THE WASPS by Aristophanes, Part 16
Come, no fabulous tales, pray! talk of realities, of domestic
facts, as is usually done.
Ah! I know something that is indeed most domestic. Once upon a
time there was a rat and a cat....
"Oh, you ignorant fool," as Theagenes said to the dung-gatherer in
a rage. Are you going to talk of cats and rats among high-class
Then what should I talk about?
Tell some dignified story. Relate how you were sent on a solemn
mission with Androcles and Clisthenes.
On a mission! never in my life, except once to Paros, a job
which brought me in two obols a day.
At least say, that you have just seen Ephudion doing well in the
pancratium with Ascondas and, that despite his age and his white hair,
he is still robust in loin and arm and flank and that his chest is a
Stop! stop! what nonsense! Who ever contested at the pancratium
with a breast-plate on?
That is how well-behaved folk like to talk. But another thing.
When at wine, it would be fitting to relate some good story of your
youthful days. What is your most brilliant feat?
My best feat? Ah! when I stole Ergasion's vine-props.
You and your vine-props! you'll be the death of me! Tell of one of
your boar-hunts or of when you coursed the hare. Talk about some
torch-race you were in; tell of some deed of daring.
Ah! my most daring dee, was when, quite a young man still, I
prosecuted Phayllus, the runner, for defamation, and he was
condemded by majority of two votes.
Enough of that! Now recline there, and practise the bearing that
is fitting at table in society.
How must I recline? Tell me quick!
In an elegant style.
PHILOCLEON (lying on the ground)
Not at all.
Spread your knees on the tapestries and give your body the most
easy curves, like those taught in the gymnasium. Then praise some
bronze vase, survey the ceiling, admire the awning stretched over
the court. Water is poured over our hands; the tables are spread; we
sup and, after ablution, we now offer libations to the gods.
But, by Zeus! this supper is but a dream, it appears!
The flute-player has finished the prelude. The guests are Theorus,
Aeschines, Phanus, Cleon, Acestor; and beside this last, I don't
know who else. You are with them. Shall you know exactly how to take
up the songs that are started?
Better than any born mountaineer of Attica.
That we shall see. Suppose me to be Cleon. I am the first to begin
the song of Harmodius, and you take it up: "There never yet was seen
....such a rogue or such a thief."
Why, you wretched man, it will be THE END of you if you sing that.
He will vow your ruin, your destruction, to chase you out of the
Well! then I shall answer his threats with another song: "With
your madness for supreme power, you will end by overthrowing the city,
which even now totters towards ruin."
And when Theorus, prone at Cleon's feet, takes his hand and sings,
"Like Admetus, love those who are brave," what reply will you make
I shall sing, "I know not how to play the fox, nor call myself the
friend of both parties."
Then comes the turn of Aeschines, the son of Sellus, and a
well-trained and clever musician, who will sing, "Good things and
riches for Clitagora and me and eke for the Thessalians!"
"The two of us have squandered a great deal between us."