Now speak not a word of evil sound, and keep clear the way for our chorus,Let them bring with them their equipment, their masks and altars, their stage machinery, their revolving changes of scene, and the tripods that commemorate their victories. Let their tragic actors accompany them, men like Nicostratus and Callippides, [p. 513] Mynniscus, Theodorus, and Polus, who robe Tragedy and bear her litter, as though she were some woman of wealth; or rather, let them follow on as though they were painters and gilders and dyers of statues.2 Let there be provided also a bounteous outlay for stage furnishings, supernumeraries, sea-purple robes, stage machinery, as well as dancing-masters and bodyguards, an intractable crowd. It was in reference to all this that a Spartan3 not ineptly remarked that the Athenians were making a great mistake in wasting their energies on amusements, that is to say, in lavishing on the theatre what would pay for great fleets and would support armies in the field. For, if we reckon up the cost of each tragedy, the Athenian people will be seen to have spent more on productions of Bacchae, Phoenissae, Oedipuses, and Antigones, and the woes of Medea and Electra, than they spent in fighting for their supremacy and for their liberty against the barbarians. For the generals often ordered their men to bring along uncooked rations when they led them forth to battle ; and the commanders, I can swear, after providing barley-meal and a relish of onions and cheese for the rowers, would embark them on the triremes. But the men who paid for the choruses gave the choristers eels and tender lettuces, roastbeef and marrow, and pampered them for a long time while they were training their voices and living in luxury. The result for the defeated choregoi 4 was to [p. 515] be held in contumely and ridicule ; but to the victors belonged a tripod,5 which was, as Demetrius says, not a votive offering to commemorate their victory, but a last oblation of their wasted livelihood, an empty memorial of their vanished estates. Such are the returns paid by the poetic art and nothing more splendid ever comes from it.
Whoever in words like these is unskilled and whose mind is not free from uncleanness,
Who never has sung and never has danced in the rites of the noble Muses,
Nor has ever been trained in the Bacchic rites of the tongue of bull-eating Cratinus !1
This text is part of:
1 Aristophanes, Frogs, 353-356; cf. Aulus Gellius, Praefatio, 20 f.
2 That is, a tragedy is an unadorned statue. The actors supply the decoration: encaustic paint, gold-leaf, and dye.
3 Cf. Moralia, 230 b and the note.
4 The choregoi, the men who trained the tragic choruses at Athens, lavished their private resources on the festival competitions; but the victor had merely a tripod awarded to him to show for all his vast expenditure, the loser worse than nothing.
5 Cf. Life of Aristeides, chap. i. (318 e); Life of Nicias, chap. iii. (524 e).