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Aristophanes Index


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THE CLOUDS by Aristophanes, Part 03

DISCIPLE
Very well then, but reflect, that these are mysteries. Lately, a
flea bit Chaerephon on the brow and then from there sprang on to the
head of Socrates. Socrates asked Chaerephon, "How many times the
length of its legs does a flea jump?"
STREPSIADES
And how ever did he go about measuring it?
DISCIPLE
Oh! it was most ingenious! He melted some wax, seized the flea and
dipped its two feet in the wax, which, when cooled, left them shod
with true Persian slippers. These he took off and with them measured
the distance.
STREPSIADES
Ah! great Zeus! what a brain! what subtlety!
DISCIPLE
I wonder what then would you say, if you knew another of Socrates'
contrivances?
STREPSIADES
What is it? Pray tell me.
DISCIPLE
Chaerephon of the deme of Sphettia asked him whether he thought
a gnat buzzed through its proboscis or through its anus.
STREPSIADES
And what did he say about the gnat?
DISCIPLE
He said that the gut of the gnat was narrow, and that, in
passing through this tiny passage, the air is driven with force
towards the breech; then after this slender channel, it encountered
the rump, which was distended like a trumpet, and there it resounded
sonorously.
STREPSIADES
So the arse of a gnat is a trumpet. Oh! what a splendid
arsevation! Thrice happy Socrates! It would not be difficult to
succeed in a law-suit, knowing so much about a gnat's guts!
DISCIPLE
Not long ago a lizard caused him the loss of a sublime thought.
STREPSIADES
In what way, please?
DISCIPLE
One night, when he was studying the course of the moon and its
revolutions and was gazing open-mouthed at the heavens, a lizard
crapped upon him from the top of the roof.
STREPSIADES
A lizard crapping on Socrates! That's rich!
DISCIPLE
Last night we had nothing to eat.
STREPSIADES
Well, what did he contrive, to secure you some supper?
DISCIPLE
He spread over the table a light layer of cinders, bending an iron
rod the while; then he took up a pair of compasses and at the same
moment unhooked a piece of the victim which was hanging in the
palaestra.
STREPSIADES
And we still dare to admire Thales! Open, open this home of
knowledge to me quickly! Haste, haste to show me Socrates; I long to
become his disciple. But do please open the door. (The door opens,
revealing the interior of the Thoughtery, in which the DISCIPLES OF
SOCRATES are seen in various postures of meditation and study; they
are pale and emaciated creatures.) Ah! by Heracles! what country are
those animals from?
DISCIPLE
Why, what are you astonished at? What do you think they resemble?
STREPSIADES
The captives of Pylos. But why do they look so fixedly on the
ground?
DISCIPLE
They are seeking for what is below the ground.
STREPSIADES
Ah! they're looking for onions. Do not give yourselves so much
trouble; I know where there are some, fine big ones. But what are
those fellows doing, bent all double?
DISCIPLE
They are sounding the abysses of Tartarus.
STREPSIADES
And what are their arses looking at in the heavens?
DISCIPLE
They are studying astronomy on their own account. But come in so
that the master may not find us here.
STREPSIADES
Not yet; not yet; let them not change their position. I want to
tell them my own little matter.
DISCIPLE
But they may not stay too long in the open air and away from
school.
STREPSIADES (pointing to a celestial globe)
In the name of all the gods, what is that? Tell me.
DISCIPLE
That is astronomy.
STREPSIADES (pointing to a map)
And that?
DISCIPLE
Geometry.
STREPSIADES
What is that used for?
DISCIPLE
To measure the land.

 

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