The Assembly Women (Ecclesiazusae)
by Aristophanes
Comparison of Four Translations from the Greek
compiled by Tracy Marks    (Torrey Philemon)
Aristophanes book chat August 16, 2002 at Classica Book Discussions,
Greek classics at Webworkzone. For more information, please email Tracy Marks   

Stephen Halliwell, translator
Aristophanes Birds and Other Plays
Oxford University Press

Robert Mayhew, translator
Assembly of Women (Ecclesiazusae)

Prometheus Books
Halliwell: Girl and Youth (955)


O love of mine, come here to me!
Come close to me, and in my bed
Resolve to spend the night with me.
I feel a dizzy passion for
The locks of hair upon your head.

The pressure of a strange desire
Is wasting all my life away.
Release me Eros from this pain,
Make sure this man
Comes to my bed.

Come here to me, Come here to me,
O love of mine, come down to me.
Rush down and open up the door,
Or I'll collapse and pine away.

I long to lie in your embrace
And wrestle with your buttocks.
O Aphrodite, I'm mad about her!
Release me, Eros, from this pain.
Mayhew: Girl and Youth (960)


Come here, come here,
My dear, come to me.
Advance, and this night
My bedfellow you'll be.
How I long for your curls -
Eros has set me on fire.
I'm overwhelmed and worn out
By some strange desire.
I seek you Eros,
I beg you - release me.
Get this youth into
My bed to relieve me.

Come here, come here,
My dear to me.
Run down, open wide
Your door to me.
If not I shall drop,
Utterly neglected.
That's not what I want,
To lie here rejected.

I want to be deep in your hollow
Trading blows with your behind.
Why or why, Aphrodite,
Do you drive me out of my mind?

From Mayhew Notes: S. Douglas Olson, in The Love Duet in Aristophanes' Ecclesiazusae, Classical Quarterly 38, argues persuasively that "the poetic basis of the scene is an Aristophanic adaptation of a well-known poetic genre with exceptionally clear and prominent sexual roles. By confusing sexual identities within this adapted song and by at the same time assigning to the Young Man lines clearly 'intended" for the Young Woman, Aristophanes offers an elaborate poetic commentary on Praxagora's new world."

Blepyrus and Praxagora

But surely men will turn
Exclusively to the prettiest ones;
it's those they'll want to bang?

But all the less attractive ones
will sit beside the beauties.
Before a man can take his pick,
he'll lay a vile one first.

But once we older men have had it off
With ugly women,
Our cocks will surely start to droop
Before we reach the others.

Blepyrus and Praxagora

Then won't everyone go after the one who is in fullest bloom, and seek to plant himself in her?

The sorriest and most snub-nosed girls will sit down beside the majestic ones, and if he lusts after the latter, he must first bang the ugly one.

But what about us old men? If we have to have sex with the ugly women first, won't our cocks run dry before we reach the ones you spoke of?

from Mayhew Notes: Aristophanes seems to have in mind both the best- and worst- looking women AND the highest- and lowest-class women.
Youth and Hag

The women hereby decree
that should a young man
Desire a young girl,
he may not bang with her
Until he knocks
an older woman first.
But if he refuses,
and still desires the girl,
The law entitles all
the older women
To drag him where they want -
and by the knob!

Oh no! It sounds exactly like Prokroustes!

Youth and Hag

It was decreed by the women that: If a young man lusts after a girl, he cannot pound her until he bangs a hag first. But if he does not wish to bang her first, but lusts after the girl, let it be permissible for the older woman to drag off the youth with impunity, grabbing him by his peg.

YOUTH: Oh, I will today become a Procrustes.

from Mayhew Notes: The Greek word that I have translated "bang first", Prokrouein (which can also mean "stretch") is very close to the name Prokroustes. The name of the fabled robber who stretched his victims on a bed, puns on the obscene meaning in the joke........

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Acharnians Translations    Assembly Women Translations
OTHER TRANSLATIONS: Jeffrey Henderson    A.H. Sommerstein    R.G. Ussher