425 BC

Translated by Ian Johnston
Vancouver Island University
Nanaimo, British Columbia

The following text is also available as an RTF file or a PDF file. Click on the appropriate link here:

Acharnians (rtf)
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Introductory Note

This English text is in the public realm (released February 2023). Contact Ian Johnston ( for comments or questions.

In numbering the lines in the following English text, the translator has normally included a short indented line with the short line immediately above it, so that two or three partial lines count as a single line in the reckoning. The line numbers in square brackets refer to the Greek text; line numbers without brackets refer to the English text. The endnotes have been provided by the translator.

During the play the characters at times use quotations from lost plays (of Euripides). These quotations are between single quotation marks, e.g., ‘Quotation from lost play.’

Acharnians was first performed in Athens in 425 BC. The production won first prize at the Lenaian festival in honour of the god Dionysus. At that time Athens and its allies had been at war with Sparta and its allies for five years.


Dramatis Personae

Speaking Roles

DICAEOPOLIS, a middle-aged Athenian farmer
AMBASSADORS, Athenians returning from Persia
PSEUDOARTABAS, the Persian King’s Eye
THEORUS, a politician
CHORUS, elderly Athenians from Acharnae
SLAVE, servant of Euripides.
EURIPIDES, a writer of tragedies.
LAMACHUS, an army general.
A MEGARIAN, a citizen of Megara.
TWO YOUNG GIRLS, daughters of the Megarian.
A BOEOTIAN, a man from Boeotia.
NICARCHUS, an informer.
DERCETES: an unfortunate farmer.

Non-Speaking Roles

ISMENIAS, slave of the Boeotian

[The scene is the Pnyx hill in Athens, where Athenians meet for political discussions and decisions. In the background are the front doors of three houses belonging to Euripides, Dicaeopolis, and Lamachus. The foreground, below the stage is the meeting place for the governing assembly of Athenian citizens.There are some benches where the Magistrates will sit. Dicaeopolis is alone on stage, restlessly waiting for the Assembly to begin.]

     So many things are chewing at my heart!
     I have few pleasures in my life—just four,
     to be precise. My troubles are numberless,
     like grains of sand lying piled up in heaps.
     Let me see now . . . which of these pleasures
     has been a real delight? Ah yes, I know—
     my heart was truly happy when Cleon
     was forced to cough up that five-talent fine.
     How joyful I felt then, and I love the Knights
     for making that man pay.
(2) What a grand day                    10
     that was for Greece! But then there was that time
     I had to suffer tragic disappointment—
     I was eager for a play by Aeschylus,                                           
     when I heard a herald shout “Theognis,
     lead out your chorus!”
(3) You can imagine
     how this change made me sick at heart. But then,
     after Moschus played, what delight I felt
     when Dexitheus entered the competition,
     playing and singing Boeotian melodies!
     Then this year, I twisted my neck around                           
     and almost killed myself watching Chaeris
     sneaking in to play shrill music on his flute.
     But since the time I first began to wash,
     never has the dust stung my eyes so much,
     as it does now, whenever Athens holds
     a regular assembly, which should begin
     early in the morning. But now the Pnyx,
     the place where we all meet, is deserted.                                  
     The city folk are in the marketplace,
     gossiping as they wander here and there,                            
     avoiding the red-ochre-covered rope.
     The magistrates are not even here yet—
     they will be late, and when they do arrive,
     they’ll start pushing and punching each other
     for a front row seat. You have no idea—
     they tumble down like a cascading river!
     They have no wish to think about a truce.
     O this city, this Athens! I am always
     the very first to get to the assembly
     and find a seat. But then, feeling alone,                              
     with not a thing to do, I groan and yawn,                                
     stretch, and fart. I draw figures in the dust,
     pull out my nose hairs, add up all my debts.
     I dream of countryside and long for peace.
     I hate city life and yearn for my own farm,
     which never said I had to purchase charcoal,
     or vinegar or olive oil. In fact,
     the verb “to purchase” was quite unknown there—
     I could produce whatever I might want,
     without the need to purchase anything.                             
     So now my mind’s made up—I’ve come here
     fully prepared to shout and interrupt
     and criticize the speakers if they talk
     of anything except the need for peace.
     But here come the magistrates . . .

[Enter the Magistrates in confused mass, just as Dicaeopolis describes them in line 33 ff above, with a great deal of physical commotion, as they seek to get the best front seats in the orchestra.]

                                                   About time, too—                          [40]
     right on midday! Did I not predict this?
     It’s just as I said—each man is scrambling,
     pushing and punching for a front-row seat.

[A Herald tries to sort out the confusion.]

     Come on, move along to the front . . . that’s it!
     To the front where you can find yourself a seat—              
     right here, in the consecrated section!

[Enter Amphitheus, in a hurry.]

AMPHITHEUS [to Dicaeopolis]
Has anyone spoken yet?

Who is it
     that wishes to address the assembly?

     I do.

                  Who might you be?

                                           I am godly Amphitheus!

     You are not a man?

                                   No! I am an immortal.
     Amphitheus was son of Demeter
     and Triptolemos; from him was born
     Celeus who married Phaenerete,
     my grandmother, who gave birth to Lucinus,                          
     and I was born from him, and that makes me                     
(10) And to me alone the gods
     have assigned the task of making a truce
     with the Lacedaemonians. But, gentlemen,
     though I’m immortal, I have no money
     for the trip, and the city magistrates
     will not give me any.

HERALD [shouting]

[Two guards come to get Amphitheus out of the assembly.]

    O Triptolemos and Celeus,
    are you abandoning me?

DICAEOPOLIS [protesting]
                              You magistrates,
     you are violating this assembly
     by having this man hauled forcibly away.
     He wishes to arrange a truce for us                                      
     and do away with war.

                                   Sit down and shut up!

     No, by Apollo, I will not sit down—
     not unless you are prepared to move                                         
     a motion about brokering a peace.

HERALD [announcing a new arrival]
     The ambassadors from the Great King!

[Enter the Ambassadors returning from the Persian court. They and their group are dressed very exotically.]

     What kind of Great King? I am so fed up
     with these ambassadors and their peacocks
     and pretentious mumbo-jumbo!


     Good heavens! . . . By Ecbatana, what costumes!

     You sent us to the Great King on a wage                             
     of two drachmas per day. And that took place
     when Euthymenes was chief magistrate.

     Ah yes, those poor drachmas.

                                                    I can tell you
     it was exhausting work roaming around
     the plains of Cayster, sheltered from the sun,
     lying on soft cushions in our carriages—                                  
     soul-destroying work!

                                            While I had it easy
     lying in the straw on our battlements.

     When we were entertained as welcome guests,
     they compelled us to drink sweet unmixed wine                
     out of crystal goblets inlaid with gold.

     O city of Cranaus, do you not see
     how these ambassadors are mocking you?

     The only people these barbarians
     consider men are those ones strong enough
     to eat enormous meals and drink like fish.

     Here in Athens we only value men
     who suck our cocks or take it up the bum.

     In the fourth year we reached the Great King’s court.
     But he had left, taking his army with him,                          
     searching for somewhere he could ease his bowels.
     He spent eight months in the golden mountains,
     shitting himself to his royal heart’s content.

     How long did it take to heal his arse hole?

     One full moon. Then he returned to his palace,
     where he entertained us. He served an ox
     roasted in an oven—the whole thing!

                                                  What rubbish!
     Whoever saw an ox baked in an oven!

     It’s true! I swear by the gods! He also served
     a bird three times larger than Cleonymus—
     it was called a blowhard.

                                            To think we pay you
     two drachmas a day for all this horseshit!                                 

     We have come back, this time bringing with us
     Pseudartabas, the Great King’s Eye.

                                                                            If only
     a crow would peck out his eye—and yours, too,
     you amb-ASS-ador!

HERALD [announcing the arrival of Pseudartabas]
                                        The Great King’s Eye!

[Enter Pseudartabas.](20)   

 DICAEOPOLIS [amazed at Pseudartabas’s appearance]
     O lord Herakles!

[Dicaeopolis comes closer to Pseudartabas in order to inspect the single eye in the mask.]

                                   By the gods, with that eye
     you look like the prow on a ship of war!
     Are you rounding a headland seeking port?
     You have a leather flap around your eye                              
     and hanging down below it . . .

AMBASSADOR [interrupting]
                                            Come on then,
     Pseudartabas, tell him the message
     the Great King told you to deliver
     to the Athenians, when he sent you back.

PSEUDARTABAS [speaking gibberish, pretending to be Persian]
     Jartaman exarxan apissona satra.                                                

     Do you understand what he is saying?

     No, by Apollo, I haven’t a clue.

AMBASSADOR [to the Magistrates]
     He says that the Great King will send you gold.

[Turning to Pseudartabas]

     Speak louder and more clearly about the gold.

     Gold for loose-arsed Ionian? No way!                                  

     Ah the damned wretch! That was clear enough.

     Why? What is he saying?

                                                 He says Ionians
     are all loose-arsed buggers if they expect
     to get gifts of gold from the barbarians.

     No, no! He talks of bars of gold!

                                                       What bars?
     You’re a complete bullshitter! Go away!
     Let me question this fellow by myself.                                      

Dicaeopolis turns towards Pseudartabas.]

     Come now, answer my questions clearly,
     with your master here as witness, or else
     I’ll dip you in purple dye from Sardis.
(25)                              150
     Will the Great King be sending us some gold?

[Pseudartabas shakes his head to indicate a negative answer.]

     So these ambassadors are lying to us?

[Pseudartabas nods his head in an affirmative answer.]

     The gestures these men make are very Greek.
     I’ll bet they turn out to be Athenians.
     Hang on, I recognize one of these eunuchs—
     it’s that son of Sibyrtius, Cleisthenes,
     the man who shaves his hot, hairy arse hole.
     You monkey, did you come here all dressed up,                       
     trying to convince us you were a eunuch,
     with a great beard like that?
(27) And who is this?                160
     It’s Straton, I presume.   

                                             Silence! Be seated!
     The Council invites the Great King’s Eye
     to a welcome in the Prytaneum.

[The Ambassadors, Pseudartabas, Cleisthenes, Straton, and their attendants leave for the Prytaneum, so that Dicaeopolis, Amphitheus, and the Magistrates are the only ones left.]

DICAEOPOLIS [to the audience]
     This is enough to make one kill oneself!
     I have to hang around here, wasting time,
     while the Council always throws open the doors
     of the Prytaneum for scoundrels like that.
     But I am going to act—to carry out
     something grand and dangerous. Where is he,
     that man Amphitheus?

                                                  I’m over here!                            

     Take these eight drachmas and go to Sparta—                         
     draw up a peace treaty with the Lacedaemonians
     just for me, my children, and my wife.

[Amphitheus takes the money and leaves.]

                                                                           And you,
     my gaping fools, can send out more ambassadors.

[Herald enters.]

     Bring in Theorus, returning envoy
     from the court of king Sitalces.

[Enter Theorus.]

                                                            I am here.

     He’s announcing yet another charlatan

     We would not have remained in Thrace so long . . .

     No by god, if you’d not been paid so much!

     . . . if all Thrace had not been covered in snow.                  
     Rivers were frozen, too. That was when
     Theognis produced his play in Athens.
(30)                                 [140]
     I spent the time drinking with Sitalces,
     who was hopelessly in love with Athens.
     In fact, he adored your citizens so much
     he scrawled on his own walls: “O Athenians,
     how beautiful you are!” We made his son
     an honorary Athenian. He was keen
     to eat blood sausages at our feast
     of Apaturia, and he begged his father                                  
     to send assistance to his new native land.
     Sitalces poured a libation and swore
     he would help us with an army so huge
     that the Athenians would all exclaim,
     “A massive swarm of locusts is flying here!”                              

     May I die really badly if I believe
     a word of what you’re saying—apart from
     that bit about the locusts.

                                                       What’s more,
     has sent you the finest fighting men
     in all of Thrace.

                                   What’s going on here                              
     is becoming clear.

                                   You warriors from Thrace
     brought here by Theorus, come forward!

[Enter the Thracian soldiers, a very ragged and strange looking military outfit. Each man’s costume includes a phallus.]

     Who is this wretched group?

                                             These warriors
     are the Odomanti.

                                                   The Odomanti?
     Tell me what that means.

[Dicaeopolis moves to inspect the phalluses on the soldiers.]

                                   Who sliced the foreskins
     off these penises?

                                        If you pay these men
     two drachmas a day, they will overrun
     and pillage all Boeotia.
(33)                                                            [160]

                                             Two drachmas
     for a bunch of men without a foreskin!
     You may well grumble, you top-tier oarsmen,                    
     you saviours of our city!

[The Odomanti troops cluster around Dicaeopolis and start picking his pockets]

                                                       Bloody hell!
     I’m done for! These Odomanti riff-raff
     are trying to steal my garlic! Give it back!

     You idiot, don’t go near those men.
     They’re like fighting cocks—full of garlic.

     You magistrates, are you going to let
     these barbarians treat me in this way
     in my own country? I oppose holding
     an assembly about paying wages
     to these Thracians. And I declare to you                             
220  [170]
     an omen has just reached me from the sky—
     a drop of rain has hit me in the eye.

     Let the Thracians now withdraw and return
     the day after tomorrow. The magistrates
     declare that this assembly is dissolved.

[The Magistrates, Thracians, and Herald all leave.]

     I’m in a bad way. I’ve lost all my lunch.
     But here comes Amphitheus back from Sparta.

[Enter Amphitheus out of breath from running.]

     Welcome Amphitheus!

AMPHITHEUS [catches his breath]
                                                       No welcome yet . . .
     not till I stop running . . . the Acharnians . . .
     they’re after me . . . I have to get away!
(37)                           230

     What’s the matter?

                           I was on my way back here,
     in a hurry to bring you your treaties,
     when some Acharnian old men got wind                                  
     of what I was up to—they’re veterans
     of Marathon, tough as oak or maple.
     They all started shouting at me, “You wretch,
     you are bringing wines to make a truce
     when our vines have just been cut to pieces.”
     They started putting pebbles in their pockets,
     so I ran. They came yelling after me.                                   

     Let them shout. Have you brought me a treaty?

     Yes I have. There are three for you to sample.
     This is a truce for five years. Take it and sip.

[Dicaeopolis takes the flask and samples the contents.]

DICAEOPOLIS [spitting out the sample]

               How is it?

                                   I can’t stand the taste!
     It stinks of pitch and refitted warships.                                     

AMPHITHEUS [offering a second sample]
     Then take this sample—it’s a ten-year truce.
     Taste it.

                         This has a very pungent smell—
     like the ambassadors who travel round
     to the allied cities to yell at them
     for being so slow.

AMPHITHEUS [offering a new sample]
                                   This third truce here                               
     is for thirty years, by land and sea.

[Dicaeopolis tastes the third sample.]

     Holy Dionysus! This smells of nectar
     and ambrosia! It is telling us
     not to watch for orders that every man
     collect his own provisions for three days.
     It says to me “Go wherever you wish.”
     This one I welcome. I’ll ratify it,
     drink it down, and tell the Acharnians,                                     
     all of them, to bugger off. I am now
     rid of war and all its troubles. I’m off                                   
     to my country home to honour Dionysus.

     And I’ll keep running from those Acharnians.

[Dicaeopolis and Amphitheus leave. The Chorus of Acharnian charcoal burners enters. They are still chasing Amphitheus, intending to throw stones they are carrying at him.]

     This way everybody—keep following
     that man. Ask everyone we come across.
     It’s our civic duty to capture him.

[Calling out to anyone within hearing.]

     Hey, can anyone tell me where on earth
     that man carrying the truce has gone!
     He got away from us—he disappeared!
     Damn this miserable old age of mine!                                       
     When I was a younger man, I could run                              
     with a sack of charcoal across my back
     and match the pace of great Phayllus.
     Back then this treaty-proposing fellow
     would not have easily eluded us,
     no matter how swift his feet may be.
     Now my legs are stiff. Old Lacratides                                         
     feels heavy in his legs, and the young wretch
     outpaces us.

                                    We have to follow him.
     We must never let him make fools of us,
     and he will, if he manages to escape,                                   
     even though we Acharnians are old.

     O Father Zeus and you gods in heaven,
     he has made a truce with our enemies,
     men against whom I wish to keep on fighting
     this hateful war, because of what they’ve done
     to our farmlands. I will not give up                                            
     till I take revenge by piercing their flesh,
     like a sharp, painful thorn, driven right in,
     up to the hilt, so that they never dare
     to trample on my vineyards any more.
(44)                            290

     Come on, we have to find this wretched man.
     Look everywhere—we’ll chase him from one place
     to another until we corner him. And then
     I’ll never tire of throwing stones at him.

DICAEOPOLIS [calling from inside his house]
     Be silent! Due reverence from all!

     Be quiet—all of you! Did you men hear
     that ritual call for silence? That voice
     belongs to the very man we’re chasing.
     All of you, get out of his way. Hide!
     He has surely come to make an offering.                   
              300 [240]

[The Chorus crouch down behind the benches in the assembly space, trying to hide themselves. Dicaeopolis, his young daughter, and the slave Xanthias  emerge from the front door of his house. The daughter is carrying a flat tray on her head (on the tray is a bowl); Xanthias is holding a giant phallus. Dicaeopolis starts organizing the group into a small procession. Dicaeopolis’s wife comes out to observe them (she is not part of the procession).]

     Peace! Be silent! Due reverence from all!
     The basket girl should move up just a bit.
     Xanthias, hold the phallus fully erect.
     Daughter, put the basket down and we’ll begin.

     Mother, pass me the ladle so I can drip
     the sauce across the flat-cake.

[Dicaeopolis’s wife hands the young girl a ladle. The girl sets down the tray, takes the ladle, uses it to take some sauce from the container on the tray, carefully drips the sauce on the flat-cake, and sets the ladle down on the tray beside the container.]

                                                   That is good!

[He starts to recite the ritual prayer to Dionysus.]

     O lord Dionysus, may you find
     the procession and the sacrifice
     I and my household offer you
     acceptable, so I may celebrate                                               310
     the rural Dionysia peacefully,                                                     [250]
     now that I have no need to fight.
     And grant my truce of thirty years
     will be good for us and bring success.

[He addresses his daughter as she is placing the tray back on her head.]

     Come, my girl, bear the basket gracefully
     and with a demure face. Happy the man
     who will wed you and beget a litter
     of weasel pups, who at the break of dawn
     fart just as much as you do. Let’s be off—
     but take care that someone in the crowd                             32o
     does not grab your jewels and bite them off.(45)   
     Xanthias, hold the phallus fully upright
     behind the basket carrier. I’ll follow,                                           [260]
     singing the Phallic hymn. And you, my wife,
     you can watch us from the roof. Off we go!

[The procession marches slowly around the orchestra. Dicaeopolis sings, chants, or recites the Phallic hymn. The wife watches from the house.]

     Phales, my partner in ecstatic joys
     honouring Bacchus with drink all night long,
     you seducer of wives and tender young boys,
     six years have passed since I last sang your song!(46)     
     How happy I am to be home at my farm,                             330
     now free from all worries or going to fight,
     and Lamachus, too, with his call to arms,                                  [270]
     thanks to that treaty that made all things right.(47)    

     Phales, dear Phales, what bliss if I could
     creep up on Thratta, that beautiful maid,
     Strymodorus’s girl, who works in his wood,
     as she’s stealing boughs from a Phelleus glade.(48)
     I’d grab her two arms, throw her down double quick,
     and harvest her cherry with my throbbing prick.

     O Phales, dear Phales, come drinking tonight.                    340
     Tomorrow at dawn if our heads feel all right,
     with a goblet of wine my truce you’ll invoke,
     and my shield I will hang by the hearth in the smoke.

[The Chorus Leader emerges from hiding and calls to the other chorus members.]

     That’s him—the man we’re after. He’s the one!                        [280]
     Stone him! Stone him! Stone the wretched fellow!
     Throw your rocks! Why aren’t you throwing something?

[At this commotion, Xanthias and the daughter rush back into the house. Dicaeopolis retreats to the doorway of his house, then turns to face his attackers. On his way he retrieves the pot of sauce from the daughter’s tray.]

DICAEOPOLIS [holding the pot]
     By Herakles, what’s this? You’ll crack my pot!

     We’re throwing stones at you, you filthy pig!

     But why are you Acharnian old men
     stoning me? What’s the reason?

                                                       You ask me that?                  350
     You stupid fool, betraying your native land,
     you’re the only one of all the citizens
     to have made a peace, and now you dare                                                 [290]
     confront me face to face?

                                             But you have no idea
     why I made a truce. Listen to my reasons!

     Listen to you? No! You’re going to die!
     We’ll bury you with our stones!

                                                            All right—
     but not until you have heard me out.
     My good man, wait!

                                   No. I’m not going to stop.
     Don’t even speak to me. I despise you—                              360
     even more than I hate Cleon. Someday                                     [300]
     I’m going to cut him into leather strips
     to make sandals for the Knights.(49) So no,
     I’m not listening to your long speeches,
     now you’ve made peace with the Laconians.
     Instead I’m going to punish you.(50)

                                             My good man,
     set the Laconians aside, and consider
     whether that truce I made was beneficial.

     How can you use the word beneficial
     when the people you have made a truce with                      370
     do not respect gods, or faith, or promises?

     We are too suspicious of Laconians.
     They are not the cause of all our problems.                               [310]

     Not the cause of all our problems?
     You criminal, you dare speak like that
     quite openly to me and then want me
     to spare you?

                              They are not responsible
     for all our problems. Not all of them.
     And I’m telling you this: I can prove
     how in many ways we have done them wrong.                   380

     You’re uttering blasphemy! What you claim
     is tearing at my heart. You dare speak to us
     on our enemy’s behalf?

                                                            Yes I do!
     And what is more, if I don’t speak justly
     and the people disapprove, I’m prepared
     to set my head atop a butcher’s block
     and speak from there.

                               Tell me, my Acharnian mates,
     why are we not throwing our rocks at him
     and covering the man with his own blood,                                [320]
     till he looks like a scarlet Spartan cloak.                               390

     What black fiery log has scalded your heart?
     You won’t listen to me? You Acharnians
     really will not give me a hearing?

     We really really will not listen to you.

     Then I am being treated most unfairly!

     Let me die, if I grant you a hearing!

     Please don’t say that, my dear Acharnians.

     You will die—and very soon!

                                                       Well, for that
     I’ll turn against you and get my revenge
     by killing some of your dearest friends.                                400
     I have inside here Acharnian hostages—
     I’m going to grab them and cut their throats.

[Dicaeopolis goes quickly back into his house.]

     Fellow Acharnians, what does he mean
     by threatening us like this? Does he have
     one of our children inside his house?
     What’s made him so bold?                                                          [330]

[Dicaeopolis comes out of the house carrying a old battered bucket (or a large shabby basket) with a cloth over the top concealing the contents. In one hand he is holding a large kitchen knife. He sets the bucket down between himself and the Chorus Leader.]

                                        Throw stones at me,
     if that is what you want. But if you do
     I’ll take my revenge on these . . .

[Dicaeopolis whisks the covering from the top of his bucket to reveal lumps of charcoal inside.]

                              We’ll soon know
     if any of you old Acharnians
     still has some compassion for his charcoal.                         410

CHORUS LEADER [peering into the bucket]
     We’re done for! This bucket of charcoal
     comes from my own district! Don’t carry out
     what you have in mind—please don’t do it!

     I am going to kill it. Scream all you like—
     I won’t be listening.

                                                            But that bucket
     is the same age as me. Surely you won’t kill it,
     my dear friend of all the charcoal burners?

     Just now you would not listen to me
     if I spoke to you.

                                        Well, you can speak now,
     if that’s what you want. Tell us the reason                          420
     you and the Spartans are such close allies.
     I don’t mind. For I’ll never abandon                                           [340]
     this little bucket.

                                             All right. But first,
     take all the stones out of your pockets.
     Dump them on the ground.

[The Chorus empty their pockets.]

                                        There you go. It’s done.
     Now it’s your turn—put your sword away.

     There still could be stones hidden in your clothes.

     No—they are in the dirt. Can you not see
     how I’m shaking my clothes? Don’t play with me—
     put your weapon down, now we’ve danced around             430
     and twitched our rocks out—they’re on the ground.

     I thought that all of you would soon give in—
     although these lumps of charcoal from mount Parnes
     nearly died, thanks to the sheer stupidity
     of their Acharnian friends. This bucket
     was so afraid it dumped a stream of coal dust                            [350]
     all over me, just like a cuttle fish.(51)    
     It’s a nasty business when the hearts of men
     swim in vinegar and they throw stones, shout,
     and do not wish to hear of compromise,                              440
     an equal blending of two points of view,
     not even when I volunteer to place
     my head upon a butcher’s block and state
     all I have to say in defence of Sparta,
     even though I truly cherish my own life.

     All right, you fool, drag out a block
     and place it there by your front walk.
     Then you can give your grand review.
     We’re keen to learn your point of view.

     Now follow the form of justice you proposed:                     450
     set your head on the chopping block and speak.

     Here is the block. I am little gifted
     as a speaker, but I intend, by Zeus,
     to talk about the Lacedaemonians
     quite freely and without the protection
     of my shield.(52) Nonetheless, I am afraid.
     There are many reasons for my fear.                                           [370]
     I know the way our country folk behave:
     they are overjoyed if some fast-talker comes
     and pours out over them and their city                                460
     his lavish praises—whether true or false.
     They are not aware that in the process
     they are being deceived—bought and sold.
     I understand how old men think, as well—
     the only thing they want to do in juries
     is bite the poor defendant with their votes.
     I well recall what I went through last year
     from Cleon, because of the play I wrote.(53)
     He had me hauled up before the Senate
     and shouted countless slanders against me—                      470  [380]
     a torrent of abuse, a parade of lies,
     dragging me through so many muddy fights
     I almost died. So please allow me now,
     before I speak to you, to dress myself
     in a style most likely to draw pity.

     Why these evasions and such long delays?

     Put on Hades’s helmet—its black plume                                     [390]
     made of shaggy hair is a fine costume.
     This you can borrow from Hieronymus.
     And open with the tricks of Sisyphus.(54)                             480 
     But do it quickly and without delay,
     for our discussion must take place today.

     It’s time for me to show my strength of heart
     by paying a visit to Euripides.

[Dicaeopolis walks over to Euripides’ house. He knocks on the door and calls out.](*)

                                                     Boy! Boy!

SLAVE [opening the door] 
     Who is it?

                                     Is Euripides at home?

     No, he’s not at home and yes he is inside!
     You’ll understand if you have sufficient wit.

     How can he be and not be inside?

     Old man, it’s all quite logical. His mind
     is not in the house but outside, collecting                                490
     scraps of poetry. He himself is inside                                       
     with his feet up, writing a tragedy.                                                 [400]

     O thrice blessed Euripides, to possess
     a slave with such sophisticated wits.
     Summon him here.

                              That is impossible.

[The Slave shuts the door in Dicaeopolis' face.]

DICAEOPOLIS [parodying the tragic style]
     No matter. For I shall not leave this place.
     No! Instead I shall knock upon the door.

[Dicaeopolis knocks on the door and calls out.]

     Euripides . . . my dear little Euripides . . .
     Answer me, if ever thou didst reply
     to any mortal being. I’m summoning you.                              500
     I, Dicaeopolis from Cholleidae.(55)                                          

EURIPIDES [from inside]
     I have no time for you.

                                                  All right, then.
     Let the stage machinery wheel you out.

EURIPIDES [from inside]
     No, no! Impossible!

                                   But nonetheless . . . please.

EURIPIDES [from inside]
     All right then, let them roll me outside.
     I am too busy to come down below.

[Euripides is pushed into view up high in the house by the stage machinery (the eccyclema).(56) He lying down on a couch, like an invalid or someone with a physical disability.]

     Euripides . . .

EURIPIDES [in a tragic tone]
                         Why dost thou cry out?

     You compose your tragedies lying prone,                                    [410]
     when you could keep your feet upon the ground.
     I’m not surprised you like to portray cripples                       510
     on the stage. And why are you dressed like that—               
     in those tragic rags? You look pitiful.
     No wonder you like to write of beggars.(57)
     But on my knees I beg you, Euripides
     give me some tattered rags from an old play.
     I have to give a long speech to the Chorus,
     and if I am not successful, then I die.

     What sort of rags? The ones Oeneus wore
     when he competed for the drama prize,
     that pitiful, miserable old man?                                                   520

     No, not Oeneus. Someone still more wretched.                           [420]

     What about blind Phoenix?

                                                No, not Phoenix.
     Someone else more miserable than him.

     What kind of ragged clothing does he want?
     Do you mean the costume of Philoctetes,
     the beggarman?

                                No no. I mean someone
     more impoverished than him.

     What about that cripple Bellerophon?
     Do you want his filthy tattered costume?

     No, not Bellerophon, but a hero                                                    530
     who was a crippled beggar and also                                         
     very talkative and a glib speaker.

     I know the man! It must be Telephus.                                                [430]
     a man from Mysia.

     Can you please give me his swaddling clothes?

EURIPIDES [to the Slave]
     Boy! Give him Telephus’s tattered costume!
     It’s lying on top of Thyestes’s rags
     under those of Ino.(58)

                                  Here they are. Catch!

[The Slave tosses the clothes to Dicaeopolis, who opens up the bundle and holds up the remnants of a cloak.]

     O Zeus, whose all-piercing eye roams everywhere,’
     permit me to dress myself in these rags,                                        540
     the most miserable costume I could find!                                

[Turning his attention to Euripides.]

     Euripides, since you have been so kind,
     could you give me the little Mysian cap
     to cover my head. It’s such a grand match
     for these tattered clothes. ‘Today I must look                           [440]
     just like a beggar—I must act what I am,
     yet appear to be someone else.’ The audience
     will know the real me, but the Chorus
     will stand there like fools, while I dupe them
     with some subtle, fast-talking rhetoric.                                      550

     I’ll let you have the cap, for your mind                                 
     is shrewd and full of subtle tricks.

     ‘Fare thee well—and good luck to Telephus.’
     I feel already full of clever talk.
     but I still need to have a beggar’s staff.

EURIPIDES [using a grand poetic style]
     Have that one. Now take your leave—depart
     from my front porch of polished stone.

DICAEOPOLIS [adopting the same tone]
                                                        O my heart,                                 [450]
     you see how I am driven from this house,
     when I am still in need of so much more.
     But now I must persevere, importune,                                      560
     and whine. O Euripides, please give me                               
     a basket with a hole burnt through its base.

     Why does a wretch like you need wickerwork?

     I don’t need it, but I want it anyway.

     You’re such a nuisance. Get out of my house!

     Alas! May you enjoy good fortune,
     just as your mother used to do.’(59)

     It’s time you took your leave of me.

     But I need you to give me one thing more—
     a little cup with the lip broken off.                                                   570

EURIPIDES [handing over the cup]
     Take it and be damned! You must realize                                       [460]
     you’re making trouble in my house!

DICAEOPOLIS [aside, in a tragic tone]
                                                        By Zeus,
     you are not yet cognizant of the harm
     you are doing to yourself.(60)

[To Euripides]

                                    My sweetest Euripides,
     I need one thing more. Please let me have
     a tiny pot plugged with a sponge.

EURIPIDES [handing over the pot and sponge]
     You are stealing my entire tragedy!
     Take it, and get out of here.

                                                                I’m leaving.
     But what am I doing? I need one thing more.
     If I don’t have it, I will be destroyed!                                                580
     Listen to me, my dear Euripides,                                      
     if I can take it, I will go away,
     and I will not return. Give me a few herbs,
     to put in my wicker basket.

                       You’ll be the death of me!                                             [470]
     You have gutted my entire play!

     That’s it! No more. I’ll be on my way.
     I am too annoying, ‘though I did not think
     the royal master hated me.’

[Dicaeopolis turns and walks away but stops after a few paces.]

                                         O damn and blast!
     I’m done for. I’ve forgotten something—
     one item essential to this business.                                            590
     O my dearest and sweetest Euripides,                                    
     may I die a nasty death if I ever
     ask you again--except for this one thing—
     just this one and then nothing more—
     give me some parsley from your mother’s cart.

     The man is insolent! Lock up the house!

[The stage machinery removes Euripides from sight.]

DICAEOPOLIS [in grand tragic style]
     O my heart, I must leave without the parsley.                              [480]
     Are you aware of the mighty battle
     we must soon contest by speaking out
     in defence of Lacedaemonians?                                                600
     This is the moment, my heart, to march ahead—                
     we stand at the line where the race begins.
     Do you pause? Did you not feed on Euripides?

[Dicaeopolis takes a few steps down into the orchestra towards the chopping block.]

     That’s good! Come on, my palpitating heart,
     go there and lay your head down on the block,
     and tell them the truth as you perceive it.
     Be brave! March on! How I admire my courage!

[Dicaeopolis moves over to the chopping block. The Chorus gathers to confront him.]

     What are you doing? What will you say?                                           [490]
     You are a truly impudent rascal
     with a heart of steel—to offer your neck                              610
     to the city and deliver a speech                                             
     attacking what all Athenians think.
     But the man is not trembling at the task.
     Come on then, you’re the one who wanted this.
     So speak!

                        You men witnessing my speech,
     do not be angry if I, a poor beggar,
     intend to speak before Athenians
     about the city and, as I do that,
     I will be producing a comic play.(61)
     For comic drama can illuminate                                               620   [500]
     what is just and right. The things I’ll say                              
     will shock you, but they will be the truth.
     And this time, at least, Cleon will not bring
     slanderous charges against me, alleging
     I attack Athens in front of foreigners. 
     For we are by ourselves at the festival
     of the Lenaea. In this crowd there are
     no strangers. The tribute and the soldiers
     from the federated states are not yet here.
     Nor are our allies. Here we are pure wheat—                             630
     winnowed, free of chaff. As for the aliens
    settled here, I consider them mere bran.(63)
     I truly detest Lacedaemonians—
     I wish Poseidon, god of Taenarus,                                               [510]
     would shake the earth and bring their houses
     crashing down.(64) For I, too, have had my vines
     vandalized by Spartans. But since those present
     and listening to me are friends, I ask
     why blame the Spartans for all our troubles?
     For some men among us—I do not mean                                 640
     the city; please remember this point:                                    
     I am not speaking of our city state—
     some pitiful, rascals, with no sense of honour,
     cheap swindlers, and counterfeit foreigners
     falsely accused people from Megara
     of smuggling goods inside their clothing.
     If they saw a cucumber or young hare,                                       [520]
     a suckling pig, garlic clove, or rock salt,
     they cried out “These goods come from Megara,”
     then grabbed the stuff, and sold it on the spot.                   650
     Now, at first this trouble was merely local.                          
     But then some young men playing cottabus
     got very drunk, set out for Megara,
     and carried off the courtesan Simaetha.(65)
     So the Megarians, angered by this act,
     got revenge by kidnapping two prostitutes
     belonging to Aspasia.(66) War broke out
     over these three strumpets, inundating
     all of Greece. Then Olympian Pericles,                                              [530]
     in his anger, hurled lightning and thunder,                            660
     and confounded Greece, by passing edicts                                 
     written like a doggerel drinking song:(67)

        “Megarians are forthwith banned
        from the sea and from the land
        from the markets where we trade
        from any place where deals are made.”

     As a result of this, Megarians
     gradually began to die of hunger.
     So they begged the Lacedaemonians
     to repeal the edict we had voted for                                             670
     after that business with the prostitutes.                               
     The Spartans petitioned us many times,
     but we refused. And that led to warfare.
     You may say the Spartans were to blame,
     but what should they have done? Tell me that.(68)                   [540]
     Suppose a Lacedaemonian sailed his ship
     to Seriphos, started a false rumour,
     then seized and sold a little puppy dog.(69)
     Would you have remained quietly at home?
     No, of course not. Instead you would have sent                    680
     three hundred warships out immediately,                             
     and the city would have been filled with
     the confused din of soldiers and loud shouts
     around the captains. Men would be getting paid,
     Pallas figureheads regilded on the ships,
     with huge crowds of people milling about,
     measuring grain in the colonades, inspecting
     wine skins and oar loops, purchasing jars,
     garlic, olives, net bags of onions, chaplets,                                 [550]
     anchovies, flute girls with bloody noses                                  690
     and black eyes. The dock would have resounded                 
     to the noise of spars being sculpted into oars,
     ships’ pegs being driven into place, oars
     being fitted with leather—and music, too,
     the sound of flutes, bosuns' whistles, and pipes.
     I know that  is what you would have done.
     Do we think the Spartan would not do the same?(70)
     If we do, then we have no common sense.

[In the response to Dicaeopolis’s speech, the Chorus forms two equal groups: those supporting his remarks and those who remain unconvinced. Each of these sections of the Chorus has a leader.]

     You wretch! You truly despicable rogue,
     you are a beggar and you have the gall                                        700
     to address us in this way! If there are                                     
     one or two informers, why insult us?(71)

     By Poseidon, what he has said is just.                                             [560]
     No word of what he spoke to us was false.

     Even if everything he said was true,
     did he have a right to say it? He’ll get
     no pleasure from such foolhardy speech!

[Chorus Leader A moves to attack Dicaeopolis.]

     Where are you running? Stay where you are!
     If you hit this man, you’ll soon be hit yourself.

[There is a brief tussle in which members of Semi-Chorus B catch and hold the leader of Semi-Chorus A.]

     O Lamachus with your lightning glance                                     710
     and terrifying Gorgon crest, help me!                                    
     O Lamachus, friend and fellow tribesman,
     and any of you officers, generals,
     or men who storm the walls, come with all speed.
     These men have grabbed me by my private parts!

[Enter Lamachus, looking like a parody of a military officer.](72)

LAMACHUS [in a grandiose manner]
     Whence comes that warlike cry I have just heard?
     Where must I provide my aid? Where direct
     my martial power? Who has roused the Gorgon
     from her canvas carrying bag.(73)

                                                  O Lamachus,
     hero of helmet plumes and ambushes!                                      720

     O Lamachus, not long ago this man                                     
     was saying foul things about our city.

     You are a mere beggar, and yet you dare
     to use insulting words?

                                           O Lamachus,
     you hero, have mercy on a beggar
     who has been chattering.

                                          So inform me.
     What have you been saying?

                                              I’m not quite sure.
     Fear of your weapons has made me dizzy.

[Dicaeopolis points to the Gorgon on the shield.]

     I beg you please remove that hideous monster.

LAMACHUS [placing the shield behind him]
     There you go.

                       Now place it on the ground face down.                  730

LAMACHUS [turning the shield over]
     All right.There. It’s done.

                               Give me a feather—                                     
     one from your helmet.

                                      Here is a feather.

     Now hold my head while I throw up—the feather
     has made my stomach very queasy.

     How are you going to use this feather—
     force yourself to vomit?

                                                     You call this a feather?
     What kind of bird struts around in this? I know—
     the chirping yellow-bellied cock sucker!

LAMACHUS [instantly infuriated]
     What! I’m going to kill you.                                                         [590]

                                                 No, no, Lamachus,
     no need for violence. If you’ve the strength,                              740
     why not massage my prick?

[Dicaeopolis pulls aside Lamachus’ s cloak to examine his phallus.]

                                                Whoa, I’d say                                
     you’re very well equipped down here.

     Is this the way a beggar should address
     a general?

                                           You think I’m a beggar?

     If not, what are you then?

                                           Who am I?
     A useful citizen, unambitious,
     and, since the war began, a soldier.
     You, on the other hand, once war started,
     became a wretched well-paid mercenary.

     I was elected by a show of hands . . .                                           750

     Yes, by three cuckoos! This is what disgusts me                  
     and drove me to negotiate a peace.
     I see bald heads in among the ranks of men                              [600]
     and young men like you evading service.
     Some are in Thrace acting as envoys
     and getting three drachmas in daily pay(74)
     men like Tisamenophoenippus

     and Panurgipparchides. The others
     are with Chares or in Chaonia,
     young men like Geretotheodorus                                                 760
     and Diomialazon; still others                                                   
     at Camarina, Gela, or Katagela.(75)

     They were elected!

                                But what’s the reason
     all you envoys, one way or another,
     always get paid, while working men like these
     never get assigned?

[Dicaeopolis turns to members of the Chorus.]

                                                 You, Marilades,
     you have gray hair and are an older man.
     So tell us: Have you ever been assigned
     to serve on a mission or an embassy?                                              [610]
     See, he shakes his head. Yet he’s a prudent,                            770
     hard-working man. And you, Dracyllus,                                 
     Euphorides, and Prinides, do you
     have any knowledge of Ecbatana
     or Chaonia? . . . All of them say no.
     Such appointments are deemed quite suitable
     for sons of Caesyra and Lamachus,
     who yesterday were loaded d0wn with debt,
     and friends were telling them to stand aside,
     as people do when tossing out their slops.(76)

     In the name of our democratic ways,                                           780
     do we have to bear this nonsense?

                                                   No, of course not—                       
     not unless Lamachus wishes to get paid.

     But I will always keep on fighting wars

     against all the cities of the Peloponnese.(78)                                 [620]
     I will stir up trouble for them everywhere—
     with ships and soldiers and all my power.

[Lamachus exits.

     I am announcing to all the cities
     in the Peloponnese, Megara,
     and Boeotia that they can buy and sell
     in my market—but not with Lamachus.                                790

SEMI-CHORUS LEADER A [moves to Dicaeopolis]
     This man here has prevailed in our debate.                         
     The people’s view of him has been transformed,
     and all of us will now endorse his peace.
     But let’s change and hear the parabasis.(79)

[Dicaeopolis exits into his house. The members of the Chorus take off their cloaks and sit facing the audience. The Chorus Leader moves to take centre stage.]

     Since the time our master has been presenting
     comic dramas he has never stepped forward
     on the stage to praise himself. However,
     because he has been slandered by enemies
     among Athenians who judge too rashly
     and charge him with ridiculing our state                                   800  [630]
     and demeaning its citizens, he now wishes                         
     to defend himself before those Athenians
     who can be persuaded to change their minds.
     Our worthy poet claims that he has done
     many admirable things on your behalf:
     he has stopped you being so easily deceived
     by foreigner swindlers or finding joy
     in flattery and becoming gaping fools.
     Earlier, if a foreign ambassador
     wanted to mislead you, first he would call you                         810
     ”a people crowned with violets.” Right away,                      
     as soon as he said that, you all sat up
     on the tips of your buttocks. If someone,
     appealing to your vanity, said the words
     ”sleek and shining Athens,” with those words
     ”sleek” and “shining” he would get what he desired,                  [640]
     because he’d described you as he would sardines.
     In doing this, our poet has conferred
     many benefits on Athens, like showing
     our allied city states how government                                         820
     in a democracy ought to function.                                           
     That is why nowadays, when people come
     bringing you tribute from those allied cities,
     they are eager to see that great poet
     who dared to speak to the Athenians
     of truth and justice. Stories of his courage
     have spread far and wide. The Great King himself,
     when questioning the Spartan embassy,
     first asked them which of the two rivals
     was the greater force at sea. Then he asked                         830
     which of the two cities was the target                                  
     of our comic poet’s frequent satire.
     ”If they have this man as their counsellor,”
     he said, “these men will become much better                               [650]
     and will win a triumphant victory.”
     That’s the reason the Lacedaemonians
     are offering you peace and demanding
     you return Aegina—not that they care
     about the island, but they wish to steal
     your poet.(80) You must never let him leave,                         840
     for in his plays he writes of what is just.                                  
     He says the many things he teaches you
     will make you happy, though he will not use
     flattery, bribes, or devious deceit.
     He will not be a rogue or sprinkle you
     with hyperbolic praise. Instead of that,
     he will teach you what is just and right.

     So let Cleon scheme and hatch his plots                                           [660]
     against me, for my allies—right and justice—
     will fight my cause, and in our politics                                   850
     you will never see me behave like him—                              
     a poltroon and a sexual deviant.            

     Come, my glowing Acharnian Muse,
     with ardent force of all-powerful fire
     like a spark spit from an oak wood coal
     stirred by the bellow’s encouraging wind.
     Sprats lie there to be broiled on embers,                                           [670]
     slaves shake olive oil and Thasian pickles
     and knead the dough for the barley cakes.(81)
     O Muse, inspire a fellow country man                                    860
     with a lusty, tuneful, and rustic song.                                    

    We old men, now well advanced in years,
    have a complaint to lodge against the city.
    We gained so many victories at sea,
    we well deserve your care in our old age,
    we are treated in a shameful way,
    old men hurled into lawsuits, forced to deal
    with stripling orators who laugh at us—                                          [680]
    mere nothings, dim-witted, worn out husks.
    Poseidon should look after us, but now                                      870
    our only succour is this staff I hold.(82)                                                     
    When we stand at the dock, thanks to our age
    we mutter indistinctly, seeing nothing
    in the fog but a faint outline of justice.
    The accuser, once he has taken care
    to have the younger men support his side,
    quickly launches an attack, pleading his case
    with glib, well rounded, ready rhetoric.
    He hauls us before the judge, questions us,
    and sets verbal traps for us, tormenting,                                880
    confusing, and agitating the defendant,                               
    a man as ancient as Tithonus, so crushed
    with years that he can only mumble.(83)
    Convicted and sentenced to pay a fine,
    he totters away, sobs, and through his tears                               [690]
    tells his friends “I leave the court condemned
    to spend the cash I need to buy my coffin.”

[The Megarian and Dicaeopolis depart, leaving the Chorus on stage.]

     How can this be reasonable? To destroy
     an old white-haired man in court proceedings
     beside the water clock--a man who often                              890
     shared our labour and wiped off rivulets                              
     of manly sweat, a man whose excellence
     at Marathon saved our city.(84) Back then,
     we were the ones who chased our enemies,
     and now we are the ones being pursued                                     [700]
     and conquered. What would a young advocate
     like Marpsias declaim to counter this?(85)

     Is it fair that a man bowed down with age,
     like Thucydides, should be overwhelmed
     by having to grapple with Cephisodemus,                                 900
     the prattling public advocate and lout                                   
     from the desert wilderness of Scythia.(86)
     I shed tears of pity when I beheld
     this old man mistreated by an Archer.(87)
     By Demeter, back when Thucydides
     was young, he would not have taken lightly
     any abuse, even from the goddess Ceres.
     No, he would have thrown down ten advocates,                       [710]
     terrified three thousand archers with his shouts.
     and with his arrows killed the relatives                                   910
     of the prosecutor’s father. However,                                     
     if you cannot let the old sleep in peace,
     at least make it a rule that their cases
     be treated separately. Let the old man
     face a prosecutor who is like himself
     old and toothless. Let the younger men
     confront that advocate with a loose arse
     and a glib tongue, the son of Clinias.(88)
     So in future, if there’s a case of banishment
     or penalties, let the old defendants                                           920
     be dealt with by old public advocates,                                  
     and younger orators charge younger men.

[Dicaeopolis enters bringing on some stones which he sets in place to demarcate the market place he is setting up. He also brings on a stand to display the merchandise and three leather straps.]

DICAEOPOLIS [setting up the stones]
     This spot here is my market place. These stones
     define its limits. All Megarians,
     all Peloponnesians and Boeotians                                              [720]
may do business here, as long as they sell
     their goods to me and not to Lamachus.
     To serve as market clerks I now appoint                      
     these three thick leather straps from Lepreum
     selected by a lottery.(89) No informers                                     930
     or men of Phasis may do business here.                               
     The pillar on which the treaty is inscribed
     I will have brought here. I shall erect it
     in the market place in full public view.

[Exit Dicaeopolis. Enter a Magarian and his two small children. They are all in great distress from lack of food.]

     Greetings to this Athenian market,
     which all Megarians love!(90) By lord Zeus,                                 [730]
god of friendship, I have yearned for you
     as I yearn for my own mother.

[He addresses his two children.]

                                                 Come children,
     poor daughters of an unkucky father,
     scramble up there and get us food to eat,                             940
     if you can find any. Listen to me:                                          
     I want you to think about your bellies.
     Which of these choices do you two prefer
     to be sold or to be sick from hunger?

     To be sold, to be sold!

                                       That’s my view, as well.
     But who would be fool enough to buy you
     on the face of it a poor investment.
     But I do have a Megarian trick.
     I’ll disguise you both as little piglets
     and say I’m bringing you to market.                                                    950

[The Megarian gets false pig feet out of a bag he is carrying.}

     Put these pigs feet over your hands. Pretend                               [740]
re from the li tter of a well-bred sow.
     I tell you, by Hermes, if I am compelled
     to take you home unsold, you will suffer
     from savage hunger. So put on these snouts
     and stuff yourselves inside this sack. Remember
     to grunt and to make little piggy sounds
     like sacrificial piglets at the Mysteries.(91)
     I’ll announce that you’re for sale. But hang on!
     Where’s Dicaeopolis?

[He calls out.]

                                             Hey, Dicaeopolis!                             960
     Do you want to buy some little piglets?                               

[Enter Dicaeopolis.]

     What’s this? A man from Megara?                                               [750]

     I have come to trade in the marketplace.

     How are things in Megara?

                                          We sit by our fires
     and starve.

                                        By Zeus, to sit by a fire
     is pleasant with a flute player present.
     But what else is happening nowadays
     in Megara?

                                 Things are what they are.
     When I was leaving to come to market,
     the city council were trying to find                                                 970
     a way of killing us off as quickly                                            
     and brutally as possible.

                                        If that’s the case,
     you’ll soon be rid of all your troubles.

     That’s true.

                               What else is new in Megara?
     How’s the price of grain?

                                                      We value it
     as highly as we do the gods themselves.

     Are you bringing salt?

                                     Don’t you Athenians                                     [760]
supplies of salt?

                                            What about garlic?

     What do you mean garlic? You Athenians,
     when you attack us, you’re just like field mice.                           980
     You use your weapons to dig up the ground                        
     and then root out every clove of garlic.

     What do you bring, then?

                                               I’m bringing sows
    like those they offer at the mysteries.(92)

    Good! Show them to me.

                                       They’re real beauties.

[The Megarian takes the children out of the sack.]

    Look at them--so fat and healthy.

    What is this?

                           It’s clearly a sow.

                                                       A pig?
    Where does this “pig” come from?

                                                 From Megara.
    Is this not a pig?

                                     No, I don’t think so.

MEGARIAN [aside to the audience]
     Well, isn’t this strange? You have to wonder                           990   [770]
at this man’s incredulity!

[The Megarian tur,ns back to Dicaeopolis.]

                                                 All right then,                            
     if you’re willing, I’ll make a bet with you
     for a measure of garlic-flavoured salt
     that this here in proper Greek is called
     a sow and nothing else.

                                 But one that belongs
     to the human species.

                                      Yes, naturally,
     by Diocles, it belongs to me.
     Whose do you think it is? Would you like
     to hear them squeal?

                               Yes, by the gods, I would.

MEGARIAN [to one of the children]
     Make a sound, little piggy, and quickly.                                  1000
     You don’t want to make a sound? Are you dumb,                
     you disgusting, good-for-nothing little sow?
     By Hermes, I’m going to take you home.

    Wee. wee. wee!                                                                               [780]

                               Is that a little sow, or not?

     Well, it seems to be a piglet. But in time
     it will grow into a fine breeding sow.

     You know that in five years it will look
     just like its mother.

                                  But this little piggy
     is not suitable for sacrifice.                                                         

     Why not? Why unsuitable?

                                        Because it has no tail.(93)                      1010   

     That’s because it is too young. When it grows
     into full piggyhood it will have a tail
     long, thick, and red.

[The Megarian picks up the second child.]

                                      If you want a little pig
     for fattening, this one here’s a good one.

     This sow looks just like the other one.

     They come from the same father and mother.                  
     Let them fatten up and grow their bristles,
     and they’ll be the finest sows you could offer
     in a sacrifice to goddess Aphrodite.                                            

     But we don’t offer sows to Aphrodite,                                         1020                

     No sows for Aphrodite! That goddess
     is the only one they’re offered up to!
     The flesh of these sows will taste its finest
     once they have been skewered on a spit.

     Are they old enough to suck things on their own?
     Do they still need their mother?

                                                                Not at all.
     For that they no longer need their mother
     or their father.

                        What are their favourite foods?

     They eat whatever is given to them.                                           
     Ask them yourself.

                                 Hey, little piggy wiggie.                                 1030        

     Wee, wee, wee.                                                                            [800]

                                   Do you like to eat chick peas?(94)

     Wee, wee, wee.

                                     What about early figs?

DAUGHTER [excitedly]
     Wee, wee, wee, wee, wee!

                            Their squealing is so keen
     at the very mention of the word “figs.”

[Dicaeopolis shouts back into the house.]

     Bring some figs out here for these little pigs!

[Xanthias brings out a bowl of figs, hands it to Dicaeopolis, and returns into the house.]

     Will they eat them? Good heavens, what a noise
     their munching makes. Almighty Herakles,
     what country do these little pigs come from?
     They look as if they come from Hungary.                         

     They didn’t gobble down all the figs                                1040 
     I managed to snatch up one of them.                                                          [810]

     By Zeus, they make a very pretty pair.
     How much do you want for both of them?
     Tell me.

                     I will give you one of them
     for a rope of garlic, and the other,
     if you want her, for a pound of salt.

     I’ll buy them both from you. Wait right here.

[Dicaeopolis exits into his house.]

     It’s a deal. O Hermes, god of trading,
     grant that I may sell my wife and mother                                
     on the same generous terms as these!                                             1050

[Enter an Informer who moves up to the Megarian.]

     Hey fellow, what country do you come from?

     I am a pig merchant from Megara.

     All right then, I am denouncing your pigs
     as illegal goods--and you, as well.                                                       [820]

                                                    Here we go again,
     the decree that’s caused us all our troubles!

     It’s that Megarian dialect of yours
     that’s what you should blame. Let go the sack!

     Dicaeopolis! I am being denounced!!

[Enter Dicaeopolis.]

     By whom? Who has been informing on you?                        
     Clerks of the market, get these informers                             1060 
     out of here!

[Dicaeopolis picks up a leather strap and confronts the Informer.]

                                You want to enlighten us
     without a source of light?

                                         Am I not allowed
     to denounce our enemies?

                                            You should watch out!
     Why don’t you piss off out of here right now
     and do your informing somewhere else!

[Dicaeopolis beats the Informer and chases him away.]

     What a plague these informers are in Athens!

     Not to worry, my Megarian friend.                                              [830]
     Here’s payment for your two little piggies
     garlic and salt. Farewell and happy times!                                

     Ah, we don’t have happy times in Megara.                             1070    

     Well then, may that inappropriate wish
     apply to me!

                                       My dear little sows,
     with your father far away, you must try
     to munch your bread with salt, if anyone
     will give you some.

[The Megarian and Dicaeopolis depart, leaving the Chorus by itself.]

     is living a truly rich man’s dream.

     Did you notice how every original scheme
     works out as he wishes. Seated at his ease,
     he earns a good money from his market fees.                    
     If informers like Ctesias should ever come                            1080 
     they'll shriek from the pain way up the bum.(95)

      You will not be cheated in bargaining here
     or observe filthy Prepis wiping his rear.
     Cleonymus never will bump into you,
     as you stroll around in a tunic brand new,
     and foolish Hyperbolus you’ll never see,
     polluting all justice with his sophistry.(96)

     In this market square you won’t have to greet
     those unwelcome rascals you see on the street—                  
     that Cratinus fool with his hair razor cut                              1090 
     like a bad husband who's screwing a slut,
     or maestro Artemo, a man whose arm pit,
     just like his father’s, always stinks of goat shit.(97)

     That scoundrel Pauson won’t slander your name,
     trying to make you feel outrage and shame,
     nor that wretch Lysistratus, Cholargos’s curse
     in this market show off his corruption and worse.
     always hungry and cold, with blasphemous ways,
     He mooches each month for a mere thirty days.(98)                       

[Enter a man from Boeotia with his slave. They are both loaded down heavily with stuff to sell at the market. Behind them comes a small group of bagpipe players, playing very badly. They stop playing as soon as the Boeotian starts to speak. The Boeotian stops and unloads the stuff he has been carrying.]

     By Hercules, my shoulder is really sore.                                1100  [860]
     Ismenias, take care with that penny-royal,
     set it down gently. And you musicians,
     men of Thebes, stick those bone flutes of yours
     into the dog’s arse and play us a tune.(99)

[The musicians start playing very badly. Dicaeopolis comes out of his house.]

DICAEOPOLIS [yelling at the musicians]
     Stop this! To the crows with you! You wasps,
     piss off from my home! Where did they come from,
     these wretched scoundrel sons of Charis,
     playing their droning bagpipes outside my door.

     Ah, by Iolaus, drive those fellows off,                                   
     my dear host.(100) That would truly please me.                        1110      
     They’ve been playing behind me all the way
     from Thebes and have stripped the blossoms
     from my penny-royal. But if you’re in the mood,                       [870]
     would you like to buy anything from me?
     I have chickens and locusts and . . .

DICAEOPOLIS [interrupting]
                                                  Ah, welcome,
     Boeotian friend, eater of griddle cakes,
     What have you brought?

                                    All the finest goods
     Boeotia offers: marjoram, penny-royal,
     rush mats, wicks, ducks, jays, francolins,                                       
     coots, wrens, divers . . .

DICAEOPOLIS [interrupting]
                              A winter storm of birds—                                     1120       
     fowl weather blowing them to market.

     . . . geese, hares, foxes, moles, hedgehogs, cats,
     martens, otters, and eels from lake Copais.                                [880]

     Ah, you bring the tastiest of all fish
     known to mortal men. Let me pay tribute
     to those eels of yours, if you have any.

[The Boeotian rummages through his pile of goods and produces an eel.]

     O you, the eldest of my fifty maidens—
     virgin nymphs from lake Copais—come out
     and make our host a happy man.                                              

DICAEOPOLIS [peering at the eel]
     O my dearest love, I have long yearned for you.                      1130    
     How you make the comic chorus sigh,
     you, who are true love of Morychus.(101)
     Slaves, bring the stove out here and the bellows.
     Look at this, my children, the finest eel,
     who has come to us after six long years                                      [890]
     of waiting. Children, you should speak to it.
     To honour our guest, I will provide the coal.
     Take it inside.

[He speaks directly to the eel.]

                   If you are to be stewed with beets
     then death shall never come between us.                                    

     What do I receive in return as payment?                                    1140                  

     It will pay the market dues you owe me.
     But if you wish to sell some of the rest,
     then speak up.

                        I wish to sell everything.

     Tell me how much you want? Or do you wish
     to take some goods from here back home?

                                                                          I do.
     I’d take some Athenian goods—those things
     we in Boeotia do not produce ourselves.                                    [900]

     Then you should purchase some Phaleric sprats
     or pottery or . . .

                                                   Sprats or pottery?                      
     We have these things. What I am looking for                      1150   
     are things we lack but you have in abundance.

     I have just what you want. Why not take back
     an informer, packed up like crockery.

     By the twin gods, if I took one back home
     I could earn a tidy profit from a man
     full of mischief and lots of monkey tricks.(102)

[Enter Nicarchus, an informer.]

     Ah ha! Here comes Nicarchus to denounce you.

     He’s not very tall.

                                     Every inch is nasty.

     This merchandise—who does it belong to?                                  [910]

     It’s mine—from Thebes, as Zeus is my witness.                   1160

     I denounce it as enemy contraband.

     What’s wrong with you? Why are you waging war
     and fighting against my birds?

                                            I’ll denounce you as well.

       How have I harmed you?

                                     For the sake of our audience
     I’ll explain: you are importing lamp wicks

     from an enemy state.

                             You’re denouncing him
     for a candle wick?

                              It only takes one wick
     to burn the dockyard down.

                                     Destroy the dockyard
     with a single wick?

                                  That’s right.

                                                       But how?                                        

     Well, a Boeotian could attach the wick                                1170   [920]
     to a beetle’s wing, light it, and send it
     into the dockyard through a water pipe 
     when a strong north wind is blowing.      
     If fire reached the ships, it would quickly
     incinerate the dockyard.

DICAEOPOLIS [attacking Nicarchus]
                                                                  You idiot!
     Everything destroyed by a beetle and a wick?

[Dicaeopolis starts hitting Nicarchus with his strips of leather.]

NICARCHUS [appealing to the Chorus]
     You are witnesses how he’s abusing me!

     Gag his mouth and give me some straw. I need
     to pack him like a piece of pottery,                                            
     so he does not get broken up transit.                                             1180             

[Dicaeopolis begins to package Nicarchus for his trip to Boeotia, by wrapping tape all around him, so that he looks like a mummy.]

     Take the greatest of care as you wrap up this gnome,
     so the contents don’t crack as our friend travels home.

     I will take good care—he’s already so flawed
     his note rings quite false and offends every god

     What kind of use will he find for this crock?                                         [940]
     Its constant chatter fills the house with its squawk.

     It’s an all-purpose vessel for mixing foul acts,
     a mortar for law suits, a lamp to spy traps,
     and a cup where one poisons all relevant facts.                      
     And my excellent friend, this vessel won’t wear,                   1190       
     it never will break, if you hang it with care—
     the feet at the top, the head swinging in air.

CHORUS LEADER [to the Boeotian]
     You’re all set now—things are looking good!

     Well, I intend to reap a splendid harvest.

     Farewell my fine friend. Take this informer
     with you and hurl him wherever you wish—                              [950]
     where you pile all the other sycophants.

     Preparing this rascal was bloody hard work.
     Here, my Boeotian friend, load up your vessel.                      

[Dicaeopolis hands the bound up Nicarchus over to the Boeotian, who passes the bundle onto his slave.]

     Hey Ismenias, bend down and take this                                1200     
     on your shoulder. Carry it back like this.

[The Boeotian arranges the bound up Nicarchus on the back of his slave Ismenius.]

     Be sure to carry it the right way up.

     What you’re taking is not worth very much,
     but this freight will make you a fine profit.
     Dealing with informers will bring you luck.

[The Boeotian and Ismenias leave, returning to Boeotia with the 'packaged' Nicarchus.]

A SERVANT OF LAMACHUS [calling out as he enters]

                                    What is it?
     Why are you calling me?

                                             It’s Lamachus—
     he wishes to observe the Feast of Cups                                                   [960]
     and ordered me to offer you one drachma
     for some thrushes and three drachmas                                 1210      
     for an eel from lake Copais.(103)

                                                         Who is he,
     this Lamachus who wants to buy an eel?

     The terrible bearer of a bull’s eye shield,
     who likes to brandish his Gorgon’s head
     and the three plumes covering his helmet.

     No, he’ll not get anything, not even
     if he offers me his shield. Let him shake
     those plumes of his above some salted fish.                               
     If he comes here and starts to make a fuss,
     I’ll appeal to the the clerks of the market.                             1220       
     But now, I’ll take these goods for myself
     and go back home, ‘flying on the wings                                       [970]
     of a blackbird and a thrush.’

[Dicaeopolis returns to his house, and the Servant of Lamachus leaves to go back to Lamachus.]

     You see, all you citizens of Athens,
     you see how prudent and intelligent
     this man is. Thanks to a truce he made,
     he has imported all these goods we find
     useful in the home and pleasant to eat hot.                        

     All the finest things come to him on their own.

     I will never welcome into my house                                          1230
     the god of war, nor will he ever sing
     that song “Harmodius” in my presence,                                      [980]
     as he lies blind drunk across the table.
     He's an abusive sot, who rushes in
     with a company of happy revellers
     enjoying all sorts of delightful things,
     and brings with him nothing but disaster—
     he knocks things over, spills wine, and fights.                    
     I often called on him to settle down:
     ”Why not sit here, and take this cup of wine                             1240
     as a mark of friendship.” But he still burned
     our vineyard poles and, what is much worse,
     forcibly poured out all the wine we had.

     This man, on the other hand, takes good care
     to serve a sumptuous dinner and then,
     proud of what he’s done, scatters these feathers
     before his door to show us how he lives.

[The naked figure of the goddess of Peace and Reconciliation appears from on high and descends to the top of Dicaeopolis’s house]

     O peaceful Reconciliation, companion                                  
     of fair Aphrodite and the loving Graces
     we little knew the beauty of your face!                                 1250  [990]
       Would that Eros, with flowers in his hair—
     the way he is depicted in that painting—
     might seize the two of us, you and me,
     and bring us together in happy union.
     Perhaps you think I am too old for you,
     but I fancy I could still embrace you
     and tumble you three times—first, I would plant
     a long row of vines, and then, beside them,                        
     some fresh tender shoots of fig, and thirdly,
     a row of cultivated grapes. Old as I am,                                   1260
     there will be olive trees in every field,
     so that we'll always have supplies of oil
     to rub across our skin at each new moon.

[Exit the goddess of Peace and Reconciliation. Enter a Herald.]

     Listen, you people! As was the custom                                       [1000]
       with your ancestors, when the trumpet sounds,
     drink down a pitcher full of wine. The man
     who drains his first will receive a wine skin
     as plump and full as fat Ctesiphon.                                      

     You slaves and women, are you not listening?
     What are you doing? Did you not hear                                   1270
     the herald? Hop to it! Let the hares braise
     and roast! Keep them turning and then remove
     them from the spit! Get the garlands ready!
     Bring me the skewers to impale the birds.

     I envy your fine judgment, my good man,
     and especially this feast you set before us.                                  [1010]

     What about when you see the birds roasting?     

     Ah yes, you are so right about the birds!                             

DICAEOPOLIS [to a slave]
     Stir up the fire!

                              What a fine cook he is!
     He understands well how to prepare                                           1280
     a delicious feast in his own home.

[Enter Dercetes, a poor farmer in great distress.]

     Alas! Alas! I am so unfortunate!

     By Herakles, who is this?

                                         A most unhappy man!

     Keep your miserable feelings to yourself.

     Ah, my dear friend, you alone are at peace.                                [1020]
      Give me a portion of your truce, even if
     it’s only for five years.

                                   What’s wrong with you?

     I’m done for. I’ve lost a pair of oxen.                                    

     How did you do that?

                                            The Boeotians—
     they took them from me at Phyle.(104)                                          1290

     O you poor miserable wretch of triple sorrows!
     But in those white clothes, you’re not in mourning.

     By Zeus, all their cowshit was my source of cash.

     What is it, then, you need me to do?

     Weeping for my oxen has ruined my eyes.
     If you have any sympathy for me,
     Dercetes of Phyle, then spread your peace
     like an ointment under both my eyelids.                            

     But my poor fellow, I’m not a healer.

     Come, I implore you. Perhaps there’s a chance                         1300
     I can get my two oxen back.

                                         It’s not possible.
     You should go and tell your troubles
     to the followers of healer Pittalus.

     Just one drop of peace—poured into this reed!

     No not even the tiniest drop. Go away!
     Do your weeping somewhere else.

     O dear! Alas for my two little oxen.

[Dercetes exits]

     This man has found sweet enjoyment in peace.                 
     I do not think he’ll share with anyone.

     Pour some honey over the sausages,                                          1310
     and fry the cuttle fish.

                             Did you hear his voice?
     Such a loud commanding tone!

                                        And broil the eels.

     You are killing me with hunger, and your smoke
     and are shouting our neighbours.

     Fry this and make sure it’s nicely browned.

[Enter a Best Man holding a plate with some meat and a jar on it.]

BEST MAN [calling]

                           Who are you? What’s your name?

     A bridegroom at his marriage banquet                                         [1050]

     sends you this plate of meat.

                                         Whoever he is
     he has my thanks!

                             And in return for the meat
     he asks you to pour into this jar a dram                                      1320

     of peace, so he will not have to fight
     but can stay at home screwing his young wife.

     Take back the meat. Do not give it to me.
     Take it back. I would not pour out a dram
     not for a thousand drachmas.

[Enter a bridesmaid.]

                                           Who is this?

     She is the bridesmaid. She has to speak to you
     in private. It’s a message from the bride.                             

     Come then. What do you have to say to me.

[The Bridesmaid whispers the message in Dicaeopolis’s ear.]

     O by the gods, that request makes me laugh!
     The bride wishes to stay at home holding                                1330   [1060]
     her husband’s cock .Come, fetch my peace treaty.
     To her alone I will give some, for she
     is a woman and did not cause this war.
     Here, my dear, hold out your vial.

[Dicaeopolis pours some peace into the vial.]

                                                        There you go.
     Do you know how to apply the liquid?
     Tell the bride this: whenever they draw up
     a list of soldiers, she should rub some of this   
     at night on her husband’s penis. Now, slave,
     take away the truce. Fetch the jugs of wine,
     so I can fill up all the drinking bowls.                                       1340

     Someone’s coming. He looks very worried—
     as if he's weighed down with terrible news.                               [1070]

[Enter HERALD A]

     O more toil and fighting!

[Herald A goes up to Lamachus’s house and shouts.]


LAMACHUS [from within]
     Who is making such noise around my home
     and its brass ornaments?

                                                                     Our generals
     have ordered you to take your troops and plumes
     with all speed today and march through the snow            
     to guard the passes. For they have just learned
     that some Boeotian bandits will invade
     around the time of the Feast of Cups.                                        1350

     Ah, the generals. They are more numerous
     than useful. Is it not monstrous that I
     cannot stay to enjoy the celebrations?

     An army with the spirit of Lamachus!

     You wretch! Are you still laughing at me?

     Are you keen to fight this four-winged Geryon?(105)

     Alas! What a message that herald brought!                        

     Ah ha! There is another herald running here.
     What message has he got for me?

[Enter Herald B out of breath from running.]


     What is it?

                               Grab your basket and your cup                        1360
     as quick as you can, and come to the feast.
     The priest of Dionysus has sent for you.
     But you have to get a move on. Hurry!
     They have been waiting a long while to eat.
     Everything is ready--couches, tables, cushions,                         [1090]
     coverings, garlands, perfume, prostitutes,
     finely baked flat cakes, muffins, layer cakes,                       
     and dancing girls who are so beautiful
     in that “Dearest Harmodius” song and dance.
     So come on--as quicky as you can!                    

                                                         Damn it—                                1370
     it’s just my bad luck!

                               That’s because you chose
     as your patron the great Gorgon’s head.
     Slave, shut the door, and get someone
     to set out our dinner.

                                        Slave! Slave! Bring out
     the sack for my provisions.

                                        Slave! Slave! Bring out
     a hamper for my dinner.

[The Slaves appear with the sack and the hamper, and they continue through this scene to bring what their masters demand, rushing to and fro into and out of the appropriate houses.]

LAMACUS [to his Slave]
                                               Get salt, my lad,
     and thyme . . . and an onion,

DICAEOPOLIS [to his Slave]
                                        A slice of fish for me.                                   [1100]
     I’m not fond of onions.

                                                        Boy, fetch me
     some dried fish wrapped in stale fig leaves.

     Fetch me some fatty meat in a fig leaf.                                       1380
     I’ll cook it here.

                Bring me two plumes from my helmet.

     Bring me some thrushes and wild pigeon.

     These ostrich plumes—so white and beautiful.

     The flesh from this pigeon is so well cooked—
     it’s delicious.

LAMACHUS [to Dicaeopolis]
                                     Listen to me, old man,
     stop trying to make fun of my weapons.

     My dear fellow, please cease watching my birds.                

     Bring me the case for my triple plumes.

     Bring me the small of bowl full of rabbit stew.                           [1110]

     The moths have been eating my helmet plumes.                     1390

     And I have been eating my stew before dinner.

     My dear fellow, would you please refrain
     from speaking to me?

                I’m not speaking to you.
     I am arguing with my slave.

[Dicaeopolis turns to the Slave]

                                                           Well then,
     do you want to make a bet? We’ll leave it
     to Lamachus to resolve: which of these two—
     a locust or a thrush—is the best to eat?                               

     You impudent rascal!

                    He much prefers the locust.

     Slave, take down my spear and bring it here.

     Slave, pick up the sausage and bring it here.                              1400

     Come, let me pull my spear from it cover.
     Now, my boy, hold this spear firmly.                                           [1120]

     And you, my lad, hang onto this skewer.

     Boy, bring out the stand for my shield.

DICAEOPOLIS [to his Slave]
                                      That loaf of bread—
     bring it out here, hot from the oven.

     Bring my round shield with the Gorgon’s head.

     And bring me some of my circular cheese cake.                  

     Is this not what men consider sheer insolence?

     Is this not what men consider sweet cheese cake?

     Pour some oil on the shield. In the bronze                           1410
     I can see an old man who will be charged
     for shirking his military duties.

     Pour out some honey. In here one can see                                  [1130]
     an old man telling Lamachus—the man
     with the Gorgon’s head—to weep with sorrow.

     Slave, bring out my full body armour.

     Slave, fetch my armour--a full drinking cup                        

LAMACHUS [putting on his breastplate]
     With this I am armed against my enemies.

DICAEOPOLIS [waving his drinking cup]
     With this I am armed against my fellow drinkers.

     Slave, strap the mattress onto the shield.                                 1420

     Slave, strap the dinner into the basket.

     I’ll carry my knapsack myself.

     I’ll get my cloak and then we’ll be off.

     Slave, pick up the shield and take it outside.
     Let’s get going. Good heavens, it’s snowing.
     This is going to be a wintery business.

     Pick up the food. We have a party to attend.                      

CHORUS [to Lamachus]
     Good luck to you both in your campaigns,
     as you leave on your differing journeys—
     one to stand guard and freeze in the snow,                            1430
     the other to carouse in a flowery crown,
     and lie down to sleep with a tender young maid,
     who’ll massage his cock and make sure he gets laid.

     To speak from the heart, may Zeus do away                               [1150]
     with Antimachus, who spits and splutters
     and writes useless verse. As chorus leader,
     last year at the Lenaea he dismissed me                              
     without a dinner. Let me observe him
     craving a squid already cooked and hot,
     as it is set out on a tray and moves,                                               1440 
     like a ship approaching shore, towards him,
     he stretches out his hand to reach for the tray
     but a dog seizes the squid and scampers away.                          [1160]   

     That is one disaster I hope happens to him
     but I also hope he has trouble at night.
     As he returns in a sweat from riding his horse
     may he meet an Orestes crazy from drink,                          
     who bashes his head, so he has to stoop
     to pick up a stone, but, confused in the dark,
     he scoops up a turd, just recently dumped,                          1450  [1170]
     runs at Orestes, lets fly with the shit
     but misses—and it’s Cratinus who's hit.(106)

[Enter Lamachus's Slave.]

SLAVE OF LAMACHUS [rushing to Lamachus’s house]
     You slaves of Lamachus inside the house,
     we need water--some water warmed up
     in a little pot! Get lint and ointment,
     some greasy wool, and an ankle splint.(107)
     The man was hurt trying to leap a ditch—                        
     he hit a pointed stake, twisted his foot,
     strained the joint, and then fell on a stone                                 [1180]
     and cracked his head. His Gorgon roused herself                   1460
     flew off his shield, and his splendid plumage
     rolled down onto the rocks. As he saw this
     the hero gave out a dismal groan and said,

     "O radiant eye of heaven, I am now
     gazing upon thee for the very last time.
     I am losing my light. I now cease to be.”

     That said, he falls back into the water,            
     gets up again, meets some runaway slaves,
     and chases some robbers with his spear.
     But here he is. Open up the doors.                                        1470

[Enter Lamachus, walking with difficulty and assisted by two slaves.]

     O careful, careful! Ahhh, this dreadful pain!                                  [1190]
     What wretched suffering! That enemy spear
     has wounded me, and I am done for.
     But what would be even more disastrous
     is Dicaeopolis seeing me wounded
     and making fun of my misfortunes.

[Enter Dicaeopolis with two Courtesans. He is inebriated.]

     O careful, careful! What splendid breasts!                           
     As firm as a quince! O my golden treasures,
     give me some of your spit-swapping kisses,
     for I was the first to drain my wine cup!                                    1480

     What miserable luck! All my suffering.
     Ah, these painful wounds.

                                Ha, ha! Greetings,
     little horseman Lamachus!

                                             I am cursed!
     Why do you irritate me so much

DICAEOPOLIS [to one of the Courtesans]
     Why are you kissing me so much?

      I am a wretched mess—in a bad way.                                          [1210]
     That charge of mine came at a heavy cost.

     You mean you were charged for the Feast of Jars?               1490

     O Apollo, a healer! a healer—please.

     Today is not the feast of Apollo.

     Hold onto my legs . . . that hurts. My friends,
     help support me.

                            My dears, why don’t you both

     grab hold of my cock, here in the middle,

     That blow from the stone has made me dizzy—
     I’m blacking out.

                            And I’m dying to go to bed                                             [1220]
     My cock is full, and I ready to unload!

     Carry me off to the healer Pittalus.

     Take me to the judges! Where is he--                                  
     the king of the feast? Give me the wineskin!

     A spear has pierced me to the very bone.                                     1500
     It’s agony!

                    You see this empty jug—
     I am victorious!

                                  Hurrah for you, old man.
     I answer your call—Hurrah for the victor!

     I filled up my cup with unmixed wine
     and drained it—all in one gulp!

                                        You are now victorious,
     a worthy champion! Take the wineskin!                                                   [1230]

     Follow me and sing ‘Hurrah for the Victor!’

     Yes, we will follow, all singing in honour of you  
     and your wineskin, “Hail, Hail to the Victor!”



(1)  The name Dicaeopolis means “a citizen who is just.”  [Back to Text]

(2)   Cleon was an important pro-war political figure in Athens (though no favourite of Aristophanes). He had accepted a bribe of five talents from some of Athens’s allies, on condition that he would get the tribute they had to pay to Athens reduced. The Knights, a group of aristocratic young men, forced him to pay back the money. One talent was a considerable sum of money.  [Back to Text]

(3) Aeschylus was a major Athenian tragic dramatist, whose plays continued to be performed after his death (in 455 BC). Theognis was, by contrast, an inferior poet. Diaeopolis’s approval of Aeschylus is an indication of his traditional conservative values. [Back to Text]

(4)  Moschus was a musician whom Aristophanes frequently ridicules. [Back to Text]

(5)  Chaeris was an inferior musician, often satirized by Aristophanes. [Back to Text]

(6)   The Pnyx was a hill where the assemblies were held. In the staging of the play that would be the orchestra, the area in front of and below the main stage, which Dicaeopolis is looking at and perhaps pointing to. A rope covered with red ocre dye was used to round up citizens who were late for the assembly. The dye on their clothes would indicate their tardiness and lead to a fine. [Back to Text]

(7)  Because the Spartan army periodically invaded Athenian territory, the country people had moved into Athens, where they were safely behind the city walls. [Back to Text]

 (8) The “consecrated section” was an area of the best seating, which had previously been sprinkled with pig’s blood in honour of the goddess Ceres. [Back to Text]

(9)   I have added the word “godly” in order to clarify the dialogue which follows. The name Amphitheus means “from gods on both sides.” That hint provokes the Herald to ask if he is a mortal man. Some translators change Amphitheus’s name to make that clear (e.g., Godson, or Godly, and so on). Alternatively, Amphiarus could be so oddly dressed that the Herald does not know whether he is looking at a man or woman and thus asks “Are you not a man?” In that case, the word “godly” would be unnecessary. [Back to Text]       

(10)  Phaenerete was the name of Socrates’s mother; she was said to be a midwife. Paley suggests that Aristophanes may be making fun of Socrates here (especially his low birth).  [Back to Text]

(11)  The guards, who served as the city police in Athens, were from Scythia and were called “Sythian Archers” or “Archers.” [Back to Text]

(12) The Great King was the emperor of Persia. The Greek does not have the word “Great” here, but it does a few lines further on. [Back to Text]

(13)  Ecbatana, a city in western Iran, was the summer residence of the Great King.  [Back to Text]

(14)  Paley notes that a wage of two drachmas a day was not very much money. However, Euthymenes was the chief magistrate (or Archon) eleven years earlier. Thus the amount of money the Ambassador is claiming is significant. [Back to Text]

(15)  Dicaeopolis is refering to his military service defending Athens when the Spartan army invaded Attica (the area around Athens). [Back to Text]

(16)  The ancient Greeks normally drank wine mixed with water. Unmixed wine would be an uncommon luxury. [Back to Text]   

(17)  Cranaus, a legendary figure, was tradionally the second king of Athens. [Back to Text

(18)  Cleonymus was an Athenian general who was apparently very tall. He is a frequent satiric target of Arisophanes.]
[Back to Text]

(19) The Great King’s Eye was a very senior Persian official who reported back to the king anything he thought was important for the well being of the Persian empire. [Back to Text]

(20)  It is clear that this actor wears a distinctive comic mask with one huge (and distorted?) eye in the middle of his face, like a cyclops. [Back to Text]

(21)  Ships often had eyes painted on the sides near the front of the vessel. [Back to Text]

(22) This detail is continuing the comparison of the King’s Eye to a ship. The leather flap covered the holes where the oars were situated in order to keep water out of the ship. [Back to Text]

(23)  The term “barbarian” refers to those peoples who do not speak Greek. The word Ionians refers to the Athenians here. The Persians called all Greeks Ionians.   [Back to Text]

(24) The Greek text uses the term medimni (a Persian measure with no exact equivalent in English) to indicate the amount of gold. I have substituted the word bars[Back to Text]

(25)  This threat presumeably means that he will beat Pseudaratbas so badly that his entire body will be purple with bruises. Sardis, a town in Asia Minor, was famous for its purple dyes. [Back to Text]

(26)  Cleisthenes was a very effeminate Athenian. He is one of Aristophanes’s favourite satiric targets. Straton was an effeminate contemporary of Cleisthenes. [Back to Text]    

(27) Eunuchs by reputation were clean shaven. Hence, having a beard would defeat the purpose of pretending to be  one.  [Back to Text]

(28) The Pyrtaneum was the building in which the governing Council entertained important dignitaries at public expense. [Back to Text]

(29)  Sitalces was king of Thrace, to the north of Greece. [Back to Text]

(30) Theognis was an inferior playwright. The logic here is that his plays were so lacking emotion (i.e. so cold) that they affected the weather in Thrace. [Back to Text

(31) Apaturia was a three-day Athenian feast held late in the year (November). [Back to Text]

(32)  Dicaeopolis senses that Theorus is out to swindle the Athenians. [Back to Text]

(33)  Boeotia, a region closer to Athens than Thrace, was an ally of Sparta during the war. A wage of two drachmas a day would be considerably more generous that what most of the sailors in the Athenian warships earned. [Back to Text]

(34) The “top tier oarsmen” rowed on the top row of three (usually). Walsh suggests that they were paid more because their work was more difficult than on the lower tiers. The point is that even the best paid oarsmen in the Athenian fleet would grumble if they heard other troops were getting two drachmas a day. [Back to Text]

(35) Athenians fed garlic to their fighting cocks in the belief that it made them fight more fiercely. [Back to Text]

(36)  The drop of rain is either an bad omen (as Dicaeopolis suggests) or else a sign of bad weather approaching or both. In any case, it is a sign that the assembly must end. [Back to Text]

(37)  Acharnae in this play is a political subdivision of Athens. Most of the people who lived there were charcoal burners who supplied the city with the fuel necessary for domestic, manufacturing, and medical purposes. [Back to Text]

(38) Marathon was the site of the famous battle near Athens in which the combined forces of the Greeks under Athenian leadership defeated the Persian army (490 BC). The men must be very old to be veterans of that battle. [Back to Text]

(39)  Making a truce or treaty involved pouring a libation of wine. Hence in the Greek the words for drink offering and truce are the same. That is the reason Amphitheus has brought back different samples of wine to indicate different truce options (as we soon discover). [Back to Text]

(40) When the Athenians needed citizens for the army or navy the men were ordered to assemble, each one bringing three days of provisions for himself. [Back to Text]

(41) The speeches assigned to the Chorus may be spoken by the entire Chorus, or by part of the Chorus, or by the Chorus Leader, or by an individual member of the Chorus, as the director of a production of the play decides. However, to clarify matters for the reader, in this English text I have indicated a particular speaker or speakers. [Back to Text]

(42) Phayllus well-known Olympian athlete. [Back to Text]

(43) Lachratides had been Archon (Chief Magistrate) in Athens at the time of the battle at Marathon, many years earlier (i.e., he must now be extremely old). [Back to Text]

(44) The Spartan armies routinely invaded Attica (the area around Athens) and drove the farming communities into Athens where they were safer within the city walls. The Spartans would pillage the farms and destroy the crops. The thorn is a form of bulrush identified by T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W.H. D. Rouse as Schoenus mucronatus, the Dagger-pointed Bulrush “common on all the coast of the Mediterranean.” [Back to Text]

(45)  The “jewels” would be trinkets which are attached to the young girl’s clothing or which she is wearing on her arms. There could be a bawdy innuendo and meaning in this remark. Some translators and commentators assign these seven lines to Dicaeopolis’s wife. [Back to Text]

(46)  Phales was a god of procreation, symbolized by the phallus. This song is apparently improvised on the spot. Some editors observe that the phallus is so large it requires two slaves to hold it properly. [Back to Text]

(47)  Lamachus was an Athenian general. The name is also made up, in part, of the word meaning “fight.”[Back to Text]

(48) The name Phelleus evidently refers to a wooded spur of mount Parnes. [Back to Text]

(49) Cleon (see footnote 2 above) was a currier (a tanner of leather) by trade. [Back to Text]

(50) The term Laconian refers to the Lacedaimonians (or Spartans). [Back to Text]

(51)  The cuttle fish, a sea creature related to the octopus, squirts dark ink. [Back to Text]

(52) This speech, for obvious reass is often interpreted as the voice of Aristophanes expressing his own opinions of the Athenians. Some have suggested that he may have been the actor playing the role. [Back to Text]

(53) The comic play mentioned is The Babylonians (now lost). Cleon complained about the play to the civic authorities on the ground that it held Athens up to ridicule. [Back to Text]

(54) Hades was the god of the underworld (i.e. the dead), His helmet conferred the gift of invisibility on the wearer. Hieronymus was a writer of tragedies, often mocked by Aristophanes. Sisyphus was a legendary king of Corinth, famous for his trickery. He was eternally punished in Hadea for repeatedly tricking the gods. [Back to Text]

(55) Cholleidae was a political district in Athens (like Archaniae). [Back to 'Text]

(56) The stage machinery was a device that enabled an actor to be revealed suddenly, usually high up above the other actors. Euripides is very fond to using such machinery near the end of his tragediess to reveal the sudden entry of a god or goddess, who will then help to resolve the action (the deus ex machina). This whole scene is, in part, a satire on Euripides’s dramatic and poetic style. [Back to Text]

(57)  Euripides was frequently criticizead for writing tragedies about much meaner and more common persons (often in miserable circumstances) than the older tradition’s noble characters. Further in this scene Euripides and Dicaeopolis discuss various Euripidean heroes. The plays in which these characters appear have all been lost (other than some fragments). [Back to Text]

(58) Thyestes and Ino were characters in lost plays by Euripides. [Back to Text]

(59) This is a satiric jibe at Euripides’ family origins: his mother (according to one tradition) sold herbs in the marketplace. Paley observes that the story was probably untrue. [Back to Text]

(60) In this sentence Dicaeopolis observes that Euripides (the character in the play), by complying with all the requests for various objects, is enabling the scene to be a continuing satire on Euripides (the playwright). Much of the humour here arises from the audience’s familiarity with Euripides’s plays. [Back to Text]

(61) Here Aristophanes is deliberately blurring the line between Dicaeopolis (the fictional character giving the speech) and Aristophanes (the poet and author of this play). [Back to Text]

 (62) The federated states were a group of city states allied with Athens. They paid tribute money to Athens and provided troops and ships to a common cause.  [Back to Text]

(63) Resident aliens in Athens (called metics) made up roughly half the free population. They had no political rights but had to fulful the duties of citizens (e.g., pay taxes). The children of metics born in Athens retained the citizenship of their family origin.) [Back to Text]

(64) Poseidon was god of earthquakes. Taenaus is a headland in the Peloponnese, close to Sparta. ) [Back to Text]

(65) Cottabus was a drinking game involving (in some forms) throwing wine dregs into a container without spilling any on the floor. ) [Back to Text]

(66) Aspasia was the mistress of Pericles, the political leader in Athens in the first year of the war. He died of the plague in the second year of the war. ) [Back to Text]

(67) Pericles was the most powerful and successful politician in Athens in the years immediately before the war (hence the title "Olympian) and in the first year of conflict. He died of the plague which broke out in the second year of the war. [Back to Text]

(68) Megara was an ally of Sparta, but economically dependent on Athens and cities in the Athenian Empire. The economic blocade Athens imposed on Megara was a major source of friction in the years before the outbreak of hostilities. ) [Back to Text]

 (69) Seriphos is a small, insignifican island allied to Athens. The triviality of this hypothetical example is an important part of Dicaeopolis’ argument. ) [Back to Text]

(70) The Greek text has “Do we think Telaphus . . . .” I have replaced the name Telephus and written the Spartan to make better sense of the question. Telephus was a Spartan. [Back to Text]

 (71) An informer in ancient Athens was a private citizen who laid charges against someone else for breaking a law. Every Athenian citizen enjoyed this privilege, which was often abused. The Athenians were notorious for their love of lawsuits. ) [Back to Text]

 (72) Lamachus was an Athenian general in the Peloponnesian War. He may well have been in the audience for the first performace of the play in Athens. ) [Back to Text]

 (73) The Gorgon crest is on the shield which is carried in a canvas bag. The Gorgon was a fearful creature whose gaze turned people to stone. ) [Back to Text]

 (74) Paley points out that young men from wealthy families could arrange to get themselves appointed as envoys in various diplomatic missions and thus recieve more pay than the soldiers and sailors (who received two drachmas a day). Such envoys were exempt from military service. ) [Back to Text]

 (75) The names of people and places in this passage (made up by the poet) undoubtedly contain comic references to people and politics. The word Gela, for example, means ridiculous. Some translators hazard attempts to render them in English, but their results do not prompt me to offer my own. ) [Back to Text]

(76) Coesyra was a well-known member of a leading family in Athens. F. A. Paley remarks, “. . . we can hardly doubt that Alcibiades is meant . . .” ) [Back to Text]

 (77) This exchange means something like “Do we, as members of a democracy, have to listen to this satiric treatment of Athenians: “No you don’t, unless you still want to be paid.” The satiric suggestion is that Athenian democracy would be intolerable if Lamachus did not get paid. ) [Back to Text]

 (78) The Peloponnese is the large peninsula in southern Greece, joined to the mainland by the Isthmus of Corinth. Sparta is located there. Many Peloponnesian cities were allied with Sparta. ) [Back to Text]

 (79) In Old Comedy, the parabasis is a speech delivered by the Chorus leader, who adopts the role of the poet and usually raises a number of moral or political issues. ) [Back to Text]

 (80) Aristophanes had some connection to the Aegina, an island close to Athens. Athens attacked Aegina in 459 BC, tore down its walls, and commandeered its fleet. ) [Back to Text]

(81) “[Epanthrakides:] Small fish to be broiled over the embers were first dipped in pickle of salt and oil. . . . It is called [liparanpux] from the oil that rises to the top; hence it was shaken before use” (Paley). [Back to Text]

 (82) Poseidon was god of the sea and an important deity in Athens. [Back to Text]

 (83) Tithonus was a legendary figure who was promised eternal life by the goddess of dawn. But the promise did not protect him from growing old. As a result he was condemned to an eternity of increasing decrepitude. [Back to Text]

(84) Marathon was the site of the battle in which a force of men from the Greek states under Athenian command defeated the Persians in 480 BC. It was the highlight of Athenian military history, [Back to Text]

(85) The identtty of Marpsias is unknown. Presumeably he was a young prosecutor in the courts. [Back to Text]

(86) Thucydides was the son of Melesias and led an anti-war faction in Athens. He should not be confused with the famous historian of the Peloponnesian War. Cephisodemus was an Athenian born in Scythia. [Back to Text]

(87) The Archers (from Scythia) acted as a police force in Athens. [Back to Text]

(88) The son of Clineas is Alcibiades. [Back to Text]

(89) Market clerks were those charged with keeping order in the market. [Back to Text]

(90) Megara was a city state quite close to Athens. At the opening of the war it was allied with Sparta. In c. 432 BC, Athens issued the Megarian Decree, which banned all Megarian merchants from territory controlled by Athens. As a result, the Megarian economy was severely damaged. [Back to Text]

(91) The Eleusinian Mysteries were a secret religious initiation rite based on the worship of Persephone and her mother, Demeter. The celebrations were held annually. [Back to Text]

 (92) In the Greek this conversation contains strong sexual innuendo because the word for sow also means cunt. [Back to Text]

 (93)  The young pig is unsuitable for sacrifice because without a tail it is incomplete. [Back to Text]

(94) The Greek word for chick peas also refers to the human penis (as does the word for fig in Dicaeopolis’s next question. [Back to Text]

(95)  Ctesias was an informer about whom very little is known. [Back to Text]

(96)  It is not clear who the name Prepis refers to. Cleonymus was a follower of Creon who was said to be a coward because he allegedly dropped his shield in battle and ran away.  Hyperbolus was a prominent politician in Athens aligned with Creon. [Back to Text]

(97)  Cratinus may refer to the comic poet or to a younger contemporary. Artemo was a painter well known for being constantly hungry. [Back to Text]

(98) Pauson was a painter about whom little is known. Lysistratus was a member of the social elite. Cholargos was a political district in Athens to which Lysistratus belonged. [Back to Text]

(99)  The pipers’ instruments are like a small bagpipe with a flute (made of bone) and a bellows (made of the skins of dogs). Starkie suggessts that the phrase “The Dog's Arse” was the title of a popular tune. [Back to Text]

(100)  Iolaus was a companion and friend of Herakles and was venerated in Thebes.  [Back to Text]

(101)  Morychus was a tragic poet noted for his gluttony and effeminacy. [Back to Text]

(102)  The twin gods referred to here are Amphion and Zethes, sons of Zeus, who built the walls of Thebes. [Back to Text]

(103)  The Feast of Cups was part of the Dionysia, a celebration of Dionysus, held in February.    [Back to Text]

(104)  Phyle was a fortress community in Attica (the area around Athens). [Back to Text]

(105)   Geryon was a mythical monster.  [Back to Text]

(106)  The name Orestes was a general term for a thief (especially at night) who was slightly unhinged or wild.  Cratinus was a writer of comic plays and a rival of Aristophanes.  [Back to Text]

(107)   Paley notes that an unwashed woolen fleece was thought to have healing properties.  [Back to Text]