The Acharnians by Aristophanes
Comparison of Translations from the Greek
compiled by Tracy Marks    (Torrey Philemon)
Aristophanes BIRDS and ACHARNIAN chats at Classica Book Discussions,
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Jeffrey Henderson translation
(Loeb Classical Library)
Lionel Casson translation
from Masters of Ancient Comedy
Listen to any long speeches from you?
I'm going to get even with you, that's what.
A man who made peace with Sparta!

Gentlemen,  leave the Spartans out of this. Just listen to me and decide whether or not I was right to make my treaty.

Don't talk to me about being right - not when you've made a treaty with the people who don't know what it is is to respect an oath or keep a faith.

DICAEOPOLIS (pointedly)
But I happen to know that these Spartans, these people we're so terribly angry at, are not responsible for all our troubles.

Not responsible for all our troubles? Damn you, how dare you say that to my face! And you want me to spare you!

DICAEOPOLIS (stubbornly)
No, I tell you, not all. And I can prove to you right now that there have been lots of times when they have been the injured party.

CHORUS: What a thing to say! Enough to give a man a heart attack! You mean you have the nerve to argue in favor of our enemies?

What's more, I'm willing to put my head on the block while I speak, and, if what I say isn't true and I don't convince the people - (He draws his fingers across his neck)

[365]  It's incredible how sour men's minds can be! They're willing to heave stones and holler, but not to listen to a dose of good sense - not even when I'm willing to say what I have to say about Sparta with my head on a block........

See, here's the block. And here's the poor little speaker. But don't worry, by god, I'm coming out fighting. I'm going to speak my mind in favor of Sparta. And yet I know there are a lot of things I should be afraid of. I know what our people from the rural areas are like. Some crooked politico praises them and the state to the skies and right or wrong, they lap it up. They never realize they're being sold down the river......

You're the one who treats with Spartans.
Now we're going to punish you!

Gentlemen, forget the Spartans.
Put that issue to the side.
Think about the treaty question,
Whether what I did was right.

How can what you did be righteous,
Dealing first of all with THEM.
Spartans who have no respect
for gods or oaths or covenants?

I'm convinced that even Spartans
whom we treat with too much spite,
can't be held responsible for
ALL the troubles that we have.

Not responsible? You scoundrel!
Dare you say that openly,
right to our face, and after that you
think that we would let you off?

Not for all our troubles, not for all,
I said, and in a speech
I could show you how in some ways
we're the party in the wrong.

Dreadful are the words you utter!
How they shake me to the heart!
Do you really dare defend our enemies
In a speech to us?

.....[353] DICAEOPOLIS
A dreadful thing, that passions should become
so vinegary that men throw stones and shout
and not be willing to listen to all sides
when I'm prepared to say, upon a block,
in defense of the Spartans what I have to say.....

All  right, then look: the butcher's block is here,
and here is little me who's going to speak.
Don't worry, I won't hide behind a shield,
but make my case in favor of the Spartans.
And yet I'm very scared; I know the ways
of farmers,  how delightedly they listen
to any phony speaker with eulogies
on them and on the polis, true or false.
They're unaware of being bought and sold.

Now, I hate the Spartans, and I hope Poseidon, God of Earthquakes, their own special god, brings every house in their town down on their heads. My poor vines have been cut too. But - I can talk openly, we're all friends here - why blame things on the Spartans? Certain Athenians - I don't say the whole state, mind you, I do NOT say the whole state - certain small-minded troublemakers, worthless bad pennies, counterfeits, kept denouncing as contraband the little coats Megara used to export us.......

You'll tell me Sparta shouldn't have done it. All right, tell me what she should have done? Supposed a Spartan sailed out in a skiff, took a puppy from your tiniest island, declared it contraband, and sold it off. Would you sit still and stay home?  You would not! You'd order out a fleet of three hundred galleys on the spot.....    

Is that so? Damn you, god damn you!
What do you mean, you beggar, talking to us like that?
What's more, you've insulted every informer in Athens!

By god, every word he says is true. He hasn't lied one.

Even if it's true, why did he have to talk about it? He can't speak that way and get away with it....

LAMACHUS: (throwing up his hands)
Oh, Democracy! Must a man put up with this?

Myself, I hate the Spartans with all my heart,
and hope the god Poseidon once again
will send a quake that shakes their houses down.
I too have vines the Spartans have cut down.
But friends - for there are only friends here listening -
why blame these things entirely on the Spartans?
It was men of ours - I do not say our polis;
remember that, I do not say our polis -
but some badly-minded troublemaking creeps
some worthless counterfeit foreign currency,
who started denouncing shirts from Megara.......

You say they shouldn't have, but what instead?
Come, what if a Spartan sailed out in his boat
and denounced and sold a pup from Seiphus,
would have have calmly sat at home? Far from it!
Why, you'd have instantaneously dispatched
three hundred ships...........

Oh, yeah, you damnable scurvy villain you?
Do you, a beggar, dare say this of us,
and if there be the odd informer, blame us?

He does, by god, and everything he says
is just; in no particular does he lie.

Well, even so,  had he any right to say it?
He won't be glad he dared to say such things!

Democracy, can such talk be endured?

We'll never ask the War-god
to our neighborhood,
Nor in his presence sing a patriotic tune,
For when the War-god drinks
he acts the perfect goon.

When we were prosperous
he burst upon the scene,
Committed crimes, upended
and wasted everything.
He'd fight and when we said,
“sit down and have a sip;
Let's drink a friendly toast
to our good fellowship,”
Instead he'd turn more violent,
set fire to our vines,
And tramp them till he'd squeezed out
every drop of wine.

To dinner he's prepared to fly,
his pride is very great;
To flaunt his feasting he has tossed
these feathers from his gate.
Of lovely Aphrodite and the Graces her relations
We call upon the foster-child
sweet Reconciliation.

How fair a face you had I never understood!
I wish that Cupid might unite us two for good.

[980] CHORUS (singing)
I'll never invite to my house
the terrible God of War.
He'll never sit at my table
or join in the merriment there.
For he is a drunkard who staggered in tipsy
when we were enjoying
All the good things of life. He broke things
he spilled things, he brawled,
He brought on us all kinds of woe.
When we begged him to stop, when we said,
"Please have a seat. Now a toast altogether
to brotherly love,"
He answered by piling even higher than ever
our vines on his fires,
And spilling, to spite us, the wine in our vines,
all the wines in our vines.

What a sight, what a sight!
Look at him! Ready to swoop on his banquet,
elated and proud.
To show how he lives now, he's scattered
these feathers in front of his door.
O Peace, sister to the lovely Goddess of Love
and the Graces,
Never till now have I known how full fair
was your face.

Would that some Eros,
crowned with a garland of flowers
.... Might lead you, O Peace, to my side.

THE ACHARNIANS (in Greek) A translation by Alan Sommerstein (available
at may be posted in the future.
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