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THE ECCLESIAZUSAE by Aristophanes, Part 04

PRAXAGORA (ignoring this interruption)
They are worth more than you are, as I shall prove. First of all
they wash all their wool in warm water, according to the ancient
practice; you will never see them changing their method. Ah! if Athens
only acted thus, if it did not take delight in ceaseless
innovations, would not its happiness be assured? Then the women sit
down to cook, just as they always did; they carry things on their head
just as they always did; they keep the Thesmophoria, just as they
always did; they knead their cakes just as they always did; they
make their husbands angry just as they always did; they receive
their lovers in their houses just as they always did; they buy
dainties just as they always did; they love unmixed wine just as
they always did; they delight in being loved just as they always
did. Let us therefore hand Athens over to them without endless
discussions, without bothering ourselves about what they will do;
let us simply hand them over the power, remembering that they are
mothers and will therefore spare the blood of our soldiers; besides,
who will know better than a mother how to forward provisions to the
front? Woman is adept at getting money for herself and will not easily
let herself be deceived; she understands deceit too well herself. I
omit a thousand other advantages. Take my advice and you will live
in perfect happiness.
FIRST WOMAN
How beautiful this is, my dearest Praxagora, how clever! But
where, pray, did you learn all these pretty things?
PRAXAGORA
When the countryfolk were seeking refuge in the city, I lived on
the Pnyx with my husband, and there I learnt to speak through
listening to the orators.
FIRST WOMAN
Then, dear, it's not astonishing that you are so eloquent and
clever, henceforward you shall be our LEADER, so put your great
ideas into execution. But if Cephalus belches forth insults against
you, what answer will you give him in the Assembly?
PRAXAGORA
I shall say that he is drivelling.
FIRST WOMAN
But all the world knows that.
PRAXAGORA
I shall furthermore say that he is a raving madman.
FIRST WOMAN
There's nobody who does not know that.
PRAXAGORA
That he, as excellent a statesman as he is, is a clumsy potter.
FIRST WOMAN
And if the blear-eyed Neoclides comes to insult you?
PRAXAGORA
To him I shall say, "Go and look at a dog's arse."
FIRST WOMAN
And if they fly at you?
PRAXAGORA
Oh! I shall shake them off as best I can; never fear, I know how
to use this too!
FIRST WOMAN
But there is one thing we don't think of. If the Scythians drag
you away, what will you do?
PRAXAGORA
With my arms akimbo like this, I will never, never let myself be
taken round the middle.
FIRST WOMAN
If they seize you, we will bid them let you go.
SECOND WOMAN
That's the best way. But how are we going to remember to lift
our arms in the Assembly when it's our legs we are used to lifting?
PRAXAGORA
It's difficult; yet it must be done, and the arm shown naked to
the shoulder in order to vote. Quick now, put on these tunics and
these Laconian shoes, as you see the men do each time they go to the
Assembly or for a walk. When this is done, fix on your beards, and
when they are arranged in the best way possible, dress yourselves in
the cloaks you have stolen from your husbands; finally start off,
leaning on your staffs and singing some old man's song as the
villagers do.
FIRST WOMAN
Well spoken; and let us hurry to get to the Pnyx before the
women from the country, for they will no doubt not fail to come there.
PRAXAGORA
Quick, quick, for it's the custom that those who are not at the
Pnyx early in the morning return home empty-handed.
(PRAXAGORA and the FIRST and SECOND WOMEN depart; those who are
left behind form the CHORUS.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Move forward, citizens, move forward; let us not forget to give
ourselves this name and may that of woman never slip out of our
mouths; woe to us, if it were discovered that we had laid such a
plot in the darkness of night.
CHORUS (singing)
Let us go to the Assembly then, fellow-citizens; for the
Thesmothetes have declared that only those who arrive at daybreak with
haggard eye and covered with dust, without having snatched time to eat
anything but a snack of garlic-pickle, shall alone receive the
triobolus. Walk up smartly, Charitimides, Smicythus and Draces, and do
not fail in any point of your part; let us first demand our fee and
then vote for all that may perchance be useful for our partisans....
Ah! what am I saying? I meant to say, for our fellow-citizens. Let
us drive away these men of the city who used to stay at home and
chatter round the table in the days when only an obolus was paid,
whereas now one is stifled by the crowds at the Pnyx. No! during the
archonship of generous Myronides, none would have dared to let himself
be paid for the trouble he spent over public business; each one
brought his own meal of bread, a couple of onions, three olives and
some wine in a little wine-skin. But nowadays we run here to earn
the three obols, for the citizen has become as mercenary as the
stonemason.
(The CHORUS marches away. BLEPYRUS appears in the doorway of his
house, wearing PRAXAGORA's Persian sandals and saffron robe.)

 

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