[This translation which has been prepared by Ian Johnston of Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada, may be downloaded without permission and without charge for personal or classroom use. It does, however, have some copyright restrictions. For details please select the following link: Copyright. If you would like a free Word file of this translation please contact Ian Johnston. Posted on the web in July 2010; last revised December 2015. For other translations by Ian Johnston please consult the following link: johnstonia]




Aristophanes’ Knights is a sharp, bawdy, and, in some places, grim satiric allegory on Athenian political life. While the targets of the satire are clear enough, the translator or editor is forced to make some decisions about the names of the characters, because specific names are given only to Demos (whose name means “the people”) and to the chorus of Knights.


The main butt of the jokes is clearly Cleon, the popular demagogue of Athenian politics, but the character who represents him is called the Paphlagonian, and Cleon’s name is mentioned only once in the play. The term Paphlagonian refers not to an origin in Asia Minor but to his very aggressive rhetoric, since the name comes from the verb meaning to bluster. The Paphlagonian’s main opponent, the Sausage Seller, does have a name (Agoracritus, meaning chosen by the marketplace), but that fact does not emerge until very late in the play. Hence, I have used the terms Paphlagonian and Sausage Seller to indicate these characters (some other editions of the play use the names Cleon and Agoracritus throughout).


The two slaves who open the play are not named specifically in the manuscripts, but traditionally they have been called Demosthenes and Nicias, after the two Athenian generals who were enemies of Cleon. I have retained these names because that seemed better than making up alternatives or calling them Slave A and Slave B.


The term Knights refers to an elite group of about a thousand cavalry in the Athenian military forces. Each Knight had to provide his own horse and would have expenses he would have to pay himself. However, membership was considered socially prestigious and would be drawn from the richer, more aristocratic Athenians, who tended to be hostile to the populist demagogue Cleon.


At the time Knights was first produced (424 BC), Athens and Sparta had been at war for about seven years. The previous year Athens had won an important victory at Pylos against the Spartans, capturing a number of prisoners and bringing them back to Athens. Cleon engineered things so that he received the major credit for this success. As a result, he acquired considerable popularity and was awarded a number of state honours. However, in the view of many Athenians he had, in effect, stolen the credit from Demosthenes. This point is frequently mentioned in the play.


Knights was awarded first prize in the drama competition at the Lenaea festival in 424 BC.





In the following text the numbers without brackets indicate the line numbers of the English text; those in square brackets indicate the line numbers of the Greek text. With the former, two or more partial lines in a row normally count as a single line in the reckoning. The explanatory endnotes have been provided by the translator.


The translator would like to acknowledge the extremely valuable help provided by the notes in the editions of the play prepared by W. C. Green (1871), by W. W. Merry (1887), and by Alan Sommerstein (1981).





DEMOSTHENES: a slave in the service of Demos
NICIAS: a slave in the service of Demos
SAUSAGE SELLER: a low-born Athenian street merchant
PAPHLAGONIAN: a slave in the service of Demos
DEMOS: an elderly Athenian citizen


[The action takes place in an Athenian street in the Pnyx, the part of the city where the public assemblies were held. At the back there is an entrance to the house belonging to Demos. From within the house comes the noise of a slave being beaten with a whip and crying out in pain.]


DEMOSTHENES [bursting through the door]
All right, that’s it, that’s just too much to take!
I’ve had it! That bastard interloper!
That miserable Paphlagonian!
I wish the gods would obliterate him—
him and his schemes! Since that awful day
he came into this house, because of him
we slaves keep getting beaten all the time.


NICIAS [coming out behind Demosthenes, in obvious pain]
That man is the very worst—a first-class
Paphlagonian—all those lies he tells!


Hey, you poor man, how you doing?


                                                      Not good.
The same as you.


                             All right, come over here,
so we can moan together, pipe a tune,
a duet in the manner of Olympus.


[Demosthenes and Nicias put their heads together and act as if they are both playing flutes, making whimpering sounds in harmony.]


What can we do-o-ooooo,                                                                                      [10]
We’re just so black and blue-oo-oo.1


Why waste our time moaning? We should stop
and look for some way to preserve our hides.


How could we do that?


                                Well, suggest something.


No, you tell me—that way I can avoid
fighting you about it.


[Here Demosthenes and Nicias briefly parody the grand tragic style.]


By Apollo. No.                                             20
I shall not speak.


                                      Ah, if only you would tell me
what I should say.


                          Come. Screw your courage up
and speak. And then I shall confide in you.


But I dare not. How could I ever utter
the delicate phrasings of Euripides—
“Can’t thou not speak for me what I must say”?2


No, I don’t want that. Don’t toss those herbs around.
Instead find us some way we can dance off                                                          [20]
and leave our master.3


NICIAS [miming masturbation]
                                             Then say, “Let’s beat off”—
all in one word, as I do.


DEMOSTHENES [copying Nicias]
                                                   All right, then,                                          30
I say, “Let’s beat off.”


                                    Now after “Let’s beat off,”
say “out of here.”


                             “Out of here.”


                                                         Very good.

It’s like when you give yourself a hand job—
at first you say it gently, “Let’s beat off,”
then you quickly speed it up—“out of here.”


DEMOSTHENES [copying the gesture]
Let’s beat off . . . out of here, let’s beat off . . .


[Finally he sees what Nicias is getting at.]


Ah, we beat off out of here—we run away!


Well, what about it? Doesn’t that sound sweet?


Yes, by god, it does—except for one thing:
I’m terrified that beating it like this                                                           40
might be a prophecy about my skin.4


Why’s that?


                 Because when you pound your snake
the skin comes off.


                             The way things are right now                                                   [30]
the best thing we can do is head on out
and throw ourselves down before some statue
of a god.



                          A statue? What kind of statue?
Do you really believe that there are gods?


Of course I do.


                                        What sort of evidence
have you got for that?


                                               Well, I’m someone
gods clearly do not like. Does that not count                                            50
as confirmation?5

                                       Proof enough for me.
So we’d better look someplace else for help.
Do you want me to tell this audience
what’s going on?


                                        That’s not a bad idea.

We could ask them to do one thing for us—
show us by their faces if they enjoy
what we say and do.


                                              Then I’ll speak up.                                                        


[He directs his explanation to the audience.]


We have a bad tempered and crude master.
He chews beans and is angry all the time—
Demos of the Pnyx, a grumpy old man                                                     
who’s half deaf.
6 Last new moon he bought a slave,
a Paphlagonian tanner, a great scoundrel,
the most slanderous of rogues.
7 And this slave,
this tanner from Paphlagonia, observed
the old man’s habits. He threw himself down
at our master’s feet and began fawning,
wheedling, flattering, buttering him up
with tiny scraps of leather, saying things like
“O Demos, once you’ve tried a single case                                                            
then take a bath,” “Taste this,” “Gulp this down,                                    
“Eat up,” “Take three obols,” “Would you like me
to get an evening meal brought in for you?”
Then that Paphlagonian grabs from one of us
something we’ve prepared and offers it up
to our master. Just a few days ago,
when I’d kneaded a Spartan barley cake
at Pylos, that devilish rogue somehow
snuck past me, grabbed the cake I had just made,
and presented it as his.
9 He makes sure
we keep our distance and will not allow                                                    
anyone else to attend on Demos
When our master’s eating dinner, he stands
holding a leather thong and flicks away                                                                
the orators. He chants out oracles,
so the old man is mad for prophecies,
and when he sees that he’s quite lost his wits,
he goes to work according to his plan—
accusing those inside with outright lies,
so we get whipped, while that Paphlagonian
scampers among the slaves, making demands,                                          
stirring up trouble, taking bribes. He’ll say,
“You see how I set things up so Hylas
got a beating. If you don’t win me over,
then you’re dead meat today.”
10 So we pay up.
If we don’t, the old man abuses us,                                                                      
and we shit out eight times as much.


[Demosthenes turns back to Nicias.]


                                                              So now,
my friend, let’s come up with something fast—
what path or person can we turn to now?


The best way, my friend, is that beating off—
getting out of here.


                   But there’s no damn way                                                         100
we can escape the Paphlagonian.
That man sees everything. He has one leg
in Pylos, and he keeps his other leg
in the assembly—his two feet are spread
this far apart.


[Demosthenes demonstrates his words by almost doing the splits and keeps talking from an awkward position, which gets worse as he goes on.]


                         His arsehole is right here
over the Chaones, his hands are there,
in Aetolia, and his mind is over here,
among the Clopidians.


                                        Then the best thing
for us would be to die.


DEMOSTHENES [straightening up]
                                               All right, let’s see.
The most manly way we two could perish—                                             110         [80]
what would that be?


                                       The most courageous way?

The best would be for us to drink bull’s blood—
that’s a good one to choose. Themistocles
died from that.12


                           No, by god, not that.
But wine—
undiluted from the Good Spirit cup!
Then perhaps we’ll think of something useful.13


O yes, unmixed wine! It’s natural you’d think
of having a drink. But can anyone
come up with good advice when he is drunk?


What a thing to ask! Bah! You’re a fountain                                              120
spouting streams of streaming bullshit! You dare
complain that wine disturbs the way we think?                                                   [90]
What can you find better than some wine
for getting men to act effectively?
You see that when men drink, they get wealthy,
they are successful, they win their lawsuits,
they become happy and help out their friends.
Come, bring me out a jug of wine right now,
so I can refresh my mind and think up
something really clever.


                                             By all the gods,                                              130
what will you end up doing to both of us
with this drinking of yours?


                                                  Something good.

Go get it, while I sit myself down right here.


[Nicias goes into the house.]


For if I do get drunk, then I’ll spatter
tiny schemes and fancies, miniscule ideas,                                                           
in all directions.


[Nicias returns from the house with large jug of wine and a cup.]



                                                It’s a good thing
I wasn’t caught in there stealing this wine.


Tell me—what’s the Paphlagonian doing?


That slanderous rogue has been licking up
some cake he confiscated. Now he’s drunk—                                           140
lying on his back, snoring on his hides.


Well, come on then, pour me a generous hit
of that unmixed wine . . . for a libation.14


NICIAS [pouring out the wine]
There. Take it and offer a libation
to the Good Spirit.


DEMOSTHENES [smelling and then gulping down the wine]
                                   Drink this and swill down
the fine Pramnian spirit.15 O excellent Spirit,
the idea is yours—not mine.


                                              All right tell me.
I’m asking you. What is that great idea?


Get inside there and steal the oracles                                                                    [110]
belonging to the Paphlagonian—                                                              150
quickly while he’s asleep.16


                                                   All right, I’ll go.
But I’m afraid I might find this Good Spirit
becomes the genius of my misfortune.


[Nicias goes back into the house]


Let’s see now—I’ll bring this jug over here
beside me so I can moisten my mind
and come up with some fabulous idea.


[Demosthenes takes another drink. Nicias comes back from the house with a scroll.]


That Paphlagonian—what a noise he makes
farting and snoring. Thanks to that I grabbed
the sacred oracle, the one he guards
so carefully, without him noticing.                                                            160


You are the craftiest of men! Give it here,
so I can look it over—and pour me
a drink. Hurry up! Well now, let me see,
what’s in here.


[Demosthenes reads the scroll.]


                   O these prophecies! Quick!                                                                 [120]
Give me a drink! Come on!


NICIAS [pouring the wine]
                                            Here you go. Well?
What does the oracle say?


DEMOSTHENES [draining the cup and holding it out]

                                                           Pour me another.


NICIAS [taking the cup]
That’s what it says there? “Pour another drink”?


O Bacis!17


NICIAS [pouring out more wine]

                     What is it?


                                           Quick! Pass me that cup!


Bacis really gets to use that cup a lot.


DEMOSTHENES [looking at the scroll]
O you disgraceful Paphlagonian!                                                                170
So that’s why you’ve been protecting yourself
all this time! You’re terrified of this oracle—
it’s about you!


                                  Why’s that?


                                                        In here it says
how he’s to be destroyed.


                                         And how is that?


How? Well, this oracle clearly predicts
that first a dealer in hemp will come along
and, to start with, control city business.18                                                             [130]


That’s one wheeler dealer. So who comes next?
Tell me.


                                   After that one comes another—
someone who deals in sheep.19


                                                  That’s two dealers.
What’s supposed to happen to that second one?


He’s to be in charge until someone else,
a more repulsive man, comes on the scene.
Once that happens, he dies. His successor
is a leather dealer and a robber,
a Paphlagonian with a screaming voice,
like the raging stream of Cycloborus.20


So Fate decreed that the dealer in sheep
would be toppled by the leather dealer?


                                                     That’s right.


Then heaven help us—we’re in deep trouble!                                           190
I wish some other dealer might show up                                                               [140]
from somewhere—just one!


                                                 Well, there is one—
he has a splendid trade.


                                          Tell me who that is.
Come on, I’m asking you.


                                    Want me to tell you?


Yes. For god’s sake!


DEMOSTHENES [reading from the scroll]
                                The man who will destroy
the Paphlagonian is a sausage dealer.


A sausage dealer?
O Poseidon, what a trade!
Where on earth do we find a man like that?


Let’s go look for him.


[Enter the Sausage Seller carrying a table, knives, sausages, and so on.]


                          Hey, there’s one coming here,
as if he’s off to market. A stroke of luck!                                                   200


DEMOSTHENES [calling to the Sausage Seller]
Hey, sausage seller—you blessed creature.
Come on over here, dear friend—over here.21
You show up as a saviour for the city
and for the two of us.


                                                 What’s going on?
Why are you calling me?


                                            Come over here,                                                          [150]
so you can find out your enormous luck,
how tremendously fortunate you are.


[The Sausage Seller climbs up from the orchestra onto the stage with Demosthenes and Nicias.]


Come on, take that table from him. Tell him
what the god’s oracle proclaims. I’ll go
and keep watch on the Paphlagonian.                                                       210


[Nicias exits into the house.]


All right.
First of all, set that equipment down
on the ground here. And make a sacred salute
to the earth and to the gods.22


SAUSAGE SELLER [carrying out those actions]
                                             There! What’s going on?


O you most blest of men! And wealthy, too!
Today you have nothing, but tomorrow
you will be immensely great, chief leader
of a happy Athens!


                                              My good fellow,
why not leave me alone to wash my tripe                                                              [160]
and sell my sausages, instead of mocking me?


You silly fool! Forget about your tripe!                                                      220
Look over there. Do you see those people,
all those rows?


                               I see them.


                                        You’re going to be
lord and master of them all, in control
of the marketplaces and the harbours
and of the Pnyx. You’ll stomp on the Council,
keep generals in line, tie people up,
throw them in jail—and in the Prytaneum
you’ll be sucking cocks.23




                                                 Yes, you of course.
But you’re not seeing the whole picture yet.
Climb up on this table of yours—gaze out                                                230
at all the islands there surrounding us.                                                                 [170]


SAUSAGE SELLER [climbs up on his table and looks out]
I see them.


                                  What do you see? Trading ports?
Merchant ships?


I see those.


                                                   All right then,
how can you not be immensely fortunate?
Now turn your right eye towards Caria
and the other eye towards Carthage.24


SAUSAGE SELLER [in great physical discomfort]
                                                I’ll be happy
once I dislocate my neck!


                                That not the point.
All that land is to be traded away,
thanks to you. For you are going to be
the most powerful of men—this oracle                                                     240
says so right here.


                  Then explain this to me—
How am I, a seller of sausages,
going to change to someone respectable?


The very reason you’ll be powerful                                                                        [180]
is that you’re a shameless market rascal—
and impudent, as well.


                                            But I don’t think
I’m good enough to have great influence.


Good heavens, whatever is wrong with you
to make you say you are not good enough?
You must, I’m sure, know something remarkable                                     250
about yourself. What about your parents?
Don’t you come from good and honest people?


By god no! Nothing but worthless rabble.


O you fine fellow! Such amazing luck!
For political affairs you really have
such great advantages!


                           But, my good man,
I have no education, nothing but
reading and writing, and I’m bad at those—
real bad.


                  That’s the only thing stopping you,                                                     [190]
that you can read and write, even poorly—                                               260
real bad. You see, a leader of the people
no longer needs to have any training
or be honest in his dealings. Instead
he should be ignorant and disgusting.
But you must not disregard what the gods
are offering to you in this oracle.


What does the oracle say?


                                                    By the gods,
it’s good—but its style is rather intricate,
written as a sophisticated riddle.


[He reads the oracle in a solemn tone.]


“But when the eagle tanner with his crooked claws                                 270
shall in his beak seize the stupid, blood-sucking serpent,
then will perish the Paphlagonian’s pickled garlic,
and then the gods will bestow enormous fame
on those whose vocation is to market tripe
unless they would prefer to sell their sausages.”                                                  


How has this got anything to do with me?


Well, the eagle tanner is that man there—


[Demosthenes points to Cleon sitting in the audience.]


the Paphlagonian . . .



                                 Those “crooked claws”—
what are they?


                              What those words mean is clear.
He seizes things in crooked hands, like claws,                                           280
and confiscates them.


                               What about the serpent?


That’s obvious. The serpent is elongated,
as is the sausage, which is also long.
And sausages, like serpents, suck up blood.
Hence, it says the serpent will now conquer
the eagle tanner, unless the snake’s resolve
is broken down by words.25                                                                                    [210]


                                                  Well, this oracle
makes me sound good. Still, I’m wondering
how I’ll be capable of ruling people.


That’s ridiculously easy. Keep doing                                                         290
what you’re doing. Make a complete hash
of public business, mix things together
like sausage meat, and always win people
to your side with well-cooked little phrases
to sweeten them. The other qualities
a leader of the public really needs
you have already—a disgusting voice
and disreputable birth—and what’s more,
you’re a product of the marketplace.
You possess all the qualities essential                                                       300
for politics. The oracles agree,
including Apollo’s shrine at Delphi.                                                                      [220]
So crown yourself with a garland wreath,
make a libation to the god of idiots,
and then give that man what he deserves.


Who is going to help me out? Rich men fear him,
and poor men are so terrified they fart.


But there are a thousand excellent men,
the Knights, who hate him. They will assist you—
along with the upright and honest men                                                    310
among the citizens, all people here
in this audience who have any brains,
and me. The god will help you out as well.
Have no fear. You won’t see a face like his—                                                        [230]
the men who make the masks were just too scared
to dare prepare something that looked like him.
Still he’ll be easy enough to recognize.
This audience is smart enough for that!26


NICIAS [from inside]
What the hell! The Paphlagonian—
he’s coming out! We’re done for!                                                               320


[The Paphlagonian rushes out of the house.]


By the twelve gods, you won’t get away with this—
an ongoing conspiracy against the public!
What going on with this Chalcidian cup?
You must be stirring an insurgency
among Chalcidians. You will be killed—
you pair of polluted rogues—you will perish!27


[The Sausage Seller backs away in terror.]


DEMOSTHENES [to the Sausage Seller]
Hey, why are you backing off? Stand up to him!                                                  [240]
O noble sausage seller, do not betray
our public cause!


[Demosthenes starts shouting at the Chorus offstage in the wings.]


                        You Knights, cavalry men,
help us out—now is a time of crisis!                                                         
Simon, Panaetius! Charge the right wing!


[He goes to the Sausage Seller and turns him to face the Paphlagonian.]


They’re getting close. Come on, defend yourself!
Wheel round for an attack! Their cloud of dust
is clearly visible. They’re coming on—
almost here. So fight back! Chase him away!
Get that Paphlagonian out of here!


[Demosthenes pushes the Sausage Seller towards the Paphlagonian as the Chorus of Knights comes running in. They chase the Paphlagonian around the stage.]


Hit him! Hit that wretch who spreads confusion
among the cavalry! That tax collector!
That gaping gulf of greed! That Charybdis!28
Villain, villain, villain—I’ll say that word                                                   340
again and again, for he’s a villain
many times a day! Beat him! Chase him off!                                                          [250]
Keep after him! Don’t give him any peace!
Show you hate that man as much as we do,
and shout out as you swarm all over him!
Take care he doesn’t get away from you.
He knows the alleyways Eucrates took
to scurry off back to the marketplace.29


PAPHLAGONIAN [addressing the audience]
You old jurymen, my three-obol brothers,
whom I nourish with my raucous shouting                                              350
of just and unjust things, help me out now!
I’m being lambasted by conspirators.


And justly so! Because you gobble up
public funds before you’re picked for office,
and when state officers submit accounts,
you squeeze them, as if you were picking figs
to see which ones are green and hard, or ripe,                                                     [260]
or not yet fully seasoned.30 And what’s more,
you keep your eye peeled for any citizen
who’s stupid as a sheep but has money                                                    360
and who’s terrified of public business,
and if you find one, some simple fool
who avoids all politics, you haul him back
from the Chersonese, then wrap him up
in slanders, hook his knees, twist his shoulder,
fall all over him, and swallow him up.31


You’re attacking me as well? But, my good men,
it’s because of you I’m being beaten up—
I was just on the point of proposing
we ought to set up a memorial                                                                  370
to your bravery here in the city.


[The Chorus has moved to surround the Paphlagonian.]


CHORUS LEADER [threatening the Paphlagonian with his fist]
O you impostor! You slippery rogue!
See how he sweet talks and swindles us,
as if we were senile old men? But if                                                                       [270]
he jumps this way, I’ll thump him with this fist.
If he slips down here my legs will kick him.


PAPHLAGONIAN [appealing to the audience]
O you people! O city! Look at this—
savage beasts are pummelling my belly.


[Demosthenes pushes the Sausage Seller into the crowd surrounding the Paphlagonian.]


Ah, are you now rabble-rousing, the way
you always do when bullying the city?32                                                    380


With this loud voice of mine I’ll make a start
by forcing you to run away.


                                             If your shouting
defeats him, then bully for you—you win.
But if his shamelessness surpasses yours,
then the victory cake belongs to us.33


PAPHLAGONIAN [pointing to the Sausage Seller]
I denounce this man. I claim he smuggles soup
out to the Peloponnesian warships!


And I, by god, am accusing this man                                                                    [280]
of running into the Prytaneum
with an empty stomach, then coming out                                                390
with his guts crammed full.


                              That’s right, by god.
And he carries off prohibited stuff—
bread, meat, slices of fried fish. The people
never considered Pericles worthy
of that honour.34


[The Paphlagonian and the Sausage Seller now get into a shouting match.]


                               The two of you will die—
right on the spot!


                               I’ll keep on screaming out
three times as loud as you!


                                        I’ll yell so loud
I’ll drown out your noise!


                                               And when I bellow,
your hollering will cease.


                                                If you become
a general, I’ll smear your name with dirt.                                                  400


I’ll thrash your back, as if you were a dog.


I’ll skin you alive with false accusations.                                                               [290]


I’ll use illegal ways to block your path.


Look me right in the eye. Try not to blink.


[The Paphlagonian and the Sausage Seller are now engaged in a stare-down contest with very little distance between them.]


I, too, was brought up in the marketplace.35


If you make a sound, I’ll tear you apart.


Say a word and I’ll stuff your mouth with shit.


[Pause as they try to stare each other down. The Paphlagonian is the first to look away, straighten up, and continue.]


I admit I’m a thief. You don’t do that.


By Hermes of the marketplace, I do.
And if anybody sees me stealing,                                                               410
I just lie—perjure myself under oath.


Then you’re copying someone else’s tricks—
doing what I do! And I denounce you                                                                   [300]
to the city council for possessing
sacred tripe for which you’ve paid no taxes.36


You’re a wretched, disreputable screamer!


[They start a rhythmic chant around the Paphlagonian.]


The whole world is full of your impudent snorts—
all meetings, all taxes, decrees, and the courts
you stir up like mud and disrupt the whole town                                               
and deafen our Athens by shouting us down.                                         
For money from tribute you take careful stock,
like spying out tuna from high on a rock.


I know what’s going on here—it’s been sliced out
of an old piece of leather.


                                                      Well, if you
don’t know a thing about cutting leather,
then I know nothing about sausages.
You’re the one who used a misleading cut
to slice leather from a crappy ox hide
and cheated country folk by selling it,
so before they’d worn it a single day,                                                        430
it had stretched and was two palm widths bigger.38


Yes, by god, he did the same thing to me.
It made me a huge laughing stock to friends                                                        [320]
and neighbours. Before I’d reached Pergase,
it was like I was swimming in my sandals.39


CHORUS [continuing their chant]
And right from the start weren’t you shameless as hell,
the single protection for those who speak well?
Relying on your crassness you squeeze money out
from strangers with cash, for you’ve got all the clout.
Hippodamus’ son is watching in tears,                                                     440
but now someone else I like better appears.40
He’s more shameless by far, and he will win through—                                       [330]
his impudent swindles will clearly beat you.


CHORUS LEADER [to the Sausage Seller]
All right, you who were brought up in that place
where men worthy of the name come from,
show us now how a decent upbringing
doesn’t mean a thing.41


                                    Well, then you must hear
what sort of citizen this fellow is.


Will you let me speak?


                                     Of course, I won’t,
because I’m a low life, just like you.                                                          450


If he doesn’t surrender on that point,
tell him you come from a family of thieves.


Are you going to allow me to speak?


No, by god, I’m not!


PAPHLAGONIAN [getting very angry]
                                      Yes, by god, you will!


No, by Poseidon, I won’t. I’ll fight first
to see who will speak before the other.


Bloody hell! I’m going to explode!



                                                No, you’re not.
I won’t allow it.


                            Let him burst, for god’s sake—
let him!


                  And what makes you so confident     
you think can confront me face to face?                                                   460


Because I am capable of prattling on
and of cooking up some spicy sauces.


So you can speak! Bah! If some business matter—
a ripped-up bloody mess—fell in your lap
and you grabbed it, you’d handle it so well!
O yes, you’d arrange things with such expertise!
You know what I think has happened to you?
Like many others, I suppose you gave
a pretty speech in a petty lawsuit
against some foreign resident.42 You rehearsed                                         470
it all night long and babbled it to yourself
in the streets, slurping water, practising
to friends and irritating them with it.
And now you think you can speak in public.                                                        [350]
You fool! You’ve mad!


                          What have you been drinking?
You’ve turned the city into a place where you,
all by yourself, shout everybody down
and silence them.


                                Can you find any man
to rival me? I’ll gobble up slices
of hot tuna and wash that down with wine—                                          480
a full jug and unmixed—and after that
I’ll bugger those generals at Pylos.


I’ll swallow a ox stomach and pig tripe
and after that gulp down the sauce, as well—
then without bothering to wash myself
I’ll drown the politicians with my shouts
and put Nicias in a tizzy.


                                                       I do like
what you just said, but there is one thing      
I’m not happy with—you’re going to slurp
all the political gravy by yourself.                                                              490        [360]


But you’re not going to stuff yourself with sea bass
from Miletus and later blow them off.43


But I will dine on beef ribs. After that,
I’ll buy up leases on some silver mines.44


I’ll use force to jump into the Council—
make them all panic.


                          I’ll stuff your arse hole—
just like a sausage skin.


                                                I’ll force you outside
by your buttocks—head down through the door.


If you’re going to drag him outside, by god,
then you’ll have to haul me out there, as well.                                         500


How I’ll clap you in the stocks!


                                     I’ll denounce you
as an bloody coward!


                                            I’ll stretch your hide
across my tanning bench.


                                         I’ll skin you alive—
turn you into a robber’s belly bag.


You’ll be pegged down—at full stretch on the ground.


I’ll slice you up, grind you into mincemeat.


I’ll pluck out your eyelashes.


                                     I’ll slice your throat.


By god, we’ll force a peg inside his mouth,
like cooks do with pigs, then tear out his tongue,
and peer down past his gaping jaws to see                                                510        [380]
if there are any pimples up his ass.45


There are things in the city, it’s clear from this case,
which are hotter than fire, more full of disgrace
than those scandalous speeches all over the place.
This issue matters—it’s not just cheap smut,
so let’s go at this man, twist him by his butt—
no room for half measures now we’ve grabbed his gut.


[The Chorus seizes the Paphlagonian.]


If you wear him down now with a thrashing,
you’ll find he’s a coward. I know his style.                                                             [390]


He’s been that sort of fellow all his life,                                                     520
but these days he thinks he’s a real man
for harvesting someone else’s grain crop.
And now he’s tied that crop up in prison,
the ears of grain he carried back from there—
he’s drying them out and wants to sell them.46


I’m not afraid of you, not while the Senate
is alive and kicking and the people
just sit around looking like total fools.


Whatever happens he has no shame.
His colour always remains the same.                                                         530
If you’re not a fellow that I despise,
let me be spread out under the thighs
of Cratinus as his piss-soaked fleece,                                                                     [400]
or may I be taught to sing a piece
by Morsimus, some tragical song.47
You pest, you’re always buzzing along,
searching about all around the town,
wherever you go, and settling down
on bribery blooms. O may you please
vomit mouthfuls of cash with the same ease                                            540
you swallowed them down—for then I would sing 
“Drink, let us drink—it’s such a good thing!”


And Ulius, I think, who checks grain, too,
and keeps his eye cruising for lads to screw,
would sing out to Bacchus, “O god, thank you.”48


By Poseidon, you will not outdo me
in shamelessness. If you do, may I never
have any part of those offerings of meat
to Zeus, god of our public meeting place!49                                                            [410]


And I swear by the many fists whose thrashings                                      550
I’ve had so often since I was a kid   
and by the cuts from butcher’s knives, I know
in this business I will outperform you.
If not, there’d be no point in being so large
after eating nothing but finger wipes.50


You mean bread for wiping hands, just like a dog?
You silly fool, on a diet of dog food
how will you battle a dog-faced baboon?


By god, my youth has taught me other tricks.
I’d swindle the butchers by saying things like,                                         560
“Hey lads, take a look. You see that swallow?
Springtime is here!” And when they’d look up,
right then I’d snatch off some of their meat.                                                        [420]


O cleverest of men! You planned that well—
like those who eat nettles, you stole your meat
before the swallows came.51


                                                   And I did it
without being noticed! If one of them saw,
I’d hide the stuff—shove it in my butt crack
and swear by the gods I’d done nothing wrong.
When some politician saw what I did,                                                       570
he said, “There’s no doubt about it—this child
is someone who will rule the people.”


What he said was right. And it’s very clear
what led him to arrive at that opinion—
you could steal, perjure yourself, and shove meat
way up your ass.


                     I’ll stop this man’s insolence—
or rather, I’ll put an end to both of you.
I’ll come at the two of you, sweeping down                                                          [430]
with a driving mighty wind, confounding
land and sea into a common chaos.                                                          580


Then I’ll haul in the sausages and let
myself sail along before the friendly breeze,
while telling you to wail and howl away.


I’ll watch out for the bilges, just in case
we start to spring a leak.


                                                     By Demeter,
you’re not going to get away with stealing
so many talents from the Athenians!


DEMOSTHENES [pretending he’s on a ship]
Keep your eyes peeled! Ease off on the sail rope!
There’s a north-east wind starting to blow in
a storm of accusations!


                                            I understand                                                   590
you took ten talents from Potidaea.52


What about it? Would you like one talent
to keep your mouth shut?


[The Paphlagonian offers the Sausage Seller a bag of money.]


DEMOSTHENES [grabbing the money]
                                     He’d be happy to take it.                                                   [440]
Slacken the main brace! The wind’s easing off.


You’ll be charged [with bribery]—four lawsuits—
each one carries a hundred talent fine.53


You’ll be charged with twenty for skipping out
on military service—and thousands more
for theft.


                   I claim you are a descendant
of those who carried out a sacrilege                                                          600
against our goddess.54


                              And your grandfather,
I proclaim, was one of the bodyguards . . .


What bodyguards? Tell us.


                                          . . . to Bursina,
who was wife of Hippias the tyrant.55


You’re a total rogue!


                                And you’re a scoundrel.                                                         [450]


[The Sausage Seller threatens to hit the Paphlagonian with a string of sausages.]


Hit him! Give him a hefty swipe!


[The Sausage Seller starts hitting the Paphlagonian with his sausages.]


                              Oooowww! That hurts!
These conspirators are assaulting me!


Hit him as hard as you can! And lash him
on the stomach with your tripe and guts.
Punch him in that paunch of his!


[The Paphlagonian sinks down under the assault by the Sausage Seller.]


CHORUS LEADER [to the Sausage Seller]
                                                 You brave heart!                                         610
The noblest of all slabs of meat! You show up
as a saviour for our city and for us,
its citizens—how well, how brilliantly
your speeches have demoralized that man.
What praise for you can match the joy we feel?                                                    [460]


PAPHLAGONIAN [pulling himself together and getting up]
By Demeter, I was not unaware
of this conspiracy they were framing
I knew what they were nailing together
and hammering into one—the whole scheme!


And I’m not unaware of what you’re doing                                               620
in Argos. He pretends he’s making Argives
our friends, but he’s negotiating there
with Spartans—one of his private deals.56


Come on, aren’t you going to use any words
to match his language from the building trades?57


And I know why the bellows are blowing—
they’re forging something for the prisoners.58


Good! O that’s good!  His carpentry answered                                                      [470]
with phrases from the blacksmith’s forge.


                                   There are men
in Sparta hammering at it as well.                                                             630
But if you offer me gold or silver
or send your friends around, you won’t stop me
announcing this to all Athenians.


Well, I’m going to the Council right away
to inform them of the conspiracies
involving all of  you—those meetings
you have in the city during the night,
all your secret dealings with the Persians
and their Great King and how you’re making hay
with the Boeotians.59


                                             Ah, hay in Boeotia!                                        640        [480]
What’s the going rate for hay?


PAPHLAGONIAN [exasperated]
                                                     By Hercules,
I’ll stretch that hide of yours!


[The Paphlagonian leaves, moving toward the city.]


DEMOSTHENES [to Sausage Seller]
                                                         Come on now!
What sort of brain and heart do you possess?
Now’s the time to show if you really hid
that meat inside your butt crack way back when,
the way you say you did. You’ve got to dash
to the Council rooms—running all the way.
That man is about to descend on them
and slander every one of us, howling
and kicking up a fuss.


                                      I’m going. But first,                                              650
I’ll get rid of my tripe and sausages—
I’ll leave them here.


                          Hang on! Rub some of this grease                                               [490]
on your neck and throat, so you can slide out
from his false charges.


                                             Excellent advice—
spoken like
a wrestling master.


DEMOSTHENES [rubbing meat grease on the Sausage Seller]
                                                             All right.

Now take this and swallow it!


                                               What is it?


You’ll fight better when you’re stuffed with garlic.
Hurry up! Get a move on!60


                                      That’s what I’m doing!


[The Sausage Seller leaves in the same direction as the Paphlagonian.]


DEMOSTHENES [shouting after the Sausage Seller]
Remember now—bite the man, slander him,
eat up his coxcomb. Don’t come back here                                              660
until you’ve gobbled his wattles.


CHORUS LEADER [in the direction of the Sausage Seller]
                                               Go and good luck!
May you live up to my hopes, and may Zeus                                                         [500]
god of our public assembly, protect you,
and may you come back to us in triumph,
adorned with the garlands of victory.


[Demosthenes exits into the house. The Chorus Leader turns to address the audience.]


Now pay attention to our formal verse,
you who have on your own already heard
all the different offerings of the Muse.
If one of the comic playwrights from long ago
had tried to make us step out to this audience                                       
and recite a speech, it would not have been easy
for him to get his way. But today our poet
is worth the effort, because he hates the same men
we despise and dares to speak the truth, charging                                              
courageously against typhoon and hurricane.
He says that many of you have come up to him
astonished that he did not long ago request
a chorus in his own name and questioning him
about it. He has asked us to explain to you
why this has happened.
62 He asserts that it was not                                 680
foolishness that prompted his
delay but rather
that he considered producing comic drama
the most difficult task of all. Many people try
to court the Comic Muse, but she grants her favours
only to a few. And he has long recognized
that you have a fickle nature—for you betrayed
earlier poets once they grew old. He knows well
what Magnes went through as soon as his hair turned white.
63                           [520]
He had hoisted many trophies of victory
over his rivals, and though he had created                                              
every kind of sound for your delight, by singing,
flapping his wings, performing as a Lydian
or a gnat, or smearing himself green as a frog,
that was not enough. In his youth things turned out well,
but at the end, in old age, you hissed him away,
that old man, whose jokes had lost their satiric bite.
After that, our poet brought to mind Cratinus,
who once, flowing on torrents of your approval,
raced through unencumbered plains and, as he sped on,
uprooted oak and plane trees and his rivals, too,                                    
and carried them away.
65 And at drinking parties
the only songs were “O Goddess of Bribery,
with sandals made of figs,” and “O you composers
of intricate hymns”—that’s how famous he was then.
66                                        [530]
But look at him now—he’s a decrepit old man.
His tuning pegs are gone, his tone has disappeared,
his joints have split apart, yet you don’t pity him.
He wanders around in his dotage, like Connas,
wearing a withered garland and dying of thirst.
Given his previous triumphs, he should be drinking                                
in the Prytaneum, and instead of acting
like an idiot, he should be sitting smartly groomed
with the spectators alongside Dionysus.
Look at how much Crates suffered from your abuse
and anger, a man who used to provide you snacks
for not much money and then send you home again,
coming up with the most elegant conceptions
from his decorous lips.
69 But he kept persisting,
on his own, sometimes with success, sometimes failing.                                    
Fearing such treatment, our poet kept on stalling.                                  
What’s more, he would tell himself he should first of all
work the oars before his hand could grip the tiller,
and later he’d watch from the prow to check the winds—
only after that would he be his own pilot.
For all these reasons, he moved with great prudence,
not rushing in like a fool and babbling nonsense.
So raise a cheer for the man, a powerful surge
with all of your fingers, a generous urge
at our feast of Lenaea, so that our poet
leaves here with joy and success and can know it—                                
his forehead all bright with glistening delight.
70                                                   [550]


O Poseidon, lord of horses
who rejoices in horses’ neighs,
in the clatter of bronze-shod hooves,
in swift triremes with deep-blue prows
transporting tribute on the sea,
in contests where those youthful lads
who seek fame by racing chariots
can suffer catastrophic spills,
come to us here, to your chorus,                                                               740
O god of the golden trident,
you who watches over dolphins,                                                                            [560]
who are worshipped at Sunium,
lord of Geraestus, son of Cronos,
dearest favourite of Phormio,
and for Athenians the god
more beloved than all the others,
the one our present crisis needs.71


We wish to sing the praises of our ancestors,
men worthy of this land who deserved to carry                                        750
the ceremonial robe.72 In battles fought on land
or on the sea they were victorious all the time,
wherever they went—they brought our city honour.
And when they viewed their enemies, none of them
ever counted up their number. Instead, their hearts
at once were ready for the fray. If they fell down                                                  [570]
on their shoulder in a fight, they wiped off the dust
and denied they’d had a fall. Then they would resume
the fight on once again. No earlier general
would have asked Cleaenetus to serve him dinner                                   760
at state expense.73 But now they say they will not fight
unless they get the privilege of front-row seats
and meals, as well. As for us, we believe we should
nobly guard our city and our country’s gods
without being paid. We ask for nothing beyond that,
except this one condition: if peace ever comes
and brings our hard work to an end, you will not mind
if we wear long hair and keep our skin well scrubbed.74                                       [580]


O Pallas, guardian of our city,
shielding this most sacred place,                                                               770
surpassing every land in war,
in poetry, and in her might,
come to us here and bring with you
the one who in campaigns and fights
stands there beside us, Victory,
companion in our choral songs,
who wars with us against our foes.                                                                        [590]
Now show yourself before us here.
For if there ever was a time
when you must give a victory                                                                    780
by any means to these men here
that moment has arrived.


We know our horses well and wish to praise them.
They are worthy of our tributes, for along with us
they have endured so many battles and attacks.
But we admire them not so much for these events
as for the time they bravely jumped on board the ships,
once they had purchased drinking cups—and some of them                              [600]
got garlic, too, and onions.76 Then they grabbed the oars,
just as we humans do, pulled hard on them, shouting,                           790
“Horses, heave! Who’s doing the rowing? Pull back harder!
What are we doing? Hey you, you pedigree nag,
why aren’t you rowing?” They disembarked at Corinth.
The youngest then dug resting places with their hooves
and went to bring back blankets. Instead of clover,
they fed themselves on crabs if any scuttled up
onshore, or else they caught them on the ocean floor,
so that Theorus said a Corinthian crab
would cry, “O Poseidon, what a cruel misfortune
if I cannot evade those knights either by land,                                         800        [610]
or even in the ocean depths, or on the sea.”77


[The Sausage Seller enters, returning from the city.]


O dearest and most vigorous of men,
how worried I have been since you’ve been gone.
Now you’re back again safe and sound, tell us
how did you make out in the competition?


The result is this—I’ve crushed the Council.


CHORUS [chanting]
Then everyone now
should shout with delight!
You speak very well
but your actions excite                                                                               810
much more than your words.
So come on, lay out
in very clear terms
what you’ve been about.
I really believe
I’d go a long way                                                                                                     [620]
to hear what it is
that you have to say.
My very dear chap,
be brave and tell all—                                                                                820
each one of us gets
such joy from your gall.


Well then listen. The story is worth hearing.
I went rushing from here right behind him.
He was inside bursting with verbiage,
hurling his thunder, attacking the Knights
with fantastic stories, mountains of words,
shouting they were conspirators—his speech
was very convincing. The whole Council,
as it listened to his lies, grew spice hot,                                                    830        [630]
with gazes like mustard and eyebrows tense.
When I saw they believed what he was saying
and were falling for his lies and bull crap,
I said, “Come on, spirits of impudence,
you cheats, you boobies, you rogues and rascals,
and the Market, too, where I was brought up
as a child, give me boundless brazenness,
a salesman’s chatter, and a shameless voice.”
As I was saying this to myself, a man
whose arse hole had been buggered out of shape                                    840
let rip a fart to my right, an omen
from the gods for which I gave them thanks.78
I banged the barrier and knocked it over                                                              [640]
with my bum, opened my mouth really wide,
and shouted out, “Members of the Council,
I bring excellent news, and I am keen
you be the first to hear it: since the time
this war broke over us, I’ve never seen
sardines at a cheaper price.”79 Their faces
immediately relaxed—they were prepared                                                850
to crown me for my good news. So I said,
as if I were telling them a secret,
that in order to buy lots of sardines
for just one obol, they should with all speed
confiscate all bowls from pottery shops.                                                                [650]
They looked at me with their mouths wide open
and applauded.80 But the Paphlagonian,
guessing what I was up to and knowing
the kind of talk the Council really loved,
made a propoal, “Gentlemen, I think,                                                        860
in honour of this wonderful event
which has just been reported, we should now
offer a sacrifice to the goddess—
one hundred oxen for this happy news.”
The Council then swung back his way again.
So when I noticed I was being beaten
by his bullshit, I upped the ante on him
by shouting out, “Two hundred oxen!”
And then I recommended they make a vow
to Artemis, offering a thousand goats                                                       870        [660]
the following day if the price of sardines
was a single obol for a hundred fish.
The Council was looking my way once more,
and eagerly. The Paphlagonian,
when he heard what I had said, was stunned—
he started to prattle raving nonsense.
So then the presidents and the archers
began to drag him off.81 The Council members
stood around babbling on about sardines.
The Paphlagonian kept pleading with them,                                            880
saying, “Wait a little, so you can hear
what the Spartan messenger has to say.
He’s arrived here with a peace proposal.”
But with one voice the Councillors all cried,                                                         [670]
“Why sue for a treaty now? My dear fellow,
it’s because they’ve learned our sardines are so cheap.
We don’t want treaties! Let the war go on!”
They called for the presidents to adjourn
the assembly and then jumped the railing
in all directions. I snuck off quickly                                                          890
to buy up all the coriander seed
and onions on sale in the marketplace.
Then I passed them all around free of charge
as seasonings, a gift to Councillors,
who had no spices to put on their fish.
They all sang my praises and lavished me                                                             [680]
with their attention. So I won over
all the Council with some coriander—
an obol’s worth! Then I came back here.


In all of these things                                                                                  900
you’ve been very good,
getting your way
as a lucky man should.
The rascal’s now knows
that he’s met defeat—
another man beat him
at being a cheat,
a far greater rogue,
with many more tricks,
and intricate lies,                                                                                        910
and smooth talk that sticks.
You need to take care
to come off the best
when you fight once again
and are put to the test.
You’ve known for a while
that we are a friend,
your trustworthy ally
right to the end.                                                                                                     [690]


[The Paphlagonian enters, returning from the city.]


Ah ha! Here comes the Paphlagonian,                                                      920
driving an fearful swell in front of him,
seething and foaming, as if he’s ready
to swallow me up. My goodness, he’s brash!


If I have any of my old lies left,
I’ll wipe you out—otherwise I’m done for,
completely up the creek!


                                                      I love your threats!
Your smoke-and-mirror chatter makes me laugh
and dance a horny jig—the chicken dance!


[The Sausage Seller taunts the Paphlagonian by imitating a chicken—flapping his arms, hopping around, and making chicken-like noises.]


By Demeter, if I don’t eat you up,
kick you out of here, I’ll never survive.                                                      930


If you don’t eat me up? And I won’t live,                                                               [700]
if I don’t drink you down and then explode
with you stuffed in my guts.


                                            I’ll destroy you—
I swear that by the privileged seating
I won by my victory at Pylos.


My, my—privileged seating! How I long
to see you tossed from your privileged seat
and sitting in a row right at the back.


By heaven, I’ll have you clapped in the stocks!


What a nasty temper! Now, let me see—                                                  940
what can I give you to eat? What nourishment
would you find truly sweet? Why not this purse?


[The Sausage Seller holds up a purse and jingles the coins in front of the Paphlagonian.]


I’ll eviscerate you with my nails!


I’ll pare down your Pyrtaneum dinners!

I’ll drag you to Demos—I’ll have justice
from you!


                               Then I’ll haul you off to him—
I can produce more slanders than you can.


You poor idiot! He won’t believe you.
I play around with him just as I wish.


You think of Demos as someone you own.                                                950


It’s because I know all the finger foods
he likes to nibble.


                                          Yes, but you feed him
like a dishonest nurse—you chew the food,
then give him a small piece, once you’ve swallowed
three times as much yourself.


                                        Besides, with my skill,
I can make Demos do whatever I want—                                                              [720]
I can open him up or close him tight.82


Well, I can do that, too—with my arse hole.


Well, my dear fellow, you won’t be a man
who’s known to have showered me with insults                                      960
there in the Council. Let’s go to Demos.


There’s nothing to stop us. So come on then.


[The Sausage Seller moves towards the door of the house, beckoning the Paphlagonian over.]


Get moving. We should not hold back.


[The Sausage Seller and the Paphlagonian move to the door of the house and begin knocking on it.]


PAPHLAGONIAN [calling into the house through the door]
Come on out here!


SAUSAGE SELLER [calling into the house]
                                 Yes, father, for Zeus’ sake,
come outside!


                   Come out, dearest little Demos—
so you can see how I am being abused.


DEMOS [coming from the house]
Who’s doing all the shouting? Get out of here—
leave my doorway! You’ve torn this apart,
my harvest wreath.83


[Demos recognizes the Paphlagonian.]


                                             Ah, Paphlagonian,
who’s being nasty to you?


                                             Because of you                                               970        [730]
I’m being assaulted by this fellow here
and by these young men.


                                      Why is that?


Because I am your loving friend, Demos,
and am very fond of you.


DEMOS [to the Sausage Seller]
                                   And who are you?


I am this man’s rival. For a long time
I have loved you and wished to help you out—
along with many other fine good people.
But we have not been able to do that,
because of this man here. You’re like those lads
who play around with lovers, refusing                                                      980
worthy, decent men and giving yourself
to lamp dealers, cobblers, shoemakers,
and men who trade in leather.                                                                               [740]



                                              Yes, because
I am good for Demos.


                                     All right, tell me
just what do you do for him?


                                                     What do I do?
When the generals were dithering around,
I sailed in there and then brought those Spartans
back from Pylos.


                           And I, while strolling around,
stole a boiling pot from someone else’s shop.


Demos, summon an assembly right now                                                  990
to find out which one of the two of us
is more friendly to you. And then decide,
so you can make that man the one you love.


Yes, do that. Make a choice. Just don’t do it
at the Pnyx.


                 I would not sit in judgment                                                                   [750]
in any other place. So we must move
up there. You must appear before the Pnyx. 


[They all move over to a rock on one side of the orchestra. Demos sits down on the rock.]


SAUSAGE SELLER [aside, as they move]
Bloody hell, I’ve had now. The old man
is very sensible when he’s at home,
but whenever he sits down on that rock                                                  1000
he’s a gaping idiot, just like some child
trying to catch figs with its mouth wide open.84


CHORUS [to the Sausage Seller]
Now you must spread out all your sail—
keep your spirit strong. Do not fail
in argument. Beat down that man.
He’s tricky—always with a plan
when he seems done for. So attack
like a raging wind. Don’t hold back!                                                                      [760]


But take care! Before he closes in on you,
first hoist your lead weights into position,                                               1010
then run your ship at him along the side.85


I pray to lady Athena, who guards
our city, that if I have been the best
at serving the Athenian citizens—
apart from Lysicles and those two sluts
Cynna and Salabaccho—I may dine
in the Prytaneum, as I do now,
though I have not achieved a thing.86 But if
I hate you, Demos, if I’m not prepared
to fight bravely for you all by myself,                                                        1020
may I be destroyed—sawn in two, cut up
into leather straps for horses’ halters.


And if I don’t love and value you, Demos,
may I be diced up and boiled as mincemeat.
If you don’t believe that, may I be grated                                                              [770]
on this very table, chopped up with cheese,
mashed into a paste, may I be dragged off
to Kerameikos by my own meat hook
speared through my balls.87


                               Demos, how could there be
a citizen who loves you more than me?
First of all, when I was on the Council,
in the treasury I produced for you
massive sums of money—I had some men
tortured, others throttled, and from others
I asked for a financial split—and I
never worried about private citizens,
if I could make you happy.


                                                 Hey, Demos,
there’s nothing so wonderful about that.
I’ll do that for you, as well. I’ll steal bread
from other men and serve it up to you.                                                    1040
This man does not love you, and his feelings                                                        [780]
for you are not friendly—except for one thing:
he enjoys warming himself at your fire.
That’s the first thing I’ll demonstrate to you.
You who took your swords against the Persians
at Marathon to save your native land,
and by winning gave us a chance to shout
such glorious tributes—you’re sitting down there
on those hard rocks, and this man doesn’t care,
unlike me, for I bring you this cushion,                                                    1050
which I sewed myself. Now, lift yourself up,
and sit down gently so you don’t strain
that arse that did so well at Salamis.88


[The Sausage Seller helps Demos get up and sit down again on a cushion he has brought with him.]


Who are you? Are you from that fine family
of Harmodius? I must say you’ve done
a truly noble act—you’re a real friend
of the people!89


                                       Such tiny flatteries
to win him over!


                            Well, you got him hooked
with lures much tinier than these!


I’m willing to wager my head and state                                                    1060
that no man has ever shown up who loved
Demos more than I do or who was better
at protecting him.


                                       How could you love him
when for eight years you have seen him living
in casks, crannies, and turrets, yet show him
no pity—instead you keep him locked in
and steal his honey? When Archeptolemus
brought peace proposals, you ripped them to shreds
and drove the embassy bringing terms of peace
whipping their backsides out of town.90


                                                   I did that                                                 1070
so Demos might rule over all the Greeks—
for the oracles declare that one day
he must sit in judgment in Arcadia
at five obols a day, if he bides his time.
At any rate, I will feed and care for him
and use fair and foul means to see to it
that he receives three obols every day.91                                                                 [800]


By god, you’re not thinking of how Demos
could rule Arcadia—no—but of how
you can rob and take bribes from our allies                                             1080
and of how the fog of war will guarantee
Demos doesn’t see the crap you’re up to,
so in his distress, need, and lack of cash
he’ll keep gawping after you. But if he
ever takes off for the countryside and lives
in peace there, regaining his fortitude
by munching wheat cakes and saying hello
to his pressed olives, he will realize
how you cheated him of many benefits
with the salary you paid. Then he’ll come back                                       1090
from his farmland an angry man, seeking
a voting pebble to use against you.92
You know all this and keep him in the dark,
with deceiving dreams about his future.


Is it not disgraceful that you talk of me                                                                 [810]
in this manner, falsely accusing me
in front of these Athenians and Demos,
when I have done more good things by far
for Athens than Themistocles ever did.


SAUSAGE SELLER [declaiming the first sentence in tragic style]
O city of Argos hearken to the things                                                       1100
of which he speaks!


[He turns his attention to the Paphlagonian.]


                             You dare compare yourself
with Themistocles? He found our city
partially full and left it overflowing.
What’s more, while she was enjoying breakfast
he prepared Piraeus for her to eat
and served up new varieties of fish
without getting rid of all the old ones.
But you keep trying to make Athenians
small-town citizens by constructing walls
that close them in and chanting oracles—                                               
and you compare yourself to Themistocles!
He is sent in exile from the city,
while you wipe fingers on fine barley cake.


O Demos, is it not shameful to hear                                                                      [820]
things like this about me from this fellow,
all because I love you?


DEMOS [to the Paphlagonian]
                                              Just shut up, you!
Stop this foul abuse. For far too long now
you’ve been getting away with duping me.


My dear little Demos, he’s the worst of rogues,
who’s carried out all sorts of nasty schemes.                                            1120
Whenever you are yawning, he taps into
the sap of those who audit the accounts
and slurps it down—he uses both his hands
to scoop up public money.


                               You’ll pay for that!
I’ll convict you of stealing city cash—
thirty thousand drachmas!


                                                     Why use your oar                                               [830]
just to make a splash? You’ve been committing
the most disgraceful things against the people
here in Athens. And I will clearly show,
by Demeter, that you received a bribe                                                      1130
from Mytilene—more than forty minas.94
If not, then may I not remain alive.


O you who appear the greatest benefactor
for all men, how I envy your persuasive tongue.
If you keep on attacking in this way, you’ll be
the greatest of the Greeks, and you, all by yourself,
will govern in the city, control our allies,
and, with a trident in your hand, will shake things up,
and by confusing things make piles and piles of money.95                                   [840]


Don’t let this man slip away, now he’s let                                                 1140
you get a grip on him. With lungs like yours
you’ll have no trouble overpowering him.


Things have not yet gone that far, my good friends,
by Poseidon. For what I have achieved
is marvellous enough to shut the mouths
of my enemies, each and every one,
as long as one of those shields from Pylos
still remains.96


                 You keep clinging to those shields!
You’ve given me something to grab hold of.
If you loved the people, then you should not                                           1150
allow these shields to be hung up on show
with their straps attached. It’s a clever scheme,
Demos, so that if you wish to punish him,                                                            [850]
you won’t be able to. You see how he has
a mob of young leather workers with him.
Close to them live men who sell our honey
and those who deal in cheese. All these men
have put their heads together in one group.
So if you were upset and looked as if
you might play around with broken pottery                                             1160
and have them ostracized, then late at night
they would all run out and take down those shields,
then seize the entries to our stores of grain.97


That’s terrible. Do they still have their straps?
You scoundrel! You’ve been cheating me too long!
And short changing people!


                                               But my dear sir,
don’t be the slave of the last word spoken.                                                           [860]
And don’t think you will ever come across
a better friend than me. I am the one
who put a stop to the conspirators,                                                          1170
and without my having knowledge of it,
no one can start a hostile mutiny.
I shout out who they are immediately.


You’re like the fishermen who hunt for eels.
In calm waters, they catch nothing at all,
but if they stir up mud, they get a catch.
So you, too, gain something profitable
if you disturb the city. Tell me this—
from all those treated hides you have for sale
have you ever given this Demos here,                                                       1180
who you say you love, soles for his shoes.


No, by Apollo.
He never has.                                                                                  [870]


                                                  Well then,
do you now see the kind of man he is?
I, on the other hand, bought this pair of shoes,
and I’m giving them to you to wear.


[The Sausage Seller gives Demos a pair of shoes.]


DEMOS [putting on the shoes]
Of all men I know, you are, in my view,
the finest where the people are concerned,
the most dedicated to the city—
and to my toes.


                                        Isn’t it terrible
a pair of shoes could be so important,                                                      1190
and you can’t remember all I’ve done
on your behalf? I’m the one who stopped
those who screw other men illegally,
by taking Gryttus from the voting rolls.98


Surely what is terrible is that you
inspected arse holes and prevented
buggers breaking laws when there’s no doubt

     you made them stop out of sheer jealousy,
fearing they might turn into politicians.                                                               [880]
But you can look at Demos, who’s so old,                                                1200
without a coat, and, even in winter,
you don’t think it’s proper to offer him
a garment with two sleeves. I, by contrast,
am presenting this to you.


[The Sausage Seller takes off his outer coat or cloak and gives it to Demos. Demos tries it on.]



                                               What a fine idea—
even Themistocles never thought of that!                   
And although that business with Piraeus
was clever enough, in my opinion
it’s not a greater notion than this coat.99


My god, what silly tricks you keep using
to attack me!


                           No, I’m simply borrowing                                               1210
your strategies, in the same way a man
who’s been drinking, when he needs a shit,
might help himself to someone else’s slippers.100


PAPHLAGONIAN [taking off his coat]
You’re not going to outdo me with flattery!                                                          [890]
I’ll put this over him. You can shove it,
you scoundrel!


[The Paphlagonian tries to place his coat around Demos, who rejects the offer.]


DEMOS [struggling against the Paphlagonian]
            Bah! Damn and blast you to hell!
It stinks of leather—totally disgusting!


He tried to wrap you in that deliberately
so he could suffocate you. That’s the scheme
he worked on you before. You know the time                                          1220
the cost of silphium stalks was so cheap?101


Yes, I remember that.


                                   Well, this man here
made sure the cost was low on purpose,
so people would buy the stuff and eat it,
and then jury men sitting in the courts
would kill each other with their farts.



                                                                   By Poseidon,
that’s just what a man from Shitsville told me.102


At that time did you not all turn reddish brown                                                  [900]
from all the farting.


                                By god, that was a scheme
worthy of some rogue we caught red handed.103


PAPHLAGONIAN [aside to the Sausage Seller]
                                                       You bastard!                                        1230
You’re pissing me off with all this foolery.


Well, the goddess told me I could beat you
in slinging bullshit.


                               But you won’t prevail.


[He turns back to Demos]


Demos, I say I’ll offer you a bowl
of state money, a salary, to feast on—
and you don’t ever have to do a thing!


And I’m giving you this small container,
some ointment, to rub over these bruises
on your shins.


                 But I’ll pluck out your grey hairs
and make you young again.


                                      Look here, take this—                                         1240
a hare’s tail to wipe your dear little eyes.


PAPHLAGONIAN [putting his head in Demos’ lap]
Blow your nose, Demos, and then use my head                                                    [910]
to wipe snot from your fingers.


SAUSAGE SELLER [shoving his head down, too]

                                                  No, no. Use mine.


No, mine!


[To the Sausage Seller]


                           I’ll make you captain of a ship—
that will take all your money. You’ll have
an old ship, so you never see an end
to spending cash and making more repairs.
I’ll make sure you get one with rotten sails.


SAUSAGE SELLER [pretending to be very alarmed]
The man is on the boil! Stop! That’s enough!
He’s boiling over. We have to pull away                                                   1250
some of the faggots and skim off his threats
with this ladle.105


                                                 I’ll make you pay for this—
I’ll crush you with taxes. I’ll make sure your name
is listed among those with lots of cash.106


I will make no threats. But I have a wish—
may your saucepan of squid be standing there
sizzling hot and you about to announce                                                                [930]
your view of the Milesians and so gain
a talent for yourself if you win out;
may you be making haste to eat the squid                                               1260
and still get to the meeting in good time,
but before you eat the meal, may a man
come for you, and you, in your eagerness
to get that talent, swallow down the squid                                                           [940]
and choke on it.


                  By Zeus, that’s a splendid wish!
Yes, by Apollo and Demeter, too!


I agree, and it’s clear enough this man
is a fine citizen. It’s been ages
since a man of his sort has come along
for the vulgar common folk. As for you,                                                   1270
Paphlagonian, you say you love me,
but you just make me ready for a fight.
Now, hand back my signet ring—no longer
will you be my steward.


PAPHLAGONIAN [removing a large ring]
                                    Take it. But know this—
if you won’t allow me to be your steward,
another man will show up and get his turn,
someone more disreputable than me.                                                                   [950]


DEMOS [inspecting the ring]
This cannot be my ring. It looks as if
the seal’s been changed, unless I’m going blind.


Let me have a look. What was your seal?                                                 1280


A fig leaf stuffed with beef fat.


                            That’s not what’s here.


Not a fig leaf? What is it, then?


                                                         A sea gull
with its mouth wide open—making a speech
perched high up on a rock.107


                                      O that’s dreadful!


What’s the matter?


                                    Put that ring away!
Out of my sight! It’s not my signet ring.
It must belong to Cleonymus.108


[Demos produces another ring.]


I’ll give you this one. You can be my steward.


Master, don’t do that yet, I implore you.                                                               [960]
Not before you’ve heard my oracles.                                                         1290


And mine, as well.


                                      If you believe this man,
you’ll be flayed into a leather bottle.


And if you trust him, your prick will be sliced
and cut down to a twig.


                                                      My oracles
state that you are to govern every land
with a crown of roses.


                                           And mine predict
you will wear an embroidered purple robe
with a crown and, standing in a gold chariot
you’ll pursue Smicythos and his husband
in the courts.109


CHORUS LEADER [to Sausage Seller]
                         Well then, get the oracles,                                               1300         [970]
so that Demos here can listen to them.


All right.


CHORUS LEADER [to the Paphlagonian]

                    And you get yours, as well.


                                                I’ll get them.


By god, we’ll do it. Nothing’s stopping us.


[The Paphlagonian goes into the house to fetch his oracles. The Sausage Seller moves over to his stuff and rummages through it to find some papers that he can pretend are oracles.]


How very sweet will be the light of day
for those who visit here and those who stay
if Cleon is destroyed—though I did hear
some crotchety old geezers speaking near
the list of law suits by the market gate                                                                  [980]
who claimed if he had not become so great
the city would lack two useful boons                                                        1310
our pounding pestles and our stirring spoons.110
’m amazed in music he is such a swine.
His class mates at school say all the time
he’d tune his strings in the Dorian way,                                                                [990]
unwilling to find out how he might play
a different mode.111 His teacher grew stern
and sent him away, “This boy will not learn.
The Dorian style is all he will play,
and when he does he expects you to pay.” 112


PAPHLAGONIAN [coming from the house with a pile of scrolls]
Here, look at this lot. I haven’t brought out                                             1320
all of them.


SAUSAGE SELLER [with an even bigger pile of scrolls]
                                                 I can’t carry all of mine.
By god, I need to take a shit!


                                           What is this?




                 All of them?


                                             Are you surprised?
By god, I’ve got a chest jammed full of them.                                                       [1000]


I’ve got an attic and two apartments full.


Come on, let’s have a look. These oracles—
who do they come from?


                             Mine are from Bacis.


DEMOS [to the Sausage Seller]
Who do yours come from?


                                      They’re from Glanis,
Bacis’ elder brother.


DEMOS [to the Paphlagonian]

                                 What are they about?


About Athens, about Pylos, about you,                                                    1330
about me, about everything.


DEMOS [to the Sausage Seller]
                                                And yours?
What are they about?


                                 They’re about Athens,
about lentil soup, about the Spartans,
about fresh mackerel, about flour merchants
who give false measure in the marketplace,
about you, about me. That man there—

[He indicates the Paphlagonian.]


let him suck his own cock.                                                                                     [1010]


                                    Well, come on then,
read them to me—especially that one
which I enjoy so much, that I’ll become
an eagle in the clouds.113


                                                       Then listen,                                         1340
and give me now your complete attention:


[The Paphlagonian reads from one of the scrolls.]


“Son of Erechtheus, hearken to the intent
of Apollo’s oracles, which he pronounces
through holy tripods from his inner shrine. 
He has ordered you to keep safe the sacred hound
with the jagged teeth who barks in your defence
and on your behalf yowls out alarming noises.
He will furnish you with payments, and if he fails,
he will go under, for there are countless jackdaws
who hate that dog and keep screaming after him.”                                 
1350        [1020]


By Demeter, I do not understand
a word he says. What does Erechtheus
have to do with jackdaws and a dog?


I am that dog. I howl in your defence.
Phoebus tells you to protect your dog—me.114


The oracle says nothing of the sort.
This dog here . . .


[The Sausage Seller points to the Paphlagonian.]


                           . . . is chewing up your oracles
the way dogs chew on doorposts. I have here
the proper prophecy about the dog.


Then state it. But first I’ll pick up this stone,                                          1360
so the oracle about the dog won’t bite.


SAUSAGE SELLER [pretending to read from his scroll]
“Son of Erechtheus, beware of Cerberus,                                                              [1030]
the dog which kidnaps men.115 When you are at a meal
he fawns on you with wagging tail, but he’s watching
to devour your dishes, when you look away,
your mouth agape. Often in the night he sneaks
into your kitchen rooms, while you are unaware,
and, like a dog, licks clean your plates and islands.”


By Poseidon, Glanis, that’s much better!


Well, listen to this one and then decide:                                                  1370


[The Paphlagonian reads from another scroll.]


 “A woman in sacred Athens will bear a lion,
who will fight for the people against huge clouds
of gnats, as if he were protecting his own cubs.
Look after him. Build wooden walls around him                                                 
and towers of iron.”


                                Do you know what that means?


By Apollo, I don’t.


                                 The god clearly states
you should look after me, because I am
that lion symbol.


                                    How did you become
the lion Simba without my knowledge?116


He’s quite deliberately not explaining                                                      1380
something in that saying—the only wall
made out of iron and wood inside which
Loxias has told you to preserve the man.117


Why does the god say these words?


                                                      He’s telling you
to tie this man down in those wooden stocks,
the ones which have five holes.118


                                                 I think that oracle                                                  [1050]
is just about to be fulfilled.


                                                     Don’t believe him!
The crows are jealous. They keep cawing at me.


[The Paphlagonian reads from another scroll.]


“Cherish the hawk, and remember in your heart
he was the one who on your behalf brought back                                  
those young Spartan ravens all chained together.”


The Paphlagonian was drunk that day—
that’s why he took such a dangerous risk.


[The Sausage Seller pretends to read from one of his scrolls.]


 “O poorly counselled son of Cecrops, why believe
that was a mighty deed?
119 For even a woman
can bear a load if a man places it on her.
But she won’t fight.”


[The Sausage Seller points to the Paphlagonian.]


                                       If he went into battle,
he’d crap his pants.


                                      But consider the phrase
Pylos before Pylos,” something the god
has drawn to your attention—there is                                                     1400
“A Pylos before Pylos.”


                                       What does he mean
by that expression “Pylos before Pylos”?120


He’s saying he will pile up piles of bath tubs                                                        [1060]
and take them from the wash house.121


                                                  So today
I won’t be having my bath?


                                                          No, you won’t,
since he’s taken away our tubs. Here’s one—
an oracle about the fleet. You should
give it your very close attention.


I’m listening. You read it. First of all,
how my sailors are going to get their pay.                                                1410


SAUSAGE SELLER [pretending to read from a scroll]
“Son of Aegeus, beware of the fox-dog,
in case he tricks you. He’s full of deceit,
runs fast, and is cunning and resourceful.”
Do you know what that means?


                                               Well, the dog fox
that’s Philostratus.122


                                       That’s not what it says.                                                    [1070]
It’s about the fast ships which collect cash,
the ones this fellow here keeps requesting.123
Loxias is telling you not to give them.


How does a warship become a fox dog?


How come? Because warships and fox dogs                                            1420
both move fast.


                           Then why does it say fox dog
instead of just a dog?


                                    It’s a comparison.
It’s saying fox dogs resemble soldiers,
who, like them, feed on grapes from vineyards.124


All right, then.
Where’s the pay for these fox cubs?


I’ll see to that and within three days, too.
But pay attention to this oracle,                                                                             [1080]
where Leto’s son tells you to shun the port
called Crooked Harbour—that place may trick you.125


What’s Crooked Harbour?


SAUSAGE SELLER [indicating the Paphlagonian]
                                          It clearly states here                                         1430
that Crooked Harbour is this fellow’s hand—
since he’s always saying, “My hand’s crooked,
so put something in it.”


                                              He’s telling lies!
The correct reading of that cryptic saying
is that Phoebus means by “Crooked Harbour”
the hand of Diopeithes.126 But look here,
I have an oracle with wings—about you.
You will become an eagle and a king
ruling all the earth.


                                       I have one, as well—
you will rule the Earth and the Red Sea, too,                                           1440
be a presiding judge in Ebatana
and lick up decorated cakes.127


                                            In a dream
I have seen Athena herself. I saw her                                                                     [1090]
pouring health and wealth all over Demos
with a bucket.


                           I’ve seen the goddess, too.
I saw her come in person, moving out
from the Acropolis—she had an owl
perched on her helmet. Then over your head
she poured ambrosia from a little jug,
and over his head . . .


[He indicates the Paphlagonian]


                                . . . she dumped pickled garlic.                                 1450


That’s splendid! It’s really true that no one
is cleverer than Glanis. And so now
I commit myself to you, to guide me
in my old age and to educate me
once more from the start.


                                            No, no! Not yet!
I’m begging you. Just wait a little while,                                                                [1100]
so I can provide some barley for you
and what you need to live on every day.


I can’t stand to hear you talk of barley.
I’ve been cheated too many times by you                                                1460
and by Thuphanes.128


                                  How about flour cakes?
I’ll provide some, especially for you!


                                                               I’ll give you
well-kneaded scones and nicely roasted meat,
All you have to do is eat it.


                                                               All right.

Get a move on with what you’re going to do.
Then I’ll hand over the keys to the Pnyx
to whichever one of you is better
at giving me good service.


                                   I’ll be the first
to run inside.


                        No you won’t. I will!                                                                        [1110]


[The Paphlagonian and the Sausage Seller both rush into the house.]


O Demos your rule                                                                                    1470
is surely so fine,
you’re like a tyrant
men fear all the time.
But you’re easy to fool—
you like flattering cries
and love to be praised
and told plenty of lies.
You listen to speakers
with mouth open wide
your mind may be present                                                                        1480
but it’s gone for a ride.                                                                                           [1120]


If you think I’m a dolt,
then beneath your long hair
you’ve got no brain at all.
I am fully aware
that I act like a fool—
I like drinking each day,
and I raise up a thief
for political sway,
with this purpose in mind—                                                                     1490
when he’s stuffed himself fat,
then I lift up my hand
and knock him down flat.                                                                                      [1130]


What you do then is good,
and your style, as you say,
in these things is profound,
if you use a sly way
to keep raising these men
like our victims of state.
They grow great on the Pnyx,                                                                   1500
so you won’t have to wait.
Then you take one who’s fat,
if you need to eat meat,
set him up as an offering
and have something to eat.129                                                                                  [1140]


Look at me—I am smart.
I deceive all those men
who think they’re so clever
and can fool me again.
I’m on watch for them all,                                                                         1510
and my eye always looks
though I don’t seem to see,
when they’re acting like crooks.
Then I make them throw up
what they’ve stolen from folk—
on the voting urn top
they all puke when I poke.130                                                                                   [1150]


[The Paphlagonian and the Sausage Seller return from the house. They are each carrying a chest full of food and are getting in each other’s way.]


Get the devil out of my way!


                                          Shove off!


Demos, for a long, long time I’ve been here
sitting ready, really keen to serve you.                                                      1520


And I’ve been ready for ages and ages—
ten, twelve, a thousand—an infinite time.


I’ve been waiting thirty thousand ages,
fed up with you both for an eternity.


You know what you should do?


                                I will if you tell me.


Send me and him out from a starting line,
so we can race to see who serves you best—
under the same conditions.


                                       That we must do.
Get in line.131


[The Paphlagonian and the Sausage Seller assume the positions of sprinters about to race off.]





                                      Then off you go!


[The Paphlagonian and the Sausage Seller race off to their separate chests and piles of stuff.]


I won’t let you win by some secret trick!                                                  1530


By god, today my lovers will make me
extremely happy or else I’ll have to
keep playing the coy coquette.


PAPHLAGONIAN [running back to Demos]
                                                         Look at this!
I’m the first here—I’m bringing you a chair!


But not a table—I was the first with that.


Look at this. I’ve brought you barley cake
prepared by hand with grain from Pylos.


I’ve got some scooped out bread crusts. They were made
by the goddess’ ivory hand.


                                               Lady Athena,
how huge your fingers are!132                                                                                   [1170]


                                         I have pea soup—                                             1540
tasty and a splendid colour. Pallas,
who fought at Pylos, stirred it herself.


O Demos, the goddess is watching you—
that’s clear enough—and now above your head
she holds a pot brim full of broth.



                                   Do you think
we’d still be inhabiting this city
if she was not clearly holding over us
a pan of broth?


                           And here’s a slice of fish—
it’s a present to you from the goddess
who strikes panic into every army.                                                            1550


And here is meat cooked in its own juices
from the daughter of a mighty father—
along with a slice of tripe and sausage.


She’s remembering the robe I gave her.                                                                [1180]
That’s nice.


                          The goddess of the dreadful plume
bids you eat this pound cake—our ships oarsmen
will row faster with these currants.133


                                              Take this, too.


What do I do with these bits of stomach?


The goddess sends these to you on purpose—
to fix our ships bellies. That makes it clear                                              1560
her eye is on our fleet. Have a drink now,
two measures of wine and one of water.134


DEMOS [sampling the wine]
Ah Zeus, how delicious that is—that mix
of wine and water blends so perfectly.


Athena, thrice born, mixed all three parts.135


Here, take this slice of rich flat-cake from me.                                                      [1190]


But from me you will get an entire cake.


But you don’t have stewed hare to give him. I do!


SAUSAGE SELLER [to himself]
Damn and blast it! Where can I get a hare?
Come on, brain, produce some devious trick.136                                        1570


PAPHLAGONIAN [pulling a hare from his supply]
You see this, you miserable devil!


SAUSAGE SELLER [looking into the wings]
I don’t give a damn. I see men coming—
ambassadors bringing bags of cash to me.


PAPHLAGONIAN [putting the hare down and moving toward the wings]
Where? Where are they?


SAUSAGE SELLER [grabbing the hare]
                                       What do you care?
Can’t you ever stop bothering foreigners?
My dear little Demos, you see this hare—
I’m bringing it for you.


                                     You bloody cheat!
You’ve stolen my stuff! That’s not fair!                                                                  [1200]



                                                          Yes, I have,
by Poseidon, just as you nicked those men
from Pylos.


DEMOS [to the Sausage Seller]
                              If you don’t mind my asking,                                       1580
tell me this—how did you get that idea
to steal the hare?


                              The idea is from Athena,
but the theft is all my own.



                                             I took the risk,

and, in addition, I prepared the meat.


Get out of here. The one who brings the food
is the only one to get my grateful thanks.


Good god, his shamelessness will conquer mine!


All right, Demos, why not judge which of us
was the best to you and to your stomach?


How do I decide between the two of you,                                                1590
using facts that will make the audience          
believe the judgement I pronounce is wise?                                                         [1210]


SAUSAGE SELLER [pulling Demos aside and lowering his voice]
I’ll tell you. Don’t say a word. Go over there
to my basket. Check out what’s inside it.
Then, do that to the Paphlagonian’s.
That’s all you need to judge correctly.


DEMOS [moving to the Sausage Seller’s hamper]
Well then, let’s see. What’s in here?


                                                     It’s empty.
Can’t you see that? My dear little father,
I brought everything to you.


                                                    This hamper
is on the people’s side.


                                   Now, stroll over here                                              1600
to the Paphlagonian’s. Do you see?


O my, it’s full of so many good things!
A huge piece of cake he’s keeping for himself!
He cut off a slice and gave that to me—
only this big!


                           That’s what he did before.
He gave you a tiny part of what he took
and set aside most of it for himself.


DEMOS [to the Paphlagonian]
You wretch! Was that how you were cheating me,
by stealing? That symbol of your office—
I gave it to you.137 I showered you with gifts.                                             1610


I did steal, but for the city’s benefit.


Take that badge off—and quickly, so that I
can give it to this man.


                                                      Hand it over fast.
You worthless rogue, you deserve a whipping.


There is a Pythian oracle
which reveals the name of the only man
who destiny says will overthrow me.                                                                     [1230]


It spoke my name, and it was very clear.


All right.
I wish to put you through a test
with certain evidence, to make quite sure                                               1620
you match what the god intended. And so
I will start by examining who you are.
As a boy, what schooling did you go through?


I was taught in the pits by being thrashed
where pigs are singed.


                                        What’s that you just said?


[aside to himself]


That oracle will give me a heart attack!


[returns to questioning the Sausage Seller]


All right. What did you learn from the teacher
in charge of wrestling?


                                               Well, I learned this—
when I was stealing, I looked straight ahead
and told a lie.


PAPHLAGONIAN [aside to himself]
                                    “O Phoebus Apollo,                                               1630
lord of Lycia, what will you do to me?”138                                                               [1240]


[resuming questioning the Sausage Seller]


When you were grown up, what was your trade?


I sold sausages and fucked a bit for cash.


PAPHLAGONIAN [aside to himself]
My god, I’m screwed!  I’m nothing anymore!
But I’m still riding on one slender hope.


[resuming questioning the Sausage Seller]


Tell me this—where did you sell sausages,
in the market or at the city gates?


By the gates, where salted foods are sold.


PAPHLAGONIAN [in tragic style]
Alas, The god’s oracle has been fulfilled!
Roll this ill-fated wretch inside the house.                                              1640


[He takes of the garland symbolizing his office]


Farewell, my garland, you must now leave me.
With great reluctance I abandon you.                                                                  
Some other man will now take you up
and will possess you—no greater thief,
but perhaps a man with more good fortune.


[The Paphlagonian tosses the garland away and collapses, lying inert on the ground. The Sausage Seller catches the garland and puts it on his own head.]


O Zeus, god of the Greeks, this victory
belongs to you.


                                Hail, glorious conqueror!
Remember that you have become a man
thanks to me. I ask for something trifling—
to be your Phanos and sign your law suits.140                                           1650


DEMOS [to Sausage Seller]
Tell me your name.


because I was raised on disagreements
in the market.


                   Well then, I place myself
in the care of Agoracritus—to him
I hand over the Paphlagonian here.                                                                       [1260]


Demos, I will look after you in style.
You will agree you could not imagine
any man more friendly to this city
full of those who love to yawn and gape.


[Demos and the Sausage Seller go into the house. Some members of the Chorus haul the Paphlagonian off to one side of the stage by his feet and return without him.]


What is more beautiful than to sing                                                        1660
at the start or finish of our choral song
of those who drive swift horses—with no jokes
aimed at Lysistratus and in our hearts
no deliberate wish to harm Thumantis,
who has no home and craves food all the time—
O dear Apollo, with many tears he clings                                                              [1270]
to thy quiver there in Delphi, begging
not to live in such wretched poverty.141


There is nothing hateful in aiming one’s abuse
at wicked rogues—no, if one reasons well                                               1670
it’s paying a tribute to worthwhile citizens.
So if the man about whom we must now proclaim
many bad things were himself well known to all,
I would not mention someone who is my friend.
Now, there is no one who can tell the colour white
from Orthian melodies who does not know
Agrignotus. Well, that man has a brother,
Ariphrades, who in his habits is not like him                                                        [1280]
and wants to be that way.142 He is not only bad—
if that were all, I wouldn’t pay him any mind—                                       1680
not only completely nasty, but has invented
something even worse. He corrupts his own tongue
with revolting pleasures, licking disgusting juices
inside the cunts of prostitutes, staining his beard,
stirring up coals in those hot fires, carrying on
like Polymnestus, and hanging out with Oeonichus.
Any person who does not despise a man like that
will never drink from the same cup as I do.143


At night certain thoughts often come to me,                                                        [1290]
and I wonder where Cleonymus gets food                                               1690
for that voracious appetite he has. They say
that when he grazed on rich men’s tables
he’d never leave the tub of food alone.
And they’d keep begging him in unison,
“O lord, by your knees, leave—spare our table.”144


They say our warships once all met together                                                        [1300]
to chat to one another, and one of them,
an older lady, said, “Girls, don’t you realize
what’s going on in the city? People are claiming
some man is requisitioning one hundred of us                                        1700
to sail off to Carthage—some worthless citizen
called sour Hyperbolus.”145 All of them thought this
totally outrageous and would not endure it.
One of those ships, a virgin who’d not yet come near
a crew of men, declared, “May god protect us,
that man will never become my master! Instead,
I’ll grow old here, if I must, with festering wood
chewed up by worms.” “By the gods, he’ll not command
Nauphanta, daughter of Nauson, not if I, too,
am constructed out of pine and timbers. And so,                                    1710        [1310]
if Athenians take up Hyperbolus’ scheme,
then I think we should hoist sail and seek refuge
at the Theseum or the Furies’ sanctuary.
He won’t take charge of us and mock the city.
If that’s what he wants, let him sail off by himself
and descend to Hades, once he’s launched those tubs
he used when trying to sell those lamps of his.”146


[Enter the Sausage Seller from the house. He is wearing a rich new outfit.]


We must maintain a holy silence,
keeping our mouths firmly closed, refraining
from giving evidence, and closing those courts                                       1720
from which the city gets so much delight.
To salute our new good fortune, people here
should sing a sacred song of gratitude.


O you flaming light for sacred Athens
protector of the islands, what good news
do you carry as you move here, for which                                                             [1320]
we will make our streets fill up with the smell
of smoking sacrifice?


                                             I have boiled Demos,
made him young again for you and transformed
something ugly into something beautiful.147                                             1730


And so, you fountain of marvellous schemes,
where is he now?


                                           He lives in ancient Athens,
that city crowned with violets.


                                    How can we see him?
What style of clothing is he wearing?
What sort of man has he become?


He has become what he was earlier,
when he lived alongside Aristides
and Miltiades. But you yourselves can see—
for I already hear doors opening
in the Propylaea.148 Shout out with joy,                                                     1740
as ancient Athens now comes into view,
that wonderful place, so often praised in hymns,
the place where celebrated Demos dwells.


Splendid, envied Athens, crowned with violets,
show us the king of all the land of Greece.                                                            [1330]


[Demos emerges through the doors of the Propylaea. He has been completely rejuvenated and is dressed in traditional clothes.]


Gaze upon this man, with the cicada
in his hair, glorious in his ancient robes,
anointed with myrrh and smelling now,
not of mussel shells, but offerings of peace.149


Hail king of the Greeks. We rejoice with you.                                          1750
What you do is worthy of the city
and of our trophy raised at Marathon.150


Come here, Agoracritus, dearest of men.
What great things you have done, by boiling me!


I did? My friend, if you do not understand
the kind of person you were previously
and what sort of things you did, you would think
I was a god.


                                     Tell me—what did I do before?
What was I like?


                Well, for a start, when someone
announced in the assembly, “O Demos,                                                   1760        [1340]
I am such an ardent lover of yours,
I am concerned for you and I alone
look out for what you need,” at that point—
after someone used these opening phrases—
you’d always flap your wings and toss your horns.


I did that?


                     Once he’d completely fooled you
merely with these words, he’d go away.


What are you saying? They did that to me,
and I never noticed?


And then, by god,
your ears would open like a parasol                                                          1770
and then close again.



                                      Was I so stupid
and such a dotard?


                                      Yes, by Zeus, you were.
If two orators spoke up, one proposing                                                                 [1350]
to build long ships for war and the other
to spend the same amount to pay off
certain citizens, the one who spoke of pay
would always go away victorious
over the man who spoke of warships.


[Demos turns his head aside.]


Why hang your head? Can’t you stand firm here?


Well, I’m ashamed of earlier mistakes.                                                     1780


You shouldn’t think about them. Those mistakes
were not your fault—no, they were brought about
by the men who lied to you. Now, tell me,
if some impudent advocate cried out,
“You jury men, there’ll be no wheat for you,
unless you convict someone in this case,”                                                             [1360]
how would you treat the man who made that plea?


I’d string him up above the ground, fling him
into the Barathron, with Hyperbolus
hanging round his neck.151


                           Now you’re talking                                                         1790
in a reasonable and proper way.
All right, let’s see, what other policies
would you undertake? Tell me.


                                                First of all,
whenever the long ships return to port,
I will award the rowers their full pay.


You’ll please many a worn and blistered bum.


And then, no soldier whose name is entered
on the roll will be transferred somewhere else                                                      [1370]
because of special interests. It will stay
where it was written down originally.                                                      1800


That will sting Cleonymus on his shield band.152


And no one will hang around the marketplace
unless he has a beard.


                                                          If that’s the case,
where will Cleisthenes and Strato buy things?153     


By that I mean those young men at the market
where perfumes are sold, who sit there and chat,
saying things like, “That Phaeax is so smart!
The way he escaped death was so clever!
How stylish the man is, how logical,
how good at formulating new expressions,                                              1810
clear and pointed, and he’s the very best
at silencing those nasty hecklers.”154                                                                       [1380]


Surely you’ll give these chatterers the finger?


No, by Zeus.
I’ll force them all to go hunting
and stop proposing to vote in decrees.


SAUSAGE SELLER [beckoning to a slave]
All right then, given that, accept this stool,
and this slave who will carry it for you.
He’s got enormous balls, and if you like,
you can make him your camp stool.


                                      My goodness!
I am reassuming my old habits!                                                                1820


You will claim that for sure when I give you
the peace terms for a truce of thirty years.155 


[He calls into the house.]


Terms of peace, come out here quickly.


[Enter two scantily clad or perhaps naked young girls whom the Sausage Seller presents to Demos.]


Holy Zeus, they are lovely. By the gods,                                                                [1390]
can I play around with them for thirty years?
Let me ask you—where did you find them?


Didn’t you know the Paphlagonian
was keeping them locked up in the house
where you wouldn’t find them? I’m giving them
to you so you can take them with you                                                      1830
when you go back to your country home.


And what about the Paphlagonian
who did all this. How will you punish him?


Nothing excessive.
He will carry on
with my old trade beside the city gates,
selling sausages all by himself. He’ll keep
making a hash of things, but from now on
with dog and donkey meat. And when he’s drunk,
he’ll swap his swear words with the prostitutes,                                                  [1400]
and drink foul water from the public baths.                                            1840


What you’ve proposed that man richly deserves,
a slanging match with whores and bath attendants.
And now, in return, I am inviting you
to the Prytaneum, to take the seat
which that piece of filth once occupied.                                                                    
Put on this frog-green robe and follow me.
Someone take that fellow away from here
where he may ply his trade, so that strangers
whom he used to hurt so much may see him.


[Some of the Chorus haul away the Paphlagonian. Demos, the Sausage Seller, the Peace Treaty Girls, and the Chorus move off towards the city]





1Olympus was a musician from the 7th century who composed flute music. The English words here have been provided by the translator; the Greek simply has them repeating a series of mu sounds, without any lyrics. [Back to Text]


2Nicias is here quoting Euripides, a line from Hippolytus where Phaedra wishes to confess her passion for her stepson without actually saying the words. [Back to Text]


3Aristophanes is satirizing Euripides’ origins by reminding people of the false rumour that his mother, Cleito, sold vegetables. The previous lines also satirize Euripides’ style. [Back to Text]


4The punishment for slaves who ran away during wartime was a ferocious whipping. Nonetheless, desertions were not uncommon. [Back to Text]


5The fact that he is so wretched demonstrates that there must be gods. Otherwise he would be better off. [Back to Text]


6The detail about chewing beans may be a reference to Demos’ crude habits. Some commentators see an allusion here to the use of beans to count votes in the election of public officials. [Back to Text]


7Paphlagonia is a remote, rugged area on the southern shores of the Black Sea. The reference to a “tanner” identifies the slave for the audience as Cleon, a powerful politician and general in Athens, whose family derived their wealth from a tanning business. He was not from Paphlagonia. That word, however, also alludes to a blustery style of speech. Cleon was an opponent of the richer, aristocratic classes and was very aggressive in prosecuting the war with Sparta. [Back to Text]


8This is an invitation to Demos to cut short his public duties at the law court and enjoy the pleasures of a bath and food, while still taking the full fee for his services. Three obols was the daily amount given for jury duty (Cleon had had the amount increased from two obols). The phrase “tiny bits of leather” is alleging that Cleon distributes small bribes to get his way with Demos (the people). [Back to Text]


9In 425 BC (the year before the production of Knights) the Athenian general Demosthenes had engineered a military triumph against the Spartans at Pylos. Cleon had come out in the final stages of the campaign and together he and Demosthenes had inflicted a major defeat on the Spartans. Cleon received almost all the credit for the victory and, as a result, was extremely popular. [Back to Text]


10Hylas is a common name for a slave. [Back to Text]


11The Chaones are a group living in north-west Greece. The Greek names for these places bring out certain double meanings which are lost in translation (except perhaps for the pun Cahones-cojones). Aetolia sounds like the Greek word meaning to demand, and Clopidae, a small part of Athens, sounds as if it comes from the Greek word for thief. The basic satiric point is that Cleon’s reach is extensive and corrupt everywhere. [Back to Text]


12Themistocles was a leading Athenian politician at the time of the Persian invasions and played a decisive role in the Persian defeat in 480 BC. Bull’s blood was believed to be poisonous. However, there is no reliable evidence that Themistocles died drinking it. [Back to Text]


13After dinner a libation of unmixed wine was made to the Good Spirit (i.e., Dionysus). In the regular drinking which followed the libation, the wine was mixed with water. [Back to Text]


14A libation is an offering to a god in which a small amount of liquid (usually wine) is poured out onto the ground or an altar. Nicias suspects Demosthenes is simply going to drink the wine; hence, the latter reassures him that he wants the wine for a religious purpose. Ancient Greek normally drank wine mixed with water. [Back to Text]


15The term Pramnian refers to a wine of good quality produced in different places. [Back to Text]


16The oracles are prophecies written out on scrolls. [Back to Text]


17Bacis was a well-known contemporary prophet, who is said to have predicted many events of the war. There is also a pun on Bacchus, the god of wine. [Back to Text]


18The dealer in hemp is Eucrates, an Athenian politician, who opposed and was removed from power by Cleon. [Back to Text]


19The sheep dealer is a reference to Lysicles, who was killed in a military action in 428 BC. The repeated notion of political leaders who first make money from common trades, as Sommerstein suggests, is emphasizing a new breed of politician in the state, a middle-class merchant who uses his money to gain political influence and power. [Back to Text]


20The Cycloborus was a stream near Athens which turned into a noisy torrent in the spring. [Back to Text]


21The Greek says “up here,” because Demosthenes is on a stage, above the orchestra where the Sausage Seller enters. [Back to Text]


22Merry notes that the salute would be with the thumb and forefinger touching the lips, a gesture made at a moment of great good fortune. [Back to Text]


23The Pnyx is a large amphitheatre west of the Acropolis in Athens where the Athenian assembly met. The Prytaneum was the symbolic centre of civic life, a building where a sacred fire was kept and important figures were entertained. Citizens who had given exceptional service to the state could gain the privilege of eating there at public expense. Sommerstein notes that the sexual depravity is a swipe at Athenian politicians and an indication of the Sausage Seller’s fitness for public office, since he does not object to the gross insult which calls him, in effect, a public prostitute. [Back to Text]


24Caria is a city on the east coast of Asia Minor, and Carthage is far to the west of Athens. The Sausage Seller is being asked to survey virtually the whole eastern and central Mediterranean. Neither Caria nor Carthage is part of the Athenian empire, but some ambitious politicians were hoping to extend that empire in both directions. [Back to Text]


25This seems to mean, as Sommerstein points out, that the serpent-sausage maker will prevail, unless he is intimidated by Cleon’s bluster. Green notes (following Walsh) that the mention of blood suggests that the sausages may be more like black pudding than conventional sausages. [Back to Text]


26This is either a joke at Cleon’s expense (his face is so hideous and terrifying that artists are too scared to create a likeness) or else, as Sommerstein suggests, Aristophanes may have had legal reasons for not depicting Cleon visually (or using his name in the play). Given the comic possibilities of a mask, it seems odd that one is not used for the Paphlagonian. According to tradition, Aristophanes may have played the part of the Paphlagonian himself with his face smeared with ochre and wine-lees. [Back to Text]


27The cup Demosthenes has been using is made of silver from Chalcis. The Paphlagonian immediately concludes they must be fomenting a revolt against Athens in the region of Chalcis. [Back to Text]


28Charybdis was a destructive whirlpool which sucked everything down into it. In Odyssey 12 it is an important hazard Odysseus and his crew must cope with. [Back to Text]


29The precise meaning of this line is obscure. Merry notes that it might refer to the fact that Eucrates, once he was driven from political power by Cleon, went back to being a commercially successful bran merchant. Green suggests that it might be based on a well-known event when Eucrates escaped danger by hiding under a pile of bran. [Back to Text]


30Outgoing public officials had to have their use of public money checked by an audit, a process which, so this states, Cleon abused. [Back to Text]


31I follow Merry and Sommerstein and others in placing lines 264 and 265 of the Greek text between lines 260 and 261. The Chersonese is a distant region to the north-east of Athens, in Thrace. The suggestion seems to be that the Athenian citizen had gone there for a peaceful, non-political life. [Back to Text]


32There is some doubt over the speaker of these lines. Along with other editors, I assign them to the Sausage Seller, since he must enter the argument at some point, and assigning this speech to the Chorus Leader, as the manuscript does, creates a staging problem. [Back to Text]


33A honey cake was a prize at a drinking party for the best performer and for the one who stayed awake the longest. [Back to Text]


34Pericles was the political leader in Athens at the height of its glory. He died of the plague a year after war broke out. These lines apparently mean that he never received the honour of dining at public expense at the Prytaneum. They also suggest that whoever did have that honour was not entitled to take food away with him. [Back to Text]


35In other words, I’m just as capable of putting a bold face on things as you are. [Back to Text]


36The Greek uses the word Prytanes, which, as Sommerstein notes, is the business committee of the City Council. He also suggests that with the phrase “sacred tripe” the Paphlagonian may be stating that the Sausage Seller’s wares are spoils of war and thus subject to tax. [Back to Text]


37Merry notes that in coastal regions people on land kept watch for shoals of tuna fish. [Back to Text]


38The leather was cut obliquely so as to look thick and strong, but it was so bad it quickly expanded, and the shoes no longer fit. [Back to Text]


39Pergase was a community close to Athens. Hence, the trip to it would be a short walk. [Back to Text]


40Hippodamus’ son is Archeptolemus, a well-known politician. From this reference it would appear that he is opposed to Cleon’s aggressive war policies but is doing nothing about them. Merry mentions that Archeptolemus was probably in the audience, so that the phrase “watching in tears” takes on an added significance. [Back to Text]


41The place where the “worthy” men are brought up now is, of course, the marketplace. [Back to Text]


42Merry notes that winning a case in court against a foreigner was probably easier than winning one against an Athenian citizen. [Back to Text]


43Miletus was famous for its sea bass. Sommerstein suggests the speech may have something to do with Cleon’s accepting a bribe from the Milesians and then ignoring them. [Back to Text]


44The rich silver mines in Attica were owned by the state but leased to individuals. The implication is that he will use his political influence to make himself very rich. [Back to Text]


45Cooks checked on the health of a pig by forcing its mouth open, pushing its tongue aside, and checking for spots. An unsatisfactory pig, Merry notes, had white spots. Here the sense is that if they followed this procedure with Cleon, they’ll be able to see right down to his anus to check it for disease. [Back to Text]


46The grain crop is a reference to the Spartan prisoners captured in the victory in the Peloponnese (for which Cleon saw to it that he received all the credit). He had these men (120 in all) brought back to Athens and thrown into prison under desperate conditions, without sufficient water or food. The suggestion here is that he is negotiating to ransom them for profit. [Back to Text]


47Cratinus, a successful comic poet, is a frequent target of Aristophanic satire. He was, by reputation, a notorious drinker. Hence, the fleece or blanket on which he slept would be frequently soaked in urine. I have made that reference more explicit than it is in the Greek (by adding the phrase about the thighs). Morsimus was a tragic poet Aristophanes often attacks for his wretched poetry. [Back to Text]


48The reference here is obscure. The best conjecture is that the lines refer to someone called Ulius, a man in charge of checking wheat supplies, who was a lover of young boys. In the Greek there is possibly a pun involved on “watching the grain” and “looking out for boys.” Ulius will be happy if Cleon repents, because then less food will be stolen. Sommerstein points out that there is historical evidence for a man called Ulius of about the right age. [Back to Text]


49The offerings to Zeus were part of the rites performed in honour of Zeus at the opening of the Public Assembly. The statement indicates that the Paphlagonian would no longer take part in the Assembly (i.e., give up political life). [Back to Text]


50Diners cleaned their fingers by wiping them on pieces of bread, which were then fed to dogs. [Back to Text]


51Merry notes that nettles in salad were tasty only at the very beginning of spring. The Athenians made much of the arrival of the first swallows, a sign of the arrival of spring. [Back to Text]


52Potidaea was a city which had surrendered to Athens some years before after a long siege. The accusation is that the Paphlagonian accepted a huge bribe to argue for more generous peace terms. A talent was worth many thousands of dollars in today’s money. [Back to Text]


53Part of the line is missing. I follow Sommerstein’s suggestion for the missing words. The inserted phrase is in square brackets. [Back to Text]


54The Paphlagonian is accusing the Sausage Seller that he comes from an aristocratic family who, many years before, had murdered some political refugees who had taken refuge in the Temple of Athena, after promising them safety. The family was still considered under a curse. [Back to Text]


55Hippias, who ruled Athens at the end of the 6th century (i.e., long before), was a tyrant. He remained a symbol of anti-democratic practices. His wife’s name was Myrsine. The change of name to Bursina, Green suggests, may be an attempt at a pun on bursa, the Greek word for hide, a reference to Cleon’s business in leather. [Back to Text]


56Argos, an important city state in the central Peloponnese, was officially neutral at the start of the war. Winning that state to one’s cause would be a natural and important strategy. [Back to Text]


57Demosthenes is upset because the Sausage Seller has not responded to the Paphlagonian’s use of the language of carpentry. The Greek uses the word meaning “wheelwright.” I have substituted a more general term (“building trades”). The placement of this line varies, but, as Merry and Sommerstein and others note, this seems to be the most obvious place for it. [Back to Text]


58The allegation here is that Cleon is arranging some private deal for the ransom of the Spartan prisoners mentioned earlier (the ones he had brought back to Athens after the Athenian victory in the Peloponnese). [Back to Text]


59The general Demosthenes had been involved in negotiations with democratic citizens in the city state of Boeotia, trying to win that region over to the Athenian cause. Cleon is accusing him of consorting with the enemy. I have used the phrase “making hay” (meaning “work for one’s own advantage”) in place of the Greek verb which refers to making cheese. [Back to Text]


60Fighting cocks were given garlic to make them fight more aggressively. Demosthenes continues the metaphor of the cockfight in his next speech. [Back to Text]


61In this passage, which announces a shift in tone to a more serious passage, the Greek says “listen to our anapaests.” But since that is not the rhythm in the English, I have substituted “formal verse” and switched to hexameters. [Back to Text]


62Aristophanes’ earlier plays were produced by other people and not under his own name. Usually a playwright would request the appropriate official to name a sponsor who would pay for the production. [Back to Text]


63Mages was an earlier comic poet who had recently died. [Back to Text]


64Merry notes that Magnes had written plays featuring harp players, birds, frogs, Lydians, and gall flies. [Back to Text]


65Cratinus (519 BC to 422 BC) was an important comic playwright and rival of Aristophanes. [Back to Text]


66The “sandals of figs” is a parody of a Homeric phrase “sandals of gold.” And the phrase contains in Greek an allusion to sycophant (meaning a servile flatterer), a word put together from sykon (fig) and phanein (show). [Back to Text]


67Connus was a well-known and successful musician who, in his old age, was very poor. [Back to Text]


68The name Dionysus refers to a statue of the god in the theatre. [Back to Text]


69Crates was a successful writer of comic dramas. There is a criticism here that Crates’ productions were relatively cheap (as Sommerstein observes) and insufficiently ribald. [Back to Text]


70The Lenaean feast is the festival at which the comic dramas were staged. The reference to the poet’s forehead may be a reference to Aristophanes’ baldness. The Greek here involves an elliptical metaphor taken from rowing, in which the audience is urged to applaud with “eleven oars.” Green suggests this may refer to a galley with eleven oars on each side used in a naval escort honouring someone. I have substituted the phrase “all of your fingers.” [Back to Text]


71Sunium and Geraestus were promontories, important landmarks for sailors. Phormio was a very successful Athenian naval commander. The Athenian supremacy at sea was one of their most important military advantages in the war with the Spartans. [Back to Text]


72At the Panathenaea festival a sacred robe was carried in a procession to the temple of Athena in the Acropolis, where it was placed on the statue of the goddess. [Back to Text]


73None of the older generals would have expected to be rewarded with free meals at the Prytaneum. Now, generals try to get that privilege through Cleaenetus, Cleon’s father.  [Back to Text]


74Long hair was fashionable among rich young men who made up the ranks of the Knights and a sign of social snobbery. Keeping the body well scrubbed is a sign of frequent bathing and, Merry suggests, might be considered effeminate. [Back to Text]


75The victory mentioned refers to the competition to win first place in the drama contest. [Back to Text]


76Here the chorus of Knights imagines that the horses have human qualities so that they can pay tribute, in effect, to themselves. [Back to Text]


77The Chorus here is referring to a cavalry expedition against Corinth, an ally of Sparta, in the previous year. It is not clear who Theorus was. Sommerstein suggests he may be an associate of Cleon’s. Green states that the word crab was a derogatory label for a Corinthian. [Back to Text]


78This remark is parodying Homer where thunder on the right is a favourable message from the gods. [Back to Text]


79The barrier separated the public from the members of the Council. [Back to Text]


80If there were no bowls available for the public, then people would not purchase sardines, because they would have no way of transporting them, and thus the price would stay low. [Back to Text]


81The Presidents (Prytaneis) were a special committee of 50 members of the Council. The archers were the security forces guarding the Council. [Back to Text]


82The Greek says, “I can make Demos wide or narrow.” Sommerstein points out that this must be a proverbial expression meaning “I can do anything I like with Demos.”  [Back to Text]


83The harvest wreath, Merry explains, is a garland of twigs and olive and wool interwoven with fruits and berries. It was used in certain festivals and then placed on the front door. [Back to Text]


84It is not entirely clear what this metaphor refers to. Whatever the reference, the comparison involves a picture of open-mouthed stupidity. [Back to Text]


85The lead weights (called “dolphins” because of their shape) were raised high and then dropped on the deck of the enemy ship in order to shatter its timbers. [Back to Text]


86Lysicles was a political figure in Athens who had died in the war. He lived with Pericles’ mistress after Pericles died of the plague. Cynna and Salabaccha were well-known prostitutes. I have added the word “sluts” to make that more explicit. [Back to Text]


87Kerameikos is a region of Athens. Sommerstein notes that it was the area with the largest cemeteries, so that the Sausage Seller may be saying he’ll be hauled off for burial. [Back to Text]


88In the Battle of Marathon (490 BC) an army of Greek states led by Athenians defeated the Persian force, a highlight of Athenian history. In the Battle of Salamis (480 BC) the Persians were defeated at sea, one of a series of defeats which ended the second Persian invasion. The “arse that did so well” in the battle was the backside of each man on the rowing benches, which, as Merry remarks, had a thin cushion underneath it. [Back to Text]


89Harmodius and his brother in 514 had assassinated a brother of the tyrant Hippias. His name became synonymous with Athenians who loved democracy and would fight for it. [Back to Text]


90The war broke out in 431 BC, seven years earlier, but the various provocations which initiated war started earlier than that. The mention of cramped living conditions refers to the fact that in the early part of the war, the countryside was left undefended and all the country folk came to take refuge in Athens, so that there was an acute shortage of living space. The Spartans sought terms of peace after the defeat at Pylos. Archeptolemus was probably one of the negotiators. [Back to Text]


91Arcadia is a large region in the Peloponnese. Hence, the implication is that the Athenian people will one day take over that territory and that jurymen will be paid more. [Back to Text]


92Small stones were used to tally the votes in the assembly. Sommerstein points out that Cleon wanted the war to continue, because once it ended the country people would return to their land and realize how much they had lost thanks to the warmongers like Cleon. [Back to Text]


93It is not clear what walls Cleon built. Themistocles was responsible for the long walls which joined Athens and the port of Pireus in one defensive unit. Themistocles was condemned to exile from Athens for running away when charged with treason. The barley cake is called in the Greek “Achillean,” a reference to its superior quality. The fact that Cleon uses such fine cake as a napkin to wipe his fingers on is a sign of his extravagance in a time of war. [Back to Text]


94Mytilene, a city in the Athenian alliance, rebelled against Athens. The Athenians reacted savagely. Cleon was particularly vehement in proposing vicious punishments against the city. The bribe (a relatively small amount) may have been to get him to mitigate his proposals. [Back to Text]


95The trident is associated with Poseidon, god of the sea and of earthquakes. [Back to Text]


96The shields of the Spartans captured at Pylos were set up as trophies and put on display. Green notes that when shields were hung up in this way, their straps were normally removed. [Back to Text]


97Playing around with broken pottery refers to a children’s pastime, but it also evokes the practice of ostracism (from the word ostraka, the piece of broken pottery used in the voting), by which an Athenian citizen could be exiled for ten years after a vote in the Assembly. [Back to Text]


98Sommerstein notes that any citizen who was a male prostitute could have his name stricken from the voting rolls. It is not clear who Gryttus refers to. [Back to Text]


99The business with Piraeus was the decision to fortify Piraeus and build the long walls, so that Athens and its harbour would form a single defensive unit. Themistocles was the moving spirit behind that idea. [Back to Text]


100Merry explains that at a drinking party the slippers were left in the hall. Someone in a hurry to go to the toilet might take any pair of slippers. [Back to Text]


101Silphium was a common herb in the Athenian diet. [Back to Text]


102The Greek place named in the text is Kopros (meaning dung), an urban area close to Athens. [Back to Text]


103The Greek text says “worthy of Pyrrhandrus,” a reference which is unclear. The first part of the name means red or tawny. I have substituted the notion of catching someone “red handed.” [Back to Text]


104The military leaders appointed commanders of warships, who had to supply and repair the ships, an expensive matter. [Back to Text]


105The Sausage Seller is here comparing the Paphlagonian to a boiling pot which needs some of the hot liquid removed. The word ladle is not in the Greek, but the Sausage Seller, as Merry suggests (following Green), could produce one from his equipment. [Back to Text]


106Merry points out that property taxes were first imposed during the war when the treasury was in dire need of money. The amount paid depended on a person’s wealth. [Back to Text]


107The sea gull (or cormorant) was synonymous with gluttony. [Back to Text]


108Cleonymus, a favourite target of Aristophanes, was an ally of Cleon’s and an Athenian general. He had a reputation as a coward and a glutton. [Back to Text]


109Smicythos is a man known for his effeminate ways. His husband would be with him in the court since a woman could not represent herself in a lawsuit. [Back to Text]


110These two implements are for breaking things down and mixing them up; hence, they are associated with Cleon’s style of politics. Note that this is the only time the name Cleon is mentioned in the play. [Back to Text]


111Merry notes that the Dorian style was more serious than the passionate Phrygian style and the more lyrical Lydian style. [Back to Text]


112The final lines involve an untranslatable Greek pun linking Dorian to dora, meaning bribes or gifts, suggesting that Cleon would only play the Dorian style because he loved bribes so much, even as a young boy. [Back to Text]


113This mention of an eagle is a reference to a famous oracle of Bacis which promised eternal greatness to Athens. [Back to Text]


114Phoebus is another name for Apollo. Erechtheus was a legendary king of Athens. His descendants or sons are the Athenians. [Back to Text]


115Cerberus is the dog guarding the entrance to the underworld. [Back to Text]


116In the Greek there is a relatively feeble joke on the name Antileon (meaning instead of a lion). Sommerstein states that Antileon is the name of a tyrant from Chalcis. With the name Simba and the word symbol I have tried to provide some equally feeble English humour. [Back to Text]


117Loxias is a common name for Apollo. [Back to Text]


118The wooden stocks have separate holes for each hand, each foot, and the head. [Back to Text]


119Cecrops was another legendary king of Athens. His sons are the Athenians. [Back to Text]


120There was a well known verse (“There is a Pylos before Pylos, and there is another Pylos besides”) which refers to the fact that there were a number of places in the Peloponnese called Pylos, all claiming to be the original city ruled by Nestor in Homer’s Iliad. The Paphlagonian is obviously keen to keep mentioning his great military success in the war. [Back to Text]


121The Greek joke turns on a similarity between the sound of Pylos (the place) and puelos (meaning a bath tub). [Back to Text]


122Philostratus was a pimp whose nickname was Dog Fox. [Back to Text]


123The fast ships collecting cash are the ones sent around to the allies of Athens to collect the money they owe for their alliance. [Back to Text]


124Merry notes that Athenian soldiers who had not been paid foraged for food on the farms. [Back to Text]


125Leto’s son is Apollo. The Greek names the port Cyllene, a place in Elis, which leads to the pun on the word kullos, meaning deformed or crooked. [Back to Text]


126Diopeithes was known for his extreme religious views, but there is no evidence he was corrupt or that he had a deformed hand (a characteristic which would seem to be demanded by the dialogue). [Back to Text]


127Merry notes that by the name Red Sea Aristophanes is referring to the Indian Ocean and that Ecbatana, the capital of Media, is synonymous with enormous wealth and power. [Back to Text]


128Thuphanes was a minor public official and a crony of Cleon’s. [Back to Text]


129The victims of state or public victims were slaves or captives or prisoners who were kept to be sacrificed as scapegoats in a ritual designed to protect the state. [Back to Text]


130The top of the voting urn or ballot box was shaped like a funnel. [Back to Text]


131Merry notes that the stage business here involves a race, with the Paphlagonian and the Sausage Seller having chests of food and various goods in different places (on either side of the stage), and Demos having a central position in between the two. Hence, there is a lot of activity involved in the running to and fro. [Back to Text]


132The statue of Athena in the Parthenon was 33 feet high. Hence, the hands on the goddess were immense. Scooped out bread crusts were used as spoons for soup. Green notes that the line makes better sense if the bread crust is very large so that the part scooped out with a finger is quite big. [Back to Text]


133There is a pun in the Greek involving the word for cake and the word for row. I have tried to provide some equivalent with the pun on currants/currents. [Back to Text]


134The Greeks rarely drank undiluted wine. A solution of two parts wine to three parts water was common. [Back to Text]


135Athena was commonly called Tritogeneia. It is not clear what the word means but etymologically it could have something to do with the number three (e.g. thrice born, born third). Hence, the link to the wine-and-water mixture. [Back to Text]


136Merry explains that hare was considered a delicacy in Athens but that during the war they were very scarce, since the Spartans occupied much of the countryside and there were restrictions on imports (hence the later mention of a risk involved). [Back to Text]


137The symbol of office (in the Greek a garland) would be something like an official wreath on his head. [Back to Text]


138This is a quotation from the Telephus of Euripides. [Back to Text]


139These lines, in a parody of tragic style, echo a lament in Euripides’ tragedy Alcestis. [Back to Text]


140The Chorus Leader is asking to work for the Sausage Seller by helping him initiate law suits and prosecutions. Phanos performed this work for Cleon. The speech is sometimes assigned to Demosthenes. There is some justification for that, since he first recruited the Sausage Seller, but his reappearance here is dramatically awkward, because he has been absent for so long and has no other lines. [Back to Text]


141Lysistratus was apparently a well-known pauper in Athens. Thumantis was, one assumes from this passage, an Athenian very down on his luck. The passage seems to mean that at this moment we wish to celebrate ourselves (as Knights) rather than satirize the less fortunate. [Back to Text]


142Agrignotus was a musician popular in Athens. His brother Ariphrades, Sommerstein notes, is a frequent target of Aristophanes. [Back to Text]


143Polymnestus and Oeonichus are, one assumes, known figures in Athens. We have no knowledge of their personal habits apart from this reference. [Back to Text]


144Cleonymus, an Athenian politician, is one of the most frequently attacked targets in Aristophanes’ plays, usually for his gluttony or his cowardice. [Back to Text]


145Hyperbolus, another favourite target of Aristophanes, was an up-and-coming politician in Athens. His commercial business was selling lamps. The most ambitious of the war-mongering Athenians, as mentioned before, had lofty imperial ambitions to ex-tend the Athenian empire to Carthage, in North Africa. [Back to Text]


146The Theseum, the Temple of Theseus, Merry notes, was a famous sanctuary, where slaves took refuge from cruel masters. The Temple of the Furies was a shrine in Athens. Since these were in the city, Sommerstein observes, the ships could not literally sail there. [Back to Text]


147Merry notes that this mention of boiling is a reference to the famous story in which Medea, a queen with magical powers, rejuvenates Pelias, an old man, in her cauldron. [Back to Text]


148Aristides and Miltiades were celebrated Athenian leaders in the days of the Persian Wars. The Propylaea is the entrance to the Acropolis in Athens. Presumably we are to assume that Demos’ house has now become that symbol of democratic government. The Acropolis of Aristophanes’ time did not exist during the Persian Wars. Sommerstein suggests that at this point a platform is rolled out of the doors of the house with a structure on it symbolizing the Propylaea of ancient Athens. [Back to Text]


149The cicada brooch worn in the hair was a mark of traditional styles of dress, long out of fashion. Mussel shells were used in the law courts as voting tokens. [Back to Text]


150Marathon was the site of the famous victory against the first Persian expedition in 490 BC. [Back to Text]


151The Barathron was a natural gully into which criminals were thrown. [Back to Text]


152Citizens eligible for military service had their names written on a list and were conscripted in order, but it was possible to use one’s influence to get the position of the name changed and thus to evade having to fight. Cleonymus, a common target of Aristophanes, had a reputation as a coward. [Back to Text]


153Cleisthenes is often satirized as a beardless and effeminate man. Strato is linked to him elsewhere in Aristophanes as another immature man without a beard. [Back to Text]


154Phaeax was a well known orator in Athens. [Back to Text]


155Athens had secured a thirty-year truce with the Spartans in 445 BC. [Back to Text]





[For a list of other translations by Ian Johnston, consult the following site: johnstonia]