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Project Gutenberg etext, adapted for E2
Aristophanes: Peace—Scene 11
Just get this roasted. Ah! who is this man, crowned with laurel,
who is coming to me?
He has a self-important look; is he some diviner?
No, I' faith! 'tis Hierocles.
Ah! that oracle-monger from Oreus.1 What is he going to tell us?
f1 A town in Euboea on the channel which separated that island from
Evidently he is coming to oppose the peace.
No, 'tis the odour of the fat that attracts him.
Let us appear not to see him.
What sacrifice is this? to what god are you offering it?
TRYGAEUS (TO THE SERVANT)
Silence!--(ALOUD.) Look after the roasting and keep your hands off
To whom are you sacrificing? Answer me. Ah! the tail1 is showing
f1 When sacrificing, the tail was cut off the victim and thrown into
the fire. From the way in which it burnt the inference was drawn as
to whether or not the sacrifice was agreeable to the deity.
Aye, very favourable, oh, loved and mighty Peace!
Come, cut off the first offering1 and make the oblation.
f1 This was the part that belonged to the priests and diviners. As one
of the latter class, Hierocles is in haste to see this piece cut off.
'Tis not roasted enough.
Yea, truly, 'tis done to a turn.
Mind your own business, friend! (TO THE SERVANT.) Cut away. Where is
the table? Bring the libations.
The tongue is cut separately.
We know all that. But just listen to one piece of advice.
And that is?
Don't talk, for 'tis divine Peace to whom we are sacrificing.
Oh! wretched mortals, oh, you idiots!
Keep such ugly terms for yourself.
What! you are so ignorant you don't understand the will of the
gods and you make a treaty, you, who are men, with apes, who are
full of malice?1
f1 The Spartans.
Ha, ha, ha!
What are you laughing at?
Ha, ha! your apes amuse me!
You simple pigeons, you trust yourselves to foxes, who are all
craft, both in mind and heart.
Oh, you trouble-maker! may your lungs get as hot as this meat!
Nay, nay! if only the Nymphs had not fooled Bacis, and Bacis
mortal men; and if the Nymphs had not tricked Bacis a second time...1
f1 Emphatic pathos, incomprehensible even to the diviner himself;
this is a satire on the obscure style o the oracles. Bacis was a famous
May the plague seize you, if you don't stop wearying us with your Bacis!
...it would not have been written in the book of Fate that the
bends of Peace must be broken; but first...
The meat must be dusted with salt.
...it does not please the blessed gods that we should stop the War until
the wolf uniteth with the sheep.
How, you cursed animal, could the wolf ever unite with the sheep?
As long as the wood-bug gives off a fetid odour, when it flies; as
long as the noisy bitch is forced by nature to litter blind pups, so
long shall peace be forbidden.
Then what should be done? Not to stop War would be to leave it
to the decision of chance which of the two people should suffer the most,
whereas by uniting under a treaty, we share the empire of Greece.
You will never make the crab walk straight.
You shall no longer be fed at the Prytaneum; the war done,
oracles are not wanted.
You will never smooth the rough spikes of the hedgehog.
Will you never stop fooling the Athenians?
What oracle ordered you to burn these joints of mutton in honour
of the gods?
This grand oracle of Homer's: "Thus vanished the dark war-clouds
and we offered a sacrifice to new-born Peace. When the flame had
consumed the thighs of the victim and its inwards had appeased our
hunger, we poured out the libations of wine." 'Twas I who arranged
the sacred rites, but none offered the shining cup to the diviner.1
f1 Of course this is not a bona fide quotation, but a whimsical
adaptatioin of various Homeric verses; the last is a coinage of his own,
and means, that he is to have no part, either in the flesh of the victim or
in the wine of the libations.
I care little for that. 'Tis not the Sibyl who spoke it.1
f1 Probably the Sibyl of Delphi is meant.
Wise Homer has also said: "He who delights in the horrors of civil
war has neither country nor laws nor home." What noble words!
Beware lest the kite turn your brain and rob...
Look out, slave! This oracle threatens our meat. Quick, pour the libation,
and give me some of the inwards.
I too will help myself to a bit, if you like.
The libation! the libation!
Pour out also for me and give me some of this meat.
No, the blessed gods won't allow it yet; let us drink; and as for you,
get you gone, for 'tis their will. Mighty Peace! stay ever in our midst.
Bring the tongue hither.
Relieve us of your own.
Here! and this into the bargain (STRIKES HIM).
You will not give me any meat?
We cannot give you any until the wolf unites with the sheep.
I will embrace your knees.
'Tis lost labour, good fellow; you will never smooth the rough
spikes of the hedgehog.... Come, spectators, join us in our feast.
And what am I to do?
You? go and eat the Sibyl.
No, by the Earth! no, you shall not eat without me; if you do not give,
I take; 'tis common property.
TRYGAEUS (TO THE SERVANT)
Strike, strike this Bacis, this humbugging soothsayer.
I take to witness...
And I also, that you are a glutton and an impostor. Hold him tight
and beat the impostor with a stick.
You look to that; I will snatch the skin from him which he has stolen
from us.1 Are you going to let go that skin, you priest from hell! do you
hear! Oh! what a fine crow has come from Oreus! Stretch your wings
quickly for Elymnium.2
f1 The skin of the victim, that is to say.
f2 A temple in Euboea, close to Oreus. The servant means, "Return where
you came from."
Oh! joy, joy! no more helmet, no more cheese nor onions!1 No, I
have no passion for battles; what I love, is to drink with good
comrades in the corner by the fire when good dry wood, cut in
the height of the summer, is crackling; it is to cook pease on the coals
and beechnuts among the embers, 'tis to kiss our pretty Thracian2
while my wife is at the bath. Nothing is more pleasing, when the rain
is sprouting our sowings, than to chat with some friend, saying,
"Tell me, Comarchides, what shall we do? I would willingly drink myself,
while the heavens are watering our fields. Come, wife, cook three
measures of beans, adding to them a little wheat, and give us some figs.
Syra! call Manes off the fields, 'tis impossible to prune the vine or to
align the ridges, for the ground is too wet to-day. Let someone bring me
the thrush and those two chaffinches; there were also some curds and
four pieces of hare, unless the cat stole them last evening, for I
know not what the infernal noise was that I heard in the house.
Serve up three of the pieces for me, slave, and give the fourth to
my father. Go and ask Aeschinades for some myrtle branches with
berries on them, and then, for 'tis the same road, you will invite
Charinades to come and drink with me to the honour of the gods who
watch over our crops." When the grasshopper sings his dulcet tune,
I love to see the Lemnian vines beginning to ripen, for 'tis the earliest
plant of all. I love likewise to watch the fig filling out, and when it
has reached maturity I eat with appreciation and exclaim, "Oh!
delightful season!" Then too I bruise some thyme and infuse it in
water. Indeed I grow a great deal fatter passing the summer in this
way than in watching a cursed captain with his three plumes and his
military cloak of a startling crimson (he calls it true Sardian purple),
which he takes care to dye himself with Cyzicus saffron in a battle;
then he is the first to run away, shaking his plumes like a great yellow
prancing cock,3 while I am left to watch the nets.4 Once back again
in Athens, these brave fellows behave abominably; they write down these,
they scratch through others, and this backwards and forwards two or
three times at random. The departure is set for to-morrow, and some
citizen has brought no provisions, because he didn't know he had to go;
he stops in front of the statue of Pandion,5 reads his name, is
dumbfounded and starts away at a run, weeping bitter tears.
The townsfolk are less ill-used, but that is how the husbandmen
are treated by these men of war, the hated of the gods and of men,
who know nothing but how to throw away their shield. For this reason,
if it please heaven, I propose to call these rascals to account, for they
are lions in times of peace, but sneaking foxes when it comes to fighting.
f1 This was the soldier's usual ration on duty.
f2 Slaves often bore the name of the country of their birth.
f3 Because of the new colour which fear had lent his chlamys.
f4 Meaning, that he deserts his men in mid-campaign, leaving them
to look after the enemy.
f5 Ancient King of Athens. This was one of the twelve statues,
on the pedestals of which the names of the soldiers chose for departure
on service were written. The decrees were also placarded on them.