The Birds by Aristophanes
Comparison of Six Translations of Aristophanes from the Greek
compiled by Tracy Marks    (Torrey Philemon)
Aristophanes book chat July 2002 at Classica Book Discussions,
Greek classics chats at Webworkzone. For more information, please email Tracy Marks   

Athenian Society 1912 translation
(almost identical to O'Neill, published in Aristophanes, Eleven Comedies, Tudor, 1912)

Benjamin Bickley Rogers translation, 1924,
Aristophanes: The Peace, The Birds, The Frogs
Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Library

[1268] INFORMER: My friend, I am asking you for wings, not for words.

PITHETAERUS: 'Tis just my words that gives you wings.

INFORMER: And how can you give a man wings with your words?

PITHETAERUS: Tis thus that all first start.


PITHETAERUS: Have you not often heard the father say to young men in the barbers' shops, "It's astonishing how Diitrephes' advice has made my son fly to horse- riding."- "Mine," says another, "has flown toward tragic poetry on the wings of his imagination."

[1280] INFORMER: So that words give wings?

PITHETAERUS: Undoubtedly; words give wings to the mind and make a man soar to heaven. Thus I hope that my wise words will give you wings to fly to some less degrading trade.

[1285] INFORMER: But I do not want to.

PITHETAERUS: What do you reckon on doing then?

INFORMER: I won't belie my breeding; from generation to generation we have lived by informing. Quick, therefore, give me quickly some light, swift hawk or kestrel wings, so that I may summon the islanders, sustain the accusation here, and haste back there again on flying pinions.

[1290] PITHETAERUS: I see. In this way the stranger will be condemned even before he appears.

INFORMER: That's just it.

[1294] PITHETAERUS: And while he is on his way here by sea, you will be flying to the islands to despoil him of his property.

INFORMER: Come, come no preaching; wing me, wing me, please.

PISTHETAIROS: I wing you now by talking.

INFORMER: What, by talk
Can you wing men?

PISTHETAIROS: Undoubtedly. By talk
All men are winged.


PISTHETAIROS: Have you never heard
The way the fathers in the barbers' shops
Talk to the children, sang things like these,
"Diietrephes has winged my youngster so
By specious talk, he's all for chariot-driving."
"Aye, says another, "And that boy of  mine
Flutters his wings at every Tragic Play."

INFORMER: So then by talk they are winged?

Through talk, the mind flutters and soars aloft,
And all the man takes wing. And so even now
I wish to turn you, winging you by talk,
To some more honest trade.

INFORMER: But I DON'T wish it.


INFORMER: I'll not disgrace my upbringing.
I'll ply the trade my father's fathers plied,
So wing me, please, with light quick-darting wings
Falcon's or kestrel's, so Ill serve my writs
Abroad on strangers; then accuse them here;
Then dart back there again.

PISTHETAIROS: I understand.
So when they come, they'll find the suit decided,
And payment ordered.

[1513] PROMETHEUS:  It's all over with Zeus..

PITHETAERUS:  Ah! and since when, pray?

PROMETHEUS:  Since you founded this city in the air. There is not a man who now sacrifices to the gods; the smoke of the victims no longer reaches us. Not the smallest offering comes! We fast as though it were the festival of Demeter.  The barbarian gods, who are dying of hunger, are bawling like Illyrians and threaten to make an armed descent upon Zeus, if he does not open markets where joints of the victims are sold.

PISTHETAERUS:  And what is the name of these gods?

PROMETHEUS:  Their name? Why, the Triballi.

[1530] PISTHETAERUS:  Ah, indeed! 'tis from that no doubt that we derive the word tribulation.

PISTHETAERUS:  Most likely. But one thing I can tell you for certain, namely, that Zeus and the celestial Triballi are going to send deputies here to sue for peace. Now don't you treat with them, unless Zeus restores the scepter to the birds and gives you Basileia in marriage.

PISTHETAERUS: Who is this Basileia?

PROMETHEUS:  A very fine young damsel, who makes the lightning for Zeus; all things come from her, wisdom, good laws, virtue, the fleet, calumnies, the public paymaster and the triobolus.

PISTHETAERUS:  Ah! then she is a sort of general manageress to the god.

[1544] PROMETHEUS:  Yes, precisely. If he gives you her for your wife, yours will be the almighty for you know my constant and habitual goodwill towards men.

PISTHETAERUS:  Oh, yes! it's thanks to you that we roast our meat.

PROMETHEUS: All's up with Zeus.

PISTHETARIOS: Good gracious me! Since when?

PROMETHEUS: Since first you build your city in the air.
For never from the hour does mortal bring
Burnt-offerings to the Gods, or savory steam
Ascend to heaven from flesh of victims slain.
So now we fast a Thesmophorian fast,
No altars burning; and the Barbarous Gods
Half-starved, and gibbering like Illyrians, vow
That they'll come marching down on Zeus, unless
He gets the marts reopened, and the bits
Of savoury innards introduced once more.

PISTHETARIOS: What, are there really other Gods,
Barbarians, Up above you?

PROMETHEUS: Barbarians? Yes; thence comes
The ancestral God of Execestides.

PISTHETAIROS: And what's the name of these Barbarian Gods?

PROMETHEUS: The name? Triballians.

PISTHETAIROS: Aye, I understand.
'Tis from the quarter Tribulation comes.

PROMETHEUS: Exactly so. And now I tell you this;
Envoys will soon be here to treat for peace,
Sent down by Zeus and those Triballians there.
But makes no peace, mankind that, unless king Zeus
Restores the sceptre to the Birds again,
And gives yourself Miss Sovereignty to wife.

PISTHETAIROS: And who's Miss Sovereignty?

PROMETHEUS: The loveliest girl.
'Tis she who keeps the thunderbolts of Zeus,
And all his stores, - good counsels, happy laws,
Sound common sense, dockyards, abusive speech,
All his three obols, and the man who pays them.


PROMETHEUS: Of course she does.
Win her from Zeus, and YOU'LL have EVERYTHING.
I hastened here that I might tell you this,
You know I am always well disposed to men.

PISTHETAIROS:  Aye, but for you we could not fry our fish.

[1570] POSEIDON:  Oh! democracy!
whither, oh! whither are you leading us?
Is it possible that the gods have chosen
such an envoy? .....Tell me, Herakles,
What are we going to do?

HERAKLES: I have already told you that I want to strangle the fellow who dared to block us in..

POSEIDON: But, my friend,
We are envoys of peace.

HERAKLES: All the more reason
Why I wish to strangle him.

POSEIDON: O Democracy,
What will you bring us to at last, I wonder
If voting Gods elect a clown like this....
Now Heracles, what's to be done?

HERACLES: You have heard
What I propose; I'd throttle the man off-hand,
Whoever he is, that dares blockade the Gods.

POSEIDON: My dear good fellow,
You forget we are sent
To treat for peace.

HERACLES: I'd throttle him all the more.

[1676] PISTHETAERUS: Then all depends on the Triballus.
To the Triballus: What do you say?

TRIBALLUS: Big bird give daughter pretty and queen.

HERACLES: You say that you give her?

POSEIDON: Why no, he does not say anything of the sort, that he gives her; else I cannot understand any better than the swallows?

PISTHETARIOS: All rests with this Triballian. What say you?

TRIBALLOS: Me gulna charmi grati Sovranau
Birdito stori.

HERACLES: There! He said, Restore her.

POSEIDON: O no, by Zeus, he never said Restore her;
He said to migrate as the swallows do.

[1688] CHORUS: (singing)
At Phanae, near the Clepsydra, there dwells a people who have neither faith nor law,
the Englottogastors, who reap, sow,
pluck the vines and the figs with their tongues;
they belong to a barbaric race,
and among them the Philippi
and the Gorgiases are to be found.....

CHORUS: (singing)
In the fields of Litigation
Near the water-clock, a nation
With its tongue, its belly fills.
With its tongue it sows and reaps,
Gathers grapes and figs in heaps,
With its tongue the soil it tills.
For a Barbarous tribe it passes,
Philips all and Gorgiases.....

 THE BIRDS (in Greek)
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