necessary that Andromeda should have all the woes
for her share?"
EURIPIDES. For her share.
MNESILOCHUS. "Sad death!"
EURIPIDES. Sad death!
MNESILOCHUS. You weary me, old babbler.
EURIPIDES. Old babbler.
MNESILOCHUS. Oh! you are too unbearable.
MNESILOCHUS. Friend, let me talk by myself. Do please let me. Come,
EURIPIDES. That's enough.
MNESILOCHUS. Go and hang yourself!
EURIPIDES. Go and hang yourself!
MNESILOCHUS. What a plague!
EURIPIDES. What a plague!
MNESILOCHUS. Cursed brute!
EURIPIDES. Cursed brute!
MNESILOCHUS. Beware of blows!
EURIPIDES. Beware of blows!
SCYTHIAN. Hullo! what are you jabbering about?
EURIPIDES. What are you jabbering about?
SCYTHIAN. I go to call the Prytanes.
EURIPIDES. I go to call the Prytanes.
SCYTHIAN. This is odd!
EURIPIDES. This is odd!
SCYTHIAN. Whence comes this voice?
EURIPIDES. Whence comes this voice.
SCYTHIAN. Ah! beware!
EURIPIDES. Ah! beware!
SCYTHIAN (_to Mnesilochus_). Are you mocking me?
EURIPIDES. Are you mocking me?
MNESILOCHUS. No, 'tis this woman, who stands near you.
EURIPIDES. Who stands near you.
SCYTHIAN. Where is the hussy? Ah! she is escaping! Whither, whither are
EURIPIDES. Whither, whither are you escaping?
SCYTHIAN. You shall not get away.
EURIPIDES. You shall not get away.
SCYTHIAN. You are chattering still?
EURIPIDES. You are chattering still?
SCYTHIAN. Stop the hussy.
EURIPIDES. Stop the hussy.
SCYTHIAN. What a babbling, cursed woman!
EURIPIDES (_as Perseus_). "Oh! ye gods! to what barbarian land has my
swift flight taken me? I am Perseus, who cleaves the plains of the air
with my winged feet, and I am carrying the Gorgon's head to Argos."
SCYTHIAN. What, are you talking about the head of Gorgos, the
EURIPIDES. No, I am speaking of the head of the Gorgon.
SCYTHIAN. Why, yes! of Gorgus!
EURIPIDES. "But what do I behold? A young maiden, beautiful as the
immortals, chained to this rock like a vessel in port?"
MNESILOCHUS. Take pity on me, oh, stranger! I am so unhappy and
distraught! Free me from these bonds.
SCYTHIAN. Don't you talk! a curse upon your impudence! you are going to
die, and yet you will be chattering!
EURIPIDES. "Oh! virgin! I take pity on your chains."
SCYTHIAN. But this is no virgin; 'tis an old rogue, a cheat and a thief.
EURIPIDES. You have lost your wits, Scythian. This is Andromeda, the
daughter of Cepheus.
SCYTHIAN. But just look at this tool; is that like a woman?
EURIPIDES. Give me your hand, that I may descend near this young maiden.
Each man has his own particular weakness; as for me I am aflame with love
for this virgin.
SCYTHIAN. Oh! I'm not jealous; and as he has his back turned this way,
why, I make no objection to your pedicating him.
EURIPIDES. "Ah! let me release her, and hasten to join her on the bridal
SCYTHIAN. If this old man instils you with such ardent concupiscence,
why, you can bore through the plank, and so get at his behind.
EURIPIDES. No, I will break his bonds.
SCYTHIAN. Beware of my lash!
EURIPIDES. No matter.
SCYTHIAN. This blade shall cut off your head.
EURIPIDES. "Ah! what can be done? what arguments can I use? This savage
will understand nothing! The newest and most cunning fancies are a dead
letter to the ignorant. Let us invent some artifice to fit in with his
SCYTHIAN. I can see the rascal is trying to outwit me.
MNESILOCHUS. Ah! Perseus! remember in what condition you are leaving me.
SCYTHIAN. Are you wanting to feel my lash again!
Oh! Pallas, who art fond of dances, hasten hither at my call. Oh! thou
chaste virgin, the protectress of Athens, I call thee in accordance with
the sacred rites, thee, whose evident protection we adore and who keepest
the keys of our city in thy hands. Do thou appear, thou whose just hatred
has overturned our tyrants. The womenfolk are calling thee; hasten hither
at their bidding along with Peace, who shall restore the festivals. And
ye, august goddesses, display a smiling and propitious countenance
to our gaze; come into your sacred grove, the entry to which is forbidden
to men; 'tis there in the midst of sacred orgies that we contemplate your
divine features. Come, appear, we pray it of you, oh, venerable
Thesmophoriae! If you have ever answered our appeal, oh! come into our
EURIPIDES. Women, if you will be reconciled with me, I am willing, and I
undertake never to say anything ill of you in future. Those are my
proposals for peace.
CHORUS. And what impels you to make these overtures?
EURIPIDES. This unfortunate man, who is chained to the post, is my
father-in-law; if you will restore him to me, you will have no more cause
to complain of me; but if not, I shall reveal your pranks to your
husbands when they return from the war.
CHORUS. We accept peace, but there is this barbarian whom you must buy
EURIPIDES. That's my business. (_He returns as an old woman and is
accompanied by a dancing-girl and a flute-girl._) Come, my little wench,
bear in mind what I told you on the road and do it well. Come, go past
him and gird up your robe. And you, you little dear, play us the air of a
SCYTHIAN. What is this music that makes me so blithe?
EURIPIDES (_as an old woman_). Scythian, this young girl is going to
practise some dances, which she has to perform at a feast presently.
SCYTHIAN. Very well! let her dance and practise; I won't hinder her. How
nimbly she bounds! one might think her a flea on a fleece.
EURIPIDES. Come, my dear, off with your robe and seat yourself on the
Scythian's knee; stretch forth your feet to me, that I may take off your
SCYTHIAN. Ah! yes, seat yourself, my little girl, ah! yes, to be sure.
What a firm little bosom! 'tis just like a turnip.
EURIPIDES (_to the flute-girl_). An air on the flute, quick! (_To the
dancing-girl._) Well! are you still afraid of the Scythian?
SCYTHIAN. What beautiful thighs!
EURIPIDES. Come! keep still, can't you?
SCYTHIAN. 'Tis altogether a very fine morsel to make a man's cock stand.
EURIPIDES. That's so! (_To the dancing-girl._) Resume your dress, it is
time to be going.
SCYTHIAN. Give me a kiss.
EURIPIDES (_to the dancing-girl_). Come, give him a kiss.
SCYTHIAN. Oh! oh! oh! my goodness, what soft lips! 'tis like Attic honey.
But might she not stop with me?
EURIPIDES. Impossible, archer; good evening.
SCYTHIAN. Oh! oh! old woman, do me this pleasure.
EURIPIDES. Will you give a drachma?
SCYTHIAN. Aye, that I will.
EURIPIDES. Hand over the money.
SCYTHIAN. I have not got it, but take my quiver in pledge.
EURIPIDES. You will bring her back?
SCYTHIAN. Follow me, my beautiful child. And you, old woman, just keep
guard over this man. But what is your name?
EURIPIDES. Artemisia. Can you remember that name?
SCYTHIAN. Artemuxia. Good!
EURIPIDES (_aside_). Hermes, god of cunning, receive my thanks!
everything is turning out for the best. (_To the Scythian._) As for you,
friend, take away this girl, quick. (_Exit the Scythian with the
dancing-girl._) Now let me loose his bonds. (_To Mnesilochus._) And you,
directly I have released you, take to your legs and run off full tilt to
your home to find your wife and children.
MNESILOCHUS. I shall not fail in that as soon as I am free.
EURIPIDES (_releases Mnesilochus_). There! 'Tis done. Come, fly, before
the archer lays his hand on you again.
MNESILOCHUS. That's just what I am doing. [_Exit with Euripides._
SCYTHIAN. Ah! old woman! what a charming little girl! Not at all the
prude, and so obliging! Eh! where is the old woman? Ah! I am undone! And
the old man, where is he? Hi! old woman! old woman! Ah! but this is a
dirty trick! Artemuxia! she has tricked me, that's what the little old
woman has done! Get clean out of my sight, you cursed quiver! (_Picks it
up and throws it across the stage._) Ha! you are well named quiver, for
you have made me quiver indeed. Oh! what's to be done? Where is the
old woman then? Artemuxia!
CHORUS. Are you asking for the old woman who carried the lyre?
SCYTHIAN. Yes, yes; have you seen her?
CHORUS. She has gone that way along with an old man.
SCYTHIAN. Dressed in a long robe?
CHORUS. Yes; run quick, and you will overtake them.
SCYTHIAN. Ah! rascally old woman! Which way has she fled? Artemuxia!
CHORUS. Straight on; follow your nose. But, hi! where are you running to
now? Come back, you are going exactly the wrong way.
SCYTHIAN. Ye gods! ye gods! and all this while Artemuxia is escaping.
CHORUS. Go your way! and a pleasant journey to you! But our sports have
lasted long enough; it is time for each of us to be off home; and may the
two goddesses reward us for our labours!
* * * * *
FINIS OF "THE THESMOPHORIAZUSAE"
* * * * *
 Aristophanes parodies Euripides' language, which is occasionally
 He flourished about 420 B.C. and composed many tragedies, such as
'Telephus,' 'Thyestes,' which are lost. Some fragments of his work are to
be found in Aristotle and in Athenaeus; he also distinguished himself as
a musician. The banquet, which gave his name to one of Plato's dialogues,
is supposed to have taken place at his house.
 The Thesmophoria were celebrated in the month of Pyanepsion, or
 The Thesmophoria lasted five days; they were dedicated to Demeter
Thesmophoros, or Legislatress, in recognition of the wise laws she had
given mankind. For many days before the solemn event, the women of high
birth (who alone were entitled to celebrate it) had to abstain from all
pleasures that appealed to the senses, even the most legitimate, and to
live with the greatest sobriety. The presiding priest at the Thesmophoria
was always chosen from the sacerdotal family of the Eumolpidae, the
descendants of Eumolpus, the son of Posidon. At these feasts, the worship
of Persephoné was associated with that of Demeter.
 Refers presumably to the [Greek: ekkukl_ema], a piece of machinery
by means of which interiors were represented on the Greek stage--room and
occupant being in some way wheeled out into view of the spectators
 A celebrated 'lady of pleasure'; Agathon is like her by reason of
his effeminate, wanton looks and dissolute habits.
 Demeter is represented wandering, torch in hand, about the universe
looking for her lost child Proserpine (Persephoné).
 Agathon, in accordance with his character, voluptuousness, is
represented as preferring the effeminate music and lascivious dances of
 Goddesses who presided over generation; see also the 'Lysistrata.'
 A tetralogy, a series of four dramas connected by subject, of which
the principal character was Lycurgus, king of the Thracians. When Bacchus
returned to Thrace as conqueror of the Indies he dared to deride the god,
and was punished by him in consequence. All four plays are lost.
 That is, the attributes of a man and those of a woman combined.
 That is, you make love in the posture known as 'the horse,'
_equus_, in other words the woman atop of the man. There is a further
joke intended here, inasmuch as Euripides, in his 'Phaedra,' represents
the heroine as being passionately addicted to hunting and horses.
 Ibycus, a lyric poet of the sixth century, originally from Rhegium
in Magna Graecia.--Anacreon, a celebrated erotic poet of the beginning of
the fifth century.--Alcaeus, a lyric poet, born about 600 B.C. at
Mytilené, in the island of Lesbos, was driven out of his country by a
tyrant and sang of his loves, his services as a warrior, his travels and
the miseries of his exile. He was a contemporary of Sappho, and conceived
a passion for her, which she only rewarded with disdain.
 Phrynichus, a disciple of Thespis, improved the dramatic art, when
still no more than a child; it was he who first introduced female
characters upon the stage and made use of the iambic of six feet in
tragedies. He flourished about 500 B.C.
 Philocles, Xenocles, and Theognis were dramatic poets and
contemporaries of Aristophanes. The two first were sons of Carcinus, the
poet and dancer.
 Fragment of Euripides' 'Aeolus,' a lost drama.
 Fragment of Euripides' well-known play, the 'Alcestis.'
 An allusion to the secret practices of mutual love which the women
assembled for the Thesmophoria were credited by popular repute with
 That is, to sanctuary.
 An effeminate often mentioned by Aristophanes.
 An allusion to the pederastic habits which the poet attributes to
 An obscene allusion.
 On the machine upon which he is perched.
 A fragment of the 'Menalippé' of Euripides.
 The ether played an important part in the physical theories of
Hippocrates, the celebrated physician.
 An allusion to a verse in his 'Hippolytus,' where Euripides says,
"_The tongue has sworn, but the heart is unsworn._" See also 'The Frogs.'
 The name of a slave; being disguised as a woman, Mnesilochus has
himself followed by a female servant, a Thracian slave-woman.
 Demeter and Cora (or Persephoné), who were adored together during
 Women slaves were forbidden by law to be present at the
Thesmophoria; they remained at the door of the temple and there waited
for the orders of their mistresses.
 The god of riches.
 The nurse of Demeter. According to another version, Calligenia was
a surname of Demeter herself, who was adored as presiding over the growth
of a child at its mother's breast.
 A surname of Demeter, who, by means of the food she produces as
goddess of abundance, presides over the development of the bodies of
children and young people. Curotrophos is derived from [Greek: trephein],
to nourish, and [Greek: kouros], young boy.
 An insult which Aristophanes constantly repeats in every way he
can; as we have seen before, Euripides' mother was, or was commonly said
to be, a market-woman.
 Lovers sent each other chaplets and flowers.
 In parody of a passage in the 'Sthenoboea' of Euripides, which is
preserved in Athenaeus.
 He believes her pregnant.
 A fragment from the 'Phoenix,' by Euripides.
 It seems that the Spartan locksmiths were famous for their skill.
 The women broke the seals their husbands had affixed, and then,
with the aid of their ring bearing the same device, they replaced them as
 The impression of which was too complicated and therefore could not
 As a remedy against the colic.
 So that it might not creak when opened.
 An altar in the form of a column in the front vestibule of houses
and dedicated to Apollo.
 Because the smell of garlic is not inviting to gallants.
 The last words are the thoughts of the woman, who pretends to be in
child-bed; she is, however, careful not to utter them to her husband.
 The proverb runs, "_There is a scorpion beneath every stone._" By
substituting _orator_ for _scorpion_, Aristophanes means it to be
understood that one is no less venomous than the other.
 There were two women named Aglaurus. One, the daughter of Actaeus,
King of Attica, married Cecrops and brought him the kingship as her
dowry; the other was the daughter of Cecrops, and was turned into stone
for having interfered from jealousy with Hermes' courtship of Hersé her
sister. It was this second Aglaurus the Athenian women were in the habit
of invoking; they often associated with her her sister Pandrosus.
 Underneath the baths were large hollow chambers filled with steam
to maintain the temperature of the water.
 By kicking her in the stomach.
 Clisthenes is always represented by Aristophanes as effeminate in
the extreme in dress and habits.
 The coward, often mentioned with contempt by Aristophanes, had
thrown away his shield.
 The ancients believed that cress reduced the natural secretions.
 A deme of Attica.
 The women lodged in pairs during the Thesmophoria in tents erected
near the Temple of Demeter.
 The Corinthians were constantly passing their vessels across the
isthmus from one sea to the other; we know that the Grecian ships were of
very small dimensions.
 This was the name of the place where the Ecclesia, the public
meeting of the people, took place; the chorus gives this name here to
Demeter's temple, because the women are gathered there.
 The spaces left free between the tents, and which served as
 A choric dance began here.
 A woman's footgear.--On undressing the supposed child, Mnesilochus
perceives that it is nothing but a skin of wine.
 Dr. P. Menier repeatedly points out in his "La médecine et les
poètes latins," that the ancient writers constantly spoke of ten months
as being a woman's period of gestation.
 A cotyla contained nearly half a pint.
 Both the Feast of Cups and the Dionysia were dedicated to Bacchus,
the god of wine; it is for this reason that Mnesilochus refers to the
former when guessing the wine-skin's age.
 The Cretan robe that had covered the wine-skin.
 An allusion to the tragedy by Euripides called 'Palamedes,' which
belonged to the tetralogy of the Troades, and was produced in 414 B.C.
Aristophanes is railing at the strange device which the poet makes Oeax
resort to. Oeax was Palamedes' brother, and he is represented as
inscribing the death of the latter on a number of oars with the hope that
at least one would reach the shores of Euboea and thus inform his father,
Nauplias, the king of the fact.
 The images of the various gods which were invoked at the
Thesmophoria, and the enumeration of which we have already had.
 Charminus, an Athenian general, who had recently been defeated at
sea by the Spartans.--Nausimaché was a courtesan, but her name is
purposely chosen because of its derivation ([Greek: naus], ship, and
[Greek: mach_e], fight), so as to point more strongly to Charminus'
 A general and an Athenian orator.
 A courtesan.
 Aristomaché ([Greek: mach_e], fight, and [Greek: arist_e],
excellent) and Stratonicé ([Greek: stratos], army, and [Greek: nik_e],
victory) are imaginary names, invented to show the decadence of the
 Eubulé ([Greek: eu], well, and [Greek: bouleuesthai], to
deliberate) is also an imaginary name. The poet wishes to say that in
that year wisdom had not ruled the decisions of the Senate; they had
allowed themselves to be humbled by the tyranny of the Four Hundred.
 The cylinder and the beams were the chief tools of the weaver. It
was the women who did this work.
 The taxiarch had the command of 128 men; the strategus had the
direction of an army.
 The Sthenia were celebrated in honour of Athené Sthenias, or the
goddess of force; the women were then wont to attack each other with
bitter sarcasms.--During the Scirophoria ([Greek: skiron], canopy) the
statues of Athené, Demeter, Persephone, the Sun and Posidon were carried
in procession under canopies with great pomp.
 The trierarchs were rich citizens, whose duty it was to maintain
the galleys or triremes of the fleet.
 Hyperbolus is incessantly railed at by Aristophanes as a traitor
and an informer. Lamachus, although our poet does not always spare him,
was a brave general; he had been one of the commanders of the Sicilian
 It will be remembered that Mnesilochus had employed a similar
device to one imputed to Oeax by Euripides in his 'Palamedes,' in order
to inform his father-in-law of his predicament.
 A tragedy, in which Menelaus is seen in Egypt, whither he has gone
to seek Helen, who is detained there.
 These are the opening verses of Euripides' 'Helen,' with the
exception of the last words, which are a parody.--Syrmea is a purgative
plant very common in Egypt. Aristophanes speaks jestingly of the white
soil of Egypt, because the slime of the Nile is very black.
 This reply and those that follow are fragments from 'Helen.'
 An infamous Athenian, whose name had become a byword for everything
that was vile.
 The whole of this dialogue between Mnesilochus and Euripides is
composed of fragments taken from 'Helen,' slightly parodied at times.
 King of Egypt.
 Son of Epicles, and mentioned by Thucydides.
 Aristophanes invents this in order to give coherence to what
 An Athenian general whom Thucydides mentions.
 A deme of Attica.
 No doubt Euripides appeared on the stage carrying some herbs in his
hand or wearing them in his belt, so as to recall his mother's calling.
If the gibes of Aristophanes can be believed, she dealt in vegetables, as
we have noted repeatedly.
 A ruined man, living in penury, presumably well known to the
 Surnames of Bacchus.
 The archers, or the police officers, at Athens were mostly
Scythians. If not from that country always, they were known generally by
 Which the archer had driven in to tighten up the rope binding the
prison to the pillory.
 Perseus was returning from the land of the Gorgons mounted upon
Pegasus, when, while high up in the air, he saw Andromeda bound to a rock
and exposed to the lusts and voracity of a sea monster. Touched by the
misfortune and the beauty of the princess, he turned the monster to stone
by showing him the head of Medusa, released Andromeda and married
her.--Euripides had just produced a tragedy on this subject.
 Mnesilochus speaks alternately in his own person and as though he
were Andromeda, the effect being comical in the extreme.
 A notorious glutton, mentioned also in the 'Peace.'
 Through Euripides, his father-in-law.
 On the occasion of the presentation of the tragedy of 'Andromeda,'
in which the nymph Echo plays an important part.
 Unknown; Aristophanes plays upon the similarity of name.
 That is, the Thesmophoriae, viz. Demeter and Persephoné.
 Throughout the whole scene the Scythian speaks with a grotesque
 The pun depends in the Greek on the similarity of the final
syllables of [Greek: subin_e], and [Greek: katabin_esi]. It can be given
literally in English.
Women In Council
The 'Ecclesiazusae, or Women in Council,' was not produced till twenty
years after the preceding play, the 'Thesmophoriazusae' (at the Great
Dionysia of 392 B.C.), but is conveniently classed with it as being also
largely levelled against the fair sex. "It is a broad, but very amusing,
satire upon those ideal republics, founded upon communistic principles,
of which Plato's well-known treatise is the best example. His 'Republic'
had been written, and probably delivered in the form of oral lectures at
Athens, only two or three years before, and had no doubt excited a
considerable sensation. But many of its most startling principles had
long ago been ventilated in the Schools."
Like the 'Lysistrata,' the play is a picture of woman's ascendancy in the
State, and the topsy-turvy consequences resulting from such a reversal of
ordinary conditions. The women of Athens, under the leadership of the
wise Praxagora, resolve to reform the constitution. To this end they don
men's clothes, and taking seats in the Assembly on the Pnyx, command a
majority of votes and carry a series of revolutionary proposals--that the
government be vested in a committee of women, and further, that property
and women be henceforth held in common. The main part of the comedy deals
with the many amusing difficulties that arise inevitably from this new
state of affairs, the community of women above all necessitating special
safeguarding clauses to secure the rights of the less attractive members
of the sex to the service of the younger and handsomer men. Community of
goods again, private property being abolished, calls for a regulation
whereby all citizens are to dine at the public expense in the various
public halls of the city, the particular place of each being determined
by lot; and the drama winds up with one of these feasts, the elaborate
menu of which is given in burlesque, and with the jubilations of the
women over their triumph.
"This comedy appears to labour under the very same faults as the 'Peace.'
The introduction, the secret assembly of the women, their rehearsal of
their parts as men, the description of the popular assembly, are all
handled in the most masterly manner; but towards the middle the action
stands still. Nothing remains but the representation of the perplexities
and confusion which arise from the new arrangements, especially in
connection with the community of women, and from the prescribed equality
of rights in love both for the old and ugly and for the young and
beautiful. These perplexities are pleasant enough, but they turn too much
on a repetition of the same joke."
We learn from the text of the play itself that the 'Ecclesiazusae' was
drawn by lot for first representation among the comedies offered for
competition at the Festival, the Author making a special appeal to his
audience not to let themselves be influenced unfavourably by the
circumstance; but whether the play was successful in gaining a prize is
* * * * *
Women In Council
BLEPYRUS, husband of Praxagora.
AN OLD MAN.
A YOUNG MAN.
THREE OLD WOMEN.
A SERVANT MAID.
CHORUS OF WOMEN.
SCENE: Before a house in a Public Square at Athens; a lamp is burning
over the door. Time: a little after midnight.
* * * * *
Women In Council
PRAXAGORA (_enters carrying a lamp in her hand_). Oh! thou shining light
of my earthenware lamp, from this high spot shalt thou look abroad. Oh!
lamp, I will tell thee thine origin and thy future; 'tis the rapid whirl
of the potter's wheel that has lent thee thy shape, and thy wick
counterfeits the glory of the sun; mayst thou send the agreed signal
flashing afar! In thee alone do we confide, and thou art worthy, for thou
art near us when we practise the various postures in which Aphrodité
delights upon our couches, and none dream even in the midst of her sports
of seeking to avoid thine eye that watches our swaying bodies. Thou alone
shinest into the depths of our most secret charms, and with thy flame
dost singe the hairy growth of our privates. If we open some cellar
stored with fruits and wine, thou art our companion, and never dost thou
betray or reveal to a neighbour the secrets thou hast learned about us.
Therefore thou shalt know likewise the whole of the plot that I have
planned with my friends, the women, at the festival of the
I see none of those I was expecting, though dawn approaches; the Assembly
is about to gather and we must take our seats in spite of
Phyromachus, who forsooth would say, "It is meet the women sit apart
and hidden from the eyes of the men." Why, have they not been able then
to procure the false beards that they must wear, or to steal their
husbands cloaks? Ah! I see a light approaching; let us draw somewhat
aside, for fear it should be a man.
FIRST WOMAN. Let us start, it is high time; as we left our dwellings, the
cock was crowing for the second time.
PRAXAGORA. And I have spent the whole night waiting for you. But come,
let us call our neighbour by scratching at her door; and gently too, so
that her husband may hear nothing.
SECOND WOMAN. I was putting on my shoes, when I heard you scratching, for
I was not asleep, so there! Oh! my dear, my husband (he is a Salaminian)
never left me an instant's peace, but was at me, for ever at me, all
night long, so that it was only just now that I was able to filch his
FIRST WOMAN. I see Clinareté coming too, along with Sostraté and their
next-door neighbour Philaeneté.
PRAXAGORA. Hurry yourselves then, for Glycé has sworn that the last comer
shall forfeit three measures of wine and a _choenix_ of pease.
FIRST WOMAN. Don't you see Melisticé, the wife of Smicythion, hurrying
hither in her great shoes? Methinks she is the only one of us all who has
had no trouble in getting rid of her husband.
SECOND WOMAN. And can't you see Gusistraté, the tavern-keeper's wife,
with a lamp in her hand, and the wives of Philodoretus and Chaeretades?
PRAXAGORA. I can see many others too, indeed the whole of the flower of
THIRD WOMAN. Oh! my dear, I have had such trouble in getting away! My
husband ate such a surfeit of sprats last evening that he was coughing
and choking the whole night long.
PRAXAGORA. Take your seats, and, since you are all gathered here at last,
let us see if what we decided on at the feast of the Scirophoria has been
FOURTH WOMAN. Yes. Firstly, as agreed, I have let the hair under my
armpits grow thicker than a bush; furthermore, whilst my husband was at
the Assembly, I rubbed myself from head to foot with oil and then stood
the whole day long in the sun.
FIFTH WOMAN. So did I. I began by throwing away my razor, so that I might
get quite hairy, and no longer resemble a woman.
PRAXAGORA. Have you the beards that we had all to get ourselves for the
FOURTH WOMAN. Yea, by Hecaté! Is this not a fine one?
FIFTH WOMAN. Aye, much finer than Epicrates'.
PRAXAGORA (_to the other women_). And you?
FOURTH WOMAN. Yes, yes; look, they all nod assent.
PRAXAGORA. I see that you have got all the rest too, Spartan shoes,
staffs and men's cloaks, as 'twas arranged.
SIXTH WOMAN. I have brought Lamias' club, which I stole from him
while he slept.
PRAXAGORA. What, the club that makes him puff and pant with its weight?
SIXTH WOMAN. By Zeus the Deliverer, if he had the skin of Argus, he would
know better than any other how to shepherd the popular herd.
PRAXAGORA. But come, let us finish what has yet to be done, while the
stars are still shining; the Assembly, at which we mean to be present,
will open at dawn.
FIRST WOMAN. Good; you must take up your place at the foot of the
platform and facing the Prytanes.
SIXTH WOMAN. I have brought this with me to card during the Assembly.
(_She shows some wool._)
PRAXAGORA. During the Assembly, wretched woman?
SIXTH WOMAN. Aye, by Artemis! shall I hear any less well if I am doing a
bit of carding? My little ones are all but naked.
PRAXAGORA. Think of her wanting to card! whereas we must not let anyone
see the smallest part of our bodies. 'Twould be a fine thing if one
of us, in the midst of the discussion, rushed on to the speaker's
platform and, flinging her cloak aside, showed her hairy privates. If, on
the other hand, we are the first to take our seats closely muffled in our
cloaks, none will know us. Let us fix these beards on our chins, so that
they spread all over our bosoms. How can we fail then to be mistaken for
men? Agyrrhius has deceived everyone, thanks to the beard of
Pronomus; yet he was no better than a woman, and you see how he now
holds the first position in the city. Thus, I adjure you by this day that
is about to dawn, let us dare to copy him and let us be clever enough to
possess ourselves of the management of affairs. Let us save the vessel of
State, which just at present none seems able either to sail or row.
SIXTH WOMAN. But where shall we find orators in an Assembly of women?
PRAXAGORA. Nothing simpler. Is it not said, that the cleverest speakers
are those who submit themselves oftenest to men? Well, thanks to the
gods, we are that by nature.
SIXTH WOMAN. There's no doubt of that; but the worst of it is our
PRAXAGORA. That's the very reason we are gathered here, in order to
prepare the speech we must make in the Assembly. Hasten, therefore, all
you who know aught of speaking, to fix on your beards.
SEVENTH WOMAN. Oh! you great fool! is there ever a one among us cannot
use her tongue?
PRAXAGORA. Come, look sharp, on with your beard and become a man. As for
me, I will do the same in case I should have a fancy for getting on to
the platform. Here are the chaplets.
SECOND WOMAN. Oh! great gods! my dear Praxagora, do look here! Is it not
PRAXAGORA. How laughable?
SECOND WOMAN. Our beards look like broiled cuttle-fishes.
PRAXAGORA. The priest is bringing in--the cat. Make ready, make
ready! Silence, Ariphrades! Go and take your seat. Now, who wishes
SEVENTH WOMAN. I do.
PRAXAGORA. Then put on this chaplet and success be with you.
SEVENTH WOMAN. There, 'tis done!
PRAXAGORA. Well then! begin.
SEVENTH WOMAN. Before drinking?
PRAXAGORA. Hah! she wants to drink!
SEVENTH WOMAN. Why, what else is the meaning of this chaplet?
PRAXAGORA. Get you hence! you would probably have played us this trick
also before the people.
SEVENTH WOMAN. Well! don't the men drink then in the Assembly?
PRAXAGORA. Now she's telling us the men drink!
SEVENTH WOMAN. Aye, by Artemis, and neat wine too. That's why their
decrees breathe of drunkenness and madness. And why libations, why so
many ceremonies, if wine plays no part in them? Besides, they abuse each
other like drunken men, and you can see the archers dragging more than
one uproarious drunkard out of the Agora.
PRAXAGORA. Go back to your seat, you are wandering.
SEVENTH WOMAN. Ah! I should have done better not to have muffled myself
in this beard; my throat's afire and I feel I shall die of thirst.
PRAXAGORA. Who else wishes to speak?
EIGHTH WOMAN. I do.
PRAXAGORA. Quick then, take the chaplet, for time's running short. Try to
speak worthily, let your language be truly manly, and lean on your staff
EIGHTH WOMAN. I had rather have seen one of your regular orators giving
you wise advice; but, as that is not to be, it behoves me to break
silence; I cannot, for my part indeed, allow the tavern-keepers to fill
up their wine-pits with water. No, by the two goddesses....
PRAXAGORA. What? by the two goddesses! Wretched woman, where are
EIGHTH WOMAN. Eh! what?... I have not asked you for a drink!
PRAXAGORA. No, but you want to pass for a man, and you swear by the two
goddesses. Otherwise 'twas very well.
EIGHTH WOMAN. Well then. By Apollo....
PRAXAGORA. Stop! All these details of language must be adjusted; else it
is quite useless to go to the Assembly.
SEVENTH WOMAN. Pass me the chaplet; I wish to speak again, for I think I
have got hold of something good. You women who are listening to me....
PRAXAGORA. Women again; why, wretched creature, 'tis men that you are
SEVENTH WOMAN. 'Tis the fault of Epigonus; I caught sight of him
over yonder, and I thought I was speaking to women.
PRAXAGORA. Come, withdraw and remain seated in future. I am going to take
this chaplet myself and speak in your name. May the gods grant success to
My country is as dear to me as it is to you, and I groan, I am grieved at
all that is happening in it. Scarcely one in ten of those who rule it is
honest, and all the others are bad. If you appoint fresh chiefs, they
will do still worse. It is hard to correct your peevish humour; you fear
those who love you and throw yourselves at the feet of those who betray
you. There was a time when we had no assemblies, and then we all thought
Agyrrhius a dishonest man; now they are established, he who gets
money thinks everything is as it should be, and he who does not, declares
all who sell their votes to be worthy of death.
FIRST WOMAN. By Aphrodité, that is well spoken.
PRAXAGORA. Why, wretched woman, you have actually called upon Aphrodité.
Oh! what a fine thing 'twould have been had you said that in the
FIRST WOMAN. I should never have done that!
PRAXAGORA. Well, mind you don't fall into the habit.--When we were
discussing the alliance, it seemed as though it were all over with
Athens if it fell through. No sooner was it made than we were vexed and
angry, and the orator who had caused its adoption was compelled to seek
safety in flight. Is there talk of equipping a fleet? The poor man
says, yes, but the rich citizen and the countryman say, no. You were
angered against the Corinthians and they with you; now they are well
disposed towards you, be so towards them. As a rule the Argives are dull,
but the Argive Hieronymus is a distinguished chief. Herein lies a
spark of hope; but Thrasybulus is far from Athens and you do not
FIRST WOMAN. Oh! what a brilliant man!
PRAXAGORA. That's better! that's fitting applause.--Citizens, 'tis you
who are the cause of all this trouble. You vote yourselves salaries out
of the public funds and care only for your own personal interests; hence
the State limps along like Aesimus. But if you hearken to me, you
will be saved. I assert that the direction of affairs must be handed over
to the women, for 'tis they who have charge and look after our
SECOND WOMAN. Very good, very good, 'tis perfect! Say on, say on.
PRAXAGORA. They are worth more than you are, as I shall prove. First of
all they wash all their wool in warm water, according to the ancient
practice; you will never see them changing their method. Ah! if Athens
only acted thus, if it did not take delight in ceaseless innovations,
would not its happiness be assured? Then the women sit down to cook, as
they always did; they carry things on their head as was their wont; they
keep the Thesmophoria, as they have ever done; they knead their cakes
just as they used to; they make their husbands angry as they have always
done; they receive their lovers in their houses as was their constant
custom; they buy dainties as they always did; they love unmixed wine as
well as ever; they delight in being loved just as much as they always
have. Let us therefore hand Athens over to them without endless
discussions, without bothering ourselves about what they will do; let us
simply hand them over the power, remembering that they are mothers and
will therefore spare the blood of our soldiers; besides, who will know
better than a mother how to forward provisions to the front? Woman is
adept at getting money for herself and will not easily let herself be
deceived; she understands deceit too well herself. I omit a thousand
other advantages. Take my advice and you will live in perfect happiness.
FIRST WOMAN. How beautiful this is, my dearest Praxagora, how clever! But
where, pray, did you learn all these pretty things?
PRAXAGORA. When the countryfolk were seeking refuge in the city, I
lived on the Pnyx with my husband, and there I learnt to speak through
listening to the orators.
FIRST WOMAN. Then, dear, 'tis not astonishing that you are so eloquent
and clever; henceforward you shall be our leader, so put your great ideas
into execution. But if Cephalus belches forth insults against you,
what answer will you give him in the Assembly?
PRAXAGORA. I shall say that he drivels.
FIRST WOMAN. But all the world knows that.
PRAXAGORA. I shall furthermore say that he is a raving madman.
FIRST WOMAN. There's nobody who does not know it.
PRAXAGORA. That he, as excellent a statesman as he is, is a clumsy
FIRST WOMAN. And if the blear-eyed Neoclides comes to insult you?
PRAXAGORA. To him I shall say, "Go and look at a dog's backside".
FIRST WOMAN. And if they fly at you?
PRAXAGORA. Oh! I shall shake them off as best I can; never fear, I know
how to use this tool.
FIRST WOMAN. But there is one thing we don't think of. If the archers
drag you away, what will you do?
PRAXAGORA. With my arms akimbo like this, I will never, never let myself
be taken round the middle.
FIRST WOMAN. If they seize you, we will bid them let you go.
SECOND WOMAN. That's the best way. But how are we going to lift up our
arm in the Assembly, we, who only know how to lift our legs in the
act of love?
PRAXAGORA. 'Tis difficult; yet it must be done, and the arm shown naked
to the shoulder in order to vote. Quick now, put on these tunics and
these Laconian shoes, as you see the men do each time they go to the
Assembly or for a walk. Then this done, fix on your beards, and when they
are arranged in the best way possible, dress yourselves in the cloaks you
have abstracted from your husbands; finally start off leaning on your
staffs and singing some old man's song as the villagers do.
SECOND WOMAN. Well spoken; and let us hurry to get to the Pnyx before the
women from the country, for they will no doubt not fail to come there.
PRAXAGORA. Quick, quick, for 'tis all the custom that those who are not
at the Pnyx early in the morning, return home empty-handed.
CHORUS. Move forward, citizens, move forward; let us not forget to give
ourselves this name and may that of _woman_ never slip out of our mouths;
woe to us, if it were discovered that we had laid such a plot in the
darkness of night. Let us go to the Assembly then, fellow-citizens; for
the Thesmothetae have declared that only those who arrive at daybreak
with haggard eye and covered with dust, without having snatched time to
eat anything but a snack of garlic-pickle, shall alone receive the
triobolus. Walk up smartly, Charitimides, Smicythus and Draces, and
do not fail in any point of your part; let us first demand our fee and
then vote for all that may perchance be useful for our partisans.... Ah!
what am I saying? I meant to say, for our fellow-citizens. Let us drive
away these men of the city, who used to stay at home and chatter
round the table in the days when only an obolus was paid, whereas now one
is stifled by the crowds at the Pnyx. No! during the Archonship of
generous Myronides, none would have dared to let himself be paid for
the trouble he spent over public business; each one brought his own meal
of bread, a couple of onions, three olives and some wine in a little
wine-skin. But nowadays we run here to earn the three obols, for the
citizen has become as mercenary as the stonemason. (_The Chorus marches
BLEPYRUS (_husband of Praxagora_). What does this mean? My wife has
vanished! it is nearly daybreak and she does not return! Wanting to
relieve myself, lo! I awake and hunt in the darkness for my shoes and my
cloak; but grope where I will, I cannot find them. Meanwhile my need grew
each moment more urgent and I had only just time to seize my wife's
little mantle and her Persian slippers. But where shall I find a spot
suitable for my purpose. Bah! One place is as good as another at
night-time, for no one will see me. Ah! what fatal folly 'twas to take a
wife at my age, and how I could thrash myself for having acted so
foolishly! 'Tis a certainty she's not gone out for any honest purpose.
However, that's not our present business.
A MAN. Who's there? Is that not my neighbour Blepyrus? Why, yes, 'tis
himself and no other. Tell me, what's all that yellow about you? Can it
be Cinesias who has befouled you so?
BLEPYRUS. No, no, I only slipped on my wife's tunic to come out in.
MAN. And where is your cloak?
BLEPYRUS. I cannot tell you, for I hunted for it vainly on the bed.
MAN. And why did you not ask your wife for it?
BLEPYRUS. Ah! why indeed! because she is not in the house; she has run
away, and I greatly fear that she may be doing me an ill turn.
MAN. But, by Posidon, 'tis the same with myself. My wife has disappeared
with my cloak, and what is still worse, with my shoes as well, for I
cannot find them anywhere.
BLEPYRUS. Nor can I my Laconian shoes; but as I had urgent need, I popped
my feet into these slippers, so as not to soil my blanket, which is quite
MAN. What does it mean? Can some friend have invited her to a feast?
BLEPYRUS. I expect so, for she does not generally misconduct herself, as
far as I know.
MAN. Come, I say, you seem to be making ropes. Are you never going to be
done? As for myself, I would like to go to the Assembly, and it is time
to start, but the thing is to find my cloak, for I have only one.
BLEPYRUS. I am going to have a look too, when I have done; but I really
think there must be a wild pear obstructing my rectum.
MAN. Is it the one which Thrasybulus spoke about to the
BLEPYRUS. Oh! oh! oh! how the obstruction holds! Whatever am I to do?
'Tis not merely for the present that I am frightened; but when I have
eaten, where is it to find an outlet now? This cursed Achradusian
fellow has bolted the door. Let a doctor be fetched; but which is
the cleverest in this branch of the science? Amynon? Perhaps he
would not come. Ah! Antithenes! Let him be brought to me, cost what
it will. To judge by his noisy sighs, that man knows what a rump wants,
when in urgent need. Oh! venerated Ilithyia! I shall burst unless
the door gives way. Have pity! pity! Let me not become the night-stool of
the comic poets.
CHREMES. Hi! friend, what are you after there? Easing yourself!
BLEPYRUS. Oh! there! it is over and I can get up again at last.
CHREMES. What's this? You have your wife's tunic on.
BLEPYRUS. Aye, 'twas the first thing that came to my hand in the
darkness. But where do you hail from?
CHREMES. From the Assembly.
BLEPYRUS. Is it already over then?
BLEPYRUS. Why, it is scarcely daylight.
CHREMES. I did laugh, ye gods, at the vermilion rope-marks that were to
be seen all about the Assembly.
BLEPYRUS. Did you get the triobolus?
CHREMES. Would it had so pleased the gods! but I arrived just too late,
and am quite ashamed of it; I bring back nothing but this empty wallet.
BLEPYRUS. But why is that?
CHREMES. There was a crowd, such as has never been seen at the Pnyx, and
the folk looked pale and wan, like so many shoemakers, so white were they
in hue; both I and many another had to go without the triobolus.
BLEPYRUS. Then if I went now, I should get nothing.
CHREMES. No, certainly not, nor even had you gone at the second
BLEPYRUS. Oh! what a misfortune! Oh, Antilochus! no triobolus! Even
death would be better! I am undone! But what can have attracted such a
crowd at that early hour?
CHREMES. The Prytanes started the discussion of measures nearly
concerning the safety of the State; immediately, that blear-eyed fellow,
the son of Neoclides, was the first to mount the platform. Then the
folk shouted with their loudest voice, "What! he dares to speak, and
that, too, when the safety of the State is concerned, and he a man who
has not known how to save even his own eyebrows!" He, however, shouted
louder than they all, and looking at them asked, "Why, what ought I to
BLEPYRUS. Pound together garlic and laserpitium juice, add to this
mixture some Laconian spurge, and rub it well into the eyelids at night.
That's what I should have answered, had I been there.
CHREMES. After him that clever rascal Evaeon began to speak; he was
naked, so far as we all could see, but he declared he had a cloak; he
propounded the most popular, the most democratic, doctrines. "You see,"
he said, "I have the greatest need of sixteen drachmae, the cost of a new
cloak, my health demands it; nevertheless I wish first to care for that
of my fellow-citizens and of my country. If the fullers were to supply
tunics to the indigent at the approach of winter, none would be exposed
to pleurisy. Let him who has neither beds nor coverlets go to sleep at
the tanners' after taking a bath; and if they shut the door in winter,
let them be condemned to give him three goat-skins."
BLEPYRUS. By Dionysus, a fine, a very fine notion! Not a soul will vote
against his proposal, especially if he adds that the flour-sellers must
supply the poor with three measures of corn, or else suffer the severest
penalties of the law; 'tis only in this way that Nausicydes can be
of any use to us.
CHREMES. Then we saw a handsome young man rush into the tribune, he was
all pink and white like young Nicias, and he began to say that the
direction of matters should be entrusted to the women; this the crowd of
shoemakers began applauding with all their might, while the
country-folk assailed him with groans.
BLEPYRUS. And, 'faith, they did well.
CHREMES. But they were outnumbered, and the orator shouted louder than
they, saying much good of the women and much ill of you.
BLEPYRUS. And what did he say?
CHREMES. First he said you were a rogue...
BLEPYRUS. And you?
CHREMES. Let me speak ... and a thief....
BLEPYRUS. I alone?
CHREMES. And an informer.
BLEPYRUS. I alone?
CHREMES. Why, no, by the gods! all of us.
BLEPYRUS. And who avers the contrary?
CHREMES. He maintained that women were both clever and thrifty, that they
never divulged the Mysteries of Demeter, while you and I go about
babbling incessantly about whatever happens at the Senate.
BLEPYRUS. By Hermes, he was not lying!
CHREMES. Then he added, that the women lend each other clothes, trinkets
of gold and silver, drinking-cups, and not before witnesses too, but all
by themselves, and that they return everything with exactitude without
ever cheating each other; whereas, according to him, we are ever ready to
deny the loans we have effected.
BLEPYRUS. Aye, by Posidon, and in spite of witnesses.
CHREMES. Again, he said that women were not informers, nor did they bring
lawsuits, nor hatch conspiracies; in short, he praised the women in every
BLEPYRUS. And what was decided?
CHREMES. To confide the direction of affairs to them; 'tis the one and
only innovation that has not yet been tried at Athens.
BLEPYRUS. And it was voted?
BLEPYRUS. And everything that used to be the men's concern has been given
over to the women?
CHREMES. You express it exactly.
BLEPYRUS. Thus 'twill be my wife who will go to the Courts now in my
CHREMES. And it will be she who will keep your children in your place.
BLEPYRUS. I shall no longer have to tire myself out with work from
CHREMES. No, 'twill be the women's business, and you can stop at home and
take your ease.
BLEPYRUS. Well, what I fear for us fellows now is, that, holding the
reins of government, they will forcibly compel us ...
CHREMES. To do what?
BLEPYRUS. ... to work them.
CHREMES. And if we are not able?
BLEPYRUS. They will give us no dinner.
CHREMES. Well then, do your duty; dinner and love form a double
BLEPYRUS. Ah! but I hate compulsion.
CHREMES. But if it be for the public weal, let us resign ourselves. 'Tis
an old saying, that our absurdest and maddest decrees always somehow turn
out for our good. May it be so in this case, oh gods, oh venerable
Pallas! But I must be off; so, good-bye to you!
BLEPYRUS. Good-bye, Chremes.
CHORUS. March along, go forward. Is there some man following us? Turn
round, examine everywhere and keep a good look-out; be on your guard
against every trick, for they might spy on us from behind. Let us make as
much noise as possible as we tramp. It would be a disgrace for all of us
if we allowed ourselves to be caught in this deed by the men. Come, wrap
yourselves up well, and search both right and left, so that no mischance
may happen to us. Let us hasten our steps; here we are close to the
meeting-place, whence we started for the Assembly, and here is the house
of our leader, the author of this bold scheme, which is now decreed by
all the citizens. Let us not lose a moment in taking off our false
beards, for we might be recognized and denounced. Let us stand under the
shadow of this wall; let us glance round sharply with our eye to beware
of surprises, while we quickly resume our ordinary dress. Ah! here is our
leader, returning from the Assembly. Hasten to relieve your chins of
these flowing manes. Look at your comrades yonder; they have already made
themselves women again some while ago.
PRAXAGORA. Friends, success has crowned our plans. But off with these
cloaks and these boots quick, before any man sees you; unbuckle the
Laconian straps and get rid of your staffs; and do you help them with
their toilet. As for myself, I am going to slip quietly into the house
and replace my husband's cloak and other gear where I took them from,
before he can suspect anything.
CHORUS. There! 'tis done according to your bidding. Now tell us how we
can be of service to you, so that we may show you our obedience, for we
have never seen a cleverer woman than you.
PRAXAGORA. Wait! I only wish to use the power given me in accordance with
your wishes; for, in the market-place, in the midst of the shouts and
danger, I appreciated your indomitable courage.
BLEPYRUS. Eh, Praxagora! where do you come from?
PRAXAGORA. How does that concern you, friend?
BLEPYRUS. Why, greatly! what a silly question!
PRAXAGORA. You don't think I have come from a lover's?
BLEPYRUS. No, perhaps not from only one.
PRAXAGORA. You can make yourself sure of that.
BLEPYRUS. And how?
PRAXAGORA. You can see whether my hair smells of perfume.
BLEPYRUS. What? cannot a woman possibly be loved without perfume, eh!
PRAXAGORA. The gods forfend, as far as I am concerned.
BLEPYRUS. Why did you go off at early dawn with my cloak?
PRAXAGORA. A companion, a friend who was in labour, had sent to fetch me.
BLEPYRUS. Could you not have told me?
PRAXAGORA. Oh, my dear, would you have me caring nothing for a poor woman
in that plight?
BLEPYRUS. A word would have been enough. There's something behind all
PRAXAGORA. No, I call the goddesses to witness! I went running off; the
poor woman who summoned me begged me to come, whatever might betide.
BLEPYRUS. And why did you not take your mantle? Instead of that, you
carry off mine, you throw your dress upon the bed and you leave me as the
dead are left, bar the chaplets and perfumes.
PRAXAGORA. 'Twas cold, and I am frail and delicate; I took your cloak for
greater warmth, leaving you thoroughly warm yourself beneath your
BLEPYRUS. And my shoes and staff, those too went off with you?
PRAXAGORA. I was afraid they might rob me of the cloak, and so, to look
like a man, I put on your shoes and walked with a heavy tread and struck
the stones with your staff.
BLEPYRUS. D'you know you have made us lose a _sextary_ of wheat, which I
should have bought with the _triobolus_ of the Assembly?
PRAXAGORA. Be comforted, for she had a boy.
BLEPYRUS. Who? the Assembly?
PRAXAGORA. No, no, the woman I helped. But has the Assembly taken place
BLEPYRUS. Did I not tell you of it yesterday?
PRAXAGORA. True; I remember now.
BLEPYRUS. And don't you know the decrees that have been voted?
PRAXAGORA. No indeed.
BLEPYRUS. Go to! you can eat cuttle-fish now, for 'tis said the
government is handed over to you.
PRAXAGORA. To do what--to spin?
BLEPYRUS. No, that you may rule ...
BLEPYRUS. ... over all public business.
PRAXAGORA. Oh! by Aphrodité! how happy Athens will be!
BLEPYRUS. Why so?
PRAXAGORA. For a thousand reasons. None will dare now to do shameless
deeds, to give false testimony or lay informations.
BLEPYRUS. Stop! in the name of the gods! Do you want me to die of hunger?
CHORUS. Good sir, let your wife speak.
PRAXAGORA. There will be no more thieves, nor envious people, no more
rags nor misery, no more abuse and no more prosecutions and lawsuits.
BLEPYRUS. By Posidon! 'tis grand, if true.
PRAXAGORA. The results will prove it; you will confess it, and even these
good people (_pointing to the spectators_) will not be able to say a
CHORUS. You have served your friends, but now it behoves you to apply
your ability and your care to the welfare of the people. Devote the
fecundity of your mind to the public weal; adorn the citizens' lives with
a thousand enjoyments and teach them to seize every favourable
opportunity. Devise some ingenious method to secure the much-needed
salvation of Athens; but let neither your acts nor your words recall
anything of the past, for 'tis only innovations that please. Don't delay
the realization of your plans, for speedy execution is greatly esteemed
by the public.
PRAXAGORA. I believe my ideas are good, but what I fear is, that the
public will cling to the old customs and refuse to accept my reforms.
BLEPYRUS. Have no fear about that. Love of novelty and disdain for the
past, these are the dominating principles among us.
PRAXAGORA. Let none contradict nor interrupt me until I have explained my
plan. I want all to have a share of everything and all property to be in
common; there will no longer be either rich or poor; no longer shall we
see one man harvesting vast tracts of land, while another has not ground
enough to be buried in, nor one man surround himself with a whole army of
slaves, while another has not a single attendant; I intend that there
shall only be one and the same condition of life for all.
BLEPYRUS. But how do you mean for all?
PRAXAGORA. Go and eat your excrements!
BLEPYRUS. Come, share and share alike!
PRAXAGORA. No, no, but you shall not interrupt me. This is what I was
going to say: I shall begin by making land, money, everything that is
private property, common to all. Then we shall live on this common
wealth, which we shall take care to administer with wise thrift.
BLEPYRUS. And how about the man who has no land, but only gold and silver
coins, that cannot be seen?
PRAXAGORA. He must bring them to the common stock, and if he fails he
will be a perjured man.
BLEPYRUS. That won't worry him much, for has he not gained them by
PRAXAGORA. But his riches will no longer be of any use to him.
PRAXAGORA. The poor will no longer be obliged to work; each will have all
that he needs, bread, salt fish, cakes, tunics, wine, chaplets and
chick-pease; of what advantage will it be to him not to contribute his
share to the common wealth? What do you think of it?
BLEPYRUS. But is it not the folk who rob most that have all these things?
PRAXAGORA. Yes, formerly, under the old order of things; but now that all
goods are in common, what will he gain by not bringing his wealth into
the general stock?
BLEPYRUS. If someone saw a pretty wench and wished to satisfy his fancy
for her, he would take some of his reserve store to make her a present
and stay the night with her; this would not prevent him claiming his
share of the common property.
PRAXAGORA. But he can sleep with her for nothing; I intend that women
shall belong to all men in common, and each shall beget children by any
man that wishes to have her.
BLEPYRUS. But all will go to the prettiest woman and beseech her to go
PRAXAGORA. The ugliest and the most flat-nosed will be side by side with
the most charming, and to win the latter's favours, a man will first have
to get into the former.
BLEPYRUS. But we old men, shall we have penis enough if we have to
satisfy the ugly first?
PRAXAGORA. They will make no resistance.
BLEPYRUS. To what?
PRAXAGORA. Never fear; they will make no resistance.
BLEPYRUS. Resistance to what?
PRAXAGORA. To the pleasure of the thing. 'Tis thus that matters will be
ordered for you.
BLEPYRUS. 'Tis right well conceived for you women, for every wench's hole
will be occupied; but as regards us poor men, you will leave those who
are ugly to run after the handsome fellows.
PRAXAGORA. The ugly will follow the handsomest into the public places
after supper and see to it that the law, which forbids the women to sleep
with the big, handsome men before having satisfied the ugly shrimps, is
BLEPYRUS. Thus ugly Lysicrates' nose will be as proud as the handsomest
PRAXAGORA. Yes, by Apollo! this is a truly popular decree, and what a
set-back 'twill be for one of those elegants with their fingers loaded
with rings, when a man with heavy shoes says to him, "Give way to me and
wait till I have done; you will pass in after me."
BLEPYRUS. But if we live in this fashion, how will each one know his
PRAXAGORA. The youngest will look upon the oldest as their fathers.
BLEPYRUS. Ah! how heartily they will strangle all the old men, since even
now, when each one knows his father, they make no bones about strangling
him! then, my word! won't they just scorn and shit upon the old folks!
PRAXAGORA. But those around will prevent it. Hitherto, when anyone saw an
old man beaten, he would not meddle, because it did not concern him; but
now each will fear the sufferer may be his own father and such violence
will be stopped.
BLEPYRUS. What you say is not so silly after all; but 'twould be highly
unpleasant were Epicurus and Leucolophas to come up and call me father.
PRAXAGORA. But 'twould be far worse, were ...
BLEPYRUS. Were what?
PRAXAGORA. ... Aristyllus to embrace you and style you his father.
BLEPYRUS. Ah! let him look to himself if he dares!
PRAXAGORA. For you would smell vilely of mint if he kissed you. But he
was born before the decree was carried, so that you have not to fear his
BLEPYRUS. 'Twould be awful. But who will do the work?
PRAXAGORA. The slaves. Your only cares will be to scent yourself, and to
go and dine, when the shadow of the gnomon is ten feet long on the dial.
BLEPYRUS. But how shall we obtain clothing? Tell me that!
PRAXAGORA. You will first wear out those you have, and then we women will
weave you others.
BLEPYRUS. Now another point: if the magistrates condemn a citizen to the
payment of a fine, how is he going to do it? Out of the public funds?
That would not be right surely.
PRAXAGORA. But there will be no more lawsuits.
BLEPYRUS. What a disaster for many people!
PRAXAGORA. I have decreed it. Besides, friend, why should there be
BLEPYRUS. Oh! for a thousand reasons, on my faith! Firstly, because a
debtor denies his obligation.
PRAXAGORA. But where will the lender get the money to lend, if all is in
common? unless he steals it out of the treasury?
BLEPYRUS. That's true, by Demeter! But then again, tell me this; here are
some men who are returning from a feast and are drunk and they strike
some passer-by; how are they going to pay the fine? Ah! you are puzzled
PRAXAGORA. They will have to take it out of their pittance; and being
thus punished through their belly, they will not care to begin again.
BLEPYRUS. There will be no more thieves then, eh?
PRAXAGORA. Why steal, if you have a share of everything?
BLEPYRUS. People will not be robbed any more at night?
PRAXAGORA. No, whether you sleep at home or in the street, there will be
no more danger, for all will have the means of living. Besides, if anyone
wanted to steal your cloak, you would give it him yourself. Why not? You
will only have to go to the common store and be given a better one.
BLEPYRUS. There will be no more playing at dice?
PRAXAGORA. What object will there be in playing?
BLEPYRUS. But what kind of life is it you propose to set up?
PRAXAGORA. The life in common. Athens will become nothing more than a
single house, in which everything will belong to everyone; so that
everybody will be able to go from one house to the other at pleasure.
BLEPYRUS. And where will the meals be served?
PRAXAGORA. The law-courts and the porticoes will be turned into
BLEPYRUS. And what will the speaker's platform be used for?
PRAXAGORA. I shall place the bowls and the ewers there; and young
children will sing the glory of the brave from there, also the infamy of
cowards, who out of very shame will no longer dare to come to the public
BLEPYRUS. Well thought of, by Apollo! And what will you do with the urns?
PRAXAGORA. I shall have them taken to the market-place, and standing
close to the statue of Harmodius, I shall draw a lot for each
citizen, which by its letter will show the place where he must go to
dine. Thus, those for whom I have drawn a Beta, will go to the royal
portico; if 'tis a Theta, they will go to the portico of
Theseus; if 'tis a Kappa, to that of the flour-market.
BLEPYRUS. To cram himself there like a capon?
PRAXAGORA. No, to dine there.
BLEPYRUS. And the citizen whom the lot has not given a letter showing
where he is to dine will be driven off by everyone?
PRAXAGORA. But that will not occur. Each man will have plenty; he will
not leave the feast until he is well drunk, and then with a chaplet on
his head and a torch in his hand; and then the women running to meet you
in the cross-roads will say, "This way, come to our house, you will find
a beautiful young girl there."--"And I," another will call from her
balcony, "have one so pretty and as white as milk; but before touching
her, you must sleep with me." And the ugly men, watching closely after
the handsome fellows, will say, "Hi! friend, where are you running to? Go
in, but you must do nothing, for 'tis the ugly and the flat-nosed to whom
the law gives the first right of admission; amuse yourself in the porch
while you wait, in handling your fig-leaves and playing with your tool."
Well, tell me, does that picture suit you?
BLEPYRUS. Marvellously well.
PRAXAGORA. I must now go to the market-place to receive the property that
is going to be placed in common and to choose a woman with a loud voice
as my herald. I have all the cares of State on my shoulders, since the
power has been entrusted to me. I must likewise go to busy myself about
establishing the common meals, and you will attend your first banquet
BLEPYRUS. Are we going to banquet?
PRAXAGORA. Why, undoubtedly! Furthermore, I propose abolishing the
BLEPYRUS. And what for?
PRAXAGORA. 'Tis clear enough why; so that, instead of them, _we_ may have
the first-fruits of the young men. It is not meet that tricked-out slaves
should rob free-born women of their pleasures. Let the courtesans be free
to sleep with the slaves and to depilate their privates for them.
BLEPYRUS. I will march at your side, so that I may be seen and that
everyone may say, "Admire our leader's husband!" [_Exeunt Blepyrus and
[_The Chorus which followed this scene is lost._]
FIRST CITIZEN. Come, let us collect and examine all my belongings before
taking them to the market-place. Come hither, my beautiful sieve, I have
nothing more precious than you, come, all clotted with the flour of which
I have poured so many sacks through you; you shall act the part of
Canephoros in the procession of my chattels. Where is the sunshade
carrier? Ah! this stew-pot shall take his place. Great gods, how
black it is! it could not be more so if Lysicrates had boiled the
drugs in it with which he dyes his hair. Hither, my beautiful mirror. And
you, my tripod, bear this urn for me; you shall be the waterbearer;
and you, cock, whose morning song has so often roused me in the middle of
the night to send me hurrying to the Assembly, you shall be my
flute-girl. Scaphephoros, do you take the large basin, place in it
the honeycombs and twine the olive-branches over them, bring the tripods
and the phial of perfume; as for the humble crowd of little pots, I will
just leave them behind.
SECOND CITIZEN. What folly to carry one's goods to the common store; I
have a little more sense than that. No, no, by Posidon, I want first to
ponder and calculate over the thing at leisure. I shall not be fool
enough to strip myself of the fruits of my toil and thrift, if it is not
for a very good reason; let us see first, which way things turn. Hi!
friend, what means this display of goods? Are you moving or are you going
to pawn your stuff?
FIRST CITIZEN. Neither.
SECOND CITIZEN. Why then are you setting all these things out in line? Is
it a procession that you are starting off to the public crier, Hiero?
FIRST CITIZEN. No, but in accordance with the new law, that has been
decreed, I am going to carry all these things to the marketplace to make
a gift of them to the State.
SECOND CITIZEN. Oh! bah! you don't mean that.
FIRST CITIZEN. Certainly.
SECOND CITIZEN. Oh! Zeus the Deliverer! you unfortunate man!
FIRST CITIZEN. Why?
SECOND CITIZEN. Why? 'Tis as clear as noonday.
FIRST CITIZEN. Must the laws not be obeyed then?
SECOND CITIZEN. What laws, you poor fellow?
FIRST CITIZEN. Those that have been decreed.
SECOND CITIZEN. Decreed! Are you mad, I ask you?
FIRST CITIZEN. Am I mad?
SECOND CITIZEN. Oh! this is the height of folly!
FIRST CITIZEN. Because I obey the law? Is that not the first duty of an
SECOND CITIZEN. Say rather of a ninny.
FIRST CITIZEN. Don't you propose taking what belongs to you to the common
SECOND CITIZEN. I'll take good care I don't until I see what the majority
FIRST CITIZEN. There's but one opinion, namely, to contribute every
single thing one has.
SECOND CITIZEN. I am waiting to see it, before I believe that.
FIRST CITIZEN. At least, so they say in every street.
SECOND CITIZEN. And they will go on saying so.
FIRST CITIZEN. Everyone talks of contributing all he has.
SECOND CITIZEN. And will go on talking of it.
FIRST CITIZEN. You weary me with your doubts and dubitations.
SECOND CITIZEN. Everybody else will doubt it.
FIRST CITIZEN. The pest seize you!
SECOND CITIZEN. It _will_ take you. What? give up your goods! Is there a
man of sense who will do such a thing? Giving is not one of our customs.
Receiving is another matter; 'tis the way of the gods themselves. Look at
the position of their hands on their statues; when we ask a favour, they
present their hands turned palm up so as not to give, but to receive.
FIRST CITIZEN. Wretch, let me do what is right. Come, I'll make a bundle
of all these things. Where is my strap?
SECOND CITIZEN. Are you really going to carry them in?
FIRST CITIZEN. Undoubtedly, and there are my three tripods strung
SECOND CITIZEN. What folly! Not to wait to see what the others do, and
FIRST CITIZEN. Well, and then what?
SECOND CITIZEN. ... wait and put it off again.
FIRST CITIZEN. What for?
SECOND CITIZEN. That an earthquake may come or an ill-omened flash of
lightning, that a weasel may run across the street and that none carry in
anything more, you fool!
FIRST CITIZEN. 'Twould be a fine matter, were I to find no room left for
placing all this.
SECOND CITIZEN. You are much more likely to lose your stuff. As for
placing it, you can be at ease, for there will be room enough as long as
a month hence.
FIRST CITIZEN. Why?
SECOND CITIZEN. I know these folk; a decree is soon passed, but it is not
so easily attended to.
FIRST CITIZEN. All will contribute their property, my friend.
SECOND CITIZEN. But what if they don't?
FIRST CITIZEN. But there is no doubt that they will.
SECOND CITIZEN. But _anyhow_, what if they don't?
FIRST CITIZEN. We shall compel them to do so.
SECOND CITIZEN. And what if they prove the stronger?
FIRST CITIZEN. I shall leave my goods and go off.
SECOND CITIZEN. And what if they sell them for you?
FIRST CITIZEN. The plague take you!
SECOND CITIZEN. And if it does?
FIRST CITIZEN. 'Twill be a good riddance.
SECOND CITIZEN. You are bent on contributing then?
FIRST CITIZEN. 'Pon my soul, yes! Look, there are all my neighbours
carrying in all they have.
SECOND CITIZEN. Ha, ha! 'Tis no doubt Antisthenes. He's a fellow who
would rather sit on his pot for thirty days than not!
FIRST CITIZEN. The pest seize you!
SECOND CITIZEN. And perhaps Callimachus is going to take in more
money than Callias owns? That man want to ruin himself!
FIRST CITIZEN. How you weary me!
SECOND CITIZEN. Ah! I weary you! But, wretch, see what comes of decrees
of this kind. Don't you remember the one reducing the price of salt, eh?
FIRST CITIZEN. Why, certainly I do.
SECOND CITIZEN. And do you remember that about the copper coinage?
FIRST CITIZEN. Ah! that cursed money did me enough harm. I had sold my
grapes and had my mouth stuffed with pieces of copper; indeed I was
going to the market to buy flour, and was in the act of holding out my
bag wide open, when the herald started shouting, "Let none in future
accept pieces of copper; those of silver are alone current."
SECOND CITIZEN. And quite lately, were we not all swearing that the
impost of one-fortieth, which Euripides had conceived, would bring
five talents to the State, and everyone was vaunting Euripides to the
skies? But when the thing was looked at closely, it was seen that this
fine decree was mere moonshine and would produce nothing, and you would
have willingly burnt this very same Euripides alive.
FIRST CITIZEN. The cases are quite different, my good fellow. We were the
rulers then, but now 'tis the women.
SECOND CITIZEN. Whom, by Posidon, I will never allow to piss on my nose.
FIRST CITIZEN. I don't know what the devil you're chattering about.
Slave, pick up that bundle.
HERALD. Let all citizens come, let them hasten at our leader's bidding!
'Tis the new law. The lot will teach each citizen where he is to dine;
the tables are already laid and loaded with the most exquisite dishes;
the couches are covered with the softest of cushions; the wine and water
is already being mixed in the ewers; the slaves are standing in a row and
waiting to pour scent over the guests; the fish is being grilled, the
hares are on the spit and the cakes are being kneaded, chaplets are being
plaited and the fritters are frying; the youngest women are watching the
pea-soup in the saucepans, and in the midst of them all stands
Smaeus, dressed as a knight, washing the crockery. And Geres
has come, dressed in a grand tunic and finely shod; he is joking with
another young fellow and has already divested himself of his heavy shoes
and his cloak. The pantryman is waiting, so come and use your jaws.
SECOND CITIZEN. Aye, I'll go. Why should I delay, since the Republic
FIRST CITIZEN. And where are you going to, since you have not deposited
SECOND CITIZEN. To the feast.
FIRST CITIZEN. If the women have any wits, they will first insist on your
depositing your goods.
SECOND CITIZEN. But I am going to deposit them.
FIRST CITIZEN. When?
SECOND CITIZEN. I am not the man to make delays.
FIRST CITIZEN. How do you mean?
SECOND CITIZEN. There will be many less eager than I.
FIRST CITIZEN. In the meantime you are going to dine.
SECOND CITIZEN. What else should I do? Every sensible man must give his
help to the State.
FIRST CITIZEN. But if admission is forbidden you?
SECOND CITIZEN. I shall duck my head and slip in.
FIRST CITIZEN. And if the women have you beaten?
SECOND CITIZEN. I shall summon them.
FIRST CITIZEN. And if they laugh you in the face?
SECOND CITIZEN. I shall stand near the door ...
FIRST CITIZEN. And then?
SECOND CITIZEN. ... and seize upon the dishes as they pass.
FIRST CITIZEN. Then go there, but after me. Sicon and Parmeno, pick
up all the baggage.
SECOND CITIZEN. Come, I will help you carry it.
FIRST CITIZEN. No, no, I should be afraid of your pretending to the
leader that what I am depositing belonged to you.
SECOND CITIZEN. Let me see! let me think of some good trick by which I
can keep my goods and yet take my share of the common feast. Ha! that's a
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