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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 disgorge those five talents;2 I was in ecstasy and I love the Knights for this deed; ‘it is an honour to Greece.’3 But the day when I was impatiently awaiting a piece by Aeschylus,4 what tragic despair it caused me when the herald called, “Theognis,5 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 he played a Boeotian melody on the lyre! But this year by contrast! Oh! what deadly torture to hear Chaeris6 perform the prelude in the Orthian mode!7 —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 Pnyx8 is still deserted. They are gossiping in the marketplace, slipping hither and thither to avoid the vermilioned rope.9 The Prytanes10 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, break wind, 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,11 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. But here come the Prytanes, and high time too, for it is midday! As I foretold, hah! is it not so? They are pushing and fighting for the front seats.
1 A name invented by Aristophanes and signifying ‘a just citizen.’
2 Cleon had received five talents from the islanders subject to Athens, on condition that he should get the tribute payable by them reduced; when informed of this transaction, the knights compelled him to return the money.
3 A hemistich borrowed from Euripides' ‘Telephus.’
4 The tragedies of Aeschylus continued to be played even after the poet's death, which occurred in 436 B.C., ten years before the production of The Acharnians.
5 A tragic poet, whose pieces were so devoid of warmth and life that he was nicknamed [the Greek for] ‘snow.’
6 A bad musician, frequently ridiculed by Aristophanes; he played both the lyre and the flute.
7 A lively and elevated method.
8 A hill near the Acropolis, where the Assemblies were held.
9 Several means were used to force citizens to attend the assemblies; the shops were closed; circulation was only permitted in those streets which led to the Pnyx; finally, a rope covered with vermilion was drawn round those who dallied in the Agora (the market-place), and the late-comers, ear- marked by the imprint of the rope, were fined.
10 Magistrates who, with the Archons and the Epistatae, shared the care of holding and directing the assemblies of the people; they were fifty in number.
11 The Peloponnesian War had already, at the date of the representation of The Acharnians, lasted five years, 431-426 B.C.; driven from their lands by the successive Lacedaemonian invasions, the people throughout the country had been compelled to seek shelter behind the walls of Athens.