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Written 419 B.C.E
SERVANT OF STREPSIADES
DISCIPLES OF SOCRATES
PASIAS, a Money-lender
AMYNIAS, another Money-lender
CHORUS OF CLOUDS
In the background are two houses, that of Strepsiades and that of Socrates, the Thoughtery. The latter is small and dingy; the in, terior of the former is shown and two beds are seen, each occupied.
Great gods! will these nights never end? will daylight never come? I heard
the cock crow long ago and my slaves are snoring still! Ah! Ah! It wasn't
like this formerly. Curses on the war! has it not done me ills enough?
Now I may not even chastise my own slaves. Again there's this brave lad,
who never wakes the whole long night, but, wrapped in his five coverlets,
farts away to his heart's content.
He lies down
Come! let me nestle in well and snore too, if it be possible....oh! misery,
it's vain to think of sleep with all these expenses, this stable, these
debts, which are devouring me, thanks to this fine cavalier, who only knows
how to look after his long locks, to show himself off in his chariot and
to dream of horses! And I, I am nearly dead, when I see the moon bringing
the third decade in her train and my liability falling due....Slave! light
the lamp and bring me my tablets.
The slave obeys.
Who are all my creditors? Let me see and reckon up the interest. What is
it I owe?....Twelve minae to Pasias....What! twelve minae to Pasias?....Why
did I borrow these? Ah! I know! It was to buy that thoroughbred, which
cost me so much. How I should have prized the stone that had blinded him!
in his sleep
That's not fair, Philo! Drive your chariot straight, I say.
This is what is destroying me. He raves about horses, even
in his sleep.
How many times round the track is the race for the chariots of war?
It's your own father you are driving to death....to ruin. Come!
what debt comes next, after that of Pasias?....Three minae to Amynias for
a chariot and its two wheels.
Give the horse a good roll in the dust and lead him home.
Ah! wretched boy! it's my money that you are making roll. My
creditors have distrained on my goods, and here are others again, who demand
security for their interest.
What is the matter with you, father, that you groan and turn about the
whole night through?
I have a bum-bailiff in the bedclothes biting me.
For pity's sake, let me have a little sleep.
He turns over.
Very well, sleep on! but remember that all these debts will
fall back on your shoulders. Oh! curses on the go-between who made me marry
your mother! I lived so happily in the country, a commonplace, everyday
life, but a good and easy one-had not a trouble, not a care, was rich in
bees, in sheep and in olives. Then indeed I had to marry the niece of Megacles,
the son of Megacles; I belonged to the country, she was from the town;
she was a haughty, extravagant woman, a true Coesyra. On the nuptial day,
when I lay beside her, I was reeking of the dregs of the wine-cup, of cheese
and of wool; she was redolent with essences, saffron, voluptuous kisses,
the love of spending, of good cheer and of wanton delights. I will not
say she did nothing; no, she worked hard...to ruin me, and pretending all
the while merely to be showing her the cloak she had woven for me, I said,
"Wife you go too fast about your work, your threads are too closely woven
and you use far too much wool."
A slave enters witk a lamp.
There is no more oil in the lamp.
Why then did you light such a thirsty lamp? Come here, I am
going to beat you.
Because you have put in too thick a wick....Later, when we
had this boy, what was to be his name? It was the cause of much quarrelling
with my loving wife. She insisted on having some reference to a horse in
his name, that he should be called Xanthippus, Charippus or Callippides.
I wanted to name him Phidonides after his grandfather. We disputed long,
and finally agreed to style him Phidippides....She used to fondle and coax
him, saying, "Oh! what a joy it will be to me when you have grown up, to
see you, like my father, Megacles, clothed in purple and standing up straight
in your chariot driving your steeds toward the town." And I would say to
him, "When, like your father, you will go, dressed in a skin, to fetch
back your goats from Phelleus." Alas! he never listened to me and his madness
for horses has shattered my fortune.
He gets out of bed.
But by dint of thinking the livelong night, I have discovered a road to
salvation, both miraculous and divine. If he will but follow it, I shall
be out of my trouble! First, however, he must be awakened, but it must
be done as gently as possible. How shall I manage it? Phidippides! my little
What is it, father?
Kiss me and give me your hand.
getting up and doing as his father requests
There! What's it all about?
Tell me! do you love me?
By Posidon, the equestrian Posidon! yes, I swear I do.
Oh, do not, I pray you, invoke this god of horses; he is the
one who is the cause of all my cares. But if you really love me, and with
your whole heart, my boy, believe me.
Believe you? about what?
Alter your habits forthwith and go and learn what I tell you.
Say on, what are your orders?
Will you obey me ever so little?
By Bacchus, I will obey you.
Very well then! Look this way. Do you see that little door
and that little house?
Yes, father. But what are you driving at?
That is the Thoughtery of wise souls. There they prove that
we are coals enclosed on all sides under a vast snuffer, which is the sky.
If well paid, these men also teach one how to gain law-suits, whether they
be just or not.
What do they call themselves?
I do not know exactly, but they are deep thinkers and most
Bah! the wretches! I know them; you mean those quacks with
pale faces, those barefoot fellows, such as that miserable Socrates and
Silence! say nothing foolish! If you desire your father not
to die of hunger, join their company and let your horses go.
No, by Bacchus! even though you gave me the pheasants that
Oh! my beloved son, I beseech you, go and follow their teachings.
And what is it I should learn?
It seems they have two courses of reasoning, the true and the
false, and that, thanks to the false, the worst law-suits can be gained.
If then you learn this science, which is false, I shall not have to pay
an obolus of all the debts I have contracted on your account.
No, I will not do it. I should no longer dare to look at our
gallant horsemen, when I had so ruined my tan.
Well then, by Demeter! I will no longer support you, neither
you, nor your team, nor your saddle-horse. Go and hang yourself, I turn
you out of house and home.
My uncle Megacles will not leave me without horses; I shall
go to him and laugh at your anger.
He departs. STREPSIADES goes over to SOCRATES' house.
One rebuff shall not dishearten me. With the help of the gods
I will enter the Thoughtery and learn myself.
But at my age, memory has gone and the mind is slow to grasp things. How
can all these fine distinctions, these subtleties be learned?
Making up his mind
Bah! why should I dally thus instead of rapping at the door? Slave, slave!
He knocks and calls.
A plague on you! Who are you?
Strepsiades, the son of Phido, of the deme of Cicynna.
coming out of the door
You are nothing but an ignorant and illiterate fellow to let fly at the
door with such kicks. You have brought on a miscarriage-of an idea!
Pardon me, please; for I live far away from here in the country.
But tell me, what was the idea that miscarried?
I may not tell it to any but a disciple.
Then tell me without fear, for I have come to study among you.
Very well then, but reflect, that these are mysteries. Lately,
a flea bit Chaerephon on the brow and then from there sprang on to the
head of Socrates. Socrates asked Chaerephon, "How many times the length
of its legs does a flea jump?"
And how ever did he go about measuring it?
Oh! it was most ingenious! He melted some wax, seized the flea
and dipped its two feet in the wax, which, when cooled, left them shod
with true Persian slippers. These he took off and with them measured the
Ah! great Zeus! what a brain! what subtlety!
I wonder what then would you say, if you knew another of Socrates'
What is it? Pray tell me.
Chaerephon of the deme of Sphettia asked him whether he thought
a gnat buzzed through its proboscis or through its anus.
And what did he say about the gnat?
He said that the gut of the gnat was narrow, and that, in passing
through this tiny passage, the air is driven with force towards the breech;
then after this slender channel, it encountered the rump, which was distended
like a trumpet, and there it resounded sonorously.
So the arse of a gnat is a trumpet. Oh! what a splendid arsevation!
Thrice happy Socrates! It would not be difficult to succeed in a law-suit,
knowing so much about a gnat's guts!
Not long ago a lizard caused him the loss of a sublime thought.
In what way, please?
One night, when he was studying the course of the moon and
its revolutions and was gazing open-mouthed at the heavens, a lizard crapped
upon him from the top of the roof.
A lizard crapping on Socrates! That's rich!
Last night we had nothing to eat.
Well, what did he contrive, to secure you some supper?
He spread over the table a light layer of cinders, bending
an iron rod the while; then he took up a pair of compasses and at the same
moment unhooked a piece of the victim which was hanging in the palaestra.
And we still dare to admire Thales! Open, open this home of
knowledge to me quickly! Haste, haste to show me Socrates; I long to become
his disciple. But do please open the door.
The door opens, revealing the interior of the Thoughtery, in which the
DISCIPLES OF SOCRATES are seen in various postures of meditation and study;
they are pale and emaciated creatures.
Ah! by Heracles! what country are those animals from?
Why, what are you astonished at? What do you think they resemble?
The captives of Pylos. But why do they look so fixedly on the
They are seeking for what is below the ground.
Ah! they're looking for onions. Do not give yourselves so much
trouble; I know where there are some, fine big ones. But what are those
fellows doing, bent all double?
They are sounding the abysses of Tartarus.
And what are their arses looking at in the heavens?
They are studying astronomy on their own account. But come
in so that the master may not find us here.
Not yet; not yet; let them not change their position. I want
to tell them my own little matter.
But they may not stay too long in the open air and away from
pointing to a celestial globe
In the name of all the gods, what is that? Tell me.
That is astronomy.
pointing to a map
What is that used for?
To measure the land.
But that is apportioned by lot.
No, no, I mean the entire earth.
Ah! what a funny thing! How generally useful indeed is this
There is the whole surface of the earth. Look! Here is Athens.
Athens! you are mistaken; I see no courts in session.
Nevertheless it is really and truly the Attic territory.
And where are my neighbours of Cicynna?
They live here. This is Euboea; you see this island, that is
so long and narrow.
I know. Because we and Pericles have stretched it by dint of
squeezing it. And where is Lacedaemon?
Lacedaemon? Why, here it is, look.
How near it is to us! Think it well over, it must be removed
to a greater distance.
But, by Zeus, that is not possible.
Then, woe to you! and who is this man suspended up in a basket?
Socrates! Oh! I pray you, call him right loudly for me.
Call him yourself; I have no time to waste.
He departs. The machine swings in SOCRATES in a basket.
Socrates! my little Socrates!
Mortal, what do you want with me?
First, what are you doing up there? Tell me, I beseech you.
I am traversing the air and contemplating the sun.
Thus it's not on the solid ground, but from the height of this
basket, that you slight the gods, if indeed....
I have to suspend my brain and mingle the subtle essence of
my mind with this air, which is of the like nature, in order clearly to
penetrate the things of heaven. I should have discovered nothing, had I
remained on the ground to consider from below the things that are above;
for the earth by its force attracts the sap of the mind to itself. It's
just the same with the watercress.
What? Does the mind attract the sap of the watercress? Ah!
my dear little Socrates, come down to me! I have come to ask you for lessons.
And for what lessons?
I want to learn how to speak. I have borrowed money, and my
merciles creditors do not leave me a moment's peace; all my goods are at
And how was it you did not see that you were getting so much
My ruin has been the madness for horses, a most rapacious evil;
but teach me one of your two methods of reasoning, the one whose object
is not to repay anything, and, may the gods bear witness, that I am ready
to pay any fee you may name.
By which gods will you swear? To begin with, the gods are not
a coin current with us.
But what do you swear by then? By the iron money of Byzantium?
Do you really wish to know the truth of celestial matters?
Why, yes, if it's possible.
....and to converse with the clouds, who are our genii?
Without a doubt.
Then be seated on this sacred couch.
I am seated.
Now take this chaplet.
Why a chaplet? Alas! Socrates, would you sacrifice me, like
No, these are the rites of initiation.
And what is it I am to gain?
You will become a thorough rattle-pate, a hardened old stager,
the fine flour of the talkers....But come, keep quiet.
By Zeus! That's no lie! Soon I shall be nothing but wheat-flour,
if you powder me in that fashion.
Silence, old man, give heed to the prayers.
In an hierophantic tone
Oh! most mighty king, the boundless air, that keepest the earth suspended
in space, thou bright Aether and ye venerable goddesses, the Clouds, who
carry in your loins the thunder and the lightning, arise, ye sovereign
powers and manifest yourselves in the celestial spheres to the eyes of
Not yet! Wait a bit, till I fold my mantle double, so as not
to get wet. And to think that I did not even bring my travelling cap! What
Come, oh! Clouds, whom I adore, come and show yourselves to this man, whether
you be resting on the sacred summits of Olympus, crowned with hoar-frost,
or tarrying in the gardens of Ocean, your father, forming sacred choruses
with the Nymphs; whether you be gathering the waves of the Nile in golden
vases or dwelling in the Maeotic marsh or on the snowy rocks of Mimas,
hearken to my prayer and accept my offering. May these sacrifices be pleasing
Amidst rumblings of thunder the CHORUS OF CLOUDS
Eternal Clouds, let us appear; let us arise from the roaring depths of
Ocean, our father; let us fly towards the lofty mountains, spread our damp
wings over their forest-laden summits, whence we will dominate the distant
valleys, the harvest fed by the sacred earth, the murmur of the divine
streams and the resounding waves of the sea, which the unwearying orb lights
up with its glittering beams. But let us shake off the rainy fogs, which
hide our immortal beauty and sweep the earth from afar with our gaze.
Oh, venerated goddesses, yes, you are answering my call!
Did you hear their voices mingling with the awful growling of the thunder?
Oh! adorable Clouds, I revere you and I too am going to let
off my thunder, so greatly has your own affrighted me.
Faith! whether permitted or not, I must, I must crap!
No scoffing; do not copy those damned comic poets. Come, silence!
a numerous host of goddesses approaches with songs.
Virgins, who pour forth the rains, let us move toward Attica, the rich
country of Pallas, the home of the brave; let us visit the dear land of
Cecrops, where the secret rites are celebrated, where the mysterious sanctuary
flies open to the initiate.... What victims are offered there to the deities
of heaven! What glorious temples! What statues! What holy prayers to the
rulers of Olympus! At every season nothing but sacred festivals, garlanded
victims, is to be seen. Then Spring brings round again the joyous feasts
of Dionysus, the harmonious contests of the choruses and the serious melodies
of the flute.
By Zeus! Tell me, Socrates, I pray you, who are these women,
whose language is so solemn; can they be demi-goddesses?
Not at all. They are the Clouds of heaven, great goddesses
for the lazy; to them we owe all, thoughts, speeches, trickery, roguery,
boasting, lies, sagacity.
Ah! that was why, as I listened to them, my mind spread out
its wings; it burns to babble about trifles, to maintain worthless arguments,
to voice its petty reasons, to contradict, to tease some opponent. But
are they not going to show themselves? I should like to see them, were
Well, look this way in the direction of Parnes; I already see
those who are slowly descending.
But where, where? Show them to me.
They are advancing in a throng, following an oblique path across
the dales and thickets.
Strange! I can see nothing.
There, close to the entrance.
Hardly, if at all, can I distinguish them.
You must see them clearly now, unless your eyes are filled
with gum as thick as pumpkins.
Aye, undoubtedly! Oh! the venerable goddesses! Why, they fill
up the entire stage.
And you did not know, you never suspected, that they were goddesses?
No, indeed; I thought the Clouds were only fog, dew and vapour.
But what you certainly do not know is that they are the support
of a crowd of quacks, the diviners, who were sent to Thurium, the notorious
physicians, the well-combed fops, who load their fingers with rings down
to the nails, and the braggarts, who write dithyrambic verses, all these
are idlers whom the Clouds provide a living for, because they sing them
in their verses.
It is then for this that they praise "the rapid flight of the
moist clouds, which veil the brightness of day" and "the waving locks of
the hundred-headed Typho" and "the impetuous tempests, which float through
the heavens, like birds of prey with aerial wings loaded with mists" and
"the rains, the dew, which the clouds outpour." As a reward for these fine
phrases they bolt well-grown, tasty mullet and delicate thrushes.
Yes, thanks to these. And is it not right and meet?
Tell me then why, if these really are the Clouds, they so very
much resemble mortals. This is not their usual form.
What are they like then?
I don't know exactly; well, they are like great packs of wool,
but not like women-no, not in the least....And these have noses.
Answer my questions.
Willingly! Go on, I am listening.
Have you not sometimes seen clouds in the sky like a centaur,
a leopard, a wolf or a bull?
Why, certainly I have, but what of that?
They take what metamorphosis they like. If they see a debauchee
with long flowing locks and hairy as a beast, like the son of Xenophantes,
they take the form of a Centaur in derision of his shameful passion.
And when they see Simon, that thiever of public money, what
do they do then?
To picture him to the life, they turn at once into wolves.
So that was why yesterday, when they saw Cleonymus, who cast
away his buckler because he is the veriest poltroon amongst men, they changed
And to-day they have seen Clisthenes; you see....they are women
Hail, sovereign goddesses, and if ever you have let your celestial
voice be heard by mortal ears, speak to me, oh! speak to me, ye all-powerful
Hail! veteran of the ancient times, you who burn to instruct
yourself in fine language. And you, great high-priest of subtle nonsense,
tell us; your desire. To you and Prodicus alone of all the hollow orationers
of to-day have we lent an ear-to Prodicus, because of his knowledge and
his great wisdom, and to you, because you walk with head erect, a confident
look, barefooted, resigned to everything and proud of our protection.
Oh! Earth! What august utterances! how sacred! how wondrous!
That is because these are the only goddesses; all the rest
are pure myth.
But by the Earth! is our father, Zeus, the Olympian, not a
Zeus! what Zeus! Are you mad? There is no Zeus.
What are you saying now? Who causes the rain to fall? Answer
Why, these, and I will prove it. Have you ever seen it raining
without clouds? Let Zeus then cause rain with a clear sky and without their
By Apollo! that is powerfully argued! For my own part, I always
thought it was Zeus pissing into a sieve. But tell me, who is it makes
the thunder, which I so much dread?
These, when they roll one over the other.
But how can that be? you most daring among men!
Being full of water, and forced to move along, they are of
necessity precipitated in rain, being fully distended with moisture from
the regions where they have been floating; hence they bump each other heavily
and burst with great noise.
But is it not Zeus who forces them to move?
Not at all; it's the aerial Whirlwind.
The Whirlwind! ah! I did not know that. So Zeus, it seems,
has no existence, and its the Whirlwind that reigns in his stead? But you
have not yet told me what makes the roll of the thunder?
Have you not understood me then? I tell you, that the Clouds,
when full of rain, bump against one another, and that, being inordinately
swollen out, they burst with a great noise.
How can you make me credit that?
Take yourself as an example. When you have heartily gorged
on stew at the Panathenaea, you get throes of stomach-ache and then suddenly
your belly resounds with prolonged rumbling.
Yes, yes, by Apollo I suffer, I get colic, then the stew sets
to rumbling like thunder and finally bursts forth with a terrific noise.
At first, it's but a little gurgling pappax, pappax! then it increases,
papapappax! and when I take my crap, why, it's thunder indeed, papapappax!
pappax!! papapappax!!! just like the clouds.
Well then, reflect what a noise is produced by your belly,
which is but small. Shall not the air, which is boundless, produce these
mighty claps of thunder?
And this is why the names are so much alike: crap and clap.
But tell me this. Whence comes the lightning, the dazzling flame, which
at times consumes the man it strikes, at others hardly singes him. Is it
not plain, that Zeus is hurling it at the perjurers?
Out upon the fool! the driveller! he still savours of the golden
age! If Zeus strikes at the perjurers, why has he not blasted Simon, Cleonymus
and Theorus? Of a surety, greater perjurers cannot exist. No, he strikes
his own temple, and Sunium, the promontory of Athens, and the towering
oaks. Now, why should he do that? An oak is no perjurer.
I cannot tell, but it seems to me well argued. What is the
When a dry wind ascends to the Clouds and gets shut into them,
it blows them out like a bladder; finally, being too confined, it bursts
them, escapes with fierce violence and a roar to flash into flame by reason
of its own impetuosity.
Ah, that's just what happened to me one day. It was at the
feast of Zeus! I was cooking a sow's belly for my family and I had forgotten
to slit it open. It swelled out and, suddenly bursting, discharged itself
right into my eyes and burnt my face.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Oh, mortal, you who desire to instruct yourself in our great
wisdom, the Athenians, the Greeks will envy you your good fortune. Only
you must have the memory and ardour for study, you must know how to stand
the tests, hold your own, go forward without feeling fatigue, caring but
little for food, abstaining from wine, gymnastic exercises and other similar
follies, in fact, you must believe as every man of intellect should, that
the greatest of all blessings is to live and think more clearly than the
vulgar herd, to shine in the contests of words.
If it be a question of hardiness for labour, of spending whole
nights at work, of living sparingly, of fighting my stomach and only eating
chickpease, rest assured, I am as hard as an anvil.
Henceforward, following our example, you will recognize no
other gods but Chaos, the Clouds and the Tongue, these three alone.
I would not speak to the others, even if I met them in the
street; not a single sacrifice, not a libation, not a grain of incense
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Tell us boldly then what you want of us; you cannot fail to
succeed. If you honour and revere us and if you are resolved to become
a clever man.
Oh, sovereign goddesses, it is only a very small favour that
I ask of you; grant that I may outdistance all the Greeks by a hundred
stadia in the art of speaking.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
We grant you this, and henceforward no eloquence shall more
often succeed with the people than your own.
May the gods shield me from possessing great eloquence! That's
not what I want. I want to be able to turn bad law-suits to my own advantage
and to slip through the fingers of my creditors.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
It shall be as you wish, for your ambitions are modest. Commit
yourself fearlessly to our ministers, the sophists.
This I will do, for I trust in you. Moreover there is no drawing
back, what with these cursed horses and this marriage, which has eaten
up my vitals.
More and more volubly from here to the end of speech
So let them do with me as they will; I yield my body to them. Come blows,
come hunger, thirst, heat or cold, little matters it to me; they may flay
me, if I only escape my debts, if only I win the reputation of being a
bold rascal, a fine speaker, impudent, shameless, a braggart, and adept
at stringing lies, an old stager at quibbles, a complete table of laws,
a thorough rattle, a fox to slip through any hole; supple as a leathern
strap, slippery as an eel, an artful fellow, a blusterer, a villain; a
knave with a hundred faces, cunning, intolerable, a gluttonous dog. With
such epithets do I seek to be greeted; on these terms they can treat me
as they choose, and, if they wish, by Demeter! they can turn me into sausages
and serve me up to the philosophers.
Here have we a bold and well-disposed pupil indeed. When we have taught
you, your glory among the mortals will reach even to the skies.
Wherein will that profit me?
You will pass your whole life among us and will be the most envied of men.
Shall I really ever see such happiness?
Clients will be everlastingly besieging your door in crowds, burning to
get at you, to explain their business to you and to consult you about their
suits, which, in return for your ability, will bring you in great sums.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But, Socrates, begin the lessons you want to teach this old
man; rouse his mind, try the strength of his intelligence.
Come, tell me the kind of mind you have; it's important that
I know this, that I may order my batteries against you in the right fashion.
Eh, what! in the name of the gods, are you purposing to assault
No. I only wish to ask you some questions. Have you any memory?
That depends: if anything is owed me, my memory is excellent,
but if I owe, alas! I have none whatever.
Have you a natural gift for speaking?
For speaking, no; for cheating, yes.
How will you be able to learn then?
Very easily, have no fear.
Thus, when I throw forth some philosophical thought anent things
celestial., you will seize it in its very flight?
Then I am to snap up wisdom much as a dog snaps up a morsel?
Oh! the ignoramus! the barbarian!
I greatly fear, old man, it will be necessary for me to have recourse to
blows. Now, let me hear what you do when you are beaten.
I receive the blow, then wait a moment, take my witnesses and
finally summon my assailant at law.
Come, take off your cloak.
Have I robbed you of anything?
No. but the usual thing is to enter the school without your
But I have not come here to look for stolen goods.
Off with it, fool!
Tell me, if I prove thoroughly attentive and learn with zeal, which O;
your disciples shall I resemble, do you think?
You will be the image of Chaerephon.
Ah! unhappy me! Shall I then be only half alive?
A truce to this chatter! follow me and no more of it.
First give me a honey-cake, for to descend down there sets
me all a-tremble; it looks like the cave of Trophonius.
But get in with you! What reason have you for thus dallying
at the door?
They go into the Thoughtery.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Good luck! you have courage; may you succeed, you, who, though
already so advanced in years, wish to instruct your mind with new studies
and practise it in wisdom!
The CHORUS turns and faces the Audience.
Spectators! By Bacchus, whose servant I am, I will frankly tell you the
truth. May I secure both victory and renown as certainly as I hold you
for adept critics and as I regard this comedy as my best. I wished to give
you the first view of a work, which had cost me much trouble, but which
I withdrew, unjustly beaten by unskilful rivals. It is you, oh, enlightened
public, for whom I have prepared my piece, that I reproach with this. Nevertheless
I shall never willingly cease to seek the approval of the discerning. I
have not forgotten the day, when men, whom one is happy to have for an
audience, received my Virtuous Young Man and my Paederast with so much
favour in this very place. Then as yet virgin, my Muse had not attained
the age for maternity; she had to expose her first-born for another to
adopt, and it has since grown up under your generous patronage. Ever since
you have as good as sworn me your faithful alliance. Thus, like the Electra
of the poets, my comedy has come to seek you to-day, hoping again to encounter
such enlightened spectators. As far away as she can discern her Orestes,
she will be able to recognize him by his curly head. And note her modest
demeanour! She has not sewn on a piece of hanging leather, thick and reddened
at the end, to cause laughter among the children; she does not rail at
the bald, neither does she dance the cordax; no old man is seen, who, while
uttering his lines, batters his questioner with a stick to make his poor
jests pass muster. She does not rush upon the scene carrying a torch and
screaming, 'Iou! Iou!' No, she relies upon herself and her verses....My
value is so well known, that I take no further pride in it. I do not seek
to deceive you, by reproducing the same subjects two or three times; I
always invent fresh themes to present before you, themes that have no relation
to each other and that are all clever. I attacked Cleon to his face and
when he was all-powerful; but he has fallen, and now I have no desire to
kick him when he is down. My rivals, on the contrary, now that this wretched
Hyperbolus has given them the cue, have never ceased setting upon both
him and his mother. First Eupolis presented his 'Maricas'; this was simply
my 'Knights,' whom this plagiarist had clumsily furbished up again by adding
to the piece an old drunken woman, so that she might dance the cordax.
It was an old idea, taken from Phrynichus, who caused his old hag to be
devoured by a monster of the deep. Then Hermippus fell foul of Hyperbolus
and now all the others fall upon him and repeat my comparison of the eels.
May those who find amusement in their pieces not be pleased with mine,
but as for you, who love and applaud my inventions, why, posterity will
praise your good taste.
Oh, ruler of Olympus, all-powerful king of the gods, great Zeus, it is
thou whom I first invoke; protect this chorus; and thou too, Posidon, whose
dread trident upheaves at the will of thy anger both the bowels of the
earth and the salty waves of the ocean. I invoke my illustrious father,
the divine Aether, the universal sustainer of life, and Phoebus, who, from
the summit of his chariot, sets the world aflame with his dazzling rays,
Phoebus, a mighty deity amongst the gods and adored amongst mortals.
LEADER OF FIRST SEMI-CHORUS
Most wise spectators, lend us all your attention. Give heed
to our just reproaches. There exist no gods to whom this city owes more
than it does to us, whom alone you forget. Not a sacrifice, not a libation
is there for those who protect you! Have you decreed some mad expedition?
Well! we thunder or we fall down in rain. When you chose that enemy of
heaven, the Paphlagonian tanner, for a general, we knitted our brow, we
caused our wrath to break out; the lightning shot forth, the thunder pealed,
the moon deserted her course and the sun at once veiled his beam threatening,
no longer to give you light, if Cleon became general. Nevertheless you
elected him; it is said, Athens never resolves upon some fatal step but
the gods turn these errors into her greatest gain. Do you wish that his
election should even now be a success for you? It is a very simple thing
to do; condemn this rapacious gull named Cleon for bribery and extortion,
fit a wooden collar tight round his neck, and your error will be rectified
and the commonweal will at once regain its old prosperity.
Aid me also, Phoebus, god of Delos, who reignest on the cragged peaks of
Cynthia; and thou, happy virgin, to whom the Lydian damsels offer pompous
sacrifice in a temple; of gold; and thou, goddess of our country, Athene,
armed with the aegis, the protectress of Athens; and thou, who, surrounded
by the bacchants of Delphi; roamest over the rocks of Parnassus shaking
the flame of thy resinous torch, thou, Bacchus, the god of revel and joy.
LEADER OF SECOND SEMI-CHORUS
As we were preparing to come here, we were hailed by the Moon
and were charged to wish joy and happiness both to the Athenians and to
their allies; further, she said that she was enraged and that you treated
her very shamefully, her, who does not pay you in words alone, but who
renders you all real benefits. Firstly, thanks to her, you save at least
a drachma each month for lights, for each, as he is leaving home at night,
says, "Slave, buy no torches, for the moonlight is beautiful,"-not to name
a thousand other benefits. Nevertheless you do not reckon the days correctly
and your calendar is naught but confusion. Consequently the gods load her
with threats each time they get home and are disappointed of their meal,
because the festival has not been kept in the regular order of time. When
you should be sacrificing, you are putting to the torture or administering
justice. And often, we others, the gods, are fasting in token of mourning
for the death of Memnon or Sarpedon, while you are devoting yourselves
to joyous libations. It is for this, that last year, when the lot would
have invested Hyperbolus with the duty of Amphictyon, we took his crown
from him, to teach him that time must be divided according to the phases
of the moon.
By Respiration, the Breath of Life! By Chaos! By the Air! I have never
seen a man so gross, so inept, so stupid, so forgetful. All the little
quibbles, which I teach him, he forgets even before he has learnt them.
Yet I will not give it up, I will make him come out here into the open
air. Where are you, Strepsiades? Come, bring your couch out here.
But the bugs will not allow me to bring it.
Have done with such nonsense! place it there and pay attention.
coming out, with the bed
Well, here I am.
Good! Which science of all those you have never been taught,
do you wish to learn first? The measures, the rhythms or the verses?
Why, the measures; the flour dealer cheated me out of two choenixes
the other day.
It's not about that I ask you, but which, according to you,
is the best measure, the trimeter or the tetrameter?
The one I prefer is the semisextarius.
You talk nonsense, my good fellow.
I will wager your tetrameter is the semisextarius.
Plague seize the dunce and the fool! Come, perchance you will
learn the rhythms quicker.
Will the rhythms supply me with food?
First they will help you to be pleasant in company, then to
know what is meant by enhoplian rhythm and what by the dactylic.
Of the dactyl? I know that quite well.
What is it then, other than this finger here?
Formerly, when a child, I used this one.
You are as low-minded as you are stupid.
But, wretched man, I do not want to learn all this.
Then what do you want to know?
Not that, not that, but the art of false reasoning.
But you must first learn other things. Come, what are the male
Oh! I know the males thoroughly. Do you take me for a fool
then? The ram, the buck, the bull, the dog, the pigeon.
Do you see what you are doing; is not the female pigeon called
the same as the male?
How else? Come now!
How else? With you then it's pigeon and pigeon!
That's right, by Posidon! but what names do you want me to
Term the female pigeonnette and the male pigeon.
Pigeonnette! hah! by the Air! That's splendid! for that lesson
bring out your kneading-trough and I will fill him with flour to the brim.
There you are wrong again; you make trough masculine and it
should be feminine.
What? if I say, him, do I make the trough masculine?
Assuredly! would you not say him for Cleonymus?
Then trough is of the same gender as Cleonymus?
My good man! Cleonymus never had a kneading-trough; he used
a round mortar for the purpose. But come, tell me what I should say!
For trough you should say her as you would for Soctrate.
In this manner you make it truly female.
That's it! Her for trough and her for Cleonymus.
Now I must teach you to distinguish the masculine proper names from
those that are feminine.
Ah! I know the female names well.
Name some then.
Lysilla, Philinna, Clitagora, Demetria.
And what are masculine names?
They are are countless-Philoxenus, Melesias, Amynias.
But, wretched man, the last two are not masculine.
You do not count them as masculine?
Not at all. If you met Amynias, how would you hail him?
How? Why, I should shout, "Hi, there, Amynia!
Do you see? it's a female name that you give him.
And is it not rightly done, since he refuses military service?
But what use is there in learning what we all know?
You know nothing about it. Come, lie down there.
Ponder awhile over matters that interest you.
Oh! I pray you, not there but, if I must lie down and ponder,
let me lie on the ground.
That's out of the question. Come! on the couch!
as he lies down
What cruel fate! What a torture the bugs will this day put me to!
Socrates turns aside.
Ponder and examine closely, gather your thoughts together, let your mind
turn to every side of things; if you meet with a difficulty, spring quickly
to some other idea; above all, keep your eyes away from all gentle sleep.
Ow, Wow, Wow, Wow is me!
What ails you? why do you cry so?
Oh! I am a dead man! Here are these cursed Corinthians advancing
upon me from all corners of the couch; they are biting me, they are gnawing
at my sides, they are drinking all my blood, they are yanking of my balls,
they are digging into my arse, they are killing me!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Not so much wailing and clamour, if you please.
How can I obey? I have lost my money and my complexion, my
blood and my slippers, and to cap my misery, I must keep awake on this
couch, when scarce a breath of life is left in me.
A brief interval of silence ensues.
Well now! what are you doing? are you reflecting?
Yes, by Posidon!
Whether the bugs will entirely devour me.
May death seize you, accursed man!
He turns aside again.
Ah it has already.
Come, no giving way! Cover up your head; the thing to do is
to find an ingenious alternative.
An alternative! ah! I only wish one would come to me from within
Another interval of silence ensues.
Wait! let us see what our fellow is doing! Ho! are you asleep?
No, by Apollo!
Have you got hold of anything?
No, nothing whatever.
Nothing at all?
No, nothing except my tool, which I've got in my hand.
Aren't you going to cover your head immediately and ponder?
On what? Come, Socrates, tell me.
Think first what you want, and then tell me.
But I have told you a thousand times what I want. Not to pay
any of my creditors.
Come, wrap yourself up; concentrate your mind, which wanders
to lightly; study every detail, scheme and examine thoroughly.
Keep still, and if any notion troubles you, put it quickly
aside, then resume it and think over it again.
My dear little Socrates!
What is it, old greybeard?
I have a scheme for not paying my debts.
Let us hear it.
Tell me, if I purchased a Thessalian witch, I could make the
moon descend during the night and shut it, like a mirror, into a round
box and there keep it carefully....
How would you gain by that?
How? why, if the moon did not rise, I would have no interest
Because money is lent by the month.
Good! but I am going to propose another trick to you. If you
were condemned to pay five talents, how would you manage to quash that
verdict? Tell me.
How? how? I don't know, I must think.
Do you always shut your thoughts within yourself? Let your
ideas fly in the air, like a may-bug, tied by the foot with a thread.
I have found a very clever way to annul that conviction; you
will admit that much yourself.
What is it?
Have you ever seen a beautiful, transparent stone at the druggists',
with which you may kindle fire?
You mean a crystal lens.
That's right. Well, now if I placed myself with this stone
in the sun and a long way off from the clerk, while he was writing out
the conviction, I could make all the wax, upon which the words were written,
Well thought out, by the Graces!
Ah! I am delighted to have annulled the decree that was to
cost me five talents.
Come, take up this next question quickly.
If, when summoned to court, you were in danger of losing your
case for want of witnesses, how would you make the conviction fall upon
That's very simple and easy.
Let me hear.
This way. If another case had to be pleaded before mine was
called, I should run and hang myself.
You talk rubbish!
Not so, by the gods! if I were dead, no action could lie against
You are merely beating the air. Get out! I will give you no
Why not? Oh! Socrates! in the name of the gods!
But you forget as fast as you learn. Come, what was the thing
I taught you first? Tell me.
Ah let me see. What was the first thing? What was it then?
Ah! that thing in which we knead the bread, oh! my god! what do you call
Plague take the most forgetful and silliest of old addlepates!
Alas! what a calamity! what will become of me? I am undone
if I do not learn how to ply my tongue. Oh! Clouds! give me good advice.
Old man, we counsel you, if you have brought up a son, to send
him to learn in your stead.
Undoubtedly I have a son, as well endowed as the best, but
he is unwilling to learn. What will become of me?
And you don't make him obey you?
You see, he is big and strong; moreover, through his mother
he is a descendant of those fine birds, the race of Coesyra. Nevertheless,
I will go and find him, and if he refuses, I will turn him out of the house.
Go in, Socrates, and wait for me awhile.
SOCRATES goes into the Thoughtery, STREPSIADES into his own
Do you understand, Socrates, that thanks to us you will be loaded with
benefits? Here is a man, ready to obey you in all things. You see how he
is carried away with admiration and enthusiasm. Profit by it to clip him
as short as possible; fine chances are all too quickly gone.
coming out of his house and pushing his son in front of
No, by the Clouds! you stay here no longer; go and devour the ruins of
your uncle Megacles' fortune.
Oh! my poor father! what has happened to you? By the
Zeus! You are no longer in your senses!
Look! "the Olympian Zeus." Oh! you fool! to believe in Zeus
at your age!
What is there in that to make you laugh?
You are then a tiny little child, if you credit such antiquated
rubbish! But come here, that I may teach you; I will tell you something
very necessary to know to be a man; but do not repeat it to anybody.
Tell me, what is it?
Just now you swore by Zeus.
Sure I did.
Do you see how good it is to learn? Phidippides, there is no
What is there then?
The Whirlwind has driven out Zeus and is King now.
You must realize that it is true.
And who says so?
Socrates, the Melian, and Chaerephon, who knows how to measure
the jump of a flea.
Have you reached such a pitch of madness that you believe those
Use better language, and do not insult men who are clever and
full of wisdom, who, to economize, never shave, shun the gymnasia and never
go to the baths, while you, you only await my death to eat up my wealth.
But come, come as quickly as you can to learn in my stead.
And what good can be learnt of them?
What good indeed? Why, all human knowledge. Firstly, you will
know yourself grossly ignorant. But await me here awhile.
He goes back into his house.
Alas! what is to be done? Father has lost his wits. Must I
have him certificated for lunacy, or must I order his coffin?
returning with a bird in each hand
Come! what kind of bird is this? Tell me.
Good! And this female?
The same for both? You make me laugh! In the future you must
call this one a pigeonnette and the other a pigeon.
A pigeonnette! These then are the fine things you have just
learnt at the school of these sons of Earth!
And many others; but what I learnt I forgot at once, because
I am to old.
So this is why you have lost your cloak?
I have not lost it, I have consecrated it to Philosophy.
And what have you done with your sandals, you poor fool?
If I have lost them, it is for what was necessary, just as
Pericles did. But come, move yourself, let us go in; if necessary, do wrong
to obey your father. When you were six years old and still lisped, I was
the one who obeyed you. I remember at the feasts of Zeus you had a consuming
wish for a little chariot and I bought it for you with the first obolus
which I received as a juryman in the courts.
You will soon repent of what you ask me to do.
Oh! now I am happy! He obeys.
Come, Socrates, come! Come out quick! Here I am bringing you my son; he
refused, but I have persuaded him.
Why, he is but a child yet. He is not used to these baskets,
in which we suspend our minds.
To make you better used to them, I would you were hung.
A curse upon you! you insult your master!
"I would you were hung!" What a stupid speech! and so emphatically
spoken! How can one ever get out of an accusation with such a tone, summon
witnesses or touch or convince? And yet when we think, Hyperbolus learnt
all this for one talent!
Rest undisturbed and teach him. He has a most intelligent nature.
Even when quite little he amused himself at home with making houses, carving
boats, constructing little chariots of leather, and understood wonderfully
how to make frogs out of pomegranate rinds. Teach him both methods of reasoning,
the strong and also the weak, which by false arguments triumphs over the
strong; if not the two, at least the false, and that in every possible
The Just and Unjust Discourse themselves shall instruct him.
I shall leave you.
But forget it not, he must always, always be able to confound
Socrates enters the Thoughtery; a moment later the JUST and the UNJUST
DISCOURSE come out; they are quarrelling violently.
Come here! Shameless as you may be, will you dare to show your
face to the spectators?
Take me where you will. I seek a throng, so that I may the
better annihilate you.
Annihilate me! Do you forget who you are?
I am Reasoning.
Yes, the weaker Reasoning."
But I triumph over you, who claim to be the stronger.
By what cunning shifts, pray?
By the invention of new maxims.
.... which are received with favour by these fools.
He points to the audience.
Say rather, by these wise men.
I am going to destroy you mercilessly.
How pray? Let us see you do it.
By saying what is true.
I shall retort and shall very soon have the better of you.
First, maintain that justice has no existence.
Has no existence?
No existence! Why, where is it?
With the gods.
How then, if justice exists, was Zeus not put to death for
having put his father in chains?
Bah! this is enough to turn my stomach! A basin, quick!
You are an old driveller and stupid withal.
And you a degenerate and shameless fellow.
Hah! What sweet expressions!
An impious buffoon.
You crown me with roses and with lilies.
Why, you shower gold upon me.
Formerly it was a hailstorm of blows.
I deck myself with your abuse.
It is because of you that the youth no longer attends the schools.
The Athenians will soon recognize what lessons you teach those who are
fools enough to believe you.
You are overwhelmed with wretchedness.
And you, you prosper. Yet you were poor when you said, "I am
the Mysian Telephus," and used to stuff your wallet with maxims of Pandeletus
to nibble at.
Oh! the beautiful wisdom, of which you are now boasting!
Madman! But yet madder the city that keeps you, you,
the corrupter of its youth!
It is not you who will teach this young man; you
are as old and out of date at Cronus.
Nay, it will certainly be I, if he does not wish to
be lost and to practise verbosity only.
(to PHIDIPPIDES) Come here and leave him to beat
You'll regret it, if you touch him.
(stepping between them as they are about to come to
blows) A truce to your quarrellings and abuse! But you expound what
you taught us formerly, and you, your new doctrine. Thus, after hearing
each of you argue, he will be able to choose betwixt the two schools.
I am quite agreeable.
And I too.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Who is to speak first?
Let it be my opponent, he has my full consent; then
I shall follow upon the very ground he shall have chosen and shall
shatter him with a hail of new ideas and subtle fancies; if after
that he dares to breathe another word, I shall sting him in the face
and in the eyes with our maxims, which are as keen as the sting of
a wasp, and he will die.
(singing) Here are two rivals confident in their powers of
oratory and in the thoughts over which they have pondered so long.
Let us see which will come triumphant out of the contest. This wisdom,
for which my friends maintain such a persistent fight, is in great
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Come then, you, who crowned men of other days
with so many virtues, plead the cause dear to you, make yourself known
Very well, I will tell you what was the old education,
when I used to teach justice with so much success and when modesty
was held in veneration. Firstly, it was required of a child, that
it should not utter a word. In the street, when they went to the music-school,
all the youths of the same district marched lightly clad and ranged
in good order, even when the snow was falling in great flakes. At
the master's house they had to stand with their legs apart and they
were taught to sing either, "Pallas, the Terrible, who overturneth
cities," or "A noise resounded from afar" in the solemn tones of the
ancient harmony. If anyone indulged in buffoonery or lent his voice
any of the soft inflexions, like those which to-day the disciples
of Phrynis take so much pains to form, he was treated as an enemy
of the Muses and belaboured with blows. In the wrestling school they
would sit with outstretched legs and without display of any indecency
to the curious. When they rose, they would smooth over the sand, so
as to leave no trace to excite obscene thoughts. Never was a child
rubbed with oil below the belt; the rest of their bodies thus retained
its fresh bloom and down, like a velvety peach. They were not to be
seen approaching a lover and themselves rousing his passion by soft
modulation of the voice and lustful gaze. At table, they would not
have dared, before those older than themselves, to have taken a radish,
an aniseed or a leaf of parsley, and much less eat fish or thrushes
or cross their legs.
What antiquated rubbish! Have we got back to the
days of the festivals of Zeus Polieus, to the Buphonia, to the time
of the poet Cecides and the golden cicadas?
Nevertheless by suchlike teaching I built up the men
of Marathon-But you, you teach the children of to-day to bundle themselves
quickly into their clothes, and I am enraged when I see them at the
Panathenaea forgetting Athene while they dance, and covering their
tools with their bucklers. Hence, young man, dare to range yourself
beside me, who follow justice and truth; you will then be able to
shun the public place, to refrain from the baths, to blush at all
that is shameful, to fire up if your virtue is mocked at, to give
place to your elders, to honour your parents, in short, to avoid all
that is evil. Be modesty itself, and do not run to applaud the dancing
girls; if you delight in such scenes, some courtesan will cast you
her apple and your reputation will be done for. Do not bandy words
with your father, nor treat him as a dotard, nor reproach the old
man, who has cherished you, with his age.
If you listen to him, by Bacchus! you will be the
image of the sons of Hippocrates and will be called mother's big ninny.
No, but you will pass your days at the gymnasia, glowing
with strength and health; you will not go to the public place to cackle
and wrangle as is done nowadays; you will not live in fear that you
may be dragged before the courts for some trifle exaggerated by quibbling.
But you will go down to the Academy to run beneath the sacred olives
with some virtuous friend of your own age, your head encircled with
the white reed, enjoying your ease and breathing the perfume of the
yew and of the fresh sprouts of the poplar, rejoicing in the return
of springtide and gladly listening to the gentle rustle of the plane
tree and the elm. (With greater warmth from here on) If you devote
yourself to practising my precepts, your chest will be stout, your
colour glowing, your shoulders broad, your tongue short, your hips
muscular, but your tool small. But if you follow the fashions of the
day, you will be pallid in hue, have narrow shoulders, a narrow chest,
a long tongue, small hips and a big thing; you will know how to spin
forth long-winded arguments on law. You will be persuaded also to
regard as splendid everything that is shameful and as shameful everything
that is honourable; in a word, you will wallow in degeneracy like
(singing) How beautiful, high-souled, brilliant is this wisdom
that you practise! What a sweet odour of honesty is emitted by your
discourse! Happy were those men of other days who lived when you were
honoured! And you, seductive talker, come, find some fresh arguments,
for your rival has done wonders.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
You will have to bring out against him all the
battery of your wit, it you desire to beat him and not to be laughed
out of court.
At last! I was choking with impatience, I was burning
to upset his arguments! If I am called the Weaker Reasoning in the
schools, it is just because I was the first to discover the means
to confute the laws and the decrees of justice. To invoke solely the
weaker arguments and yet triumph is an art worth more than a hundred
thousand drachmae. But see how I shall batter down the sort of education
of which he is so proud. Firstly, he forbids you to bathe in hot water.
What grounds have you for condemning hot baths?
Because they are baneful and enervate men.
Enough said! Oh! you poor wrestler! From the very
outset I have seized you and hold you round the middle; you cannot
escape me. Tell me, of all the sons of Zeus, who had the stoutest
heart, who performed the most doughty deeds?
None, in my opinion, surpassed Heracles.
Where have you ever seen cold baths called 'Bath
of Heracles'? And yet who was braver than he?
It is because of such quibbles, that the baths are
seen crowded with young folk, who chatter there the livelong day while
the gymnasia remain empty.
Next you condemn the habit of frequenting the market-place,
while I approve this. If it were wrong Homer would never have made
Nestor speak in public as well as all his wise heroes. As for the
art of speaking, he tells you, young men should not practise it; I
hold the contrary. Furthermore he preaches chastity to them. Both
precepts are equally harmful. Have you ever seen chastity of any use
to anyone? Answer and try to confute me.
To many; for instance, Peleus won a sword thereby.
UNJUST DISCOURSE A
sword! Ah! what a fine present to make him! Poor
wretch! Hyperbolus, the lamp-seller, thanks to his villainy, has gained
more than....do not know how many talents, but certainly no sword.
Peleus owed it to his chastity that he became the
husband of Thetis.
.... who left him in the lurch, for he was not the
most ardent; in those nocturnal sports between the sheets, which so
please women, he possessed but little merit. Get you gone, you are
but an old fool. But you, young man, just consider a little what this
temperance means and the delights of which it deprives you-young fellows,
women, play, dainty dishes, wine, boisterous laughter. And what is
life worth without these? Then, if you happen to commit one of these
faults inherent in human weakness, some seduction or adultery, and
you are caught in the act, you are lost, if you cannot speak. But
follow my teaching and you will be able to satisfy your passions,
to dance, to laugh, to blush at nothing. Suppose you are caught in
the act of adultery. Then up and tell the husband you are not guilty,
and recall to him the example of Zeus, who allowed himself to be conquered
by love and by women. Being but a mortal, can you be stronger than
Suppose your pupil, following your advice, gets the
radish rammed up his arse and then is depilated with a hot coal; how
are you going to prove to him that he is not a broad-arse?
What's the matter with being a broad-arse?
Is there anything worse than that?
Now what will you say, if I beat you even on this
I should certainly have to be silent then.
Well then, reply! Our advocates, what are they?
Sons of broad-arses.
Nothing is more true. And our tragic poets?
Sons of broad-arses.
Well said again. And our demagogues?
Sons of broad-arses.
You admit that you have spoken nonsense. And the
spectators, what are they for the most part? Look at them.
I am looking at them.
Well! What do you see?
By the gods, they are nearly all broad-arses. (pointing)
See, this one I know to be such and that one and that other with
the long hair.
What have you to say, then?
I am beaten. Debauchees! in the name of the gods,
receive my cloak; I pass over to your ranks. (He goes back into the
Well then! Are you going to take away your son or
do you wish me to teach him how to speak?
Teach him, chastise him and do not fail to sharpen his
tongue well, on one side for petty law-suits and on the other for
Don't worry, I shall return him to you an accomplished
Very pale then and thoroughly hang-dog-looking.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Take him with you. (The UNJUST DISCOURSE and
go into the THOUGHTERY. To STREPSIADES, who is just going
into his own house.) I think you will regret this. (The CHORUS turns
and faces the audience.) judges, we are all about to tell you what
you will gain by awarding us the crown as equity requires of you.
In spring, when you wish to give your fields the first dressing, we
will rain upon you first; the others shall wait. Then we will watch
over your corn and over your vinestocks; they will have no excess
to fear, neither of heat nor of wet. But if a mortal dares to insult
the goddesses of the Clouds, let him think of the ills we shall pour
upon him. For him neither wine nor any harvest at all! Our terrible
slings will mow down his young olive plants and his vines. If he is
making bricks, it will rain, and our round hailstones will break the
tiles of his roof. If he himself marries or any of his relations or
friends, we shall cause rain to fall the whole night long. Verily,
he would prefer to live in Egypt than to have given this iniquitous
(coming out again) Another four, three, two days, then
the eve, then the day, the fatal day of payment! I tremble, I quake,
I shudder, for it's the day of the old moon and the new. Then all
my creditors take the oath, pay their deposits, I swear my downfall
and my ruin. As for me, I beseech them to be reasonable, to be just,
"My friend, do not demand this sum, wait a little for this other and
give me time for this third one." Then they will pretend that at this
rate they will never be repaid, will accuse me of bad faith and will
threaten me with the law. Well then, let them sue me! I care nothing
for that, if only Phidippides has learnt to speak fluently. I am going
to find out; I'll knock at the door of the school. (He knocks.)
.... Ho! slave, slave!
(coming out) Welcome! Strepsiades!
Welcome! Socrates! But first take this sack; (offers
him a sack of flour) it is right to reward the master with some present.
And my son, whom you took off lately, has he learnt this famous reasoning?
He has learnt it.
Wonderful! Oh! divine Knavery!
You will win just as many causes as you choose.
Even if I have borrowed before witnesses?
So much the better, even if there are a thousand of them!
(bursting into song) Then I am going to shout with all
my might. "Woe to the usurers, woe to their capital and their interest
and their compound interest! You shall play me no more bad turns.
My son is being taught there, his tongue is being sharpened into a
double-edged weapon; he is my defender, the saviour of my house, the
ruin of my foes! His poor father was crushed down with misfortune
and he delivers him." Go and call him to me quickly. Oh! my child!
my dear little one! run forward to your father's voice!
(singing) Lo, the man himself!
(singing) Oh, my friend, my dearest friend!
(singing) Take your son, and get you gone.
(as PHIDIPPIDES appears) Oh, my son! oh! oh! what a
pleasure to see your pallor! You are ready first to deny and then
to contradict; it's as clear as noon. What a child of your country
you are! How your lips quiver with the famous, "What have you to say
now?" How well you know, I am certain, to put on the look of a victim,
when it is you who are making both victims and dupes! And what a truly
Attic glance! Come, it's for you to save me, seeing it is you who
have ruined me.
What is it you fear then?
The day of the old and the new.
Is there then a day of the old and the new?
The day on which they threaten to pay deposit against
Then so much the worse for those who have deposited!
for it's not possible for one day to be two.
Why, undoubtedly, unless a woman can be both old and
young at the same time.
But so runs the law.
I think the meaning of the law is quite misunderstood.
What does it mean?
Old Solon loved the people.
What has that to do with the old day and the new?
He has fixed two days for the summons, the last day of
the old moon and the first day of the new; but the deposits must only
be paid on the first day of the new moon.
And why did he also name the last day of the old?
So, my dear sir, that the debtors, being there the day
before, might free themselves by mutual agreement, or that else, if
not, the creditor might begin his action on the morning of the new
Why then do the magistrates have the deposits paid on
the last of the month and not the next day?
I think they do as the gluttons do, who are the first
to pounce upon the dishes. Being eager to carry off these deposits,
they have them paid in a day too soon.
Splendid! (to the audience) Ah! you poor brutes, who
serve for food to us clever folk! You are only down here to swell
the number, true blockheads, sheep for shearing, heap of empty pots!
Hence I will sing a song of victory for my son and myself. "Oh! happy,
Strepsiades! what cleverness is thine! and what a son thou hast here!"
Thus my friends and my neighbours will say, jealous at seeing me gain
all my suits. But come in, I wish to regale you first. (They both
go in. A moment later a creditor arrives, with his witness.)
(to the WITNESS) A man should never lend a single obolus.
It would be better to put on a brazen face at the outset than to get
entangled in such matters. I want to see my money again and I bring
you here to-day to attest the loan. I am going to make a foe of a
neighbour; but, as long as I live, I do not wish my country to have
to blush for me. Come, I am going to summon Strepsiades....
(coming out of his house) Who is this?
....for the old day and the new.
(to the WITNESS) I call you to witness, that he has
named two days. What do you want of me?
I claim of you the twelve minae, which you borrowed from me
to buy the dapple-grey horse.
horse! do you hear him? I, who detest horses, as is
I call Zeus to witness, that you swore by the gods to return
them to me.
Because at that time, by Zeus! Phidippides did not yet
know the irrefutable argument.
Would you deny the debt on that account?
If not, what use is his science to me?
Will you dare to swear by the gods that you owe me nothing?
By which gods?
By Zeus, Hermes and Posidon!
Why, I would give three obols for the pleasure of swearing
Woe upon you, impudent knave!
Oh! what a fine wine-skin you would make if flayed!
Heaven! he jeers at me!
It would hold six gallons easily.
By great Zeus! by all the gods! you shall not scoff at me
Ah! how you amuse me with your gods! how ridiculous it
seems to a sage to hear Zeus invoked.
Your blasphemies will one day meet their reward. But, come,
will you repay me my money, yes or no? Answer me, that I may go.
Wait a moment, I am going to give you a distinct answer.
(He goes indoors and returns immediately with a kneading-trough.)
(to the WITNESS) What do you think he will do? Do you think
he will pay?
Where is the man who demands money? Tell me, what is
Him? Why, he is your kneading-trough.
And you dare to demand money of me, when you are so ignorant?
I will not return an obolus to anyone who says him instead of her
for a kneading-trough.
You will not repay?
Not if I know it. Come, an end to this, pack off as quick
as you can.
I go, but, may I die, if it be not to pay my deposit for a
Very well! It will be so much more loss to add to the
twelve minae. But truly it makes me sad, for I do pity a poor simpleton
who says him for a kneading-trough (Another creditor arrives.)
Woe! ah woe is me!
Wait! who is this whining fellow? Can it be one of the
gods of Carcinus?
Do you want to know who I am? I am a man of misfortune!
Get on your way then.
(in tragic style) Oh! cruel god! Oh Fate, who hast broken
the wheels of my chariot! Oh, Pallas, thou hast undone me!
What ill has Tlepolemus done you?
Instead of jeering me, friend, make your son return me the
money he has had of me; I am already unfortunate enough.
The money he borrowed of me.
You have indeed had misfortune, it seems to me.
Yes, by the gods! I have been thrown from a chariot.
Why then drivel as if you had fallen off an ass?
Am I drivelling because I demand my money?
No, no, you cannot be in your right senses.
No doubt your poor wits have had a shake.
But by Hermes! I will sue you at law, if you do not pay me.
Just tell me; do you think it is always fresh water that
Zeus lets fall every time it rains, or is ill always the same water
that the sun pumps over the earth?
I neither know, nor care.
And actually you would claim the right to demand your
money, when you know not an iota of these celestial phenomena?
If you are short, pay me the interest anyway.
What kind of animal is interest?
What? Does not the sum borrowed go on growing, growing every
month, each day as the time slips by?
Well put. But do you believe there is more water in the
sea now than there was formerly?
No, it's just the same quantity. It cannot increase.
Thus, poor fool, the sea, that receives the rivers, never
grows, and yet you would have your money grow? Get you gone, away
with you, quick! Slave! bring me the ox-goad!
I have witnesses to this.
Come, what are you waiting for? Will you not budge, old
What an insult!
Unless you start trotting, I shall catch you and stick
this in your arse, you sorry packhorse! (AMYNIAS runs off.) Ah!
you start, do you? I was about to drive you pretty fast, I tell you-you
and your wheels and your chariot! (He enters his house.)
(singing) Whither does the passion of evil lead! here is
a perverse old man, who wants to cheat his creditors; but some mishap,
which will speedily punish this rogue for his shameful schemings,
cannot fail to overtake him from to-day. For a long time he has been
burning to have his son know how to fight against all justice and
right and to gain even the most iniquitous causes against his adversaries
every one. I think this wish is going to be fulfilled. But mayhap,
mayhap, will he soon wish his son were dumb rather!
(rushing out With PHIDIPPIDES after him) Oh! oh! neighbours,
kinsmen, fellow-citizens, help! help! to the rescue, I am being beaten!
Oh! my head! oh! my jaw! Scoundrel! Do you beat your own father?
(calmly) Yes, father, I do.
See! he admits he is beating me.
Of course I do.
You villain, you parricide, you gallows-bird!
Go on, repeat your epithets, call me a thousand other
names, if it please you. The more you curse, the greater my amusement!
Oh! you ditch-arsed cynic!
How fragrant the perfume breathed forth in your words.
Do you beat your own father?
Yes, by Zeus! and I am going to show you that I do right
in beating you.
Oh, wretch! can it be right to beat a father?
I will prove it to you, and you shall own yourself vanquished.
Own myself vanquished on a point like this?
It's the easiest thing in the world. Choose whichever
of the two reasonings you like.
Of which reasonings?
The Stronger and the Weaker.
Miserable fellow! Why, I am the one who had you taught
how to refute what is right. and now you would persuade me it is right
a son should beat his father.
I think I shall convince you so thoroughly that, when
you have heard me, you will not have a word to say.
Well, I am curious to hear what you have to say.
(singing) Consider well, old man, how you can best triumph
over him. His brazenness shows me that he thinks himself sure of his
case; he has some argument which gives him nerve. Note the confidence
in his look!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But how did the fight begin? tell the Chorus;
you cannot help doing that much.
I will tell you what was the start of the quarrel. At
the end of the meal, as you know, I bade him take his lyre and sing
me the air of Simonides, which tells of the fleece of the ram. He
replied bluntly, that it was stupid, while drinking, to play the lyre
and sing, like a woman when she is grinding barley.
Why, by rights I ought to have beaten and kicked you
the very moment you told me to sing.
That is just how he spoke to me in the house, furthermore
he added, that Simonides was a detestable poet. However, I mastered
myself and for a while said nothing. Then I said to him, 'At least,
take a myrtle branch and recite a passage from Aeschylus to me.'-'For
my own part,' he at once replied, 'I look upon Aeschylus as the first
of poets, for his verses roll superbly; they're nothing but incoherence,
bombast and turgidity.' Yet still I smothered my wrath and said, 'Then
recite one of the famous pieces from the modern poets.' Then he commenced
a piece in which Euripides shows, oh! horror! a brother, who violates
his own uterine sister. Then I could not longer restrain myself, and
attacked him with the most injurious abuse; naturally he retorted;
hard words were hurled on both sides, and finally he sprang at me,
broke my bones, bore me to earth, strangled and started killing me!
I was right. What! not praise Euripides, the greatest
of our poets?
He the greatest of our poets? Ah! if I but dared to speak!
but the blows would rain upon me harder than ever.
Undoubtedly and rightly too.
Rightly! Oh! what impudence! to me, who brought you up!
when you could hardly lisp, I guessed what you wanted. If you said
broo, broo, well, I brought you your milk; if you asked for mam mam,
I gave you bread; and you had no sooner said, caca, than I took you
outside and held you out. And just now, when you were strangling me,
I shouted, I bellowed that I was about to crap; and you, you scoundrel,
had not the heart to take me outside, so that, though almost choking,
I was compelled to do my crapping right there.
(singing) Young men, your hearts must be panting with impatience.
What is Phidippides going to say? If, after such conduct, he proves
he has done well, I would not give an obolus for the hide of old men.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Come, you, who know how to brandish and hurl
the keen shafts of the new science, find a way to convince us, give
your language an appearance of truth.
How pleasant it is to know these clever new inventions
and to be able to defy the established laws! When I thought only about
horses, I was not able to string three words together without a mistake,
but now that the master has altered and improved me and that I live
in this world of subtle thought, of reasoning and of meditation, I
count on being able to prove satisfactorily that I have done well
to thrash my father.
Mount your horse! By Zeus! I would rather defray the
keep of a four-in-hand team than be battered with blows.
I revert to what I was saying when you interrupted me.
And first, answer me, did you beat me in my childhood?
Why, assuredly, for your good and in your own best interest.
Tell me, is it not right, that in turn I should beat
you for your good, since it is for a man's own best interest to be
beaten? What! must your body be free of blows, and not mine? am I
not free-born too? the children are to weep and the fathers go free?
You will tell me, that according to the law, it is the lot of children
to be beaten. But I reply that the old men are children twice over
and that it is far more fitting to chastise them than the young, for
there is less excuse for their faults.
But the law nowhere admits that fathers should be treated
Was not the legislator who carried this law a man like
you and me? In those days be got men to believe him; then why should
not I too have the right to establish for the future a new law, allowing
children to beat their fathers in turn? We make you a present of all
the blows which were received before his law, and admit that you thrashed
us with impunity. But look how the cocks and other animals fight with
their fathers; and yet what difference is there betwixt them and ourselves,
unless it be that they do not propose decrees?
But if you imitate the cocks in all things, why don't
you scratch up the dunghill, why don't you sleep on a perch?
That has no bearing on the case, good sir; Socrates would
find no connection, I assure you.
Then do not beat at all, for otherwise you have only
yourself to blame afterwards.
I have the right to chastise you, and you to chastise
your son, if you have one.
And if I have not, I shall have cried in vain, and you
will die laughing in my face.
What say you, all here present? It seems to me that he
is right, and I am of opinion that they should be accorded their right.
If we think wrongly, it is but just we should be beaten.
Again, consider this other point.
It will be the death of me.
But you will certainly feel no more anger because of
the blows I have given you.
Come, show me what profit I shall gain from it.
I shall beat my mother just as I have you.
What do you say? what's that you say? Hah! this is far
And what if I prove to you by our school reasoning, that
one ought to beat one's mother?
Ah! if you do that, then you will only have to throw
yourself, along with Socrates and his reasoning, into the Barathrum.
Oh! Clouds! all our troubles emanate from you, from you, to whom I
entrusted myself, body and soul.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
No, you alone are the cause, because you have
pursued the path of evil.
Why did you not say so then, instead of egging on a poor
ignorant old man?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
We always act thus, when we see a man conceive
a passion for what is evil; we strike him with some terrible disgrace,
so that he may learn to fear the gods.
Alas! oh Clouds! that's hard indeed, but it's just! I
ought not to have cheated my creditors....But come, my dear son, come
with me to take vengeance on this wretched Chaerephon and on Socrates,
who have deceived us both.
I shall do nothing against our masters.
Oh show some reverence for ancestral Zeus!
Mark him and his ancestral Zeus! What a fool you are!
Does any such being as Zeus exist?
No, a thousand times no! The ruler of the world is the
Whirlwind, that has unseated Zeus.
He has not dethroned him. I believed it, because of this
whirligig here. Unhappy wretch that I am! I have taken a piece of
clay to be a god.
Very well! Keep your stupid nonsense for your own consumption.
(He goes back into STREPSIADES' house.)
Oh! what madness! I had lost my reason when I threw over
the gods through Socrates' seductive phrases. (Addressing the statue
of Hermes) Oh! good Hermes, do not destroy me in your wrath. Forgive
me; their babbling had driven me crazy. Be my counselor. Shall I pursue
them at law or shall I....? Order and I obey.-You are right, no law-suit;
but up! let us burn down the home of those praters. Here, Xanthias,
here! take a ladder, come forth and arm yourself with an axe; now
mount upon the Thoughtery, demolish the roof, if you love your master,
and may the house fall in upon them. Ho! bring me a blazing torch!
There is more than one of them, arch-impostors as they are, on whom
I am determined to have vengeance.
(from within) Oh! oh!
Come, torch, do your duty! Burst into full flame!
What are you up to?
What am I up to? Why, I am entering upon a subtle argument
with the beams of the house.
(from within) Hullo! hullo who is burning down our
The man whose cloak you have appropriated.
You are killing us!
That is just exactly what I hope, unless my axe plays
me false, or I fall and break my neck.
(appearing at the window) Hi! you fellow on the roof, what
are you doing up there?
(mocking SOCRATES' manner) I am traversing the air and
contemplating the sun.
Ah! ah! woe is upon me! I am suffocating!
And I, alas, shall be burnt up!
Ah! you insulted the gods! You studied the face of the
moon! Chase them, strike and beat them down! Forward! they have richly
deserved their fate-above all, by reason of their blasphemies.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
So let the Chorus file off the stage. Its part
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Translation of "The Deeds of the Divine Augustus" by Augustus is
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