previous next


mounted on his Ass.
'Tis a wonder if the spectators on the benches this day don't hiss, and cough, and make a snorting noise at this ridiculous sight, furrow their brows, and, with cries with one consent2, shout all aloud, and mutter imprecations. Hardly in their youth can beardless actors, or mimics with their beards plucked out, find room upon the stage. Why comes forth this aged and lethargic go-between, who is borne upon the ass's back? Listen, I pray, and give me your attention, while I tell you the name of this quiet Comedy3. 'Tis proper for you to make silence for a Divinity. It befits not those to use the resources of the voice, who come here not to exclaim, but to be spectators. Give me attentive ears; but not into my hands I mean; I wish my voice4, as it flies, to strike these vacant ears. What do you fear? Are those blows more hurtful which open what is shut5, or which close what is open? You're very kind; the inhabitants of heaven do love you deservedly. There is profound silence--even the children are still--and now, attend to a new-come messenger, on a new errand. Who I am--why I am come to you--I'll tell you in a few words; at the same time, I'll disclose to you the name of this Comedy. Now, behold, I shall tell you what you wish to know; do you then give me your attention. I am a God of Nature6, the foster-father of most mighty Bromius7, him who, with a female army8, gained a kingdom. Whatever about him renowned nations relate, some part, at least, has been accomplished by my advice. That which pleases me is never displeasing to him. 'Tis right if one father9 another father does obey. Ass-borne do the Ionian multitudes10 style me, because I am borne on an ass11 for my conveyance. Who I am, you understand: if you understand, allow me now to tell the name of this quiet play; at the same time, you may learn why I have come to you. Philemon12 formerly produced a play in Greek; this, those who speak the Greek language call "Evantides13;" Plautus, who speaks the Latin, calls it "Bacchides." 'Tis not to be wondered, then, if hither I have come. Bacchus sends to you the Bacchides--the Bacchanalian Bacchanals. I am bringing them unto you. What! Have I told a lie? It don't become a God to tell a lie; but the truth I tell--I bring not them; but the salacious ass, wearied with its journey, is bringing to you three, if I remember right. One you behold; see now, what on my lips I bring--to wit, two Samian sisters14, Bacchanalians, merry Courtesans, born of the same parents, at one time, at a twin-birth; not less alike than milk to milk, if you compare it, or water to water; were you to see them you would think them halved15; so much would you confuse your sight, that you would not be able to distinguish which was which. What remains you long to hear. Now give attention: the story of this Play I will disclose. What country Samos is, is known to all; for seas, lands, mountains, and islands, have your legions16 made easy of access. There, Sostrata bore to her husband, Pyrgoteles Pyrocles17, twin daughters at one birth; and it pleased them, being initiated at the triennial festival18 of Bacchus, to call after his name the damsels of which they were the parents. The parents, as often happens, gave a turn to19 their future fortunes. A Captain carried one of them with him to Crete. The other of the twins sailed for Athens20. As soon as Mnesilochus, the son of Nicobulus, beheld her, he began to love her, and frequently paid her visits. Meantime, his father sent the youth to Ephesus, to bring back thence some gold, which he himself, some time before, had deposited with Archidemides, an ancient friend of his, an aged Phœnician. When, for two years he had stayed at Ephesus, he received the sad news that Bacchis was gone from Athens, for some sailors of his acquaintance sent him word that she had set sail. On this, he writes a letter to Pistoclerus, his only friend, the son of Philoxenus, entreating him to seek the fugitive with care and earnestness. While Pistoclerus is devoting his services to his friend, the twin-sisters, who have just returned to Athens, arouse a passion in the seeker. The one wins Pistoclerus for herself; the other longs for the coming of Mnesilochus. What wonder if two bewitching, merry, pretty Bacchantes, should attract to themselves two unfledged Bacchanalians, and if they should ensnare their decrepit, most aged fathers, fit subjects for the undertaker21, bowed down by the weight of their years? But, see, here's Pistoclerus, who is returning to the Bacchides so lately found, and in his simplicity22 is blowing in himself the sparks of passion so lately kindled. Now I'm off--do you attend. (Exit.)

1 Prologue: There is little doubt that this Prologue is spurious, but as it is prefixed to many of the editions, and to Thornton's and the French translations, it is here inserted. Lascaris, the Greek grammarian, says, in a letter to Bembo, that it was discovered by him in Sicily. Some writers have supposed it to have been written by the Poet Petrarch.

2 With cries with one consent: "Concrepario" is a barbarous word, formed from "crepo," to make a noise.

3 Quiet Comedy: "Statariae." There were two kinds of Comedy represented on the ancient stage, one of which was called "stataria," while the other was "motoria." In the first, the actors stood still, or moved about quietly, and with little gesture; while in the other, dancing, gesture, and grimace were extensively employed.

4 I wish my voice: There is a poor attempt at alliteration here, in the words "volo volans vox vacuas."

5 What is shut: This passage is obscure, but the meaning seems to be, "Is it anything more disagreable to open your ears and listen, than to keep them shut and be stunned by my noise? for talk I will.

6 A God of Nature: The ancients considered Pan, Silenus, Sylvanus, the Fauns, the Dryades, the Hyades, and the Oreades, as Gods of Nature, presiding over it in its various aspects.

7 Bromius: Bromius was one of the names of Bacchus, probably derived from Βρέμω, "to make a noise;" the Bacchanalian orgies being attended with riot and drunkenness.

8 With a female army: He alludes to the Indian expedition of Bacchus, who was fabled to have marched thither at the head of an arny of Bacchantes or "Bacchae," females who were his votaries.

9 If one father: The ancients gave the Gods the title of pater, "father," by way of honorable distinction. Bacchus would especially be so honored, as wine was looked upon as one of the chief supports of life.

10 Ionian multitudes: The Lydians were adjacent to the people of lonia. Etruria, which supplied the earliest actors to Rome, was supposed to have been colonised by the Lydians.

11 Borne on an ass: "Asibidam." This is a spurious word, probably invented by the author.

12 Philemon: Philemon was a Greek Comic poet, of considerable merit, though inferior to Menander, of whom he was a contemporary. This play is more generally supposed to have been borrowed from a Comedy of Menander, which was called Δὶς Ε᾿ξαπατῶν, "the Twice Deceived."

13 Evantides: "Evantides" corresponds with the Latin word "Bacchantes," "followers," or "namesakes" of Bacchus," as "Evan" was one of the names by which that God was addressed during the celebration of the orgies.

14 Samian sisters: Samos was an island off the coast of lonia, neat Ephesus. It was the birthplace of the philosopher Pythagoras.

15 Think them halved: "Dimidiatas" — "one split into two."

16 Have your legions: He is supposed to be flattering the Romans in their love for foreign conquest.

17 Pyrgoteles Pyrocles: It was quite unusual for the Greeks to have two names. They have here been introduced either for the sake of the metre, or, as the Delphin editor suggests, as meaning "her husband Pyrocles, who was a regular Pyrgoteles," that is, a most skilful engraver; a celebrated artist of that name having flourished in the time of Alexander the Great.

18 Triennial festival: Among the festivals of Bacchus, there was one which occurred every three years, and was called the "Trieterica." On that occasion the Bacchantes carried the figure of the God on a chariot, drawn by two tigers or panthers, and crowned with vine leaves; holding thyrsi in their hands, they ran in a frantic manner around the chariot, filling the air with the sound of tambourines and brazen instruments, shouting "Evoë Bacche," and calling the God by his several names of Bromius, Lyæus, Evan, Lenæus, and Sabazius. To this ceremonial, which was derived from the Egyptians, the Greeks added other rites, replete with licentiousness and repulsive to decency. The author says that the parents of the Bacchides were initiated at this festival, and that in compliment to the God they named each of the newly-born twins "Bacchis."

19 Gave a turn to: "Fata occupant." "Consider the fact of their being born at that period as ominous of their future destiny, and devote them to the service of the Deity."

20 Sailed for Athens: Literally, "Cecropia." Cecrops was the founder of Athens.

21 Subjects for the undertaker: "Libitinarios." This word properly corresponds to our word "undertakers." They were so called because their biers and other requisites were kept in the temple of the Goddess "Libitina." The word here has the forced meaning of "persons with one not in the grave."

22 In his simplicity: "Insolens." Mnesilochus is already in love with the Second Bacchis before the play commences; but Pistoclerus is entrapped during the First Act.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: