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The protagonist, Dikaiopolis, miraculously obtains a private peace treaty with The Spartans and he enjoys the benefits of peace in spite of opposition from some of his fellow Athenians.
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Published by Sovereign Classic
First published in 2016
Copyright © 2016 Sovereign Classic
WIFE OF DICAEOPOLIS.
DAUGHTER OF DICAEOPOLIS.
CEPHISOPHON, servant of Euripides.
ATTENDANT OF LAMACHUS.
MAIDENS, daughters of the Megarian.
CHORUS OF ACHARNIAN ELDERS.
SCENE: The Athenian Ecclesia on the Pnyx; afterwards Dicaeopolis’ house in the country.
DICAEOPOLIS (alone). 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; I was in ecstasy and I love the Knights for this deed; ‘it is an honour to Greece.’ But the day when I was impatiently awaiting a piece by Aeschylus, what tragic despair it caused me when the herald called, “Theognis, 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 Chaeris perform the prelude in the Orthian mode!—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 Pnyx is still deserted. They are gossiping in the market-place, slipping hither and thither to avoid the vermilioned rope. The Prytanes 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, 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 aught 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.
HERALD. Move on up, move on, move on, to get within the consecrated area.
AMPHITHEUS. Has anyone spoken yet?
HERALD. Who asks to speak?
AMPHITHEUS. I do.
HERALD. Your name?
HERALD. You are no man.
AMPHITHEUS. No! I am an immortal! Amphitheus was the son of Ceres and Triptolemus; of him was born Celeus. Celeus wedded Phaencreté, my grandmother, whose son was Lucinus, and, being born of him, I am an immortal; it is to me alone that the gods have entrusted the duty of treating with the Lacedaemonians. But, citizens, though I am immortal, I am dying of hunger; the Prytanes give me naught.
A PRYTANIS. Guards!
AMPHITHEUS. Oh, Triptolemus and Ceres, do ye thus forsake your own blood?
DICAEOPOLIS. Prytanes, in expelling this citizen, you are offering an outrage to the Assembly. He only desired to secure peace for us and to sheathe the sword.
PRYTANIS. Sit down and keep silence!
DICAEOPOLIS. No, by Apollo, will I not, unless you are going to discuss the question of peace.
HERALD. The ambassadors, who are returned from the Court of the King!
DICAEOPOLIS. Of what King? I am sick of all those fine birds, the peacock ambassadors and their swagger.
DICAEOPOLIS. Oh! oh! by Ecbatana, what assumption!
AN AMBASSADOR. During the archonship of Euthymenes, you sent us to the
Great King on a salary of two drachmae per diem.
DICAEOPOLIS. Ah! those poor drachmae!
AMBASSADOR. We suffered horribly on the plains of the Ca˙ster, sleeping under a tent, stretched deliciously on fine chariots, half dead with weariness.
DICAEOPOLIS. And I was very much at ease, lying on the straw along the battlements!
AMBASSADOR. Everywhere we were well received and forced to drink delicious wine out of golden or crystal flagons….
DICAEOPOLIS. Oh, city of Cranaus, thy ambassadors are laughing at thee!
AMBASSADOR. For great feeders and heavy drinkers are alone esteemed as men by the barbarians.
DICAEOPOLIS. Just as here in Athens, we only esteem the most drunken debauchees.
AMBASSADOR. At the end of the fourth year we reached the King’s Court, but he had left with his whole army to ease himself, and for the space of eight months he was thus easing himself in midst of the golden mountains.
DICAEOPOLIS. And how long was he replacing his dress?
AMBASSADOR. The whole period of a full moon; after which he returned to his palace; then he entertained us and had us served with oxen roasted whole in an oven.
DICAEOPOLIS. Who ever saw an oxen baked in an oven? What a lie!
AMBASSADOR. On my honour, he also had us served with a bird three times as large as Cleonymus, and called the Boaster.
DICAEOPOLIS. And do we give you two drachmae, that you should treat us to all this humbug?
AMBASSADOR. We are bringing to you, Pseudartabas, the King’s Eye.
DICAEOPOLIS. I would a crow might pluck out thine with his beak, thou cursed ambassador!
HERALD. The King’s Eye!
DICAEOPOLIS. Eh! Great gods! Friend, with thy great eye, round like the hole through which the oarsman passes his sweep, you have the air of a galley doubling a cape to gain the port.
AMBASSADOR. Come, Pseudartabas, give forth the message for the Athenians with which you were charged by the Great King.
PSEUDARTABAS. Jartaman exarx ‘anapissonnai satra.
AMBASSADOR. Do you understand what he says?
DICAEOPOLIS. By Apollo, not I!
AMBASSADOR. He says, that the Great King will send you gold. Come, utter the word ‘gold’ louder and more distinctly.
DICAEOPOLIS. Thou shalt not have gold, thou gaping-arsed Ionian.
DICAEOPOLIS. Ah! may the gods forgive me, but that is clear enough.
AMBASSADOR. What does he say?
DICAEOPOLIS. That the Ionians are debauchees and idiots, if they expect to receive gold from the barbarians.
AMBASSADOR. Not so, he speaks of medimni of gold.
DICAEOPOLIS. What medimni? Thou art but a great braggart; but get your way, I will find out the truth by myself. Come now, answer me clearly, if you do not wish me to dye your skin red. Will the Great King send us gold? (Pseudartabas makes a negative sign.) Then our ambassadors are seeking to deceive us? (Pseudartabas signs affirmatively.) These fellows make signs like any Greek; I am sure that they are nothing but Athenians. Oh, ho! I recognize one of these eunuchs; it is Clisthenes, the son of Sibyrtius. Behold the effrontery of this shaven rump! How! great baboon, with such a beard do you seek to play the eunuch to us? And this other one? Is it not Straton?
HERALD. Silence! Let all be seated. The Senate invites the King’s Eye to the Prytaneum.
DICAEOPOLIS. Is this not sufficient to drive one to hang oneself? Here I stand chilled to the bone, whilst the doors of the Prytaneum fly wide open to lodge such rascals. But I will do something great and bold. Where is Amphitheus? Come and speak with me.
AMPHITHEUS. Here I am.
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