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Written 390 B.C.E
BLEPYRUS, husband of Praxagora
A YOUNG MAN
THREE OLD WOMEN
A SERVANT MAID to PRAXAGORA
CHORUS OF WOMEN
The Orchestra represents a public square in Athens; in the background are two houses with an alley between them.
swinging the lantern, which is to be a signal for the other women; in
high tragic style
Oh! Thou shining light of my earthenware lamp, from this high spot shalt
thou look abroad. Oh! lamp, I will tell thee thine origin and thy future;
'tis the rapid whirl of the potter's wheel that has lent thee thy shape,
and thy wick counterfeits the glory of the sun; mayst thou send the agreed
signal flashing afar! In thee alone do we confide, and thou art worthy,
for thou art near us when we practise the various postures in which Aphrodite
delights upon our couches, and none dreams even in the midst of her sports
of seeking to avoid thine eye that watches us. Thou alone shinest into
the secret recesses of our thighs and dost singe the hair that groweth
there, and with thy flame dost light the actions of our loves. If we open
some cellar stored with fruits and wine, thou art our companion, and never
dost thou betray or reveal to a neighbour the secrets thou hast learned
about us. Therefore thou shalt know likewise the whole of the plot that
I have planned with my friends, the women, at the festival of the Scirophoria.
She pauses and looks about her.
I see none of those I was expecting, though dawn approaches; the Assembly
is about to gather and we must take our seats in spite of Phyromachus,
who forsooth would say, "It is meet the women sit apart and hidden from
the eyes of the men." Why, have they not been able then to procure the
false beards that they must wear, or to steal their husbands' cloaks? Ah!
I see a light approaching; let us draw somewhat aside, for fear it should
be a man.
She hides in the alley. From the right a woman enters, followed almost
immediately by others. All are carrying staffs, men's sandals, and cloaks
over their arms.
Let us start, it is high time; as we left our dwellings, the
cock was crowing for the second time.
And I have spent the whole night waiting for you.
She emerges from the alley.
But come, let us call our neighbour by scratching at her door; and gently
too, so that her husband may hear nothing.
coming out of her house; she is dressed like a man, with a staff in
I was putting on my shoes, when I heard you scratching, for I was not asleep,
so there! Oh! my dear, my husband (he is a Salaminian) never left me an
instant's peace, but was at me, for ever at me, all night long, so that
it was only just now that I was able to filch his cloak.
I see Clinarete coming too, along with Sostrate and their next-door
To the women that are just arriving; in a loud voice
Hurry yourselves then, for Glyce has sworn that the last comer shall forfeit
three measures of wine and a choenix of pease.
Don't you see Melistice, the wife of Smicythion, hurrying hither
in her big shoes? I think she is the only one of us all who has had no
trouble in getting rid of her husband.
And can't you see Geusistrate, the tavern-keeper's wife, with
a lamp in her hand?
And the wives of Philodoretus and Chaeretades, and a great
many others; all the useful people in the city, in fact.
Oh! my dear, I have had such trouble in getting away! My husband
ate such a surfeit of sprats last evening that he was coughing and choking
the whole night long.
Take your seats, and, since you are all gathered here at last,
let us see if what we decided on at the feast of the Scirophoria has been
Yes. Firstly, as agreed, I have let the hair under my armpits
grow thicker than a bush; furthermore, whilst my husband was at the Assembly,
I rubbed myself from head to foot with oil and then stood the whole day
long in the sun.
So did I. I began by throwing away my razor, so that I might
get quite hairy, and no longer resemble a woman.
Have you the beards that we had all to get ourselves for the
Yea, by Hecate! Is this not a fine one?
Aye, much finer even than the one Epicrates has.
to the other women
Yes, yes; look, they all nod assent.
I see that you have got all the rest too, Spartan shoes, staffs
and men's cloaks, as it was arranged.
I have brought Lamias' club, which I stole from him while he
What, the club that makes him fart with its weight?
By Zeus the Deliverer, if he had the skin of Argus, he would
know better than any other how to shepherd the popular herd.
But come, let us finish what has yet to be done, while the
stars are still shining; the Assembly, at which we mean to be present,
will open at dawn.
Good; you must take up your place at the foot of the platform
and facing the Prytanes.
I have brought this with me to card during the Assembly.
She shows some wool.
During the Assembly, wretched woman?
Surely, by Artemis! shall I hear any less well if I am doing
a bit of carding? My little ones are all but naked.
Think of her wanting to card! whereas we must not let anyone
see the smallest part of our bodies. 'Twould be a fine thing if one of
us, in the midst of the discussion, rushed on to the speaker's platform
and, flinging her cloak aside, showed her Phormisius. If, on the other
hand, we are the first to take our seats closely muffled in our cloaks,
none will know us. Let us fix these beards on our chins, so that they spread
all over our bosoms. How can we fail then to be mistaken for men? Agyrrhius
has deceived everyone, thanks to the beard of Pronomus; yet he was no better
than a woman, and you see how he now holds the first position in the city.
Thus, I adjure you by this day that is about to dawn, let us dare to copy
him and let us be clever enough to possess ourselves of the management
of affairs. Let us save the ship of state, which just at present none seems
able either to sail or row.
in a tragic style
But where shall we find orators in an Assembly of women?
Nothing simpler. Is it not said that the cleverest speakers
are those who get made love to most often? Well, thanks to the gods, we
are that by nature.
There's no doubt of that; but the worst of it is our inexperience.
That's the very reason we are gathered here, in order to prepare
the speech we must make in the Assembly. Hasten, therefore, all you who
know aught of speaking, to fix on your beards.
Oh you stupid thing! is there ever a one among us cannot use
Come, look sharp, on with your beard and become a man. As for
me, I will do the same in case I should have a fancy for getting on to
the platform. Here are the chaplets.
They all put on their beards.
Oh! great gods! my dear Praxagora, do look here! Is it not
Our beards look like broiled cuttle-fishes.
pretending to be the herald
Priest, bring in the cat. Step forward, please Silence, Ariphrades! Come
and take your seat. Now, who wishes to speak?
Then put on this chaplet and success be with you.
Well then I begin.
Hah! she wants to drink!
Why, what else is the meaning of this chaplet?
Get you hence! you would probably have played us this trick
also before the people.
Well! don't the men drink then in the Assembly?
Now she's telling us the men drink!
Yes, by Artemis, and neat wine too. That's why their decrees
breathe of drunkenness and madness. And why libations, why so many ceremonies,
if wine plays no part in them? Besides, they abuse each other like drunken
men, and you can see the archers dragging more than one uproarious drunkard
out of the market-place.
Go back to your seat, you are wandering.
returning to her seat
Ah! I should have done better not to have muffled myself in this beard;
my throat's afire and I feel I shall die of thirst.
Who else wishes to speak?
Quick then, take the chaplet; the time's running short. Try
to speak worthily, let your language be truly manly, and lean on your staff
I had rather have seen one of your regular orators giving you
wise advice; but, as that is not to be, it behoves me to break silence;
I cannot, for my part indeed, allow the tavern-keepers to fill up their
wine-pits with water. No, by the two goddesses...
What? by the two goddesses! Wretched woman, where are your
Eh! what?... I have not asked you for a drink.
No, but you want to pass for a man, and you swear by the two
goddesses. Otherwise you did very well.
Well then. By Apollo...
Stop! All these details of language must be adjusted; else
it is quite useless to go to the Assembly.
Give me back the chaplet; I wish to speak again, for I think
I have got hold of something good. You women who are listening to me...
Women again; why, you wretched creature, it's men that you
That's the fault of Epigonus; I caught sight of him way over
there, and I thought I was speaking to women.
Come, withdraw and remain seated in the future. I am going
to take this chaplet myself and speak in your name. May the gods grant
success to my plans! My country is as dear to me as it is to you, and I
groan, I am grieved at all that is happening in it. Scarcely one in ten
of those who rule it is honest, and all the others are bad. If you appoint
fresh chiefs, they will do still worse. It is hard to correct your peevish
humour; you fear those who love you and throw yourselves at the feet of
those who betray you. There was a time when we had no assemblies, and then
we all thought Agyrrhius a dishonest man; now they are established, he
who gets money thinks everything is as it should be, and he who does not,
declares all who sell their votes to be worthy of death.
By Aphrodite, that is well spoken.
Why, wretched woman, you have actually called upon Aphrodite.
Oh! what a fine thing it would have been if you had said that in the Assembly!
But I would not have done it then.
Well, mind you don't fall into the habit.
Resuming the oratorical manner
When we were discussing the alliance, it seemed as though it were all over
with Athens if it fell through. No sooner was it made than we were vexed
and angry, and the orator who had caused its adoption was compelled to
seek safety in flight. Is there talk of equipping a fleet? The poor man
says, yes, but the rich citizen and the countryman say, no. You were angered
against the Corinthians and they with you; now they are well disposed towards
you, be so towards them. As a rule the Argives are dull, but the Argive
Hieronymus is a distinguished chief. Herein lies a spark of hope; but Thrasybulus
is far from Athens and you do not recall him.
Oh! what a brilliant man!
That's better! that's fitting applause.
Continuing her speech
Citizens, you are the ones who are the cause of all this trouble. You vote
yourselves salaries out of the public funds and care only for your own
personal interests; hence the state limps along like Aesimus. But if you
hearken to me, you will be saved. I assert that the direction of affairs
must be handed over to the women, for they are the ones who have charge
and look after our households.
ALL THE WOMEN
Very good, very good, that's perfect! Go on, go on.
ignoring this interruption
They are worth more than you are, as I shall prove. First of all they wash
all their wool in warm water, according to the ancient practice; you will
never see them changing their method. Ah! if Athens only acted thus, if
it did not take delight in ceaseless innovations, would not its happiness
be assured? Then the women sit down to cook, just as they always did; they
carry things on their head just as they always did; they keep the Thesmophoria,
just as they always did; they knead their cakes just as they always did;
they make their husbands angry just as they always did; they receive their
lovers in their houses just as they always did; they buy dainties just
as they always did; they love unmixed wine just as they always did; they
delight in being loved just as they always did. Let us therefore hand Athens
over to them without endless discussions, without bothering ourselves about
what they will do; let us simply hand them over the power, remembering
that they are mothers and will therefore spare the blood of our soldiers;
besides, who will know better than a mother how to forward provisions to
the front? Woman is adept at getting money for herself and will not easily
let herself be deceived; she understands deceit too well herself. I omit
a thousand other advantages. Take my advice and you will live in perfect
How beautiful this is, my dearest Praxagora, how clever! But
where, pray, did you learn all these pretty things?
When the countryfolk were seeking refuge in the city, I lived
on the Pnyx with my husband, and there I learnt to speak through listening
to the orators.
Then, dear, it's not astonishing that you are so eloquent and
clever, henceforward you shall be our leader, so put your great ideas into
execution. But if Cephalus belches forth insults against you, what answer
will you give him in the Assembly?
I shall say that he is drivelling.
But all the world knows that.
I shall furthermore say that he is a raving madman.
There's nobody who does not know that.
That he, as excellent a statesman as he is, is a clumsy potter.
And if the blear-eyed Neoclides comes to insult you?
To him I shall say, "Go and look at a dog's arse."
And if they fly at you?
Oh! I shall shake them off as best I can; never fear, I know
how to use this too!
But there is one thing we don't think of. If the Scythians
drag you away, what will you do?
With my arms akimbo like this, I will never, never let myself
be taken round the middle.
If they seize you, we will bid them let you go.
That's the best way. But how are we going to remember to lift
our arms in the Assembly when it's our legs we are used to lifting?
It's difficult; yet it must be done, and the arm shown naked
to the shoulder in order to vote. Quick now, put on these tunics and these
Laconian shoes, as you see the men do each time they go to the Assembly
or for a walk. When this is done, fix on your beards, and when they are
arranged in the best way possible, dress yourselves in the cloaks you have
stolen from your husbands; finally start off, leaning on your staffs and
singing some old man's song as the villagers do.
Well spoken; and let us hurry to get to the Pnyx before the
women from the country, for they will no doubt not fail to come there.
Quick, quick, for it's the custom that those who are not at
the Pnyx early in the morning return home empty-handed.
PRAXAGORA and the FIRST and SECOND WOMEN depart; those who are left
behind form the CHORUS.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Move forward, citizens, move forward; let us not forget to
give ourselves this name and may that of woman never slip out of our mouths;
woe to us, if it were discovered that we had laid such a plot in the darkness
Let us go to the Assembly then, fellow-citizens; for the Thesmothetes have
declared that only those who arrive at daybreak with haggard eye and covered
with dust, without having snatched time to eat anything but a snack of
garlic-pickle, shall alone receive the triobolus. Walk up smartly, Charitimides,
Smicythus and Draces, and do not fail in any point of your part; let us
first demand our fee and then vote for all that may perchance be useful
for our partisans.... Ah! what am I saying? I meant to say, for our fellow-citizens.
Let us drive away these men of the city who used to stay at home and chatter
round the table in the days when only an obolus was paid, whereas now one
is stifled by the crowds at the Pnyx. No! during the archonship of generous
Myronides, none would have dared to let himself be paid for the trouble
he spent over public business; each one brought his own meal of bread,
a couple of onions, three olives and some wine in a little wine-skin. But
nowadays we run here to earn the three obols, for the citizen has become
as mercenary as the stonemason.
The CHORUS marches away. BLEPYRUS appears in the doorway of his house,
wearing PRAXAGORA's Persian sandals and saffron robe.
What does this mean? My wife has vanished! it is nearly daybreak
and she does not return! I had to take a crap! I woke up and hunted in
the darkness for my shoes and my cloak; but grope where I would, I couldn't
find them. Meanwhile Mr. O'Shit was already knocking on the door and I
had only just time to seize my wife's little mantle and her Persian slippers.
But where shall I find a place where I can take a crap? Bah! One place
is as good as another at night-time; no one will see me. Ah! what a damned
fool I was to take a wife at my age, and how I could thrash myself for
having acted so stupidly! It's certainty she's not gone out for any honest
purpose. But the thing to do now is to take a crap.
looking out of the window of the house next door
Who's that? Is that not my neighbour Blepyrus? Why, yes, it's no other.
Tell me, what's all that yellow about you? Can it be Cinesias who has befouled
No, no, I only slipped on my wife's tunic to come out in.
And where is your cloak?
I cannot tell you; I hunted for it vainly on the bed.
And why did you not ask your wife for it?
Ah! why indeed! because she is not in the house; she has run
away, and I greatly fear that she may be doing me an ill turn.
But, by Posidon, it's the same with myself. My wife has disappeared
with my cloak, and what is still worse, with my shoes as well; I cannot
find them anywhere.
Nor can I my Laconian ones; but as I urgently needed to crap,
I popped my feet into these slippers, so as not to soil my blanket, which
is brand new.
What does it mean? Can some friend have invited her to a feast?
I expect so, for she does not generally misconduct herself,
as far as I know.
What are you doing, making well-ropes? Are you never going
to be done? As for myself, I would like to go to the Assembly, and it is
time to start, but I've got to find my cloak; I have only one.
I am going to have a look too, when I have finished crapping;
but I really think there must be a wild pear obstructing my rectum.
Is it the one which Thrasybulus spoke about to the Lacedaemonians?
Oh! oh! oh! stopped up I am! Whatever am I to do? It's not
merely for the present that I am frightened; but when I have eaten, where
is my crap to find an outlet now? This damned McPear fellow has bolted
the door. Call a doctor; but who is the cleverest in this branch of the
science? Amynon? Perhaps he would not come. Ah! Antisthenes! Let him be
brought to me, cost what it will. To judge by his noisy sighs, that man
knows what an arse wants, when it needs to crap. Oh! venerated Ilithyia!
I shall burst unless the door gives way. Have pity! pity! Let me not become
a thunder-mug for the comic poets.
Enter CHREMES, returning from the Assembly.
Hi! friend, what are you doing there? You're not crapping,
finding relief at last
Oh! there! it is over and I can get up again.
What's this? You have your wife's tunic on.
It was the first thing that came to my hand in the darkness.
But where are you coming from?
From the Assembly.
Is it already over then?
Why, it is scarcely daylight.
I did laugh, ye gods, at the vermilion rope-marks that were
to be seen all about the Assembly.
Did you get the triobolus?
Would it had so pleased the gods! but I arrived just too late,
and am quite ashamed of it; I bring back nothing but this empty wallet.
But why is that?
There was a crowd, such as has never been seen at the Pnyx,
and the folk looked pale and wan, like so many shoemakers, so white were
they in hue; both I and many another had to go without the triobolus.
Then if I went now, I should get nothing.
No, certainly not, nor even had you gone at the second cock-crow.
Oh! what a misfortune! "Oh, Antilochus! no triobolus! Even
death would be better! I am undone!" But what can have attracted such a
crowd at that early hour?
The Prytanes started the discussion of measures closely concerning
the safety of the state; immediately, that blear-eyed fellow, the son of
Neoclides, was the first to mount the platform. Then the folk shouted with
their loudest voice, "What! he dares to speak, and that, too, when the
safety of the state is concerned, and he a man who has not known how to
save even his own eyebrows!" He, however, shouted louder than all of them,
and looking at them asked, "Why, what ought I to have done?"
Pound together garlic and laserpitium juice, add to this mixture
some Laconian spurge, and rub it well into the eyelids at night. That's
what I should have answered, had I been there.
After him that clever rascal Evaeon began to speak; he was
naked, so far as we all could see, but he declared he had a cloak; he propounded
the most popular, the most democratic, doctrines. "You see," he said, "I
have the greatest need of sixteen drachmae, the cost of a new cloak, my
health demands it; nevertheless I wish first to care for that of my fellow-citizens
and of my country. If the fullers were to supply tunics to the indigent
at the approach of winter, none would be exposed to pleurisy. Let him who
has neither beds nor coverlets go to sleep at the tanners' after taking
a bath; and if they shut the door in winter, let them be condemned to give
him three goat-skins."
By Dionysus, a fine, a very fine notion! Not a soul will vote
against his proposal, especially if he adds that the flour-sellers must
supply the poor with three measures of corn, or else suffer the severest
penalties of the law; this is the only way Nausicydes can be of any use
Then we saw a handsome young man rush into the tribune, be
was all pink and white like young Nicias, and he began to say that the
direction of matters should be entrusted to the women; this the crowd of
shoemakers began applauding with all their might, while the country-folk
assailed him with groans.
And, indeed, they did well.
But they were outnumbered, and the orator shouted louder than
they, saying much good of the women and much ill of you.
And what did he say?
First he said you were a rogue...
Wait a minute!...and a thief...
And an informer.
Why, no, by the gods! this whole crowd here.
He points to the audience.
And who avers the contrary?
He maintained that women were both clever and thrifty, that
they never divulged the Mysteries of Demeter, while you and I go about
babbling incessantly about whatever happens at the Senate.
By Hermes, he was not lying!
Then he added that the women lend each other clothes, trinkets
of gold and silver, drinking-cups, and not before witnesses too, but all
by themselves, and that they return everything with exactitude without
ever cheating each other; whereas, according to him, we are ever ready
to deny the loans we have effected.
Yes, by Posidon, and in spite of witnesses.
Again, he said that women were not informers, nor did they
bring lawsuits, nor hatch conspiracies; in short, he praised the women
in every possible manner.
And what was decided?
To confide the direction of affairs to them; it's the one and
only innovation that has not yet been tried at Athens.
And it was voted?
And everything that used to be the men's concern has been given
over to the women?
You express it exactly.
Thus it will be my wife who will go to the courts now in my
And it will be she who will keep your children in your place.
I shall no longer have to tire myself out with work from daybreak
No, 'twill be the women's business, and you can stay at home
and amuse yourself with farting the whole day through.
Well, what I fear for us fellows now is, that, holding the
reins of government, they will forcibly compel us...
To do what?
...to lay them.
And if we are not able?
They will give us no dinner.
Well then, do your duty; dinner and love-making form a double
Ah! but I hate compulsion.
But if it is for the public good, let us resign ourselves.
It's an old saying that our absurdest and maddest decrees always somehow
turn out for our good. May it be so in this case, oh gods, oh venerable
Pallas! But I must be off; so, good-bye to you!
He goes back into his house.
returning from the Assembly, still dressed like men;
March along, go forward. Is there some man following us? Turn round, examine
everywhere and keep a good look-out; be on your guard against every trick,
for they might spy on us from behind. Let us make as much noise as possible
as we tramp. It would be a disgrace for all of us if we allowed ourselves
to be caught in this deed by the men. Come, wrap yourselves up well, and
search both right and left, so that no mischance may happen to us. Let
us hasten our steps; here we are close to the meeting-place whence we started
for the Assembly, and here is the house of our leader, the author of this
bold scheme, which is now decreed by all the citizens. Let us not lose
a moment in taking off our false beards, for we might be recognized and
denounced. Let us stand under the shadow of this wall; let us glance round
sharply with our eye to beware of surprises, while we quickly resume our
ordinary dress. Ah! here is our leader, returning from the Assembly. Hasten
to relieve your chins of these flowing manes. Look at your comrades yonder;
they have already made themselves women again some while ago.
They remove the beards as PRAXAGORA and the other women enter from the
right through the Orchestra.
Friends, success has crowned our plans. But off with these
cloaks and these boots quick, before any man sees you; unbuckle the Laconian
straps and get rid of your staffs;
to the LEADER
and you help them with their toilet. As for myself, I am going to slip
quietly into the house and replace my husband's cloak and other gear where
I took them from, before he can suspect anything.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
There! it's done according to your bidding. Now tell us how
we can be of service to you, so that we may show you our obedience, for
we have never seen a cleverer woman than you.
Wait! I only wish to use the power given me in accordance with
your wishes; for, in the market-place, in the midst of the shouts and danger,
I appreciated your indomitable courage.
Just as she is about to enter the house BLEPYRUS appears in the
Eh, Praxagora! where are you coming from?
How does that concern you, dear?
Why, greatly! what a silly question!
You don't think I have come from a lover's?
No, perhaps not from only one.
You can make yourself sure of that.
You can see whether my hair smells of perfume.
What? cannot a woman possibly be laid without perfume, eh!
The gods forfend, as far as I am concerned.
Why did you go off at early dawn with my cloak?
Acompanion, a friend who was in labour, had sent to fetch me.
Could you not have told me?
Oh, my dear, would you have me caring nothing for a poor woman
in that plight?
A word would have been enough. There's something behind all
No, I call the goddesses to witness! I went running off; the
poor woman who summoned me begged me to come, whatever might betide.
And why did you not take your mantle? Instead of that, you
carry of mine, you throw your dress upon the bed and you leave me as the
dead are left, bar the chaplets and perfumes.
It was cold, and I am frail and delicate; I took your cloak
for greater warmth, leaving you thoroughly warm yourself beneath your coverlets.
And my shoes and staff, those too went off with you?
I was afraid they might rob me of the cloak, and so, to look
like a man, I put on your shoes and walked with a heavy tread and struck
the stones with your staff.
D'you know you have made us lose a sextary of wheat, which
I should have bought with the triobolus of the Assembly?
Be comforted, for she had a boy.
Who? the Assembly?
No, no, the woman I helped. But has the Assembly taken place
Did I not tell you of it yesterday?
True; I remember now.
And don't you know the decrees that have been voted?
Go to! you can live on lobster from now on, for they say the
government is handed over to you.
To do what-to spin?
No, that you may rule...
...over all public business.
as she exclaims this CHREMES reappears
Oh! by Aphrodite how happy Athens will be!
For a thousand reasons. None will dare now to do shameless
deeds, give false testimony or lay informations.
Stop! in the name of the gods! Do you want me to die of hunger?
Good sir, let your wife speak.
There will be no more thieves, nor envious people, no more
rags nor misery, no more abuse and no more prosecutions and law-suits.
By Posidon! that's grand, if it's true!
I shall prove it and you shall be my witness and even he
pointing to Blepyrus
will have no objections to raise.
You have served your friends, but now it behoves you to apply your ability
and your care to the welfare of the people. Devote the fecundity of your
mind to the public weal; adorn the citizens' lives with a thousand enjoyments
and teach them to seize every favourable opportunity. Devise some ingenious
method to secure the much-needed salvation of Athens; but let neither your
acts nor your words recall anything of the past, for 'tis only innovations
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But do not fail to put your plans into execution immediately;
it's quick action that pleases the audience.
I believe my ideas are good, but what I fear is that the public
will cling to the old customs and refuse to accept my reforms.
Have no fear about that. Love of novelty and disdain for traditions,
these are the dominating principles among us.
to the audience
Let none contradict nor interrupt me until I have explained my plan. I
want all to have a share of everything and all property to be in common;
there will no longer be either rich or poor; no longer shall we see one
man harvesting vast tracts of land, while another has not ground enough
to be buried in, nor one man surround himself with a whole army of slaves,
while another has not a single attendant; I intend that there shan only
be one and the same condition of life for all.
But how do you mean for all?
You'll eat dung before I do!
Won't the dung be common too?
No, no, but you interrupted me too soon. This is what I was
going to say; I shall begin by making land, money, everything that is private
property, common to all. Then we shall live on this common wealth, which
we shall take care to administer with wise thrift.
And how about the man who has no land, but only gold and silver
coins, that cannot be seen?
He must bring them to the common stock, and if he fails he
will be a perjured man.
That won't worry him much, for has he not gained them by perjury?
But his riches will no longer be of any use to him.
The poor will no longer be obliged to work; each will have
all that he needs, bread, salt fish, cakes, tunics, wine, chaplets and
chick-pease; of what advantage will it be to him not to contribute his
share to the common wealth? What do you think of it?
But is it not the biggest robbers that have all these things?
Yes, formerly, under the old order of things; but now that
all goods are in common, what will he gain by not bringing his wealth into
the general stock?
If someone saw a pretty wench and wished to lay her, he would
take some of his reserve store to make her a present and stay the night
with her; this would not prevent him claiming his share of the common property.
But he can sleep with her for nothing; I intend that women
shall belong to all men in common, and each shall beget children by any
man that wishes to have her.
But all will go to the prettiest woman and try to lay her.
The ugliest and the most flat-nosed will be side by side with
the most charming, and to win the latter's favours, a man will first have
to get into the former.
But what about us oldsters? If we have to lay the old women
first, how can we keep our tools from failing before we get into the Promised
They will make no resistance. Never fear; they will make no
Resistance to what?
To the pleasure of the thing. This is the way that matters
will be ordered for you.
It's very well conceived for you women, for every wench's hole
will be filled; but what about the men? The women will run away from the
ugly ones and chase the good-looking.
The ugly will follow the handsomest into the public places
after supper and see to it that the law, which forbids the women to sleep
with the big, handsome men before having satisfied the ugly shrimps, is
Thus ugly Lysicrates' nose will be as proud as the handsomest
Yes, by Apollo! this is a truly popular decree, and what a
set-back it will be for one of those elegants with their fingers loaded
with rings, when a man with heavy shoes says to him, "Give way to me and
wait till I have done; you will pass in after me."
But if we live in this fashion, how will each one know his
The youngest will look upon the oldest as their fathers.
Ah! how heartily they will strangle all the old men, since
even now, when each one knows his father, they make no bones about strangling
him! then, my word! won't they just scorn and crap upon the old folks!
But those around will prevent it. Hitherto, when anyone saw
an old man beaten, he would not meddle, because it did not concern him;
buff now each will fear the sufferer may be his own father and such violence
will be stopped.
What you say is not so silly after all; but it would be highly
unpleasant were Epicurus and Leucolophas to come up and call me father.
But it would be far worse, were...
...Aristyllus to embrace you and style you his father.
He'll regret it if he does!
For you would smell vilely of mint if he kissed you. But he
was born before the decree was carried, so that you have not to fear his
It would be awful. But who will till the soil?
The slaves. Your only cares will be to scent yourself, and
to go and dine, when the shadow of the gnomon is ten feet long on the dial.
But how shall we obtain clothing? Tell me that!
You will first wear out those you have, and then we women will
weave you others.
Now another point: if the magistrates condemn a citizen to
the payment of a fine, how is he going to do it? Out of the public funds?
That would not be right surely.
But there will be no more lawsuits.
This rule will ruin you.
I think so too.
Besides, my dear, why should there be lawsuits?
Oh! for a thousand reasons, on my faith! Firstly, because a
debtor denies his obligation.
But where will the lender get the money to lend, if all is
in common? unless he steals it out of the treasury? and he could not hide
Well thought out, by Demeter!
But tell me this: here are some men who are returning from
a feast and are drunk and they strike some passer-by; how are they going
to pay the fine? Ah! you are puzzled now!
They will have to take it out of their pittance; and being
thus punished through their belly, they will not care to begin again.
There will be no more thieves then, eh?
Why steal, if you have a share of everything?
People will not be robbed any more at night?
Not if you sleep at home.
Even if you sleep outdoors there will be no more danger, for
all will have the means of living. Besides, if anyone wanted to steal your
cloak, you would give it to him yourself. Why not? You will only have to
go to the common store and be given a better one.
There will be no more playing at dice?
What object will there be in playing?
But what kind of life is it you propose to set up?
The life in common. Athens will become nothing more than a
single house, in which everything will belong to everyone; so that everybody
will be able to go from one house to the other at pleasure.
And where will the meals be served?
The law-courts and the porticoes will be turned into dining-halls.
And what will the speaker's platform be used for?
I shall place the bowls and the ewers there; and young children
will sing the glory of the brave from there, also the infamy of cowards,
who out of very shame will no longer dare to come to the public meals.
Well thought out, by Apollo! And what will you do with the
I shall have them taken to the market-place, and standing close
to the statue of Harmodius, I shall draw a lot for each citizen, which
by its letter will show the place where he must go to dine. Thus, those
for whom I have drawn an R will go to the royal portico; if it's a T, they
will go to the portico of Theseus; if it's an F, to that of the flour-market.
To cram himself there like a capon?
No, to dine there.
And the citizen whom the lot has not given a letter showing
where he is to dine will be driven off by everyone?
with great solemnity
But that will not occur. Each man will have plenty; he will not leave the
feast until he is well drunk, and then with a chaplet on his head and a
torch in his hand; and then the women running to meet you in the crossroads
will say, "This way, come to our house, you will find a beautiful young
girl there."-"And I," another will call from her balcony, "have one so
pretty and as white as milk; but before touching her, you must sleep with
me." And the ugly men, watching closely after the handsome fellows, will
say, "Hi! friend, where are you running to? Go in, but you must do nothing;
it's the ugly and the flat-nosed to whom the law gives the right to make
love first; amuse yourself on the porch while you wait, in handling your
fig-leaves and playing with yourself." Well, tell me, does that picture
BLEPYRUS AND CHREMES
I must now go to the market-place to receive the property that
is going to be placed in common and to choose a woman with a loud voice
as my herald. I have all the cares of state on my shoulders, since the
power has been entrusted to me. I must likewise go to busy myself about
establishing the common meals, and you will attend your first banquet to-day.
Are we going to banquet?
Why, undoubtedly! Furthermore, I propose abolishing the whores.
And what for?
It's clear enough why; so that, instead of them, we may have
the first-fruits of the young men. It is not meet that tricked-out slaves
should rob free-born women of their pleasures. Let the courtesans be free
to sleep with the slaves.
I will march at your side, so that I may be seen and that everyone
may say, "Look at the Dictator's husband!"
He follows PRAXAGORA into their house.
As for me, I shall arrange my belongings and take inventory
of them, in order that I may take them to the market-place.
There is an interlude of dancing by the CHORUS, after which CHREMES
returns with his belongings and arranges them in a long
Come hither, my beautiful sieve, I have nothing more precious
than you, come, all clotted with the flour of which I have poured so many
sacks through you; you shall act the part of Canephorus in the procession
of my chattels. Where is the sunshade carrier? Ah! this stew-pot shall
take his place. Great gods, how black it is! it could not be more so if
Lysicrates had boiled the drugs in it with which be dyes his hair. Hither,
my beautiful mirror. And you, my tripod, bear this urn for me; you shall
be the water-bearer; and you, cock, whose morning song has so often roused
me in the middle of the night to send me hurrying to the Assembly, you
shall be my flute-girl. Scaphephorus, do you take the large basin, place
in it the honeycombs and twine the olive-branches over them, bring the
tripods and the phial of perfume; as for the humble crowd of little pots,
I will just leave them behind.
watching CHREMES from a distance
What folly to carry one's goods to the common store; I have a little more
sense than that. No, no, by Posidon, I want first to ponder and calculate
over the thing at leisure. I shall not be fool enough to strip myself of
the fruits of my toil and thrift, if it is not for a very good reason;
let us see first which way things turn.
He walks over to CHREMES
Hi! friend, what means this display of goods? Are you moving or are you
going to pawn your stuff?
Why then are you setting all these things out in line? Is it
a procession that you are starting off to Hiero, the public crier?
No, but in accordance with the new law that has been decreed,
I am going to carry all these things to the market-place to make a gift
of them to the state.
Oh! bah! you don't mean that.
Oh! Zeus the Deliverer! you unfortunate man!
Why? It's as clear as noonday.
Must the laws not be obeyed then?
What laws, you poor fellow?
Those that have been decreed.
Decreed! Are you mad, I ask you?
Am I mad?
Oh! this is the height of folly!
Because I obey the law?
Is that the duty of a smart man?
Say rather of a ninny.
Don't you propose taking what belongs to you to the common
I'll take good care I don't until I see what the majority are
There's but one opinion, namely, to contribute every single
thing one has.
I am waiting to see it, before I believe that.
At least, so they say in every street.
And they will go on saying so.
Everyone talks of contributing all he has.
in the same tone
And will go on talking of it.
You weary me with your doubts and dubitations.
in the same tone
Everybody else will doubt it.
The pest seize you!
in the same tone
It will take you.
What? give up your goods! Is there a man of sense who will do such a thing?
Giving is not one of our customs. Receiving is another matter; it's the
way of the gods themselves. Look at the position of their hands on their
statues; when we ask a favour, they present their hands turned palm up
so as not to give, but to receive.
Wretch, let me do what is right. Come, I'll make a bundle of
all these things. Where is my strap?
Are you really going to carry them in?
Undoubtedly, and there are my two tripods strung together already.
What folly! Not to wait to see what the others do, and then...
Well, and then what?
...wait and put it off again.
That an earthquake may come or an ill-omened flash of lightning,
that a black cat may run across the street and no one carry in anything
more, you fool!
It would be a fine thing if I were to find no room left for
placing all this.
You are much more likely to lose your stuff. As for placing
it, you can be at ease, for there will be room enough as long as a month
I know these people; a decree is readily passed, but it is
not so easily attended to.
All will contribute their property, my friend.
But what if they don't?
But there is no doubt that they will.
But anyhow, what if they don't?
Do not worry; they will.
And what if they oppose it?
We shall compel them to do so.
And what if they prove the stronger?
I shall leave my goods and go off.
And what if they sell them for you?
The plague take you!
And if it does?
It will be a good riddance.
in an incredulous tone
You are really bent on contributing, then?
'Pon my soul, yes! Look, there are all my neighbours carrying
in all they have.
Oh yes, it's Antisthenes; he's the type that would contribute! He would
just as soon spend the next month sitting on the can.
The pest seize you!
Will Callimachus, the chorus-master, contribute anything?
Why, more than Callias!
The man must want to spend all his money!
How you weary me!
Ah! I weary you? But, wretch, see what comes of decrees of
this kind. Don't you remember the one reducing the price of salt?
Why, certainly I do.
And do you remember that about the copper coinage?
Ah! that cursed money did me enough harm. I had sold my grapes
and had my mouth stuffed with pieces of copper; indeed I was going to the
market to buy flour, and was in the act of holding out my bag wide open,
when the herald started shouting, "Let none in future accept pieces of
copper; those of silver are alone current."
And quite lately, were we not all swearing that the impost
of one-fortieth, which Euripides had conceived, would bring five hundred
talents to the state, and everyone was vaunting Euripides to the skies?
But when the thing was looked at closely, it was seen that this fine decree
was mere moonshine and would produce nothing, and you would have willingly
burnt this very same Euripides alive.
The cases are quite different, my good fellow. We were the
rulers then, but now it's the women.
Whom, by Posidon, I will never allow to piss on my nose.
I don't know what the devil you're chattering about. Slave,
pick up that bundle.
Let all citizens come, let them hasten at our leader's bidding! It is the
new law. The lot will teach each citizen where he is to dine; the tables
are already laid and loaded with the most exquisite dishes; the couches
are covered with the softest of cushions; the wine and water are already
being mixed in the ewers; the slaves are standing in a row and waiting
to pour scent over the guests; the fish is being grilled, the hares are
on the spit and the cakes are being kneaded, chaplets are being plaited
and the fritters are frying; the youngest women are watching the pea-soup
in the saucepans, and in the midst of them all stands Smoeus, dressed as
a knight, washing the crockery. And Geron has come, dressed in a grand
tunic and finely shod; he is joking with another young fellow and has already
divested himself of his heavy shoes and his cloak. The pantry man is waiting,
so come and use your jaws.
All right, I'll go. Why should I delay, since the state commands
And where are you going to, since you have not deposited your
To the feast.
If the women have any wits, they will first insist on your
depositing your goods.
But I am going to deposit them.
I am not the man to make delays.
How do you mean?
There will be many less eager than I.
In the meantime you are going to dine.
What else should I do? Every sensible man must give his help
to the state.
But if admission is forbidden you?
I shall duck my head and slip in.
And if the women have you beaten?
I shall summon them.
And if they laugh in your face?
I shall stand near the door...
...and seize upon the dishes as they pass.
Then go there, but after me. Sicon and Parmeno, pick up all
Come, I will help you carry it.
pushing him away
No, no, I should be afraid of your pretending to the leader that what I
am depositing belonged to you.
Exit with his belongings.
Let me see! let me think of some good trick by which I can
keep my goods and yet take my share of the common feast.
He reflects for a moment.
Ha! that's a fine idea! Quick! I'll go and dine, ha! ha!
Interlude of dancing by the CHORUS.
The scene shifts to a different section of Athens and the two houses
are now to be thought of as those of two prostitutes.
FIRST OLD WOMAN
leaning out of the window of one house
How is this? no men are coming? And yet it must be fully time! Then it
is for naught that I have painted myself with white lead, dressed myself
in my beautiful yellow robe, and that I am here, frolicking and humming
between my teeth to attract some passer-by! Oh, Muses, alight upon my lips,
inspire me with some soft Ionian love-song!
in the window of the other house
You putrid old thing, you have placed yourself at the window before me.
You were expecting to strip my vines during my absence and to trap some
man in your snares with your songs. If you sing, I shall follow suit; all
this singing will weary the spectators, but is nevertheless very pleasant
and very diverting.
FIRST OLD WOMAN
thumbing her nose at the YOUNG GIRL
Ha! here is an old man; take him and lead him away.
To the flute-player
As for you, you young flute-player, let us hear some airs that are worthy
of you and me.
Let him who wishes to taste pleasure come to my side. These young things
know nothing about it; it's only the women of ripe age who understand the
art of love, and no one could know how to fondle the lover who possessed
me so well as myself; the young girls are all flightiness.
singing in her turn
Don't be jealous of the young girls; voluptuousness resides in the pure
outline of their beautiful limbs and blossoms on their rounded breasts;
but you, old woman, you who are tricked out and perfumed as if for your
own funeral, are an object of love only for grim Death himself.
FIRST OLD WOMAN
May your tongue be stopped; may you be unable to find your couch when you
want to be loved. And on your couch, when your lips seek a lover, may you
embrace only a viper!
Alas! alas! what is to become of me? There is no lover! I am left here
alone; my mother has gone out.
Interrupting her song
There's no need to mention the rest.
Then singing again
Oh! my dear nurse, I adjure you to call Orthagoras, and may heaven bless
you. Ah! poor child, desire is consuming you like an Ionian woman;
and yet you are no stranger to the wanton arts of the Lesbian women.
Resuming her song
But you shall not rob me of my pleasures; you will not be able to reduce
or filch the time that first belongs to me.
FIRST OLD WOMAN
Sing as much as you please, peep out like a cat lying in wait,
but none shall pass through your door without first having been to see
If anyone enter your house, it will be to carry out your corpse.
And that will be something new for you, you rotten old thing!
FIRST OLD WOMAN
Can anything be new to an old woman? My old age will not harm
Ah! shame on your painted cheeks!
FIRST OLD WOMAN
Why do you speak to me at all?
And why do you place yourself at the window?
FIRST OLD WOMAN
I am singing to myself about my lover, Epigenes.
Can you have any other lover than that old fop Geres?
FIRST OLD WOMAN
Epigenes will show you that himself, for he is coming to me.
See, here he is.
He's not thinking of you in the least.
FIRST OLD WOMAN
Aye, but he is.
Old starveling! Let's see what he will do. I will leave my
FIRST OLD WOMAN
And I likewise. You will see I am much wiser than you.
A YOUNG MAN
Ah! could I but sleep with the young girl without first making love to
the old flat-nose! It is intolerable for a free-born man.
FIRST OLD WOMAN
singing to the same tune
Willy nilly, you must first gratify my desire. There shall be no nonsense
about that, for my authority is the law and the law must be obeyed in a
But come, let me hide, to see what he's going to do.