THE BIRDS CHAT page two July 12, 2002
Online Chat on The Birds, a comedy by Aristophanes. One of dozens of online chats by members of Ancient Sites studying the Greek classics in translation.

22:17 - Zoe

I read that Aristophanes grew up in a rural setting and therefore equated such with peace and a better life, much like we often think of small towns as being better than big cities here
22:18 - Aphrodite

I would have liked to see the interaction between Euelpied and P after P went all power crazy
22:18 - Torrey Philemon

E could certainly have been given a leading role in the new regime!
22:18 - Aphrodite

the notes in my book said he was born and grew up in Athens
22:19 - Torrey Philemon

I find it all seems more humorous when I imagine the characters in bird costumes, esp. P and E.
22:19 - Aphrodite

You think so, Torrey? He came off as a bit of a follower...
22:19 - Morgana Flavius

In the Anon translation, Cloudcuckooland is translated as something like Ocyroccocigya... or something like that.
22:19 - Zoe

Maybe there was a subtle point in making Euel disappear in that the leaders of Athens at the time were taking power away from the group.
22:20 - Torrey Philemon

I agree Aphrodite that he was a follower; what I mean is that it would have been better playwriting if he wasn't dropped but instead given a role, even if second in command to P.
22:20 - Aphrodite

My translation says "Cuckoobury"
22:20 - Zoe

Yes, the mouthful word, I wonder how that's pronounced?
22:20 - Zoe

Do you know what year your translation was made? Just curious. The Anon is pretty old and the Arrow is newer
22:20 - Aphrodite

It definitely would have been better if he had stayed, Torrey. Or even gotten a mention after he left
22:21 - Aphrodite

it was a bit too "out of sight, out of mind" for me.
22:21 - Torrey Philemon

That's an interesting point, Zoe. Power was more in the hands of a few. Supposedly a small but very vocal and political group were responsible for the unfortunate Syracuse Expedition, which was a disaster.
22:21 - Aphrodite

I think my translation is from 1952...so pretty old
22:21 - Zoe

Maybe he wasn't really out of sight on the stage, only had no more lines given him
22:22 - Torrey Philemon

Some interpretations say that the play in part was a satire of the Syracuse Expedition, and Athens imperialism -- how Athens supposedly sought to help its allies but ended up conquering them.
22:22 - Zoe

That may put yours in between the other two I think
22:22 - Aphrodite

I think he was. My translation discribes actions in details and spefically mentioned that he went off stage never to reappear
22:22 - Morgana Flavius

Hum... Torrey, about the Syracuse expedition... wasn't it the other way around? Most Athenians wanted the expedition and just Nicias and a few others were against it?
22:24 - Torrey Philemon

I'm not sure of the numbers who were for and against, Morgana, but there was definitely a strong opposition. It was actually the aristocrats that were opposed (they had to fund the wars) and the common people (and those uprooted from the neighboring environs) who were for it.
22:24 - Morgana Flavius

(everyone looking at the Syracuse expedition notes?)
22:24 - Zoe

How well you know us Morgana *s*
22:24 - Aphrodite

I had no Syracuse expedition notes :(
22:25 - Zoe

Someone desecrated most of the herms just before the expedition set out, that would indicate that someone didn't like it
22:25 - Torrey Philemon

My knowledge of the Syracuse Expedition comes from studying the Acharnians, which was related to that...... the time of the play is an issue here though. I don't recall if the Syracuse expedition had failed or was ll in process at the time of the Birds. Anyone remember?
22:26 - Zoe

It failed in 413, Birds in 414
22:26 - Torrey Philemon

One of the reasons why it failed was because the leading general Alcibiades was considered the desecrator, and a boat went out to bring him back from the expedition for trial. Without their leader, the navy was in disarray.
22:26 - Morgana Flavius

I am not looking at the notes, but I remember something like Alcebiades wanted the expedition, convinced the people to support his motion, won, and Nicias, who was against it, proposed to build huge ships hoping that the aristocrats would then give up the idea.
22:26 - Zoe

So maybe everyone was worried about the war news at this time
22:27 - Torrey Philemon

Well the failure of the Syracuse expedition led to the defeat of Athens by Sparta, which almost ended the Athenian empire.
22:27 - Morgana Flavius

Arrowsmith notes say that by the time of Aristo's Birds, the Athenians didn't know about the failure of the expedition yet
22:28 - Torrey Philemon

Ahh, so they're not reacting to the failure, but Aristophanes is one of the aristocrats and definitely opposed to Athens' imperialistic tendencies.
22:28 - Morgana Flavius

I think so too, Torrey
22:29 - Torrey Philemon

One thing that fascinates me about the play is its relevance to US in relation to its own allies.... how we interfere and sometimes end up taking over/controlling other countries. Saying one thing and doing another.
22:29 - Morgana Flavius

After all, Aristo was making fun exactly of how imperialistic Athenians were, even when they wanted to "escape" their own imperialistic ways
22:29 - Zoe

Not only reacting but Aristophanes had many plays with the theme of peace. Maybe he just didn't care for wars
22:29 - Torrey Philemon

Did any of you think about its contemporary relevance?
22:30 - Morgana Flavius

Excellent point, Torrey
22:30 - Torrey Philemon

Athens was in a lot of debt, and the aristocracy was having to bear the burden. And maybe some like Aristophanes feared that this could only lead to disaster if Athens kept overextending itself.
22:31 - Aphrodite

Now that you've mentioned it, I do see the relevance
22:31 - Zoe

All the visitors - the poet, the informer, the surveyor, all seemed so modern to me, a very modern take off on our own bureaucrats and red tape
22:31 - Morgana Flavius

And not only regarding what powerful countries like the US do to their alies, but HOW they do it: by convincing them with "sweet" words...
22:32 - Zoe

And all the promises of our politicians today, not much has changed has it? And the lawsuit guy, typical American there *g*
22:32 - Torrey Philemon

Right Morgana. That's what's really fascinating. The sweet words, and often empty promises. Too much like politicians today, AND advertisers.
22:32 - Morgana Flavius

Right, Zoe. Good observation.
22:33 - Aphrodite

I think the sad part is that after centuries of being decieved people would *still* believe anything they're told; they delude themselves
22:33 - Morgana Flavius

yes, AND advertisers. It is important to notice that the words are not necessarily lies... they're usually a "twist" of reality
22:33 - Torrey Philemon

We were like that with Native Americans too in the 18th and 19th century. Big promises.....but then broken treaties. (Pisthetairos was even eating "traitorous birds" for dinner).
22:34 - Zoe

Which is why people still enjoy Aristophanes today, he, like Shakespeare, captured people. And people stay pretty much the same throughout time, only the circumstances change
22:34 - Torrey Philemon

Right about delusion, Aphrodite. The Birds were very gullible, succumbed to flattery. After all they were just about present at the Creation, right?
22:34 - Morgana Flavius

Voilą, Zoe!
22:35 - Torrey Philemon

Yes Zoe, the Birds really does bear some similarities to Shakespeare's comedy's doesn't it? Comic characters that stand the test of time.
22:36 - Aphrodite

I didn't see them as gullible; but rather *wanting* so badly to believe what he was telling them, that they chose NOT to look at the reality.
22:36 - Zoe

People are easily seduced by promises of 'better', because they want 'better'. They don't see the hidden implications because they don't want to
22:36 - Aphrodite

I think it was the nature of the stories he was telling that made the birds more likely to believe him
22:36 - Morgana Flavius

But I think that, regarding believing whatever is told, people do not have much alternative choices regarding politicians. At least, here in Brazil, where we're going to have elections for President in October, I find myself wondering who can I give my vote to...
22:36 - Torrey Philemon

Hmm, Aphrodite, that also sounds like how people get seduced when they want to be in love <-:
22:37 - Torrey Philemon

(Perhaps you have democracy in name only too, Morgana. When there isn't really much of a choice)
22:37 - Zoe

yes, love is a good example Torrey and I often have the same problem with voting here, Morgana - the lesser of the two evils.
22:37 - Aphrodite

LoL. exactly. People can be very --ah, I don't want to say stupid--- easily decieved. And sadly, they don't learn from their mistakes.
22:38 - Morgana Flavius

There are lots of candidates, but none of them really worth it...
22:38 - Aphrodite

Everyone knows that you can't win with unpopular opinions, so what we do get is often what we've already seen and gotten way tired of.
22:39 - Morgana Flavius

And there's one sadest thing about "Brazilian democracy": here you are required to vote. It's a duty, not a right. Voters do not have the choice not to vote.
22:39 - Torrey Philemon

Gee, Morgana, I didn't know that. Dictatorial democracy!
22:39 - Aphrodite

But, that can be good Morgana...you get to hear more people's voices
22:40 - Aphrodite

Here the people who *can* make a difference are often too lazy to go vote.
22:40 - Zoe

I didn't know that Morgana - what do they do to you if you don't vote? Can you turn in a blank ballot? Or do they look at it? What if you're sick or something when it's time to vote?
22:41 - Morgana Flavius

The majority of the population in this big country does not have the means to look for unbiased information about candidates (if there were one), but they all must vote. Who do you think they vote for? For the candidate that tells the pretiest stories, of course.
22:41 - Torrey Philemon

What I'm most aware of about P's language in the birds - and the language of many politicians and lawyers and advertisers -- and seducers of all kinds, is how the words "I am for you" cover up the reality of "I am for me" and am just going to use tricks of language to make you think I have your interests at heart.
22:41 - Morgana Flavius

Exactly Torrey, dictactorial democracy. Now live with that... gee!
22:42 - Torrey Philemon

I'm not so convinced we have real democracy here either Morgana. It's like we get to choose between coca cola and pepsi. Gee, big choice. Neither are good for you.
22:42 - Morgana Flavius

If you're sick, you have to fill out some forms and justify why you didn't vote. If you just do not show up, it goes to your records and you will be barred from any public service...
22:42 - Zoe

I think Aristophanes was exagerating the language the Athenians heard every day to make his point of lying politicians, just as editorial cartoonists exagerate the features of their subjects today
22:43 - Torrey Philemon

Right Zoe, probably a lot in the Birds was an exaggeration.There was a kind of slapstick element in his comedy.
22:43 - Morgana Flavius

Agree with you, Zoe
22:44 - Morgana Flavius

However, high language and rethoric were much appreciated by Greeks. It seems that it was considered a very fine art.
22:44 - Zoe

And remember some of the black humor that came out after last September? In times of trouble, people need a way to relax but the trouble is what's really on their minds, so the humorists take the trouble and try to laugh at it
22:45 - Morgana Flavius

So, I think Aristo was making fun of what was considered a fine art too
22:45 - Torrey Philemon

I guess that a big issue - as language and skills of argument and persuasion develop - and how and when language becomes used to mask the truth rather than express the truth.
22:46 - Morgana Flavius

The lies are not in what you say, but in what you hide.
22:46 - Morgana Flavius

That's the art of sophism
22:46 - Zoe

I think everyone masks the truth at times, if not lying outright. Ohly with public figures, we all get to notice it more
22:47 - Torrey Philemon

I think Aristophanes satirizes the sophists in the Clouds but I haven't read that one yet. Have any of you?
22:47 - Morgana Flavius

Good point, Aphrodite.
22:48 - Morgana Flavius

Can you imagine how awful it would be if everybody would tell ALL the truth, all the time?
22:48 - Torrey Philemon

Yes, I don't really get the impression that Peisetharos was intentionally lying or deceitful. He just had unconscious motives (particularly in regard to power) influencing him.
22:48 - Morgana Flavius

Haven't read the Clouds.
22:48 - Aphrodite

It would be! We *say* we want to hear the truth, but we don't.
22:48 - Zoe

I read the Clouds years ago, but I wouldn't venture a comment on it now. That was the one where he poked at the philosophers - wasn't it?
22:49 - Torrey Philemon

Maybe it would be better Morgana if people told the truth OR kept silent! LOL! But didn't lie or deceive.
22:49 - Zoe

Sins of Omission?
22:49 - Aphrodite

There is a reason 'tact' is an admired quality.
22:50 - Morgana Flavius

Yes, Torrey, that would be the ideal. But can you imagine silent politicians?
22:50 - Zoe

I want to know some of the truth. But I want to pick which part I can deal with today. LOL!
22:50 - Aphrodite

Torrey, I think then, a lot of people would have nothing to say!
22:50 - Morgana Flavius

Yes, Aprhodite, tact and common sense.
22:51 - Zoe

Question: in the anon version Epops asks the Athenians when they first arrive if they are dicasts. What's a dicast? It's not in my dictionary.
22:51 - Torrey Philemon

I do like SOME of Arrowsmith's translations -
"Down in the land of Gab
We saw a wierd race of people
earning their bread by blab.
Their name is the Claptraptummies.
Their only tool is talk."
22:51 - Morgana Flavius

I imagine that the people Aristophanes made fun of in his plays would feel very uncomfortable with his plays.
22:51 - Zoe

Oh, I liked that part, apparently Greeks cut out the tongues of informers
22:52 - Morgana Flavius

dicast (dģ“kąst“, dīk“ąst“) noun
One of the 6,000 citizens chosen each year in ancient Athens to sit in the law courts, with functions resembling those of a judge and juror.

Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language
22:52 - Torrey Philemon

Zoe - trying to find the passage you mentioned. Is it just as they first meet the Birds?
22:53 - Zoe

That was quick! You must have known I'd ask! Thanks
22:53 - Zoe

Yes, Torrey
22:54 - Morgana Flavius

(I have the dictionary here in my pc, Zoe)
22:54 - Morgana Flavius

I had to look it up when I read that word too
22:54 - Torrey Philemon

Ah, Arrowsmith says:
HOOPOE: Then you must be jurymen (bottom page 195, Arrowsmith)
22:54 - Morgana Flavius

Another thing that was like a surprise for me
22:55 - Torrey Philemon

Arrowmisth notes: "the familiar taunt because everybody in Athens is on a jury"
22:55 - Zoe

I never thought to look at the other translation to find out *slapping my forehead*
22:55 - Morgana Flavius

I had no idea that in ancient times there was something like people getting crazy about some new fashion, and buying all kinds of gimmicks related to a new movie, a toy, etc.
22:56 - Torrey Philemon

Good dictionary, Morgana.
22:56 - Morgana Flavius

(thanks, T)
22:57 - Zoe

Didn't they have something like the government of the 5000 right around this time? That's an awful lot of people. How did they ever reach a concensus? But then I suppose that's where the handful of tyrants came in, to get things functioning, or so they would have said
22:57 - Morgana Flavius

It was fun reading in a 5th century BC play how people were getting feathers, buying bird stuff, etc. when the new bird gods were instanted.
22:57 - Torrey Philemon

One object of Aristophanes' satire in other plays (I'm studying the Acharnians and Assembly-Women now) is that jurors got paid to be jurors and any citizens who arrived first could be a juror. So those that clamored to be jurors and got there first were those out for the money, not necessarily those with political conscience.
22:58 - Zoe

Good point Morgana, I hadn't thought of that angle
22:58 - Torrey Philemon

Zoe, from what I recall, the government of the 5000 happened after the Sicilian expedition and then the defeat of Athens by Sparta. For about a year or less, an oligarchic government took over, and then democracy - limited by Spartan power - was reinstituted. But this was at least five years later.
22:58 - Morgana Flavius

Did any of you here saw or heard about a rock-opera called "Tommy"?
22:59 - Zoe

I remember that one, I never saw it but I had the soundtrack
22:59 - Morgana Flavius

I'd say that the guy who wrote "Tommy" did his Greek comedy homework very well. Cause it's all there
23:00 - Zoe

oh (thinking) yes! a nobody becoming a somebody, wans't it?
23:00 - Torrey Philemon

About people going for the fads - I think too of the Native Americans and how they bought into all the material novelties that the white men tempted them with. And how we pc-ers have kept getting seduced (until recently maybe) with each new operating system and piece of software.
23:00 - Morgana Flavius

When the deft, dumb and blind kid became a pinball wizard, everybody went out to buy corks for their ears, eyeshades for their eyes, and tapes to seal their mouths and become just like their new hero
23:01 - Torrey Philemon

Ah, the appeal of novel and hero-worship.
23:01 - Zoe

I wonder why humans have such a propensity for mimicry of public figures? I don't do that. Maybe I'm weird.
23:02 - Morgana Flavius

I don't do that either, Zoe. I find it ridiculous.
23:02 - Aphrodite

Being 'normal' is over-rated. People have only to hear the expression "everyone else is doing it" to actually participate and MAKE that statement come true
23:02 - Zoe

Myth references can be made for lots of things that didn't have the intent in the beginning simply because the myth stories are pretty timeless too, explaining the attributes of people
23:03 - Morgana Flavius

But has any of you thought that in ancient Athens it was just like that too?
23:03 - Torrey Philemon

Well I'm guilty of taking pictures of the top figure skaters and having a business selling them on Ebay. A lot of people want pictures of their skating heroes - it's like a way of identifying with them/incorporating them.
23:03 - Morgana Flavius

thought it was a modern trait
23:04 - Zoe

No, I hadn't Morgana. And your pointing it out makes those people seem more alive to me, people don't change much, basically, do they?
23:04 - Aphrodite

Not before reading the play, but I think it makes sense that people of all time do this sort of thing


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