|This is Google's cache of classics.mit.edu/Aristophanes/knights.pl.txt.|
Google's cache is the snapshot that we took of the page as we crawled the web.
The page may have changed since that time. Click here for the current page without highlighting.
Google is not affiliated with the authors of this page nor responsible for its content.
Provided by The Internet Classics Archive.
See bottom for copyright. Available online at
AGORACRITUS, a Sausage-Seller
CHORUS OF KNIGHTS
The Orchestra represents the Pnyx at Athens; in the back- ground is
the house of DEMOS.
DEMOSTHENES Oh! alas! alas! alas! Oh! woe! oh! woe! Miserable Paphlagonian!
may the gods destroy both him and his cursed advice! Since that evil
day when this new slave entered the house he has never ceased belabouring
us with blows.
NICIAS May the plague seize him, the arch-fiend-him and his lying
DEMOSTHENES Hah! my poor fellow, what is your condition?
NICIAS Very wretched, just like your own.
DEMOSTHENES Then come, let us sing a duet of groans in the style
DEMOSTHENES AND NICIAS Boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo,
hoo! boo, hoo!!
DEMOSTHENES Bah! it's lost labour to weep! Enough of groaning! Let
us consider now to save our pelts.
NICIAS But how to do it! Can you suggest anything?
DEMOSTHENES No, you begin. I cede you the honour.
NICIAS By Apollo! no, not I. Come, have courage! Speak, and then
I will say what I think.
DEMOSTHENES (in tragic style) "Ah! would you but tell me what I
should tell you!
NICIAS I dare not. How could I express my thoughts with the pomp
DEMOSTHENES Oh! please spare me! Do not pelt me with those vegetables,
but find some way of leaving our master.
NICIAS Well, then! Say "Let-us-bolt," like this, in one breath.
DEMOSTHENES I follow you-'Let-us-bolt."
NICIAS Now after "Let-us-bolt" say "at-top-speed
NICIAS Splendid! just as if you were masturbating; first slowly,
"Let-us-bolt"; then quick and firmly, "at-top-speed!"
DEMOSTHENES Let-us-bolt, let-us-bolt-at-top-speed!
NICIAS Hah! does that not please you?
DEMOSTHENES Yes, indeed, yet I fear your omen bodes no good to my
NICIAS How so?
DEMOSTHENES Because masturbation chafes the skin.
NICIAS The best thing we can do for the moment is to throw ourselves
at the feet of the statue of some god.
DEMOSTHENES Of which statue? Any statue? Do you then believe there
DEMOSTHENES What proof have you?
NICIAS The proof that they have taken a grudge against me. Is that
DEMOSTHENES I'm convinced it is. But to pass on. Do you consent to
my telling the spectators of our troubles?
NICIAS 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
DEMOSTHENES I will begin then. We have a very brutal master, a perfect
glutton for beans, and most bad-tempered; it's Demos of the Pnyx,
an intolerable old man and half deaf. The beginning of last month
he bought a slave, a Paphlagonian tanner, an arrant rogue, the incarnation
of calumny. This man of leather knows his old master thoroughly; he
plays the fawning cur, flatters, cajoles, wheedles, and dupes him
at will with little scraps of leavings, which he allows him to get.
"Dear Demos," he will say, "try a single case and you will have done
enough; then take your bath, eat, swallow and devour; here are three
obols." Then the Paphlagonian filches from one of us what we have
prepared and makes a present of it to our old man. The other day I
had just kneaded a Spartan cake at Pylos, the cunning rogue came behind
my back, sneaked it and offered the cake, which was my invention,
in his own name. He keeps us at a distance and suffers none but himself
to wait upon the master; when Demos is dining, he keeps close to his
side with a thong in his hand and puts the orators to flight. He keeps
singing oracles to him, so that the old man now thinks of nothing
but the Sibyl. Then, when he sees him thoroughly obfuscated, he uses
all his cunning and piles up lies and calumnies against the household;
then we are scourged and the Paphlagonian runs about among the slaves
to demand contributions with threats and gathers them in with both
hands. He will say, "You see how I have had Hylas beaten! Either content
me or die at once!" We are forced to give, for otherwise the old man
tramples on us and makes us crap forth all our body contains. (To
NICIAS) There must be an end to it, friend Let us see! what can be
done? Who will get us out of this mess?
NICIAS The best thing, friend, is our famous "Let-us-bolt!"
DEMOSTHENES 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.
NICIAS It's best then to die; but let us seek the most heroic death.
DEMOSTHENES Let me think, what is the most heroic?
NICIAS Let us drink the blood of a bull; that's the death Themistocles
DEMOSTHENES No, not that, but a bumper of good unmixed wine in honour
of the Good Genius; perchance we may stumble on a happy thought.
NICIAS Look at him! "Unmixed wine!" Your mind is on drink intent?
Can a man strike out a brilliant thought when drunk?
DEMOSTHENES 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.
NICIAS My God! What can your drinking do to help us?
DEMOSTHENES 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 bottle.)
NICIAS It is lucky I was not caught in the house stealing the wine.
DEMOSTHENES Tell me, what is the Paphlagonian doing now?
NICIAS The wretch has just gobbled up some confiscated cakes; he
is drunk and lies at full-length snoring on his hides.
DEMOSTHENES Very well, come along, pour me out wine and plenty of
NICIAS Take it and offer a libation to your Good Genius.
DEMOSTHENES (to himself) Inhale, ah, inhale the spirit of the genius
of Pramnium. (He drinks. Inspiredly) Ah! Good Genius, thine the
plan, not mine!
NICIAS Tell me, what is it?
DEMOSTHENES Run indoors quick and steal the oracles of the Paphlagonian,
while he is asleep.
NICIAS Bless me! I fear this Good Genius will be but a very Bad Genius
for me. (He goes into the house.)
DEMOSTHENES 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.)
NICIAS 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.
DEMOSTHENES 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!
NICIAS Well! what says the oracle?
DEMOSTHENES Pour again.
NICIAS Is "Pour again" in the oracle?
DEMOSTHENES Oh, Bacis!
NICIAS But what is in it?
DEMOSTHENES Quick! some drink!
NICIAS Bacis is very dry!
DEMOSTHENES Oh! miserable Paphlagonian! This then is why you have
so long taken such precautions; your horoscope gave you qualms of
NICIAS What does it say?
DEMOSTHENES It says here how he must end.
NICIAS And how?
DEMOSTHENES How? the oracle announces clearly that a dealer in oakum
must first govern the city.
NICIAS That's one tradesman. And after him, who?
DEMOSTHENES After him, a sheep-dealer.
NICIAS Two tradesmen, eh? And what is this one's fate?
DEMOSTHENES 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.
NICIAS And the leather-seller must destroy the sheep-seller?
NICIAS Oh woe is me! Where can another seller be found, is there
ever a one left?
DEMOSTHENES There is yet one, who plies a first-rate trade.
NICIAS Tell me, pray, what is that?
DEMOSTHENES You really want to know?
DEMOSTHENES Well then! it's a sausage-seller who must overthrow him.
NICIAS A sausage-seller! Ah! by Posidon! what a fine trade! But where
can this man be found?
DEMOSTHENES Let's seek him. But look! there he is, going towards
the market-place; 'tis the gods, the gods who send him! (Calling
out) This way, this way, oh; lucky sausage-seller, come forward,
dear friend, our saviour, the saviour of our city. (Enter AGORACRITUS,
a seller of sausages, carrying a basket of his wares.)
SAUSAGE-SELLER What is it? Why do you call me?
DEMOSTHENES Come here, come and learn about your good luck, you who
are Fortune's favourite!
NICIAS 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
DEMOSTHENES First put down all your gear, then worship the earth
and the gods.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Done. What is the matter?
DEMOSTHENES Happiness, riches, power; to-day you have nothing, to-morrow
you will have all, oh! chief of happy Athens.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Why not leave me to wash my tripe and to sell my sausages
instead of making game of me?
DEMOSTHENES Oh! the fool! Your tripe! Do you see these tiers of people?
DEMOSTHENES 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.
SAUSAGE-SELLER What! I?
DEMOSTHENES You, without a doubt. But you do not yet see all the
glory awaiting you. Stand on your basket and look at all the islands
that surround Athens.
SAUSAGE-SELLER I see them. What then?
DEMOSTHENES Look at the storehouses and the shipping.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Yes, I am looking.
DEMOSTHENES Exists there a mortal more blest than you? Furthermore,
turn your right eye towards Caria and your left toward Carthage!
SAUSAGE-SELLER Then it's a blessing to be cock-eyed!
DEMOSTHENES 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.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Just tell me how a sausage-seller can become a great
DEMOSTHENES That is precisely why you will be great, because you
are a sad rascal without shame, no better than a common market rogue.
SAUSAGE-SELLER I do not hold myself worthy of wielding power.
DEMOSTHENES 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
SAUSAGE-SELLER By the gods! No! of very bad indeed.
DEMOSTHENES Spoilt child of fortune, everything fits together to
ensure your greatness.
SAUSAGE-SELLER But I have not had the least education. I can only
read, and that very badly.
DEMOSTHENES That is what may stand in your way, almost knowing how
to read. A demagogue must be neither an educated nor an honest man;
he has to be an ignoramus and a rogue. But do not, do not let go this
gift, which the oracle promises.
SAUSAGE-SELLER But what does the oracle say?
DEMOSTHENES 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."
SAUSAGE-SELLER In what way does this concern me? Please instruct
DEMOSTHENES The eagle-tanner is the Paphlagonian.
SAUSAGE-SELLER What do the hooked claws mean?
DEMOSTHENES It means to say, that he robs and pillages us with his
SAUSAGE-SELLER And the dragon?
DEMOSTHENES 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.
SAUSAGE-SELLER The oracles of the gods flatter me! Faith! I do not
at all understand how I can be capable of governing the people.
DEMOSTHENES 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.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Who will be my ally? for the rich fear the Paphlagonian
and the poor shudder at the sight of him.
DEMOSTHENES You will have a thousand brave Knights, who detest him,
on your side; also the honest citizens amongst the spectators, those
who are men of brave hearts, and finally myself and the god. Fear
not, you will not see his features, for none have dared to make a
mask resembling him. But the public have wit enough to recognize him.
NICIAS (from within) Oh! mercy! here comes the Paphlagonian! (CLEON
rushes out of the house.)
CLEON 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.
DEMOSTHENES (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.
CLEON Oh! veteran Heliasts, brotherhood of the three obols, whom
I fostered by bawling at random, help me; I am being beaten to death
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.
CLEON 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.
CLEON 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 the city!
SAUSAGE-SELLER I can shout too-and so loud that you will flee with
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
CLEON I denounce this fellow; he has had tasty stews exported from
Athens for the Spartan fleet.
SAUSAGE-SELLER And I denounce him; he runs into the Prytaneum with
an empty belly and comes out with it full.
DEMOSTHENES 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.)
CLEON You are travelling the right road to get killed.
SAUSAGE-SELLER I'll bawl three times as loud as you.
CLEON I will deafen you with my yells.
SAUSAGE-SELLER And I you with my bellowing.
CLEON I shall calumniate you, if you become a Strategus.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Dog, I will lay your back open with the lash.
CLEON I will make you drop your arrogance,
SAUSAGE-SELLER I will baffle your machinations.
CLEON Dare to look me in the face!
SAUSAGE-SELLER I too was brought up in the market-place.
CLEON I will cut you to shreds if you whisper a word.
SAUSAGE-SELLER If you open your mouth, I'll shut it with shit.
CLEON I admit I'm a thief; that's more than you do.
SAUSAGE-SELLER By our Hermes of the market-place, if caught in the
act, why, I perjure myself before those who saw me.
CLEON These are my own special tricks. I will denounce you to the
Prytanes as the owner of sacred tripe, that has not paid tithe.
CHORUS (singing) Oh! you scoundrel! you impudent bawler! everything
is filled with your daring, all Attica, the Assembly, the Treasury,
the decrees, the tribunals. As a furious torrent you have overthrown
our city; your outcries have deafened Athens and, posted upon a high
rock, you have lain in wait for the tribute moneys as the fisherman
does for the tunny-fish.
CLEON (somewhat less loudly) I know your tricks; it's an old plot
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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.
DEMOSTHENES That's the very trick he played on me; both my neighbours
and my friends laughed heartily at me, and before I reached Pergasae
I was swimming in my shoes.
CHORUS (singing) Have you not always shown that blatant impudence,
which is the sole strength of our orators? You push it so far, that
you, the head of the State, dare to milk the purses of the opulent
aliens and, at sight of you, the son of Hippodamus melts into tears.
But here is another man who gives me pleasure, for he is a much greater
rascal than you; he will overthrow you; 'tis easy to see, that he
will beat you in roguery, in brazenness and in clever turns. Come,
you, who have been brought up among the class which to-day gives us
all our great men, show us that a liberal education is mere tomfoolery.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Just hear what sort of fellow that fine citizen is.
CLEON Will you not let me speak?
SAUSAGE-SELLER Assuredly not, for I too am an awful rascal.
DEMOSTHENES If he does not give in at that, tell him your parents
were awful rascals too.
CLEON Once more, will you let me speak?
SAUSAGE-SELLER No, by Zeus!
CLEON Yes, by Zeus, you shall!
SAUSAGE-SELLER No, by Posidon! We will fight first to see who shall
CLEON I will die sooner.
SAUSAGE-SELLER I will not let you....
DEMOSTHENES Let him, in the name of the gods, let him die.
CLEON What makes you so bold as to dare to speak to my face?
SAUSAGE-SELLER Because I know both how to speak and how to cook.
CLEON 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!
SAUSAGE-SELLER And what do you drink yourself then, to be able all
alone by yourself to dumbfound and stupefy the city so with your clamour?
CLEON 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!"
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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
DEMOSTHENES I admire your language so much; the only thing I do not
approve is that you swallow all the broth yourself.
CLEON Even though you gorged yourself on sea-dogs, you would not
beat the Milesians.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Give me a bullock's breast to devour, and I am a man
to traffic in mines.
CLEON I will rush into the Senate and set them all by the ears.
SAUSAGE-SELLER And I will pull out your arse to stuff like a sausage.
CLEON As for me, I will seize you by the rump and hurl you head foremost
through the door.
DEMOSTHENES By Posidon, only after you have thrown me there first.
CLEON (Beginning another crescendo of competitive screeching) Beware
of the carcan!
SAUSAGE-SELLER I denounce you for cowardice.
CLEON I will tan your hide.
SAUSAGE-SELLER I will flay you and make a thief's pouch with the
CLEON I will peg you out on the ground.
SAUSAGE-SELLER I will slice you into mince-meat.
CLEON I will tear out your eyelashes.
SAUSAGE-SELLER I will slit your gullet.
DEMOSTHENES We will set his mouth open with a wooden stick as the
cooks do with pigs; we will tear out his tongue, and, looking down
his gaping throat, will see whether his inside has any pimples.
CHORUS (singing) Thus then at Athens we have something more fiery
than fire, more impudent than impudence itself! 'Tis a grave matter;
come, we will push and jostle him without mercy. There, you grip him
tightly under the arms; if he gives way at the onset, you will find
him nothing but a craven; I know my man.
DEMOSTHENES 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.
CLEON I do not fear you as long as there is a Senate and a people
which stands like a fool, gaping in the air.
CHORUS (singing) What unparalleled impudence! 'Tis ever the same
brazen front. If I don't hate you, why, I'm ready to take the place
of the one blanket Cratinus wets; I'll offer to play a tragedy by
Morsimus. Oh! you cheat! who turn all into money, who flutter from
one extortion to another; may you disgorge as quickly as you have
crammed yourself! Then only would I sing, "Let us drink, let us drink
to this happy event!" Then even the son of Ulius, the old wheat-fairy,
would empty his cup with transports of joy, crying, "Io, Paean! Io,
CLEON 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
SAUSAGE-SELLER And I, I swear by the blows that have so oft rained
upon my shoulders since infancy, and by the knives that have cut me,
that I will show more effrontery than you; as sure as I have rounded
this fine stomach by feeding on the pieces of bread that had cleansed
other folk's greasy fingers.
CLEON 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?
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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.
CHORUS Oh! most clever man! How well thought out! You did as the
eaters of artichokes, you gathered them before the return of the swallows."
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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.
CLEON 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.
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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.
DEMOSTHENES And I will watch in the bilges in case the boat should
CLEON No, by Demeter! I swear, it will not be with impunity that
you have thieved so many talents from the Athenians.
DEMOSTHENES (to the SAUSAGE-SELLER) Oh! oh! reef your sail a bit!
Here is a Northeaster blowing calumniously.
SAUSAGE-SELLER I know that you got ten talents out of Potidaea.
CLEON Wait! I will give you one; but keep it dark!
DEMOSTHENES (aside) Hah! that will please him mightily; (to the
SAUSAGE-SELLER) now you can travel under full sail. The wind has
lost its violence.
CLEON I will bring four suits against you, each of one hundred talents.
SAUSAGE-SELLER And I twenty against you for shirking duty and more
than a thousand for robbery.
CLEON I maintain that your parents were guilty of sacrilege against
SAUSAGE-SELLER And I, that one of your grandfathers was a satellite....
CLEON To whom? Explain!
SAUSAGE-SELLER To Byrsina, the mother of Hippias.
CLEON You are an impostor.
SAUSAGE-SELLER And you are a rogue. (He strikes CLEON with a sausage.)
DEMOSTHENES Hit him hard.
CLEON Alas! The conspirators are murdering me!
DEMOSTHENES (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.)
CHORUS-LEADER Oh! vigorous assailant and intrepid heart! See how
you have totally routed him in this duel of abuse, so that to us and
to the citizens you seem the saviour of the city. How shall I give
tongue to my joy and praise you sufficiently?
CLEON (recovering his wits) Ah! by Demeter! I was not ignorant of
this plot and these machinations that were being forged and nailed
and put together against me.
DEMOSTHENES (to the SAUSAGE-SELLER) Look out, look out! Come outfence
him with some wheelwright slang.
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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.
DEMOSTHENES Well done! Forge on, if he be a wheelwright.
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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.
CLEON 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.
SAUSAGE-SELLER What price then is paid for forage by Boeotians?
CLEON Oh! by Heracles! I will tan your hide. (He departs.)
DEMOSTHENES 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.
SAUSAGE-SELLER I am going, but first I must rid myself of my tripe
and my knives; I will leave them here.
DEMOSTHENES Stay! rub your neck with lard; in this way you will slip
between the fingers of calumny.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Spoken like a finished wrestling coach.
DEMOSTHENES Now, bolt down these cloves of garlic.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Pray, what for?
DEMOSTHENES Well primed with garlic, you will have greater mettle
for the fight. But hurry, make haste rapidly!
SAUSAGE-SELLER That's just what I'm doing. (He departs.)
DEMOSTHENES 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.
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (singing) 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.
SECOND SEMI-CHORUS (singing) 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
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.
SAUSAGE-SELLER The important thing is that I have beaten the Senate.
CHORUS (singing) All glory to you! Let us burst into shouts of joy!
You speak well, but your deeds are even better. Come, tell me everything
in detail; what a long journey would I not be ready to take to hear
your tale! Come, dear friend, speak with full confidence to your admirers.
SAUSAGE-SELLER The story is worth hearing. Listen! From here I rushed
straight to the Senate, right in the track of this man; he was already
letting loose the storm, unchaining the lightning, crushing the Knights
beneath huge mountains of calumnies heaped together and having all
the air of truth; he called you conspirators and his lies caught root
like weeds in every mind; dark were the looks on every side and brows
were knitted. When I saw that the Senate listened to him favourably
and was being tricked by his imposture I said to myself, "Come, gods
of rascals and braggarts, gods of all fools, and toad-eaters, and
thou too, oh market-place, wherein I was bred from my earliest days,
give me unbridled audacity, an untiring chatter and a shameless voice."
No sooner had I ended this prayer than a pederast farted on my right.
"Hah! a good omen," said I, and prostrated myself; then I burst open
the door by a vigorous push with my arse, and, opening my mouth to
the utmost, shouted, "Senators, I wanted you to be the first to hear
the good news; since the war broke out, I have never seen anchovies
at a lower price!" All faces brightened at once and I was voted a
chaplet for my good tidings; and I added, "With a couple of words
I will reveal to you how you can have quantities of anchovies for
an obol; all you have to do is to seize on all the dishes the merchants
have." With mouths gaping with admiration, they applauded me. However,
the Paphlagonian winded the matter and, well knowing the sort of language
which pleases the Senate best, said, "Friends, I am resolved to offer
one hundred oxen to the goddess in recognition of this happy event."
The Senate at once veered to his side. So when I saw myself defeated
by this ox dung, I outbade the fellow, crying, "Two hundred!" And
beyond this I moved that a vow be made to Diana of a thousand goats
if the next day anchovies should only be worth an obol a hundred.
And the Senate looked towards me again. The other, stunned with the
blow, grew delirious in his speech, and at last the Prytanes and the
Scythians dragged him out. The Senators then stood talking noisily
about the anchovies. Cleon, however, begged them to listen to the
Lacedaemonian envoy, who had come to make proposals of peace; but
all with one accord cried "Certainly it's not the moment to think
of peace now! If anchovies are so cheap, what need have we of peace?
Let the war take its course!" And with loud shouts they demanded that
the Prytanes should close the sitting and then they leapt over the
rails in all directions. As for me, I slipped away to buy all the
coriander seed and leeks there were on the market and gave it to them
gratis as seasoning for their anchovies. It was marvellous! They loaded
me with praises and caresses; thus I conquered the Senate with an
obol's worth of leeks, and here I am.
CHORUS (singing) Bravo! you are the spoilt child of Fortune. Ah!
our knave has found his match in another, who has far better tricks
in his sack, a thousand kinds of knaveries and of wily words. But
the fight begins afresh; take care not to weaken; you know that I
have long been your most faithful ally.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Ah! ah! here comes the Paphlagonian! One would say
it was a hurricane lashing the sea and rolling the waves before it
in its fury. He looks as if he wanted to swallow me up alive! Ye gods!
what an impudent knave!
CLEON (as he rushes in) To my aid, my beloved lies! I am going to
destroy you, or my name is lost.
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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, cuckoo!
CLEON Ah! by Demeter! if I do not kill and devour you, may I die!
SAUSAGE-SELLER If you do not devour me? and I, if I do not drink
your blood to the last drop, and then burst with indigestion.
CLEON I, I will strangle you, I swear it by the front seat which
Pylos gained me.
SAUSAGE-SELLER By the front seat! Ah! Ah! might I see you fall into
the hindmost seat!
CLEON By heaven! I will put you to the torture.
SAUSAGE-SELLER What a lively wit! Come, what's the best to give you
to eat? What do you prefer? A purse?
CLEON I will tear out your insides with my nails.
SAUSAGE-SELLER And I will cut off your victuals at the Prytaneum.
CLEON I will haul you before Demos, who will mete out justice to
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Is then Demos your property, your contemptible creature?
CLEON It's because I know the dishes that please him.
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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.
CLEON Thanks to my skill, I know exactly how to enlarge or contract
SAUSAGE-SELLER My arse is just as clever.
CLEON Well, my friend, you tricked me at the Senate, but take care!
Let us go before Demos.
SAUSAGE-SELLER That's easily done; come, let's do it right away.
CLEON (loudly) Oh, Demos! Come, I adjure you to help me, my father
SAUSAGE-SELLER (more loudly) Come, oh, my dear little Demos; come
and see how I am insulted.
DEMOS (coming out of his house followed by DEMOSTHENES) What a hubhub!
To the Devil with you, bawlers! Alas! my olive branch, which they
have torn down! Ah! it's you, Paphlagonian. And who, pray, has been
CLEON You are the cause of this man and these young people having
covered me with blows.
DEMOS And why?
CLEON Because you love me passionately, Demos.
DEMOS (to the SAUSAGE-SELLER) And you, who are you?
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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.
CLEON I am the benefactor of the people.
SAUSAGE-SELLER In what way, please?
CLEON In what way? I supplanted the Generals at Pylos, I hurried
thither and I brought back the Laconian captives.
SAUSAGE-SELLER And I, whilst simply loitering, cleared off with a
pot from a shop, which another fellow had been boiling.
CLEON Demos, convene the assembly at once to decide which of us two
loves you best and most merits your favour.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Yes, yes, provided it be not at the Pnyx.
DEMOS 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,)
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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.
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (singing) 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!
CLEON 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.
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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
CLEON 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?
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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
DEMOS 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.
CLEON Petty flattery to prove him your goodwill!
SAUSAGE-SELLER But you have caught him with even smaller baits!
CLEON Never had Demos a defender or a friend more devoted than myself;
on my head, on my life, I swear it!
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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.
CLEON 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
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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
CLEON Is it not shameful, that you should dare thus to calumniate
me before Demos, me, to whom Athens, I swear it by Demeter, already
owes more than it ever did to Themistocles?
SAUSAGE-SELLER (declaiming) Oh! citizens of Argos, do you hear what
he says? (to CLEON) You dare to compare yourself to Themistocles,
who found our city half empty and left it full to overflowing, who
one day gave us the Piraeus for dinner, and added fresh fish to all
our usual meals. You, on the contrary, you, who compare yourself with
Themistocles, have only sought to reduce our city in size, to shut
it within its walls, to chant oracles to us. And Themistocles goes
into exile, while you gorge yourself on the most excellent fare.
CLEON Oh! Demos! Am I compelled to hear myself thus abused, and merely
because I love you?
DEMOS Silence! stop your abuse! All too long have I been your dupe.
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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.
CLEON Tremble, knave; I will convict you of having stolen thirty
SAUSAGE-SELLER For a rascal of your kidney, you shout rarely! Well!
I am ready to die if I do not prove that you have accepted more than
forty minae from the Mitylenaeans.
SECOND SEMI-CHORUS (singing) 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
CLEON 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.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Of the bucklers! Hold! I stop you there and I hold
you fast. For if it be true that you love the people, you would not
allow these to be hung up with their rings; but it's with an intent
you have done this. Demos, take knowledge of his guilty purpose; in
this way you no longer can punish him at your pleasure. Note the swarm
of young tanners, who really surround him, and close to them the sellers
of honey and cheese; all these are at one with him. Very well! you
have but to frown, to speak of ostracism and they will rush at night
to these bucklers, take them down and seize our granaries.
DEMOS Great gods! what! the bucklers retain their rings! Scoundrel!
ah! to long have you had me for your dupe, cheated and plaved with
CLEON 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.
SAUSAGE-SELLER You are like the fishers for eels; in still waters
they catch nothing, but if they thoroughly stir up the slime, their
fishing is good; in the same way it's only in troublous times that
you line your pockets. But come, tell me, you, who sell so many skins,
have you ever made him a present of a pair of soles for his slippers?
and you pretend to love him!
DEMOS No, he has never given me any.
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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.)
DEMOS 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.
CLEON 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?
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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.)
DEMOS 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.
CLEON Must you have recourse to such jackanapes' tricks to supplant
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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
CLEON 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
DEMOS (as CLEON throws a cloak around his shoulders) Faugh! may
the plague seize you! You stink of leather horribly.
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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
DEMOS Aye, to be sure I do!
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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.
DEMOS Hah! why, indeed, a Dungtownite told me the same thing.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Were you not yourself in those days quite red in the
gills with farting?
DEMOS Why, it was a trick worthy of Pyrrhandrus!
CLEON With what other idle trash will you seek to ruin me, you wretch!
SAUSAGE-SELLER Oh! I shall be more brazen than you, for it's the
goddess who has commanded me.
CLEON 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
SAUSAGE-SELLER Wait! here is a little box of ointment to rub into
the sores on your legs.
CLEON I will pluck out your white hairs and make you young again.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Take this hare's tail to wipe the rheum from your
CLEON When you wipe your nose, clean your fingers on my head.
SAUSAGE-SELLER No, on mine.
CLEON 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.
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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.
CLEON I will punish your self-importance; I will crush you with imposts;
I will have you inscribed on the list of the rich.
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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!
DEMOS 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.
CLEON Here it is, but be assured, that if you bereave me of my power,
my successor will be worse than I am.
DEMOS This cannot be my ring; I see another device, unless I am going
SAUSAGE-SELLER What was your device?
DEMOS A fig-leaf, stuffed with bullock's fat.
SAUSAGE-SELLER No, that is not it.
DEMOS What is it then?
SAUSAGE-SELLER It's a gull with beak wide open, haranguing the people
from the top of a stone.
DEMOS Ah! great gods!
SAUSAGE-SELLER What is the matter?
DEMOS 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.
CLEON Master, I adjure you, decide nothing till you have heard my
SAUSAGE-SELLER And mine.
CLEON If you believe him, you will have to prostitute yourself for
SAUSAGE-SELLER If you listen to him, you'll have to let him peel
you to the very stump.
CLEON My oracles say that you are to reign over the whole earth,
crowned with chaplets.
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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.
DEMOS Go, fetch me your oracles, that the Paphlagonian may hear them.
DEMOS And you yours.
CLEON I'll run. (He rushes into the house of DEMOS.)
SAUSAGE-SELLER And I'll run too; nothing could suit me better! (He
departs in haste.)
CHORUS (singing) Oh! happy day for us and for our children if Cleon
perish. Yet just now I heard some old cross-grained pleaders on the
marketplace who hold not this opinion discoursing together. Said they,
"If Cleon had not had the power, we should have lacked two most useful
tools, the pestle and the soup-ladle." You also know what a pig's
education he has had; his school-fellows can recall that he only liked
the Dorian style and would study no other; his music-master in displeasure
sent him away, saying; "This youth, in matters of harmony, will only
learn the Dorian style because it is akin to bribery."
CLEON (coming out of the house with a large package) There, look
at this heap; and yet I'm not bringing them all.
SAUSAGE-SELLER (entering witk an even larger package) Ugh! The weight
of them is squeezing the crap right out of me, and still I'm not bringing
DEMOS What are these?
DEMOS All these?
CLEON Does that astonish you? Why, I have another whole boxful of
SAUSAGE-SELLER And I the whole of my attic and two rooms besides.
DEMOS Come, let us see, whose are these oracles?
CLEON Mine are those of Bacis.
DEMOS (to the SAUSAGE-SELLER) And whose are yours?
SAUSAGE-SELLER (without hesitating) Glanis's, the elder brother
DEMOS And of what do they speak?
CLEON Of Athens and Pylos and you and me and everything.
DEMOS And yours?
SAUSAGE-SELLER 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!
DEMOS 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.
CLEON Then listen and be attentive! "Son of Erechtheus, understand
the meaning of the words, which the sacred tripods set resounding
in the sanctuary of Apollo. Preserve the sacred dog with the jagged
teeth, that barks and howls in your defence; he will ensure you a
salary and, if he fails, will perish as the victim of the swarms of
jays that hunt him down with their screams."
DEMOS By Demeter! I do not understand a word of it. What connection
is there between Erechtheus, the jays and the dog?
CLEON I am the dog, since I bark in your defence. Well! Phoebus commands
you to keep and cherish your dog.
SAUSAGE-SELLER That is not what the god says; this dog seems to me
to gnaw at the oracles as others gnaw at doorposts. Here is exactly
what Apollo says of the dog.
DEMOS Let us hear, but I must first pick up a stone; an oracle which
speaks of a dog might bite my tool.
SAUSAGE-SELLER "Son of Erechtheus, beware of this Cerberus that enslaves
free men; he fawns upon you with his tail when you are dining, but
he is lying in wait to devour your dishes should you turn your head
an instant; at night he sneaks into the kitchen and, true dog that
he is, licks up with one lap of his tongue both your dishes and....
DEMOS By god, Glanis, you speak better than your brother.
CLEON Condescend again to hear me and then judge: "A woman in sacred
Athens will be delivered of a lion, who shall fight for the people
against clouds of gnats with the same ferocity as if he were defending
his whelps; care ye for him, erect wooden walls around him and towers
of brass." Do you understand that?
DEMOS Not the least bit in the world.
CLEON The god tells you here to look after me, for I am your lion.
DEMOS How! You have become a lion and I never knew a thing about
SAUSAGE-SELLER There is only one thing which he purposely keeps from
you; he does not say what this wall of wood and brass is in which
Apollo warns you to keep and guard him.
DEMOS What does the god mean, then?
SAUSAGE-SELLER He advises you to fit him into a five-holed wooden
DEMOS Hah! I think that oracle is about to be fulfilled.
CLEON Do not believe it; these are but jealous crows, that caw against
me; but never cease to cherish your good hawk; never forget that he
brought you those Lacedaemonian fish, loaded with chains.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Ah! if the Paphlagonian ran any risk that day, it
was because he was drunk. Oh, too credulous son of Cecrops, do you
accept that as a glorious exploit? A woman would carry a heavy burden
if only a man had put it on her shoulders. But to fight! Go to! he
would empty his bowels before he would ever fight.
CLEON Note this Pylos in front of Pylos, of which the oracle speaks,
"Pylos is before Pylos."
DEMOS How "in front of Pylos"? What does he mean by that?
SAUSAGE-SELLER He says he will seize upon your bath-tubs.
DEMOS Then I shall not bathe to-day.
SAUSAGE-SELLER No, as he has stolen our baths. But here is an oracle
about the fleet, to which I beg your best attention.
DEMOS Read on! I am listening; let us first see how we are to pay
SAUSAGE-SELLER "Son of Aegeus, beware of the tricks of the dog-fox,
he bites from the rear and rushes off at full speed; he is nothing
but cunning and perfidy." Do you know what the oracle intends to say?
DEMOS The dog-fox is Philostratus.
SAUSAGE-SELLER No, no, it's Cleon; he is incessantly asking you for
light vessels to go and collect the tributes, and Apollo advises you
not to grant them.
DEMOS What connection is there between a galley and dog-fox?
SAUSAGE-SELLER What connection? Why, it's quite plain-a galley travels
as fast as a dog.
DEMOS Why, then, does the oracle not say dog instead of dog-fox?
SAUSAGE-SELLER Because he compares the soldiers to young foxes, who,
like them, eat the grapes in the fields.
DEMOS Good! Well then! how am I to pay the wages of my young foxes?
SAUSAGE-SELLER I will undertake that, and in three days too! But
listen to this further oracle, by which Apollo puts you on your guard
against the snares of the greedy fist.
DEMOS Of what greedy fist?
SAUSAGE-SELLER The god in this oracle very clearly points to the
hand of Cleon, who incessantly holds his out, saying, "Fill it."
CLEON That's a lie! Phoebus means the hand of Diopithes. But here
I have a winged oracle, which promises you shall become an eagle and
rule over all the earth.
SAUSAGE-SELLER I have one, which says that you shall be King of the
Earth and of the Red Sea too, and that you shall administer justice
in Ecbatana, eating fine rich stews the while.
CLEON I have seen Athen& in a dream, pouring out full vials of
riches and health over the people.
SAUSAGE-SELLER I too have seen the goddess, descending from the Acropolis
with an owl perched upon her helmet; on your head she was pouring
out ambrosia, on that of Cleon garlic pickle.
DEMOS Truly Glanis is the wisest of men. I shall yield myself to
you; guide me in my old age and educate me anew.
CLEON Ah! I adjure you! not yet; wait a little; I will promise to
distribute barley every day.
DEMOS Ah! I will not hear another word about barley; you have cheated
me too often already, both you and Theophanes.
CLEON Well then! you shall have flour-cakes all piping hot.
SAUSAGE-SELLER I will give you cakes too, and nice cooked fish; all
you'll have to do is eat.
DEMOS Very well, mind you keep your promises. To whichever of you
shall treat me best I hand over the reins of state.
CLEON I will be first. (He rushes into the house.)
SAUSAGE-SELLER No, no, I will. (He runs off.)
CHORUS (singing) Demos, you are our all-powerful sovereign lord;
all tremble before you, yet you are led by the nose. You love to be
flattered and fooled; you listen to the orators with gaping mouth
and your mind is led astray.
DEMOS (singing) It's rather you who have no brains, if you think
me so foolish as all that; it is with a purpose that I play this idiot's
role, for I love to drink the livelong day, and so it pleases me to
keep a thief for my minister. When he has thoroughly gorged himself,
then I overthrow and crush him.
CHORUS (singing) What profound wisdom! If it be really so, why!
all is for the best. Your ministers, then, are your victims, whom
you nourish and feed up expressly in the Pnyx, so that, the day your
dinner is ready, you may immolate the fattest and eat him.
DEMOS (singing) Look, see how I play with them, while all the time
they think themselves such adepts at cheating me. I have my eye on
them when they thieve, but I do not appear to be seeing them; then
I thrust a judgment down their throat as it were a feather, and force
them to vomit up all they have robbed from me. (Cleon comes out of
the house with a bench and a large basket; at the same moment the
SAUSAGE-SELLER arrives with another basket; the two are placed beside
CLEON Get out of here!
SAUSAGE-SELLER Get out yourself!
CLEON Demos, all is ready these three hours; I await your orders
and I burn with desire to load you with benefits.
SAUSAGE-SELLER And I ten, twelve, a thousand hours, a long, long
while, an infinitely long, long, long while.
DEMOS As for me, it's thirty thousand hours that I have been impatient;
very, long, infinitely long, long, long that I have cursed you-
SAUSAGE-SELLER Do you know what you had best do?
DEMOS I will, if you tell me.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Declare the lists open and we will contend abreast
to determine-who shall treat you the best.
DEMOS Splended! Draw back in line!
CLEON I am ready.
DEMOS Off you go!
SAUSAGE-SELLER (to CLEON) I shall not let you get to the tape.
DEMOS What fervent lovers! If I am not to-day the happiest of men,
it will be because I am the most disgusted.
CLEON (putting down the bench for DEMOS) Look! I am the first to
bring you a seat.
SAUSAGE-SELLER And I a table. (He places his sausage-tray in front
CLEON Wait, here is a cake kneaded of Pylos barley.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Here are crusts, which the ivory hand of the goddess
DEMOS Oh! Mighty Athene! How large are your fingers!
CLEON This is pea-soup, as exquisite as it is fine; Pallas the victorious
goddess at Pylos is the one who crushed the peas herself.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Oh, Demos! the goddess watches over you; she is stretching
forth over your head.... a stew-pan full of broth.
DEMOS And should we still be dwelling in this city without this protecting
CLEON Here are some fish, given to you by her who is the terror of
SAUSAGE-SELLER The daughter of the mightiest of the gods sends you
this meat cooked in its own gravy, along with this dish of tripe and
DEMOS That's to thank me for the peplus I offered to her; good.
CLEON The goddess with the terrible plume invites you to eat this
long cake; you will row the harder on it.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Take this also.
DEMOS And what shall I do with this tripe?
SAUSAGE-SELLER She sends it you to belly out your galleys, for she
is always showing her kindly anxiety for our fleet. Now drink this
drink composed of three parts of water to two of wine.
DEMOS Ah! what delicious wine, and how well it stands the water.
SAUSAGE-SELLER The goddess who came from the head of Zeus mixed this
liquor with her own hands.
CLEON Hold, here is a piece of good rich cake.
SAUSAGE-SELLER But I offer you an entire cake.
CLEON But you cannot offer him stewed hare as I do.
SAUSAGE-SELLER (aside) Ah! great gods! stewed hare! where shall
I find it? Oh! brain of mine, devise some trick!
CLEON (showing him the hare) Do you see this, you rogue?
SAUSAGE-SELLER (pretending to look afar) A fig for that! Here are
some people coming to seek me. They are envoys, bearing sacks bulging
CLEON (Hearing money mentioned CLEON turns his head, and the SAUSAGE-SELLER
seizes the opportunity to snatch away the stewed hare.) Where, where,
SAUSAGE-SELLER Bah! What's that to you? Will you not even now let
the strangers alone? Dear Demos, do you see this stewed hare which
I bring you?
CLEON Ah! rascal! you have shamelessly robbed me.
SAUSAGE-SELLER You have robbed too, you robbed the Laconians at Pylos.
DEMOS Please tell me, how did you get the idea to filch it from him?
SAUSAGE-SELLER The idea comes from the goddess; the theft is all
CLEON And I had taken such trouble to catch this hare and I was the
one who had it cooked.
DEMOS (to CLEON) Get you gone! My thanks are only for him who served
CLEON Ah! wretch! you have beaten me in impudence!
SAUSAGE-SELLER Well then, Demos, say now, who has treated you best,
you and your stomach? Decide!
DEMOS How shall I act here so that the spectators shall approve my
SAUSAGE-SELLER I will tell you. Without saying anything, go and rummage
through my basket, and then through the Paphlagonian's, and see what
is in them; that's the best way to judge.
DEMOS Let us see then, what is there in yours?
SAUSAGE-SELLER Why, it's empty, dear little father; I have brought
everything to you.
DEMOS This is a basket devoted to the people.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Now hunt through the Paphlagonian's. (Pause, as Demos
does so) Well?
DEMOS Oh! what a lot of good things! Why it's quite full! Oh! what
a huge great part of this cake he kept for himself! He had only cut
off the least little tiny piece for me.
SAUSAGE-SELLER But this is what he has always done. Of everything
he took, he only gave you the crumbs, and kept the bulk.
DEMOS (to CLEON) Oh! rascal! was this the way you robbed me? And
I was loading you with chaplets and gifts!
CLEON I robbed for the public weal.
DEMOS (to CLEON) Give me back that crown; I shall give it to him.
SAUSAGE-SELLER Return it quick, quick, you gallows-bird.
CLEON No, for the Pythian oracle has revealed to me the name of him
who shall overthrow me.
SAUSAGE-SELLER And that name was mine, nothing can be clearer.
CLEON Reply and I shall soon see whether you are indeed the man whom
the god intended. Firstly, what school did you attend when a child?
SAUSAGE-SELLER It was in the kitchens, where I was taught with cuffs
CLEON What's that you say? (aside) Ah! this is truly what the oracle
said. (To the SAUSAGE-SELLER) And what did you learn from the master
SAUSAGE-SELLER I learnt to take a false oath without a smile, when
I had stolen something.
CLEON (frightened; aside) Oh! Phoebus Apollo, god of Lycia! I am
undone! (To the SAUSAGE-SELLER) And when you had become a man, what
trade did you follow?
SAUSAGE-SELLER I sold sausages and did a bit of fornication.
CLEON (in consternation; aside) Oh! my god! I am a lost man! Ah!
still one slender hope remains. (to the SAUSAGE-SELLER) Tell me,
was it on the market-place or near the gates that you sold your sausages?
SAUSAGE-SELLER Near the gates, in the market for salted goods.
CLEON (in tragic despair) Alas! I see the prophecy of the god is
verily come true. Alas! roll me home. I am a miserable ruined man.
Farewell, my chaplet. 'Tis death to me to part with you. So you are
to belong to another; 'tis certain he cannot be a greater thief, but
perhaps he may be a luckier one. (He gives the chaplet to the SAUSAGE-SELLER.)
SAUSAGE-SELLER Oh! Zeus, protector of Greece! 'tis to you I owe this
DEMOSTHENES Hail! illustrious conqueror, but forget not, that if
you have become a great man, 'tis thanks to me; I ask but a little
thing; appoint me secretary of the law-court in the room of Phanus.
DEMOS (to the SAUSAGE-SELLER) But what is your name then? Tell me.
SAUSAGE-SELLER My name is Agoracritus, because I have always lived
on the marketplace in the midst of lawsuits.
DEMOS Well then, Agoracritus, I stand by you; as for the Paphlagonian,
I hand him over to your mercy.
AGORACRITUS Demos, I will care for you to the best of my power, and
all shall admit that no citizen is more devoted than I to this city
of simpletons. (They all enter the house of DEMOS.)
CHORUS (singing) What fitter theme for our Muse, at the close as
at the beginning of our work, than this, to sing the hero who drives
his swift steeds down the arena? Why afflict Lysistratus with our
satires on his poverty, and Thumantis, who has not so much as a lodging?
He is dying of hunger and can be seen at Delphi, his face bathed in
tears, clinging to your quiver, oh, Apollo and supplicating you to
take him out of his misery.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS An insult directed at the wicked is not to be
censured; on the contrary, the honest man, if he has sense, can only
applaud. Him, whom I wish to brand with infamy, is little known himself;
he's the brother of Arignotus. I regret to quote this name which is
so dear to me, but whoever can distinguish black from white, or the
Orthian mode of music from others, knows the virtues of Arignotus,
whom his brother, Ariphrades, in no way resembles. He gloats in vice,
is not merely a dissolute man and utterly debauched-but he has actually
invented a new form of vice; for he pollutes his tongue with abominable
pleasures in brothels, befouling all of his body. Whoever is not horrified
at such a monster shall never drink from the same cup with me.
CHORUS (singing) At times a thought weighs on me at night; I wonder
whence comes this fearful voracity of Cleonymus. 'Tis said that when
dining with a rich host, he springs at the dishes with the gluttony
of a wild beast and never leaves the bread-bin until his host seizes
him round the knees, exclaiming, "Go, go, good gentleman, in mercy
go, and spare my poor table!"
LEADER OF THE CHORUS It is said that the triremes assembled in council
and that the oldest spoke in these terms, "Are you ignorant, my sisters,
of what is plotting in Athens? They say that a certain Hyperbolus,
a bad citizen and an infamous scoundrel, asks for a hundred of us
to take them to sea against Carthage." All were indignant, and one
of them, as yet a virgin, cried, "May god forbid that I should ever
obey him! I would prefer to grow old in the harbour and be gnawed
by worms. No! by the gods I swear it, Nauphante, daughter of Nauson,
shall never bend to his law; that's as true as I am made of wood and
pitch. If the Athenians vote for the proposal of Hyperbolus, let them!
we will hoist full sail and seek refuge by the temple of Theseus or
the shrine of the Eumenides. No! he shall not command us! No! he shall
not play with the city to this extent! Let him sail by himself for
Tartarus, if such please him, launching the boats in which he used
to sell his lamps." (The SAUSAGE-SELLER comes out of the house of
DEMOS, splendidly robed.)
AGORACRITUS (solemnly) Maintain a holy silence! Keep your mouths
from utterance! call no more witnesses; close these tribunals, which
are the delight of this city, and gather at the theatre to chant the
Paean of thanksgiving to the gods for a fresh favour.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Oh! torch of sacred Athens, saviour of the Islands,
what good tidings are we to celebrate by letting the blood of the
victims flow in our marketplaces?
AGORACRITUS I have freshened Demos up somewhat on the stove and have
turned his ugliness into beauty.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS I admire your invertive genius; but, where is
AGORACRITUS He is living in ancient Athens, the city of the garlands
LEADER OF THE CHORUS How I should like to see him! What is his dress
like, what his manner?
AGORACRITUS He has once more become as he was in the days when he
lived with Aristides and Miltiades. But you will judge for yourselves,
for I hear the vestibule doors opening. Hail with your shouts of gladness
the Athens of old, which now doth reappear to your gaze, admirable,
worthy of the songs of the poets and the home of the illustrious Demos.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Oh! noble, brilliant Athens, whose brow is wreathed
with violets, show us the sovereign master of this land and of all
Greece. (DEMOS comes from his house, rejuvenated and joyous.)
AGORACRITUS Lo! here he is coming with his hair held in place with
a golden band and in all the glory of his old-world dress; perfumed
with myrrh, he spreads around him not the odour of lawsuits, but that
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Hail! King of Greece, we congratulate you upon
the happiness you enjoy; it is worthy of this city, worthy of the
glory of Marathon.
DEMOS Come, Agoracritus, come, my best friend; see the service you
have done me by freshening me up on your stove.
AGORACRITUS Ah! if you but remembered what you were formerly and
what you did, you would for a certainty believe me to be a god.
DEMOS But what did I do? and how was I then?
AGORACRITUS Firstly, so soon as ever an orator declared in the Assembly,
"Demos, I love you ardently; it is I alone who dream of you and watch
over your interests"; at such an exordium you would look like a cock
flapping his wings or a bull tossing his horns.
DEMOS What, I?
AGORACRITUS Then, after he had fooled you to the hilt, he would go.
DEMOS What! they would treat me so, and I never saw it?
AGORACRITUS You knew only how to open and close your ears like a
DEMOS Was I then so stupid and such a dotard?
AGORACRITUS Worse than that; if one of two orators proposed to equip
a fleet for war and the other suggested the use of the same sum for
paying out to the citizens, it was the latter who always carried the
day. Well! you droop your head! Why do you turn away your face?
DEMOS I am blushing at my past errors.
AGORACRITUS Think no more of them; it's not you who are to blame,
but those who cheated you in this sorry fashion. But, come, if some
impudent lawyer dared to say, "Dicasts, you shall have no wheat unless
you convict this accused man!" what would you do? Tell me.
DEMOS I would have him removed from the bar, I would bind Hyperbolus
about his neck like a stone and would fling him into the Barathrum.
AGORACRITUS Well spoken! but what other measures do you wish to take?
DEMOS First, as soon as ever a fleet returns to the harbour, I shall
pay up the rowers in full.
AGORACRITUS That will soothe many a worn and chafed bottom.
DEMOS Further, the hoplite enrolled for military service shall not
get transferred to another service through favour, but shall stick
to that given him at the outset.
AGORACRITUS This will strike the buckler of Cleonymus full in the
DEMOS None shall ascend the rostrum, unless his chin is bearded.
AGORACRITUS What then will become of Clisthenes and of Strato?
DEMOS I wish only to refer to those youths who loll about the perfume
shops, babbling at random, "What a clever fellow is Phaeax! How cleverly
he escaped death! how concise and convincing is his style! what phrases!
how clear and to the point! how well he knows how to quell an interruption!
AGORACRITUS I thought you were the lover of those fairies.
DEMOS The gods forefend it! and I will force all such fellows to
go hunting instead of proposing decrees.
AGORACRITUS In that case, accept this folding-stool, and, to carry
it, this well-grown, big-balled slave lad. Besides, you may put him
to any other purpose you please.
DEMOS Oh! I am happy indeed to find myself as I was of old!
AGORACRITUS Aye, you will deem yourself happy, when I have handed
you the truce of thirty years. Truce! step forward! (Enter Truce,
in the form of a beautiful young girl, magnificently attired.)
DEMOS Great gods! how charming she is! Can I do with her as I wish?
where did you discover her, pray?
AGORACRITUS That Paphlagonian had kept her locked up in his house,
so that you might not enjoy her. As for myself, I give her to you;
take her with you into the country.
DEMOS And what punishment will you inflict upon this Paphlagonian,
the cause of all my troubles?
AGORACRITUS It will not be over-terrible. I condemn him to follow
my old trade, posted near the gates, he must sell sausages of asses'
and dogs' meat: perpetually drunk, he will exchange foul language
with prostitutes and will drink nothing but the dirty water from the
DEMOS Well conceived! he is indeed fit to wrangle with harlots and
bathmen; as for you, in return for so many blessings, I invite you
to take the place at the Prytaneum which this rogue once occupied.
Put on his frog-green mantle and follow me. As for the other, let
them take him away; let him go sell his sausages in full view of the
foreigners, whom he used formerly to insult so wantonly.
The Internet Classics Archive by Daniel C. Stevenson, Web Atomics.
World Wide Web presentation is copyright (C) 1994-2000, Daniel
C. Stevenson, Web Atomics.
All rights reserved under international and pan-American copyright
conventions, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part
in any form. Direct permission requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Translation of "The Deeds of the Divine Augustus" by Augustus is
copyright (C) Thomas Bushnell, BSG.