The Eleven Comedies
Aristophanes et al
Part 7 out of 8
good notion! Quick! I'll go and dine, ha, ha! [_Exit laughing_.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. How is this? no men are coming? And yet it must be fully
time! 'Tis then for naught that I have painted myself with white lead,
dressed myself in my beautiful yellow robe, and that I am here,
frolicking and humming between my teeth to attract some passer-by! Oh,
Muses, alight upon my lips, inspire me with some soft Ionian love-song!
A YOUNG GIRL. You rotten old thing, you have placed yourself at the
window before me. You were expecting to strip my vines during my absence
and to trap some man in your snares with your songs. If you sing, I shall
follow suit; all this singing will weary the spectators, but is
nevertheless very pleasant and very diverting.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Ha! here is an old man; take him and lead him away. As
for you, you young flute-player, let us hear some airs that are worthy of
you and me. Let him who wishes to taste pleasure come to my side. These
young things know nothing about it; 'tis only the women of ripe age who
understand the art of love, and no one could know how to fondle the lover
who possessed me so well as myself; the young girls are all flightiness.
YOUNG GIRL. Don't be jealous of the young girls; voluptuousness resides
in the pure outline of their beautiful limbs and blossoms on their
rounded bosoms; but you, old woman, you who are tricked out and perfumed
as if for your own funeral, are an object of love only for grim Death
FIRST OLD WOMAN. May your hole be stopped; may you be unable to find your
couch when you want to be fucked. And on your couch, when your lips seek
a lover, may you embrace only a viper!
YOUNG GIRL. Alas! alas! what is to become of me? There is no lover! I am
left here alone; my mother has gone out and the rest care little for me.
Oh! my dear nurse, I adjure you to call Orthagoras, and may heaven bless
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Ah! poor child, desire is consuming you like an Ionian
woman; I think you are no stranger to the wanton arts of the Lesbian
women, but you shall not rob me of my pleasures; you will not be able to
reduce or filch the time that first belongs to me, for your own gain.
Sing as much as you please, peep out like a cat lying in wait, but none
shall pass through your door without first having been to see me.
YOUNG GIRL. If anyone enter your house, 'twill be to carry out your
FIRST OLD WOMAN. That's new to me.
YOUNG GIRL. What! you rotten wretch, can anything be new to an old hag
FIRST OLD WOMAN. My old age will not harm you.
YOUNG GIRL. Ah! shame on your painted cheeks!
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Why do you speak to me at all?
YOUNG GIRL. And why do you place yourself at the window?
FIRST OLD WOMAN. I am singing to myself about my lover, Epigenes.
YOUNG GIRL. Can you have any other lover than that old fop Geres?
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Epigenes will show you that himself, for he is coming to
me. See, here he is.
YOUNG GIRL. He's not thinking of you in the least, you old witch.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Aye, but he is, you little pest.
YOUNG GIRL. Let's see what he will do. I will leave my window.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. And I likewise. You will see I am not far wrong.
A YOUNG MAN. Ah! could I but sleep with the young girl without first
satisfying the old flat-nose! 'Tis intolerable for a free-born man.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Willy nilly, you must first gratify my desire. There
shall be no nonsense about that, for my authority is the law and the law
must be obeyed in a democracy. But come, let me hide, to see what he's
going to do.
YOUNG MAN. Ah! ye gods, if I were to find the sweet child alone! for the
wine has fired my lust.
YOUNG GIRL. I have tricked that cursed old wretch; she has left her
window, thinking I would stay at home.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Ah! here is the lover we were talking of. This way, my
love, this way, come here and haste to rest the whole night in my arms. I
worship your lovely curly hair; I am consumed with ardent desire. Oh!
Eros, in thy mercy, compel him to my bed.
YOUNG MAN (_standing beneath the young girl's window and singing_).
Come down and haste to open the door unless you want to see me fall dead
with desire. Dearest treasure, I am burning to yield myself to most
voluptuous sport, lying on your bosom, to let my hands play with your
buttocks. Aphrodité, why dost thou fire me with such delight in her? Oh!
Eros, I beseech thee, have mercy and make her share my couch. Words
cannot express the tortures I am suffering. Oh! my adored one, I adjure
you, open your door for me and press me to your heart; 'tis for you that
I am suffering. Oh! my jewel, my idol, you child of Aphrodité, the
confidante of the Muses, the sister of the Graces, you living picture of
Voluptuousness, oh! open for me, press me to your heart, 'tis for you
that I am suffering.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Are you knocking? Is it I you seek?
YOUNG MAN. What an idea!
FIRST OLD WOMAN. But you were tapping at the door.
YOUNG MAN. Death would be sweeter.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Why do you come with that torch in your hand?
YOUNG MAN. I am looking for a man from Anaphlystia.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. What's his name?
YOUNG MAN. Oh! 'tis not Sebinus, whom no doubt you are expecting.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. By Aphrodité, you _must_, whether you like it or not.
YOUNG MAN. We are not now concerned with cases dated sixty years back;
they are remanded for a later day; we are dealing only with those of less
FIRST OLD WOMAN. That was under the old order of things, sweetheart, but
now you must first busy yourself with us.
YOUNG MAN. Aye, _if I want to_, according to the rules of draughts, where
we may either take or leave.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. But 'tis not according to the rules of draughts that you
take your seat at the banquet.
YOUNG MAN. I don't know what you mean; 'tis at this door I want to knock.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Not before knocking at mine first.
YOUNG MAN. For the moment I really have no need for old leather.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. I know that you love me; perhaps you are surprised to
find me at the door. But come, let me kiss you.
YOUNG MAN. No, no, my dear, I am afraid of your lover.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Of whom?
YOUNG MAN. The most gifted of painters.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Why, whom do you mean to speak of?
YOUNG MAN. The artist who paints the little bottles on coffins. But
get you indoors, lest he should find you at the door.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. I know what you want.
YOUNG MAN. I can say as much of you.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. By Aphrodité, who has granted me this good chance, I
won't let you go.
YOUNG MAN. You are drivelling, you little old hag.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Rubbish! I am going to lead you to my couch.
YOUNG MAN. What need for buying hooks? I will let her down to the bottom
of the well and pull up the buckets with her old carcase, for she's
crooked enough for that.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. A truce to your jeering, poor boy, and follow me.
YOUNG MAN. Nothing compels me to do so, unless you have paid the levy of
five hundredths for me.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Look, by Aphrodité, there is nothing that delights me as
much as sleeping with a lad of your years.
YOUNG MAN. And I abhor such as you, and I will never, never consent.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. But, by Zeus, here is something will force you to it.
YOUNG MAN. What's that?
FIRST OLD WOMAN. A decree, which orders you to enter my house.
YOUNG MAN. Read it out then, and let's hear.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Listen. "The women have decreed, that if a young man
desires a young girl, he can only possess her after having satisfied an
old woman; and if he refuses and goes to seek the maiden, the old women
are authorized to seize him by his privates and so drag him in."
YOUNG MAN. Alas! I shall become a Procrustes.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Obey the law.
YOUNG MAN. But if a fellow-citizen, a friend, came to pay my ransom?
FIRST OLD WOMAN. No man may dispose of anything above a medimnus.
YOUNG MAN. But may I not enter an excuse?
FIRST OLD WOMAN. There's no evasion.
YOUNG MAN. I shall declare myself a merchant and so escape service.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Beware what you do!
YOUNG MAN. Well! what is to be done?
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Follow me.
YOUNG MAN. Is it absolutely necessary?
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Yes, as surely as if Diomedes had commanded it.
YOUNG MAN. Well then, first spread out a layer of origanum upon four
pieces of wood; bind fillets round your head, bring phials of scent and
place a bowl filled with lustral water before your door.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Will you buy a chaplet for me too?
YOUNG MAN. Aye, if you outlast the tapers; for I expect to see you fall
down dead as you go in.
YOUNG GIRL. Where are you dragging this unfortunate man to?
FIRST OLD WOMAN. 'Tis my very own property that I am leading in.
YOUNG GIRL. You do ill. A young fellow like him is not of the age to suit
you. You ought to be his mother rather than his wife. With these laws in
force, the earth will be filled with Oedipuses.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Oh! you cursed pest! 'tis envy that makes you say this;
but I will be revenged.
YOUNG MAN. By Zeus the Deliverer, what a service you have done me, by
freeing me of this old wretch! with what ardour I will show you my
gratitude in a form both long and thick!
SECOND OLD WOMAN. Hi! you there! where are you taking that young man to,
in spite of the law? The decree ordains that he must first sleep with me.
YOUNG MAN. Oh! what a misfortune! Where does _this_ hag come from? 'Tis a
more frightful monster than the other even.
SECOND OLD WOMAN. Come here.
YOUNG MAN (_to the young girl_). Oh! I adjure you, don't let me be led
off by her!
SECOND OLD WOMAN. 'Tis not I; 'tis the law that leads you off.
YOUNG MAN. No, 'tis not the law, but an Empusa with a body covered
with blemishes and blotches.
SECOND OLD WOMAN. Follow me, my handsome little friend, come along quick
without any more ado.
YOUNG MAN. Oh! let me first do the needful, so that I may gather my wits
somewhat. Else I should be so terrified that you would see me letting out
SECOND OLD WOMAN. Never mind! you can stool, if you want, in my house.
YOUNG MAN. Oh! I fear doing more than I want to; but I offer you two good
SECOND OLD WOMAN. I don't require them.
THIRD OLD WOMAN. Hi! friend, where are you off to with that woman?
YOUNG MAN. I am not going with her, but am being dragged by force. Oh!
whoever you are, may heaven bless you for having had pity on me in my
dire misfortune. (_Turns round and sees the Third Old Woman._) Oh
Heracles! oh Heracles! oh Pan! Oh ye Corybantes! oh ye Dioscuri! Why, she
is still more awful! Oh! what a monster! great gods! Are you an ape
plastered with white lead, or the ghost of some old hag returned from the
dark borderlands of death?
THIRD OLD WOMAN. No jesting! Follow me.
SECOND OLD WOMAN. No, come this way.
THIRD OLD WOMAN. I will never let you go.
SECOND OLD WOMAN. Nor will I.
YOUNG MAN. But you will rend me asunder, you cursed wretches.
SECOND OLD WOMAN. 'Tis I he must go with according to the law.
THIRD OLD WOMAN. Not if an uglier old woman than yourself appears.
YOUNG MAN. But if you kill me at the outset, how shall I afterwards go to
find this beautiful girl of mine?
THIRD OLD WOMAN. That's your business. But begin by obeying.
YOUNG MAN. Of which one must I rid myself first?
SECOND OLD WOMAN. Don't you know? Come here.
YOUNG MAN. Then let the other one release me.
THIRD OLD WOMAN. Come to my house.
YOUNG MAN. If this dame will let me go.
SECOND OLD WOMAN. No, by all the gods, I'll not let you go.
THIRD OLD WOMAN. Nor will I.
YOUNG MAN. You would make very bad boatwomen.
SECOND OLD WOMAN. Why?
YOUNG MAN. Because you would tear your passengers to pieces in dragging
them on board.
SECOND OLD WOMAN. Then come along, do, and hold your tongue.
THIRD OLD WOMAN. No, by Zeus, come with me.
YOUNG MAN. 'Tis clearly a case of the decree of Cannonus; I must cut
myself in two in order to fuck you both. But how am I to work two oars at
SECOND OLD WOMAN. Easily enough; you have only to eat a full pot of
YOUNG MAN. Oh! great gods! here I am close to the door and being dragged
THIRD OLD WOMAN (_to Second Old Woman_). You will gain nothing by this,
for I shall rush into your house with you.
YOUNG MAN. Oh, no! no! 'twould be better to suffer a single misfortune
THIRD OLD WOMAN. Ah! by Hecaté, 'twill be all the same whether you wish
it or not.
YOUNG MAN. What a fate is mine, that I must gratify such a stinking
harridan the whole night through and all day; then, when I am rid of her,
I have still to tackle a hag of brick-colour hue! Am I not truly
unfortunate? Ah! by Zeus the Deliverer! under what fatal star must I have
been born, that I must sail in company with such monsters! But if my bark
sinks in the sewer of these strumpets, may I be buried at the very
threshold of the door; let this hag be stood upright on my grave, let her
be coated alive with pitch and her legs covered with molten lead up to
the ankles, and let her be set alight as a funeral lamp.
A SERVANT-MAID TO PRAXAGORA (_she comes from the banquet_). What
happiness is the people's! what joy is mine, and above all that of my
mistress! Happy are ye, who form choruses before our house! Happy all ye,
both neighbours and fellow-citizens! Happy am I myself! I am but a
servant, and yet I have poured on my hair the most exquisite essences.
Let thanks be rendered to thee, oh, Zeus! But a still more delicious
aroma is that of the wine of Thasos; its sweet bouquet delights the
drinker for a long enough, whereas the others lose their bloom and vanish
quickly. Therefore, long life to the wine-jars of Thasos! Pour yourselves
out unmixed wine, it will cheer you the whole night through, if you
choose the liquor that possesses most fragrance. But tell me, friends,
where is my mistress's husband?
CHORUS. Wait for him here; he will no doubt pass this way.
MAID-SERVANT. Ah! there he is just going to dinner. Oh! master! what joy!
what blessedness is yours!
BLEPYRUS. Ah! d'you think so?
MAID-SERVANT. None can compare his happiness to yours; you have reached
its utmost height, you who, alone out of thirty thousand citizens, have
not yet dined.
CHORUS Aye, here is undoubtedly a truly happy man.
MAID-SERVANT. Where are you off to?
BLEPYRUS. I am going to dine.
MAID-SERVANT. By Aphrodité, you will be the last of all, far and away the
last. Yet my mistress has bidden me take you and take with you these
young girls. Some Chian wine is left and lots of other good things.
Therefore hurry, and invite likewise all the spectators whom we have
pleased, and such of the judges as are not against us, to follow us; we
will offer them everything they can desire. Let our hospitality be large
and generous; forget no one, neither old nor young men, nor children.
Dinner is ready for them all; they have but to go ... home.
CHORUS. I am betaking myself to the banquet with this torch in my hand
according to custom. But why do you tarry, Blepyrus? Take these young
girls with you and, while you are away a while, I will whet my appetite
with some dining-song. I have but a few words to say: let the wise judge
me because of whatever is wise in this piece, and those who like a laugh
by whatever has made them laugh. In this way I address pretty well
everyone. If the lot has assigned my comedy to be played first of all,
don't let that be a disadvantage to me; engrave in your memory all that
shall have pleased you in it and judge the competitors equitably as you
have bound yourselves by oath to do. Don't act like vile courtesans, who
never remember any but their last lover. It is time, friends, high time
to go to the banquet, if we want to have our share of it. Open your ranks
and let the Cretan rhythms regulate your dances.
SEMI-CHORUS. Ready; we are ready!
CHORUS. And you others, let your light steps too keep time. Very soon
will be served a very fine menu[*]--oysters-saltfish-skate-sharks'-heads
in-new-wine-gristle-of-veal-pullet's-wings. Come, quick, seize
hold of a plate, snatch up a cup, and let's run to secure a place at
table. The rest will have their jaws at work by this time.
[* Transcriber's note: In the original, all following words until 'wings'
are connected with hyphens, i.e. they form _one_ word.]
SEMI-CHORUS. Let up leap and dance, Io! evoë! Let us to dinner, Io! evoë.
For victory is ours, victory is ours! Ho! Victory! Io! evoë!
* * * * *
FINIS OF "THE ECCLESIAZUSAE"
* * * * *
 A parody of the pompous addresses to inanimate objects so frequent
in the prologues and monodies of Euripides.
 A festival which was kept in Athens in the month of scirophorion
(June), whence its name; the statues of Athené, Demeter, Persephoné,
Apollo and Posidon were borne through the city with great pomp with
banners or canopies ([Greek: skira]) over them.
 So as to get sunburnt and thus have a more manly appearance.
 A demagogue, well known on account of his long flowing beard; he
was nicknamed by his fellow-citizens [Greek: Sakesphoros] that is,
shield-bearer, because his beard came down to his waist and covered his
body like a shield.
 Whereas the arms must be extended to do carding, and folk could not
fail to recognize her as a woman by their shape.
 Agyrrhius was an Athenian general, who commanded at Lesbos; he was
effeminate and of depraved habits. No doubt he had let his beard grow to
impose on the masses and to lend himself that dignity which he was
naturally wanting in.--Pronomus was a flute-player, who had a fine beard.
 Young pigs were sacrificed at the beginning of the sittings; here
the comic writer substitutes a cat for the pig, perhaps because of its
 A pathic; Aristophanes classes him with the women, because of his
 The orators wore green chaplets, generally of olive leaves; guests
also wore them at feasts, but then flowers were mingled with the leaves.
 An allusion to the rapacity of the orators, who only meddled in
political discussions with the object of getting some personal gain
through their influence; also to the fondness for strong drink we find
attributed in so many passages to the Athenian women.
 A sort of cistern dug in the ground, in which the ancients kept
 This was a form of oath that women made use of; hence it is barred
 Another pathic, like Ariphrades, mentioned above.
 Before the time of Pericles, when manners had not yet become
corrupt, the fame of each citizen was based on fact; worthy men were
honoured, and those who resembled Agyrrhius, already mentioned, were
detested. For this general, see note a little above.
 The alliance with Corinth, Boeotia and Argolis against Sparta in
 Conon, who went to Asia Minor and was thrown into prison at Sardis
by the Persian Satrap.
 An Argive to whom Conon entrusted the command of his fleet when he
went to the court of the King of Persia.--In this passage the poet is
warning his fellow-citizens not to alienate the goodwill of the allies by
their disdain, but to know how to honour those among them who had
distinguished themselves by their talents.
 The Lacedaemonians, after having recalled their king, Agesilas, who
gained the victory of Coronea, were themselves beaten at sea off Cnidus
by Conon and Pharnabazus. 'Twas no doubt this victory which gave a _spark
of hope_ to the Athenians, who had suffered so cruelly during so many
years; but Aristophanes declares that, in order to profit by this return
of fortune, they must recall Thrasybulus, the deliverer of Athens in 401
B.C. He was then ostensibly employed in getting the islands of the Aegean
sea and the towns of the Asiatic coast to return under the Athenian
power, but this was really only an honourable excuse for thrusting him
aside for reasons of jealousy.
 During the earlier years of the Peloponnesian war, when the annual
invasion of Attica by the Lacedaemonians drove the country population
into the city.
 A demagogue, otherwise unknown.
 Cephalus' father was said to have been a tinker.
 The comic poets accused him of being an alien by birth and also an
informer and a rogue. See the 'Plutus.'
 There was a Greek saying, "_Look into the backside of a dog and of
three foxes_" which, says the Scholiast, used to be addressed to those
who had bad eyes. But the precise point of the joke here is difficult to
 An obscene allusion; [Greek: hupokrouein] means both _pulsare_ and
_subagitare_,--to strike, and also to move to the man in sexual
 In order to vote.
 The Chorus addresses the leaders amongst the women by the names of
men. Charitimides was commander of the Athenian navy.
 The countryfolk affected to despise the townspeople, whom they
dubbed idle and lazy.
 The fee of the citizens who attended the Assembly had varied like
that of the dicasts, or jurymen.
 An Athenian general, who gained brilliant victories over the
Thebans during the period prior to the Peloponnesian war.
 A dithyrambic poet, and notorious for his dissoluteness; he was
accused of having daubed the statues of Hecate at the Athenian
cross-roads with ordure.
 The women wore yellow tunics, called [Greek: krok_otoi], because of
 This Thrasybulus, not to be confounded with the more famous
Thrasybulus, restorer of the Athenian democracy, in 403 B.C., had
undertaken to speak against the Spartans, who had come with proposals of
peace, but afterwards excused himself, pretending to be labouring under a
sore throat, brought on by eating wild pears (B.C. 393). The Athenians
suspected him of having been bribed by the Spartans.
 A coined word, derived from [Greek: _achras_], a wild pear.
 Amynon was not a physician, according to the Scholiast, but one of
those orators called [Greek: europr_oktoi] (_laticuli_) 'wide-arsed,'
because addicted to habits of pathic vice, and was invoked by Blepyrus
for that reason.
 A doctor notorious for his dissolute life.
 The Grecian goddess who presided over child-birth.
 He is afraid lest some comic poet should surprise him in his
ridiculous position and might cause a laugh at his expense upon the
 In accordance with a quaint Athenian custom a rope daubed with
vermilion was drawn across from end to end of the Agora (market-place) by
officials of the city at the last moment before the Ecclesia, or Public
Assembly, was to meet. Any citizen trying to evade his duty to be present
was liable to have his white robe streaked red, and so be exposed to
general ridicule on finally putting in an appearance on the Pnyx.
 A parody on a verse in 'The Myrmidons' of Aeschylus.--Antilochus
was the son of Nestor; he was killed by Memnon, when defending his
 See above.
 He was very poor, and his cloak was such a mass of holes that one
might doubt his having one at all. This surname, Evaeon ([Greek: eu
ai_on], delicious life) had doubtless been given him on the 'lucus a non'
principle because of his wretchedness.
 Apparently a wealthy corn-factor.
 Presumably this refers to the grandson of Nicias, the leader of the
expedition to Sicily; he must have been sixteen or seventeen years old
about that time, since, according to Lysias, Niceratus, the son of the
great Nicias, was killed in 405 B.C. and had left a son of tender age
behind him, who bore the name of his grandfather.
 That is, the pale-faced folk in the Assembly already referred
to--really the women there present surreptitiously.
 To eat cuttle-fish was synonymous with enjoying the highest
 A common vulgar saying, used among the Athenians, as much as to
say, _To the devil with interruptions!_
 This stood in the centre of the market-place.
 It was the custom at Athens to draw lots to decide in which Court
each dicast should serve; Praxagora proposes to apply the same system to
decide the dining station for each citizen.
 In Greek [Greek: h_e basileius]([Greek: stoa], understood), the
first letter a [Greek: b_eta.]
 Commencing with a [Greek: Th_eta].
 [Greek: Ha alphitop_olis stoa]; why [Greek: kappa], it is hard to
say; from some popular nickname probably, which is unknown to us.
 The pun cannot be kept in English; it is between [Greek: kaptein],
to gobble, to cram oneself, and [Greek: kappa], the designating letter.
 That is, one of the beautiful maidens selected to bear the baskets
containing the sacred implements in procession at the Festival of
Demeter, Bacchus and Athené.
 The slave-girl who attended each Canephoros, and sheltered her from
the sun's rays.
 Mentioned a little above for his ugliness; the Scholiast says he
was a general.
 Hydriaphoros; the wives of resident aliens ([Greek: metoikoi]) were
allowed to take part in these processions, but in a subordinate position;
they carried vessels full of water for the service of the sacrifice.
 Scaphephoros, bearer of the vases containing the honey required for
the sacrifices. The office was assigned to the [Greek: metoikoi] as a
recognition of their semi-citizenship.
 A miser, who, moreover, was obstinately constipated.
 Presumably a man in extreme poverty.
 The ancients carried small coins in their mouth; this custom still
obtains to-day in the East.
 This Euripides was the son of the tragic poet.
 This Smaeus was a notorious debauchee; the phrase contains obscene
allusions, implying that he was ready both to ride a woman or to lick her
privates--[Greek: kel_etizein] or [Greek: lesbiazein].
 Geres, an old fop, who wanted to pass as a young man.
 According to Greek custom, these were left at the entrance of the
 The names of his slaves.
 A specimen of the _serenades_ ([Greek: paraklausithura]) of the
 An Attic deme. There is an obscene jest here; the word [Greek:
anaphlan] means to masturbate.
 [Greek: Ton Sebinon], a coined name, representing [Greek: ton se
binounta], 'the man who is to tread you.'
 The passage is written in the language of the Bar. It is an
allusion to the slowness of justice at Athens.
 i.e. the new law must be conformed to all round.
 It was customary to paint phials or little bottles on the coffins
of the poor; these emblems took the place of the perfumes that were
sprinkled on the bodies of the rich.
 i.e. unless I am your slave; no doubt this tax of five hundredths
was paid by the master on the assumed value of his slave.--We have,
however, no historical data to confirm this.
 Nickname of the notorious brigand. The word means 'one who
stretches and tortures,' from [Greek: prokrouein], and refers to his
habit of fitting all his captives to the same bedstead--the 'bed of
Procrustes'--stretching them if too short to the required length, lopping
their limbs as required if they were too long. Here a further pun is
involved, [Greek: prokrouein] meaning also 'to go with a woman first.'
 Athenian law declared it illegal for a woman to contract any debt
exceeding the price of a _medimnus_ of corn; this law is now supposed to
affect the men.
 Merchants were exempt from military service; in this case, it is
another kind of service that the old woman wants to exact from the young
 A Thracian brigand, who forced strangers to share his daughters'
bed, or be devoured by his horses.
 Dead bodies were laid out on a layer of origanum, which is an
 The young man is here describing the formalities connected with the
laying out of the dead.
 Who had married his mother Jocasta without knowing it.
 A hideous spectre that Hecaté was supposed to send to frighten men.
 Which provided that where a number of criminals were charged with
the same offence, each must be tried separately.
 As an aphrodisiac.
 We have already seen similar waggish endings to phrases in the
'Lysistrata'; the figure is called [Greek: para prosdokian]--'contrary to
 Nothing is known as to these Cretan rhythms. According to the
Scholiast, this is a jest, because the Cretans, who were great eaters,
sat down to table early in the morning. This is what the Chorus supposes
it is going to do, since 'The Ecclesiazusae' was played first, i.e.
during the forenoon.
 This wonderful word consists, in the original Greek, of
seventy-seven syllables. For similar burlesque compounds see the
'Lysistrata,' 457, 458; 'Wasps,' 505 and 520. Compare Shakespeare,
'Love's Labour's Lost,' Act V. sc. 1: "I marvel thy master hath not eaten
thee for a word; for thou art not so long by the head as
_honorificabilitudinitatibus_." This is outdone by Rabelais'
[* Transcriber's note: This caption is missing in the original.]
The 'Plutus' differs widely from all other works of its Author, and, it
must be confessed, is the least interesting and diverting of them all.
"In its absence of personal interests and personal satire," and its lack
of strong comic incidents, "it approximates rather to a whimsical
allegory than a comedy properly so called."
The plot is of the simplest. Chremylus, a poor but just man, accompanied
by his body-servant Cario--the redeeming feature, by the by, of an
otherwise dull play, the original type of the comic valet of the stage of
all subsequent periods--consults the Delphic Oracle concerning his son,
whether he ought not to be instructed in injustice and knavery and the
other arts whereby worldly men acquire riches. By way of answer the god
only tells him that he is to follow whomsoever he first meets upon
leaving the temple, who proves to be a blind and ragged old man. But this
turns out to be no other than Plutus himself, the god of riches, whom
Zeus has robbed of his eyesight, so that he may be unable henceforth to
distinguish between the just and the unjust. However, succoured by
Chremylus and conducted by him to the Temple of Aesculapius, Plutus
regains the use of his eyes. Whereupon all just men, including the god's
benefactor, are made rich and prosperous, and the unjust reduced to
The play was, it seems, twice put upon the stage--first in 408 B.C., and
again in a revised and reinforced edition, with allusions and innuendoes
brought up to date, in 388 B.C., a few years before the Author's death.
The text we possess--marred, however, by several considerable lacunae--is
now generally allowed to be that of the piece as played at the later
date, when it won the prize.
* * * * *
CARIO, Servant of Chremylus.
PLUTUS, God of Riches.
BLEPSIDEMUS, friend of Chremylus.
WIFE OF CHREMYLUS.
A JUST MAN.
AN INFORMER, or Sycophant.
AN OLD WOMAN.
A PRIEST OF ZEUS.
CHORUS OF RUSTICS.
SCENE: In front of a farmhouse--a road leading up to it.
* * * * *
CARIO. What an unhappy fate, great gods, to be the slave of a fool! A
servant may give the best of advice, but if his master does not follow
it, the poor slave must inevitably have his share in the disaster; for
fortune does not allow him to dispose of his own body, it belongs to his
master who has bought it. Alas! 'tis the way of the world. But the god,
Apollo, whose oracles the Pythian priestess on her golden tripod makes
known to us, deserves my censure, for 'tis assured he is a physician and
a cunning diviner; and yet my master is leaving his temple infected with
mere madness and insists on following a blind man. Is this not opposed to
all good sense? 'Tis for us, who see clearly, to guide those who don't;
whereas he clings to the trail of a blind fellow and compels me to do the
same without answering my questions with ever a word. (_To Chremylus._)
Aye, master, unless you tell me why we are following this unknown fellow,
I will not be silent, but I will worry and torment you, for you cannot
beat me because of my sacred chaplet of laurel.
CHREMYLUS. No, but if you worry me I will take off your chaplet, and then
you will only get a sounder thrashing.
CARIO. That's an old song! I am going to leave you no peace till you have
told me who this man is; and if I ask it, 'tis entirely because of my
interest in you.
CHREMYLUS. Well, be it so. I will reveal it to you as being the most
faithful and the most rascally of all my servants. I honoured the
gods and did what was right, and yet I was none the less poor and
CARIO. I know it but too well.
CHREMYLUS. Other amassed wealth--the sacrilegious, the demagogues, the
informers, indeed every sort of rascal.
CARIO. I believe you.
CHREMYLUS. Therefore I came to consult the oracle of the god, not on my
own account, for my unfortunate life is nearing its end, but for my only
son; I wanted to ask Apollo, if it was necessary for him to become a
thorough knave and renounce his virtuous principles, since that seemed to
me to be the only way to succeed in life.
CARIO. And with what responding tones did the sacred tripod resound?
CHREMYLUS. You shall know. The god ordered me in plain terms to follow
the first man I should meet upon leaving the temple and to persuade him
to accompany me home.
CARIO. And who was the first one you met?
CHREMYLUS. This blind man.
CARIO. And you are stupid enough not to understand the meaning of such an
answer? Why, the god was advising you thereby, and that in the clearest
possible way, to bring up your son according to the fashion of your
CHREMYLUS. What makes you think that?
CARIO. Is it not evident to the blind, that nowadays to do nothing that
is right is the best way to get on?
CHREMYLUS. No, that is not the meaning of the oracle; there must be
another, that is nobler. If this blind man would tell us who he is and
why and with what object he has led us here, we should no doubt
understand what our oracle really does mean.
CARIO (_to Plutus_). Come, tell us at once who you are, or I give effect
to my threat. (_He menaces him_.) And quick too, be quick, I say.
PLUTUS. I'll thrash you.
CARIO (_to Chremylus_). Ha! is it thus he tells us his name?
CHREMYLUS. 'Tis to you and not to me that he replies thus; your mode of
questioning him was ill-advised. (_To Plutus._) Come, friend, if you care
to oblige an honest man, answer me.
PLUTUS. I'll knock you down.
CARIO. Ah! what a pleasant fellow and what a delightful prophecy the god
has given you!
CHREMYLUS. By Demeter, you'll have no reason to laugh presently.
CARIO. If you don't speak, you wretch, I will surely do you an ill turn.
PLUTUS. Friends, take yourselves off and leave me.
CHREMYLUS. That we very certainly shan't.
CARIO. This, master, is the best thing to do. I'll undertake to secure
him the most frightful death; I will lead him to the verge of a precipice
and then leave him there, so that he'll break his neck when he pitches
CHREMYLUS. Well then, I leave him to you, and do the thing quickly.
PLUTUS. Oh, no! Have mercy!
CHREMYLUS. Will you speak then?
PLUTUS. But if you learn who I am, I know well that you will ill-use me
and will not let me go again.
CHREMYLUS. I call the gods to witness that you have naught to fear if you
will only speak.
PLUTUS. Well then, first unhand me.
CHREMYLUS. There! we set you free.
PLUTUS. Listen then, since I must reveal what I had intended to keep a
secret. I am Plutus.
CHREMYLUS. Oh! you wretched rascal! You Plutus all the while, and you
never said so!
CARIO. You, Plutus, and in this piteous guise!
CHREMYLUS. Oh, Phoebus Apollo! oh, ye gods of heaven and hell! Oh, Zeus!
is it really and truly as you say?
CHREMYLUS. Plutus' very own self?
PLUTUS. His own very self and none other.
CHREMYLUS. But tell me, whence come you to be so squalid?
PLUTUS. I have just left Patrocles' house, who has not had a bath since
CHREMYLUS. But your infirmity; how did that happen? Tell me.
PLUTUS. Zeus inflicted it on me, because of his jealousy of mankind. When
I was young, I threatened him that I would only go to the just, the wise,
the men of ordered life; to prevent my distinguishing these, he struck me
with blindness! so much does he envy the good!
CHREMYLUS. And yet, 'tis only the upright and just who honour him.
PLUTUS. Quite true.
CHREMYLUS. Therefore, if ever you recovered your sight, you would shun
CHREMYLUS. You would visit the good?
PLUTUS. Assuredly. It is a very long time since I saw them.
CHREMYLUS. That's not astonishing. I, who see clearly, don't see a single
PLUTUS. Now let me leave you, for I have told you everything.
CHREMYLUS. No, certainly not! we shall fasten ourselves on to you faster
PLUTUS. Did I not tell you, you were going to plague me?
CHREMYLUS. Oh! I adjure you, believe what I say and don't leave me; for
you will seek in vain for a more honest man than myself.
CARIO. There is only one man more worthy; and that is I.
PLUTUS. All talk like this, but as soon as they secure my favours and
grow rich, their wickedness knows no bounds.
CHREMYLUS. And yet all men are not wicked.
PLUTUS. All. There's no exception.
CARIO. You shall pay for that opinion.
CHREMYLUS. Listen to what happiness there is in store for you, if you but
stay with us. I have hope; aye, I have good hope with the god's help to
deliver you from that blindness, in fact to restore your sight.
PLUTUS. Oh! do nothing of the kind, for I don't wish to recover it.
CHREMYLUS. What's that you say?
CARIO. This fellow hugs his own misery.
PLUTUS. If you were mad enough to cure me, and Zeus heard of it, he would
overwhelm me with his anger.
CHREMYLUS. And is he not doing this now by leaving you to grope your
PLUTUS. I don't know; but I'm horribly afraid of him.
CHREMYLUS. Indeed? Ah! you are the biggest poltroon of all the gods! Why,
Zeus with his throne and his lightnings would not be worth an obolus if
you recovered your sight, were it but for a few instants.
PLUTUS. Impious man, don't talk like that.
CHREMYLUS. Fear nothing! I will prove to you that you are far more
powerful and mightier than he.
PLUTUS. I mightier than he?
CHREMYLUS. Aye, by heaven! For instance, what is the origin of the power
that Zeus wields over the other gods?
CARIO. 'Tis money; he has so much of it.
CHREMYLUS. And who gives it to him?
CARIO (_pointing to Plutus_). This fellow.
CHREMYLUS. If sacrifices are offered to him, is not Plutus their cause?
CARIO. Undoubtedly, for 'tis wealth that all demand and clamour most
CHREMYLUS. Thus 'tis Plutus who is the fount of all the honours rendered
to Zeus, whose worship he can wither up at the root, if it so please him.
PLUTUS. And how so?
CHREMYLUS. Not an ox, nor a cake, nor indeed anything at all could be
offered, if you did not wish it.
CHREMYLUS. Why? but what means are there to buy anything if you are not
there to give the money? Hence if Zeus should cause you any trouble, you
will destroy his power without other help.
PLUTUS. So 'tis because of me that sacrifices are offered to him?
CHREMYLUS. Most assuredly. Whatever is dazzling, beautiful or charming in
the eyes of mankind, comes from you. Does not everything depend on
CARIO. I myself was bought for a few coins; if I'm a slave, 'tis only
because I was not rich.
CHREMYLUS. And what of the Corinthian courtesans? If a poor man
offers them proposals, they do not listen; but if it be a rich one,
instantly they offer their buttocks for his pleasure.
CARIO. 'Tis the same with the lads; they care not for love, to them money
CHREMYLUS. You speak of those who accept all comers; yet some of them are
honest, and 'tis not money they ask of their patrons.
CARIO. What then?
CHREMYLUS. A fine horse, a pack of hounds.
CARIO. Aye, they would blush to ask for money and cleverly disguise their
CHREMYLUS. 'Tis in you that every art, all human inventions, have had
their origin; 'tis through you that one man sits cutting leather in his
CARIO. That another fashions iron or wood.
CHREMYLUS. That yet another chases the gold he has received from you.
CARIO. That one is a fuller.
CHREMYLUS. That t'other washes wool.
CARIO. That this one is a tanner.
CHREMYLUS. And that other sells onions.
CARIO. And if the adulterer, caught red-handed, is depilated, 'tis
on account of you.
PLUTUS. Oh! great gods! I knew naught of all this!
CARIO. Is it not he who lends the Great King all his pride?
CHREMYLUS. Is it not he who draws the citizens to the Assembly?
CARIO. And tell me, is it not you who equip the triremes?
CHREMYLUS. And who feed our mercenaries at Corinth?
CARIO. Are not you the cause of Pamphilus' sufferings?
CHREMYLUS. And of the needle-seller's with Pamphilus?
CARIO. Is it not because of you that Agyrrhius lets wind so loudly?
CHREMYLUS. And that Philepsius rolls off his fables?
CARIO. That troops are sent to succour the Egyptians?
CHREMYLUS. And that Laïs is kept by Philonides?
CARIO. That the tower of Timotheus ...
CHREMYLUS. ... (_To Cario._) May it fall upon your head! (_To Plutus._)
In short, Plutus, 'tis through you that everything is done; be it known
to you that you are the sole cause both of good and evil.
CARIO. In war, 'tis the flag under which you serve that victory favours.
PLUTUS. What! I can do so many things by myself and unaided?
CHREMYLUS. And many others besides; wherefore men are never tired of your
gifts. They get weary of all else,--of love ...
CARIO. Of bread.
CHREMYLUS. Of music.
CARIO. Of sweetmeats.
CHREMYLUS. Of honours.
CARIO. Of cakes.
CHREMYLUS. Of battles.
CARIO. Of figs.
CHREMYLUS. Of ambition.
CARIO. Of gruel.
CHREMYLUS. Of military advancement.
CARIO. Of lentils.
CHREMYLUS. But of you they never tire. Has a man got thirteen talents, he
has all the greater ardour to possess sixteen; is that wish achieved, he
will want forty or will complain that he knows not how to make the two
PLUTUS. All this, methinks, is very true; there is but one point that
makes me feel a bit uneasy.
CHREMYLUS. And that is?
PLUTUS. How could I use this power, which you say I have?
CHREMYLUS. Ah! they were quite right who said, there's nothing more
timorous than Plutus.
PLUTUS. No, no; it was a thief who calumniated me. Having broken into a
house, he found everything locked up and could take nothing, so he dubbed
my prudence fear.
CHREMYLUS. Don't be disturbed; if you support me zealously, I'll make you
more sharp-sighted than Lynceus.
PLUTUS. And how should you be able to do that, you, who are but a mortal?
CHREMYLUS. I have great hope, after the answer Apollo gave me, shaking
his sacred laurels the while.
PLUTUS. Is _he_ in the plot then?
CHREMYLUS. Aye, truly.
PLUTUS. Take care what you say.
CHREMYLUS. Never fear, friend; for, be well assured, that if it has to
cost me my life, I will carry out what I have in my head.
CARIO. And I will help you, if you permit it.
CHREMYLUS. We shall have many other helpers as well--all the worthy folk
who are wanting for bread.
PLUTUS. Ah! ha! they'll prove sorry helpers.
CHREMYLUS. No, not so, once they've grown rich. But you, Cario, run quick
CHREMYLUS. ... to call my comrades, the other husbandmen, that each of
them may come here to take his share of the gifts of Plutus.
CARIO. I'm off. But let someone come from the house to take this morsel
CHREMYLUS. I'll see to that; you run your hardest. As for you, Plutus,
the most excellent of all the gods, come in here with me; this is the
house you must fill with riches today, by fair means or foul.
PLUTUS. I don't like at all going into other folks' houses in this
manner; I have never got any good from it. If I got inside a miser's
house, straightway he would bury me deep underground; if some honest
fellow among his friends came to ask him for the smallest coin, he would
deny ever having seen me. Then if I went to a fool's house, he would
sacrifice me as a prey to gaming and to girls, and very soon I should be
completely stripped and pitched out of doors.
CHREMYLUS. That's because you have never met a man who knew how to avoid
the two extremes; moderation is the strong point in my character. I love
saving as much as anybody, and I know how to spend, when 'tis needed. But
let us go in; I want to make you known to my wife and to my only son,
whom I love most of all after yourself.
PLUTUS. Aye, after myself, I'm very sure of that.
CHREMYLUS. Why should I hide the truth from you?
CARIO. Come, you active workers, who, like my master, eat nothing but
garlic and the poorest food, you who are his friends and his neighbours,
hasten your steps, hurry yourselves; there's not a moment to lose; this
is the critical hour, when your presence and your support is needed by
CHORUS. Why, don't you see we are speeding as fast as men can, who are
already enfeebled by age? But do you deem it fitting to make us run like
this before ever telling us why your master has called us?
CARIO. I've grown hoarse with the telling, but you won't listen. My
master is going to drag you all out of the stupid, sapless life you are
leading and ensure you one full of all delights.
CHORUS. And how is he going to manage that?
CARIO. My poor friends, he has brought with him a disgusting old fellow,
all bent and wrinkled, with a most pitiful appearance, bald and
toothless; upon my word, I even believe he is circumcised like some vile
CHORUS. These are news worth their weight in gold! What are you saying?
Repeat it to me; no doubt it means he is bringing back a heap of wealth.
CARIO. No, but a heap of all the infirmities attendant on old age.
CHORUS. If you are tricking us, you shall pay us for it. Beware of our
CARIO. Do you deem me so brazen as all that, and my words mere lies?
CHORUS. What serious airs the rascal puts on! Look! his legs are already
shrieking, "oh! oh!" they are asking for the shackles and wedges.
CARIO. 'Tis in the tomb that 'tis your lot to judge. Why don't you go
there? Charon has given you your ticket.
CHORUS. Plague take you! you cursed rascal, who rail at us and have not
even the heart to tell us why your master has made us come. We were
pressed for time and tired out, yet we came with all haste, and in our
hurry we have passed by lots of wild onions without even gathering them.
CARIO. I will no longer conceal the truth from you. Friends, 'tis Plutus
whom my master brings, Plutus, who will give you riches.
CHORUS. What! we shall really all become rich!
CARIO. Aye, certainly; you will then be Midases, provided you grow ass's
CHORUS. What joy, what happiness! If what you tell me is true, I long to
dance with delight.
CARIO. And I too, threttanello! I want to imitate Cyclops and lead
your troop by stamping like this. Do you, my dear little ones, cry,
aye, cry again and bleat forth the plaintive song of the sheep and of the
stinking goats; follow me with erected organs like lascivious goats ready
CHORUS. As for us, threttanello! we will seek you, dear Cyclops,
bleating, and if we find you with your wallet full of fresh herbs, all
disgusting in your filth, sodden with wine and sleeping in the midst of
your sheep, we will seize a great flaming stake and burn out your
CARIO. I will copy that Circé of Corinth, whose potent philtres
compelled the companions of Philonides to swallow balls of dung, which
she herself had kneaded with her hands, as if they were swine; and do you
too grunt with joy and follow your mother, my little pigs.
CHORUS. Oh! Circé with the potent philtres, who besmear your
companions so filthily, what pleasure I shall have in imitating the son
of Laertes! I will hang you up by your testicles, I will rub your
nose with dung like a goat, and like Aristyllus you shall say
through your half-opened lips, "Follow your mother, my little pigs."
CARIO. Enough of tomfoolery, assume a grave demeanour; unknown to my
master I am going to take bread and meat; and when I have fed well, I
shall resume my work.
CHREMYLUS. To say, "Hail! my dear neighbours!" is an old form of greeting
and well worn with use; so therefore I embrace you, because you have not
crept like tortoises, but have come rushing here in all haste. Now help
me to watch carefully and closely over the god.
CHORUS. Be at ease. You shall see with what martial zeal I will guard
him. What! we jostle each other at the Assembly for three obols, and am I
going to let Plutus in person be stolen from me?
CHREMYLUS. But I see Blepsidemus; by his bearing and his haste I can
readily see he knows or suspects something.
BLEPSIDEMUS. What has happened then? Whence, how has Chremylus suddenly
grown rich? I don't believe a word of it. Nevertheless, nothing but his
sudden fortune was being talked about in the barbers' booths. But I am
above all surprised that his good fortune has not made him forget his
friends; that is not the usual way!
CHREMYLUS. By the gods, Blepsidemus, I will hide nothing from you. To-day
things are better than yesterday; let us share, for are you not my
BLEPSIDEMUS. Have you really grown rich as they say?
CHREMYLUS I shall be soon, if the god agrees to it. But there is still
some risk to run.
BLEPSIDEMUS. What risk?
CHREMYLUS. What risk?
BLEPSIDEMUS. What do you mean? Explain.
CHREMYLUS. If we succeed, we are happy for ever, but if we fail, it is
all over with us.
BLEPSIDEMUS. 'Tis a bad business, and one that doesn't please me! To grow
rich all at once and yet to be fearful! ah! I suspect something that's
CHREMYLUS. What do you mean, that's little good?
BLEPSIDEMUS. No doubt you have just stolen some gold and silver from some
temple and are repenting.
CHREMYLUS. Nay! heaven preserve me from that!
BLEPSIDEMUS. A truce to idle phrases! the thing is only too apparent, my
CHREMYLUS. Don't suspect such a thing of me.
BLEPSIDEMUS. Alas! then there is no honest man! not one, that can resist
the attraction of gold!
CHREMYLUS. By Demeter, you have no common sense.
BLEPSIDEMUS. To have to persist like this in denial one's whole life
CHREMYLUS. But, good gods, you are mad, my dear fellow!
BLEPSIDEMUS. His very look is distraught; he has done some crime!
CHREMYLUS. Ah! I know the tune you are playing now; you think I have
stolen, and want your share.
BLEPSIDEMUS. My share of what, pray?
CHREMYLUS. You are beside the mark; the thing is quite otherwise.
BLEPSIDEMUS. 'Tis perhaps not a theft, but some piece of knavery!
CHREMYLUS. You are insane!
BLEPSIDEMUS. What? You have done no man an injury?
CHREMYLUS. No! assuredly not!
BLEPSIDEMUS. But, great gods, what am I to think? You won't tell me the
CHREMYLUS. You accuse me without really knowing anything.
BLEPSIDEMUS. Listen, friend, no doubt the matter can yet be hushed up,
before it gets noised abroad, at trifling expense; I will buy the
CHREMYLUS. Aye, you will lay out three minae and, as my friend, you will
reckon twelve against me.
BLEPSIDEMUS. I know someone who will come and seat himself at the foot of
the tribunal, holding a supplicant's bough in his hand and surrounded by
his wife and children, for all the world like the Heraclidae of
CHREMYLUS. Not at all, poor fool! But, thanks to me, worthy folk,
intelligent and moderate men alone shall be rich henceforth.
BLEPSIDEMUS. What are you saying? Have you then stolen so much as all
CHREMYLUS. Oh! your insults will be the death of me.
BLEPSIDEMUS. 'Tis rather you yourself who are courting death.
CHREMYLUS. Not so, you wretch, since I have Plutus.
BLEPSIDEMUS. You have Plutus? Which one?
CHREMYLUS. The god himself.
BLEPSIDEMUS. And where is he?
CHREMYLUS. Aye, certainly.
BLEPSIDEMUS. Get you gone! Plutus in your house?
CHREMYLUS. Yes, by the gods!
BLEPSIDEMUS. Are you telling me the truth?
CHREMYLUS. I am.
BLEPSIDEMUS. Swear it by Hestia.
CHREMYLUS. I swear it by Posidon.
BLEPSIDEMUS. The god of the sea?
CHREMYLUS. Aye, and by all the other Posidons, if such there be.
BLEPSIDEMUS. And you don't send him to us, to your friends?
CHREMYLUS. We've not got to that point yet.
BLEPSIDEMUS. What do you say? Is there no chance of sharing?
CHREMYLUS. Why, no. We must first ...
BLEPSIDEMUS. Do what?
CHREMYLUS. ... restore him his sight.
BLEPSIDEMUS. Restore whom his sight? Speak!
CHREMYLUS. Plutus. It must be done, no matter how.
BLEPSIDEMUS. Is he then really blind?
CHREMYLUS. Yes, undoubtedly.
BLEPSIDEMUS. I am no longer surprised he never came to me.
CHREMYLUS. And it please the gods, he'll come there now.
BLEPSIDEMUS. Must we not go and seek a physician?
CHREMYLUS. Seek physicians at Athens? Nay! there's no art where there's
BLEPSIDEMUS. Let's bethink ourselves well.
CHREMYLUS. There is not one.
BLEPSIDEMUS. 'Tis a positive fact, I don't know of one.
CHREMYLUS. But I have thought the matter well over, and the best thing is
to make Plutus lie in the Temple of Aesculapius.
BLEPSIDEMUS. Aye, unquestionably 'tis the very best thing. Be quick and
lead him away to the Temple.
CHREMYLUS. I am going there.
BLEPSIDEMUS. Then hurry yourself.
CHREMYLUS. 'Tis just what I am doing.
POVERTY. Unwise, perverse, unholy men! What are you daring to do, you
pitiful, wretched mortals? Whither are you flying? Stop! I command it!
BLEPSIDEMUS. Oh! great gods!
POVERTY. My arm shall destroy you, you infamous beings! Such an attempt
is not to be borne; neither man nor god has ever dared the like. You
CHREMYLUS. And who are you? Oh! what a ghastly pallor!
BLEPSIDEMUS. 'Tis perchance some Erinnys, some Fury, from the
theatre; there's a kind of wild tragedy look in her eyes.
CHREMYLUS. But she has no torch.
BLEPSIDEMUS. Let's knock her down!
POVERTY. Who do you think I am?
CHREMYLUS. Some wine-shop keeper or egg-woman. Otherwise you would not
have shrieked so loud at us, who have done nothing to you.
POVERTY. Indeed? And have you not done me the most deadly injury by
seeking to banish me from every country?
CHREMYLUS. Why, have you not got the Barathrum left? But who are
you? Answer me quickly!
POVERTY. I am one that will punish you this very day for having wanted to
make me disappear from here.
BLEPSIDEMUS. Might it be the tavern-keeper in my neighbourhood, who is
always cheating me in measure?
POVERTY. I am Poverty, who have lived with you for so many years.
BLEPSIDEMUS. Oh! great Apollo! oh, ye gods! whither shall I fly?
CHREMYLUS. Now then! what are you doing? You poltroon! Will you kindly
BLEPSIDEMUS. Not I.
CHREMYLUS. Will you have the goodness to stop. Are two men to fly from a
BLEPSIDEMUS. But, you wretch, 'tis Poverty, the most fearful monster that
ever drew breath.
CHREMYLUS. Stay where you are, I beg of you.
BLEPSIDEMUS. No! no! a thousand times, no!
CHREMYLUS. Could we do anything worse than leave the god in the lurch and
fly before this woman without so much as ever offering to fight?
BLEPSIDEMUS. But what weapons have we? Are we in a condition to show
fight? Where is the breastplate, the buckler, that this wretch has not
CHREMYLUS. Be at ease. Plutus will readily triumph over her threats
POVERTY. Dare you reply, you scoundrels, you who are caught red-handed at
the most horrible crime?
CHREMYLUS. As for you, you cursed jade, you pursue me with your abuse,
though I have never done you the slightest harm.
POVERTY. Do you think it is doing me no harm to restore Plutus to the use
of his eyes?
CHREMYLUS. Is this doing you harm, that we shower blessings on all men?
POVERTY. And what do you think will ensure their happiness?
CHREMYLUS. Ah! first of all we shall drive you out of Greece.
POVERTY. Drive me out? Could you do mankind a greater harm?
CHREMYLUS. Yes--if I gave up my intention to deliver them from you.
POVERTY. Well, let us discuss this point first. I propose to show that I
am the sole cause of all your blessings, and that your safety depends on
me alone. If I don't succeed, then do what you like to me.
CHREMYLUS. How dare you talk like this, you impudent hussy?
POVERTY. Agree to hear me and I think it will be very easy for me to
prove that you are entirely on the wrong road, when you want to make the
just men wealthy.
BLEPSIDEMUS. Oh! cudgel and rope's end, come to my help!
POVERTY. Why such wrath and these shouts, before you hear my arguments?
BLEPSIDEMUS. But who could listen to such words without exclaiming?
POVERTY. Any man of sense.
CHREMYLUS. But if you lose your case, what punishment will you submit to?
POVERTY. Choose what you will.
CHREMYLUS. That's all right.
POVERTY. You shall suffer the same if you are beaten!
CHREMYLUS. Do you think twenty deaths a sufficiently large stake?
BLEPSIDEMUS. Good enough for her, but for us two would suffice.
POVERTY. You won't escape, for is there indeed a single valid argument to
oppose me with?
CHORUS. To beat her in this debate, you must call upon all your wits.
Make no allowances and show no weakness!
CHREMYLUS. It is right that the good should be happy, that the wicked and
the impious, on the other hand, should be miserable; that is a truth, I
believe, which no one will gainsay. To realize this condition of things
is as great a proposal as it is noble and useful in every respect, and we
have found a means of attaining the object of our wishes. If Plutus
recovers his sight and ceases from wandering about unseeing and at
random, he will go to seek the just men and never leave them again; he
will shun the perverse and ungodly; so, thanks to him, all men will
become honest, rich and pious. Can anything better be conceived for the
BLEPSIDEMUS. Of a certainty, no! I bear witness to that. It is not even
necessary she should reply.
CHREMYLUS. Does it not seem that everything is extravagance in the world,
or rather madness, when you watch the way things go? A crowd of rogues
enjoy blessings they have won by sheer injustice, while more honest folks
are miserable, die of hunger, and spend their whole lives with you.
CHORUS. Yes, if Plutus became clear-sighted again and drove out Poverty,
'twould be the greatest blessing possible for the human race.
POVERTY. Here are two old men, whose brains are easy to confuse, who
assist each other to talk rubbish and drivel to their hearts' content.
But if your wishes were realized, your profit would be great! Let Plutus
recover his sight and divide his favours out equally to all, and none
will ply either trade or art any longer; all toil would be done away
with. Who would wish to hammer iron, build ships, sew, turn, cut up
leather, bake bricks, bleach linen, tan hides, or break up the soil of
the earth with the plough and garner the gifts of Demeter, if he could
live in idleness and free from all this work?
CHREMYLUS. What nonsense all this is! All these trades which you just
mention will be plied by our slaves.
POVERTY. Your slaves! And by what means will these slaves be got?
CHREMYLUS. We will buy them.
POVERTY. But first say, who will sell them, if everyone is rich?
CHREMYLUS. Some greedy dealer from Thessaly--the land which supplies so
POVERTY. But if your system is applied, there won't be a single
slave-dealer left. What rich man would risk his life to devote himself to
this traffic? You will have to toil, to dig and submit yourself to all
kinds of hard labour; so that your life would be more wretched even than
it is now.
CHREMYLUS. May this prediction fall upon yourself!
POVERTY. You will not be able to sleep in a bed, for no more will ever be
manufactured; nor on carpets, for who would weave them if he had gold?
When you bring a young bride to your dwelling, you will have no essences
wherewith to perfume her, nor rich embroidered cloaks dyed with dazzling
colours in which to clothe her. And yet what is the use of being rich, if
you are to be deprived of all these enjoyments? On the other hand, you
have all that you need in abundance, thanks to me; to the artisan I am
like a severe mistress, who forces him by need and poverty to seek the
means of earning his livelihood.
CHREMYLUS. And what good thing can you give us, unless it be burns in the
bath, and swarms of brats and old women who cry with hunger, and
clouds uncountable of lice, gnats and flies, which hover about the
wretch's head, trouble him, awake him and say, "You will be hungry, but
get up!" Besides, to possess a rag in place of a mantle, a pallet of
rushes swarming with bugs, that do not let you close your eyes for a bed;
a rotten piece of matting for a coverlet; a big stone for a pillow, on
which to lay your head; to eat mallow roots instead of bread, and leaves
of withered radish instead of cake; to have nothing but the cover of a
broken jug for a stool, the stave of a cask, and broken at that, for a
kneading-trough, that is the life you make for us! Are these the mighty
benefits with which you pretend to load mankind?
POVERTY. 'Tis not my life that you describe; you are attacking the
existence beggars lead.
CHREMYLUS. Is beggary not Poverty's sister?
POVERTY. Thrasybulus and Dionysius are one and the same according to
you. No, my life is not like that and never will be. The beggar, whom you
have depicted to us, never possesses anything. The poor man lives
thriftily and attentive to his work; he has not got too much, but he does
not lack what he really needs.
CHREMYLUS. Oh! what a happy life, by Demeter! to live sparingly, to toil
incessantly and not to leave enough to pay for a tomb!
POVERTY. That's it! Jest, jeer, and never talk seriously! But what you
don't know is this, that men with me are worth more, both in mind and
body, than with Plutus. With him they are gouty, big-bellied, heavy of
limb and scandalously stout; with me they are thin, wasp-waisted, and
terrible to the foe.
CHREMYLUS. 'Tis no doubt by starving them that you give them that waspish
POVERTY. As for behaviour, I will prove to you that modesty dwells with
me and insolence with Plutus.
CHREMYLUS. Oh! the sweet modesty of stealing and breaking through
BLEPSIDEMUS. Aye, the thief is truly modest, for he hides himself.
POVERTY. Look at the orators in our republics; as long as they are poor,
both State and people can only praise their uprightness; but once they
are fattened on the public funds, they conceive a hatred for justice,
plan intrigues against the people and attack the democracy.
CHREMYLUS. That is absolutely true, although your tongue is very vile.
But it matters not, so don't put on those triumphant airs; you shall not
be punished any the less for having tried to persuade me that poverty is
worth more than wealth.
POVERTY. Not being able to refute my arguments, you chatter at random and
exert yourself to no purpose.
CHREMYLUS. Then tell me this, why does all mankind flee from you?
POVERTY. Because I make them better. Children do the very same; they flee
from the wise counsels of their fathers. So difficult is it to see one's
CHREMYLUS. Will you say that Zeus cannot discern what is best? Well, he
takes Plutus to himself ...
BLEPSIDEMUS. ... and banishes Poverty to earth.
POVERTY. Ah me! how purblind you are, you old fellows of the days of
Saturn! Why, Zeus is poor, and I will clearly prove it to you. In the
Olympic games, which he founded, and to which he convokes the whole of
Greece every four years, why does he only crown the victorious athletes
with wild olive? If he were rich he would give them gold.
CHREMYLUS. 'Tis in that way he shows that he clings to his wealth; he is
sparing with it, won't part with any portion of it, only bestows baubles
on the victors and keeps his money for himself.
POVERTY. But wealth coupled to such sordid greed is yet more shameful
CHREMYLUS. May Zeus destroy you, both you and your chaplet of wild olive!
POVERTY. Thus you dare to maintain that poverty is not the fount of all
CHREMYLUS. Ask Hecaté whether it is better to be rich or starving;
she will tell you that the rich send her a meal every month and that the
poor make it disappear before it is even served. But go and hang yourself
and don't breathe another syllable. I will not be convinced against my
POVERTY. "Oh! citizens of Argos! do you hear what he says?"
CHREMYLUS. Invoke Pauson, your boon companion, rather.
POVERTY. Alas! what is to become of me?
CHREMYLUS. Get you gone, be off quick and a pleasant journey to you.
POVERTY. But where shall I go?
CHREMYLUS. To gaol; but hurry up, let us put an end to this.
POVERTY. One day you will recall me.
CHREMYLUS. Then you can return; but disappear for the present. I prefer
to be rich; you are free to knock your head against the walls in your
BLEPSIDEMUS. And I too welcome wealth. I want, when I leave the bath all
perfumed with essences, to feast bravely with my wife and children and to
break wind in the faces of toilers and Poverty.
CHREMYLUS. So that hussy has gone at last! But let us make haste to put
Plutus to bed in the Temple of Aesculapius.
BLEPSIDEMUS. Let us make haste; else some bothering fellow may again come
to interrupt us.
CHREMYLUS. Cario, bring the coverlets and all that I have got ready from
the house; let us conduct the god to the Temple, taking care to observe
all the proper rites.
CARIO. Oh! you old fellows, who used to dip out the broth served to the
poor at the festival of Theseus with little pieces of bread hollowed
like a spoon, how worthy of envy is your fate! How happy you are, both
you and all just men!
CHORUS. My good fellow, what has happened to your friends? You seem the
bearer of good tidings.
CARIO. What joy for my master and even more for Plutus! The god has
regained his sight; his eyes sparkle with the greatest brilliancy, thanks
to the benevolent care of Aesculapius.
CHORUS. Oh! what transports of joy! oh! What shouts of gladness!
CARIO. Aye! one is compelled to rejoice, whether one will or not.
CHORUS. I will sing to the honour of Aesculapius, the son of illustrious
Zeus, with a resounding voice; he is the beneficent star which men adore.
CHREMYLUS' WIFE. What mean these shouts? Is there good news. With what
impatience have I been waiting in the house, and for so long too!
CARIO. Quick! quick! some wine, mistress. And drink yourself, for 'tis
much to your taste; I bring you all blessings in a lump.
WIFE. Where are they?
CARIO. In my words, as you are going to see.
WIFE. Have done with trifling! come, speak.
CARIO. Listen, I am going to tell you everything from the feet to the
WIFE. Ah! don't throw anything at my head.
CARIO. Not even the happiness that has come to you?
WIFE. No, no, nothing ... to annoy me.
CARIO. Having arrived near to the Temple with our patient, then so
unfortunate, but now at the apex of happiness, of blessedness, we first
led him down to the sea to purify him.
WIFE. Ah! what a singular pleasure for an old man to bathe in the cold
CARIO. Then we repaired to the Temple of the god. Once the wafers and the
various offerings had been consecrated upon the altar, and the cake of
wheaten-meal had been handed over to the devouring Hephaestus, we made
Plutus lie on a couch according to the rite, and each of us prepared
himself a bed of leaves.
WIFE. Had any other folk come to beseech the deity?
CARIO. Yes. Firstly, Neoclides, who is blind, but steals much better
than those who see clearly; then many others attacked by complaints of
all kinds. The lights were put out and the priest enjoined us to sleep,
especially recommending us to keep silent should we hear any noise. There
we were all lying down quite quietly. I could not sleep; I was thinking
of a certain stew-pan full of pap placed close to an old woman and just
behind her head. I had a furious longing to slip towards that side. But
just as I was lifting my head, I noticed the priest, who was sweeping off
both the cakes and the figs on the sacred table; then he made the round
of the altars and sanctified the cakes that remained, by stowing them
away in a bag. I therefore resolved to follow such a pious example and
made straight for the pap.
WIFE. You wretch! and had you no fear of the god?
CARIO. Aye, indeed! I feared that the god with his crown on his head
might have been near the stew-pan before me. I said to myself, "Like
priest, like god." On hearing the noise I made, the old woman put out her
hand, but I hissed and bit it, just as a sacred serpent might have
done. Quick she drew back her hand, slipped down into the bed with
her head beneath the coverlets and never moved again; only she let go
some wind in her fear which stunk worse than a weasel. As for myself, I
swallowed a goodly portion of the pap and, having made a good feed, went
back to bed.
WIFE. And did not the god come?
CAIRO. He did not tarry; and when he was near us, oh! dear! such a good
joke happened. My belly was quite blown out, and I let wind with the
loudest of noises.
WIFE. Doubtless the god pulled a wry face?
CARIO. No, but Iaso blushed a little and Panacea turned her head
away, holding her nose; for my perfume is not that of roses.
WIFE. And what did the god do?
CARIO. He paid not the slightest heed.
WIFE. He must then be a pretty coarse kind of god?
CARIO. I don't say that, but he's used to tasting shit.
WIFE. Impudent knave, go on with you!
CARIO. Then I hid myself in my bed all a-tremble. Aesculapius did the
round of the patients and examined them all with great attention; then a
slave placed beside him a stone mortar, a pestle and a little box.
WIFE. Of stone?
CARIO. No, not of stone.
WIFE. But how could you see all this, you arch-rascal, when you say you
were hiding all the time?
CARIO. Why, great gods, through my cloak, for 'tis not without holes! He
first prepared an ointment for Neoclides; he threw three heads of
Tenian garlic into the mortar, pounded them with an admixture of
fig-tree sap and lentisk, moistened the whole with Sphettian
vinegar, and, turning back the patient's eyelids, applied his salve to
the interior of the eyes, so that the pain might be more excruciating.
Neoclides shrieked, howled, sprang towards the foot of his bed and wanted
to bolt, but the god laughed and said to him, "Keep where you are with
your salve; by doing this you will not go and perjure yourself before the
WIFE What a wise god and what a friend to our city!
CARIO. Thereupon he came and seated himself at the head of Plutus' bed,
took a perfectly clean rag and wiped his eye-lids; Panacea covered his
head and face with a purple cloth, while the god whistled, and two
enormous snakes came rushing from the sanctuary.
WIFE. Great gods!
CARIO. They slipped gently beneath the purple cloth and, as far as I
could judge, licked the patient's eyelids; for, in less time than even
you need, mistress, to drain down ten beakers of wine, Plutus rose up; he
could see. I clapped my hands with joy and awoke my master, and the god
immediately disappeared with the serpents into the sanctuary. As for
those who were lying near Plutus, you can imagine that they embraced him
tenderly. Dawn broke and not one of them had closed an eye. As for
myself, I did not cease thanking the god who had so quickly restored to
Plutus his sight and had made Neoclides blinder than ever.
WIFE. Oh! thou great Aesculapius! How mighty is thy power! (_To Cario._)
But tell me, where is Plutus now?
CARIO. He is approaching, escorted by an immense crowd. The rich, whose
wealth is ill-gotten, are knitting their brows and shooting at him looks
of fierce hate, while the just folk, who led a wretched existence,
embrace him and grasp his hand in the transport of their joy; they follow
in his wake, their heads wreathed with garlands, laughing and blessing
their deliverer; the old men make the earth resound as they walk together
keeping time. Come, all of you, all, down to the very least, dance, leap
and form yourselves into a chorus; no longer do you risk being told, when
you go home, "There is no meal in the bag."
WIFE. And I, by Hecate! I will string you a garland of cakes for the good
tidings you have brought me.
CARIO. Hurry, make haste then; our friends are close at hand.
WIFE. I will go indoors to fetch some gifts of welcome, to celebrate
these eyes that have just been opened.
CARIO. Meantime I am going forth to meet them.
PLUTUS. I adore thee, oh! thou divine sun, and thee I greet thou city,
the beloved of Pallas; be welcome, thou land of Cecrops, which hast
received me. Alas! what manner of men I associated with! I blush to think
of it. While, on the other hand, I shunned those who deserved my
friendship; I knew neither the vices of the ones nor the virtues of the
others. A twofold mistake, and in both cases equally fatal! Ah! what a
misfortune was mine! But I want to change everything; and in future I
mean to prove to mankind that, if I gave to the wicked, 'twas against my
CHREMYLUS (_to the crowd who impede him_). Get you gone! Oh! what a lot
of friends spring into being when you are fortunate! They dig me with
their elbows and bruise my shins to prove their affection. Each one wants
to greet me. What a crowd of old fellows thronged round me on the
WIFE. Oh! thou, who art dearest of all to me, and thou too, be welcome!
Allow me, Plutus, to shower these gifts of welcome over you in due accord
PLUTUS. No. This is the first house I enter after having regained my
sight; I shall take nothing from it, for 'tis my place rather to give.
WIFE. Do you refuse these gifts?
PLUTUS. I will accept them at your fireside, as custom requires. Besides,
we shall thus avoid a ridiculous scene; it is not meet that the poet
should throw dried figs and dainties to the spectators; 'tis a vulgar
trick to make 'em laugh.
WIFE. You are right. Look! yonder's Dexinicus, who was already getting to
his feet to catch the figs as they flew past him.
CARIO. How pleasant it is, friends, to live well, especially when it
costs nothing! What a deluge of blessings flood our household, and that
too without our having wronged ever a soul! Ah! what a delightful thing
is wealth! The bin is full of white flour and the wine-jars run over with
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