THE WASPS by Aristophanes, Part 09
Cease to call me by that name, for, if you do not prove me a slave
and that quickly too, you must die by my hand, even if I must be
deprived of my share in the sacred feasts.
Listen to me, dear little father, unruffle that frowning brow
and reckon, you can do so without trouble, not with pebbles, but on
your fingers, what is the sum-total of the tribute paid by the
allied towns; besides this we have the direct imposts, a mass of
percentage dues, the fees of the courts of justice, the produce from
the mines, the markets, the harbours, tile public lands and the
confiscations. All these together amount to nearly two thousand
talents. Take from this sum the annual pay of the dicasts; they number
six thousand, and there have never been more in this town; so
therefore it is one hundred and fifty talents that come to you.
What! our pay is not even a tithe of the state revenue?
Why no, certainly not.
And where does the rest go then?
To those who say: "I shall never betray the interests of the
masses; I shall always fight for the people." And it is you, father,
who let yourself be caught with their fine talk, who give them all
power over yourself. They are the men who extort fifty talents at a
time by threat and intimidation from the allies. "Pay tribute to
me," they say, "or I shall loose the lightning on you-town and destroy
it." And you, you are content to gnaw the crumbs of your own might.
What do the allies do? They see that the Athenian mob lives on the
tribunal in niggard and miserable fashion, and they count you for
nothing, for not more than the vote of Connus; it is on those wretches
that they lavish everything, dishes of salt fish, wine, tapestries,
cheese, honey, chaplets, necklets, drinking-cups, all that yields
pleasure and health. And you, their master, to you as a reward for all
your toil both on land and sea, nothing is given, not even a clove
of garlic to eat with your little fish.
No, undoubtedly not; I have had to send and buy some from
Eucharides. But you told me I was a slave. Prove it then, for I am
dying with impatience.
Is it not the worst of all slaveries to see all these wretches and
their flatterers, whom they gorge with gold, at the head of affairs?
As for you, you are content with the three obols which they give you
and which you have so painfully earned in the galleys, in battles
and sieges. But what I stomach least is that you go to sit on the
tribunal by order. Some young fairy, the son of Chaereas, to wit,
enters your house wiggling his arse, foul with debauchery, on his
straddling legs and charges you to come and judge at daybreak, and
precisely to the minute. "He who presents himself after the opening of
the Court," says he, "will not get the triobolus." But he himself,
though he arrives late, will nevertheless get his drachma as a
public advocate. If an accused man makes him some present, he shares
it with a colleague and the pair agree to arrange the matter like
two sawyers, one of whom pulls and the other pushes. As for you, you
have only eyes for the public pay-clerk, and you see nothing.
Can it be I am treated thus? Oh! what is it you are saying? You
stir me to the bottom of my heart! I am all ears! I cannot express
what I feel.
Consider then; you might be rich, both you and all the others; I
know not why you let yourself be fooled by these folk who call
themselves the people's friends. A myriad of towns obey you, from
the Euxine to Sardis. What do you gain thereby? Nothing but this
miserable pay, and even that is like the oil with which the flock of
wool is impregnated and is doled to you drop by drop, just enough to
keep you from dying of hunger. They want you to be poor, and I will
tell you why. It is so that you may know only those who nourish you,
and so that, if it pleases them to loose you against one of their
foes, you shall leap upon him with fury. If they wished to assure
the well-being of the people, nothing would be easier for them. We
have now a thousand towns that pay us tribute; let them comand each of
these to feed twenty Athenians; then twenty thousand of our citizens
would be eating nothing but hare, would drink nothing but the purest
of milk, and always crowned with garlands, would be enjoying the
delights to which the great name of their country and the trophies
of Marathon give them the right; whereas to-day you are like the hired
labourers who gather the olives; you follow him who pays you.
Alas! my hand is benumbed; I can no longer draw my sword. What has
become of my strength?
When they are afraid, they promise to divide Euboea among you
and to give each fifty bushels of wheat, but what have they given you?
Nothing excepting, quite recently, five bushels of barley, and even
these you have only obtained with great difficulty, on proving you
were not aliens, and then choenix by choenix. (With increasing
excitement) That is why I always kept you shut in; I wanted you to
be fed by me and no longer at the beck of these blustering
braggarts. Even now I am ready to let you have all you want,
provided you no longer let yourself be suckled by the payclerk.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS (to BDELYCLEON)
He was right who said, "Decide nothing till you have heard both
sides," for now it seems to me that you are the one who gains the
complete victory. My wrath is appeased and I throw away my sticks. (To
PHILOCLEON) But, you, our comrade and contemporary....