This text is part of:
Enter MEGARONIDES and CALLICLES.
According as you relate the matter to me, Callicles, it really can by no means be but that a portion must be given to the girl. CALLICLES
Why, troth, it would hardly be honestly done on my part, if I were to allow her to contract a marriage without a portion, when I have her property in my possession at home. * * * * * MEGARONIDES
* * * * A portion is ready at your house; unless you like to wait until her brother has disposed of her in marriage without a portion. After that, you might go to Philto yourself, and might say that you present her with a portion, and that you do it on account of your intimacy with her father. But I dread this, lest that offer might bring you into crimination and disgrace with the public. They would say that you were so kind to the girl not without some good reason; that the dowry which you presented her was given you by her father; they would think that you were portioning her out of that, and that you had not kept it safe for her just as it was given, and that you had withheld some part. Now, if you wish to await the return of Charmides, the time is very long; meanwhile, the inclination to marry her may leave this Lysiteles; this proposal, too, is quite a first-rate one for her. CALLICLES
All these very same things suggest themselves to my mind. MEGARONIDES
Consider if you think this more feasible and more to the purpose: go to the young man himself, and tell him how the matter really stands. CALLICLES
Should I now discover the treasure to a young man, ill-regulated, and brimful of passion and of wantonness? No, faith, most assuredly, by no means. For I know, beyond a doubt, that he would devour even all that spot where it is buried. I fear to dig for it, lest he should hear the noise; lest, too, he might trace out the matter itself, if I should say I will give her a portion. MEGARONIDES
By what method, then, can the portion be secretly taken out? CALLICLES
Until an opportunity can be found for that business, I would, in the meanwhile, ask for a loan of the money from some friend or other. MEGARONIDES
Can it be obtained from some friend or other? CALLICLES
It can. MEGARONIDES
Nonsense; you'll certainly meet with this answer at once: "O, upon my faith, I really have not anything that I can lend you." CALLICLES
Troth, I would rather they would tell me the truth than lend me the money with a bad grace. MEGARONIDES
But consider this plan, if it pleases you. CALLICLES
What is the plan? MEGARONIDES
I have found out a clever plan, as I think. CALLICLES
What is it? MEGARONIDES
Let some person, now, be hired, of an appearance as much unknown as possible, such as has not been often seen. Let this person be dressed up to the life after a foreign fashion, just as though he were a foreigner. CALLICLES
What is he to understand that he must do after that? MEGARONIDES
It is necessary for him to be some lying, deceiving, impudent fellow--a lounger from the Forum. CALLICLES
And what then, after that? MEGARONIDES
Let him come to the young man as though from Seleucia, from his father; let him pronounce his salutation to him in the words of his father, say that he is prospering in business, and is alive and well, and that he will be shortly coming back again. Let him bring two letters; let us seal these, as though they are from his father. Let him give the one to him, and let him say that he wishes to give the other to yourself. CALLICLES
Go on, and tell me still further. MEGARONIDES
Let him say that he is bringing some gold as a marriage-portion from her father for the girl, and that his father has requested him to deliver it to you. Do you understand me now? CALLICLES
Pretty nearly; and I listen with great satisfaction. MEGARONIDES
Then, in consequence, you will finally give the gold to the young man when the girl shall be given in marriage. CALLICLES
Troth, 'tis very cleverly contrived. MEGARONIDES
By this means, when you have dug up the treasure, you will have removed all cause for suspicion from the young man. He will think that the gold has been brought to you from his father; whereas, you will be taking it from the treasure. CALLICLES
Very cleverly and fairly contrived; although I am ashamed, at this time of life, for me to be playing a double part. But when he shall bring the letters sealed, don't you suppose that the young man will then recollect the impression of his father's signet1? MEGARONIDES
Will you be silent now? Reasons innumerable may be found for that circumstance. That which he used to have he has lost, and he has since had another new one made. Then, if he should bring them not sealed at all, this might be said,--that they had been unsealed for him by the custom-house officers2, and had been examined. On matters of this kind, however, 'tis mere idleness to spend the day in talk; although a long discussion might be spun out. Go now, at once, privately to the treasure; send to a distance the men-servants and the maids; and--do you hear? CALLICLES
What is it? MEGARONIDES
Take care that you conceal this matter from that same wife of yours as well; for, i' faith, there is never any subject which they can be silent upon. Why are you standing now? Why don't you take yourself off hence, and bestir yourself? Open the treasure, take thence as much gold as is requisite for this purpose; at once close it up again, but secretly, as I have enjoined you; turn all out of the house. CALLICLES
I will do so. MEGARONIDES
But, really, we are continuing too long a discourse; we are wasting the day, whereas there is need now of all expedition. There is nothing for you to fear about the seal; trust me for that. This is a clever excuse to give, as I mentioned, that they have been looked at by the officers. In fine, don't you see the time of day? What do you think of him being of such a nature and disposition? He is drunk already; anything you like may be proved for him. Besides, what is the greatest point of all, this person will say that he brings, and not that he applies for, money. CALLICLES
Now, that's enough. MEGARONIDES
I am now going to hire a sharper3 from the Forum, and then I will seal the two letters; and I'll send him thither pointing to the house of CHARMIDES , well tutored in his part, to this young man. CALLICLES
I am going in-doors then to my duty in consequence. Do you see about this matter. MEGARONIDES
I'll take care it's done in the very cleverest style. (Exeunt.)
1 His father's signet: The custom of wearing rings among the Romans was said to have been derived from the Sabines. The stones set in them were generally engraved with some design, and they were universally used by both Greeks and Romans for the purpose of a seal. So common was the practice among the Greeks, that Solon made a very wholesome law which forbade engravers to keep the form of a seal which they had sold. In some rings the seal was cut in the metal itself. The designs engraved on rings were various; sometimes portraits of ancestors or friends, and sometimes subjects connected with the mythology or the worship of the Gods. The onyx was the stone most frequently used in rings. The genuineness of a letter was tested, not by the signature, but by the seal appended to it; hence the anxiety of Callicles on the present occasion.
2 The custom-house officers: The "portitores" were the officers who collected the "portorium," or "import duty," on goods brought from foreign countries. These "portitores," to whom it was frequently farmed, greatly annoyed the merchants by their unfair conduct and arbitrary proceedings. At Rome, all commodities, including slaves, which were imported for the purpose of selling again, were subject to the "portorium." The present instance is an illustration of the license of their proceedings, for we can hardly suppose that they were entitled as of right to break open the seals of letters from foreign countries.
3 A sharper: "Sycophanta." At an early period there was a law at Athens against the exportation of figs. In spite, however, of prohibitions and penalties; the fig-growers persisted in exporting the fruit. To inform the authorities against the practice was deemed mean and vexatious, so the statute came in time to be looked upon as obsolete. Hence, the term δυκοφαντεῖν, "to inform relative to the exportation of figs," came to be applied to all mean and dishonest accusations. In time, the word "sycophant" came to be applied to a man who was a cunning and villanous character, and who, as it has been justly observed, in Dr Smith's Dictionary, was "a happy compound of the common barretor, informer, pettifogger, busybody, rogue, liar, and slanderer." In fact, he was such a person as we mean by the epithet "swindler" or "sharper." Information being encouraged by the policy of Athens, and the informer gaining half the reward, it was upon this honourable calling that the "sycophantæ" in general thrived They were ready, however, for any other job, however dishonorable, and perjury would not be declined by them if they could obtain their price. They would, consequently be much in the neighbourhood of the Courts of justice; and the Forum, as in the present instance, would not be an unlikely place to meet with them.
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.