- Art Gallery -




420 BC
by Aristophanes
anonymous translator

AGORACRITUS, a Sausage-Seller
(SCENE:-The Orchestra represents the Pnyx at Athens; in the back-
ground is the house of DEMOS.)

Oh! alas! alas! alas! Oh! woe! oh! woe! Miserable Paphlagonian!
may the gods destroy both him and his cursed advice! Since that evil
day when this new slave entered the house he has never ceased
belabouring us with blows.
May the plague seize him, the arch-fiend-him and his lying tales!
Hah! my poor fellow, what is your condition?
Very wretched, just like your own.
Then come, let us sing a duet of groans in the style of Olympus.
Boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo, hoo!!
Bah! it's lost labour to weep! Enough of groaning! Let us consider
now to save our pelts.
But how to do it! Can you suggest anything?
No, you begin. I cede you the honour.
By Apollo! no, not I. Come, have courage! Speak, and then I will
say what I think.
DEMOSTHENES (in tragic style)
"Ah! would you but tell me what I should tell you!
I dare not. How could I express my thoughts with the pomp of
Oh! please spare me! Do not pelt me with those vegetables, but
find some way of leaving our master.
Well, then! Say "Let-us-bolt," like this, in one breath.
I follow you-'Let-us-bolt."
Now after "Let-us-bolt" say "at-top-speed
Splendid! just as if you were masturbating; first slowly,
"Let-us-bolt"; then quick and firmly, "at-top-speed!"
Let-us-bolt, let-us-bolt-at-top-speed!
Hah! does that not please you?
Yes, indeed, yet I fear your omen bodes no good to my hide.
How so?
Because masturbation chafes the skin.
The best thing we can do for the moment is to throw ourselves at
the feet of the statue of some god.
Of which statue? Any statue? Do you then believe there are gods?
What proof have you?
The proof that they have taken a grudge against me. Is that not
I'm convinced it is. But to pass on. Do you consent to my
telling the spectators of our troubles?
There's nothing wrong with that, and we might ask them to show
us by their manner, whether our facts and actions are to their liking.
I will begin then. We have a very brutal master, a perfect glutton
for beans, and most bad-tempered; it's Demos of the Pnyx, an
intolerable old man and half deaf. The beginning of last month he
bought a slave, a Paphlagonian tanner, an arrant rogue, the
incarnation of calumny. This man of leather knows his old master
thoroughly; he plays the fawning cur, flatters, cajoles, wheedles, and
dupes him at will with little scraps of leavings, which he allows
him to get. "Dear Demos," he will say, "try a single case and you will
have done enough; then take your bath, eat, swallow and devour; here
are three obols." Then the Paphlagonian filches from one of us what we
have prepared and makes a present of it to our old man. The other
day I had just kneaded a Spartan cake at Pylos, the cunning rogue came
behind my back, sneaked it and offered the cake, which was my
invention, in his own name. He keeps us at a distance and suffers none
but himself to wait upon the master; when Demos is dining, he keeps
close to his side with a thong in his hand and puts the orators to
flight. He keeps singing oracles to him, so that the old man now
thinks of nothing but the Sibyl. Then, when he sees him thoroughly
obfuscated, he uses all his cunning and piles up lies and calumnies
against the household; then we are scourged and the Paphlagonian
runs about among the slaves to demand contributions with threats and
gathers them in with both hands. He will say, "You see how I have
had Hylas beaten! Either content me or die at once!" We are forced
to give, for otherwise the old man tramples on us and makes us crap
forth all our body contains. (To NICIAS) There must be an end to it,
friend Let us see! what can be done? Who will get us out of this mess?
The best thing, friend, is our famous "Let-us-bolt!"
But none can escape the Paphlagonian, his eye is everywhere. And
what a stride! He has one leg on Pylos and the other in the
Assembly; his arse gapes exactly over the land of the Chaonians, his
hands are with the Aetolians and his mind with the Clopidians.
It's best then to die; but let us seek the most heroic death.
Let me think, what is the most heroic?
Let us drink the blood of a bull; that's the death Themistocles
No, not that, but a bumper of good unmixed wine in honour of the
Good Genius; perchance we may stumble on a happy thought.
Look at him! "Unmixed wine!" Your mind is on drink intent? Can a
man strike out a brilliant thought when drunk?
Without question. Go, ninny, blow yourself out with water; do
you dare to accuse wine of clouding the reason? Quote me more
marvellous effects than those of wine. Look! when a man drinks, he
is rich, everything he touches succeeds, he gains lawsuits, is happy
and helps his friends. Come, bring hither quick a flagon of wine, that
I may soak my brain and get an ingenious idea.
My God! What can your drinking do to help us?
Much. But bring it to me, while I take my seat. Once drunk, I
shall strew little ideas, little phrases, little reasonings
(NICIAS enters the house and returns almost immediately with a
It is lucky I was not caught in the house stealing the wine.
Tell me, what is the Paphlagonian doing now?
The wretch has just gobbled up some confiscated cakes; he is drunk
and lies at full-length snoring on his hides.
Very well, come along, pour me out wine and plenty of it.
Take it and offer a libation to your Good Genius.
DEMOSTHENES (to himself)
Inhale, ah, inhale the spirit of the genius of Pramnium. (He
drinks. Inspiredly) Ah! Good Genius, thine the plan, not mine!
Tell me, what is it?
Run indoors quick and steal the oracles of the Paphlagonian, while
he is asleep.
Bless me! I fear this Good Genius will be but a very Bad Genius
for me.
(He goes into the house.)
And I'll set the flagon near me, that I may moisten my wit to
invent some brilliant notion.
(NICIAS enters the house and returns at once.)
How loudly the Paphlagonian farts and snores! I was able to
seize the sacred oracle, which he was guarding with the greatest care,
without his seeing me.
Oh! clever fellow! Hand it here, that I may read. Come, pour me
out some drink, bestir yourself! Let me see what there is in it. Oh!
prophecy! Some drink! some drink! Quick!
Well! what says the oracle?
Pour again.
Is "Pour again" in the oracle?
Oh, Bacis!
But what is in it?
Quick! some drink!
Bacis is very dry!
Oh! miserable Paphlagonian! This then is why you have so long
taken such precautions; your horoscope gave you qualms of terror.
What does it say?
It says here how he must end.
And how?
How? the oracle announces clearly that a dealer in oakum must
first govern the city.
That's one tradesman. And after him, who?
After him, a sheep-dealer.
Two tradesmen, eh? And what is this one's fate?
To reign until a filthier scoundrel than he arises; then he
perishes and in his place the leather-seller appears, the Paphlagonian
robber, the bawler, who roars like a torrent.
And the leather-seller must destroy the sheep-seller?
Oh woe is me! Where can another seller be found, is there ever a
one left?
There is yet one, who plies a first-rate trade.
Tell me, pray, what is that?
You really want to know?
Well then! it's a sausage-seller who must overthrow him.
A sausage-seller! Ah! by Posidon! what a fine trade! But where can
this man be found?
Let's seek him. But look! there he is, going towards the
market-place; 'tis the gods, the gods who send him! (Calling out) This
way, this way, oh; lucky sausage-seller, come forward, dear friend,
our saviour, the saviour of our city.
(Enter AGORACRITUS, a seller of sausages, carrying a basket of his
What is it? Why do you call me?
Come here, come and learn about your good luck, you who are
Fortune's favourite!
Come! Relieve him of his basket-tray and tell him the oracle of
the god; I will go and look after the Paphlagonian.
(He goes into the house.)
First put down all your gear, then worship the earth and the gods.
Done. What is the matter?
Happiness, riches, power; to-day you have nothing, to-morrow you
will have all, oh! chief of happy Athens.
Why not leave me to wash my tripe and to sell my sausages
instead of making game of me?
Oh! the fool! Your tripe! Do you see these tiers of people?
You shall be master to them all, governor of the market, of the
harbours, of the Pnyx; you shall trample the Senate under foot, be
able to cashier the generals, load them with fetters, throw them
into gaol, and you will fornicate in the Prytaneum.
What! I?
You, without a doubt. But you do not yet see all the glory
awaiting you. Stand on your basket and look at all the islands that
surround Athens.
I see them. What then?
Look at the storehouses and the shipping.
Yes, I am looking.
Exists there a mortal more blest than you? Furthermore, turn
your right eye towards Caria and your left toward Carthage!
Then it's a blessing to be cock-eyed!
No, but you are the one who is going to trade away all this.
According to the oracle you must become the greatest of men.
Just tell me how a sausage-seller can become a great man.
That is precisely why you will be great, because you are a sad
rascal without shame, no better than a common market rogue.
I do not hold myself worthy of wielding power.
Oh! by the gods! Why do you not hold yourself worthy? Have you
then such a good opinion of yourself? Come, are you of honest
By the gods! No! of very bad indeed.
Spoilt child of fortune, everything fits together to ensure your
But I have not had the least education. I can only read, and
that very badly.
That is what may stand in your way, almost knowing how to read.
A demagogue must be neither an educated nor an honest man; he has to
be an ignoramus and a rogue. But do not, do not let go this gift,
which the oracle promises.
But what does the oracle say?
Faith, it is put together in very fine enigmatical style, as
elegant as it is dear: "When the eagle-tanner with the hooked claws
shall seize a stupid dragon, a blood-sucker, it will be an end to
the hot Paphlagonian pickled garlic. The god grants great glory to the
sausage-sellers unless they prefeir to sell their wares."
In what way does this concern me? Please instruct my ignorance.
The eagle-tanner is the Paphlagonian.
What do the hooked claws mean?
It means to say, that he robs and pillages us with his claw-like
And the dragon?
That is quite clear. The dragon is long and so also is the
sausage; the sausage like the dragon is a drinker of blood.
Therefore the oracle says, that the dragon will triumph over the
eagle-tanner, if he does not let himself be cajoled with words.
The oracles of the gods flatter me! Faith! I do not at all
understand how I can be capable of governing the people.
Nothing simpler. Continue your trade. Mix and knead together all
the state business as you do for your sausages. To win the people,
always cook them some savoury that pleases them. Besides, you
possess all the attributes of a demagogue; a screeching, horrible
voice, a perverse, cross-grained nature and the language of the
market-place. In you all is united which is needful for governing. The
oracles are in your favour, even including that of Delphi. Come,
take a chaplet, offer a libation to the god of Stupidity and take care
to fight vigorously.
Who will be my ally? for the rich fear the Paphlagonian and the
poor shudder at the sight of him.
You will have a thousand brave Knights, who detest him, on your
side; also the honest citizens amongst the spectators, those who are
men of brave hearts, and finally myself and the god. Fear not, you
will not see his features, for none have dared to make a mask
resembling him. But the public have wit enough to recognize him.
NICIAS (from within)
Oh! mercy! here comes the Paphlagonian!
(CLEON rushes out of the house.)
By the twelve gods! Woe betide you, who have too long been
conspiring against Demos. What means this Chalcidian cup? No doubt you
are provoking the Chalcidians to revolt. You shall be killed and
butchered, you brace of rogues.
What! are you for running away? Come, come, stand firm, bold
Sausage-seller, do not betray us. To the rescue, oh, Knights. Now is
the time. Simon, Panaetius, get you to the right wing; they are coming
on; hold tight and return to the charge. I can see the dust of their
horses' hoofs; they are galloping to our aid. (To the
SAUSAGE-SELLER) Courage! Attack him, put him to flight.
(The CHORUS OF KNIGHTS enters at top speed.)
Strike, strike the villain, who has spread confusion amongst the
ranks of the Knights, this public robber, this yawning gulf of
plunder, this devouring Charybdis, this villain, this villain, this
villain! I cannot say the word too often, for he is a villain a
thousand times a day. Come, strike, drive, hurl him over and crush him
to pieces; hate him as we hate him: stun him with your blows and
your shouts. And beware lest he escape you; he knows the way
Eucrates took straight to a bran sack for concealment.
Oh! veteran Heliasts, brotherhood of the three obols, whom I
fostered by bawling at random, help me; I am being beaten to death
by rebels.
And justly too; you devour the public funds that all should
share in; you treat the treasury officials like the fruit of the fig
tree, squeezing them to find which are still green or more or less
ripe; and, when you find a simple and timid one, you force him to come
from the Chersonese, then you seize him by the middle, throttle him by
the neck, while you twist his shoulder back; he falls and you devour
him. Besides, you know very well how to select from among the citizens
those who are as meek as lambs, rich, without guile and loathers of
Eh! what! Knights, are you helping them? But, if I am beaten, it
is in your cause, for I was going to propose to erect a statue in
the city in memory of your bravery.
Oh! the impostor! the dull varlet! See! he treats us like old
dotards and crawls at our feet to deceive us; but the cunning
wherein his power lies shall this time recoil on himself; he trips
up himself by resorting to such artifices.
Oh citizens! oh people! see how these brutes are bursting my
What shouts! but it's this very bawling that incessantly upsets
the city!
I can shout too-and so loud that you will flee with fear.
If you shout louder than he does I will strike up the triumphal
hymn; if you surpass him in impudence the cake is ours.
I denounce this fellow; he has had tasty stews exported from
Athens for the Spartan fleet.
And I denounce him; he runs into the Prytaneum with an empty belly
and comes out with it full.
And by Zeus! he carries off bread, meat, and fish, which is
forbidden. Pericles himself never had this right.
(A screaming match now ensues, each line more raucous than the
last. The rapidity of the dialogue likewise increases.)
You are travelling the right road to get killed.
I'll bawl three times as loud as you.
I will deafen you with my yells.
And I you with my bellowing.
I shall calumniate you, if you become a Strategus.
Dog, I will lay your back open with the lash.
I will make you drop your arrogance,
I will baffle your machinations.
Dare to look me in the face!
I too was brought up in the market-place.
I will cut you to shreds if you whisper a word.
If you open your mouth, I'll shut it with shit.
I admit I'm a thief; that's more than you do.
By our Hermes of the market-place, if caught in the act, why, I
perjure myself before those who saw me.
These are my own special tricks. I will denounce you to the
Prytanes as the owner of sacred tripe, that has not paid tithe.
CHORUS (singing)
Oh! you scoundrel! you impudent bawler! everything is filled
with your daring, all Attica, the Assembly, the Treasury, the decrees,
the tribunals. As a furious torrent you have overthrown our city; your
outcries have deafened Athens and, posted upon a high rock, you have
lain in wait for the tribute moneys as the fisherman does for the
CLEON (somewhat less loudly)
I know your tricks; it's an old plot resoled.
If you know naught of soling, I understand nothing of sausages;
you, who cut bad leather on the slant to make it look stout and
deceive the country yokels. They had not worn it a day before it had
stretched some two spans.
That's the very trick he played on me; both my neighbours and my
friends laughed heartily at me, and before I reached Pergasae I was
swimming in my shoes.
CHORUS (singing)
Have you not always shown that blatant impudence, which is the
sole strength of our orators? You push it so far, that you, the head
of the State, dare to milk the purses of the opulent aliens and, at
sight of you, the son of Hippodamus melts into tears. But here is
another man who gives me pleasure, for he is a much greater rascal
than you; he will overthrow you; 'tis easy to see, that he will beat
you in roguery, in brazenness and in clever turns. Come, you, who have
been brought up among the class which to-day gives us all our great
men, show us that a liberal education is mere tomfoolery.
Just hear what sort of fellow that fine citizen is.
Will you not let me speak?
Assuredly not, for I too am an awful rascal.
If he does not give in at that, tell him your parents were awful
rascals too.
Once more, will you let me speak?
No, by Zeus!
Yes, by Zeus, you shall!
No, by Posidon! We will fight first to see who shall speak first.
I will die sooner.
I will not let you....
Let him, in the name of the gods, let him die.
What makes you so bold as to dare to speak to my face?
Because I know both how to speak and how to cook.
Hah! the fine speaker! Truly, if some business matter fell your
way, you would know thoroughly well how to attack it, to carve it up
alive! Shall I tell you what has happened to you? Like so many others,
you have gained some petty lawsuit against some alien. Did you drink
enough water to inspire you? Did you mutter over the thing
sufficiently through the night, spout it along the street, recite it
to all you met? Have you bored your friends enough with it? And for
this you deem yourself an orator. You poor fool!
And what do you drink yourself then, to be able all alone by
yourself to dumbfound and stupefy the city so with your clamour?
Can you match me with a rival? Me? When I have devoured a good hot
tunny-fish and drunk on top of it a great jar of unmixed wine. I say
"to Hell with the generals of Pylos!"
And I, when I have bolted the tripe of an ox together with a sow's
belly and swallowed the broth as well, I am fit, though slobbering
with grease, to bellow louder than all orators and to terrify Nicias.
I admire your language so much; the only thing I do not approve is
that you swallow all the broth yourself.
Even though you gorged yourself on sea-dogs, you would not beat
the Milesians.
Give me a bullock's breast to devour, and I am a man to traffic in
I will rush into the Senate and set them all by the ears.
And I will pull out your arse to stuff like a sausage.
As for me, I will seize you by the rump and hurl you head foremost
through the door.
By Posidon, only after you have thrown me there first.
(Beginning another crescendo of competitive screeching)
Beware of the carcan!
I denounce you for cowardice.
I will tan your hide.
I will flay you and make a thief's pouch with the skin.
I will peg you out on the ground.
I will slice you into mince-meat.
I will tear out your eyelashes.
I will slit your gullet.
We will set his mouth open with a wooden stick as the cooks do
with pigs; we will tear out his tongue, and, looking down his gaping
throat, will see whether his inside has any pimples.
CHORUS (singing)
Thus then at Athens we have something more fiery than fire, more
impudent than impudence itself! 'Tis a grave matter; come, we will
push and jostle him without mercy. There, you grip him tightly under
the arms; if he gives way at the onset, you will find him nothing
but a craven; I know my man.
That he has been all his life and he has only made himself a
name by reaping another's harvest; and now he has tied up the ears
he gathered over there, he lets them dry and seeks to sell them.
I do not fear you as long as there is a Senate and a people
which stands like a fool, gaping in the air.
CHORUS (singing)
What unparalleled impudence! 'Tis ever the same brazen front. If I
don't hate you, why, I'm ready to take the place of the one blanket
Cratinus wets; I'll offer to play a tragedy by Morsimus. Oh! you
cheat! who turn all into money, who flutter from one extortion to
another; may you disgorge as quickly as you have crammed yourself!
Then only would I sing, "Let us drink, let us drink to this happy
event!" Then even the son of Ulius, the old wheat-fairy, would empty
his cup with transports of joy, crying, "Io, Paean! Io, Bacchus!"
By Posidon! You! would you beat me in impudence! If you succeed,
may I no longer have my share of the victims offered to Zeus on the
city altar.
And I, I swear by the blows that have so oft rained upon my
shoulders since infancy, and by the knives that have cut me, that I
will show more effrontery than you; as sure as I have rounded this
fine stomach by feeding on the pieces of bread that had cleansed other
folk's greasy fingers.
On pieces of bread, like a dog! Ah! wretch! you have the nature of
a dog and you dare to fight a dog-headed ape?
I have many another trick in my sack, memories of my childhood's
days. I used to linger around the cooks and say to them, "Look,
friends, don't you see a swallow? It's the herald of springtime."
And while they stood, their noses in the air, I made off with a
piece of meat.
Oh! most clever man! How well thought out! You did as the eaters
of artichokes, you gathered them before the return of the swallows."
They could make nothing of it; or, if they suspected a trick, I
hid the meat in my crotch and denied the thing by all the gods-so that
an orator, seeing me at the game, cried, "This child will get on; he
has the mettle that makes a statesman."
He argued rightly; to steal, perjure yourself and make your arse
receptive are three essentials for climbing high.
I will stop your insolence, or rather the insolence of both of
you. I will throw myself upon you like a terrible hurricane ravaging
both land and sea at the will of its fury.
Then I will gather up my sausages and entrust myself to the kindly
waves of fortune so as to make you all the more enraged.
And I will watch in the bilges in case the boat should make water.
No, by Demeter! I swear, it will not be with impunity that you
have thieved so many talents from the Athenians.
Oh! oh! reef your sail a bit! Here is a Northeaster blowing
I know that you got ten talents out of Potidaea.
Wait! I will give you one; but keep it dark!
Hah! that will please him mightily; (to the SAUSAGE-SELLER) now
you can travel under full sail. The wind has lost its violence.
I will bring four suits against you, each of one hundred talents.
And I twenty against you for shirking duty and more than a
thousand for robbery.
I maintain that your parents were guilty of sacrilege against
the goddess.
And I, that one of your grandfathers was a satellite....
To whom? Explain!
To Byrsina, the mother of Hippias.
You are an impostor.
And you are a rogue.
(He strikes CLEON with a sausage.)
Hit him hard.
Alas! The conspirators are murdering me!
Hit him! Hit him with all your might! Bruise his belly and lash
him with your guts and your tripe! Punish him with both hands!
(CLEON sinks beneath the blows.)
Oh! vigorous assailant and intrepid heart! See how you have
totally routed him in this duel of abuse, so that to us and to the
citizens you seem the saviour of the city. How shall I give tongue
to my joy and praise you sufficiently?
CLEON (recovering his wits)
Ah! by Demeter! I was not ignorant of this plot and these
machinations that were being forged and nailed and put together
against me.
Look out, look out! Come outfence him with some wheelwright slang.
His tricks at Argos do not escape me. Under pretence of forming an
alliance with the Argives, he is hatching a plot with the
Lacedaemonians there; and I know why the bellows are blowing and the
metal that is on the anvil; it's the question of the prisoners.
Well done! Forge on, if he be a wheelwright.
And there are men at Sparta who are hammering the iron with you;
but neither gold nor silver nor prayers nor anything else shall impede
my denouncing your trickery to the Athenians.
As for me, I hasten to the Senate to reveal your plotting, your
nightly gatherings in the city, your trafficking with the Medes and
with the Great King, and all you are foraging for in Boeotia.
What price then is paid for forage by Boeotians?
Oh! by Heracles! I will tan your hide.
(He departs.)
Come, if you have both wit and heart, now is the time to show
it, as on the day when you hid the meat in your crotch, as you say.
Hasten to the Senate, for he will rush there like a tornado to
calumniate us all and give vent to his fearful bellowings.
I am going, but first I must rid myself of my tripe and my knives;
I will leave them here.
Stay! rub your neck with lard; in this way you will slip between
the fingers of calumny.
Spoken like a finished wrestling coach.
Now, bolt down these cloves of garlic.
Pray, what for?
Well primed with garlic, you will have greater mettle for the
fight. But hurry, make haste rapidly!
That's just what I'm doing.
(He departs.)
And, above all, bite your foe, rend him to atoms, tear off his
comb and do not return until you have devoured his wattles.
(He goes into the house of DEMOS.)
Go! make your attack with a light heart, avenge me and may Zeus
guard you! I burn to see you return the victor and laden with chaplets
of glory. And you, spectators, enlightened critics of all kind of
poetry, lend an ear to my anapests. (The Chorus moves forward and
faces the audience.)
Had one of the old authors asked me to mount this stage to
recite his verses, he would not have found it hard to persuade me. But
our poet of to-day is likewise worthy of this favour; he shares our
hatred, he dares to tell the truth, he boldly braves both
waterspouts and hurricanes. Many among you, he tells us, have
expressed wonder, that he has not long since had a piece presented
in his own name, and have asked the reason why. This is what he bids
us say in reply to your questions; it is not without grounds that he
has courted the shade, for, in his opinion, nothing is more
difficult than to cultivate the comic Muse; many court her, but very
few secure her favours. Moreover, he knows that you are fickle by
nature and betray your poets when they grow old. What fate befell
Magnes, when his hair went white? Often enough had he triumphed over
his rivals; he had sung in all keys, played the lyre and fluttered
wings; he turned into a Lydian and even into a gnat, daubed himself
with green to become a frog. All in vain! When young, you applauded
him; in his old age you hooted and mocked him, because his genius
for raillery had gone. Cratinus again was like a torrent of glory
rushing across the plain, up-rooting oak, plane tree and rivals and
bearing them pell-mell in his wake. The only songs at the banquet
were, "Doro, shod with lying tales" and "Adepts of the Lyric Muse," so
great was his renown. Look at him now! he drivels, his lyre has
neither strings nor keys, his voice quivers, but you have no pity
for him, and you let him wander about as he can, like Connas, his
temples circled with a withered chaplet; the poor old fellow is
dying of thirst; he who, in honour of his glorious past, should be
in the Prytaneum drinking at his ease, and instead of trudging the
country should be sitting amongst the first row of the spectators,
close to the statue of Dionysus and loaded with perfumes. Crates,
again, have you done hounding him with your rage and your hisses?
True, it was but meagre fare that his sterile Muse could offer you;
a few ingenious fancies formed the sole ingredients, but
nevertheless he knew how to stand firm and to recover from his
falls. It is such examples that frighten our poet; in addition, he
would tell himself, that before being a pilot, he must first know
how to row, then to keep watch at the prow, after that how to gauge
the winds, and that only then would he be able to command his
vessel. If then you approve this wise caution and his resolve that
he would not bore you with foolish nonsense, raise loud waves of
applause in his favour this day, so that, at this Lenaean feast, the
breath of your favour may swell the sails of his triumphant galley and
the poet may withdraw proud of his success, with head erect and his
face beaming with delight.
Posidon, god of the racing steeds, I salute you, you who delight
in their neighing and in the resounding clatter of their brass-shod
hoofs, god of the swift galleys, which, loaded with mercenaries,
cleave the seas with their azure beaks, god of the equestrian
contests, in which young rivals, eager for glory, ruin themselves
for the sake of distinction with their chariots in the arena, come and
direct our chorus; Posidon with the trident of gold, you, who reign
over the dolphins, who are worshipped at Sunium and at Geraestus
beloved of Phormio, and dear to the whole city above all the
immortals, I salute you!
Let us sing the glory of our forefathers; ever victors, both on
land and sea, they merit that Athens, rendered famous by these, her
worthy sons, should write their deeds upon the sacred peplus. As
soon as they saw the enemy, they at once sprang at him without ever
counting his strength. Should one of them fall in the conflict he
would shake off the dust, deny his mishap and begin the struggle anew.
Not one of these generals of old time would have asked Cleaenetus to
be fed at the cost of the State; but our present men refuse to
fight, unless they get the honours of the Prytaneum and precedence
in their seats. As for us, we place our valour gratuitously at the
service of Athens and of her gods; our only hope is that, should peace
ever put a term te our toils, you will not grudge us our long, scented
hair nor our delicate care for our toilet.
Oh! Pallas, guardian of Athens, you, who reign over the most pious
city, the most powerful, the richest in warriors and in poets,
hasten to my call, bringing in your train our faithful ally in all our
expeditions and combats, Victory, who smiles on our choruses and
fights with us against our rivals. Oh! goddess! manifest yourself to
our sight; this day more than ever we deserve that you should ensure
our triumph.
We will sing likewise the exploits of our steeds! they are
worthy of our praises; in what invasions, what fights have I not
seen them helping us! But especially admirable were they, when they
bravely leapt upon the galleys, taking nothing with them but a
coarse wine, some cloves of garlic and onions; despite this, they
nevertheless seized the sweeps just like men, curved their backs
over the thwarts and shouted, "Hippapai! Give way! Come, all pull
together! Come, come! How! Samphoras! Are you not rowing?" They rushed
down upon the coast of Corinth, and the youngest hollowed out beds
in the sand with their hoofs or went to fetch coverings; instead of
luzern, they had no food but crabs, which they caught on the strand
and even in the sea; so that Theorus causes a Corinthian crab to
say, "'Tis a cruel fate, oh Posidon neither my deep hiding-places,
whether on land or at sea, can help me to escape the Knights."
(The SAUSAGE-SELLER returns.)
Welcome, oh, dearest and bravest of men! How distracted I have
been during your absence! But here you are back, safe and sound.
Tell us about the fight you have had.
The important thing is that I have beaten the Senate.
CHORUS (singing)
All glory to you! Let us burst into shouts of joy! You speak well,
but your deeds are even better. Come, tell me everything in detail;
what a long journey would I not be ready to take to hear your tale!
Come, dear friend, speak with full confidence to your admirers.
The story is worth hearing. Listen! From here I rushed straight to
the Senate, right in the track of this man; he was already letting
loose the storm, unchaining the lightning, crushing the Knights
beneath huge mountains of calumnies heaped together and having all the
air of truth; he called you conspirators and his lies caught root like
weeds in every mind; dark were the looks on every side and brows
were knitted. When I saw that the Senate listened to him favourably
and was being tricked by his imposture I said to myself, "Come, gods
of rascals and braggarts, gods of all fools, and toad-eaters, and thou
too, oh market-place, wherein I was bred from my earliest days, give
me unbridled audacity, an untiring chatter and a shameless voice."
No sooner had I ended this prayer than a pederast farted on my
right. "Hah! a good omen," said I, and prostrated myself; then I burst
open the door by a vigorous push with my arse, and, opening my mouth
to the utmost, shouted, "Senators, I wanted you to be the first to
hear the good news; since the war broke out, I have never seen
anchovies at a lower price!" All faces brightened at once and I was
voted a chaplet for my good tidings; and I added, "With a couple of
words I will reveal to you how you can have quantities of anchovies
for an obol; all you have to do is to seize on all the dishes the
merchants have." With mouths gaping with admiration, they applauded
me. However, the Paphlagonian winded the matter and, well knowing
the sort of language which pleases the Senate best, said, "Friends,
I am resolved to offer one hundred oxen to the goddess in
recognition of this happy event." The Senate at once veered to his
side. So when I saw myself defeated by this ox dung, I outbade the
fellow, crying, "Two hundred!" And beyond this I moved that a vow be
made to Diana of a thousand goats if the next day anchovies should
only be worth an obol a hundred. And the Senate looked towards me
again. The other, stunned with the blow, grew delirious in his speech,
and at last the Prytanes and the Scythians dragged him out. The
Senators then stood talking noisily about the anchovies. Cleon,
however, begged them to listen to the Lacedaemonian envoy, who had
come to make proposals of peace; but all with one accord cried
"Certainly it's not the moment to think of peace now! If anchovies are
so cheap, what need have we of peace? Let the war take its course!"
And with loud shouts they demanded that the Prytanes should close
the sitting and then they leapt over the rails in all directions. As
for me, I slipped away to buy all the coriander seed and leeks there
were on the market and gave it to them gratis as seasoning for their
anchovies. It was marvellous! They loaded me with praises and
caresses; thus I conquered the Senate with an obol's worth of leeks,
and here I am.
CHORUS (singing)
Bravo! you are the spoilt child of Fortune. Ah! our knave has
found his match in another, who has far better tricks in his sack, a
thousand kinds of knaveries and of wily words. But the fight begins
afresh; take care not to weaken; you know that I have long been your
most faithful ally.
Ah! ah! here comes the Paphlagonian! One would say it was a
hurricane lashing the sea and rolling the waves before it in its fury.
He looks as if he wanted to swallow me up alive! Ye gods! what an
impudent knave!
CLEON (as he rushes in)
To my aid, my beloved lies! I am going to destroy you, or my
name is lost.
Oh! how he diverts me with his threats His bluster makes me laugh!
And I dance the mothon for joy, and sing at the top of my voice,
Ah! by Demeter! if I do not kill and devour you, may I die!
If you do not devour me? and I, if I do not drink your blood to
the last drop, and then burst with indigestion.
I, I will strangle you, I swear it by the front seat which Pylos
gained me.
By the front seat! Ah! Ah! might I see you fall into the
hindmost seat!
By heaven! I will put you to the torture.
What a lively wit! Come, what's the best to give you to eat?
What do you prefer? A purse?
I will tear out your insides with my nails.
And I will cut off your victuals at the Prytaneum.
I will haul you before Demos, who will mete out justice to you.
And I too will drag you before him and belch forth more
calumnies than you. Why, poor fool, he does not believe you, whereas I
play with him at will.
Is then Demos your property, your contemptible creature?
It's because I know the dishes that please him.
And these are little mouthfuls, which you serve to him like a
clever nurse. You chew the pieces and place some in small quantities
in his mouth, while you swallow three parts yourself.
Thanks to my skill, I know exactly how to enlarge or contract this
My arse is just as clever.
Well, my friend, you tricked me at the Senate, but take care!
Let us go before Demos.
That's easily done; come, let's do it right away.
CLEON (loudly)
Oh, Demos! Come, I adjure you to help me, my father I
SAUSAGE-SELLER (more loudly)
Come, oh, my dear little Demos; come and see how I am insulted.
DEMOS (coming out of his house followed by DEMOSTHENES)
What a hubhub! To the Devil with you, bawlers! Alas! my olive
branch, which they have torn down! Ah! it's you, Paphlagonian. And
who, pray, has been maltreating you?
You are the cause of this man and these young people having
covered me with blows.
And why?
Because you love me passionately, Demos.
And you, who are you?
His rival. For many a long year have I loved you, have I wished to
do you honour, I and a crowd of other men of means. But this rascal
here has prevented us. You resemble those young men who do not know
where to choose their lovers; you repulse honest folks; to earn your
favours, one has to be a lamp-seller, a cobbler, a tanner or a
I am the benefactor of the people.
In what way, please?
In what way? I supplanted the Generals at Pylos, I hurried thither
and I brought back the Laconian captives.
And I, whilst simply loitering, cleared off with a pot from a
shop, which another fellow had been boiling.
Demos, convene the assembly at once to decide which of us two
loves you best and most merits your favour.
Yes, yes, provided it be not at the Pnyx.
I could not sit elsewhere; it is at the Pnyx that you must
appear before me.
(He sits down on a stone in the Orchestra,)
Ah! great gods! I am undone! At home this old fellow is the most
sensible of men, but the instant he is seated on those cursed stone
seats, he is there with mouth agape as if he were hanging up figs by
their stems to dry.
Come, loose all sail. Be bold, skilful in attack and entangle
him in arguments which admit of no reply. It is difficult to beat him,
for he is full of craft and pulls himself out of the worst corners.
Collect all your forces to come forth from this fight covered with
But take care! Let him not assume the attack, get ready your
grapples and advance with your vessel to board him!
Oh! guardian goddess of our city! oh! Athene if it be true that
next to Lysicles, Cynna and Salabaccho none have done so much good for
the Athenian people as I, suffer me to continue to be fed at the
Prytaneum without working; but if I hate you, if I am not ready to
fight in your defence alone and against all, may I perish, be sawn
to bits alive and my skin cut up into thongs.
And I, Demos, if it be not true, that I love and cherish you,
may I be cooked in a stew; and if that is not saying enough, may I
be grated on this table with some cheese and then hashed, may a hook
be passed through my balls and let me be dragged thus to the
Is it possible, Demos, to love you more than I do? And firstly, as
long as you have governed with my consent, have I not filled your
treasury, putting pressure on some, torturing others or begging of
them, indifferent to the opinion of private individuals, and solely
anxious to please you?
There is nothing so wonderful in all that, Demos; I will do as
much; I will thieve the bread of others to serve up to you. No, he has
neither love for you nor kindly feeling; his only care is to warm
himself with your wood, and I will prove it. You, who, sword in
hand, saved Attica from the Median yoke at Marathon; you, whose
glorious triumphs we love to extol unceasingly, look, he cares
little whether he sees you seated uncomfortably upon a stone;
whereas I, I bring you this cushion, which I have sewn with my own
hands. Rise and try this nice soft seat. Did you not put enough strain
on your bottom at Salamis?
(He gives DEMOS the cushion; DEMOS sits on it.)
Who are you then? Can you be of the race of Harmodius? Upon my
faith, that is nobly done and like a true friend of Demos.
Petty flattery to prove him your goodwill!
But you have caught him with even smaller baits!
Never had Demos a defender or a friend more devoted than myself;
on my head, on my life, I swear it!
You pretend to love him and for eight years you have seen him
housed in casks, in crevices and dovecots, where he is blinded with
the smoke, and you lock him in without pity; Archeptolemus brought
peace and you tore it to ribbons; the envoys who come to propose a
truce you drive from the city with kicks in their arses.
The purpose of this is that Demos may rule over all the Greeks;
for the oracles predict that, if he is patient, he must one day sit as
judge in Arcadia at five obols per day. Meanwhile, I will nourish him,
look after him and, above all, I will ensure to him his three obols.
No, little you care for his reigning in Arcadia, it's to pillage
and impose on the allies at will that you reckon; you wish the war
to conceal your rogueries as in a mist, that Demos may see nothing
of them, and harassed by cares, may only depend on yourself for his
bread. But if ever peace is restored to him, if ever he returns to his
lands to comfort himself once more with good cakes, to greet his
cherished olives, he will know the blessings you have kept him out of,
even though paying him a salary; and, filled with hatred and rage,
he will rise, burning with desire to vote against you. You know this
only too well; it is for this you rock him to sleep with your lies.
Is it not shameful, that you should dare thus to calumniate me
before Demos, me, to whom Athens, I swear it by Demeter, already
owes more than it ever did to Themistocles?
SAUSAGE-SELLER (declaiming)
Oh! citizens of Argos, do you hear what he says? (to CLEON) You
dare to compare yourself to Themistocles, who found our city half
empty and left it full to overflowing, who one day gave us the Piraeus
for dinner, and added fresh fish to all our usual meals. You, on the
contrary, you, who compare yourself with Themistocles, have only
sought to reduce our city in size, to shut it within its walls, to
chant oracles to us. And Themistocles goes into exile, while you gorge
yourself on the most excellent fare.
Oh! Demos! Am I compelled to hear myself thus abused, and merely
because I love you?
Silence! stop your abuse! All too long have I been your dupe.
Ah! my dear little Demos, he is a rogue who has played you many
a scurvy trick; when your back is turned, he taps at the root the
lawsuits initiated by the peculators, swallows the proceeds
wholesale and helps himself with both hands from the public funds.
Tremble, knave; I will convict you of having stolen thirty
thousand drachmae.
For a rascal of your kidney, you shout rarely! Well! I am ready to
die if I do not prove that you have accepted more than forty minae
from the Mitylenaeans.
This indeed may be termed talking. Oh, benefactor of the human
race, proceed and you will be the most illustrious of the Greeks.
You alone shall have sway in Athens, the allies will obey you, and,
trident in hand, you will go about shaking and overturning
everything to enrich yourself. But, stick to your man, let him not go;
with lungs like yours you will soon have him finished.
No, my brave friends, no, you are running too fast; I have done
a sufficiently brilliant deed to shut the mouth of all enemies, so
long as one of the bucklers of Pylos remains.
Of the bucklers! Hold! I stop you there and I hold you fast. For
if it be true that you love the people, you would not allow these to
be hung up with their rings; but it's with an intent you have done
this. Demos, take knowledge of his guilty purpose; in this way you
no longer can punish him at your pleasure. Note the swarm of young
tanners, who really surround him, and close to them the sellers of
honey and cheese; all these are at one with him. Very well! you have
but to frown, to speak of ostracism and they will rush at night to
these bucklers, take them down and seize our granaries.
Great gods! what! the bucklers retain their rings! Scoundrel!
ah! to long have you had me for your dupe, cheated and plaved with me!
But, dear sir, never you believe all he tells you. Oh! never
will you find a more devoted friend than me; unaided, I have known how
to put down the conspiracies; nothing that is hatching in the city
escapes me, and I hasten to proclaim it loudly.
You are like the fishers for eels; in still waters they catch
nothing, but if they thoroughly stir up the slime, their fishing is
good; in the same way it's only in troublous times that you line
your pockets. But come, tell me, you, who sell so many skins, have you
ever made him a present of a pair of soles for his slippers? and you
pretend to love him!
No, he has never given me any.
That alone shows up the man; but I, I have bought you this pair of
shoes; accept them.
(He gives DEMOS the shoes; DEMOS puts them on.)
None ever, to my knowledge, has merited so much from the people;
you are the most zealous of all men for our country and for my toes.
Can a wretched pair of slippers make you forget all that you owe
me? Is it not I who curbed the pederasts by erasing Gryttus' name from
the lists of citizens?
Ah! noble Inspector of Arses, let me congratulate you. Moreover,
if you set yourself against this form of lewdness, this pederasty,
it was for sheer jealousy, knowing it to be the school for orators.
But you see this poor Demos without a cloak and that at his age too!
so little do you care for him, that in mid-winter you have not given
him a garment with sleeves. Here, Demos, here is one, take it!
(He gives DEMOS a cloak; DEMOS puts it on.)
This even Themistocles never thought of; the Piraeus was no
doubt a happy idea, but I think this tunic is quite as fine an
Must you have recourse to such jackanapes' tricks to supplant me?
No, it's your own tricks that I am borrowing, just as a drunken
guest, when he has to take a crap, seizes some other man's shoes.
Oh! you shall not outdo me in flattery! I am going to hand Demos
this garment; all that remains to you, you rogue, is to go and hang
DEMOS (as CLEON throws a cloak around his shoulders)
Faugh! may the plague seize you! You stink of leather horribly.
Why, it's to smother you that he has thrown this cloak around
you on top of the other; and it is not the first plot he has planned
against you. Do you remember the time when silphium was so cheap?
Aye, to be sure I do!
Very well! it was Cleon who had caused the price to fall so low,
that all might eat it, and the jurymen in the Courts were almost
asphyxiated from farting in each others' faces.
Hah! why, indeed, a Dungtownite told me the same thing.
Were you not yourself in those days quite red in the gills with
Why, it was a trick worthy of Pyrrhandrus!
With what other idle trash will you seek to ruin me, you wretch!
Oh! I shall be more brazen than you, for it's the goddess who
has commanded me.
No, on my honour, you will not! Here, Demos, feast on this dish;
it is your salary as a dicast, which you gain through me for doing
Wait! here is a little box of ointment to rub into the sores on
your legs.
I will pluck out your white hairs and make you young again.
Take this hare's tail to wipe the rheum from your eyes.
When you wipe your nose, clean your fingers on my head.
No, on mine.
On mine. (To the SAUSAGE-SELLER) I will have you made a
trierarch and you will get ruined through it; I will arrange that
you are given an old vessel with rotten sails, which you will have
to repair constantly and at great cost.
Our man is on the boil; enough, enough, enough, he is boiling
over; remove some of the embers from under him and skim off his
I will punish your self-importance; I will crush you with imposts;
I will have you inscribed on the list of the rich.
For me no threat-only one simple wish. That you may be having some
cuttle-fish fried on the stove just as you are going to set forth to
plead the cause of the Milesians, which, if you gain it, means a
talent in your, pocket; that you hurry over devouring the fish to rush
off to the Assembly; suddenly you are called and run off with your
mouth full so as not to lose the talent and choke yourself. There!
that is my wish.
Splendid! by Zeus, Apollo and Demeter!
Faith! here is an excellent citizen indeed, such as has not been
seen for a long time. He's truly a man of the lowest scum! As for you,
Paphlagonian, who pretend to love me, you only feed me on garlic.
Return me my ring, for you cease to be my steward.
Here it is, but be assured, that if you bereave me of my power, my
successor will be worse than I am.
This cannot be my ring; I see another device, unless I am going
What was your device?
A fig-leaf, stuffed with bullock's fat.
No, that is not it.
What is it then?
It's a gull with beak wide open, haranguing the people from the
top of a stone.
Ah! great gods!
What is the matter?
Away! away out of my sight! It's not my ring he had, it was that
of Cleonymus. (To the SAUSAGE-SELLER) Wait, I'll give you this one;
you shall be my steward.
Master, I adjure you, decide nothing till you have heard my
And mine.
If you believe him, you will have to prostitute yourself for him.
If you listen to him, you'll have to let him peel you to the
very stump.
My oracles say that you are to reign over the whole earth, crowned
with chaplets.
And mine say that, clothed in an embroidered purple robe, you
shall pursue Smicythe and her spouse, standing in a chariot of gold
and with a crown on your head.
Go, fetch me your oracles, that the Paphlagonian may hear them.
And you yours.
I'll run.
(He rushes into the house of DEMOS.)
And I'll run too; nothing could suit me better!
(He departs in haste.)
CHORUS (singing)
Oh! happy day for us and for our children if Cleon perish. Yet
just now I heard some old cross-grained pleaders on the marketplace
who hold not this opinion discoursing together. Said they, "If Cleon
had not had the power, we should have lacked two most useful tools,
the pestle and the soup-ladle." You also know what a pig's education
he has had; his school-fellows can recall that he only liked the
Dorian style and would study no other; his music-master in displeasure
sent him away, saying; "This youth, in matters of harmony, will only
learn the Dorian style because it is akin to bribery."
CLEON (coming out of the house with a large package)
There, look at this heap; and yet I'm not bringing them all.
SAUSAGE-SELLER (entering witk an even larger package)
Ugh! The weight of them is squeezing the crap right out of me, and
still I'm not bringing them all!
What are these?
All these?
Does that astonish you? Why, I have another whole boxful of them.
And I the whole of my attic and two rooms besides.
Come, let us see, whose are these oracles?
Mine are those of Bacis.
And whose are yours?
SAUSAGE-SELLER (without hesitating)
Glanis's, the elder brother of Bacis.
And of what do they speak?
Of Athens and Pylos and you and me and everything.
And yours?
Of Athens and lentils and Lacedaemonians and fresh mackerel and
scoundrelly flour-sellers and you and me. Ah ha! now watch him gnaw
his own tool with chagrin!
Come, read them out to me and especially that one I like so
much, which says that I shall become an eagle and soar among the
Then listen and be attentive! "Son of Erechtheus, understand the
meaning of the words, which the sacred tripods set resounding in the
sanctuary of Apollo. Preserve the sacred dog with the jagged teeth,
that barks and howls in your defence; he will ensure you a salary and,
if he fails, will perish as the victim of the swarms of jays that hunt
him down with their screams."
By Demeter! I do not understand a word of it. What connection is
there between Erechtheus, the jays and the dog?
I am the dog, since I bark in your defence. Well! Phoebus commands
you to keep and cherish your dog.
That is not what the god says; this dog seems to me to gnaw at the
oracles as others gnaw at doorposts. Here is exactly what Apollo
says of the dog.
Let us hear, but I must first pick up a stone; an oracle which
speaks of a dog might bite my tool.
"Son of Erechtheus, beware of this Cerberus that enslaves free
men; he fawns upon you with his tail when you are dining, but he is
lying in wait to devour your dishes should you turn your head an
instant; at night he sneaks into the kitchen and, true dog that he is,
licks up with one lap of his tongue both your dishes and.... the
By god, Glanis, you speak better than your brother.
Condescend again to hear me and then judge: "A woman in sacred
Athens will be delivered of a lion, who shall fight for the people
against clouds of gnats with the same ferocity as if he were defending
his whelps; care ye for him, erect wooden walls around him and
towers of brass." Do you understand that?
Not the least bit in the world.
The god tells you here to look after me, for I am your lion.
How! You have become a lion and I never knew a thing about it?
There is only one thing which he purposely keeps from you; he does
not say what this wall of wood and brass is in which Apollo warns
you to keep and guard him.
What does the god mean, then?
He advises you to fit him into a five-holed wooden collar.
Hah! I think that oracle is about to be fulfilled.
Do not believe it; these are but jealous crows, that caw against
me; but never cease to cherish your good hawk; never forget that he
brought you those Lacedaemonian fish, loaded with chains.
Ah! if the Paphlagonian ran any risk that day, it was because he
was drunk. Oh, too credulous son of Cecrops, do you accept that as a
glorious exploit? A woman would carry a heavy burden if only a man had
put it on her shoulders. But to fight! Go to! he would empty his
bowels before he would ever fight.
Note this Pylos in front of Pylos, of which the oracle speaks,
"Pylos is before Pylos."
How "in front of Pylos"? What does he mean by that?
He says he will seize upon your bath-tubs.
Then I shall not bathe to-day.
No, as he has stolen our baths. But here is an oracle about the
fleet, to which I beg your best attention.
Read on! I am listening; let us first see how we are to pay our
"Son of Aegeus, beware of the tricks of the dog-fox, he bites from
the rear and rushes off at full speed; he is nothing but cunning and
perfidy." Do you know what the oracle intends to say?
The dog-fox is Philostratus.
No, no, it's Cleon; he is incessantly asking you for light vessels
to go and collect the tributes, and Apollo advises you not to grant
What connection is there between a galley and dog-fox?
What connection? Why, it's quite plain-a galley travels as fast as
a dog.
Why, then, does the oracle not say dog instead of dog-fox?
Because he compares the soldiers to young foxes, who, like them,
eat the grapes in the fields.
Good! Well then! how am I to pay the wages of my young foxes?
I will undertake that, and in three days too! But listen to this
further oracle, by which Apollo puts you on your guard against the
snares of the greedy fist.
Of what greedy fist?
The god in this oracle very clearly points to the hand of Cleon,
who incessantly holds his out, saying, "Fill it."
That's a lie! Phoebus means the hand of Diopithes. But here I have
a winged oracle, which promises you shall become an eagle and rule
over all the earth.
I have one, which says that you shall be King of the Earth and
of the Red Sea too, and that you shall administer justice in Ecbatana,
eating fine rich stews the while.
I have seen Athen& in a dream, pouring out full vials of riches
and health over the people.
I too have seen the goddess, descending from the Acropolis with an
owl perched upon her helmet; on your head she was pouring out
ambrosia, on that of Cleon garlic pickle.
Truly Glanis is the wisest of men. I shall yield myself to you;
guide me in my old age and educate me anew.
Ah! I adjure you! not yet; wait a little; I will promise to
distribute barley every day.
Ah! I will not hear another word about barley; you have cheated me
too often already, both you and Theophanes.
Well then! you shall have flour-cakes all piping hot.
I will give you cakes too, and nice cooked fish; all you'll have
to do is eat.
Very well, mind you keep your promises. To whichever of you
shall treat me best I hand over the reins of state.
I will be first.
(He rushes into the house.)
No, no, I will.
(He runs off.)
CHORUS (singing)
Demos, you are our all-powerful sovereign lord; all tremble before
you, yet you are led by the nose. You love to be flattered and fooled;
you listen to the orators with gaping mouth and your mind is led
DEMOS (singing)
It's rather you who have no brains, if you think me so foolish
as all that; it is with a purpose that I play this idiot's role, for I
love to drink the livelong day, and so it pleases me to keep a thief
for my minister. When he has thoroughly gorged himself, then I
overthrow and crush him.
CHORUS (singing)
What profound wisdom! If it be really so, why! all is for the
best. Your ministers, then, are your victims, whom you nourish and
feed up expressly in the Pnyx, so that, the day your dinner is
ready, you may immolate the fattest and eat him.
DEMOS (singing)
Look, see how I play with them, while all the time they think
themselves such adepts at cheating me. I have my eye on them when they
thieve, but I do not appear to be seeing them; then I thrust a
judgment down their throat as it were a feather, and force them to
vomit up all they have robbed from me.
(Cleon comes out of the house with a bench and a large basket; at
the same moment the SAUSAGE-SELLER arrives with another basket;
the two are placed beside one another.)
Get out of here!
Get out yourself!
Demos, all is ready these three hours; I await your orders and I
burn with desire to load you with benefits.
And I ten, twelve, a thousand hours, a long, long while, an
infinitely long, long, long while.
As for me, it's thirty thousand hours that I have been
impatient; very, long, infinitely long, long, long that I have
cursed you-
Do you know what you had best do?
I will, if you tell me.
Declare the lists open and we will contend abreast to
determine-who shall treat you the best.
Splended! Draw back in line!
I am ready.
Off you go!
I shall not let you get to the tape.
What fervent lovers! If I am not to-day the happiest of men, it
will be because I am the most disgusted.
CLEON (putting down the bench for DEMOS)
Look! I am the first to bring you a seat.
And I a table.
(He places his sausage-tray in front of DEMOS.)
Wait, here is a cake kneaded of Pylos barley.
Here are crusts, which the ivory hand of the goddess has hallowed.
Oh! Mighty Athene! How large are your fingers!
This is pea-soup, as exquisite as it is fine; Pallas the
victorious goddess at Pylos is the one who crushed the peas herself.
Oh, Demos! the goddess watches over you; she is stretching forth
over your head.... a stew-pan full of broth.
And should we still be dwelling in this city without this
protecting stew-pan?
Here are some fish, given to you by her who is the terror of our
The daughter of the mightiest of the gods sends you this meat
cooked in its own gravy, along with this dish of tripe and some
That's to thank me for the peplus I offered to her; good.
The goddess with the terrible plume invites you to eat this long
cake; you will row the harder on it.
Take this also.
And what shall I do with this tripe?
She sends it you to belly out your galleys, for she is always
showing her kindly anxiety for our fleet. Now drink this drink
composed of three parts of water to two of wine.
Ah! what delicious wine, and how well it stands the water.
The goddess who came from the head of Zeus mixed this liquor
with her own hands.
Hold, here is a piece of good rich cake.
But I offer you an entire cake.
But you cannot offer him stewed hare as I do.
Ah! great gods! stewed hare! where shall I find it? Oh! brain of
mine, devise some trick!
CLEON (showing him the hare)
Do you see this, you rogue?
SAUSAGE-SELLER (pretending to look afar)
A fig for that! Here are some people coming to seek me. They are
envoys, bearing sacks bulging with money.
(Hearing money mentioned CLEON turns his head, and the
SAUSAGE-SELLER seizes the opportunity to snatch away the stewed hare.)
Where, where, I say?
Bah! What's that to you? Will you not even now let the strangers
alone? Dear Demos, do you see this stewed hare which I bring you?
Ah! rascal! you have shamelessly robbed me.
You have robbed too, you robbed the Laconians at Pylos.
Please tell me, how did you get the idea to filch it from him?
The idea comes from the goddess; the theft is all my own.
And I had taken such trouble to catch this hare and I was the
one who had it cooked.
Get you gone! My thanks are only for him who served it.
Ah! wretch! you have beaten me in impudence!
Well then, Demos, say now, who has treated you best, you and
your stomach? Decide!
How shall I act here so that the spectators shall approve my
I will tell you. Without saying anything, go and rummage through
my basket, and then through the Paphlagonian's, and see what is in
them; that's the best way to judge.
Let us see then, what is there in yours?
Why, it's empty, dear little father; I have brought everything
to you.
This is a basket devoted to the people.
Now hunt through the Paphlagonian's. (Pause, as Demos does so)
Oh! what a lot of good things! Why it's quite full! Oh! what a
huge great part of this cake he kept for himself! He had only cut
off the least little tiny piece for me.
But this is what he has always done. Of everything he took, he
only gave you the crumbs, and kept the bulk.
Oh! rascal! was this the way you robbed me? And I was loading
you with chaplets and gifts!
I robbed for the public weal.
Give me back that crown; I shall give it to him.
Return it quick, quick, you gallows-bird.
No, for the Pythian oracle has revealed to me the name of him
who shall overthrow me.
And that name was mine, nothing can be clearer.
Reply and I shall soon see whether you are indeed the man whom the
god intended. Firstly, what school did you attend when a child?
It was in the kitchens, where I was taught with cuffs and blows.
What's that you say? (aside) Ah! this is truly what the oracle
(To the SAUSAGE-SELLER) And what did you learn from the master of
I learnt to take a false oath without a smile, when I had stolen
CLEON (frightened; aside)
Oh! Phoebus Apollo, god of Lycia! I am undone! (To the
SAUSAGE-SELLER) And when you had become a man, what trade did you
I sold sausages and did a bit of fornication.
CLEON (in consternation; aside)
Oh! my god! I am a lost man! Ah! still one slender hope remains.
(to the SAUSAGE-SELLER) Tell me, was it on the market-place or near
the gates that you sold your sausages?
Near the gates, in the market for salted goods.
CLEON (in tragic despair)
Alas! I see the prophecy of the god is verily come true. Alas!
roll me home. I am a miserable ruined man. Farewell, my chaplet.
'Tis death to me to part with you. So you are to belong to another;
'tis certain he cannot be a greater thief, but perhaps he may be a
luckier one.
(He gives the chaplet to the SAUSAGE-SELLER.)
Oh! Zeus, protector of Greece! 'tis to you I owe this victory!
Hail! illustrious conqueror, but forget not, that if you have
become a great man, 'tis thanks to me; I ask but a little thing;
appoint me secretary of the law-court in the room of Phanus.
But what is your name then? Tell me.
My name is Agoracritus, because I have always lived on the
marketplace in the midst of lawsuits.
Well then, Agoracritus, I stand by you; as for the Paphlagonian, I
hand him over to your mercy.
Demos, I will care for you to the best of my power, and all
shall admit that no citizen is more devoted than I to this city of
(They all enter the house of DEMOS.)
CHORUS (singing)
What fitter theme for our Muse, at the close as at the beginning
of our work, than this, to sing the hero who drives his swift steeds
down the arena? Why afflict Lysistratus with our satires on his
poverty, and Thumantis, who has not so much as a lodging? He is
dying of hunger and can be seen at Delphi, his face bathed in tears,
clinging to your quiver, oh, Apollo and supplicating you to take him
out of his misery.
An insult directed at the wicked is not to be censured; on the
contrary, the honest man, if he has sense, can only applaud. Him, whom
I wish to brand with infamy, is little known himself; he's the brother
of Arignotus. I regret to quote this name which is so dear to me,
but whoever can distinguish black from white, or the Orthian mode of
music from others, knows the virtues of Arignotus, whom his brother,
Ariphrades, in no way resembles. He gloats in vice, is not merely a
dissolute man and utterly debauched-but he has actually invented a new
form of vice; for he pollutes his tongue with abominable pleasures
in brothels, befouling all of his body. Whoever is not horrified at
such a monster shall never drink from the same cup with me.
CHORUS (singing)
At times a thought weighs on me at night; I wonder whence comes
this fearful voracity of Cleonymus. 'Tis said that when dining with
a rich host, he springs at the dishes with the gluttony of a wild
beast and never leaves the bread-bin until his host seizes him round
the knees, exclaiming, "Go, go, good gentleman, in mercy go, and spare
my poor table!"
It is said that the triremes assembled in council and that the
oldest spoke in these terms, "Are you ignorant, my sisters, of what is
plotting in Athens? They say that a certain Hyperbolus, a bad
citizen and an infamous scoundrel, asks for a hundred of us to take
them to sea against Carthage." All were indignant, and one of them, as
yet a virgin, cried, "May god forbid that I should ever obey him! I
would prefer to grow old in the harbour and be gnawed by worms. No! by
the gods I swear it, Nauphante, daughter of Nauson, shall never bend
to his law; that's as true as I am made of wood and pitch. If the
Athenians vote for the proposal of Hyperbolus, let them! we will hoist
full sail and seek refuge by the temple of Theseus or the shrine of
the Eumenides. No! he shall not command us! No! he shall not play with
the city to this extent! Let him sail by himself for Tartarus, if such
please him, launching the boats in which he used to sell his lamps."
(The SAUSAGE-SELLER comes out of the house of DEMOS, splendidly
AGORACRITUS (solemnly)
Maintain a holy silence! Keep your mouths from utterance! call
no more witnesses; close these tribunals, which are the delight of
this city, and gather at the theatre to chant the Paean of
thanksgiving to the gods for a fresh favour.
Oh! torch of sacred Athens, saviour of the Islands, what good
tidings are we to celebrate by letting the blood of the victims flow
in our marketplaces?
I have freshened Demos up somewhat on the stove and have turned
his ugliness into beauty.
I admire your invertive genius; but, where is he?
He is living in ancient Athens, the city of the garlands of
How I should like to see him! What is his dress like, what his
He has once more become as he was in the days when he lived with
Aristides and Miltiades. But you will judge for yourselves, for I hear
the vestibule doors opening. Hail with your shouts of gladness the
Athens of old, which now doth reappear to your gaze, admirable, worthy
of the songs of the poets and the home of the illustrious Demos.
Oh! noble, brilliant Athens, whose brow is wreathed with
violets, show us the sovereign master of this land and of all Greece.
(DEMOS comes from his house, rejuvenated and joyous.)
Lo! here he is coming with his hair held in place with a golden
band and in all the glory of his old-world dress; perfumed with myrrh,
he spreads around him not the odour of lawsuits, but that of peace.
Hail! King of Greece, we congratulate you upon the happiness you
enjoy; it is worthy of this city, worthy of the glory of Marathon.
Come, Agoracritus, come, my best friend; see the service you
have done me by freshening me up on your stove.
Ah! if you but remembered what you were formerly and what you did,
you would for a certainty believe me to be a god.
But what did I do? and how was I then?
Firstly, so soon as ever an orator declared in the Assembly,
"Demos, I love you ardently; it is I alone who dream of you and
watch over your interests"; at such an exordium you would look like
a cock flapping his wings or a bull tossing his horns.
What, I?
Then, after he had fooled you to the hilt, he would go.
What! they would treat me so, and I never saw it?
You knew only how to open and close your ears like a sunshade.
Was I then so stupid and such a dotard?
Worse than that; if one of two orators proposed to equip a fleet
for war and the other suggested the use of the same sum for paying out
to the citizens, it was the latter who always carried the day. Well!
you droop your head! Why do you turn away your face?
I am blushing at my past errors.
Think no more of them; it's not you who are to blame, but those
who cheated you in this sorry fashion. But, come, if some impudent
lawyer dared to say, "Dicasts, you shall have no wheat unless you
convict this accused man!" what would you do? Tell me.
I would have him removed from the bar, I would bind Hyperbolus
about his neck like a stone and would fling him into the Barathrum.
Well spoken! but what other measures do you wish to take?
First, as soon as ever a fleet returns to the harbour, I shall pay
up the rowers in full.
That will soothe many a worn and chafed bottom.
Further, the hoplite enrolled for military service shall not get
transferred to another service through favour, but shall stick to that
given him at the outset.
This will strike the buckler of Cleonymus full in the centre.
None shall ascend the rostrum, unless his chin is bearded.
What then will become of Clisthenes and of Strato?
I wish only to refer to those youths who loll about the perfume
shops, babbling at random, "What a clever fellow is Phaeax! How
cleverly he escaped death! how concise and convincing is his style!
what phrases! how clear and to the point! how well he knows how to
quell an interruption!
I thought you were the lover of those fairies.
The gods forefend it! and I will force all such fellows to go
hunting instead of proposing decrees.
In that case, accept this folding-stool, and, to carry it, this
well-grown, big-balled slave lad. Besides, you may put him to any
other purpose you please.
Oh! I am happy indeed to find myself as I was of old!
Aye, you will deem yourself happy, when I have handed you the
truce of thirty years. Truce! step forward!
(Enter Truce, in the form of a beautiful young girl, magnificently
Great gods! how charming she is! Can I do with her as I wish?
where did you discover her, pray?
That Paphlagonian had kept her locked up in his house, so that you
might not enjoy her. As for myself, I give her to you; take her with
you into the country.
And what punishment will you inflict upon this Paphlagonian, the
cause of all my troubles?
It will not be over-terrible. I condemn him to follow my old
trade, posted near the gates, he must sell sausages of asses' and
dogs' meat: perpetually drunk, he will exchange foul language with
prostitutes and will drink nothing but the dirty water from the baths.
Well conceived! he is indeed fit to wrangle with harlots and
bathmen; as for you, in return for so many blessings, I invite you
to take the place at the Prytaneum which this rogue once occupied. Put
on his frog-green mantle and follow me. As for the other, let them
take him away; let him go sell his sausages in full view of the
foreigners, whom he used formerly to insult so wantonly.




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