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Written 424 B.C.E
AGORACRITUS, a Sausage-Seller
CHORUS OF KNIGHTS
The Orchestra represents the Pnyx at Athens; in the back- ground is the house of DEMOS.
Oh! alas! alas! alas! Oh! woe! oh! woe! Miserable Paphlagonian!
may the gods destroy both him and his cursed advice! Since that evil day
when this new slave entered the house he has never ceased belabouring us
May the plague seize him, the arch-fiend-him and his lying
Hah! my poor fellow, what is your condition?
Very wretched, just like your own.
Then come, let us sing a duet of groans in the style of Olympus.
DEMOSTHENES AND NICIAS
Boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo, hoo!!
Bah! it's lost labour to weep! Enough of groaning! Let us consider
now to save our pelts.
But how to do it! Can you suggest anything?
No, you begin. I cede you the honour.
By Apollo! no, not I. Come, have courage! Speak, and then I
will say what I think.
in tragic style
"Ah! would you but tell me what I should tell you!
I dare not. How could I express my thoughts with the pomp of
Oh! please spare me! Do not pelt me with those vegetables,
but find some way of leaving our master.
Well, then! Say "Let-us-bolt," like this, in one breath.
I follow you-'Let-us-bolt."
Now after "Let-us-bolt" say "at-top-speed
Splendid! just as if you were masturbating; first slowly, "Let-us-bolt";
then quick and firmly, "at-top-speed!"
Hah! does that not please you?
Yes, indeed, yet I fear your omen bodes no good to my hide.
Because masturbation chafes the skin.
The best thing we can do for the moment is to throw ourselves
at the feet of the statue of some god.
Of which statue? Any statue? Do you then believe there are
What proof have you?
The proof that they have taken a grudge against me. Is that
I'm convinced it is. But to pass on. Do you consent to my telling
the spectators of our troubles?
There's nothing wrong with that, and we might ask them to show
us by their manner, whether our facts and actions are to their liking.
I will begin then. We have a very brutal master, a perfect
glutton for beans, and most bad-tempered; it's Demos of the Pnyx, an intolerable
old man and half deaf. The beginning of last month he bought a slave, a
Paphlagonian tanner, an arrant rogue, the incarnation of calumny. This
man of leather knows his old master thoroughly; he plays the fawning cur,
flatters, cajoles, wheedles, and dupes him at will with little scraps of
leavings, which he allows him to get. "Dear Demos," he will say, "try a
single case and you will have done enough; then take your bath, eat, swallow
and devour; here are three obols." Then the Paphlagonian filches from one
of us what we have prepared and makes a present of it to our old man. The
other day I had just kneaded a Spartan cake at Pylos, the cunning rogue
came behind my back, sneaked it and offered the cake, which was my invention,
in his own name. He keeps us at a distance and suffers none but himself
to wait upon the master; when Demos is dining, he keeps close to his side
with a thong in his hand and puts the orators to flight. He keeps singing
oracles to him, so that the old man now thinks of nothing but the Sibyl.
Then, when he sees him thoroughly obfuscated, he uses all his cunning and
piles up lies and calumnies against the household; then we are scourged
and the Paphlagonian runs about among the slaves to demand contributions
with threats and gathers them in with both hands. He will say, "You see
how I have had Hylas beaten! Either content me or die at once!" We are
forced to give, for otherwise the old man tramples on us and makes us crap
forth all our body contains.
There must be an end to it, friend Let us see! what can be done? Who will
get us out of this mess?
The best thing, friend, is our famous "Let-us-bolt!"
But none can escape the Paphlagonian, his eye is everywhere.
And what a stride! He has one leg on Pylos and the other in the Assembly;
his arse gapes exactly over the land of the Chaonians, his hands are with
the Aetolians and his mind with the Clopidians.
It's best then to die; but let us seek the most heroic death.
Let me think, what is the most heroic?
Let us drink the blood of a bull; that's the death Themistocles
No, not that, but a bumper of good unmixed wine in honour of
the Good Genius; perchance we may stumble on a happy thought.
Look at him! "Unmixed wine!" Your mind is on drink intent?
Can a man strike out a brilliant thought when drunk?
Without question. Go, ninny, blow yourself out with water;
do you dare to accuse wine of clouding the reason? Quote me more marvellous
effects than those of wine. Look! when a man drinks, he is rich, everything
he touches succeeds, he gains lawsuits, is happy and helps his friends.
Come, bring hither quick a flagon of wine, that I may soak my brain and
get an ingenious idea.
My God! What can your drinking do to help us?
Much. But bring it to me, while I take my seat. Once drunk,
I shall strew little ideas, little phrases, little reasonings everywhere.
NICIAS enters the house and returns almost immediately with a
It is lucky I was not caught in the house stealing the wine.
Tell me, what is the Paphlagonian doing now?
The wretch has just gobbled up some confiscated cakes; he is
drunk and lies at full-length snoring on his hides.
Very well, come along, pour me out wine and plenty of it.
Take it and offer a libation to your Good Genius.
Inhale, ah, inhale the spirit of the genius of Pramnium.
He drinks. Inspiredly
Ah! Good Genius, thine the plan, not mine!
Tell me, what is it?
Run indoors quick and steal the oracles of the Paphlagonian,
while he is asleep.
Bless me! I fear this Good Genius will be but a very Bad Genius
He goes into the house.
And I'll set the flagon near me, that I may moisten my wit
to invent some brilliant notion.
NICIAS enters the house and returns at once.
How loudly the Paphlagonian farts and snores! I was able to
seize the sacred oracle, which he was guarding with the greatest care,
without his seeing me.
Oh! clever fellow! Hand it here, that I may read. Come, pour
me out some drink, bestir yourself! Let me see what there is in it. Oh!
prophecy! Some drink! some drink! Quick!
Well! what says the oracle?
Is "Pour again" in the oracle?
But what is in it?
Quick! some drink!
Bacis is very dry!
Oh! miserable Paphlagonian! This then is why you have so long
taken such precautions; your horoscope gave you qualms of terror.
What does it say?
It says here how he must end.
How? the oracle announces clearly that a dealer in oakum must
first govern the city.
That's one tradesman. And after him, who?
After him, a sheep-dealer.
Two tradesmen, eh? And what is this one's fate?
To reign until a filthier scoundrel than he arises; then he
perishes and in his place the leather-seller appears, the Paphlagonian
robber, the bawler, who roars like a torrent.
And the leather-seller must destroy the sheep-seller?
Oh woe is me! Where can another seller be found, is there ever
a one left?
There is yet one, who plies a first-rate trade.
Tell me, pray, what is that?
You really want to know?
Well then! it's a sausage-seller who must overthrow him.
A sausage-seller! Ah! by Posidon! what a fine trade! But where
can this man be found?
Let's seek him. But look! there he is, going towards the market-place;
'tis the gods, the gods who send him!
This way, this way, oh; lucky sausage-seller, come forward, dear friend,
our saviour, the saviour of our city.
Enter AGORACRITUS, a seller of sausages, carrying a basket of his
What is it? Why do you call me?
Come here, come and learn about your good luck, you who are
Come! Relieve him of his basket-tray and tell him the oracle
of the god; I will go and look after the Paphlagonian.
He goes into the house.
First put down all your gear, then worship the earth and the
Done. What is the matter?
Happiness, riches, power; to-day you have nothing, to-morrow
you will have all, oh! chief of happy Athens.
Why not leave me to wash my tripe and to sell my sausages instead
of making game of me?
Oh! the fool! Your tripe! Do you see these tiers of people?
You shall be master to them all, governor of the market, of
the harbours, of the Pnyx; you shall trample the Senate under foot, be
able to cashier the generals, load them with fetters, throw them into gaol,
and you will fornicate in the Prytaneum.
You, without a doubt. But you do not yet see all the glory
awaiting you. Stand on your basket and look at all the islands that surround
I see them. What then?
Look at the storehouses and the shipping.
Yes, I am looking.
Exists there a mortal more blest than you? Furthermore, turn
your right eye towards Caria and your left toward Carthage!
Then it's a blessing to be cock-eyed!
No, but you are the one who is going to trade away all this.
According to the oracle you must become the greatest of men.
Just tell me how a sausage-seller can become a great man.
That is precisely why you will be great, because you are a
sad rascal without shame, no better than a common market rogue.
I do not hold myself worthy of wielding power.
Oh! by the gods! Why do you not hold yourself worthy? Have
you then such a good opinion of yourself? Come, are you of honest parentage?
By the gods! No! of very bad indeed.
Spoilt child of fortune, everything fits together to ensure
But I have not had the least education. I can only read, and
that very badly.
That is what may stand in your way, almost knowing how to read.
A demagogue must be neither an educated nor an honest man; he has to be
an ignoramus and a rogue. But do not, do not let go this gift, which the
But what does the oracle say?
Faith, it is put together in very fine enigmatical style, as
elegant as it is dear: "When the eagle-tanner with the hooked claws shall
seize a stupid dragon, a blood-sucker, it will be an end to the hot Paphlagonian
pickled garlic. The god grants great glory to the sausage-sellers unless
they prefeir to sell their wares."
In what way does this concern me? Please instruct my ignorance.
The eagle-tanner is the Paphlagonian.
What do the hooked claws mean?
It means to say, that he robs and pillages us with his claw-like
And the dragon?
That is quite clear. The dragon is long and so also is the
sausage; the sausage like the dragon is a drinker of blood. Therefore the
oracle says, that the dragon will triumph over the eagle-tanner, if he
does not let himself be cajoled with words.
The oracles of the gods flatter me! Faith! I do not at all
understand how I can be capable of governing the people.
Nothing simpler. Continue your trade. Mix and knead together
all the state business as you do for your sausages. To win the people,
always cook them some savoury that pleases them. Besides, you possess all
the attributes of a demagogue; a screeching, horrible voice, a perverse,
cross-grained nature and the language of the market-place. In you all is
united which is needful for governing. The oracles are in your favour,
even including that of Delphi. Come, take a chaplet, offer a libation to
the god of Stupidity and take care to fight vigorously.
Who will be my ally? for the rich fear the Paphlagonian and
the poor shudder at the sight of him.
You will have a thousand brave Knights, who detest him, on
your side; also the honest citizens amongst the spectators, those who are
men of brave hearts, and finally myself and the god. Fear not, you will
not see his features, for none have dared to make a mask resembling him.
But the public have wit enough to recognize him.
Oh! mercy! here comes the Paphlagonian!
CLEON rushes out of the house.
By the twelve gods! Woe betide you, who have too long been
conspiring against Demos. What means this Chalcidian cup? No doubt you
are provoking the Chalcidians to revolt. You shall be killed and butchered,
you brace of rogues.
to the SAUSAGE-SELLER
What! are you for running away? Come, come, stand firm, bold Sausage-seller,
do not betray us. To the rescue, oh, Knights. Now is the time. Simon, Panaetius,
get you to the right wing; they are coming on; hold tight and return to
the charge. I can see the dust of their horses' hoofs; they are galloping
to our aid.
To the SAUSAGE-SELLER
Courage! Attack him, put him to flight.
The CHORUS OF KNIGHTS enters at top speed.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Strike, strike the villain, who has spread confusion amongst
the ranks of the Knights, this public robber, this yawning gulf of plunder,
this devouring Charybdis, this villain, this villain, this villain! I cannot
say the word too often, for he is a villain a thousand times a day. Come,
strike, drive, hurl him over and crush him to pieces; hate him as we hate
him: stun him with your blows and your shouts. And beware lest he escape
you; he knows the way Eucrates took straight to a bran sack for concealment.
Oh! veteran Heliasts, brotherhood of the three obols, whom
I fostered by bawling at random, help me; I am being beaten to death by
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
And justly too; you devour the public funds that all should
share in; you treat the treasury officials like the fruit of the fig tree,
squeezing them to find which are still green or more or less ripe; and,
when you find a simple and timid one, you force him to come from the Chersonese,
then you seize him by the middle, throttle him by the neck, while you twist
his shoulder back; he falls and you devour him. Besides, you know very
well how to select from among the citizens those who are as meek as lambs,
rich, without guile and loathers of lawsuits.
Eh! what! Knights, are you helping them? But, if I am beaten,
it is in your cause, for I was going to propose to erect a statue in the
city in memory of your bravery.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Oh! the impostor! the dull varlet! See! he treats us like old
dotards and crawls at our feet to deceive us; but the cunning wherein his
power lies shall this time recoil on himself; he trips up himself by resorting
to such artifices.
Oh citizens! oh people! see how these brutes are bursting my
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
What shouts! but it's this very bawling that incessantly upsets
I can shout too-and so loud that you will flee with fear.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
If you shout louder than he does I will strike up the triumphal
hymn; if you surpass him in impudence the cake is ours.
I denounce this fellow; he has had tasty stews exported from
Athens for the Spartan fleet.
And I denounce him; he runs into the Prytaneum with an empty
belly and comes out with it full.
And by Zeus! he carries off bread, meat, and fish, which is
forbidden. Pericles himself never had this right.
A screaming match now ensues, each line more raucous than the last.
The rapidity of the dialogue likewise increases.
You are travelling the right road to get killed.
I'll bawl three times as loud as you.
I will deafen you with my yells.
And I you with my bellowing.
I shall calumniate you, if you become a Strategus.
Dog, I will lay your back open with the lash.
I will make you drop your arrogance,
I will baffle your machinations.
Dare to look me in the face!
I too was brought up in the market-place.
I will cut you to shreds if you whisper a word.
If you open your mouth, I'll shut it with shit.
I admit I'm a thief; that's more than you do.
By our Hermes of the market-place, if caught in the act, why,
I perjure myself before those who saw me.
These are my own special tricks. I will denounce you to the
Prytanes as the owner of sacred tripe, that has not paid tithe.
Oh! you scoundrel! you impudent bawler! everything is filled with your
daring, all Attica, the Assembly, the Treasury, the decrees, the tribunals.
As a furious torrent you have overthrown our city; your outcries have deafened
Athens and, posted upon a high rock, you have lain in wait for the tribute
moneys as the fisherman does for the tunny-fish.
somewhat less loudly
I know your tricks; it's an old plot resoled.
If you know naught of soling, I understand nothing of sausages;
you, who cut bad leather on the slant to make it look stout and deceive
the country yokels. They had not worn it a day before it had stretched
some two spans.
That's the very trick he played on me; both my neighbours and
my friends laughed heartily at me, and before I reached Pergasae I was
swimming in my shoes.
Have you not always shown that blatant impudence, which is the sole strength
of our orators? You push it so far, that you, the head of the State, dare
to milk the purses of the opulent aliens and, at sight of you, the son
of Hippodamus melts into tears. But here is another man who gives me pleasure,
for he is a much greater rascal than you; he will overthrow you; 'tis easy
to see, that he will beat you in roguery, in brazenness and in clever turns.
Come, you, who have been brought up among the class which to-day gives
us all our great men, show us that a liberal education is mere tomfoolery.
Just hear what sort of fellow that fine citizen is.
Will you not let me speak?
Assuredly not, for I too am an awful rascal.
If he does not give in at that, tell him your parents were
awful rascals too.
Once more, will you let me speak?
No, by Zeus!
Yes, by Zeus, you shall!
No, by Posidon! We will fight first to see who shall speak
I will die sooner.
I will not let you....
Let him, in the name of the gods, let him die.
What makes you so bold as to dare to speak to my face?
Because I know both how to speak and how to cook.
Hah! the fine speaker! Truly, if some business matter fell
your way, you would know thoroughly well how to attack it, to carve it
up alive! Shall I tell you what has happened to you? Like so many others,
you have gained some petty lawsuit against some alien. Did you drink enough
water to inspire you? Did you mutter over the thing sufficiently through
the night, spout it along the street, recite it to all you met? Have you
bored your friends enough with it? And for this you deem yourself an orator.
You poor fool!
And what do you drink yourself then, to be able all alone by
yourself to dumbfound and stupefy the city so with your clamour?
Can you match me with a rival? Me? When I have devoured a good
hot tunny-fish and drunk on top of it a great jar of unmixed wine. I say
"to Hell with the generals of Pylos!"
And I, when I have bolted the tripe of an ox together with
a sow's belly and swallowed the broth as well, I am fit, though slobbering
with grease, to bellow louder than all orators and to terrify Nicias.
I admire your language so much; the only thing I do not approve
is that you swallow all the broth yourself.
Even though you gorged yourself on sea-dogs, you would not
beat the Milesians.
Give me a bullock's breast to devour, and I am a man to traffic
I will rush into the Senate and set them all by the ears.
And I will pull out your arse to stuff like a sausage.
As for me, I will seize you by the rump and hurl you head foremost
through the door.
By Posidon, only after you have thrown me there first.
Beginning another crescendo of competitive screeching
Beware of the carcan!
I denounce you for cowardice.
I will tan your hide.
I will flay you and make a thief's pouch with the skin.
I will peg you out on the ground.
I will slice you into mince-meat.
I will tear out your eyelashes.
I will slit your gullet.
We will set his mouth open with a wooden stick as the cooks
do with pigs; we will tear out his tongue, and, looking down his gaping
throat, will see whether his inside has any pimples.
Thus then at Athens we have something more fiery than fire, more impudent
than impudence itself! 'Tis a grave matter; come, we will push and jostle
him without mercy. There, you grip him tightly under the arms; if he gives
way at the onset, you will find him nothing but a craven; I know my man.
That he has been all his life and he has only made himself
a name by reaping another's harvest; and now he has tied up the ears he
gathered over there, he lets them dry and seeks to sell them.
I do not fear you as long as there is a Senate and a people
which stands like a fool, gaping in the air.
What unparalleled impudence! 'Tis ever the same brazen front. If I don't
hate you, why, I'm ready to take the place of the one blanket Cratinus
wets; I'll offer to play a tragedy by Morsimus. Oh! you cheat! who turn
all into money, who flutter from one extortion to another; may you disgorge
as quickly as you have crammed yourself! Then only would I sing, "Let us
drink, let us drink to this happy event!" Then even the son of Ulius, the
old wheat-fairy, would empty his cup with transports of joy, crying, "Io,
Paean! Io, Bacchus!"
By Posidon! You! would you beat me in impudence! If you succeed,
may I no longer have my share of the victims offered to Zeus on the city
And I, I swear by the blows that have so oft rained upon my
shoulders since infancy, and by the knives that have cut me, that I will
show more effrontery than you; as sure as I have rounded this fine stomach
by feeding on the pieces of bread that had cleansed other folk's greasy
On pieces of bread, like a dog! Ah! wretch! you have the nature
of a dog and you dare to fight a dog-headed ape?
I have many another trick in my sack, memories of my childhood's
days. I used to linger around the cooks and say to them, "Look, friends,
don't you see a swallow? It's the herald of springtime." And while they
stood, their noses in the air, I made off with a piece of meat.
Oh! most clever man! How well thought out! You did as the eaters
of artichokes, you gathered them before the return of the swallows."
They could make nothing of it; or, if they suspected a trick,
I hid the meat in my crotch and denied the thing by all the gods-so that
an orator, seeing me at the game, cried, "This child will get on; he has
the mettle that makes a statesman."
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
He argued rightly; to steal, perjure yourself and make your
arse receptive are three essentials for climbing high.
I will stop your insolence, or rather the insolence of both
of you. I will throw myself upon you like a terrible hurricane ravaging
both land and sea at the will of its fury.
Then I will gather up my sausages and entrust myself to the
kindly waves of fortune so as to make you all the more enraged.
And I will watch in the bilges in case the boat should make
No, by Demeter! I swear, it will not be with impunity that
you have thieved so many talents from the Athenians.
to the SAUSAGE-SELLER
Oh! oh! reef your sail a bit! Here is a Northeaster blowing calumniously.
I know that you got ten talents out of Potidaea.
Wait! I will give you one; but keep it dark!
Hah! that will please him mightily;
to the SAUSAGE-SELLER
now you can travel under full sail. The wind has lost its violence.
I will bring four suits against you, each of one hundred talents.
And I twenty against you for shirking duty and more than a
thousand for robbery.
I maintain that your parents were guilty of sacrilege against
And I, that one of your grandfathers was a satellite....
To whom? Explain!
To Byrsina, the mother of Hippias.
You are an impostor.
And you are a rogue.
He strikes CLEON with a sausage.
Hit him hard.
Alas! The conspirators are murdering me!
to the SAUSAGE-SELLER
Hit him! Hit him with all your might! Bruise his belly and lash him with
your guts and your tripe! Punish him with both hands!
CLEON sinks beneath the blows.
Oh! vigorous assailant and intrepid heart! See how you have
totally routed him in this duel of abuse, so that to us and to the citizens
you seem the saviour of the city. How shall I give tongue to my joy and
praise you sufficiently?
recovering his wits
Ah! by Demeter! I was not ignorant of this plot and these machinations
that were being forged and nailed and put together against me.
to the SAUSAGE-SELLER
Look out, look out! Come outfence him with some wheelwright slang.
His tricks at Argos do not escape me. Under pretence of forming
an alliance with the Argives, he is hatching a plot with the Lacedaemonians
there; and I know why the bellows are blowing and the metal that is on
the anvil; it's the question of the prisoners.
Well done! Forge on, if he be a wheelwright.
And there are men at Sparta who are hammering the iron with
you; but neither gold nor silver nor prayers nor anything else shall impede
my denouncing your trickery to the Athenians.
As for me, I hasten to the Senate to reveal your plotting,
your nightly gatherings in the city, your trafficking with the Medes and
with the Great King, and all you are foraging for in Boeotia.
What price then is paid for forage by Boeotians?
Oh! by Heracles! I will tan your hide.
Come, if you have both wit and heart, now is the time to show
it, as on the day when you hid the meat in your crotch, as you say. Hasten
to the Senate, for he will rush there like a tornado to calumniate us all
and give vent to his fearful bellowings.
I am going, but first I must rid myself of my tripe and my
knives; I will leave them here.
Stay! rub your neck with lard; in this way you will slip between
the fingers of calumny.
Spoken like a finished wrestling coach.
Now, bolt down these cloves of garlic.
Pray, what for?
Well primed with garlic, you will have greater mettle for the
fight. But hurry, make haste rapidly!
That's just what I'm doing.
And, above all, bite your foe, rend him to atoms, tear off
his comb and do not return until you have devoured his wattles.
He goes into the house of DEMOS.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Go! make your attack with a light heart, avenge me and may
Zeus guard you! I burn to see you return the victor and laden with chaplets
of glory. And you, spectators, enlightened critics of all kind of poetry,
lend an ear to my anapests.
The Chorus moves forward and faces the audience.
Had one of the old authors asked me to mount this stage to recite his verses,
he would not have found it hard to persuade me. But our poet of to-day
is likewise worthy of this favour; he shares our hatred, he dares to tell
the truth, he boldly braves both waterspouts and hurricanes. Many among
you, he tells us, have expressed wonder, that he has not long since had
a piece presented in his own name, and have asked the reason why. This
is what he bids us say in reply to your questions; it is not without grounds
that he has courted the shade, for, in his opinion, nothing is more difficult
than to cultivate the comic Muse; many court her, but very few secure her
favours. Moreover, he knows that you are fickle by nature and betray your
poets when they grow old. What fate befell Magnes, when his hair went white?
Often enough had he triumphed over his rivals; he had sung in all keys,
played the lyre and fluttered wings; he turned into a Lydian and even into
a gnat, daubed himself with green to become a frog. All in vain! When young,
you applauded him; in his old age you hooted and mocked him, because his
genius for raillery had gone. Cratinus again was like a torrent of glory
rushing across the plain, up-rooting oak, plane tree and rivals and bearing
them pell-mell in his wake. The only songs at the banquet were, "Doro,
shod with lying tales" and "Adepts of the Lyric Muse," so great was his
renown. Look at him now! he drivels, his lyre has neither strings nor keys,
his voice quivers, but you have no pity for him, and you let him wander
about as he can, like Connas, his temples circled with a withered chaplet;
the poor old fellow is dying of thirst; he who, in honour of his glorious
past, should be in the Prytaneum drinking at his ease, and instead of trudging
the country should be sitting amongst the first row of the spectators,
close to the statue of Dionysus and loaded with perfumes. Crates, again,
have you done hounding him with your rage and your hisses? True, it was
but meagre fare that his sterile Muse could offer you; a few ingenious
fancies formed the sole ingredients, but nevertheless he knew how to stand
firm and to recover from his falls. It is such examples that frighten our
poet; in addition, he would tell himself, that before being a pilot, he
must first know how to row, then to keep watch at the prow, after that
how to gauge the winds, and that only then would he be able to command
his vessel. If then you approve this wise caution and his resolve that
he would not bore you with foolish nonsense, raise loud waves of applause
in his favour this day, so that, at this Lenaean feast, the breath of your
favour may swell the sails of his triumphant galley and the poet may withdraw
proud of his success, with head erect and his face beaming with delight.
Posidon, god of the racing steeds, I salute you, you who delight in their
neighing and in the resounding clatter of their brass-shod hoofs, god of
the swift galleys, which, loaded with mercenaries, cleave the seas with
their azure beaks, god of the equestrian contests, in which young rivals,
eager for glory, ruin themselves for the sake of distinction with their
chariots in the arena, come and direct our chorus; Posidon with the trident
of gold, you, who reign over the dolphins, who are worshipped at Sunium
and at Geraestus beloved of Phormio, and dear to the whole city above all
the immortals, I salute you!
LEADER OF FIRST SEMI-CHORUS
Let us sing the glory of our forefathers; ever victors, both
on land and sea, they merit that Athens, rendered famous by these, her
worthy sons, should write their deeds upon the sacred peplus. As soon as
they saw the enemy, they at once sprang at him without ever counting his
strength. Should one of them fall in the conflict he would shake off the
dust, deny his mishap and begin the struggle anew. Not one of these generals
of old time would have asked Cleaenetus to be fed at the cost of the State;
but our present men refuse to fight, unless they get the honours of the
Prytaneum and precedence in their seats. As for us, we place our valour
gratuitously at the service of Athens and of her gods; our only hope is
that, should peace ever put a term te our toils, you will not grudge us
our long, scented hair nor our delicate care for our toilet.
Oh! Pallas, guardian of Athens, you, who reign over the most pious city,
the most powerful, the richest in warriors and in poets, hasten to my call,
bringing in your train our faithful ally in all our expeditions and combats,
Victory, who smiles on our choruses and fights with us against our rivals.
Oh! goddess! manifest yourself to our sight; this day more than ever we
deserve that you should ensure our triumph.
LEADER OF SECOND SEMI-CHORUS
We will sing likewise the exploits of our steeds! they are
worthy of our praises; in what invasions, what fights have I not seen them
helping us! But especially admirable were they, when they bravely leapt
upon the galleys, taking nothing with them but a coarse wine, some cloves
of garlic and onions; despite this, they nevertheless seized the sweeps
just like men, curved their backs over the thwarts and shouted, "Hippapai!
Give way! Come, all pull together! Come, come! How! Samphoras! Are you
not rowing?" They rushed down upon the coast of Corinth, and the youngest
hollowed out beds in the sand with their hoofs or went to fetch coverings;
instead of luzern, they had no food but crabs, which they caught on the
strand and even in the sea; so that Theorus causes a Corinthian crab to
say, "'Tis a cruel fate, oh Posidon neither my deep hiding-places, whether
on land or at sea, can help me to escape the Knights."
The SAUSAGE-SELLER returns.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Welcome, oh, dearest and bravest of men! How distracted I have
been during your absence! But here you are back, safe and sound. Tell us
about the fight you have had.
The important thing is that I have beaten the Senate.
All glory to you! Let us burst into shouts of joy! You speak well, but
your deeds are even better. Come, tell me everything in detail; what a
long journey would I not be ready to take to hear your tale! Come, dear
friend, speak with full confidence to your admirers.
The story is worth hearing. Listen! From here I rushed straight
to the Senate, right in the track of this man; he was already letting loose
the storm, unchaining the lightning, crushing the Knights beneath huge
mountains of calumnies heaped together and having all the air of truth;
he called you conspirators and his lies caught root like weeds in every
mind; dark were the looks on every side and brows were knitted. When I
saw that the Senate listened to him favourably and was being tricked by
his imposture I said to myself, "Come, gods of rascals and braggarts, gods
of all fools, and toad-eaters, and thou too, oh market-place, wherein I
was bred from my earliest days, give me unbridled audacity, an untiring
chatter and a shameless voice." No sooner had I ended this prayer than
a pederast farted on my right. "Hah! a good omen," said I, and prostrated
myself; then I burst open the door by a vigorous push with my arse, and,
opening my mouth to the utmost, shouted, "Senators, I wanted you to be
the first to hear the good news; since the war broke out, I have never
seen anchovies at a lower price!" All faces brightened at once and I was
voted a chaplet for my good tidings; and I added, "With a couple of words
I will reveal to you how you can have quantities of anchovies for an obol;
all you have to do is to seize on all the dishes the merchants have." With
mouths gaping with admiration, they applauded me. However, the Paphlagonian
winded the matter and, well knowing the sort of language which pleases
the Senate best, said, "Friends, I am resolved to offer one hundred oxen
to the goddess in recognition of this happy event." The Senate at once
veered to his side. So when I saw myself defeated by this ox dung, I outbade
the fellow, crying, "Two hundred!" And beyond this I moved that a vow be
made to Diana of a thousand goats if the next day anchovies should only
be worth an obol a hundred. And the Senate looked towards me again. The
other, stunned with the blow, grew delirious in his speech, and at last
the Prytanes and the Scythians dragged him out. The Senators then stood
talking noisily about the anchovies. Cleon, however, begged them to listen
to the Lacedaemonian envoy, who had come to make proposals of peace; but
all with one accord cried "Certainly it's not the moment to think of peace
now! If anchovies are so cheap, what need have we of peace? Let the war
take its course!" And with loud shouts they demanded that the Prytanes
should close the sitting and then they leapt over the rails in all directions.
As for me, I slipped away to buy all the coriander seed and leeks there
were on the market and gave it to them gratis as seasoning for their anchovies.
It was marvellous! They loaded me with praises and caresses; thus I conquered
the Senate with an obol's worth of leeks, and here I am.
Bravo! you are the spoilt child of Fortune. Ah! our knave has found his
match in another, who has far better tricks in his sack, a thousand kinds
of knaveries and of wily words. But the fight begins afresh; take care
not to weaken; you know that I have long been your most faithful ally.
Ah! ah! here comes the Paphlagonian! One would say it was a
hurricane lashing the sea and rolling the waves before it in its fury.
He looks as if he wanted to swallow me up alive! Ye gods! what an impudent
as he rushes in
To my aid, my beloved lies! I am going to destroy you, or my name is lost.
Oh! how he diverts me with his threats His bluster makes me
laugh! And I dance the mothon for joy, and sing at the top of my voice,
Ah! by Demeter! if I do not kill and devour you, may I die!
If you do not devour me? and I, if I do not drink your blood
to the last drop, and then burst with indigestion.
I, I will strangle you, I swear it by the front seat which
Pylos gained me.
By the front seat! Ah! Ah! might I see you fall into the hindmost
By heaven! I will put you to the torture.
What a lively wit! Come, what's the best to give you to eat?
What do you prefer? A purse?
I will tear out your insides with my nails.
And I will cut off your victuals at the Prytaneum.
I will haul you before Demos, who will mete out justice to
And I too will drag you before him and belch forth more calumnies
than you. Why, poor fool, he does not believe you, whereas I play with
him at will.
Is then Demos your property, your contemptible creature?
It's because I know the dishes that please him.
And these are little mouthfuls, which you serve to him like
a clever nurse. You chew the pieces and place some in small quantities
in his mouth, while you swallow three parts yourself.
Thanks to my skill, I know exactly how to enlarge or contract
My arse is just as clever.
Well, my friend, you tricked me at the Senate, but take care!
Let us go before Demos.
That's easily done; come, let's do it right away.
Oh, Demos! Come, I adjure you to help me, my father I
Come, oh, my dear little Demos; come and see how I am insulted.
coming out of his house followed by DEMOSTHENES
What a hubhub! To the Devil with you, bawlers! Alas! my olive branch, which
they have torn down! Ah! it's you, Paphlagonian. And who, pray, has been
You are the cause of this man and these young people having
covered me with blows.
Because you love me passionately, Demos.
to the SAUSAGE-SELLER
And you, who are you?
His rival. For many a long year have I loved you, have I wished
to do you honour, I and a crowd of other men of means. But this rascal
here has prevented us. You resemble those young men who do not know where
to choose their lovers; you repulse honest folks; to earn your favours,
one has to be a lamp-seller, a cobbler, a tanner or a currier.
I am the benefactor of the people.
In what way, please?
In what way? I supplanted the Generals at Pylos, I hurried
thither and I brought back the Laconian captives.
And I, whilst simply loitering, cleared off with a pot from
a shop, which another fellow had been boiling.
Demos, convene the assembly at once to decide which of us two
loves you best and most merits your favour.
Yes, yes, provided it be not at the Pnyx.
I could not sit elsewhere; it is at the Pnyx that you must
appear before me.
He sits down on a stone in the Orchestra,
Ah! great gods! I am undone! At home this old fellow is the
most sensible of men, but the instant he is seated on those cursed stone
seats, he is there with mouth agape as if he were hanging up figs by their
stems to dry.
Come, loose all sail. Be bold, skilful in attack and entangle him in arguments
which admit of no reply. It is difficult to beat him, for he is full of
craft and pulls himself out of the worst corners. Collect all your forces
to come forth from this fight covered with glory.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But take care! Let him not assume the attack, get ready your
grapples and advance with your vessel to board him!
Oh! guardian goddess of our city! oh! Athene if it be true
that next to Lysicles, Cynna and Salabaccho none have done so much good
for the Athenian people as I, suffer me to continue to be fed at the Prytaneum
without working; but if I hate you, if I am not ready to fight in your
defence alone and against all, may I perish, be sawn to bits alive and
my skin cut up into thongs.
And I, Demos, if it be not true, that I love and cherish you,
may I be cooked in a stew; and if that is not saying enough, may I be grated
on this table with some cheese and then hashed, may a hook be passed through
my balls and let me be dragged thus to the Ceramicus!
Is it possible, Demos, to love you more than I do? And firstly,
as long as you have governed with my consent, have I not filled your treasury,
putting pressure on some, torturing others or begging of them, indifferent
to the opinion of private individuals, and solely anxious to please you?
There is nothing so wonderful in all that, Demos; I will do
as much; I will thieve the bread of others to serve up to you. No, he has
neither love for you nor kindly feeling; his only care is to warm himself
with your wood, and I will prove it. You, who, sword in hand, saved Attica
from the Median yoke at Marathon; you, whose glorious triumphs we love
to extol unceasingly, look, he cares little whether he sees you seated
uncomfortably upon a stone; whereas I, I bring you this cushion, which
I have sewn with my own hands. Rise and try this nice soft seat. Did you
not put enough strain on your bottom at Salamis?
He gives DEMOS the cushion; DEMOS sits on it.
Who are you then? Can you be of the race of Harmodius? Upon
my faith, that is nobly done and like a true friend of Demos.
Petty flattery to prove him your goodwill!
But you have caught him with even smaller baits!
Never had Demos a defender or a friend more devoted than myself;
on my head, on my life, I swear it!
You pretend to love him and for eight years you have seen him
housed in casks, in crevices and dovecots, where he is blinded with the
smoke, and you lock him in without pity; Archeptolemus brought peace and
you tore it to ribbons; the envoys who come to propose a truce you drive
from the city with kicks in their arses.
The purpose of this is that Demos may rule over all the Greeks;
for the oracles predict that, if he is patient, he must one day sit as
judge in Arcadia at five obols per day. Meanwhile, I will nourish him,
look after him and, above all, I will ensure to him his three obols.
No, little you care for his reigning in Arcadia, it's to pillage
and impose on the allies at will that you reckon; you wish the war to conceal
your rogueries as in a mist, that Demos may see nothing of them, and harassed
by cares, may only depend on yourself for his bread. But if ever peace
is restored to him, if ever he returns to his lands to comfort himself
once more with good cakes, to greet his cherished olives, he will know
the blessings you have kept him out of, even though paying him a salary;
and, filled with hatred and rage, he will rise, burning with desire to
vote against you. You know this only too well; it is for this you rock
him to sleep with your lies.
Is it not shameful, that you should dare thus to calumniate
me before Demos, me, to whom Athens, I swear it by Demeter, already owes
more than it ever did to Themistocles?
Oh! citizens of Argos, do you hear what he says?
You dare to compare yourself to Themistocles, who found our city half empty
and left it full to overflowing, who one day gave us the Piraeus for dinner,
and added fresh fish to all our usual meals. You, on the contrary, you,
who compare yourself with Themistocles, have only sought to reduce our
city in size, to shut it within its walls, to chant oracles to us. And
Themistocles goes into exile, while you gorge yourself on the most excellent
Oh! Demos! Am I compelled to hear myself thus abused, and merely
because I love you?
Silence! stop your abuse! All too long have I been your dupe.
Ah! my dear little Demos, he is a rogue who has played you
many a scurvy trick; when your back is turned, he taps at the root the
lawsuits initiated by the peculators, swallows the proceeds wholesale and
helps himself with both hands from the public funds.
Tremble, knave; I will convict you of having stolen thirty
For a rascal of your kidney, you shout rarely! Well! I am ready
to die if I do not prove that you have accepted more than forty minae from
This indeed may be termed talking. Oh, benefactor of the human race, proceed
and you will be the most illustrious of the Greeks. You alone shall have
sway in Athens, the allies will obey you, and, trident in hand, you will
go about shaking and overturning everything to enrich yourself. But, stick
to your man, let him not go; with lungs like yours you will soon have him
No, my brave friends, no, you are running too fast; I have
done a sufficiently brilliant deed to shut the mouth of all enemies, so
long as one of the bucklers of Pylos remains.
Of the bucklers! Hold! I stop you there and I hold you fast.
For if it be true that you love the people, you would not allow these to
be hung up with their rings; but it's with an intent you have done this.
Demos, take knowledge of his guilty purpose; in this way you no longer
can punish him at your pleasure. Note the swarm of young tanners, who really
surround him, and close to them the sellers of honey and cheese; all these
are at one with him. Very well! you have but to frown, to speak of ostracism
and they will rush at night to these bucklers, take them down and seize
Great gods! what! the bucklers retain their rings! Scoundrel!
ah! to long have you had me for your dupe, cheated and plaved with me!
But, dear sir, never you believe all he tells you. Oh! never
will you find a more devoted friend than me; unaided, I have known how
to put down the conspiracies; nothing that is hatching in the city escapes
me, and I hasten to proclaim it loudly.
You are like the fishers for eels; in still waters they catch
nothing, but if they thoroughly stir up the slime, their fishing is good;
in the same way it's only in troublous times that you line your pockets.
But come, tell me, you, who sell so many skins, have you ever made him
a present of a pair of soles for his slippers? and you pretend to love
No, he has never given me any.
That alone shows up the man; but I, I have bought you this
pair of shoes; accept them.
He gives DEMOS the shoes; DEMOS puts them on.
None ever, to my knowledge, has merited so much from the people;
you are the most zealous of all men for our country and for my toes.
Can a wretched pair of slippers make you forget all that you
owe me? Is it not I who curbed the pederasts by erasing Gryttus' name from
the lists of citizens?
Ah! noble Inspector of Arses, let me congratulate you. Moreover,
if you set yourself against this form of lewdness, this pederasty, it was
for sheer jealousy, knowing it to be the school for orators. But you see
this poor Demos without a cloak and that at his age too! so little do you
care for him, that in mid-winter you have not given him a garment with
sleeves. Here, Demos, here is one, take it!
He gives DEMOS a cloak; DEMOS puts it on.
This even Themistocles never thought of; the Piraeus was no
doubt a happy idea, but I think this tunic is quite as fine an invention.
Must you have recourse to such jackanapes' tricks to supplant
No, it's your own tricks that I am borrowing, just as a drunken
guest, when he has to take a crap, seizes some other man's shoes.
Oh! you shall not outdo me in flattery! I am going to hand
Demos this garment; all that remains to you, you rogue, is to go and hang
as CLEON throws a cloak around his shoulders
Faugh! may the plague seize you! You stink of leather horribly.
Why, it's to smother you that he has thrown this cloak around
you on top of the other; and it is not the first plot he has planned against
you. Do you remember the time when silphium was so cheap?
Aye, to be sure I do!
Very well! it was Cleon who had caused the price to fall so
low, that all might eat it, and the jurymen in the Courts were almost asphyxiated
from farting in each others' faces.
Hah! why, indeed, a Dungtownite told me the same thing.
Were you not yourself in those days quite red in the gills
Why, it was a trick worthy of Pyrrhandrus!
With what other idle trash will you seek to ruin me, you wretch!
Oh! I shall be more brazen than you, for it's the goddess who
has commanded me.
No, on my honour, you will not! Here, Demos, feast on this
dish; it is your salary as a dicast, which you gain through me for doing
Wait! here is a little box of ointment to rub into the sores
on your legs.
I will pluck out your white hairs and make you young again.
Take this hare's tail to wipe the rheum from your eyes.
When you wipe your nose, clean your fingers on my head.
No, on mine.
To the SAUSAGE-SELLER
I will have you made a trierarch and you will get ruined through it; I
will arrange that you are given an old vessel with rotten sails, which
you will have to repair constantly and at great cost.
Our man is on the boil; enough, enough, enough, he is boiling
over; remove some of the embers from under him and skim off his threats.
I will punish your self-importance; I will crush you with imposts;
I will have you inscribed on the list of the rich.
For me no threat-only one simple wish. That you may be having
some cuttle-fish fried on the stove just as you are going to set forth
to plead the cause of the Milesians, which, if you gain it, means a talent
in your, pocket; that you hurry over devouring the fish to rush off to
the Assembly; suddenly you are called and run off with your mouth full
so as not to lose the talent and choke yourself. There! that is my wish.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Splendid! by Zeus, Apollo and Demeter!
Faith! here is an excellent citizen indeed, such as has not
been seen for a long time. He's truly a man of the lowest scum! As for
you, Paphlagonian, who pretend to love me, you only feed me on garlic.
Return me my ring, for you cease to be my steward.
Here it is, but be assured, that if you bereave me of my power,
my successor will be worse than I am.
This cannot be my ring; I see another device, unless I am going
What was your device?
A fig-leaf, stuffed with bullock's fat.
No, that is not it.
What is it then?
It's a gull with beak wide open, haranguing the people from
the top of a stone.
Ah! great gods!
What is the matter?
Away! away out of my sight! It's not my ring he had, it was
that of Cleonymus.
To the SAUSAGE-SELLER
Wait, I'll give you this one; you shall be my steward.
Master, I adjure you, decide nothing till you have heard my
If you believe him, you will have to prostitute yourself for
If you listen to him, you'll have to let him peel you to the
My oracles say that you are to reign over the whole earth,
crowned with chaplets.
And mine say that, clothed in an embroidered purple robe, you
shall pursue Smicythe and her spouse, standing in a chariot of gold and
with a crown on your head.
Go, fetch me your oracles, that the Paphlagonian may hear them.
And you yours.
He rushes into the house of DEMOS.
And I'll run too; nothing could suit me better!
He departs in haste.
Oh! happy day for us and for our children if Cleon perish. Yet just now
I heard some old cross-grained pleaders on the marketplace who hold not
this opinion discoursing together. Said they, "If Cleon had not had the
power, we should have lacked two most useful tools, the pestle and the
soup-ladle." You also know what a pig's education he has had; his school-fellows
can recall that he only liked the Dorian style and would study no other;
his music-master in displeasure sent him away, saying; "This youth, in
matters of harmony, will only learn the Dorian style because it is akin
coming out of the house with a large package
There, look at this heap; and yet I'm not bringing them all.
entering witk an even larger package
Ugh! The weight of them is squeezing the crap right out of me, and still
I'm not bringing them all!
What are these?
Does that astonish you? Why, I have another whole boxful of
And I the whole of my attic and two rooms besides.
Come, let us see, whose are these oracles?
Mine are those of Bacis.
to the SAUSAGE-SELLER
And whose are yours?
Glanis's, the elder brother of Bacis.
And of what do they speak?
Of Athens and Pylos and you and me and everything.
Of Athens and lentils and Lacedaemonians and fresh mackerel
and scoundrelly flour-sellers and you and me. Ah ha! now watch him gnaw
his own tool with chagrin!
Come, read them out to me and especially that one I like so
much, which says that I shall become an eagle and soar among the clouds.
Then listen and be attentive! "Son of Erechtheus, understand
the meaning of the words, which the sacred tripods set resounding in the
sanctuary of Apollo. Preserve the sacred dog with the jagged teeth, that
barks and howls in your defence; he will ensure you a salary and, if he
fails, will perish as the victim of the swarms of jays that hunt him down
with their scream