The Acharnians

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What cares have not gnawed at my heart and how few have been the pleasures in my life! Four, to be exact, while my troubles have been as countless as the grains of sand on the shore! Let me see! of what value to me have been these few pleasures? Ah! I remember that I was delighted in soul when Cleon had to cough up those five talents; I was in ecstasy and I love the Knights for this deed; "it is an honour to Greece." But the day when I was impatiently awaiting a piece by Aeschylus, what tragic despair it caused me when the herald called, "Theognis, introduce your Chorus!" Just imagine how this blow struck straight at my heart! On the other hand, what joy Dexitheus caused me at the musical competition, when right after Moschus he played a Boeotian melody on the lyre! But this year by contrast! Oh! What deadly torture to hear Chaeris perform the prelude in the Orthian mode!-Never, however, since I began to bathe, has the dust hurt my eyes as it does to-day. Still it is the day of assembly; all should be here at daybreak, and yet the Pnyx is still deserted. They are gossiping in the market-place, slipping hither and thither to avoid the vermilioned rope. The Prytanes even do not come; they will be late, but when they come they will push and fight each other for a seat in the front row. They will never trouble themselves with the question of peace. Oh! Athens! Athens! As for myself, I do not fail to come here before all the rest, and now, finding myself alone, I groan, yawn, stretch, fart, and know not what to do; I make sketches in the dust, pull out my loose hairs, muse, think of my fields, long for peace, curse town life and regret my dear country home, which never told me to "buy fuel, vinegar or oil"; there the word "buy," which cuts me in two, was unknown; I harvested everything at will. Therefore I have come to the assembly fully prepared to bawl, interrupt and abuse the speakers, if they talk of anything but peace. (The Orchestra begins to fill with people.) But here come the Prytanes, and high time too, for it is midday! There, just as I said, they are pushing and fighting for the front seats.


This is the first of the series of three Comedies-'The Acharnians, ' 'Peace' and 'Lysistrata'-produced at intervals of years, the sixth, tenth and twenty-first of the Peloponnesian War, and impressing on the Athenian people the miseries and disasters due to it and to the scoundrels who by their selfish and reckless policy had provoked it, the consequent ruin of industry and, above all, agriculture, and the urgency of asking Peace.-From the introduction to 'The Acharnians' by Aristophanes.

Aristophanes (c. 446 BC – c. 386 BC), son of Philippus, of the deme Cydathenaus, was a comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his thirty plays survive virtually complete. These, together with fragments of some of his other plays, provide the only real examples of a genre of comic drama known as Old Comedy, and they are used to define the genre Also known as the Father of Comedy and the Prince of Ancient Comedy, Aristophanes has been said to recreate the life of ancient Athens more convincingly than any other author. His powers of ridicule were feared and acknowledged by influential contemporaries; Plato singled out Aristophanes' playThe Clouds as slander that contributed to the trial and subsequent condemning to death of Socrates although other satirical playwrights had also caricatured the philosopher. His second play, The Babylonians (now lost), was denounced by the demagogue Cleon as a slander against the Athenian polis. It is possible that the case was argued in court but details of the trial are not recorded and Aristophanes caricatured Cleon mercilessly in his subsequent plays, especially The Knights, the first of many plays that he directed himself. "In my opinion," he says through the Chorus in that play, "the author-director of comedies has the hardest job of all."


That's the man himself. Stone him, stone him, stone him, strike the wretch. All, all of you, pelt him, pelt him!

DICAEOPOLIS (using his pot for a shield)

What is this? By Heracles, you will smash my pot.

(The daughter and the two slaves retreat.)

CHORUS (singing excitedly)

It is you that we are stoning, you miserable scoundrel.


And for what sin, Acharnian elders, tell me that!

CHORUS (singing, with greater excitement)

You ask that, you impudent rascal, traitor to your country; you alone amongst us all have concluded a truce, and you dare to look us in the face!


But you do not know why I have treated for peace. Listen!

CHORUS (singing fiercely)

Listen to you? No, no, you are about to die, we will annihilate you with our stones.


But first of all, listen. Stop, my friends.

CHORUS (singing; with intense hatred)

I will hear nothing; do not address me; I hate you more than I do Cleon, whom one day I shall flay to make sandals for the Knights. Listen to your long speeches, after you have treated with the Laconians? No, I will punish you.


Friends, leave the Laconians out of debate and consider only whether I have not done well to conclude my truce.


Done well! when you have treated with a people who know neither gods, nor truth, nor faith.


We attribute too much to the Laconians; as for myself, I know that they are not the cause of all our troubles.


Oh, indeed, rascal! You dare to use such language to me and then expect me to spare you!


No, no, they are not the cause of all our troubles, and I who address you claim to be able to prove that they have much to complain of in us.


This passes endurance; my heart bounds with fury. Thus you dare to defend our enemies.


Were my head on the block I would uphold what I say and rely on the approval of the people.


Comrades, let us hurl our stones and dye this fellow purple.


What black fire-brand has inflamed your heart! You will not hear me? You really will not, Acharnians?


No, a thousand times, no.


This is a hateful injustice.


May I die if I listen.


Nay, nay! have mercy, have mercy, Acharnians.


You shall die.


Well, blood for blood! I will kill your dearest friend. I have here the hostages of Acharnae; I shall disembowel them.

(He goes into the house.)