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Aristophanes: Peace—Scene 7
How shall we set about removing these stones?
Rash reprobate, what do you propose doing?
Nothing bad, as Cillicon said.1
f1 A citizen of Miletus, who betrayed his country to the people of Pirene.
When asked what he purposed, he replied, "Nothing bad," which expression
had therefore passed into a proverb.
You are undone, you wretch.
Yes, if the lot had to decide my life, for Hermes would know how
to turn the chance.1
f1 Hermes was the god of chance.
You are lost, you are dead.
On what day?
But I have not provided myself with flour and cheese yet1 to
start for death.
f1 As the soldiers had to do when starting on an expedition.
You ARE kneaded and ground already, I tell you.1
f1 That is, you are predicated.
Hah! I have not yet tasted that gentle pleasure.
Don't you know that Zeus has decreed death for him who is surprised
What! must I really and truly die?
Well then, lend me three drachmae to buy a young pig; I wish to
have myself initiated before I die.1
f1 The initiated were thought to enjoy greater happiness after death.
Oh! Zeus, the Thunderer!1
f1 He summons Zeus to reveal Trygaeus' conspiracy.
I adjure you in the name of the gods, master, don't denounce us!
I may not, I cannot keep silent.
In the name of the meats which I brought you so good-naturedly.
Why, wretched man, Zeus will annihilate me, if I do not shout
out at the top of my voice, to inform him what you are plotting.
Oh, no! don't shout, I beg you, dear little Hermes.... And what
are you doing, comrades? You stand there as though you were stocks
and stones. Wretched men, speak, entreat him at once; otherwise he
will be shouting.
Oh! mighty Hermes! don't do it; no, don't do it! If ever you
have eaten some young pig, sacrificed by us on your altars, with
pleasure, may this offering not be without value in your sight to-day.
Do you not hear them wheedling you, mighty god?
Be not pitiless toward our prayers; permit us to deliver the goddess.
Oh! the most human, the most generous of the gods, be favourable
toward us, if it be true that you detest the haughty crests and proud brows
of Pisander;1 we shall never cease, oh master, offering you sacred victims
and solemn prayers.
f1 An Athenian captain who later had the recall of Alcibiades decreed by
the Athenian people; in 'The Birds' Aristophanes represents him as a
cowardly beggar. He was the reactionary leader who estalbished the
Oligarchical Government of the Four Hundred, 411 B.C., after the failure of
the Syracusan expedition.
Have mercy, mercy, let yourself be touched by their words; never was
your worship so dear to them as to-day.
I' truth, never have you been greater thieves.1
f1 Among other attributes, Hermes was the god of thieves.
I will reveal a great, a terrible conspiracy against the gods to you.
Hah! speak and perchance I shall let myself be softened.
Know then, that the Moon and that infamous Sun are plotting against you,
and want to deliver Greece into the hands of the Barbarians.
Because it is to you that we sacrifice, whereas the barbarians
worship them; hence they would like to see you destroyed, that they
alone might receive the offerings.
'Tis then for this reason that these untrustworthy charioteers
have for so long been defrauding us, one of them robbing us
of daylight and the other nibbling away at the other's disk.1
f1 Alluding to the eclipses of the sun and the moon.
Yes, certainly. So therefore, Hermes, my friend, help us with your
whole heart to find and deliver the captive and we will celebrate
the great Panathenaea1 in your honour as well as all the festivals of
the other gods; for Hermes shall be the Mysteries, the Dipolia, the
Adonia; everywhere the towns, freed from their miseries, will
sacrifice to Hermes the Liberator; you will be loaded with benefits of
every kind, and to start with, I offer you this cup for libations as
your first present.
f1 The Panathenaea were dedicated to Athene, the Mysteries
to Demeter, the Dipolia to Zeus, the Adonia to Aphrodite and Adonis.
Trygaeus promises Hermes that he shall be worshipped in the place
of the other gods.
Ah! how golden cups do influence me! Come, friends, get to work.
To the pit quickly, pick in hand, and drag away the stones.
We go, but you, cleverest of all the gods, supervise our
labours; tell us, good workman as you are, what we must do; we shall
obey your orders with alacrity.
Quick, reach me your cup, and let us preface our work by
addressing prayers to the gods.
Oh! sacred, sacred libations! Keep silence, oh! ye people! keep silence!
Let us offer our libations and our prayers, so that this day may begin
an era of unalloyed happiness for Greece and that he who has bravely
pulled at the rope with us may never resume his buckler.
Aye, may we pass our lives in peace, caressing our mistresses
and poking the fire.
May he who would prefer the war, oh Dionysus, be ever drawing
barbed arrows out of his elbows.
If there be a citizen, greedy for military rank and honours who
refuses, oh, divine Peace! to restore you to daylight. may he behave
as cowardly as Cleonymus on the battlefield.
If a lance-maker or a dealer in shields desires war for the sake
of better trade, may he be taken by pirates and eat nothing but barley.
If some ambitious man does not help us, because he wants to become
a General, or if a slave is plotting to pass over to the enemy, let his limbs
be broken on the wheel, may he be beaten to death with rods! As for us,
may Fortune favour us! Io! Paean, Io!
Don't say Paean,1 but simply, Io.
f1 The pun here cannot be kept. The word in Greek, Paean, resembles
that for to strike; hence the word, as recalling the blows and wounds of
the war, seems of ill omen to Trygaeus.
Very well, then! Io! Io! I'll simply say, Io!
To Hermes, the Graces, Hora, Aphrodite, Eros!
But not to Ares?
Nor doubtless to Enyalius?
Come, all strain at the ropes to tear away the stones. Pull!
Heave away, heave, heave, oh!
Come, pull harder, harder.
Heave away, heave, heave, oh!
Still harder, harder still.
Heave away, heave! Heave away, heave, heave, oh!
Come, come, there is no working together. Come! all pull at the
same instant! you Boeotians are only pretending. Beware!
Come, heave away, heave!
Hi! you two pull as well.
Why, I am pulling, I am hanging on to the rope and straining
till I am almost off my feet; I am working with all my might.
Why does not the work advance then?
Lamachus, this is too bad! You are in the way, sitting there.
We have no use for your Medusa's head, friend.1
f1 The device on his shield was a Gorgon's head. (See 'The Acharnians.')
But hold, the Argives have not pulled the least bit; they have done
nothing but laugh at us for our pains while they were getting gain
with both hands.1
f1 Both Sparta and Athens had sought the alliance of the Argives; they
had kept themselves strictly neutral and had received pay from both sides.
But, the year after the production of 'The Wasps,' they openly joined
Athens, had attacked Epidaurus and got cut to pieces by the Spartans.
Ah! my dear sir, the Laconians at all events pull with vigour.
But look! only those among them who generally hold the plough-tail
show any zeal,1 while the armourers impede them in their efforts.
f1 These are the Spartan prisoners from Sphacteria, who were lying in
goal at Athens. They were chained fast to large beams of wood.
And the Megarians too are doing nothing, yet look how they are
pulling and showing their teeth like famished curs; The poor wretches
are dying of hunger!1
f1 'Twas want of force, not want of will. They had suffered more than
any other people from the war. (See 'The Acharnians.')
This won't do, friends. Come! all together! Everyone to the work
and with a good heart for the business.
Heave away, heave!
Heave away, heave!
Come on then, by heaven.
Heave away, heave! Heave away, heave!
This will never do.
Is it not a shame? some pull one way and others
another. You, Argives there, beware of a thrashing!
Come, put your strength into it.
Heave away, heave!
There are many ill-disposed folk among us.
Do you at least, who long for peace, pull heartily.
But there are some who prevent us.
Off to the Devil with you, Megarians! The goddess hates you. She
recollects that you were the first to rub her the wrong way.
Athenians, you are not well placed for pulling. There you are too busy
with law-suits; if you really want to free the goddess, get down a
little towards the sea.1
f1 Meaning, look chiefly to your fleet. This was the counsel that
Themistocles frequently gave the Athenians.
Come, friends, none but husbandmen on the rope.
Ah! that will do ever so much better.
He says the thing is going well. Come, all of you, together and
with a will.
'Tis the husbandmen who are doing all the work.
Come then, come, and all together! Hah! hah! at last there is some
unanimity in the work. Don't let us give up, let us redouble our efforts.
There! now we have it! Come then, all together! Heave away, heave!
Heave away, heave! Heave away, heave! Heave away, heave! Heave
away, heave! All together! (PEACE IS DRAWN OUT OF THE PIT.)
Oh! venerated goddess, who givest us our grapes, where am I to
find the ten-thousand-gallon words1 wherewith to greet thee? I have
none such at home. Oh! hail to thee, Opora,2 and thee, Theoria!3
How beautiful is thy face! How sweet thy breath! What gentle fragrance
comes from thy bosom, gentle as freedom from military duty, as
the most dainty perfumes!
f1 A metaphor referring to the abundant vintages that peace would
f2 The goddess of fruits.
f3 Aristophanes personifies under this name the sacred ceremonies
in general which peace would allow to be celebrated with due pomp.
Opora and Theoria come on the stage in the wake of Peace, clothed
and decked out as courtesans.
Is it then a smell like a soldier's knapsack?
Oh! hateful soldier! your hideous satchel makes me sick! it stinks
like the belching of onions, whereas this lovable deity has the odour
of sweet fruits, of festivals, of the Dionysia, of the harmony
of flutes, of the comic poets, of the verses of Sophocles, of the phrases
That's a foul calumny, you wretch! She detests that framer of
subtleties and quibbles.
...of ivy, of straining-bags for wine, of bleating ewes, of
provision-laden women hastening to the kitchen, of the tipsy servant
wench, of the upturned wine-jar, and of a whole heap of other good
Then look how the reconciled towns chat pleasantly together, how
they laugh; and yet they are all cruelly mishandled; their wounds
are bleeding still.
But let us also scan the mien of the spectators; we shall thus
find out the trade of each.
Ah! good gods! Look at that poor crest-maker, tearing at his hair,1 and
at that pike-maker, who has just broken wind in yon sword-cutler's face.
f1 Aristophanes has already shown us the husbandmen and workers
in peaceful trades pulling at the rope the extricate Peace, while
the armourers hindered them by pulling the other way.
And do you see with what pleasure this sickle-maker is making long
noses at the spear-maker?
Now ask the husbandmen to be off.
Listen, good folk! Let the husbandmen take their farming tools and
return to their fields as quick as possible, but without either
sword, spear or javelin. All is as quiet as if Peace had been reigning
for a century. Come, let everyone go till the earth, singing the Paean.
Oh, thou, whom men of standing desired and who art good to
husbandmen, I have gazed upon thee with delight; and now I go to greet
my vines, to caress after so long an absence the fig trees I planted
in my youth.
Friends, let us first adore the goddess, who has delivered us from
crests and Gorgons;1 then let us hurry to our farms, having first
bought a nice little piece of salt fish to eat in the fields.
f1 An allusion to Lamachus' shield.
By Posidon! what a fine crew they make and dense as the crust of
a cake; they are as nimble as guests on their way to a feast.
See, how their iron spades glitter and how beautifully their
three-pronged mattocks glisten in the sun! How regularly they align
the plants! I also burn myself to go into the country and to turn over
the earth I have so long neglected.--Friends, do you remember the happy
life that Peace afforded us formerly; can you recall the splendid
baskets of figs, both fresh and dried, the myrtles, the sweet wine,
the violets blooming near the spring, and the olives, for which we
have wept so much? Worship, adore the goddess for restoring you so
Hail! hail! thou beloved divinity! thy return overwhelms us with
joy. When far from thee, my ardent wish to see my fields again made me
pine with regret. From thee came all blessings. Oh! much desired
Peace! thou art the sole support of those who spend their lives
tilling the earth. Under thy rule we had a thousand delicious
enjoyments at our beck; thou wert the husbandman's wheaten cake and
his safeguard. So that our vineyards, our young fig-tree woods and all
our plantations hail thee with delight and smile at thy coming.
But where was she then, I wonder, all the long time she spent away
from us? Hermes, thou benevolent god, tell us!
Wise husbandmen, hearken to my words, if you want to know why
she was lost to you. The start of our misfortunes was the exile of
Phidias;1 Pericles feared he might share his ill-luck, he mistrusted
your peevish nature and, to prevent all danger to himself, he threw
out that little spark, the Megarian decree,2 set the city aflame, and
blew up the conflagration with a hurricane of war, so that the smoke
drew tears from all Greeks both here and over there. At the very
outset of this fire our vines were a-crackle, our casks knocked
together;3 it was beyond the power of any man to stop the disaster,
and Peace disappeared.
f1 Having been commissioned to execute a statue of Athene, Phidias was
accused of having stolen part of the gold given him out of the public
treasury for its decoration. Rewarded for his work by calumny and
banishment, he resolved to make a finer statue than his Athene,
and executed one for the temple of Elis, that of the Olympian Zeus,
which was considered one of the wonders of the world.
f2 He had issued a decree, which forbade the admission of any Megarian
on Attic soil, and also all trade with that people. The Megarians,
all their provisions from Athens, were thus almost reduced to starvation.
f3 That is, the vineyards were ravaged from the very outset of the war,
and this increased the animosity.
That, by Apollo! is what no one ever told me; I could not think
what connection there could be between Phidias and Peace.
Nor I; I know it now. This accounts for her beauty, if she is
related to him. There are so many things that escape us.
Then, when the towns subject to you saw that you were angered
one against the other and were showing each other your teeth like
dogs, they hatched a thousand plots to pay you no more dues and gained
over the chief citizens of Sparta at the price of gold. They, being as
shamelessly greedy as they were faithless in diplomacy, chased off
Peace with ignominy to let loose War. Though this was profitable to
them, 'twas the ruin of the husbandmen, who were innocent of all
blame; for, in revenge, your galleys went out to devour their figs.
And 'twas with justice too; did they not break down my black fig tree,
which I had planted and dunged with my own hands?
Yes, by Zeus! yes, 'twas well done; the wretches broke a
chest for me with stones, which held six medimni of corn.
Then the rural labourers flocked into the city1 and let themselves
be bought over like the others. Not having even a grape-stone to munch
and longing after their figs, they looked towards the orators.2
These well knew that the poor were driven to extremity
and lacked even bread; but they nevertheless drove away the Goddess,
each time she reappeared in answer to the wish of the country,
with their loud shrieks that were as sharp as pitchforks; furthermore,
they attacked the well-filled purses of the richest among our allies on
the pretence that they belonged to Brasidas' party.3 And then you would
tear the poor accused wretch to pieces with your teeth; for the
city, all pale with hunger and cowed with terror, gladly snapped up
any calumny that was thrown it to devour. So the strangers, seeing
what terrible blows the informers dealt, sealed their lips with
gold. They grew rich, while you, alas! you could only see that
Greece was going to ruin. 'Twas the tanner who was the author
of all this woe.4
f1 Driven in from the country parts by the Lacedaemonian invaders.
f2 The demagogues, who distributed the slender dole given to the poor,
and by that means exercised undue power over them.
f3 Meaning, the side of the Spartans.
Enough said, Hermes, leave that man in Hades, whither he has
gone; he no longer belongs to us, but rather to yourself.1 That he was
a cheat, a braggart, a calumniator when alive, why, nothing could be
truer; but anything you might say now would be an insult to one of
your own folk. Oh! venerated Goddess! why art thou silent?
f1 It was Hermes who conducted the souls of the dead down to the lower
And how could she speak to the spectators? She is too angry at all
that they have made her suffer.
At least let her speak a little to you, Hermes.
Tell me, my dear, what are your feelings with regard to them?
Come, you relentless foe of all bucklers, speak; I am listening to
you. (PEACE WHISPERS INTO HERMES' EAR.) Is that your grievance against
them? Yes, yes, I understand. Hearken, you folk, this is her
complaint. She says, that after the affair of Pylos1 she came to you
unbidden to bring you a basket full of truces and that you thrice
repulsed her by your votes in the assembly.
f1 The Spartans had thrice offered to make peace after the Pylos disaster.
Yes, we did wrong, but forgive us, for our mind was then
entirely absorbed in leather.1
f1 i.e. dominated by Cleon.
Listen again to what she has just asked me. Who was her greatest
foe here? and furthermore, had she a friend who exerted himself
to put an end to the fighting?
Her most devoted friend was Cleonymus; it is undisputed.
How then did Cleonymus behave in fights?
Oh! the bravest of warriors! Only he was not born of the father he
claims; he showed it quick enough in the army by throwing away
f1 There is a pun here that cannot be rendered between the Greek for
'one who throws away his weapons' and 'a supposititious child.'
There is yet another question she has just put to me. Who rules
now in the rostrum?
'Tis Hyperbolus, who now holds empire on the Pnyx. (TO PEACE)
What now? you turn away your head!
She is vexed, that the people should give themselves a wretch of
that kind for their chief.
Oh! we shall not employ him again; but the people, seeing
themselves without a leader, took him haphazard, just as a man,
who is naked, springs upon the first cloak he sees.
She asks, what will be the result of such a choice of the city?
We shall be more far-seeing in consequence.
Because he is a lamp-maker. Formerly we only directed our
business by groping in the dark; now we shall only deliberate by
Oh! oh! what questions she does order me to put to you!
What are they?
She wants to have news of a whole heap of old-fashioned things
she left here. First of all, how is Sophocles?
Very well, but something very strange has happened to him.
He has turned from Sophocles into Simonides.1
f1 Simonides was very avaricious, and sold his pen to the highest bidder.
It seems that Sophocles had also started writing for gain.
Into Simonides? How so?
Because, though old and broken-down as he is, he would put to
sea on a hurdle to gain an obolus.1
f1 i.e. he would recoil from no risk to turn an honest penny
And wise Cratinus,1 is he still alive?
f1 A comic poet as well known for his love of wine as for his writings;
he died in 431 B.C., the first year of the war, at the age of ninety-seven.
He died about the time of the Laconian invasion.
Of a swoon. He could not bear the shock of seeing one of his casks
full of wine broken. Ah! what a number of other misfortunes our city
has suffered! So, dearest mistress, nothing can now separate us
If that be so, receive Opora here for a wife; take her to the
country, live with her, and grow fine grapes together.1
f1 Opora was the goddess of fruits.
Come, my dear friend, come and accept my kisses. Tell me, Hermes,
my master, do you think it would hurt me to love her a little,
after so long an abstinence?
No, not if you swallow a potion of penny-royal afterwards.1 But
hasten to lead Theoria2 to the Senate; 'twas there she lodged before.
f1 The scholiast says fruit may be eaten with impunity in great quantities
if care is taken to drink a decoction of this herb afterwards.
f2 Theoria is confided to the care of the Senate, because it was this body
who named the deputies appointed to go and consult the oracles beyond
the Attic borders to be present at feats and games.
Oh! fortunate Senate! Thanks to Theoria, what soups you will
swallow for the space of three days!1 how you will devour meats and
cooked tripe! Come, farewell, friend Hermes!
f1 The great festivals, e.g. the Dionysia, lasted three days. Those in
honour of the return of Peace, which was so much desired, could not last
a shorter time.
And to you also, my dear sir, may you have much happiness, and
don't forget me.
Come, beetle, home, home, and let us fly on a swift wing.
Oh! he is no longer here.
Where has he gone to then?
He is harnessed to the chariot of Zeus and bears the thunder bolts.
But where will the poor wretch get his food?
He will eat Ganymede's ambrosia.
Very well then, but how am I going to descend?
Oh! never fear, there is nothing simpler; place yourself beside
Come, my pretty maidens, follow me quickly; there are plenty of
folk awaiting you with ready weapons.
Farewell and good luck be yours! Let us begin by handing over
all this gear to the care of our servants, for no place is less safe
than a theatre; there is always a crowd of thieves prowling around it,
seeking to find some mischief to do. Come, keep a good watch over
all this. As for ourselves, let us explain to the spectators what we
have in our minds, the purpose of our play.
Undoubtedly the comic poet who mounted the stage to praise himself
in the parabasis would deserve to be handed over to the sticks
of the beadles. Nevertheless, oh Muse, if it be right to esteem
the most honest and illustrious of our comic writers at his proper
value, permit our poet to say that he thinks he has deserved
a glorious renown. First of all, 'tis he who has compelled his
rivals no longer to scoff at rags or to war with lice; and as for
those Heracles, always chewing and ever hungry, those poltroons and
cheats who allow themselves to be beaten at will, he was the first
to cover them with ridicule and to chase them from the stage;1 he has
also dismissed that slave, whom one never failed to set a-weeping before
you, so that his comrade might have the chance of jeering at his
stripes and might ask, "Wretch, what has happened to your hide? Has
the lash rained an army of its thongs on you and laid your back
waste?" .After having delivered us from all these wearisome ineptitudes
and these low buffooneries, he has built up for us a great art, like
a palace with high towers, constructed of fine phrases, great thoughts
and of jokes not common on the streets. Moreover 'tis not obscure
private persons or women that he stages in his comedies; but, bold
as Heracles, 'tis the very greatest whom he attacks, undeterred by
the fetid stink of leather or the threats of hearts of mud. He has
the right to say, "I am the first ever dared to go straight for that beast
with the sharp teeth and the terrible eyes that flashed lambent fire
like those of Cynna,2 surrounded by a hundred lewd flatterers,
who spittle-licked him to his heart's content; it had a voice like
a roaring torrent, the stench of a seal, a foul Lamia's testicles and
the rump of a camel.3
I did not recoil in horror at the sight of such a monster, but fought him
relentlessly to win your deliverance and that of the Islanders. Such
are the services which should be graven in your recollection and entitle me
to your thanks. Yet I have not been seen frequenting the wrestling school
intoxicated with success and trying to tamper with young boys;4
but I took all my theatrical gear5 and returned straight home.
I pained folk but little and caused them much amusement; my conscience
rebuked me for nothing. Hence both grown men and youths should be
on my side and I likewise invite the bald6 to give me their votes; for,
if I triumph, everyone will say, both at table and at festivals,
"Carry this to the bald man, give these cakes to the bald one, do not
grudge the poet whose talent shines as bright as his own bare skull
the share he deserves."
Oh, Muse! drive the War far from our city and come to preside over
our dances, if you love me; come and celebrate the nuptials of
the gods, the banquets of us mortals and the festivals of the fortunate;
these are the themes that inspire thy most poetic songs. And should
Carcinus come to beg thee for admission with his sons to thy chorus,
refuse all traffic with them; remember they are but gelded birds,
stork-necked dancers, mannikins about as tall as a pat of goat dung,
in fact machine-made poets.7 Contrary to all expectation, the father
has at last managed to finish a piece, but he owns himself that a cat
strangled it one fine evening.8
Such are the songs9 with which the Muse with the glorious hair
inspires the able poet and which enchant the assembled populace,
when the spring swallow twitters beneath the foliage;10 but the god
spare us from the chorus of Morsimus and that of Melanthius!11 Oh!
what a bitter discordancy grated upon my ears that day when the tragic
chorus was directed by this same Melanthius and his brother, these two
Gorgons,12 these two harpies, the plague of the seas, whose gluttonous
bellies devour the entire race of fishes, these followers of old
women, these goats with their stinking arm-pits. Oh! Muse, spit upon
them abundantly and keep the feast gaily with me.
f1 In spite of what he says, Aristophanes has not always disdained this
sort of low comedy--for instance, his Heracles in 'The Birds.'
f2 A celebrated Athenian courtesan of Aristophanes' day.
f3 Cleon. These four verses are here repeated from the parabasis
of 'The Wasps,' produced 423 B.C., the year before this play.
f4 Shafts aimed at certain poets, who used their renown as a means
of seducing young men to grant them pederastic favours.
f5 The poet supplied everything needful for the production of his piece--
vases, dresses, masks, etc.
f6 Aristophanes was bald himself, it would seem.
f7 Carcinus and his three sons were both poets and dancers. (See the
closing scene of 'The Wasps.') Perhaps relying little on the literary value
of their work, it seems that they sought to please the people by
the magnificence of its staging.
f8 He had written a piece called 'The Mice,' which he succeeded
with great difficulty in getting played, but it met with no success.
f9 This passage really follows on the invocation, "Oh, Muse! drive
the War," etc., from which indeed it is only divided by the interpolated
criticism aimed at Carcinus.
f10 The scholiast informs us that these verses are borrowed from a poet
of the sixth century B.C.
f11 Sons of Philocles, of the family of Aeschylus, tragic writers, derided
by Aristophanes as bad poets and notorious gluttons.
f12 The Gorgons were represented with great teeth, and therefore
the same name was given to gluttons. The Harpies, to whom the two
voracious poets are also compared, were monsters with the face of
a woman, the body of a vulture and hooked beak and claws.