Translator’s Note

This translation by Ian Johnston of Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, BC, has certain copyright restrictions. For information please use the following link: Copyright.  For comments or question please contact Ian Johnston.

This text is available in the form of a Word or Publisher file for those who would like to print it off as a small book. There is no charge for these files. For details, please use the following link: Publisher files. This translation is also available in book form from Richer Resources Publications. For a list of other translations and lectures by Ian Johnston, please consult the following link: johnstonia.

The translator would like to acknowledge the valuable help provided by K. J. Dover’s commentary on the play (Oxford University Press, 1968) and by Alan H. Sommerstein’s notes in his edition of Clouds (Aris & Phillips, 1982).

In the text below the numbers in square brackets refer to the Greek text. The asterisks (*) indicate links to explanatory notes, which appear together at the end.


Other Links of Interest 

Introductory lecture on Aristophanes' Clouds
Frogs (e-text)
Birds (e-text)
johnstonia home page


Historical Note

Clouds was first produced in the drama festival in Athens—the City Dionysia—in 423 BC, where it placed third. Subsequently the play was revised, but the revisions were never completed. The text which survives is the revised version, which was apparently not performed in Aristophanes’ time but which circulated in manuscript form. This revised version does contain some anomalies which have not been fully sorted out (e.g., the treatment of Cleon, who died between the original text and the revisions). At the time of the first production, the Athenians had been at war with the Spartans, off and on, for a number of years.



Dramatis Personae

STREPSIADES: a middle-aged Athenian
PHEIDIPPIDES: a young Athenian, son of Strepsiades
XANTHIAS: a slave serving Strepsiades
STUDENT: one of Socrates’ pupils in the Thinkery
SOCRATES: chief teacher in the Thinkery
PASIAS: one of Strepsiades’ creditors
WITNESS: a friend of Pasias
AMYNIAS: one of Strepsiades’ creditors

[Scene: In the centre of the stage area is a house with a door to Socrates’ educational establishment, the Thinkery.* On one side of the stage is Strepsiades' house, in front of which are two beds. Outside the Thinkery there is a small clay statue of a round goblet, and outside Strepsiades’ house there is a small clay statue of Hermes. It is just before dawn. Strepsiades and Pheidippides are lying asleep in the two beds. Strepsiades tosses and turns restlessly. Pheidippides lets a very loud fart in his sleep. Strepsiades sits up wide awake]

        Damn! Lord Zeus, how this night drags on and on!
        It’s endless. Won’t daylight ever come?
        I heard a cock crowing a while ago,
        but my slaves kept snoring. In the old days,
        they wouldn’t have dared. Oh, damn and blast this war—
        so many problems. Now I’m not allowed
        to punish my own slaves.*
 And then there’s him—
        this fine young man, who never once wakes up,
        but farts the night away, all snug in bed,
        wrapped up in five wool coverlets. Ah well,
                                                                10             [10]
        I guess I should snuggle down and snore away.

[Strepsiades lies down again and tries to sleep. Pheidippides farts again. Strepsiades finally gives up trying to sleep]

        I can’t sleep. I’m just too miserable,
        what with being eaten up by all this debt—
        thanks to this son of mine, his expenses,
        his racing stables. He keeps his hair long
        and rides his horses—he’s obsessed with it—
        his chariot and pair. He dreams of horses.*
        And I’m dead when I see the month go by—
        with the moon’s cycle now at twenty days,
        as interest payments keep on piling up.*

[Calling to a slave]

        Hey, boy! Light the lamp.  Bring me my accounts.

[Enter the slave Xanthias with light and tablets]

        Let me take these and check my creditors.
        How many are there? And then the interest—
        I’ll have to work that out. Let me see now . . .
        What do I owe? “Twelve minai to Pasias?”
        Twelve minai to Pasias! What’s that for?
        O yes, I know—that’s when I bought that horse,
        the pedigree nag. What a fool I am!
        I’d sooner have a stone knock out my eye.*

PHEIDIPPIDES [talking in his sleep]
        Philon, that’s unfair! Drive your chariot straight.

        That there’s my problem—that’s what’s killing me.
        Even fast asleep he dreams of horses!

PHEIDIPPIDES [in his sleep] 
        In this war-chariot race how many times
        do we drive round the track?

                                                     You’re driving me,
        your father, too far round the bend. Let’s see,
        after Pasias, what’s the next debt I owe?
        “Three minai to Amynias.” For what?
        A small chariot board and pair of wheels?

PHEIDIPPIDES [in his sleep] 
        Let the horse have a roll. Then take him home.

        You, my lad, have been rolling in my cash.
        Now I’ve lost in court, and other creditors
        are going to take out liens on all my stuff
        to get their interest.

PHEIDIPPIDES [waking up]
                                                 What’s the matter, dad?
        You’ve been grumbling and tossing around there
        all night long.

                                     I keep getting bitten—
        some bum bailiff in the bedding.

                             Ease off, dad.
        Let me get some sleep.

                                                All right, keep sleeping.
        Just bear in mind that one fine day these debts
        will all be your concern.

[Pheidippides rolls over and goes back to sleep]

                                                             Damn it, anyway.
        I wish that matchmaker had died in pain—                                       
        the one who hooked me and your mother up.
        I’d had a lovely time up to that point,
        a crude, uncomplicated, country life,
        lying around just as I pleased, with honey bees,
        and sheep and olives, too. Then I married—
        the niece of Megacles—who was the son
        of Megacles. I was a country man,
        and she came from the town—a real snob,
        extravagant, just like Coesyra.*
        When I married her and we both went to bed,
        I stunk of fresh wine, drying figs, sheep’s wool—
        an abundance of good things. As for her,
        she smelled of perfume, saffron, long kisses,
        greed, extravagance, lots and lots of sex.*
        Now, I’m not saying she was a lazy bones.
        She used to weave, but used up too much wool.
        To make a point I’d show this cloak to her
        and say, “Woman, your weaving’s far too thick.”*

[The lamp goes out]

        We’ve got no oil left in the lamp.

                                                                         Damn it!
        Why’d you light such a thirsty lamp? Come here.
        I need to thump you.

                                              Why should you hit me?

        Because you stuck too thick a wick inside.

[The slave ignores Strepsiades and walks off into the house]

        After that, when this son was born to us—                                                                                    [60]
        I’m talking about me and my good wife—
        we argued over what his name should be.
        She was keen to add
 -hippos to his name,
        like Xanthippos, Callipedes, or Chaerippos.*
        Me, I wanted the name Pheidonides,
        his grandpa's name. Well, we fought about it,
        and then, after a while, at last agreed.
        And so we called the boy Pheidippides.
        She used to cradle the young lad and say,
        ”When you’re grown up, you’ll drive your chariot
        to the Acropolis, like Megacles,
        in a full-length robe . . .” I’d say, “No—
        you’ll drive your goat herd back from Phelleus,
        like your father, dressed in leather hides . . .”
        He never listened to a thing I said.
        And now he’s making my finances sick—
        a racing fever. But I’ve spent all night                                               
        thinking of a way to deal with this whole mess,
        and I’ve found one route, something really good—
        it could work wonders. If I could succeed,
        if I could convince him, I’d be all right.
        Well, first I’d better wake him up. But how?
        What would be the gentlest way to do it?

[Strepsiades leans over and gently nudges Pheidippides]

        Pheidippides . . . my little Pheidippides . . .

PHEIDIPPIDES [very sleepily] 
What is it, father?                                                                                 [80]

                                                             Give me a kiss—
        then give me your right hand.

[Pheidippides sits up, leans over, and does what his father has asked]

                                                All right. There.
        What’s going on?

                                 Tell me this—do you love me?

        Yes, I do, by Poseidon, lord of horses.

        Don’t give me that lord of horses stuff—
        he’s the god who’s causing all my troubles.
        But now, my son, if you really love me,
        with your whole heart, then follow what I say.

        What do you want to tell me I should do?

        Change your life style as quickly as you can,
        then go and learn the stuff I recommend.

        So tell me—what are you asking me?

STREPSIADES: You’ll do just what I say?

                                               Yes, I’ll do it—                                            
110            [90]
        I swear by Dionysus.

                                                       All right then.
        Look over there—you see that little door,
        there on that little house?

                                                  Yes, I see it.
        What are you really on about, father?

        That’s the Thinkery—for clever minds.
        In there live men who argue and persuade.
        They say that heaven’s an oven damper—
        it’s all around us—we’re the charcoal.
        If someone gives them cash, they’ll teach him
        how to win an argument on any cause,
        just or unjust.

                                 Who are these men?

                                                                         I’m not sure
        just what they call themselves, but they’re good men,
        fine, deep-thinking intellectual types.

        Nonsense! They’re a worthless bunch. I know them—
        you’re talking about pale-faced charlatans,
        who haven’t any shoes, like those rascals
        Socrates and Chaerephon.*

                                               Shush, be quiet.
        Don’t prattle on such childish rubbish.
        If you care about your father’s daily food,
        give up racing horses and, for my sake,
        join their company.

                                     By Dionysus, no!
        Not even if you give me as a gift
        pheasants raised by Leogoras.*

                                                          Come on, son—
        you’re the dearest person in the world to me.
        I’m begging you. Go there and learn something.

        What is it you want me to learn?

                                                                     They say
        that those men have two kinds of arguments—
        the Better, whatever that may mean,
        and the Worse. Now, of these two arguments,
        the Worse can make an unjust case and win.
        So if, for me, you’ll learn to speak like this,
        to make an unjust argument, well then,
        all those debts I now owe because of you
        I wouldn’t have to pay—no need to give
        an obol’s worth to anyone.*

                                                                   No way.
        I can’t do that. With no colour in my cheeks
        I wouldn’t dare to face those rich young Knights.*

        Then, by Demeter, you won’t be eating
        any of my food—not you, not your yoke horse,
        nor your branded thoroughbred. To hell with you—                            
        I’ll toss you right out of this house.*

                                                        All right—
        but Uncle Megacles won’t let me live
        without my horses. I’m going in the house.
        I don’t really care what you're going to do.

[Pheidippides stands up and goes inside the house. Strepsiades gets out of bed]

        Well, I’ll not take this set back lying down.
        I’ll pray to the gods and then go there myself—
        I’ll get myself taught in that Thinkery.
        Still, I’m old and slow—my memory’s shot.
        How’m I going to learn hair-splitting arguments,
        all that fancy stuff? But I have to go.
        Why do I keep hanging back like this?
        I should be knocking on the door.

[Strepsiades marches up to the door of the Thinkery and knocks]

                                                         Hey, boy . . . little boy.

STUDENT [from inside] 
        Go to Hell!

[The door opens and the student appears]

                                                  Who’s been knocking on the door?

        I’m Strepsiades, the son of Pheidon,
        from Cicynna.

                                      By god, what a stupid man,
        to kick the door so hard. You just don’t think.
        You made a newly found idea miscarry!

        I’m sorry. But I live in the country,
        far away from here. Tell me what’s happened.
        What’s miscarried?

                                         It’s not right to mention it,
                                                    170            [140]
        except to students.

                                       You needn’t be concerned—
        you can tell me. I’ve come here as a student,
        to study at the Thinkery.

                                                I’ll tell you, then.
        But you have to think of these as secrets,
        our holy mysteries. A while ago,
        a flea bit Chaerephon right on the eye brow,
        and then jumped onto Socrates’ head.
        So Socrates then questioned Chaerephon
        about how many lengths of its own feet
        a flea could jump.

                                          How’d he measure that?

        Most ingeniously. He melted down some wax,
        then took the flea and dipped two feet in it.
        Once that cooled, the flea had Persian slippers.
        He took those off and measured out the space.

        By Lord Zeus, what intellectual brilliance!

        Would you like to hear more of Socrates,
        another one of his ideas? What do you say?

        Which one? Tell me . . .

[The student pretends to be reluctant]

                                                       I’m begging you.

                                                                                      All right.
        Chaerephon of Sphettus once asked Socrates
        whether, in his opinion, a gnat buzzed                                             
        through its mouth or through its anal sphincter.

        What did Socrates say about the gnat?

        He said that the gnat’s intestinal tract
        was narrow—therefore air passing through it,
        because of the constriction, was pushed with force
        towards the rear. So then that orifice,
        being a hollow space beside a narrow tube,
        transmits the noise caused by the force of air.

        So a gnat’s arse hole is a giant trumpet!
        O triply blessed man who could do this,
        anatomize the anus of a gnat!
        A man who knows a gnat’s guts inside out
        would have no trouble winning law suits.

        Just recently he lost a great idea—
        a lizard stole it!

                                    How’d that happen? Tell me.

        He was studying movements of the moon—
        its trajectory and revolutions.
        One night, as he was gazing up, open mouthed,
        staring skyward, a lizard on the roof
        relieved itself on him.

                                    A lizard crapped on Socrates!
        That’s good!

                           Then, last night we had no dinner.

        Well, well. What did Socrates come up with,
        to get you all some food to eat?

        He spread some ashes thinly on the table,
        then seized a spit, went to the wrestling school,
        picked up a queer, and robbed him of his cloak,
        then sold the cloak to purchase dinner.*

        And we still admire Thales after that?* 
        Come on, now, open up the Thinkery
        let me see Socrates without delay.
        I’m dying to learn. So open up the door.

[The doors of the Thinkery slide open to reveal Socrates’ students studying on a porch (not inside a room). They are in variously absurd positions and are all very thin and pale]

        By Hercules, who are all these creatures!
        What country are they from?

                                      You look surprised.
        What do they look like to you?

                                                          Like prisoners—
        those Spartan ones from Pylos.*
 But tell me—
 Why do these ones keep staring at the earth?

        They’re searching out what lies beneath the ground.

        Ah, they’re looking for some bulbs. Well now,
        you don’t need to worry any longer,
        not about that. I know where bulbs are found,
                                                        230           [190]
        lovely big ones, too. What about them?
        What are they doing like that, all doubled up?

        They’re sounding out the depths of Tartarus.

        Why are their arse holes gazing up to heaven?

        Directed studies in astronomy.

[The Student addresses the other students in the room]

        Go inside. We don’t want Socrates
        to find you all in here.

                                                  Not yet, not yet.
        Let them stay like this, so I can tell them
        what my little problem is.

                                                  It’s not allowed.
        They can’t spend too much time outside,
        not in the open air.

[The students get up from their studying positions and disappear into the interior of the Thinkery. Strepsiades starts inspecting the equipment on the walls and on the tables]

                                           My goodness,
        what is this thing? Explain it to me.

        That there’s astronomy.

                                     And what’s this?

        That’s geometry.

                                     What use is that?

        It’s used to measure land.

                                               You mean those lands
        handed out by lottery.*

                                                  Not just that—
        it’s for land in general.

                                          A fine idea—
        useful . . . democratic, too.

                                                    Look over here—
        here’s a map of the entire world. See?
        Right there, that’s Athens.

                                                    What do you mean?
        I don’t believe you. There are no jury men—
        I don’t see them sitting on their benches.

        No, no—this space is really Attica.*

        Where are the citizens of Cicynna,
        the people in my deme?*

                             They’re right here.
        This is Euboea, as you can see,
        beside us, really stretched a long way out.

        I know—we pulled it apart, with Pericles.*
        Where abouts is Sparta?

                                              Where is it? Here.

        It’s close to us. You must rethink the place—                                    
        shift it—put it far away from us.

                                                 Can’t do that.

STREPSIADES [threatening] 
        Do it, by god, or I’ll make you cry!

[Strepsiades notices Socrates descending from above in a basket suspended from a rope]

        Hey, who’s the man in the basket—up there?

        The man himself.

                                   Who’s that?


        Socrates! Hey, call out to him for me—
        make it loud.

                             You’ll have to call to him yourself.
        I’m too busy now.

[The Student exits into the interior of the house]

                                             O Socrates . . .
        my dear little Socrates . . . hello . . .

        Why call on me, you creature of a day?

        Well, first of all, tell me what you’re doing.

        I tread the air, as I contemplate the sun.

        You’re looking down upon the gods up there,
        in that basket? Why not do it from the ground,
        if that’s what you’re doing?

        I’d never come up with a single thing
        about celestial phenomena,
        if I did not suspend my mind up high,
        to mix my subtle thoughts with what’s like them—
        the air. If I turned my mind to lofty things,
        but stayed there on the ground, I’d never make                                
        the least discovery. For the earth, you see,
        draws moist thoughts down by force into itself—
        the same process takes place with water cress.

        What are you talking about? Does the mind
        draw moisture into water cress? Come down,
        my dear little Socrates, down here to me,
        so you can teach me what I’ve come to learn.

[Socrates’ basket slowly descends]

        Why have you come?

                                  I want to learn to argue.
        I’m being pillaged—ruined by interest
        and by creditors I can’t pay off—                                                      
        they’re slapping liens on all my property.

        How come you got in such a pile of debt
        without your knowledge?

                                                   I’ve been ravaged
        by disease—I’m horse sick. It’s draining me
        in the most dreadful way. But please teach me
        one of your two styles of arguing, the one
        which never has to discharge any debt.
        Whatever payment you want me to make,
        I promise you I’ll pay—by all the gods.

        What gods do you intend to swear by?
        To start with, the gods hold no currency with us.

        Then, what currency do you use to swear?
        Is it iron coin, like in Byzantium?

        Do you want to know the truth of things divine,
        the way they really are?

                                                 Yes, by god, I do,
        if that’s possible.

                                           And to commune and talk
        with our own deities the Clouds?

                                                             Yes, I do.

        Then sit down on the sacred couch.

                                                       All right.
        I’m sitting down.

                             Take this wreath.

                                                   Why a wreath?
        Oh dear, Socrates, don’t offer me up                                                 
        in sacrifice, like Athamas.*

                                                        No, no.
        We go through all this for everyone—
        it’s their initiation.

                                      What do I get?

        You’ll learn to be a clever talker,
        to rattle off a speech, to strain your words
        like flour. Just keep still.

[Socrates sprinkles flour all over Strepsiades]

                                                    By god, that’s no lie!
        I’ll turn into flour if you keep sprinkling me.

        Old man, be quiet. Listen to the prayer.

[Socrates shuts his eyes to recite his prayer]

        O Sovereign Lord, O Boundless Air,
        who keeps the earth suspended here in space,
        O Bright Sky, O Sacred Goddesses—
        the Thunder-bearing Clouds—arise,
        you holy ladies, issue forth on high,
        before the man who holds you in his mind.

STREPSIADES [lifting his cloak to cover his head]
        Not yet, not yet. Not ‘til I wrap this cloak
        like this so I don’t get soaked. What bad luck,
        to leave my home without a cap on.

SOCRATES [ignoring Strepsiades]
        Come now, you highly honoured Clouds, come—
        manifest yourselves to this man here—
        whether you now sit atop Olympus,
                                                                                    330           [270]
        on those sacred snow-bound mountain peaks,
        or form the holy choruses with nymphs
        in gardens of their father Ocean,
        or gather up the waters of the Nile
        in golden flagons at the river’s mouths,
        or dwell beside the marsh of Maeotis
        or snowy rocks of Mimas—hear my call,
        accept my sacrifice, and then rejoice
        in this holy offering I make.

CHORUS [heard offstage]
 Everlasting Clouds—                                                                         340
            let us arise, let us reveal
            our moist and natural radiance—
            moving from the roaring deep
            of father Ocean to the tops
            of tree-lined mountain peaks,
            where we see from far away
            the lofty heights, the sacred earth,
            whose fruits we feed with water,
            the murmuring of sacred rivers,
            the roaring of the deep-resounding sea.
            For the unwearied eye of heaven
            blazes forth its glittering beams.
            Shake off this misty shapelessness
            from our immortal form and gaze upon
            the earth with our far-reaching eyes.

        O you magnificent and holy Clouds,
        you’ve clearly heard my call.

[To Strepsiades]

                                                             Did you hear that voice
        intermingled with the awesome growl of thunder?

        O you most honoured sacred goddesses,
        in answer to your thunder call I’d like to fart—                                
        it’s made me so afraid—if that’s all right . . .

[Strepsiades pull down his pants and farts loudly in the direction of the offstage Chorus]

        Oh, oh, whether right nor not, I need to shit.

        Stop being so idiotic, acting like
        a stupid damn comedian. Keep quiet.
        A great host of deities is coming here—
        they’re going to sing.

CHORUS [still offstage]
    O you maidens bringing rain—
            let’s move on to that brilliant place,
            to gaze upon the land of Pallas,
            where such noble men inhabit                                                      
            Cecrops’ lovely native home,*
            where they hold those sacred rites
            no one may speak about,
            where the temple of the mysteries
            is opened up in holy festivals,*
            with gifts for deities in heaven,
            what lofty temples, holy statues,
            most sacred supplication to the gods,
            with garlands for each holy sacrifice,
            and festivals of every kind                                                             
380           [310]
            in every season of the year,
            including, when the spring arrives,
            that joyful Dionysian time,
            with rousing choruses of song,
            resounding music of the pipes.

        By god, Socrates, tell me, I beg you,
        who these women are who sing so solemnly.
        Are they some special kind of heroines?

        No—they’re heavenly Clouds, great goddesses
        for lazy men—from them we get our thoughts,
        our powers of speech, our comprehension,
        our gift for fantasy and endless talk,
        our power to strike responsive chords in speech
        and then rebut opponents’ arguments.

        Ah, that must be why, as I heard their voice,
        my soul took wing, and now I’m really keen
        to babble on of trivialities,
        to argue smoke and mirrors, to deflate
        opinions with a small opinion of my own,
        to answer someone’s reasoned argument                                          
        with my own counter-argument. So now,
        I’d love to see them here in front of me,
        if that’s possible.

                                                Just look over there—
        towards Mount Parnes. I see them coming,
 moving over here.*

                                              Where? Point them out.

        They’re coming down here through the valleys—
        a whole crowd of them—there in the thickets,
        right beside you.

                                  This is weird. I don’t see them.

SOCRATES [pointing into the wings of the theatre]
        There—in the entrance way.

                                           Ah, now I see—
        but I can barely make them out.

[The Clouds enter from the wings]

        surely you can see them now, unless your eyes
        are swollen up like pumpkins.

                                                         I see them.
        My god, what worthy noble presences!
        They’re taking over the entire space.

        You weren’t aware that they are goddesses?
        You had no faith in them?

                                                                    I’d no idea.
        I thought clouds were mist and dew and vapour.

        You didn’t realize these goddesses
        support a multitude of charlatans—
        prophetic seers from Thurium, quacks                                              
        who specialize in books on medicine,
        lazy long-haired types with onyx signet rings,
        poets who produce the twisted choral music
        for dithyrambic songs, those with airy minds—
        all such men so active doing nothing
        the Clouds support, since in their poetry
        these people celebrate the Clouds.

        Ah ha, so that’s why they poeticize
        ”the whirling radiance of watery clouds
        as they advance so ominously,”
        ”waving hairs of hundred-headed Typho,”*
        with “roaring tempests,” and then “liquid breeze,”
        or ”crook-taloned, sky-floating birds of prey,”
        ”showers of rain from dewy clouds”—and then,
        as a reward for this, they stuff themselves
        on slices carved from some huge tasty fish
        or from a thrush.*

                                          Yes, thanks to these Clouds.
        Is that not truly just?

                                                      All right, tell me this—
        if they’re really clouds, what’s happened to them?
        They look just like mortal human women.
        The clouds up there are not the least like that.

        What are they like?

                                                       I don’t know exactly.
        They look like wool once it’s been pulled apart—
        not like women, by god, not in the least.
        These ones here have noses.

                                              Let me ask you something.
        Will you answer me?

                                         Ask me what you want.
        Fire away.

                              Have you ever gazed up there
        and seen a cloud shaped like a centaur,
        or a leopard, wolf, or bull?

                                                       Yes, I have.
        So what?

                                They become anything they want.
        So if they see some hairy savage type,
        one of those really wild and wooly men,
        like Xenophantes’ son, they mock his moods,
        transforming their appearance into centaurs.*

        What if they glimpse a thief of public funds,
        like Simon? What do they do then?*

                                                               They expose
        just what he’s truly like—they change at once,
        transform themselves to wolves.

                                                              Ah ha, I see.
        So that’s why yesterday they changed to deer.
        They must have caught sight of Cleonymos                                   
        the man who threw away his battle shield—
        they knew he was fearful coward.*

        And now it’s clear they’ve seen Cleisthenes—
        that’s why, as you can see, they’ve changed to women.*

STREPSIADES [to the Chorus of Clouds]
   All hail to you, lady goddesses.
        And now, if you have ever spoken out
        to other men, let me hear your voice,
        you queenly powers.

        Greetings to you, old man born long ago,
        hunter in love with arts of argument—                                             
        you, too, high priest of subtlest nonsense,
        tell us what you want. Of all the experts
        in celestial matters at the present time,
        we take note of no one else but you—
        and Prodicus*—because he’s sharp and wise,
        while you go swaggering along the street,
        in bare feet, shifting both eyes back and forth.
        You keep moving on through many troubles,
        looking proud of your relationship with us.

        By the Earth, what voices these Clouds have—                                  
        so holy, reverent, and marvelous!

        Well, they’re the only deities we have—
        the rest are just so much hocus pocus.

        Hang on—by the Earth, isn’t Zeus a god,
        the one up there on Mount Olympus?

        What sort of god is Zeus? Why spout such rubbish?
        There’s no such being as Zeus.

                                                    What do you mean?
        Then who brings on the rain? First answer that.

        Why, these women do. I’ll prove that to you
        with persuasive evidence. Just tell me—                                            
490           [370]
        where have you ever seen the rain come down
        without the Clouds being there? If Zeus brings rain,
        then he should do so when the sky is clear,
        when there are no Clouds in view.

        By Apollo, you’ve made a good point there—
        it helps your argument. I used to think
        rain was really Zeus pissing through a sieve.
        Tell me who causes thunder? That scares me.

        These Clouds do, as they roll around.

                                                             But how?
        Explain that, you who dares to know it all.

        When they are filled with water to the brim
        and then, suspended there with all that rain,
        are forced to move, they bump into each other.
        They’re so big, they burst with a great boom.

        But what’s forcing them to move at all?
        Doesn’t Zeus do that?

                                       No—that’s the aerial Vortex.*

        Vortex? Well, that’s something I didn’t know.
        So Zeus is now no more, and Vortex rules
        instead of him. But you still have not explained
        a thing about those claps of thunder.

        Weren’t you listening to me? I tell you,
        when the Clouds are full of water and collide,
        they’re so thickly packed they make a noise.

        Come on now—who’d ever believe that stuff?

        I’ll explain, using you as a test case.
        Have you ever gorged yourself on stew
        at the Panathenaea and later
        had an upset stomach—then suddenly
        some violent movement made it rumble?*

        Yes, by Apollo! It does weird things—                                               
        I feel unsettled. That small bit of stew
        rumbles around and makes strange noises,
        just like thunder. At first it’s quite quiet—
        ”pappax pappax”—then it starts getting louder—
        ”papapappax”—and when I take a shit,
        it really thunders “papapappax”—
        just like these Clouds.

                                                So think about it—
        if your small gut can make a fart like that,
        why can’t the air, which goes on for ever,
        produce tremendous thunder. Then there’s this—                            
        consider how alike these phrases sound,
        ”thunder clap” and “fart and crap.”

        All right, but then explain this to me—
        Where does lightning come from, that fiery blaze,
        which, when it hits, sometimes burns us up,
        sometimes just singes us and lets us live?
        Clearly Zeus is hurling that at perjurers.

        You stupid driveling idiot, you stink
        of olden times, the age of Cronos!*
 If Zeus
        is really striking at the perjurers,
        how come he’s not burned Simon down to ash,
        or else Cleonymos or Theorus?
        They perjure themselves more than anyone.
        No. Instead he strikes at his own temple
        at Sunium, our Athenian headland,
        and at his massive oak trees there. Why?
        What’s his plan? Oak trees can’t be perjured.

        I don’t know. But that argument of yours
        seems good. All right, then, what’s a lightning bolt?

        When a dry wind blows up into the Clouds                                       
        and gets caught in there, it makes them inflate,
        like the inside of a bladder. And then
        it has to burst them all apart and vent,
        rushing out with violence brought on
        by dense compression—its force and friction
        cause it to consume itself in fire.

        By god, I went through that very thing myself—
        at the feast for Zeus. I was cooking food,
        a pig’s belly, for my family. I forgot
        to slit it open. It began to swell—                                                      
560           [410]
        then suddenly blew up, splattering blood
        in both my eyes and burning my whole face.

        O you who seeks from us great wisdom,
        how happy you will be among Athenians,
        among the Greeks, if you have memory,
        if you can think, if in that soul of yours
        you’ve got the power to persevere,
        and don't get tired standing still or walking,
        nor suffer too much from the freezing cold,
        with no desire for breakfast, if you abstain                                       
        from wine, from exercise, and other foolishness,
        if you believe, as all clever people should,
        the highest good is victory in action,
        in deliberation and in verbal wars.

        Well, as for a stubborn soul and a mind
        thinking in a restless bed, while my stomach,
        lean and mean, feeds on bitter herbs, don’t worry.
        I’m confident about all that—I’m ready
        to be hammered on your anvil into shape.

        So now you won’t acknowledge any gods                                          
        except the ones we do—Chaos, the Clouds,
        the Tongue—just these three?

        I’d refuse to talk to any other gods,
        if I ran into them—and I decline
        to sacrifice or pour libations to them.
        I’ll not provide them any incense.

        Tell us then what we can do for you.
        Be brave—for if you treat us with respect,
        if you admire us, and if you’re keen
        to be a clever man, you won’t go wrong.

        O you sovereign queens,
        from you I ask one really tiny favour—
        to be the finest speaker in all Greece,
        within a hundred miles.

                                                    You’ll get that from us.
        From now on, in time to come, no one will win
        more votes among the populace than you.

        No speaking on important votes for me!
        That’s not what I’m after. No, no. I want
        to twist all legal verdicts in my favour,
        to evade my creditors.

                                                   You’ll get that,
        just what you desire. For what you want
        is nothing special. So be confident—
        give yourself over to our agents here.

        I’ll do that—I’ll place my trust in you.
        Necessity is weighing me down—the horses,
        those thoroughbreds, my marriage—all that
        has worn me out. So now, this body of mine
        I’ll give to them, with no strings attached,
        to do with as they like—to suffer blows,
        go without food and drink, live like a pig,
        to freeze or have my skin flayed for a pouch—
        if I can just get out of all my debt
        and make men think of me as bold and glib,
        as fearless, impudent, detestable,
        one who cobbles lies together, makes up words,
        a practised legal rogue, a statute book,
        a chattering fox, sly and needle sharp,
        a slippery fraud, a sticky rascal,
        foul whipping boy or twisted villain,
        troublemaker, or idly prattling fool.
        If they can make those who run into me
        call me these names, they can do what they want—
        no questions asked. If, by Demeter, they’re keen,
        they can convert me into sausages
        and serve me up to men who think deep thoughts.

        Here’s a man whose mind’s now smart,
        no holding back—prepared to start
        When you have learned all this from me
        you know your glory will arise 
        among all men to heaven’s skies.

        What must I undergo?

        For all time, you’ll live with me
        a life most people truly envy.

        You mean I’ll really see that one day?

        Hordes will sit outside your door
        wanting your advice and more—
        to talk, to place their trust in you
        for their affairs and lawsuits, too,
        things which merit your great mind.
        They’ll leave you lots of cash behind.

CHORUS LEADER [to Socrates]
        So get started with this old man’s lessons,
        what you intend to teach him first of all—
        rouse his mind, test his intellectual powers.

        Come on then, tell me the sort of man you are—
        once I know that, I can bring to bear on you
        my latest batteries with full effect.

        What’s that? By god, are you assaulting me?

        No—I want to learn some things from you.
        What about your memory?

                                                                 To tell the truth
        it works two ways. If someone owes me something,
        I remember really well. But if it’s poor me
        that owes the money, I forget a lot.

        Do you have any natural gift for speech?

        Not for speaking—only for evading debt.

        So how will you be capable of learning?

        Easily—that shouldn’t be your worry.

        All right. When I throw out something wise
        about celestial matters, you make sure
        you snatch it right away.

                                        What’s that about?
        Am I to eat up wisdom like a dog?

SOCRATES [aside] 
        This man’s an ignorant barbarian!
        Old man, I fear you may need a beating.

[to Strepsiades]

        Now, what do you do if someone hits you?

        If I get hit, I wait around a while,
        then find witnesses, hang around some more,
        then go to court.

                                     All right, take off your cloak.

        Have I done something wrong?

                                                     No. It’s our custom
        to go inside without a cloak.

                                                 But I don’t want
        to search your house for stolen stuff.*

        What are you going on about? Take it off.

STREPSIADES [removing his cloak and his shoes]
        So tell me this—if I pay attention
        and put some effort into learning,
        which of your students will I look like?

        In appearance there’ll be no difference
        between yourself and Chaerephon.

                                          Oh, that’s bad.
        You mean I’ll be only half alive?

        Don’t talk such rubbish! Get a move on
        and follow me inside. Hurry up!

        First, put a honey cake here in my hands.
        I’m scared of going down in there. It’s like
        going in Trophonios’ cave.*

                                                           Go inside.
        Why keep hanging round this doorway?

[Socrates picks up Strepsiades’ cloak and shoes. Then Strepsiades and Socrates exit into the interior of the Thinkery]

        Go. And may you enjoy good fortune,                                                       
        a fit reward for all your bravery.

                        We hope this man
                        thrives in his plan.
                        For at his stage
                        of great old age                                                                  
                        he’ll take a dip
                        in new affairs
                        to act the sage.

CHORUS LEADER [stepping forward to address the audience directly]
        You spectators, I’ll talk frankly to you now,
        and speak the truth, in the name of Dionysus,
        who has cared for me ever since I was a child.
        So may I win and be considered a wise man.* 
        For I thought you were a discerning audience
        and this comedy the most intelligent
        of all my plays. Thus, I believed it worth my while                            
        to produce it first for you, a work which cost me
        a great deal of effort. But I left defeated,
        beaten out by vulgar men—which I did not deserve.
        I place the blame for this on you intellectuals,
        on whose behalf I went to all that trouble.
        But still I won’t ever willingly abandon
        the discriminating ones among you all,
        not since that time when my play about two men—
        one was virtuous, the other one depraved—
        was really well received by certain people here,
        whom it pleases me to mention now. As for me,
        I was still unmarried, not yet fully qualified
        to produce that child. But I exposed my offspring,
        and another woman carried it away.
        In your generosity you raised and trained it.*
        Since then I’ve had sworn testimony from you
        that you have faith in me. So now, like old Electra,
        this comedy has come, hoping she can find,
        somewhere in here, spectators as intelligent.
        If she sees her brother’s hair, she’ll recognize it.*
        Consider how my play shows natural restraint.
        First, she doesn't have stitched leather dangling down,
        with a thick red knob, to make the children giggle.*
        She hasn’t mocked bald men or danced some drunken reel.
        There’s no old man who talks and beats those present
        with a stick to hide bad jokes. She doesn’t rush on stage
        with torches or raise the cry “Alas!” or “Woe is me!”
        No—she’s come trusting in herself and in the script.
        And I’m a poet like that. I don’t preen myself.
        I don’t seek to cheat you by re-presenting here                                
        the same material two or three times over.
        Instead I base my art on framing new ideas,
        all different from the rest, and each one very deft.
        When Cleon was all-powerful, I went for him.
        I hit him in the gut. But once he was destroyed,
        I didn’t have the heart to kick at him again.
        Yet once Hyperbolos let others seize on him,
        they’ve not ceased stomping on the miserable man—
        and on his mother, too.*
 The first was Eupolis
        he dredged up his
 Maricas, a wretched rehash                                   740
        of my play
 The Knights—he’s such a worthless poet—
        adding an aging female drunk in that stupid dance,
        a woman Phrynichos invented years ago,
        the one that ocean monster tried to gobble up.*
        Then Hermippos wrote again about Hyperbolos,
        Now all the rest are savaging the man once more,
        copying my images of eels. If anyone
        laughs at those plays, I hope mine don’t amuse him.
        But if you enjoy me and my inventiveness,
        then future ages will commend your worthy taste.

                        For my dance I first here call
                        on Zeus, high-ruling king of all
                        among the gods—and on Poseidon,
                        so great and powerful—the one
                        who with his trident wildly heaves
                        the earth and all the brine-filled seas,
                        and on our famous father Sky,
                        the most revered, who can supply
                        all things with life. And I invite
                        the Charioteer whose dazzling light                                  
                        fills this wide world so mightily
                        for every man and deity.

        The wisest in this audience should here take note—
        you’ve done us wrong, and we confront you with the blame.
        We confer more benefits than any other god
        upon your city, yet we’re the only ones
        to whom you do not sacrifice or pour libations,
        though we’re the gods who keep protecting you.
        If there’s some senseless army expedition,
        then we respond by thundering or bringing rain.
        And when you were selecting as your general
        that Paphlagonian tanner hated by the gods,*
        we frowned and then complained aloud—our thunder pealed
        among the lightning bursts, the moon moved off her course,
        the sun at once pulled his wick back inside himself,
        and said if Cleon was to be your general
        then he’d give you no light. Nonetheless, you chose him.
        They say this city likes to make disastrous choices,
        but that the gods, no matter what mistakes you make,
        convert them into something better. If you want                              
        your recent choice to turn into a benefit,
        I can tell you how—it’s easy. Condemn the man—
        that seagull Cleon—for bribery and theft.*
        Set him in the stocks, a wooden yoke around his neck.
        Then, even if you’ve made a really big mistake,
        for you things will be as they were before your vote,
        and for the city this affair will turn out well.

                        Phoebus Apollo, stay close by,
                        lord of Delos, who sits on high,
                        by lofty Cynthos mountain sides;
                        and holy lady, who resides
                        in Ephesus, in your gold shrine,
                        where Lydian girls pray all the time;
                        Athena, too, who guards our home,
                        her aegis raised above her own,
                        and he who holds Parnassus peaks
                        and shakes his torches as he leaps,
                        lord Dionysus, whose shouts call
                        amid the Delphic bacchanal.*

        When we were getting ready to move over here,
        Moon met us and told us, first of all, to greet,
        on her behalf, the Athenians and their allies.
        Then she said she was upset—the way you treat her
        is disgraceful, though she brings you all benefits—
        not just in words but in her deeds. To start with,
        she saves you at least one drachma every month            
        for torchlight—
 in the evening, when you go outside,
        you all can say, “No need to buy a torch, my boy,
        Moon’s light will do just fine.” She claims she helps you all
        in other ways, as well, but you don’t calculate                                   
        your calendar the way you should—no, instead             
        you make it all confused, and that’s why, she says,
        the gods are always making threats against her,
        when they are cheated of a meal and go back home
        because their celebration has not taken place
        according to a proper count of all the days.*
        And then, when you should be making sacrifice,
        you’re torturing someone or have a man on trial.
        And many times, when we gods undertake a fast,
        because we’re mourning Memnon or Sarpedon,*
        you’re pouring out libations, having a good laugh.
        That’s the reason, after his choice by lot this year
        to sit on the religious council, Hyperbolos
        had his wreath of office snatched off by the gods.
        That should make him better understand the need
        to count the days of life according to the moon.*

[Enter Socrates from the interior of the Thinkery]

        By Respiration, Chaos, and the Air,
        I’ve never seen a man so crude, stupid,
        clumsy, and forgetful. He tries to learn
        the tiny trifles, but then he forgets                                                    
830           [630]
        before he’s even learned them. Nonetheless,
        I’ll call him outside here into the light.

[Socrates calls back into the interior of the Thinkery]

        Strepsiades, where are you? Come on out—
        and bring your bed.

STREPSIADES [from inside]
         I can’t carry it out—
        the bugs won’t let me.

                                                 Get a move on. Now!

[Strepsiades enters carrying his bedding]

        Put it there. And pay attention.

STREPSIADES [putting the bed down]

        Come now, of all the things you never learned
        what to you want to study first? Tell me.

[Strepsiades is very puzzled by the question]

        Poetic measures? Diction? Rhythmic verse?

        I’ll take measures. Just the other day                                                 
        the man who deals in barley cheated me—
        about two quarts.

                                      That’s not what I mean.
        Which music measure is most beautiful—
        the triple measure or quadruple measure?

        As a measure nothing beats a gallon.

        My dear man, you’re just talking nonsense.

        Then make me a bet—I say a gallon
        is made up of quadruple measures.

        O damn you—you’re such a country bumpkin—
        so slow! Maybe you can learn more quickly                                      
        if we deal with rhythm.

                                                  Will these rhythms
        help to get me food?

                                         Well, to begin with,
        they’ll make you elegant in company—
        and you’ll recognize the different rhythms,
        the enoplian and the dactylic,
        which is like a digit.*

                                                    Like a digit!
        By god, that’s something I do know!

                                                       Then tell me.

        When I was a lad a digit meant this!

[Strepsiades sticks his middle finger straight up under Socrates’ nose]

        You’re just a crude buffoon!

                                              No, you’re a fool—
        I don’t want to learn any of that stuff.

        Well then, what?

                           You know, that other thing—
        how to argue the most unjust cause.

        But you need to learn these other matters
        before all that. Now, of the quadrupeds
        which one can we correctly label male?

        Well, I know the males, if I’m not witless—
        the ram, billy goat, bull, dog, and fowl.

        And the females?

                                           The ewe, nanny goat,
        cow, bitch and fowl.*

                                         You see what you’re doing?
        You’re using that word “fowl” for both of them,
        Calling males what people use for females.

        What’s that? I don’t get it.

                                            What’s not to get?
        ”Fowl” and “Fowl” . . .

                     By Poseidon, I see your point.
        All right, what should I call them?

                                  Call the male a “fowl”—
        and call the other one “fowlette.”

        By the Air, that’s good! Just for teaching that
        I’ll fill your kneading basin up with flour,
        right to the brim.*

                               Once again, another error!
        You called it basin—a masculine word—
        when it’s feminine.

                                             How so? Do I call                                          
        the basin masculine?

                                                   Indeed you do.
        It’s just like Cleonymos.*

                                                      How’s that?
        Tell me.

                            You treated the word basin
        just as you would treat Cleonymos.

STREPSIADES [totally bewildered by the conversation]
        But my dear man, he didn’t have a basin—
        not Cleonymos—not for kneading flour.
        His round mortar was his prick—the wanker
        he kneaded that to masturbate.*
        But what should I call a basin from now on?

        Call it a basinette, just as you’d say                                                   
        the word Sostratette.

                                        Basinette—it’s feminine?

        It is indeed.

                              All right, then, I should say
        Cleonymette and basinette.* 

        You’ve still got to learn about people’s names—
        which ones are male and which are female.

        I know which ones are feminine.

                                                             Go on.

        Lysilla, Philinna, Cleitagora,
        Demetria . . .

                                Which names are masculine?

        There are thousands of them—Philoxenos,
        Melesias, Amynias . . .

                                                    You fool,
        those names are not all masculine.*

        You don’t think of them as men?

                                                             Indeed I don’t.
        If you met Amynias, how would you greet him?

        How? Like this, “Here, Amynia, come here.”* 

        You see? You said "Amynia," a woman’s name.

        And that’s fair enough, since she’s unwilling
        to do army service. But what’s the point?
        Why do I need to learn what we all know?

        That’s irrelevant, by god. Now lie down—

[indicating the bed] 

        right here.

                           And do what?

                                                You should contemplate—                            
        think one of your own problems through.

                                                         Not here,
        I beg you—no. If I have to do it,
        let me do my contemplating on the ground.

        No—you’ve got no choice.

STREPSIADES [crawling very reluctantly into the bedding]
 Now I’m done for—
        these bugs are going to punish me today.

[Socrates exits back into the Thinkery]

                        Now ponder and think,
                        focus this way and that.
                        Your mind turn and toss.
                        And if you’re at a loss,
                        then quickly go find                                                           
                        a new thought in your mind.
                        From your eyes you must keep
                        all soul-soothing sleep.

                        O god . . . ahhhhh . . .

        What’s wrong with you? Why so distressed?

        I’m dying a miserable death in here!
        These Corinthian crawlers keep biting me.* 
        gnawing on my ribs,
        slurping up my blood,
        yanking off my balls,
        tunneling up my arse hole—
        they’re killing me!

        Don’t complain so much.

        Why not? When I’ve lost my goods,
        lost the colour in my cheeks, lost my blood,
        lost my shoes, and, on top of all these troubles,
        I’m here like some night watchman singing out—
        it won’t be long before I’m done for.

{Enter Socrates from inside the Thinkery]

        What are you doing? Aren’t you thinking something?

        Me? Yes I am, by Poseidon.

                                                         What about?

        Whether there’s going to be any of me left           
        once these bugs have finished.

                                                        You imbecile,
        why don’t you drop dead!

[Socrates exits back into the Thinkery]

                                           But my dear man,
        I’m dying right now.

                                           Don’t get soft. Cover up—
        get your whole body underneath the blanket.
        You need to find a good idea for fraud,
        a sexy way to cheat.

                                                                           Damn it all—
        instead of these lambskins here, why won’t someone
        throw over me a lovely larcenous scheme?

[Strepsiades covers his head with the wool blankets. Enter Socrates from the Thinkery and looks around thinking what to do]

        First, I’d better check on what he’s doing.
        You in there, are you asleep?

STREPSIADES [uncovering his head]
 No, I’m not.

        Have you grasped anything?

                                           No, by god, I haven’t.

        Nothing at all?

                                               I haven’t grasped a thing—
        except my right hand’s wrapped around my cock.

        Then cover your head and think up something—
        get a move on!

                                          What should I think about?
        Tell me that, Socrates.

                                                  First you must formulate
        what it is you want. Then tell me.

                                                                 You’ve heard
        what I want a thousand times—I want to know
        about interest, so I’ll not have to pay                                                
        a single creditor.

                                                Come along now,
        cover up.

[Strepsiades covers his head again, and Socrates speaks to him through the blanket]

                                Now, carve your slender thinking                                                                 [740]
        into tiny bits, and think the matter through,
        with proper probing and analysis.

        Ahhh . . . bloody hell!

                                           Don’t shift around.
        If one of your ideas is going nowhere,
        let it go, leave it alone. Later on,
        start it again and weigh it one more time.

        My dear little Socrates . . .

                                                  Yes, old man,
        what is it?

                                        I’ve got a lovely scheme                                     
        to avoid paying interest.

                                                   Lay it out.

        All right. Tell me now . . .

                                             What is it?

        What if I purchased a Thessalian witch
        and in the night had her haul down the moon—
        then shut it up in a circular box,
        just like a mirror, and kept watch on it.

        How would that provide you any help?

        Well, if no moon ever rose up anywhere,
        I’d pay no interest.

                                       And why is that?

        Because they lend out money by the month.

        That’s good. I’ll give you another problem—
        it’s tricky. If in court someone sued you
        to pay five talents, what would you do
        to get the case discharged.

                                          How? I don’t know.
        I’ll have to think.

                                                           These ideas of yours—
        don’t keep them wound up all the time inside you.
        Let your thinking loose—out into the air—
        with thread around its foot, just like a bug.*

        Hey, I’ve devised a really clever way
        to make that lawsuit disappear—it’s so good,
        you’ll agree with me.

                                              What’s your way?

        At the drug seller’s shop have you seen
        that beautiful stone you can see right through,
        the one they use to start a fire?

                                            You mean glass?


                         So what?

                                                What if I took that glass,
        and when the scribe was writing out the charge,
        I stood between him and the sun—like this—
        some distance off, and made his writing melt,
        just the part about my case?*

                                                By the Graces,
        that’s a smart idea!

                                              Hey, I’m happy—                                         
        I’ve erased my law suit for five talents.

        So hurry up and tackle this next problem.

        What is it?

                          How would you evade a charge
        and launch a counter-suit in a hearing
        you’re about to lose without a witness?

        No problem there—it’s easy.

SOCRATES:                                                 So tell me.

STREPSIADES: I will. If there was a case still pending,
        another one before my case was called,
        I’d run off and hang myself.

                                                 That’s nonsense.

        No, by the gods, it’s not. If I were dead,
        no one could bring a suit against me.

        That’s rubbish. Just get away from here.
        I’ll not instruct you any more.

                                                       Why not?
        Come on, Socrates, in god’s name.

                                              There’s no point—
        as soon as you learn anything, it’s gone,
        you forget it right away. Look, just now,
        what was the very first thing you were taught?

        Well, let’s see . . . The first thing—what was it?
        What was that thing we knead the flour in?
        Damn it all, what was it?

                                                      To hell with you!
        You’re the most forgetful, stupidest old man . . .
        Get lost!

                                     Oh dear! Now I’m in for it.
        What going to happen to me? I’m done for,
        if I don’t learn to twist my words around.
        Come on, Clouds, give me some good advice.

        Old man, here’s our advice: if you’ve a son
        and he’s full grown, send him in there to learn—
        he’ll take your place.

                                            Well, I do have a son—
        a really good and fine one, too—trouble is
        he doesn’t want to learn. What should I do?

        You just let him do that?

                                                        He’s a big lad—
        and strong and proud—his mother’s family
        are all high-flying women like Coesyra.
        But I’ll take him in hand. If he says no,
        then I’ll evict him from my house for sure.

 [to Socrates] 

        Go inside and wait for me a while.

[Strepsiades moves back across the stage to his own house]

CHORUS [to Socrates]
   Don’t you see you’ll quickly get
        from us all sorts of lovely things
        since we’re your only god?
        This man here is now all set                                                              
        to follow you in anything,
        you simply have to prod.

        You know the man is in a daze.
        He’s clearly keen his son should learn.
        So lap it up—make haste—
        get everything that you can raise.
        Such chances tend to change and turn
        into a different case.

[Socrates exits into the Thinkery. Strepsiades and Pheidippides come out of their house. Strepsiades is pushing his son in front of him]

        By the foggy air, you can’t stay here—
        not one moment longer! Off with you—                                           
        go eat Megacles out of house and home!

        Hey, father—you poor man, what’s wrong with you?
        By Olympian Zeus, you’re not thinking straight.

        See that—“Olympian Zeus”! Ridiculous—
        to believe in Zeus—and at your age!

        Why laugh at that?

                                     To think you’re such a child—
        and your views so out of date. Still, come here,
        so you can learn a bit. I’ll tell you things.
        When you understand all this, you’ll be a man.
        But you mustn’t mention this to anyone.

        All right, what is it?

                                            You just swore by Zeus.

        That’s right. I did.

                             You see how useful learning is?
        Pheidippides, there’s no such thing as Zeus.

        Then what is there?

                                             Vortex now is king—
        he’s pushed out Zeus.

                                     Bah, that’s nonsense!

        You should know that’s how things are right now.

        Who says that?

                                                                Socrates of Melos* 
        and Chaerephon—they know about fleas’ footprints.

        Have you become so crazy you believe
        these fellows? They’re disgusting!

                                                     Watch your tongue.
        Don’t say nasty things about such clever men—
        men with brains, who like to save their money.
        That’s why not one of them has ever shaved,
        or oiled his skin, or visited the baths
        to wash himself. You, on the other hand,
        keep on bathing in my livelihood,
        as if I’d died.*
 So now get over there,
        as quickly as you can. Take my place and learn.

        But what could anyone learn from those men
        that’s any use at all?

                                                                   You have to ask?
        Why, wise things—the full extent of human thought.
        You’ll see how thick you are, how stupid.
        Just wait a moment here for me.

[Strepsiades goes into his house]

                                                           O dear,
        What will I do? My father’s lost his wits.
        Do I haul him off to get committed,
        on the ground that he’s a lunatic,
        or tell the coffin-makers he’s gone nuts.

[Strepsiades returns with two birds, one in each hand. He holds out one of them]

        Come on now, what do you call this? Tell me.

        It’s a fowl.

                             That’s good. What’s this?

                                                                 That’s a fowl.

        They’re both the same? You’re being ridiculous.
        From now on, don’t do that. Call this one “fowl,”
        and this one here “fowlette.”

                                                          “Fowlette”? That’s it?
        That’s the sort of clever stuff you learned in there,
        by going in with these Sons of Earth?*

                                                                   Yes, it is—
        and lots more, too. But everything I learned,
        I right away forgot, because I’m old.

        That why you lost your cloak?

                                             I didn’t lose it—
        I gave it to knowledge—a donation.

        And your sandals—what you do with them,
        you deluded man?

                                            Just like Pericles,
        I lost them as a “necessary expense.”*
        But come on, let’s go. Move it. If your dad
        asks you to do wrong, you must obey him.
        I know I did just what you wanted long ago,
        when you were six years old and had a lisp—
        with the first obol I got for jury work,
        at the feast of Zeus I got you a toy cart.

        You’re going to regret this one fine day.

        Good—you’re doing what I ask.

[Strepsiades calls inside the Thinkery]

        come out here . . .

[Enter Socrates from inside the Thinkery]

                                        Here—I’ve brought my son to you.                                     1110
        He wasn’t keen, but I persuaded him.

        He’s still a child—he doesn’t know the ropes.

        Go hang yourself up on some rope,
        and get beaten like a worn-out cloak.

        Damn you! Why insult your teacher?

        Look how he says “hang yourself”—it sounds
        like baby talk. No crispness in his speech.*
        With such a feeble tone how will he learn
        to answer to a charge or summons
        or speak persuasively? And yet it’s true                                             
        Hyperbolos could learn to master that—
        it cost him one talent.*

                                          Don’t be concerned.
        Teach him. He’s naturally intelligent.
        When he was a little boy—just that tall—
        even then at home he built small houses,
        carved out ships, made chariots from leather,
        and fashioned frogs from pomegranate peel.
        You can’t imagine! Get him to learn
        those two forms of argument—the Better,
        whatever that may be, and the Worse.
        If not both, then at least the unjust one—
        every trick you’ve got.

                                              He’ll learn on his own
        from the two styles of reasoning. I’ll be gone.

        But remember this—he must be able
        to speak against all just arguments.

[Enter the Better Argument from inside the Thinkery, talking to the Worse Argument who is still inside]

        Come on. Show yourself to the people here—
        I guess you’re bold enough for that.

[The Worse Argument emerges from the Thinkery]

                                           Go where you please.
        The odds are greater I can wipe you out
        with lots of people there to watch us argue.

        You’ll wipe me out? Who’d you think you are?

        An argument.

                                   Yes, but second rate.

        You claim that you’re more powerful than me,
        but I’ll still conquer you.

                                                 What clever tricks
        do you intend to use?

                                            I’ll formulate
        new principles.

BETTER ARGUMENT [indicating the audience]    
                                          Yes, that’s in fashion now,
        thanks to these idiots.

                                     No, no. They’re smart.

        I’ll destroy you utterly.

                                            And how?
        Tell me that.

                                 By arguing what’s just.

        That I can overturn in my response,
        by arguing there’s no such thing as Justice.

        It doesn’t exist? That’s what you maintain?

        Well, if it does, where is it?

                                                    With the gods.

        Well, if Justice does exist, how come Zeus
        hasn’t been destroyed for chaining up his dad.*

        This is going from bad to worse. I feel sick.
        Fetch me a basin.

                                           You silly old man—
        you’re so ridiculous.

                                      And you’re quite shameless,
        you bum fucker.

                                 Those words you speak—like roses!


                                You adorn my head with lilies.

        You destroyed your father!

                                                    You don’t mean to,
        but you’re showering me with gold.

                                                   No, not gold—
        before this age, those names were lead.

                                                     But now,
        your insults are a credit to me.

        You’re too obstreperous.

                                             You’re archaic.

        It’s thanks to you that none of our young men
        is keen to go to school. The day will come
        when the Athenians will all realize
        how you teach these silly fools.

                                               You’re dirty—
        it’s disgusting.

                                     But you’re doing very well—
        although in earlier days you were a beggar,
        claiming to be Telephos from Mysia,
        eating off some views of Pandeletos,
        which you kept in your wallet.*

                                                  That was brilliant—
        you just reminded me . . .

                                             It was lunacy!
        Your own craziness—the city’s, too.
        It fosters you while you corrupt the young.

        You can’t teach this boy—you’re old as Cronos.

        Yes, I must—if he’s going to be redeemed 
        and not just prattle empty verbiage.

WORSE ARGUMENT [to Pheidippides]
        Come over here—leave him to his foolishness.

        You’ll regret it, if you lay a hand on him.

        Stop this fighting, all these abusive words.

[addressing first the Better Argument and then the Worse Argument]

        Instead, explain the things you used to teach
        to young men long ago—then you lay out
        what’s new in training now. He can listen
        as you present opposing arguments
        and then decide which school he should attend.

        I’m willing to do that.

                                                   All right with me.

        Come on then, which one of you goes first?

        I’ll grant him that right. Once he’s said his piece,
        I’ll shoot it down with brand-new expressions
        and some fresh ideas. By the time I’m done,
        if he so much as mutters, he’ll get stung
        by my opinions
 on his face and eyes—
        like so many hornets—he’ll be destroyed.

                        Trusting their skill in argument,
                        their phrase-making propensity,
                    these two men here are now intent
                        to show which one will prove to be
                        the better man in oratory.
                    For wisdom now is being hard pressed—
                    my friends, this is the crucial test.

CHORUS LEADER [addressing the Better Argument]
 First, you who crowned our men in days gone by
        with so much virtue in their characters,
        let’s hear that voice which brings you such delight—
        explain to us what makes you what you are.

        All right, I’ll set out how we organized
        our education in the olden days,
        when I talked about what’s just and prospered,
        when people wished to practise self-restraint.
        First, there was a rule—children made no noise,
        no muttering. Then, when they went outside,
        walking the streets to the music master’s house,
        groups of youngsters from the same part of town
        went in straight lines and never wore a cloak,
        not even when the snow fell thick as flour.
        There he taught them to sing with thighs apart.*
        They had memorize their songs—such as,
        ”Dreadful Pallas Who Destroys Whole Cities,”
        and “A Cry From Far Away.” These they sang                                   
        in the same style their fathers had passed down.
        If any young lad fooled around or tried
        to innovate with some new flourishes,
        like the contorted sounds we have today
        from those who carry on the Phrynis style,* 
        he was beaten, soundly thrashed, his punishment
        for tarnishing the Muse. At the trainer’s house,
        when the boys sat down, they had to keep
        their thighs stretched out, so they would not expose
        a thing which might excite erotic torments                                       
        in those looking on. And when they stood up,
        they smoothed the sand, being careful not to leave
        imprints of their manhood there for lovers.
        Using oil, no young lad rubbed his body
        underneath his navel—thus on his sexual parts
        there was a dewy fuzz, like on a peach.
        He didn’t make his voice all soft and sweet
        to talk to lovers as he walked along,
        or with his glances coyly act the pimp.
        When he was eating, he would not just grab                                     
        a radish head, or take from older men
        some dill or parsley, or eat dainty food.
        He wasn’t allowed to giggle, or sit there
        with his legs crossed.

                                      Antiquated rubbish!
        Filled with festivals for Zeus Polieus,
        cicadas, slaughtered bulls, and Cedeides.*

        But the point is this—these very features
        in my education brought up those men
        who fought at Marathon. But look at you—
        you teach these young men now right from the start                            
        to wrap themselves in cloaks. It enrages me
        when the time comes for them to do their dance
        at the Panathenaea festival
        and one of them holds his shield low down,
        over his balls, insulting Tritogeneia.*
        And so, young man, that’s why you should choose me,
        the Better Argument. Be resolute.
        You’ll find out how to hate the market place,
        to shun the public baths, to feel ashamed
        of shameful things, to fire up your heart                                           
        when someone mocks you, to give up your chair
        when older men come near, not to insult
        your parents, nor act in any other way
        which brings disgrace or which could mutilate
        your image as an honourable man.
        You’ll learn not to run off to dancing girls,
        in case, while gaping at them, you get hit
        with an apple thrown by some little slut,
        and your fine reputation’s done for,
        and not to contradict your father,
        or remind him of his age by calling him
        Iapetus—not when he spent his years
        in raising you from infancy.*

        My boy, if you’re persuaded by this man,
        then by Dionysus, you’ll finish up
        just like Hippocrates’ sons—and then
        they’ll all call you a sucker of the tit.*

        You’ll spend your time in the gymnasium—
        your body will be sleek, in fine condition.
        You won’t be hanging round the market place,
        chattering filth, as boys do nowadays.
        You won’t keep on being hauled away to court
        over some damned sticky fierce dispute
        about some triviality. No, no.
        Instead you’ll go to the Academy,*
        to race under the sacred olive trees,
        with a decent friend the same age as you,
        wearing a white reed garland, with no cares.
        You’ll smell yew trees, quivering poplar leaves,
        as plane trees whisper softly to the elms,
        rejoicing in the spring. I tell you this—
        if you carry out these things I mention,
        if you concentrate your mind on them,
        you’ll always have a gleaming chest, bright skin,
        broad shoulders, tiny tongue, strong buttocks,
        and a little prick. But if you take up
        what’s in fashion nowadays, you’ll have,
        for starters, feeble shoulders, a pale skin,
        a narrow chest, huge tongue, a tiny bum,
        and a large skill in framing long decrees.* 
        And that man there will have you believing
        what’s bad is good and what’s good is bad.
        Then he’ll give you Antimachos’ disease—
        you’ll be infected with his buggery.*

        O you whose wisdom stands so tall,
        the most illustrious of all.
        The odour of your words is sweet,
        the flowering bloom of modest ways—
        happy who lived in olden days!

[to the Worse Argument]

        Your rival’s made his case extremely well,                                                                     1310
        so you who have such nice artistic skill.
        must in reply give some new frill.

        If you want to overcome this man
        it looks as if you’ll need to bring at him
        some clever stratagems
 —unless you want
        to look ridiculous.

                                                        It’s about time!
        My guts have long been churning with desire
        to rip in fragments all those things he said,
        with counter-arguments. That’s why I’m called
        Worse Argument among all thinking men,
        because I was the very first of them
        to think of coming up with reasoning
        against our normal ways and just decrees.
        And it’s worth lots of money—more, in fact,
        than drachmas in six figures*—to select
        the weaker argument and yet still win.
        Now just see how I’ll pull his system down,
        that style of education which he trusts.
        First, he says he won’t let you have hot water
        when you take a bath. What’s the idea here?
        Why object to having a warm bath?

        The effect they have is very harmful—
        they turn men into cowards.

                                                   Wait a minute!
        The first thing you say I’ve caught you out.
        I’ve got you round the waist. You can’t escape.
        Tell me this—of all of Zeus’ children
        which man, in your view, had the greatest heart
        and carried out the hardest tasks? Tell me.

        In my view, no one was a better man
        than Hercules.

                                   And where’d you ever see                                       
        cold water in a bath of Hercules? But who
        was a more manly man than him?*

        That’s it, the very things which our young men
        are always babbling on about these days—
        crowding in the bath house, leaving empty
        all the wrestling schools.

                                        Next, you’re not happy
        when they hang around the market place—
        but I think that’s good. If it were shameful,
        Homer would not have labelled Nestor—
        and all his clever men—great public speakers.*
        Now, I’ll move on to their tongues, which this man
        says the young lads should not train. I say they should.
        He also claims they should be self-restrained.
        These two things injure them in major ways.
        Where have you ever witnessed self-restraint
        bring any benefit to anyone?
        Tell me. Speak up. Refute my reasoning.

        There are lots of people. For example,
        Peleus won a sword for his restraint.*

        A sword! What a magnificent reward                                                
        the poor wretch received! While Hyperbolos,
        who sells lamps in the market, is corrupt
        and brings in lots of money, but, god knows,
        he’s never won a sword.

                                             But his virtue
        enabled Peleus to marry Thetis.*

        Then she ran off, abandoning the man,
        because he didn’t want to spend all night
        having hard sweet sex between the sheets—
        that rough-and-tumble love that women like.
        You’re just a crude old-fashioned Cronos.
                                                                    1370          [1070]
        Now, my boy, just think off all those things
        that self-restraint requires—you’ll go without
        all sorts of pleasures—boys and women,
        drunken games and tasty delicacies,
        drink and riotous laughter. What’s life worth
        if you’re deprived of these? So much for that.
        I’ll now move on to physical desires.
        You’ve strayed and fallen in love—had an affair
        with someone else’s wife. And then you’re caught.
        You’re dead, because you don’t know how to speak.
        But if you hang around with those like me,
        you can follow what your nature urges.
        You can leap and laugh and never think
        of anything as shameful. If, by chance,
        you’re discovered screwing a man’s wife,
        just tell the husband you’ve done nothing wrong.
        Blame Zeus—alleging even he’s someone
        who can’t resist his urge for sex and women.
        And how can you be stronger than a god?
        You’re just a mortal man.

                                          All right—but suppose                                     
        he trusts in your advice and gets a radish
        rammed right up his arse, and his pubic hairs
        are burned with red-hot cinders. Will he have
        some reasoned argument to demonstrate
        he’s not a loose-arsed bugger?*

                                      So his asshole's large—
        why should that in any way upset him?

        Can one suffer any greater harm
        than having a loose asshole?

                                         What will you say
        if I defeat you on this point?

                                                        I’ll shut up.
        What more could a man say?

                                                 Come on, then—                                      
        Tell me about our legal advocates.
        Where are they from?

                                    They come from loose-arsed buggers.

        I grant you that. What’s next? Our tragic poets,
        where they from?

                                       They come from major assholes.

        That’s right. What about our politicians—
        where do they come from?

                                             From gigantic assholes!

        All right then—surely you can recognize
        how you’ve been spouting rubbish? Look out there—
        at this audience—what sort of people
        are most of them?

                                    All right, I’m looking at them.

        Well, what do you see?

                                                                    By all the gods,
        almost all of them are men who spread their cheeks.
        It’s true of that one there, I know for sure . . .
        and that one . . . and the one there with long hair.

        So what do you say now?

                                                      We’ve been defeated.
        O you fuckers, for gods’ sake take my cloak—
        I’m defecting to your ranks.

[The Better Argument takes off his cloak and exits into the Thinkery]

WORSE ARGUMENT [to Strepsiades]
                                                                            What now?
        Do you want to take your son away?
        Or, to help you out, am I to teach him
        how to argue?

                               Teach him—whip him into shape.
        Don’t forget to sharpen him for me,
        one side ready to tackle legal quibbles. 
        On the other side, give his jaw an edge
        for more important matters.

                                                         Don’t worry.
        You’ll get back a person skilled in sophistry.

        Someone miserably pale, I figure.

                                                     All right. Go in.
        I think you may regret this later on.

[Worse Argument and Pheidippides go into the Thinkery, while Strepsiades returns into his own house]

        We’d like to tell the judges here the benefits
        they’ll get, if they help this chorus, as by right they should.
        First, if you want to plough your lands in season,
        we’ll rain first on you and on the others later.
        Then we’ll protect your fruit, your growing vines,
        so neither drought nor too much rain will damage them.
        But any mortal who dishonours us as gods
        should bear in mind the evils we will bring him.
        From his land he’ll get no wine or other harvest.
        When his olive trees and fresh young vines are budding,
        we’ll let fire with our sling shots, to smash and break them.
        If we see him making bricks, we’ll send down rain,
        we’ll shatter roofing tiles with our round hailstones.
        If ever there’s a wedding for his relatives,
        or friends, or for himself, we’ll rain all through the night,
        so he’d rather live in Egypt than judge this wrong.

[Strepsiades comes out of his house, with a small sack in his hand]

        Five more days, then four, three, two—and then
        the day comes I dread more than all the rest.
        It makes me shake with fear—the day that stands
        between the Old Moon and the New—the day
        when any man I happen to owe money to
        swears on oath he’ll put down his deposit,
        take me to court.*
 He says he’ll finish me,                                                                    1450
        do me in. When I make a modest plea
        for something fair, “My dear man, don’t demand
        this payment now, postpone this one for me,
        discharge that one,” they say the way things are
        they’ll never be repaid—then they go at me,
        abuse me as unfair and say they’ll sue.
        Well, let them go to court. I just don’t care,
        not if Pheidippides has learned to argue.
        I’ll find out soon enough.  Let's knock here,
        at the thinking school.

[Strepsiades knocks on the door of the Thinkery]

                                                        Boy . . . Hey, boy . . . boy!                     1460

[Socrates comes to the door]

        Hello there, Strepsiades.

                                                      Hello to you.
        First of all, you must accept this present.

[Strepsiades hands Socrates the small sack]

        It’s proper for a man show respect
        to his son’s teacher in some way. Tell me—
        has the boy learned that style of argument
        you brought out here just now?

                                                                  Yes, he has.

        In the name of Fraud, queen of everything,
        that’s splendid news!

                                 You can defend yourself
        in any suit you like—and win.

                                                          I can?
        Even if there were witnesses around                                                 
        when I took out the loan?

                                        The more the better—
        even if they number in the thousands.

STREPSIADES [in a parody of tragic style]
 Then I will roar aloud a mighty shout—
        Ah ha, weep now you petty money men,
        wail for yourselves, wail for your principal,
        wail for your compound interest. No more
        will you afflict me with your evil ways.
        On my behalf there’s growing in these halls
        a son who’s got a gleaming two-edged tongue—
        he’s my protector, saviour of my home,
        a menace to my foes. He will remove
        the mighty tribulations of his sire.
        Run off inside and summon him to me.

[Socrates goes back into the Thinkery]

        My son, my boy, now issue from the house—
        and hearken to your father’s words.

[Socrates and Pheidippides come out of the Thinkery. Pheidippides has been transformed in appearance, so that he now looks, moves, and talks like the other students in the Thinkery]

        Here’s your young man.

                                             Ah, my dear, dear boy.

        Take him and go away.

[Socrates exits back into the Thinkery]

                                                        Ah ha, my lad—
        what joy. What sheer delight for me to gaze,
        first, upon your colourless complexion,
        to see how right away you’re well prepared                                       
        to deny and contradict—with that look
        which indicates our national character
        so clearly planted on your countenance—
        the look which says, “What do you mean?”—the look
        which makes you seem a victim, even though
        you’re the one at fault, the criminal.
        I know that Attic stare stamped on your face.
        Now you must rescue me—since you’re the one
        who’s done me in.

                                        What are you scared about?

        The day of the Old Moon and the New.

        You mean there’s a day that’s old and new?

        The day they say they’ll make deposits
        to charge me in the courts!

                                          Then those who do that
        will lose their cash. There’s simply no way
        one day can be two days.

                                              It can’t?

PHEIDIPPIDES:                                       How?
        Unless it’s possible a single woman
        can at the same time be both old and young.

        Yet that seems to be what our laws dictate.

        In my view they just don’t know the law—
        not what it really means.

                                                What does it mean?

        Old Solon by his nature loved the people.*

        But that’s got no bearing on the Old Day—
        or the New.

                                     Well, Solon set up two days
        for summonses—the Old Day and the New,
        so deposits could be made with the New Moon.*

        Then why did he include Old Day as well?

        So the defendants, my dear fellow,
        could show up one day early, to settle
        by mutual agreement, and, if not,
        they should be very worried the next day                                          
        was the start of a New Moon.

                                               In that case,
        why do judges not accept deposits
        once the New Moon comes but only on the day
        between the Old and New?

                                                             It seems to me
        they have to act like those who check the food—
        they want to grab as fast as possible
        at those deposits, so they can nibble them
        a day ahead of time.

                                                    That’s wonderful!

 [to the audience] 

        You helpless fools! Why do you sit there—                                         1530
        so idiotically, for us wise types
        to take advantage of? Are you just stones,
        ciphers, merely sheep or stacked-up pots?
        This calls for a song to me and my son here,
        to celebrate good luck and victory.

[He sings]

            O Strepsiades is truly blessed
            for cleverness the very best,
            what a brainy son he’s raised.
            So friends and townsfolk sing his praise.
            Each time you win they’ll envy me—                                            
1540          [1210]
            you’ll plead my case to victory.
            So let’s go in—I want to treat,
            and first give you something to eat.

[Strepsiades and Pheidippides go together into their house. Enter one of Strepsiades’ creditors, Pasias, with a friend as his witness]

        Should a man throw away his money?
        Never! But it would have been much better,
        back then at the start, to forget the loan
        and the embarrassment than go through this—
        to drag you as a witness here today
        in this matter of my money. I’ll make
        this man from my own deme my enemy.*
        But I’ll not let my country down—never—
        not as long as I’m alive. And so . . .

[raising his voice] 

        I’m summoning Strepsiades . . .

[Enter Strepsiades]

                                                         Who is it?

       . . . on this Old Day and the New.

                                                        I ask you here
        to witness that he’s called me for two days.
        What’s the matter?

                         The loan you got, twelve minai,
        when you bought that horse—the dapple grey.

        A horse? Don’t listen to him. You all know
        how I hate horses.

                                                What’s more, by Zeus,
        you swore on all the gods you’d pay me back.

        Yes, by god, but Pheidippides back then
        did not yet know the iron-clad argument
        on my behalf.

                             So now, because of that,
        you’re intending to deny the debt?

        If I don’t, what advantage do I gain
        from everything he’s learned?

                                                    Are you prepared
        to swear you owe me nothing—by the gods—
        in any place I tell you?

                                         Which gods?

        By Zeus, by Hermes, by Poseidon.

        Yes, indeed, by Zeus—and to take that oath                                     
        I’d even pay three extra obols.*

        You’re shameless—may that ruin you some day!

STREPSIADES [patting Pasias on the belly]
   This wine skin here would much better off
        if you rubbed it down with salt.*

                                                         Damn you—
        you’re ridiculing me!

STREPSIADES [still patting Pasias’ paunch]
 About four gallons,
        that’s what it should hold.

                                                      By mighty Zeus,
        by all the gods, you’ll not make fun of me
        and get away with it!

                                   Ah, you and your gods—
        that’s so incredibly funny. And Zeus—
        to swear on him is quite ridiculous                                                    
        to those who understand.

                                                Some day, I swear, 
        you’re going to have to pay for all of this.
        Will you or will you not pay me my money?
        Give me an answer, and I’ll leave.

                                                         Calm down—
        I’ll give you a clear answer right away.

[Strepsiades goes into his house, leaving Pasias and the Witness by themselves]

        Well, what do you think he’s going to do?
        Does it strike you he’s going to pay?

[Enter Strepsiades carrying a kneading basin]

        Where’s the man who’s asking me for money?
        Tell me—what’s this?

                                 What’s that? A kneading basin.

        You’re demanding money when you’re such a fool?
        I wouldn’t pay an obol back to anyone
        who called a basinette a basin.

        So you won’t repay me?

                                               As far as I know,
        I won’t. So why don’t you just hurry up
        and quickly scuttle from my door.

                                                                    I’m off.
        Let me tell you—I’ll be making my deposit.
        If not, may I not live another day!

[Pasias exits with the Witness]

STREPSIADES [calling after them]
 That’ll be more money thrown away—
        on top of the twelve minai. I don’t want
        you going thorough that just because you’re foolish                            
        and talk about a kneading

[Enter Amynias, another creditor, limping He has obviously been hurt in some way]

        Oh, it’s bad. Poor me!

                                           Hold on. Who’s this
        who’s chanting a lament? Is that the cry
        of some god perhaps—one from Carcinus?*

        What’s that? You wish to know who I am?
        I’m a man with a miserable fate!

        Then go off on your own.

AMYNIAS [in a grand tragic manner]            
                                                     “O cruel god,
        O fortune fracturing my chariot wheels,
        O Pallas, how you’ve annihilated me!”*

        How’s Tlepolemos done nasty things to you?* 

        Don’t laugh at me, my man—but tell your son
        to pay me back the money he received,
        especially when I’m going through all this pain.

        What money are you talking about?

        The loan he got from me.

                                               It seems to me
        you’re having a bad time.

                                           By god, that’s true—
        I was driving in my chariot and fell out.

        Why then babble on such utter nonsense,
        as if you’d just fallen off a donkey?

        If I want him to pay my money back                                                 
        am I talking nonsense?

                                                 I think it’s clear
        your mind’s not thinking straight.

                                                Why’s that?

        From your behaviour here, it looks to me
        as if your brain’s been shaken up.

                                                 Well, as for you,
        by Hermes, I’ll be suing you in court,
        if you don’t pay the money.

                                                           Tell me this—
        do you think Zeus always sends fresh water
        each time the rain comes down, or does the sun
        suck the same water up from down below
        for when it rains again?

                                         I don’t know which—                                       
        and I don’t care.

                                     Then how can it be just
        for you to get your money reimbursed,
        when you know nothing of celestial things?

        Look, if you haven’t got the money now,
        at least repay the interest.

                                                    This “interest”—
        What sort of creature is it?

                                                    Don’t you know?
        It’s nothing but the way that money grows,
        always getting larger day by day
        month by month, as time goes by.

                                                  That’s right.
        What about the sea? In your opinion,
                                                                               1640          [1290]
        is it more full of water than before?

        No, by Zeus—
 it’s still the same. If it grew,
        that would violate all natural order.

        In that case then, you miserable rascal,
        if the sea shows no increase in volume
        with so many rivers flowing into it,
        why are you so keen to have your money grow?
        Now, why not chase yourself away from here?

[calling inside the house] 

        Bring me the cattle prod!

                                                 I have witnesses!

[The slave comes out of the house and gives Strepsiades a cattle prod. Strepsiades starts poking Amynias with it]

        Come on! What you waiting for? Move it,
        you pedigree nag!

                                           This is outrageous!

STREPSIADES [continuing to poke Amynias away]
 Get a move on—or I’ll shove this prod                                                                                                 [1300]
        all the way up your horse-racing rectum!

[Amynias runs off stage]

        You running off? That’s what I meant to do,
        get the wheels on that chariot of yours
        really moving fast.

[Strepsiades goes back into his house]

                        Oh, it’s so nice
                        to worship vice.
                        This old man here
                        adores it so                                                                        
                        he will not clear
                        the debts he owes.
                        But there’s no way
                        he will not fall
                        some time today,
                        done in by all
                        his trickeries,
                        he’ll quickly fear
                        he’s started here.

                        It seems to me
                        he’ll soon will see
                        his clever son
                        put on the show
                        he wanted done
                        so long ago—
                        present a case
                        against what’s true
                        and beat all those
                        he runs into                                                                       
                        with sophistry.
                        He’ll want his son
                        (it may well be)
                        to be struck dumb.

[Enter Strepsiades running out of his house with Pheidippides close behind him hitting him over the head]

        Help! Help! You neighbours, relatives,
        fellow citizens, help me—I’m begging you!
        I’m being beaten up! Owww, I’m in such pain—
        my head . . . my jaw.

[To Pheidippides] 

                                     You good for nothing,
        are you hitting your own father?

                                                     Yes, dad, I am.

        See that! He admits he’s beating me.

        I do indeed.

                                      You scoundrel, criminal—
        a man who abuses his own father!

        Go on—keep calling me those very names—
        the same ones many times. Don’t you realize
        I just love hearing streams of such abuse?

        You perverted asshole!

                                                   Ah, some roses!
        Keep pelting me with roses!!

                                               You’d hit your father?

        Yes, and by the gods I’ll now demonstrate
        how I was right to hit you.

                                                     You total wretch,
        how can it be right to strike one’s father?

        I'll prove that to you—and win the argument.

        You’ll beat me on this point?

                                                         Indeed, I will.
        It’s easy. So of the two arguments
        choose which one you want.

                                       What two arguments?

        The Better or the Worse.

                                             By god, my lad,
        I really did have you taught to argue
        against what’s just, if you succeed in this—
        and make the case it’s fine and justified
        for a father to be beaten by his son.

        Well, I think I’ll manage to convince you,
        so that once you’ve heard my arguments,
        you won’t say a word.

                                     Well, to tell the truth,
        I do want to hear what you have to say.

        You’ve some work to do, old man.
        Think how to get the upper hand.
        He’s got something he thinks will work,
        or he’d not act like such a jerk.
        There’s something makes him confident—
        his arrogance is evident.

CHORUS LEADER [addressing Strepsiades]
 But first you need to tell the Chorus here                                            1720
        how your fight originally started.
        That’s something you should do in any case.

        Yes, I’ll tell you how our quarrel first began.
        As you know, we were having a fine meal.
        I first asked him to take up his lyre
        and sing a lyric by Simonides*
        the one about the ram being shorn.
        But he immediately refused—saying
        that playing the lyre while we were drinking
        was out of date, like some woman singing                                        
        while grinding barley.

                                                            Well, at that point,
        you should have been ground up and trampled on—
        asking for a song, as if you were feasting
        with cicadas.

                                          The way he's talking now—
        that’s just how he was talking there before.
        He said Simonides was a bad poet.
        I could hardly stand it, but at first I did.
        Then I asked him to pick up a myrtle branch
        and at least recite some Aeschylus for me.*
        He replied at once, “In my opinion,
        Aeschylus is first among the poets
        for lots of noise, unevenness, and bombast—
        he piles up words like mountains.” Do you know
        how hard my heart was pounding after that?
        But I clenched my teeth and kept my rage inside,
        and said, “Then recite me something recent,
        from the newer poets, some witty verse.”
        So he then right off started to declaim
        some passage from Euripides in which,
        spare me this, a brother was enjoying sex                                         
        with his own sister—
 from a common mother.
        I couldn’t keep my temper any more—
        so on the spot I verbally attacked
        with all sorts of nasty, shameful language.
        Then, as one might predict, we went at it—
        hurling insults at each other back and forth.
        But then he jumped up, pushed me, thumped me,
        choked me, and started killing me.

        Surely I was entitled to do that
        to a man who will not praise Euripides,
        the cleverest of all.

                               Him? The cleverest? Ha!
        What do I call you? No, I won’t say—
        I’d just get beaten one more time.

                                                 Yes, by Zeus,
        you would—and with justice, too.

        How would that be just? You shameless man,
        I brought you up. When you lisped your words,
        I listened ‘til I recognized each one.
        If you said “waa,” I understood the word
        and brought a drink; if you asked for “foo foo,”
        I’d bring you bread. And if you said “poo poo
        I’d pick you up and carry you outside,
        and hold you up. But when you strangled me
        just now, I screamed and yelled I had to shit—
        but you didn’t dare to carry me outside,
        you nasty brute, you kept on throttling me,
        until I crapped myself right where I was.

        I think the hearts of younger spry
        are pounding now for his reply—
        for if he acts in just this way
        and yet his logic wins the day                                                            
        I’ll not value at a pin
        any older person’s skin.

        Now down to work, you spinner of words,
        you explorer of brand new expressions.
        Seek some way to persuade us, so it will appear
        that what you’ve been saying is right.

        How sweet it is to be conversant with
        things which are new and clever, capable
        of treating with contempt established ways.
        When I was only focused on my horses,
        I couldn’t say three words without going wrong.
        But now this man has made me stop all that,
        I’m well acquainted with the subtlest views,
        and arguments and frames of mind. And so,
        I do believe I’ll show how just it is
        to punish one’s own father.

                                                      By the gods,
        keep on with your horses then—for me
        caring for a four-horse team is better
        than being beaten to a pulp.

                                               I’ll go back
        to where I was in my argument,
        when you interrupted me. First, tell me this—
        Did you hit me when I was a child?

        But I was doing it out of care for you.

        Then tell me this: Is it not right for me
        to care for you in the same way—to beat you—
        since that’s what caring means—a beating?
        Why must your body be except from blows,
        while mine is not? I was born a free man, too.
        ”The children howl—you think the father
        should not howl as well?” You’re going to claim                                
        the laws permit this practice on our children.
        To that I would reply that older men
        are in their second childhood. More than that—
        it makes sense that older men should howl
        before the young, because there’s far less chance
        their natures lead them into errors.

        There’s no law that fathers have to suffer this.

        But surely some man first brought in the law,
        someone like you and me? And way back then
        people found his arguments convincing.
        Why should I have less right to make new laws
        for future sons, so they can take their turn
        and beat their fathers? All the blows we got
        before the law was brought in we’ll erase,
        and we’ll demand no payback for our beatings.
        Consider cocks and other animals—
        they avenge themselves against their fathers.
        And yet how are we different from them,
        except they don’t propose decrees?

                                                                Well then,
        since you want to be like cocks in all you do,
        why not sleep on a perch and feed on shit?

        My dear man, that’s not the same at all—
        not according to what Socrates would think.

        Even so, don’t beat me. For if you do,
        you’ll have yourself to blame.

                                                 Why’s that?

        Because I have the right to chastise you,
        if you have a son, you’ll have that right with him.

        If I don’t have one, I’ll have cried for nothing,
        and you’ll be laughing in your grave.

STREPSIADES [addressing the audience]
   All you men out there my age, it seems to me                                   1840
        he’s arguing what’s right. And in my view,
        we should concede to these young sons what’s fair.
        It’s only right that we should cry in pain
        when we do something wrong.

        Consider now another point.

                                                 No, no.
        It’ll finish me!

                                                        But then again
        perhaps you won’t feel so miserable
        at going through what you’ve suffered.

                                                     What’s that?
        Explain to me how I benefit from this.

        I’ll thump my mother, just as I hit you.

        What’s did you just say? What are you claiming?
        This second point is even more disgraceful.

        But what if, using the Worse Argument,
        I beat you arguing this proposition—
        that it’s only right to hit one’s mother?

        What else but this—if you do a thing like that,
        then why stop there? Why not throw yourself
        and Socrates and the Worse Argument
        into the execution pit?

[Strepsiades turns towards the Chorus]

                                                              It’s your fault,
        you Clouds, that I have to endure all this.
        I entrusted my affairs to you.

        You’re the one responsible for this.
        You turned yourself toward these felonies.

        Why didn’t you inform me at the time,
        instead of luring on an old country man?

        That’s what we do each time we see someone
        who falls in love with evil strategies,
        until we hurl him into misery,
        so he may learn to fear the gods.

        O dear. That’s harsh, you Clouds, but fair enough.
        I shouldn’t have kept trying not to pay
        that cash I borrowed. Now, my dearest lad,
        come with me—let’s exterminate those men,
        the scoundrel Chaerephon and Socrates,
        the ones who played their tricks on you and me.

        But I couldn't harm the ones who taught me.

        Yes, you must. Revere Paternal Zeus.*

        Just listen to that—Paternal Zeus.
        How out of date you are! Does Zeus exist?

        He does.

                        No, no, he doesn’t—there's no way,
                                                         1880          [1470]
        for Vortex has now done away with Zeus
        and rules in everything.

                                         He hasn’t killed him.

[He points to a small statue of a round goblet which stands outside Thinkery]

        I thought he had because that statue there,
        the cup, is called a vortex.*
 What a fool
        to think this piece of clay could be a god!

        Stay here and babble nonsense to yourself.

[Pheidippides exits]*

        My god, what lunacy. I was insane
        to cast aside the gods for Socrates.

[Strepsiades goes up and talks to the small statue of Hermes outside his house]

        But, dear Hermes, don’t vent your rage on me,
        don’t grind me down. Be merciful to me.
        Their empty babbling made me lose my mind.
        Give me your advice. Shall I lay a charge,
        go after them in court. What seems right to you?

[He looks for a moment at the statue]

        You counsel well. I won’t launch a law suit.
        I’ll burn their house as quickly as I can,
        these babbling fools.

[Strepsiades calls into his house]

                                                              Xanthias, come here.
        Come outside—bring a ladder—a mattock, too.
        then climb up on top of that Thinkery
        and, if you love your master, smash the roof,
        until the house collapses in on them.                                                

[Xanthias comes out with ladder and mattock, climbs up onto the Thinkery and starts demolishing the roof]

        Someone fetch me a flaming torch out here.
        They may brag all they like, but here today
        I’ll make somebody pay the penalty
        for what they did to me.

[Another slave comes out and hands Strepsiades a torch. He joins Xanthias on the roof and tries to burn down the inside of the Thinkery]

STUDENT [from inside the Thinkery]
      Help! Help!

        Come on, Torch, put your flames to work.

[Strepsiades sets fire to the roof of the Thinkery. A student rushes outside and looks at Strepsiades and Xanthias on the roof]

        You there, what are you doing?

                                                What am I doing?
        What else but picking a good argument
        with the roof beams of your house?

[A second student appears at a window as smoke starts coming out of the house]

        Help! Who’s setting fire to the house?

                                                    It’s the man
        whose cloak you stole.

                         We’ll die. You’ll kill us all!

        That’s what I want—unless this mattock
        disappoints my hopes or I fall through somehow
        and break my neck.

[Socrates comes out of the house in a cloud of smoke. He is coughing badly]

                            What are you doing up
 on the roof?

        I walk on air and contemplate the sun.

SOCRATES [coughing] 
        This is bad—I’m going to suffocate.

STUDENT [still at the window] 
        What about poor me? I’ll be burned up.

[Strepsiades and Xanthias come down from the roof]

STREPSIADES [to Socrates] 
        Why were you so insolent with gods
        in what you studied and when you explored
        the moon’s abode? Chase them off, hit them,
        throw things at them—for all sorts of reasons,
        but most of all for their impiety.

[Strepsiades and Xanthias chase Socrates and the students off the stage and exit after them]

        Lead us on out of here. Away!
        We’ve had enough of song and dance today.

[The Chorus exits]


*Thinkery: The Greek word phrontisterion (meaning school or academy) is translated here as Thinkery, a term borrowed from William Arrowsmith's translation of The Clouds. [Back to Text]

*During the war it was easy for slaves to run away into enemy territory, so their owners had to treat them with much more care. [Back to Text]

*Wearing one’s hair long and keeping race horses were characteristics of the sons of very rich families. [Back to Text]

*The interest on Strepsiades’ loans would increase once the lunar month came to an end. [Back to Text]

*twelve minai is 100 drachmas, a considerable sum. The Greek reads “the horse branded with a koppa mark.” That brand was a guarantee of its breeding. [Back to Text]

*Megacles was a common name in a very prominent aristocratic family in Athens. Coesyra was the mother of a Megacles from this family, a woman well known for her wasteful expenditures and pride. [Back to Text]

*The Greek has “of Colias and Genetyllis” names associated with festivals celebrating women’s sexual and procreative powers. [Back to Text]

*Packing the wool tight in weaving uses up more wool and therefore costs more. Strepsiades holds up his cloak which is by now full of holes. [Back to Text]

*-hippos means “horse.” The mother presumably wanted her son to have the marks of the aristocratic classes. Xanthippos was the name of Pericles’ father and his son. The other names are less obviously aristocratic or uncommon. [Back to Text]

*Chaerephon: a well-known associate of Socrates. [Back to Text]

*pheasants were a rich rarity in Athens. Leogoras was a very wealthy Athenian. [Back to Text]

*an obol was a relatively small amount, about a third of a day’s pay for a jury member. [Back to Text]

*Knights is a term used to describe the affluent young men who made up the cavalry. Pheidippides has been mixing with people far beyond his father’s means. [Back to Text]

*A yoke horse was part of the four-horse team which was harnessed to a yoke on the inside. [Back to Text]

*I adopt Sommerstein’s useful reading of this very elliptical passage, which interprets the Greek word diabetes as meaning a passive homosexual (rather than its usual meaning, “a pair of compasses”—both senses deriving from the idea of spreading legs apart). The line about selling the cloak is added to clarify the sense. [Back to Text]

*Thales was a very famous thinker from the sixth century BC. [Back to Text]

*The Athenians had captured a number of Spartans at Pylos in 425 and brought them to Athens where they remained in captivity. [Back to Text]

*Athenians sometimes apportioned land by lot outside the state which they had appropriated from other people. [Back to Text]

*Attica is the territory surrounded by and belonging to Athens. [Back to Text]

*A deme was a political unit in Athens. Membership in a particular deme was a matter of inheritance from one’s father. [Back to Text]

*In 446 BC the Athenians under Pericles put down a revolt in Euboea, a large island just off the coast of Attica. [Back to Text]

*Athamas, a character in one of Sophocles’ lost plays who was prepared for sacrifice. He was rescued by Hercules. [Back to Text]

*Cecrops: a legendary king of Athens. Pallas is Pallas Athena, patron goddess of Athens. [Back to Text]

*holy festivals: the Eleusinian mysteries, a traditionally secret and sacred festival for those initiated into the band of cult worshippers. [Back to Text]

*Mount Parnes: a mountain range to the north of Athens. [Back to Text]

*Typho: a monster with a hundred heads, father of the storm winds (hence, our word typhoon). [Back to Text]

*thrush: meat from a thrush was considered a delicacy, something that might be given to the winner of a public competition. These lines are mocking the dithyrambic poets (perhaps in comparison with the writers of comic drama). [Back to Text]

*Xenophantes’ son: a reference to Hieronymos, a dithyrambic and tragic poet. A centaur was known for its savage temper and wild appearance. [Back to Text]

*Simon: an allegedly corrupt Athenian public official. [Back to Text]

*Cleonymos: an Athenian accused of dropping his shield and running away from a battle. [Back to Text]

*Cleisthenes: a notorious homosexual whom Aristophanes never tires of holding up to ridicule. [Back to Text]

*Prodicus: a well-known Athenian intellectual, who wrote on a wide variety of subjects. Linking Socrates and Prodicus as intellectual equals would strike many Athenians as quite absurd. [Back to Text]

*Vortex: the Greek word is dinos meaning a whirl or eddy. I adopt Sommerstein’s suggestion for this word here. [Back to Text]

*Panathenaea: a major annual festival in Athens. [Back to Text]

*Cronos: the divine father of Zeus, the age of Cronos is part of the mythic past. [Back to Text]

*Legally an Athenian who believed someone had stolen his property could enter the suspect’s house to search. But he first had to remove any garments in which he might conceal something which he might plant in the house. [Back to Text]

*Trophonios’ cave was a place people went to get prophecies. A suppliant carried a honey cake as an offering to the snakes in the cave. [Back to Text]

*win: this is a reference to the fact that the play is part of a competition. The speech obviously is part of the revisions made after the play failed to win first prize in its initial production. The speaker may have been Aristophanes himself or the Chorus Leader speaking on his behalf. [Back to Text]

*trained it: This passage is a reference to Aristophanes’ first play, The Banqueters, and to those who helped him get the work produced. The child mentioned is a metaphorical reference to that work or to his artistic talent generally. The other woman is a metaphorical reference to Callistratos, who produced The Banqueters. [Back to Text]

*Electra was the sister of Orestes and spent a long time waiting to be reunited with him. That hope kept her going. When she saw her brother’s lock of hair on their father’s tomb, she was overjoyed that he had come back. The adjective “old” refers to the story, which was very well known to the audience. [Back to Text]

*These lines may indicate that in The Clouds the male characters did not wear the traditional phalluses or that the phalluses they did wear were not of a particular kind. [Back to Text]

*Cleon was a very powerful Athenian politician after Pericles. Aristophanes savagely attacked him in Knights. Cleon was killed in battle (in 422). Hyperbolos became a very influential politician after Cleon’s death. [Back to Text]

*Eupolis, Phrynichos, and Hermippos were comic playwrights, rivals of Aristophanes. [Back to Text]

*Paphlagonian tanner is a reference to Cleon, who earned his money from tanneries. Paphlagonia is an area in Asia Minor. The word here implies that Cleon was not a true Athenian. [Back to Text]

*seagull was a bird symbolic of thievery and greed. The contradiction in these speeches in the attitude to Cleon (who died the year following the original production) may be accounted for by the incomplete revision of the script. [Back to Text]

*holy lady is a reference to the goddess Artemis. The aegis is a divine cloak which has invincible powers to strike fear into the god’s enemies. Here it is invoked as a protection for Athens, Athena’s city. Dionysus lived in Delphi when Apollo was absent from the shrine during the winter. [Back to Text]

*Athenians followed a lunar calendar, but there were important discrepancies due to a very careless control over inserting extra days. [Back to Text]

*Memnon or Sarpedon: Memnon, the son of Dawn, was killed at Troy, as was Sarpedon, a son of Zeus, and leader of the Lycian allies of the Trojans.[Back to Text]

*religious council: the Amphictyonic Council, which controlled some important religious shrines, was made up of delegates from different city states. In Athens the delegate was chosen by lot. It’s not clear how the gods could have removed the wreath in question. [Back to Text]

*the dactyl is named from the Greek word for finger because it consists of one long stress followed by two short stresses, like the structure of bones in a finger. The phrase “which is like a digit” has been added to make the point clearer. [Back to Text]

*I adopt Sommerstein’s suggested insertion of this line and a half in order to clarify what now follows in the conversation, which hinges on the gender of words (masculine, feminine, or neuter) and the proper ascription of a specific gender to words which describe male and female objects. The word “fowl” applies to both male and females and therefore is not, strictly speaking masculine. This whole section is a satire on the “nitpicking” attention to language attributed to the sophists. [Back to Text]

*kneading basin: a trough for making bread. [Back to Text]

*Cleonymos was an Athenian politician who allegedly ran away from the battle field, leaving his shield behind. [Back to Text]

*to masturbate: the Greek here says literally “Cleonymos didn’t have a kneading basin but kneaded himself with a round mortar [i.e., masturbated].”[Back to Text]

*The point of this very laboured joke seems to be making Cleonymos feminine, presumably because of his cowardice (running away in battle).[Back to Text]

*The three names mentioned belong to well known Athenians, who may have all been famous for their dissolute life style. Socrates is taking issue with the spelling of the last two names which (in some forms) look like feminine names. Strepsiades, of course, thinks Socrates is talking about the sexuality of the people. [Back to Text]

*Amynia: in Greek (as in Latin) the name changes when it is used as a direct form of address—in this case the last letter is dropped, leaving a name ending in -a, normally a feminine ending. [Back to Text]

*Corinthian is obviously a reference to bed bugs, but the link with Corinth is unclear (perhaps it was a slang expression). [Back to Text]

*bug: children sometimes tied a thread around the foot of a large flying bug and played with it. [Back to Text]

*The scribe would be writing on a wax tablet which the heat would melt. [Back to Text]

*Melos: Strepsiades presumably is confusing Socrates with Diagoras, a well known materialistic atheist, who came from Melos (whereas Socrates did not). [Back to Text]

*died: part of the funeral rituals in a family required each member to bathe thoroughly. [Back to Text]

*Sons of Earth: a phrase usually referring to the Titans who warred against the Olympian gods. Here it also evokes a sense of the materialism of Socrates’ doctrine in the play and, of course, ironically ridicules the Thinkery. [Back to Text]

*“necessary expense”: refers to the well-known story of Pericles who in 445 BC used this phrase in official state accounts to refer to an expensive but secret bribe he paid to a Spartan general to withdraw his armies from Athenian territories around Athens. No one asked any embarrassing questions about the entry. [Back to Text]

*speech: the Greek says “with his lips sagging [or loosely apart].” Socrates is criticizing Pheidippides’ untrained voice. [Back to Text]

*talent: an enormous fee to pay for lessons in rhetoric. Socrates is, of course, getting Strepsiades ready to pay a lot for his son’s education. [Back to Text]

*Zeus overthrew his father, Cronos, and the Titans and imprisoned them deep inside the earth. [Back to Text]

*Telephos from Mysia was a hero in a play by Euripides in which a king was portrayed as a beggar. Pandeletos was an Athenian politician. The imputation here is that the Worse Argument once did very badly, barely surviving on his wits and borrowed ideas. [Back to Text]

*thighs apart: keeping the thighs together was supposed to enable boys to stimulate themselves sexually. [Back to Text]

*Phrynis style: Phrynis was a musician who introduced certain innovations in music around 450 BC. [Back to Text]

*Cedeides: a dithyrambic poet well known for his old-fashioned style. The other references are all too ancient customs and rituals (like the old tradition of wearing a cicada broach or the ritual killing of oxen). [Back to Text]

*Marathon: a battle in 490 BC in which a small band of Greeks, mainly Athenians, defeated the Persian armies which had landed near Athens. The Panathenaea was a major religious festival in Athens. Tritogeneia was one of Athena’s titles. [Back to Text]

*Iapetus was a Titan, a brother of Cronos, and hence very ancient. [Back to Text]

*Hippocrates was an Athenian, a relative of Pericles. He had three sons who had a reputation for childishness. [Back to Text]

*Academy: this word refers, not to Plato’s school (which was not in existence yet) but to a public park and gymnasium in Athens. [Back to Text]

*long decrees: The Greek says “and a long decree,” which makes little sense in English. The point of the joke is to set the audience up to expect “and a long prick” (which was considered a characteristic of barbarians). [Back to Text]

*Antimachos was satirized in comedy as a particularly effeminate man. [Back to Text]

*drachmas: the Greek has “more than ten thousand staters.” A stater was a general term for non-Athenian coins, usually of high value. The idea, of course, is equivalent to “a ton of money.” [Back to Text]

*bath of Hercules was a term commonly applied to thermal hot springs. [Back to Text]

*This part of the argument is impossible to render quickly in English. Homer’s word is agoretes, meaning “speaking in the assembly.” The Worse Argument is implying that, since the word agora means market place, Homer is commending these men for “talking in the market place.” [Back to Text]

*Peleus once refused the sexual advances of the wife of his host. She accused him of immoral activity, and her husband set Peleus unarmed on a mountain. The gods admired Peleus’ chastity and provided him a sword so he could defend himself against the wild animals. [Back to Text]

*Peleus, a mortal king, married Thetis, a sea goddess, with the blessing of the gods. Their child was the hero Achilles. She later left him to return to her father (but not for the reason given in the lines following). [Back to Text]

*asshole: Someone caught in the act of adultery was punished by having a radish shoved up his anus and his pubic hair singed with hot ash. The various insults here ("loose-arsed bugger," "gigantic asshole," and so on) stand for the Greek perjorative phrase "wide arsed," which, in addition to meaning "lewd" or "disgusting," also carries the connotation of passive homosexuality, something considered ridiculous in mature men.  Terms like "bum fucker" are too active to capture this sense of the insult. [Back to Text]

*The person making the charge in court had to make a cash deposit which was forfeit if he lost the case. [Back to Text]

*Solon: was a very famous Athenian law maker. In the early sixth century he laid down the basis for Athenian laws. [Back to Text]

*Pheidippides’ hair-splitting argument which follows supposedly establishes that the law suits against Strepsiades are illegal and should be tossed out because (in brief) the court had taken the deposit, which the creditor had to make to launch the suit, on the wrong day (the last day of the month instead of the first day of the new month). The case rests on a misinterpretation of the meaning of the term Old and New Day—which was single day between the old and the new moon. The passage is, of course, a satire on sophistic reasoning and legal quibbling for self-interest.[Back to Text]

*my own deme: the deme was the basic political unit in Athens. Membership in it passed down from one’s father. [Back to Text]

*three extra obols: Strepsiades means here that swearing the oath will be such fun he’s prepared to pay for the pleasure—an obvious insult to Pasias.[Back to Text]

salt*: leather was rubbed down as part of the tanning process. The phrase “wine skin” has been added to clarify the sense. [Back to Text]

*Carcinus: an Athenian writer of tragic drama. [Back to Text]

*Amynias is here quoting from a tragedy written by Carcinus’ son Xenocles. [Back to Text]

*Tlepolemos is a character in the tragedy mentioned in the previous note. [Back to Text]

*Simonides: was a well-known lyric poet of the previous century. [Back to Text]

*myrtle branch: traditionally a person singing at a drinking party held a myrtle branch unless he was playing a musical instrument. [Back to Text]

*Paternal Zeus: This seems to be an appeal to Zeus as the guardian of the father’s rights and thus a way or urging Pheidippides to go along with what his father wants. The line may be a quote from a lost tragedy. [Back to Text]

Vortex: the Greek word dinos, meaning “whirl,” “eddy,” or “vortex,” also means a round goblet. The statue of such a goblet outside the Thinkery represents the presiding deity of the house. [Back to Text]

*It’s not clear whether Pheidippides goes back into his house or back into the school. If he does the latter, then the comic violence at the end of the play takes on a much darker tone, since Strepsiades’ murderous anger includes his son. In fact, the loss of his son might be the key event which triggers the intensity of the final destruction. [Back to Text]



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