Excerpt From The Acharnians In Plain and Simple English
SCENE: The Athenian Ecclesia on Pnyx; afterwards Dicaeopolis’ house in the country
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 marketplace, 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 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.
What problems haven’t I endured, and what few pleasures have I had in my life?! Only four things have ever made me happy, while I’ve had as many troubles as there are grains of sand on a beach. Let me remember! What good have those few times I’ve been happy been to me? Ah! I remember I was quite happy when Cleon was forced to return the bribe he had received. It made me rejoice and I admired the Knights for forcing him to do so, “it is an honor to Greece.” But I also remember when I went to go see a play by Aeschylus and instead I heard them call out to Theognis to introduce his Chorus. Imagine how terrible I felt! On the other hand, listening to Dexitheus at the music competition play a Boeotian song on his lyre made me so happy! But this year’s competitors are so much worse! Listening to Chaeris perform the prelude in the Orthian mode was torture! And now the dust is hurting my eyes worse than it ever has in my entire life. It’s the day of the city meeting and the entire city should have been here at dawn, and yet the place is deserted. Everyone is out in the marketplace talking and trying to avoid the being fined for not showing up. Not even the Prytanes are here. Sure, they’ll show up late, and then they’ll fight over who gets to sit in the front. And they’ll never talk about the possibility of ending this war with the Lacedaemonians. Oh! Athens! Athens! I came here on time, before everyone else, and all I can do is be bored, stretch, and fart around. I make pictures in the dirt, play with my hair, contemplate, wonder about my farm, think about peace, complain about city life, and wish I could be back home in the country. At home, no one is trying to sell me anything, and I can just go out and take what I want from my own fields. Being in the city has put me in a bad mood, and I’m going to give the speakers a terrible time by yelling, interrupting, and insulting them if they talk about anything other than peace. Here come the Prytanes now, even though they’re hours late. And as I said, they’re fighting over who gets to sit in the front.
Move on up, move on, move on, to get with within the consecrated area.
Everyone hurry up and get into your council seats.
Has anyone spoken yet?
Have any speakers gone up?
Who asks to speak?
And who are you?
You are no man.
Amphitheus means “divine on both sides’’; clearly you are no mere mortal.
No! I am an immortal! Amphitheus was the son of Ceres and Triptolemus; of him was born Celeus. Celeus wedded Phaenerete, 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
No! I am a god! My great-great grandparents were the gods Ceres and Triptolemus, who gave birth to my great grandfather Amphitheus. His son was Celeus, and Celeus married Phaenerete, my grandmother, who gave birth to my father Lucinius. My family tree proves I’m an immortal and that dealings with the Lacedaemonians is my divine responsibility. But even though I am a god, I am dying of hunger because the city council has failed in its duty to provide food.
Guards! Remove this man!
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.
Prytanes, you’ll make the entire Assembly angry by kicking this man out. He only wants peace for the city of Athens.
Sit down and keep silence!
Sit down and keep quiet!
No, by Apollo, I will not, unless you are going to discuss the question of peace.
I swear to god that I won’t unless you’re going to discuss the option of peace.
The ambassadors, who are returned from the Court of the King!
Welcome the ambassadors who’ve returned from the King’s Court.
Of what King? I am sick of all those fine birds, the peacock ambassadors and their swagger.
Which King? I’m sick of all those arrogant ambassadors with their stupid clothes.
Oh! oh! by Ecbatana, what a costume!
Geez! What a ridiculous outfit!
During the archonship of Euthymenes, you sent us to the Great King on a salary of two drachmae per diem.
When Euthymenes led the council, we were sent to the Great king on a budget of two drachma per day.
Ah! those poor drachmae!
I feel sorry for the money that had to tolerate you!
We suffered horribly on the plains of the Cayster, sleeping under a tent, stretched deliciously on fine chariots, half dead with weariness.
We suffered a lot on our travels, having to sleep under a warm tent, riding on well-made chariots and always being so tired.
And I was very much at ease, lying on the straw along the battlements!
Well I’m grateful I had it so easy, sleeping on the straw on the city’s frontlines.
Everywhere we were well received and forced to drink delicious wine out of golden or crystal flagons....
People were very welcoming, and made us drink excellent wine from elaborately made cups.
Oh, city of Cranaus, thy ambassadors are laughing at thee!
Athens! Your own ambassadors are mocking you!
For great feeders and heavy drinkers are alone esteemed as men by the barbarians.
And we had to eat and drink well- otherwise the foreigners we visited would have thought less of us.
Just as here in Athens, we only esteem the most drunken debauchees.
It’s not so much different here in Athens, where we apparently only admire drunken partiers.
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 the midst of the golden mountains.
After four years of travelling, we reached the King’s Court, but he had taken his entire army along on his vacation, and ended up vacationing for eight months.
And how long was he replacing his dress?
And how long did he take in coming back?
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.
A whole month. Once he had returned, he threw us a party and served us an entire ox that was cooked in one piece in an oven.
Who ever saw an oxen baked in an oven? What a lie!
An entire ox in an oven? Ridiculous!
On my honour, he also had us served with a bird three times as large as Cleonymus, and called the Boaster.
Honestly! He even served us a bird called the Boaster, which is three times as big as General Cleonymus.
And do we give you two drachmae, that you should treat us to all this humbug?
So are we paying you to feed us a bunch of lies?
We are bringing to you Pseudartabas, the King's Eye.
We’ve come back with Pseduartabas, one of the Persian King’s top men whose title is the King’s Eye.
I would a crow might pluck out thine with his beak, you cursed ambassador!
I would have preferred a crow take out your eyes, idiots!
The King’s Eye!
I present Pseudartabas, the King’s Eye!
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 port.
By the gods! Your eye reminds me the hole on a ship which oars row through, and you give off the impression of a ship trying to quickly reach port.
Come, Pseudartabas, give forth the message for the Athenians with which you were charged by the Great King.
Give Athens the message sent to us by the Great King, Pseudartabas.
Jartaman exarx 'anapissonia satra.
Jartaman exarx 'anapissonia satra. (This is a series of nonsensical words meant by Aristophanes to mean nothing)
Do you understand what he says?
Err.. did you understand a word of that?
By Apollo, not I!
I sure as hell didn’t!
AMBASSADOR (TO THE PRYTANES)
He says that the Great King will send you gold. Come, utter the word 'gold' louder and more distinctly.
He said that the Great King will send us gold. Say the word ‘gold’ a little louder so we can all hear it.
Thou shalt not have gold, thou gaping-arsed Ionian.
You won’t be getting one cent, you Greek idiot!
Ah! may the gods forgive me, but that is clear enough!
Yup! I heard him loud and clear that time!
What does he say?
What did he mean?
That the Ionians are debauchees and idiots, if they expect to receive gold from the barbarians.
He said that the Greeks are idiots if they honestly expected to receive gold from foreigners.
Not so, he speaks of medimni of gold.
Wrong! He was specifying an amount of gold.
What medimni? Thou are 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?
Ha! You’ve done nothing but lie. Get out of my way and I’ll find out what’s really going on here. Speak up or you’ll be covered in blood. Will the Great King send us gold? (PSEUDARTABAS MOTIONS TO SAY NO) The are the ambassadors lying to us? (PSEUDARTABAS MOTIONS TO SAY NO) These Persians are using hand motions like a Greek; I’m positive that they’re Athenians. In fact I recognize this eunuch as Clisthenes, son of Sibyrtus. Look at this shaven jerk! You would try to trick us into thinking you’re a eunuch? And isn’t this other eunuch Straton?
Silence! Let all be seated. The Senate invites the King's Eye to the Prytaneum.
Quiet! Everyone sit down. The Senate invites the king’s eye to the council’s mansion.