The Ecclesiazusae - Aristophanes - ebook

A group of women, led by the wise and redoubtable Praxagora, has decided that the women of Athens must convince the men to give them control of the city, as they are convinced they can do a better job. Disguised as men, the women sneak into the assembly and command the majority of votes needed to carry their series of revolutionary proposals, even convincing some of the men to vote for it on the grounds that it is the only thing they have not tried.

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The Ecclesiazusae




New Edition

Published by Sovereign Classic

This Edition

First published in 2016

Copyright © 2016 Sovereign Classic

ISBN: 9781911535898





The ‘Ecclesiazusae was not produced till twenty years after the preceding play, the ‘Thesmophoriazusae’ (at the Great Dionysia of 392 B.C.), but is conveniently classed with it as being also largely levelled against the fair sex. “It is a broad, but very amusing, satire upon those ideal republics, founded upon communistic principles, of which Plato’s well-known treatise is the best example. His ‘Republic’ had been written, and probably delivered in the form of oral lectures at Athens, only two or three years before, and had no doubt excited a considerable sensation. But many of its most startling principles had long ago been ventilated in the Schools.”

Like the ‘Lysistrata,’ the play is a picture of woman’s ascendancy in the State, and the topsy-turvy consequences resulting from such a reversal of ordinary conditions. The women of Athens, under the leadership of the wise Praxagora, resolve to reform the constitution. To this end they don men’s clothes, and taking seats in the Assembly on the Pnyx, command a majority of votes and carry a series of revolutionary proposals—that the government be vested in a committee of women, and further, that property and women be henceforth held in common. The main part of the comedy deals with the many amusing difficulties that arise inevitably from this new state of affairs, the community of women above all necessitating special safeguarding clauses to secure the rights of the less attractive members of the sex to the service of the younger and handsomer men. Community of goods again, private property being abolished, calls for a regulation whereby all citizens are to dine at the public expense in the various public halls of the city, the particular place of each being determined by lot; and the drama winds up with one of these feasts, the elaborate menu of which is given in burlesque, and with the jubilations of the women over their triumph.

“This comedy appears to labour under the very same faults as the ‘Peace.’ The introduction, the secret assembly of the women, their rehearsal of their parts as men, the description of the popular assembly, are all handled in the most masterly manner; but towards the middle the action stands still. Nothing remains but the representation of the perplexities and confusion which arise from the new arrangements, especially in connection with the community of women, and from the prescribed equality of rights in love both for the old and ugly and for the young and beautiful. These perplexities are pleasant enough, but they turn too much on a repetition of the same joke.”

We learn from the text of the play itself that the ‘Ecclesiazusae’ was drawn by lot for first representation among the comedies offered for competition at the Festival, the Author making a special appeal to his audience not to let themselves be influenced unfavourably by the circumstance; but whether the play was successful in gaining a prize is not recorded.



BLEPYRUS, husband of Praxagora.













SCENE: Before a house in a Public Square at Athens; a lamp is burning over the door. Time: a little after midnight.

PRAXAGORA (enters carrying a lamp in her hand). Oh! thou shining light of my earthenware lamp, from this high spot shalt thou look abroad. Oh! lamp, I will tell thee thine origin and thy future; ‘tis the rapid whirl of the potter’s wheel that has lent thee thy shape, and thy wick counterfeits the glory of the sun;[648] mayst thou send the agreed signal flashing afar! In thee alone do we confide, and thou art worthy, for thou art near us when we practise the various postures in which Aphrodité delights upon our couches, and none dream even in the midst of her sports of seeking to avoid thine eye that watches our swaying bodies. Thou alone shinest into the depths of our most secret charms, and with thy flame dost singe the hairy growth of our privates. If we open some cellar stored with fruits and wine, thou art our companion, and never dost thou betray or reveal to a neighbour the secrets thou hast learned about us. Therefore thou shalt know likewise the whole of the plot that I have planned with my friends, the women, at the festival of the Scirophoria.[649]

I see none of those I was expecting, though dawn approaches; the Assembly is about to gather and we must take our seats in spite of Phyromachus,[650] who forsooth would say, “It is meet the women sit apart and hidden from the eyes of the men.” Why, have they not been able then to procure the false beards that they must wear, or to steal their husbands cloaks? Ah! I see a light approaching; let us draw somewhat aside, for fear it should be a man.

FIRST WOMAN. Let us start, it is high time; as we left our dwellings, the cock was crowing for the second time.

PRAXAGORA. And I have spent the whole night waiting for you. But come, let us call our neighbour by scratching at her door; and gently too, so that her husband may hear nothing.

SECOND WOMAN. I was putting on my shoes, when I heard you scratching, for I was not asleep, so there! Oh! my dear, my husband (he is a Salaminian) never left me an instant’s peace, but was at me, for ever at me, all night long, so that it was only just now that I was able to filch his cloak.

FIRST WOMAN. I see Clinareté coming too, along with Sostraté and their next-door neighbour Philaeneté.

PRAXAGORA. Hurry yourselves then, for Glycé has sworn that the last comer shall forfeit three measures of wine and a choenix of pease.

FIRST WOMAN. Don’t you see Melisticé, the wife of Smicythion, hurrying hither in her great shoes? Methinks she is the only one of us all who has had no trouble in getting rid of her husband.

SECOND WOMAN. And can’t you see Gusistraté, the tavern-keeper’s wife, with a lamp in her hand, and the wives of Philodoretus and Chaeretades?

PRAXAGORA. I can see many others too, indeed the whole of the flower of


THIRD WOMAN. Oh! my dear, I have had such trouble in getting away! My husband ate such a surfeit of sprats last evening that he was coughing and choking the whole night long.

PRAXAGORA. Take your seats, and, since you are all gathered here at last, let us see if what we decided on at the feast of the Scirophoria has been duly done.

FOURTH WOMAN. Yes. Firstly, as agreed, I have let the hair under my armpits grow thicker than a bush; furthermore, whilst my husband was at the Assembly, I rubbed myself from head to foot with oil and then stood the whole day long in the sun.[651]

FIFTH WOMAN. So did I. I began by throwing away my razor, so that I might get quite hairy, and no longer resemble a woman.

PRAXAGORA. Have you the beards that we had all to get ourselves for the


FOURTH WOMAN. Yea, by Hecaté! Is this not a fine one?

FIFTH WOMAN. Aye, much finer than Epicrates’.[652]

PRAXAGORA (to the other women). And you?

FOURTH WOMAN. Yes, yes; look, they all nod assent.

PRAXAGORA. I see that you have got all the rest too, Spartan shoes, staffs and men’s cloaks, as ‘twas arranged.

SIXTH WOMAN. I have brought Lamias’[653] club, which I stole from him while he slept.

PRAXAGORA. What, the club that makes him puff and pant with its weight?

SIXTH WOMAN. By Zeus the Deliverer, if he had the skin of Argus, he would know better than any other how to shepherd the popular herd.

PRAXAGORA. But come, let us finish what has yet to be done, while the stars are still shining; the Assembly, at which we mean to be present, will open at dawn.

FIRST WOMAN. Good; you must take up your place at the foot of the platform and facing the Prytanes.

SIXTH WOMAN. I have brought this with me to card during the Assembly. (She shows some wool.)

PRAXAGORA. During the Assembly, wretched woman?

SIXTH WOMAN. Aye, by Artemis! shall I hear any less well if I am doing a bit of carding? My little ones are all but naked.