|This is Google's cache of classics.mit.edu/Aristophanes/thesmoph.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
MNESILOCHUS, Father-in-law of Euripides
SERVANT OF AGATHON
A SCYTHIAN POLICEMAN
Behind the orchestra are two buildings, one the house of the poet
AGATHON, the other the Thesmophorion. EURIPIDES enters from the right,
at a rapid pace, with an air of searching for something; his father-in-law
MNESILOCHUS, who is extremely aged, follows him as best he can, with
an obviously painful expenditure of effort.
MNESILOCHUS Great Zeus! will the swallow never appear to end the
winter of my discontent? Why the fellow has kept me on the run ever
since early this morning; he wants to kill me, that's certain. Before
I lose my spleen antirely, Euripides, can you at least tell me where
you are leading me?
EURIPIDES What need for you to hear what you are going to see?
MNESILOCHUS How is that? Repeat it. No need for me to hear....
EURIPIDES What you are going to see.
MNESILOCHUS Nor consequently to see....
EURIPIDES What you have to hear.
MNESILOCHUS What is this wiseacre stuff you are telling me? I must
neither see nor hear?
EURIPIDES Ah! but you have two things there that are essentially
MNESILOCHUS Seeing and hearing?
MNESILOCHUS In what way distinct?
EURIPIDES In this way. Formerly, when Aether separated the elements
and bore the animals that were moving in her bosom, she wished to
endow them with sight, and so made the eye round like the sun's disc
and bored ears in the form of a funnel.
MNESILOCHUS And because of this funnel I neither see nor hear. Ah!
great gods! I am delighted to know it. What a fine thing it is to
talk with wise men!
EURIPIDES I will teach you many another thing of the sort.
MNESILOCHUS That's well to know; but first of all I should like to
find out how to grow lame, so that I need not have to follow you all
EURIPIDES Come, hear and give heed!
MNESILOCHUS I'm here and waiting.
EURIPIDES Do you see that little door?
MNESILOCHUS Yes, certainly.
MNESILOCHUS Silence about what? About the door?
EURIPIDES Pay attention!
MNESILOCHUS Pay attention and be silent about the door? Very well.
EURIPIDES That is where Agathon, the celebrated tragic poet, dwells.
MNESILOCHUS Who is this Agathon?
EURIPIDES He's a certain Agathon....
MNESILOCHUS Swarthy, robust of build?
EURIPIDES No, another.
MNESILOCHUS I have never seen him. He has a big beard?
EURIPIDES Have you never seen him?
MNESILOCHUS Never, so far as I know.
EURIPIDES And yet you have made love to him. Well, it must have been
without knowing who he was. (The door of AGATHON'S house opens.)
Ah! let us step aside; here is one of his slaves bringing a brazier
and some myrtle branches; no doubt he is going to offer a sacrifice
and pray for a happy poetical inspiration for Agathon.
SERVANT OF AGATHON (standing on the threshold; solemnly) Silence!
oh, people! keep your mouths sedately shut! The chorus of the Muses
is moulding songs at my master's hearth. Let the winds hold their
breath in the silent Aether! Let the azure waves cease murmuring on
EURIPIDES Be still! I want to hear what he is saying.
SERVANT ....Take your rest, ye winged races, and you, ye savage inhabitants
of the woods, cease from your erratic wandering....
MNESILOCHUS (more loudly) Bombalobombax.
SERVANT ....for Agathon, our master, the sweet-voiced poet, is going....
MNESILOCHUS ....to be made love to?
SERVANT Whose voice is that?
MNESILOCHUS It's the silent Aether.
SERVANT ....is going to construct the framework of a drama. He is
rounding fresh poetical forms, he is polishing them in the lathe and
is welding them; he is hammering out sentences and metaphors; he is
working up his subect like soft wax. First he models it and then he
casts it in bronze....
MNESILOCHUS ....and sways his buttocks amorously.
SERVANT Who is the rustic that approaches this sacred enclosure?
MNESILOCHUS Take care of yourself and of your sweet-voiced poet!
I have a strong tool here both well rounded and well polished, which
will pierce your enclosure and penetrate you.
SERVANT Old man, you must have been a very insolent fellow in your
EURIPIDES (to the SERVANT) Let him be, friend, and, quick, go and
call Agathon to me.
SERVANT It's not worth the trouble, for he will soon be here himself.
He has started to compose, and in winter it is never possible to round
off strophes without coming to the sun to excite the imagination.
EURIPIDES And what am I to do?
SERVANT Wait till he gets here. (He goes into the house.)
EURIPIDES Oh, Zeus! what hast thou in store for me to-day?
MNESILOCHUS Great gods, what is the matter now? What are you grumbling
and groaning for? Tell me; you must not conceal anything from your
EURIPIDES Some great misfortune is brewing against me.
MNESILOCHUS What is it?
EURIPIDES This day will decide whether it is all over with Euripides
MNESILOCHUS But how? Neither the tribunals nor the Senate are sitting,
for it is the third day of the Thesmophoria.
EURIPIDES That is precisely what makes me tremble; the women have
plotted my ruin, and to-day they are to gather in the Temple of Demeter
to execute their decision.
MNESILOCHUS What have they against you?
EURIPIDES Because I mishandle them in my tragedies.
MNESILOCHUS By Posidon, you would seem to have thoroughly deserved
your fate. But how are you going to get out of the mess?
EURIPIDES I am going to beg Agathon, the tragic poet, to go to the
MNESILOCHUS And what is he to do there?
EURIPIDES He would mingle with the women, and stand up for me, if
MNESILOCHUS Would be present or secretly?
EURIPIDES Secretly, dressed in woman's clothes.
MNESILOCHUS That's a clever notion, thoroughly worthy of you. The
prize for trickery is ours. (The door of AGATHON'S house opens.)
MNESILOCHUS What's the matter?
EURIPIDES Here comes Agathon.
MNESILOCHUS Where, where?
EURIPIDES That's the man they are bringing out yonder on the eccyclema.
(AGATHON appears on the eccyclema, softly reposing on a bed, clothed
in a saffron tunic, and surrounded with feminine toilet articles.)
MNESILOCHUS I am blind then! I see no man here, I only see Cyrene.
EURIPIDES Be still! He is getting ready to sing.
MNESILOCHUS What subtle trill, I wonder, is he going to warble to
AGATHON (He now sings a selection from one of his tragedies, taking
first the part of the leader of the chorus and then that of the whole
chorus., As LEADER OF THE CHORUS) Damsels, with the sacred torch
in hand, unite your dance to shouts of joy in honour of the nether
goddesses; celebrate the freedom of your country. (As CHORUS) To
what divinity is your homage addressed? I wish to mingle mine with
it. (As LEADER OF THE CHORUS) Oh! Muse! glorify Phoebus with his
golden bow, who erected the walls of the city of the Simois. (As
CHORUS) To thee, oh Phoebus, I dedicate my most beauteous songs;
to thee, the sacred victor in the poetical contests. (As LEADER OF
THE CHORUS) And praise Artemis too, the maiden huntress, who wanders
on the mountains and through the woods.... (As CHORUS) I, in my
turn, celebrate the everlasting happiness of the chaste Artemis, the
mighty daughter of Leto! (As LEADER OF THE CHORUS) ....and Leto
and the tones of the Asiatic lyre, which wed so well with the dances
of the Phrygian Graces. (As CHORUS) I do honour to the divine Leto
and to the lyre, the mother of songs of male and noble strains. The
eyes of the goddess sparkle while listening to our enthusiastic chants.
Honour to the powerful Phoebus! Hail! thou blessed son of Leto.
MNESILOCHUS Oh! ye venerable Genetyllides, what tender and voluptuous
songs! They surpass the most lascivious kisses in sweetness; I feel
a thrill of delight pass up me as I listen to them. (To EURIPIDES)
Young man, if you are one, answer my questions, which I am borrowing
from Aeschylus' "Lycurgeia." Whence comes this androgyne? What is
his country? his dress? What contradictions his life shows! A lyre
and a hair-net! A wrestling school oil flask and a girdle! What could
be more contradictory? What relation has a mirror to a sword? (To
AGATHON) And you yourself, who are you? Do you pretend to be a man?
Where is your tool, pray? Where is the cloak, the footgear that belong
to that sex? Are you a woman? Then where are your breasts? Answer
me. But you keep silent. Oh! just as you choose; your songs display
your character quite sufficiently.
AGATHON Old man, old man, I hear the shafts of jealousy whistling
by my ears, but they do not hit me. My dress is in harmony with my
thoughts. A poet must adopt the nature of his characters. Thus, if
he is placing women on the stage, he must contract all their habits
in his own person.
MNESILOCHUS (aside) Then you make love horse-fashion when you are
composing a Phaedra.
AGATHON If the heroes are men, everything in him will be manly. What
we don't possess by nature, we must acquire by imitation.
MNESILOCHUS (aside) When you are staging Satyrs, call me; I will
do my best to help you from behind, if I can get my tool up.
AGATHON Besides, it is bad taste for a poet to be coarse and hairy.
Look at the famous Ibycus, at Anacreon of Teos, and at Alcaeus, who
handled music so well; they wore head-bands and found pleasure in
the lascivious dances of Ionia. And have you not heard what a dandy
Phrynichus was and how careful in his dress? For this reason his pieces
were also beautiful, for the works of a poet are copied from himself.
MNESILOCHUS Ah! so it is for this reason that Philocles, who is so
hideous, writes hideous pieces; Xenocles, who is malicious, malicious
ones, and Theognis, who is cold, such cold ones?
AGATHON Yes, necessarily and unavoidably; and it is because I knew
this that I have so well cared for my person.
MNESILOCHUS How, in the gods' name?
EURIPIDES Come, leave off badgering him; I was just the same at his
age, when I began to write.
MNESILOCHUS Ah! then, by Zeus! I don't envy you your fine manners.
EURIPIDES (to AGATHON) But listen to the cause that brings me here.
AGATHON Say on.
EURIPIDES Agathon, wise is he who can compress many thoughts into
few words. Struck by a most cruel misfortune, I come to you as a suppliant.
AGATHON What are you asking?
EURIPIDES The women purpose killing me to-day during the Thesmophoria,
because I have dared to speak ill of them.
AGATHON And what can I do for you in the matter?
EURIPIDES Everything. Mingle secretly with the women by making yourself
pass as one of themselves; then do you plead my cause with your own
lips, and I am saved. You, and you alone, are capable of speaking
of me worthily.
AGATHON But why not go and defend yourself?
EURIPIDES Impossible. First of all, I am known; further, I have white
hair and a long beard; whereas you, you are good-looking, charming,
and are close-shaven; you are fair, delicate, and have a woman's voice.
AGATHON Have you not said in one of your pieces, "You love to see
the light, and don't you believe your father loves it too?"
AGATHON Then never you think I am going to expose myself in your
stead; it would be madness. It's up to you to submit to the fate that
overtakes you; one must not try to trick misfortune, but resign oneself
to it with good grace.
MNESILOCHUS You fairy! That's why your arse is so accessible to lovers.
EURIPIDES But what prevents your going there?
AGATHON I should run more risk than you would.
AGATHON Why? I should look as if I were wanting to trespass on secret
nightly pleasures of the women and to rape their Aphrodite.
MNESILOCHUS (aside) Wanting to rape indeed! you mean wanting to
be raped. Ah! great gods! a fine excuse truly!
EURIPIDES Well then, do you agree?
AGATHON Don't count upon it.
EURIPIDES Oh! I am unfortunate indeed! I am undone!
MNESILOCHUS Euripides, my friend, my son-in-law, never despair.
EURIPIDES What can be done?
MNESILOCHUS Send him to the devil and do with me as you like.
EURIPIDES Very well then, since you devote yourself to my safety,
take off your cloak first.
MNESILOCHUS There, it lies on the ground. But what do you want to
do with me?
EURIPIDES To shave off this beard of yours, and to remove all your
other hair as well.
MNESILOCHUS Do what you think fit; I yield myself entirely to you.
EURIPIDES Agathon, you always have razors about you; lend me one.
AGATHON Take it yourself, there, out of that case.
EURIPIDES Thanks. (To MNESILOCHUS) Now sit down and puff out your
MNESILOCHUS (as he is being shaved) Ow! Ow! Ow!
EURIPIDES What are you houting for? I'll cram a spit down your gullet,
if you're not quiet.
MNESILOCHUS Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! (He jumps up and starts running
EURIPIDES Where are you running to now?
MNESILOCHUS To the temple of the Eumenides. No, by Demeter! I won't
let myself be gashed like that.
EURIPIDES But you will get laughed at, with your face half-shaven
MNESILOCHUS Little care I.
EURIPIDES In the gods' names, don't leave me in the lurch. Come here.
MNESILOCHUS Oh! by the gods! (He turns reluctantly and resumes his
EURIPIDES Keep still and hold up your head. Why do you want to fidget
about like this?
MNESILOCHUS Mm, mm.
EURIPIDES Well! why mm, mm? There! it's done and well done too!
MNESILOCHUS Alas, I shall fight without armour.
EURIPIDES Don't worry; you look charming. Do you want to see yourself?
MNESILOCHUS Yes, I do; hand the mirror here.
EURIPIDES Do you see yourself?
MNESILOCHUS But this is not I, it is Clisthenes!
EURIPIDES Stand up; I am now going to remove your hair. Bend down.
MNESILOCHUS Alas! alas! they are going to grill me like a pig.
EURIPIDES Come now, a torch or a lamp! Bend down and watch out for
the tender end of your tool!
MNESILOCHUS Aye, aye! but I'm afire! oh! oh! Water, water, neighbour,
or my perineum will be alight!
EURIPIDES Keep up your courage!
MNESILOCHUS Keep my courage, when I'm being burnt up?
EURIPIDES Come, cease your whining, the worst is over.
MNESILOCHUS Oh! it's quite black, all burnt down there!
EURIPIDES Don't worry! Satyrus will wash it.
MNESILOCHUS Woe to him who dares to wash me!
EURIPIDES Agathon, you refuse to devote yourself to helping me; but
at any rate lend me a tunic and a belt. You cannot say you have not
AGATHON Take them and use them as you like; I consent.
MNESILOCHUS What shall I take?
EURIPIDES First put on this long saffron-coloured robe.
MNESILOCHUS By Aphrodite! what a sweet odour! how it smells of young
male tools Hand it to me quickly. And the belt?
EURIPIDES Here it is.
MNESILOCHUS Now some rings for my legs.
EURIPIDES You still want a hair-net and a head-dress.
AGATHON Here is my night cap.
EURIPIDES Ah! that's fine.
MNESILOCHUS Does it suit me?
AGATHON It could not be better.
EURIPIDES And a short mantle?
AGATHON There's one on the couch; take it.
EURIPIDES He needs slippers.
AGATHON Here are mine.
MNESILOCHUS Will they fit me? (To AGATHON) You don't like a loose
AGATHON Try them on. Now that you have all you need, let me be taken
inside. (The eccyclema turns and AGATHON disappears.)
EURIPIDES You look for all the world like a woman. But when you talk,
take good care to give your voice a woman's tone.
MNESILOCHUS (falsetto) I'll try my best.
EURIPIDES Come, get yourself to the temple.
MNESILOCHUS No, by Apollo, not unless you swear to me....
MNESILOCHUS ....that, if anything untoward happen to me, you will
leave nothing undone to save me.
EURIPIDES Very well! I swear it by the Aether, the dwelling-place
of the king of the gods.
MNESILOCHUS Why not rather swear it by the sons of Hippocrates?
EURIPIDES Come, I swear it by all the gods, both great and small.
MNESILOCHUS Remember, it's the heart, and not the tongue, that has
sworn; for the oaths of the tongue concern me but little.
EURIPIDES Hurry up! The signal for the meeting has just been raised
on the Temple of Demeter. Farewell. (They both depart. The scene
changes to the interior of the Thesmophorion, where the women who
form the chorus are assembled. Mnesilochus enters, in his feminine
attire, striving to act as womanly as possible, and giving his voice
as female a pitch and lilt as he can; he pretends to be addressing
MNESILOCHUS Here, Thratta, follow me. Look, Thratta, at the cloud
of smoke that arises from all these lighted torches. Ah! beautiful
Thesmophorae! grant me your favours, protect me, both within the temple
and on my way back! Come, Thratta, put down the basket and take out
the cake, which I wish to offer to the two goddesses. Mighty divinity,
oh, Demeter, and thou, Persephone, grant that I may be able to offer
you many sacrifices; above all things, grant that I may not be recognized.
Would that my well-holed daughter might marry a man as rich as he
is foolish and silly, so that she may have nothing to do but amuse
herself. But where can a place be found for hearing well? Be off,
Thratta, be off; slaves have no right to be present at this gathering.
(He sits down amongst the women.)
WOMAN HERALD Silence! Silence! Pray to the Thesmophorae, Demeter
and Cora; pray to Plutus, Calligenia, Curotrophus, the Earth, Hermes
and the Graces, that all may happen for the best at this gathering,
both for the greatest advantage of Athens and for our own personal
happiness! May the award be given her who, by both deeds and words,
has most deserved it from the Athenian people and from the women!
Address these prayers to heaven and demand happiness for yourselves.
Io Paean! Io Paean! Let us rejoice!
CHORUS (singing) May the gods deign to accept our vows and our prayers!
Oh! almighty Zeus, and thou, god with the golden lyre, who reignest
on sacred Delos, and thou, oh, invincible virgin, Pallas, with the
eyes of azure and the spear of gold, who protectest our illustrious
city, and thou, the daughter of the beautiful Leto, queen of the forests,
who art adored under many names, hasten hither at my call. Come, thou
mighty Posidon, king of the Ocean, leave thy stormy whirlpools of
Nereus; come, goddesses of the seas, come, ye nymphs, who wander on
the mountains. Let us unite our voices to the sounds of the golden
lyre, and may wisdom preside at the gathering of the noble matrons
WOMAN HERALD Address your prayers to the gods and goddesses of Olympus,
of Delphi, Delos and all other places; if there be a man who is plotting
against the womenfolk or who, to injure them, is proposing peace to
Euripides and the Medes, or who aspires to usurping the tyranny, plots
the return of a tyrant, or unmasks a supposititious child; or if there
be a slave who, a confidential party to a wife's intrigues, reveals
them secretly to her husband, or who, entrusted with a message, does
not deliver the same faithfully; if there be a lover who fulfils naught
of what he has promised a woman, whom he has abused on the strength
of his lies; if there be an old woman who seduces the lover of a maiden
by dint of her presents and treacherously receives him in her house;
if there be a host or hostess who sells false measure, pray the gods
that they will overwhelm them with their wrath, both them and their
families, and that they may reserve all their favours for you.
CHORUS (singing) Let us ask the fulfilment of these wishes both
for the city and for the people, and may the wisest of us cause her
opinion to be accepted. But woe to those women who break their oaths,
who speculate on the public misfortune, who seek to alter the laws
and the decrees, who reveal our secrets to the foe and admit the Medes
into our territory so that they may devastate it! I declare them both
impious and criminal. Oh! almighty Zeus! see to it that the gods protect
us, albeit we are but women!
WOMAN HERALD Hearken, all of you! this is the decree passed by the
Senate of the Women under the presidency of Timoclea and at the suggestion
of Sostrate; it is signed by Lysilla, the secretary: "There will be
a gathering of the people on the morning of the third day of the Thesmophoria,
which is a day of rest for us; the principal business there shall
be the punishment that it is meet to inflict upon Euripides for the
insults with which he has loaded us." Now who asks to speak?
FIRST WOMAN I do.
WOMAN HERALD First put on this garland, and then speak.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Silence! let all be quiet! Pay attention! for
here she is spitting as orators generally do before they begin; no
doubt she has much to say.
FIRST WOMAN If I have asked to speak, may the goddesses bear me witness,
it was not for sake of ostentation. But I have long been pained to
see us women insulted by this Euripides, this son of the green-stuff
woman, who loads us with every kind of indignity. Has he not hit us
enough, calumniated us sufficiently, wherever there are spectators,
tragedians, and a chorus? Does; he not style us adulterous, lecherous,
bibulous, treacherous, and garrulous? Does he not repeat that we are
all vice, that we are the curse of our husbands? So that, directly
they come back from the theatre, they look at us doubtfully and go
searching every nook, fearing there may be some hidden lover. We can
do nothing as we used to, so many are the false ideas which he has
instilled into our husbands. Is a woman weaving a garland for herself?
It's because she is in love. Does she let some vase drop while going
or returning to the house? her husband asks her in whose honour she
has broken it: "It can only be for that Corinthian stranger." Is a
maiden unwell? Straightway her brother says, "That is a colour that
does not please me." And if a childless woman wishes to substitute
one, the deceit can no longer be a secret, for the neighbours will
insist on being present at her delivery. Formerly the old men married
young girls, but they have been so calumniated that none think of
them now, thanks to that line of his: "A woman is the tyrant of the
old man who marries her." Again, it is because of Euripides that we
are incessantly watched, that we are shut up behind bolts and bars,
and that dogs are kept to frighten off the adulterers. Let that pass;
but formerly it was we who had the care of the food, who fetched the
flour from the storeroom, the oil and the wine; we can do it no more.
Our husbands now carry little Spartan keys on their persons, made
with three notches and full of malice and spite. Formerly it sufficed
to purchase a ring marked with the same sign for three obols, to open
the most securely sealed-up door! but now this pestilent Euripides
has taught men to hang seals of worm-eaten wood about their necks.
My opinion, therefore, is that we should rid ourselves of our enemy
by poison or by any other means, provided he dies. That is what I
announce publicly; as to certain points, which I wish to keep secret,
I propose to record them on the secretary's minutes.
CHORUS (singing) Never have I listened to a cleverer or more eloquent
woman. Everything she says is true; she has examined the matter from
all sides and has weighed up every detail. Her arguments are close,
varied, and happily chosen. I believe that Xenocles himself, the son
of Carcinus, would seem to talk mere nonsense, if placed beside her.
SECOND WOMAN I have only a very few words to add, for the last speaker
has covered the various points of the indictment; allow me only to
tell you what happened to me. My husband died at Cyprus, leaving me
five children, whom I had great trouble to bring up by weaving chaplets
on the myrtle market. Anyhow, I lived as well as I could until this
wretch had persuaded the spectators by his tragedies that there were
no gods; since then I have not sold as many chaplets by half. I charge
you therefore and exhort you all to punish him, for does he not deserve
it in a thousand respects, he who loads you with troubles, who is
as coarse toward you as the vegetables upon which his mother reared
him? But I must back to the market to weave my chaplets; I have twenty
to deliver yet.
CHORUS (singing) This is even more animated and more trenchant than
the first speech; all she has just said is full of good sense and
to the point; it is clever, clear and well calculated to convince.
Yes! we must have striking vengeance on the insults of Euripides.
MNESILOCHUS Oh, women! I am not astonished at these outbursts of
fiery rage; how could your bile not get inflamed against Euripides,
who has spoken so ill of you? As for myself, I hate the man, I swear
it by my children; it would be madness not to hate him! Yet, let us
reflect a little; we are alone and our words will not be repeated
outside. Why be so bent on his ruin? Because he has known and shown
up two or three of our faults, when we have a thousand? As for myself,
not to speak of other women, I have more than one great sin upon my
conscience, but this is the blackest of them. I had been married three
days and my husband was asleep by my side; I had a lover, who had
seduced me when I was seven years old; impelled by his passion, he
came scratching at the door; I understood at once he was there and
was going down noiselessly. "Where are you going?" asked my husband.
"I am suffering terribly with colic," I told him, "and am going to
the can." "Go ahead," he replied, and started pounding together juniper
berries, aniseed, and sage. As for myself, I moistened the door-hinge
and went to find my lover, who laid me, half-reclining upon Apollo's
altar and holding on to the sacred laurel with one hand. Well now!
Consider! that is a thing of which Euripides has never spoken. And
when we bestow our favours on slaves and muleteers for want of better,
does he mention this? And when we eat garlic early in the morning
after a night of wantonness, so that our husband, who has been keeping
guard upon the city wall, may be reassured by the smell and suspect
nothing, has Euripides ever breathed a word of this? Tell me. Neither
has he spoken of the woman who spreads open a large cloak before her
husband's eyes to make him admire it in full daylight to conceal her
lover by so doing and afford him the means of making his escape. I
know another, who for ten whole days pretended to be suffering the
pains of labour until she had secured a child; the husband hurried
in all directions to buy drugs to hasten her deliverance, and meanwhile
an old woman brought the infant in a stew-pot; to prevent its crying
she had stopped up its mouth with honey. With a sign she told the
wife that she was bringing a child for her, who at once began exclaiming,
"Go away, friend, go away, I think I am going to be delivered; I can
feel him kicking his heels in the belly ....of the stew-pot." The
husband goes off full of joy, and the old wretch quickly takes the
honey out of the child's mouth, which starts crying; then she seizes
the baby, runs to the father and tells him with a smile on her face,
"It's a lion, a lion, that is born to you; it's your very image. Everything
about it is like you, even his little tool, curved like the sky."
Are these not our everyday tricks? Why certainly, by Artemis, and
we, are angry with Euripides, who assuredly treats us no worse than
CHORUS (singing) Great gods! where has she unearthed all that? What
country gave birth to such an audacious woman? Oh! you wretch! I should
not have thought ever a one of us could have spoken in public with
such impudence. 'Tis clear, however, that we must expect everything
and, as the old proverb says, must look beneath every stone, lest
it conceal some orator ready to sting us.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS There is but one thing in the world worse than
a shameless woman, and that's another woman.
FIRST WOMAN By Aglaurus! you have lost your wits, friends! You must
be bewitched to suffer this plague to belch forth insults against
us all. Is there no one has any spirit at all? If not, we and our
maid-servants will punish her. Run and fetch coals and let's depilate
her in proper style, to teach her not to speak ill of her sex.
MNESILOCHUS Oh no no! not that part of me, my friends. Have we not
the right to speak frankly at this gathering? And because I have uttered
what I thought right in favour of Euripides, do you want to depilate
me for my trouble?
FIRST WOMAN What! we ought not to punish you, who alone have dared
to defend the man who has done so much harm, whom it pleases to put
all the vile women that ever were upon the stage, who only shows us
Melanippes and Phaedras? But of Penelope he has never said a word,
because she was reputed chaste and good.
MNESILOCHUS I know the reason. It's because not a single Penelope
exists among the women of to-day, but all without exception are Phaedras.
FIRST WOMAN Women, you hear how this creature still dares to speak
of us all.
MNESILOCHUS And, Heaven knows, I have not said all that I know. Do
you want any more?
FIRST WOMAN You cannot tell us any more; you have crapped out all
MNESILOCHUS Why, I have not told the thousandth part of what we women
do. Have I said how we use the hollow bandles of our brooms to draw
up wine unbeknown to our husbands?
FIRST WOMAN The cursed jade!
MNESILOCHUS And how we give meats to our pimps at the feast of the
Apaturia and then accuse the cat....
FIRST WOMAN You're crazy!
MNESILOCHUS ....Have I mentioned the woman who killed her husband
with a hatchet? Of another, who caused hers to lose his reason with
her potions? And of the Acharnian woman....
FIRST WOMAN Die, you bitch!
MNESILOCHUS ....who buried her father beneath the bath?
FIRST WOMAN And yet we listen to such things!
MNESILOCHUS Have I told how you attributed to yourself the male child
your slave had just borne and gave her your little daughter?
FIRST WOMAN This insult calls for vengeance. Look out for your hair!
MNESILOCHUS By Zeus! don't touch me.
FIRST WOMAN (slapping him) There!
MNESILOCHUS (hitting back) There! tit for tat!
FIRST WOMAN Hold my cloak, Philista!
MNESILOCHUS Come on then, and by Demeter....
FIRST WOMAN Well! what?
MNESILOCHUS I'll make you crap forth the sesame-cake you have eaten.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Stop wrangling! I see a woman running here in
hot haste. Keep silent, so that we may hear the better what she has
to say. (Enter CLISTHENES, dressed as a woman.)
CLISTHENES Friends, whom I copy in all things, my hairless chin sufficiently
evidences how dear you are to me; I am women-mad and make myself their
champion wherever I am. Just now on the market-place I heard mention
of a thing that is of the greatest importance to you; I come to tell
it to you, to let you know it, so that you may watch carefully and
be on your guard against the danger which threatens you.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS What is it, my child? I can well call you child,
for you have so smooth a skin.
CLISTHENES They say that Euripides has sent an old man here to-day,
one of his relations....
LEADER OF THE CHORUS With what object? What is his idea?
CLISTHENES ....so that he may hear your speeches and inform him of
your deliberations and intentions.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS But how would a man fail to be recognized amongst
CLISTHENES Euripides singed and depilated him and disguised him as
MNESILOCHUS This is pure invention! What man is fool enough to let
himself be depilated? As for myself, I don't believe a word of it.
CLISTHENES Nonsense! I should not have come here to tell you, if
I did not know it on indisputable authority.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Great gods! what is it you tell us! Come, women,
let us not lose a moment; let us search and rummage everywhere! Where
can this man have hidden himself to escape our notice? Help us to
look, Clisthenes; we shall thus owe you double thanks, dear friend.
CLISTHENES Well then! let us see. To begin with you; who are you?
MNESILOCHUS (aside) Wherever am I to stow myself?
CLISTHENES Each and every one must pass the scrutiny.
MNESILOCHUS (aside) Oh! great gods!
FIRST WOMAN You ask me who I am? I am the wife of Cleonynus.
CLISTHENES (to the LEADER OF THE CHORUS) Do you know this woman?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Yes, yes, pass on to the rest.
CLISTHENES And she who carries the child?
FIRST WOMAN Surely; she's my nurse.
MNESILOCHUS (aside) This is the end. (He runs off.)
CLISTHENES Hi! you there! where are you going? Stop. What are you
running away for?
MNESILOCHUS (dancing on one leg) I want to take a pee, you brazen
CLISTHENES Well, be quick about it; I shall wait for you here.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Wait for her and examine her closely; she's
the only one we do not know.
CLISTHENES That's a long leak you're taking.
MNESILOCHUS God, yes; I am constricted; I ate some cress yesterday.
CLISTHENES What are you chattering about cress? Come here! and be
quick. (He starts to pull MNESILOCHUS back.)
MNESILOCHUS Oh! don't pull a poor sick woman about like that.
CLISTHENES (looking MNESILOCHUS square in the eye) Tell me, who
is your husband?
MNESILOCHUS (embarrassed) My husband? Do you know a certain individual
CLISTHENES Whom do you mean? Give his name.
MNESILOCHUS He's an individual to whom the son of a certain individual
CLISTHENES You are drivelling! Let's see, have you ever been here
MNESILOCHUS Why certainly, every year.
CLISTHENES Who is your tent companion?
MNESILOCHUS A certain.... Oh! my god!
CLISTHENES That's not an answer!
FIRST WOMAN Withdraw, all of you; I am going to examine her thoroughly
about last year's mysteries. But move away, Clisthenes, for no man
may hear what is going to be said. Now answer my questions! What was
MNESILOCHUS Let's see now. What was done first? Oh! we drank.
FIRST WOMAN And then?
MNESILOCHUS We drank to our healths.
FIRST WOMAN You will have heard that from someone. And then?
MNESILOCHUS Xenylla asked for a cup; there wasn't any thunder-mug.
FIRST WOMAN You're talking nonsense. Here, Clisthenes, here This
is the man you were telling us about.
CLISTHENES What shall we do with him?
FIRST WOMAN Take off his clothes, I can get nothing out of him.
MNESILOCHUS What! are you going to strip a mother of nine children
CLISTHENES Come, undo your girdle, you shameless thing.
FIRST WOMAN Ah! what a sturdy frame! but she has no breasts like
MNESILOCHUS That's because I'm barren. I never had any children.
FIRST WOMAN Oh! indeed! just now you were the mother of nine.
CLISTHENES Stand up straight. What do you keep pushing that thing
FIRST WOMAN (peering from behind) There's no mistaking it.
CLISTHENES (also peering from behind) Where has it gone to now?
FIRST WOMAN To the front.
CLISTHENES (from in front) No.
FIRST WOMAN (from behind) Ah! it's behind now.
CLISTHENES Why, friend, it's just like the Isthmus; you keep pulling
your stick backwards and forwards more often than the Corinthians
do their ships
FIRST WOMAN Ah! the wretch! this is why he insulted us and defended
MNESILOCHUS Aye, wretch indeed, what troubles have I not got into
FIRST WOMAN What shall we do?
CLISTHENES Watch him closely, so that he does not escape. As for
me, I'll go to report the matter to the magistrates.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Let us kindle our lamps; let us go firmly to
work and with courage, let us take off our cloaks and search whether
some other man has not come here too; let us pass round the whole
Pnyx, examine the tents and the passages. Come, be quick, let us start
off on a light toe and rummage all round in silence. Let us hasten,
let us finish our round as soon as possible.
CHORUS (singing) Look quickly for the traces that might show you
a man hidden here, let your glance fall on every side; look well to
the right and to the left. If we seize some impious fellow, woe to
him! He will know how we punish the outrage, the crime, the sacrilege.
The criminal will then acknowledge at last that gods exist; his fate
will teach all men that the deities must be revered, that justice
must be observed and that they must submit to the sacred laws. If
not, then woe to them! Heaven itself will punish sacrilege; being
aflame with fury and mad with frenzy, all their deeds will prove to
mortals, both men and women, that the deity punishes injustice and
impiety, and that she is not slow to strike.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS But I think I have now searched everywhere and
that no other man is hidden among us.
FIRST WOMAN Where are you flying to? Stop! stop! Ah! miserable woman
that I am, he has torn my child from my breast and has disappeared
MNESILOCHUS Scream as loud as you will, but you'll never feed him
again. If you do not let me go this very instant, I am going to cut
open the veins of his thighs with this cutlass and his blood shall
flow over the altar.
FIRST WOMAN Oh! great gods! oh! friends, help me! terrify him with
your shrieks, triumph over this monster, permit him not to rob me
of my only child.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Oh! oh! venerable Moirai, what fresh attack
is this? It's the crowning act of audacity and shamelessness! What
has he done now, friends, what has he done?
MNESILOCHUS Ah! your insolence passes all bounds, but I know how
to curb it!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS What a shameful deed! the measure of his iniquities
FIRST WOMAN Aye, it's shameful that he should have robbed me of my
CHORUS (singing) It's past belief to be so criminal and so impudent!
MNESILOCHUS (singing) Ah! you're not near the end of it yet.
CHORUS (singing) Little I care whence you come; you shall not return
to boast of having acted so odiously with impunity, for you shall
MNESILOCHUS (speaking) You won't do it, by the gods!
CHORUS (singing) And what immortal would protect you for your crime?
MNESILOCHUS (speaking) You talk in vain! I shall not let go the
CHORUS (singing) By the goddesses, you will not laugh presently
over your crime and your impious speech. For with impiety, as 'tis
meet, shall we reply to your impiety. Soon fortune will turn round
and overwhelm you.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Come there, bring some firewood. Let's roast
the wretch as quickly as we can.
FIRST WOMAN Bring faggots, Mania! (To MNESILOCHUS) You will be
nothing but charcoal soon.
MNESILOCHUS Grill away, roast me, but you, my child, take off this
Cretan robe and blame no one but your mother for your death. But what
does this mean? The little girl is nothing but a skin filled with
wine and shod with Persian slippers. Oh! you wanton, you tippling
women, who think of nothing but wine; you are a fortune to the drinking-shops
and are our ruin; for the sake of drink, you neglect both your household
and your shuttle!
FIRST WOMAN Faggots, Mania, plenty of them.
MNESILOCHUS Bring as many as you like. But answer me; are you the
mother of this brat?
FIRST WOMAN I carried it ten months.
MNESILOCHUS You carried it?
FIRST WOMAN I swear it by Artemis.
MNESILOCHUS How much does it hold? Three cotylae? Tell me.
FIRST WOMAN Oh! what have you done? You have stripped the poor child
quite naked, and it is so small, so small.
MNESILOCHUS So small?
FIRST WOMAN Yes, quite small, to be sure.
MNESILOCHUS How old is it? Has it seen the feast of cups thrice or
FIRST WOMAN It was born about the time of the last Dionysia. But
give it back to me.
MNESILOCHUS No, may Apollo bear me witness.
FIRST WOMAN Well, then we are going to burn him.
MNESILOCHUS Burn me, but then I shall rip this open instantly.
FIRST WOMAN No, no, I adjure you, don't; do anything you like to
me rather than that.
MNESILOCHUS What a tender mother you are; but nevertheless I shall
rip it open. (He tears open the wine-skin.)
FIRST WOMAN Oh, my beloved daughter! Mania, hand me the sacred cup,
that I may at least catch the blood of my child.
MNESILOCHUS Hold it below; that's the only favour I grant you. (He
pours the wine into the cup.)
FIRST WOMAN Out upon you, you pitiless monster!
MNESILOCHUS This robe belongs to the priestess.
SECOND WOMAN What belongs to the priestess?
MNESILOCHUS Here, take it. (He throws her the Cretan robe.)
SECOND WOMAN Ah! unfortunate Mica! Who has robbed you of your daughter,
your beloved child?
FIRST WOMAN That wretch. But as you are here, watch him well, while
I go with Clisthenes to the Magistrates and denounce him for his crimes.
MNESILOCHUS Ah! how can I secure safety? what device can I hit on?
what can I think of? He whose fault it is, he who hurried me into
this trouble, will not come to my rescue. Let me see, whom could I
best send to him? Ha! I know a means taken from Palamedes; like him,
I will write my misfortune on some oars, which I will cast into the
sea. Where might I find some oars? Hah! what if I took these statues
instead of oars, wrote upon them and then threw them towards this
side and that. That's the best thing to do. Besides, like oars they
are of wood. (singing) Oh! my hands, keep up your courage, for my
safety is at stake. Come, my beautiful tablets, receive the traces
of my stylus and be the messengers of my sorry fate. Oh! oh! this
R looks miserable enough! Where is it running to then? Come, off with
you in all directions, to the right and to the left; and hurry yourselves,
for there's much need indeed! (He sits down to wait for Euripides.
The Chorus turns and faces the audience.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Let us address ourselves to the spectators to
sing our praises, despite the fact that each one says much ill of
women. If the men are to be believed, we are a plague to them; through
us come all their troubles, quarrels, disputes, sedition, griefs and
wars. But if we are truly such a pest, why marry us? Why forbid us
to go out or show ourselves at the window? You want to keep this pest,
and take a thousand cares to do it. If your wife goes out and you
meet her away from the house, you fly into a fury. Ought you not rather
to rejoice and give thanks to the gods? for if the pest has disappeared,
you will no longer find it at home. If we fall asleep at friends'
houses from the fatigue of playing and sporting, each of you comes
prowling round the bed to contemplate the features of this pest. If
we seat ourselves at the window, each one wants to see the pest, and
if we withdraw through modesty, each wants all the more to see the
pest perch herself there again. It is thus clear that we are better
than you, and the proof of this is easy. Let us find out which is
the worse of the two sexes. We say, "It's you," while you aver, "it's
we."' Come, let us compare them in detail, each individual man with
a woman. Charminus is not equal to Nausimache, that's certain. Cleophon
is in every respect inferior to Salabaccho. It's a long time now since
any of you has dared to contest the prize with Aristomache, the heroine
of Marathon, or with Stratonice.
Among the last year's Senators, who have just yielded their office
to other citizens, is there one who equals Eubule? Not even Anytus
would say that. Therefore we maintain that men are greatly our inferiors.
You see no woman who has robbed the state of fifty talents rushing
about the city in a magnificent chariot; our greatest peculations
are a measure of corn, which we steal from our husbands, and even
then we return it to them the very same day. But we could name many
amongst you who do quite as much, and who are, even more than ourselves,
gluttons, parasites, cheats and kidnappers of slaves. We know how
to keep our property better than you. We still have our cylinders,
our beams, our baskets and our surshades; whereas many among you have
lost the wood of your spears as well as the iron, and many others
have cast away their bucklers on the battlefield.
There are many reproaches we have the right to bring against men.
The most serious is this, that the woman, who has given birth to a
useful citizen, whether taxiarch or strategus should receive some
distinction; a place of honour should be reserved for her at the Stenia,
the Scirophoria, and the other festivals that we keep. On the other
hand, she of whom a coward was born or a worthless man, a bad trierarch
or an unskilful pilot, should sit with shaven head, behind her sister
who had borne a brave man. Oh! citizens! is it just that the mother
of Hyperbolus should sit dressed in white and with loosened tresses
beside that of Lamachus and lend out money on usury? He, who may have
made a deal of this nature with her, so far from paying her interest,
should not even repay the capital, saying, "What, pay you interest?
after you have given us this delightful son?"
MNESILOCHUS I have contracted quite a squint by looking round for
him, and yet Euripides does not come. Who is keeping him? No doubt
he is ashamed of his cold Palamedes. What will attract him? Let us
see! By which of his pieces does he set most store? Ah! I'll imitate
his Helen, his last-born. I just happen to have a complete woman's
SECOND WOMAN What are you ruminating about now? Why are you rolling
up your eyes? You'll have no reason to be proud of your Helen, if
you don't keep quiet until one of the Magistrates arrives.
MNESILOCHUS (as Helen) "These shores are those of the Nile with
the beautiful nymphs, these waters take the place of heaven's rain
and fertilize the white earth, that produces the black syrmea."
SECOND WOMAN By bright Hecate, you're a cunning varlet.
MNESILOCHUS "Glorious Sparta is my country and Tyndareus is my father."
SECOND WOMAN He your father, you rascal! Why, it's Phrynondas.
MNESILOCHUS "I was given the name of Helen."
SECOND WOMAN What! you are again becoming a woman, before we have
punished you for having pretended it the first time?
MNESILOCHUS "A thousand warriors have died on my account on the banks
of the Scamander."
SECOND WOMAN Would that you had done the same!
MNESILOCHUS "And here I am upon these shores; Menelaus, my unhappy
husband, does not yet come. Ah! Why do I still live?"
SECOND WOMAN Because of the criminal negligence of the crows!
MNESILOCHUS "But what sweet hope is this that sets my heart a-throb?
Oh, Zeus! grant it may not prove a lying one!" (EURIPIDES enters.)
EURIPIDES (as Menelaus) "To what master does this splendid palace
belong? Will he welcome strangers who have been tried on the billows
of the sea by storm and shipwreck?"
MNESILOCHUS "This is the palace of Proteus."
SECOND WOMAN Of what Proteus? you thrice cursed rascal! how he lies!
By the goddesses, it's ten years since Proteas died.
EURIPIDES "What is this shore whither the wind has driven our boat?"
MNESILOCHUS "'Tis Egypt."
EURIPIDES "Alas! how far we are from own country!
SECOND WOMAN Don't believe that cursed fool. This is Demeter's Temple.
EURIPIDES "Is Proteus in these parts?"
SECOND WOMAN Ah, now, stranger, it must be sea-sickness that makes
you so distraught! You have been told that Proteas is dead, and yet
you ask if he is in these parts.
EURIPIDES "He is no more! Oh! woe! where lie his ashes?"
MNESILOCHUS "'Tis on his tomb you see me sitting."
SECOND WOMAN You call an altar a tomb! Beware of the rope!
EURIPIDES "And why remain sitting on this tomb, wrapped in this long
veil, oh, stranger lady?"
MNESILOCHUS "They want to force me to marry a son of Proteus."
SECOND WOMAN Ah! wretch, why tell such shameful lies? Stranger, this
is a rascal who has slipped in amongst us women to rob us of our trinkets.
MNESILOCHUS (to SECOND WOMAN) "Shout! load me with your insults,
for little care I."
EURIPIDES "Who is the old woman who reviles you, stranger lady?
MNESILOCHUS "'Tis Theonoe, the daughter of Proteus."
SECOND WOMAN I! Why, my name's Critylle, the daughter of Antitheus,
of the deme of Gargettus; as for you, you are a rogue.
MNESILOCHUS "Your entreaties are vain. Never shall I wed your brother;
never shall I betray the faith I owe my husband, Menelaus, who is
fighting before Troy."
EURIPIDES "What are you saying? Turn your face towards me."
MNESILOCHUS "I dare not; my cheeks show the marks of the insults
I have been forced to suffer."
EURIPIDES "Oh! great gods! I cannot speak, for very emotion.... Ah!
what do I see? Who are you?"
MNESILOCHUS "And you, what is your name? for my surprise is as great
EURIPIDES "Are you Grecian or born in this country?"
MNESILOCHUS "I am Grecian. But now your name, what is it?"
EURIPIDES "Oh how you resemble Helen!
MNESILOCHUS "And you Menelaus, if I can judge by these pot-herbs."
EURIPIDES "You are not mistaken, 'tis none other than that unfortunate
mortal who stands before you."
MNESILOCHUS "Ah! how you have delayed coming to your wife's arms!
Press me to your heart, throw your arms about me, for I wish to cover
you with kisses. Carry me away, carry me away, quick, quick, far,
very far from here."
SECOND WOMAN By the goddesses, woe to him who would carry you away!
I should thrash him with my torch.
EURIPIDES "Do you propose to prevent me from taking my wife, the
daughter of Tyndareus, to Sparta?"
SECOND WOMAN You seem to me to be a cunning rascal too; you are in
collusion with this man, and it wasn't for nothing that you kept babbling
about Egypt. But the hour for punishment has come; here is the Magistrate
with his Scythian.
EURIPIDES This is getting awkward. Let me hide myself.
MNESILOCHUS And what is to become of me, poor unfortunate man that
EURIPIDES Don't worry. I shall never abandon you, as long as I draw
breath and one of my numberless artifices remains untried.
MNESILOCHUS The fish has not bitten this time. (A MAGISTRATE enters,
accompanied by a Scythian policeman.)
MAGISTRATE Is this the rascal Clisthenes told us about? Why are you
trying to make yourself so small? Officer, arrest him, fasten him
to the post, then take up your position there and keep guard over
him. Let none approach him. A sound lash with your whip for him who
attempts to break the order.
SECOND WOMAN Excellent, for just now a rogue almost took him from
MNESILOCHUS Magistrate, in the name of that hand which you know so
well how to bend when money is placed in it, grant me a slight favour
before I die.
MAGISTRATE What favour?
MNESILOCHUS Order the archer to strip me before lashing me to the
post; the crows, when they make their meal on the poor old man, would
laugh too much at this robe and head-dress,
MAGISTRATE It is in that gear that you must be exposed by order of
the Senate, so that your crime may be patent to the passers-by. (He
MNESILOCHUS (as the SCYTHIAN seizes him) Oh! cursed robe, the cause
of all my misfortune! My last hope is thus destroyed!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Let us now devote ourselves to the sports which
the women are accustomed to celebrate here, when time has again brought
round the mighty Mysteries of the great goddesses, the sacred days
which Pauson himself honours by fasting and would wish feast to succeed
feast, that he might keep them all holy. Spring forward with a light
step, whirling in mazy circles; let your hands interlace, let the
eager and rapid dancers sway to the music and glance on every side
as they move.
CHORUS (singing) Let the chorus sing likewise and praise the Olympian
gods in their pious transport. It's wrong to suppose that, because
I am a woman and in this temple, I am going to speak ill of men; but
since we want something fresh, we are going through the rhythmic steps
of the round dance for the first time.
Start off while you sing to the god of the lyre and to the chaste
goddess armed with the bow. Hail I thou god who flingest thy darts
so far, grant us the victory! The homage of our song is also due to
Here, the goddess of marriage, who interests herself in every chorus
and guards the approach to the nuptial couch. I also pray Hermes,
the god of the shepherds, and Pan and the beloved Graces to bestow
a benevolent smile upon our songs.
Let us lead off anew, let us double our zeal during our solemn days,
and especially let us observe a close fast; let us form fresh measures
that keep good time, and may our songs resound to the very heavens.
Do thou, oh divine Bacchus, who art crowned with ivy, direct our chorus;
'tis to thee that both my hymns and my dances are dedicated; oh, Evius,
oh, Bromius, oh, thou son of Semeld, oh, Bacchus, who delightest to
mingle with the dear choruses of the nymphs upon the mountains, and
who repeatest, while dancing with them, the sacred hymn, Euios, Euios,
Euoi! Echo, the nymph of Cithaeron, returns thy words, which resound
beneath the dark vaults of the thick foliage and in the midst of the
rocks of the forest; the ivy enlaces thy brow with its tendrils charged
SCYTHIAN (he speaks with a heavy foreign accent) You shall stay
here in the open air to wail.
MNESILOCHUS Archer, I adjure you.
SCYTHIAN You're wasting your breath.
MNESILOCHUS Loosen the wedge a little.
SCYTHIAN Aye, certainly.
MNESILOCHUS Oh by the gods! why, you are driving it in tighter.
SCYTHIAN Is that enough?
MNESILOCHUS Oh! Oh! Ow! Ow! May the plague take you!
SCYTHIAN Silence! you cursed old wretch! I am going to get a mat
to lie upon, so as to watch you close at hand at my ease.
MNESILOCHUS Ah! what exquisite pleasures Euripides is securing for
me! But, oh, ye gods! oh, Zeus the Deliverer, all is not yet lost!
I don't believe him the man to break his word; I just caught sight
of him appearing in the form of Perseus, and he told me with a mysterious
sign to turn myself into Andromeda. And in truth am I not really bound?
It's certain, then, that be is coming to my rescue; for otherwise
he would not have steered his flight this way. (As Andromeda, singing)
Oh Nymphs, ye virgins who are so dear to me, how am I to approach
him? how can I escape the sight of this Scythian? And Echo, thou who
reignest in the inmost recesses of the caves, oh! favour my cause
and permit me to approach my spouse. A pitiless ruffian has chained
up the most unfortunate of mortal maids. Alas! I bad barely escaped
the filthy claws of an old fury, when another mischance overtook me!
This Scythian does not take his eye off me and he has exposed me as
food for the crows. Alas! what is to become of me, alone here and
without friends! I am not seen mingling in the dances nor in the games
of my companions, but heavily loaded with fetters I am given over
to the voracity of a Glaucetes. Sing no bridal hymn for me, oh women,
but rather the hymn of captivity, and in tears. Ah! how I suffer!
great gods! how I suffer! Alas! alas! and through my own relatives
too! My misery would make Tartarus dissolve into tears! Alas! in my
terrible distress, I implore the mortal who first shaved me and depilated
me, then dressed me in this long robe, and then sent me to this Temple
into the midst of the women, to save me. Oh! thou pitiless Fate! I
am then accursed, great gods! Ah! who would not be moved at the sight
of the appalling tortures under which I succumb? Would that the blazing
shaft of the lightning would wither.... this barbarian for me! The
immortal light has no further charm for my eyes since I have been
descending the shortest path to the dead, tied up, strangled, and
maddened with pain. (In the following scene EURIPIDES, from off stage,
EURIPIDES Hail! beloved girl. As for your father, Cepheus, who has
exposed you in this guise, may the gods annihilate him.
MNESILOCHUS And who are you whom my misfortunes have moved to pity?
EURIPIDES I am Echo, the nymph who repeats all she hears. It was
I, who last year lent my help to Euripides in this very place. But,
my child, give yourself up to the sad laments that belong to your
MNESILOCHUS And you will repeat them?
EURIPIDES I will not fail you. Begin.
MNESILOCHUS (singing) "Oh! thou divine Night! how slowly thy chariot
threads its way through the starry vault, across the sacred realms
of the Air and mighty Olympus."
EURIPIDES (singing) Mighty Olympus.
MNESILOCHUS (singing) "Why is it necessary that Andromeda should
have all the woes for her share?
EURIPIDES (singing) For her share.
MNESILOCHUS (speaking) "Sad death!
EURIPIDES Sad death!
MNESILOCHUS You weary me, old babbler.
EURIPIDES Old babbler.
MNESILOCHUS Oh! you are too unbearable.
MNESILOCHUS Friend, let me talk by myself. Do please let me. Come,
EURIPIDES That's enough.
MNESILOCHUS Go and hang yourself!
EURIPIDES Go and hang yourself!
MNESILOCHUS What a plague!
EURIPIDES What a plague!
MNESILOCHUS Cursed brute!
EURIPIDES Cursed brute!
MNESILOCHUS Beware of blows!
EURIPIDES Beware of blows!
SCYTHIAN Hullo! what are you jabbering about?
EURIPIDES What are you jabbering about?
SCYTHIAN I shall go and call the Magistrates.
EURIPIDES I shall go and call the Magistrates.
SCYTHIAN This is odd!
EURIPIDES This is odd!
SCYTHIAN Whence comes this voice?
EURIPIDES Whence comes this voice?
SCYTHIAN You are mad.
EURIPIDES You are mad.
SCYTHIAN Ah! beware!
EURIPIDES Ah! beware!
SCYTHIAN (to MNESILOCHUS) Are you mocking me?
EURIPIDES Are you mocking me?
MNESILOCHUS No, it's this woman, who stands near you.
EURIPIDES Who stands near you.
SCYTHIAN Where is the hussy!
MNESILOCHUS She's running away.
SCYTHIAN Where are you running to?
EURIPIDES Where are you running to?
SCYTHIAN You shall not get away.
EURIPIDES You shall not get away.
SCYTHIAN You are chattering still?
EURIPIDES You are chattering still?
SCYTHIAN Stop the hussy.
EURIPIDES Stop the hussy.
SCYTHIAN What a babbling, cursed woman! (EURIPIDES now enters, costumed
EURIPIDES "Oh! ye gods! to what barbarian land has my swift flight
taken me? I am Perseus; I cleave the plains of the air with my winged
feet, and I am carrying the Gorgon's head to Argos."
SCYTHIAN What, are you talking about the head of Gorgos, the scribe?
EURIPIDES No, I am speaking of the head of the Gorgon.
SCYTHIAN Why, yes! of Gorgos!
EURIPIDES "But what do I behold? A young maiden, beautiful as the
immortals, chained to this rock like a vessel in port?"
MNESILOCHUS "Take pity on me, oh stranger! I am so unhappy and distraught!
Free me from these bonds."
SCYTHIAN You keep still! a curse upon your impudence! you are going
to die, and yet you will be chattering!
EURIPIDES "Oh! virgin! I take pity on your chains."
SCYTHIAN But this is no virgin; he's an old rogue, a cheat and a
EURIPIDES You have lost your wits, Scythian. This is Andromeda, the
daughter of Cepheus.
SCYTHIAN (lifting up MNESILOCHUS' robe) But look at his tool; it's
EURIPIDES Give me your hand, that I may descend near this young maiden.
Each man has his own particular weakness; as for me I am aflame with
love for this virgin.
SCYTHIAN Oh! I'm not jealous; and as he has his arse turned this
way, why, I don't care if you make love to him.
EURIPIDES "Ah! let me release her, and hasten to join her on the
SCYTHIAN If you are so eager to make the old man, you can bore through
the plank, and so get at him.
EURIPIDES No, I will break his bonds.
SCYTHIAN Beware of my lash!
EURIPIDES No matter.
SCYTHIAN This blade shall cut off your head.
EURIPIDES "Ah! what can be done? what arguments can I use? This savage
will understand nothing! The newest and most cunning fancies are a
dead letter to the ignorant. Let us invent some artifice to fit in
with his coarse nature." (He departs.)
SCYTHIAN I can see the rascal is trying to outwit me.
MNESILOCHUS Ah! Perseus! remember in what condition you are leaving
SCYTHIAN Are you wanting to feel my lash again!
CHORUS (singing) Oh! Pallas, who art fond of dances, hasten hither
at my call. Oh! thou chaste virgin, the protectress of Athens, I call
thee in accordance with the sacred rites, thee, whose evident protection
we adore and who keepest the keys of our city in thy hands. Do thou
appear, thou whose just hatred has overturned our tyrants. The womenfolk
are calling thee; hasten hither at their bidding along with Peace,
who shall restore the festivals. And ye, august goddesses, display
a smiling and propitious countenance to our gaze; come into your sacred
grove, the entry to which is forbidden to men; 'tis there in the midst
of the sacred orgies that we contemplate your divine features. Come,
appear, we pray it of you, oh, venerable Thesmophorae! Is you have
ever answered our appeal, oh! come into our midst. (During this ode
the SCYTHIAN falls asleep. At the end of it EURIPIDES returns, thinly
disguised as an old procuress; the CHORUS recognizes him, the SCYTHIAN
does not; he carries a harp, and is followed by a dancing girl and
a young flute-girl.)
EURIPIDES Women, if you will be reconciled with me, I am willing,
and I undertake never to say anything ill of you in future. Those
are my proposals for peace.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS And what impels you to make these overtures?
EURIPIDES (to the CHORUS) This unfortunate man, who is chained to
the post, is my father-in-law; if you will restore him to me, you
will have no more cause to complain of me; but if not, I shall reveal
your pranks to your husbands when they return from the war.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS We accept peace, but there is this barbarian
whom you must buy over.
EURIPIDES I'll take care of that. Come, my little wench, bear in
mind what I told you on the road and do it well. Come, go past him
and gird up your robe. And you, you little dear, play us the air of
a Persian dance.
SCYTHIAN (waking) What is this music that makes me so blithe?
EURIPIDES Scythian, this young girl is going to practise some dances,
which she has to perform at a feast presently.
SCYTHIAN Very well! let her dance and practise; I won't hinder her.
How nimbly she bounds! just like a flea on a fleece.
EURIPIDES Come, my dear, off with your robe and seat yourself on
the Scythian's knee; stretch forth your feet to me, that I may take
off your slippers.
SCYTHIAN Ah! yes, seat yourself, my little girl, ah! yes, to be sure.
What a firm little titty! it's just like a turnip.
EURIPIDES (to the flute-girl) An air on the flute, quick! Are you
afraid of the Scythian?
SCYTHIAN What a nice arse! Hold still, won't you? A nice twat, too.
EURIPIDES That's so! (To the dancing girl) Resume your dress, it
is time to be going.
SCYTHIAN Give me a kiss.
EURIPIDES Come, give him a kiss.
SCYTHIAN Oh! oh! oh! my god, what soft lips! like Attic honey. But
might she not stay with me?
EURIPIDES Impossible, officer; good evening.
SCYTHIAN Oh! oh! old woman, do me this pleasure.
EURIPIDES Will you give a drachma?
SCYTHIAN Aye, that I will.
EURIPIDES Hand over the money.
SCYTHIAN I have not got it, but take my quiver in pledge. I'll bring
her back. (To the dancing girl) Follow me, my fine young wench.
Old woman, you keep an eye on this man. But what's your name?
SCYTHIAN I'll remember it, Artemuxia. (He takes the dancing girl
EURIPIDES (aside) Hermes, god of cunning, receive my thanks! everything
is turning out for the best. (To the flute-girl) As for you, friend,
go along with them. Now let me loose his bonds. (To MNESILOCHUS)
And you, directly I have released you, take to your legs and run
off full tilt to your home to find your wife and children.
MNESILOCHUS I shall not fail in that as soon as I am free.
EURIPIDES (releasing MNESILOCHUS) There! It's done. Come, fly, before
the Scythian lays his hand on you again.
MNESILOCHUS That's just what I am doing. (Both depart in haste.)
SCYTHIAN (returning) Ah! old woman! what a charming little girl!
Not at all a prude, and so obliging! Eh! where is the old woman? Ah!
I am undone! And the old man, where is he? Hi, old woman, old woman
Ah! Ah! but this is a dirty trick! Artemuxia! she has tricked me,
that's what the little old woman has done! Get clean out of my sight,
you cursed quiver! (Picks it up and throws it across the stage.)
Ha! you are well named quiver, for you have made me quiver indeed.
Oh! what's to be done? Where is the old woman then? Artemuxia!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Are you asking for the old woman who carried
SCYTHIAN Yes, yes; have you seen her?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS She has gone that way along with the old man.
SCYTHIAN Dressed in a long robe?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Yes; run quick, and you will overtake them.
SCYTHIAN Ah! rascally old woman! Which way has she fled? Artemuxia!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Straight on; follow your nose. But, hi! where
are you running to now? Come back, you are going exactly the wrong
SCYTHIAN Ye gods! ye gods! and all this while Artemuxia is escaping.
(He runs off.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Go your way! and a pleasant journey to you!
But our sports have lasted long enough; it is time for each of us
to be off home; and may the two goddesses reward us for our labours!
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 email@example.com.
Translation of "The Deeds of the Divine Augustus" by Augustus is
copyright (C) Thomas Bushnell, BSG.