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[550] First I advise that the birds gather together in one city and that they build a wall of great bricks, like that at Babylon, round the plains of the air and the whole region of space that divides earth from heaven.

Oh, Cebriones! oh, Porphyrion! what a terribly strong place!

Then, when this has been well done and completed, you demand back the empire from Zeus; [555] if he will not agree, if he refuses and does not at once confess himself beaten, you declare a sacred war against him and forbid the gods henceforward to pass through your country with their tools up, as hitherto, for the purpose of laying their Alcmenas, their Alopes, or their Semeles! if they try to pass through, [560] you put rings on their tools so that they can't make love any longer. You send another messenger to mankind, who will proclaim to them that the birds are kings, that for the future they must first of all sacrifice to them, and only afterwards to the gods; that it is fitting to appoint to each deity the bird that has most in common with it. [565] For instance, are they sacrificing to Aphrodite, let them at the same time offer barley to the coot; are they immolating a sheep to Poseidon, let them consecrate wheat in honor of the duck; if a steer is being offered to Heracles, let honey-cakes be dedicated to the gull; if a goat is being slain for King Zeus, there is a King-Bird, the wren, to whom the sacrifice of a male gnat is due before Zeus himself even.

[570] This notion of an immolated gnat delights me! And now let the great Zeus thunder!

Leader of the Chorus
But how will mankind recognize us as gods and not as jays? Us, who have wings and fly?

You talk rubbish! Hermes is a god and has wings and flies, and so do many other gods. First of all, Victory flies with golden wings, Eros is undoubtedly winged too, [575] and Iris is compared by Homer to a timorous dove.

But will not Zeus thunder and send his winged bolts against us?

If men in their blindness do not recognize us as gods and so continue to worship the dwellers in Olympus? Then a cloud of sparrows greedy for corn must descend upon their fields and eat up all their seeds; [580] we shall see then if Demeter will mete them out any wheat.

By Zeus, she'll take good care she does not, and you will see her inventing a thousand excuses.

The crows too will prove your divinity to them by pecking out the eyes of their flocks and of their draught-oxen; and then let Apollo cure them, since he is a physician and is paid for the purpose.

[585] Oh! don't do that! Wait first until I have sold my two young bullocks.

If on the other hand they recognize that you are God, the principle of life, that you are Earth, Kronos, Poseidon, they shall be loaded with benefits.

Name me one of these then.

Firstly, the locusts shall not eat up their vine-blossoms; a legion of owls and kestrels will devour them. [590] Moreover, the gnats and the gallbugs shall no longer ravage the figs; a flock of thrushes shall swallow the whole host down to the very last.

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    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Philoctetes, 134
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