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A monologue from the play by Aristophanes
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Aristophanes: The Eleven Comedies. Trans. Anonymous. London: The Athenian Society, 1922.
The story is worth hearing. Listen! From here I rushed straight to the Senate, right in the track of this man; he was already letting loose the storm, unchaining the lightning,
crushing the Knights beneath huge mountains of calumnies heaped together and having all the air of truth; he called you conspirators and his lies caught root like weeds in every mind;
dark were the looks on every side and brows were knitted. When I saw that the Senate listened to him favourably and was being tricked by his imposture I said to myself,
“Come, gods of rascals and braggarts, gods of all fools, toad-eaters and braggarts and thou, market-place, where I was bred from my earliest days, give me unbridled audacity, an untiring chatter and a shameless voice.”
No sooner had I ended this prayer than a lewd man broke wind on my right. “Hah! ’tis a good omen,” said I, and prostrated myself; then I burst open the door by a vigorous push with my back,
and, opening my mouth to the utmost, shouted, “Senators, I wanted you to be the first to hear the good news; since the War broke out, I have never seen anchovies at a lower price!”
All faces brightened at once and I was voted a chaplet for my good tidings; and I added, “With a couple of words I will reveal to you, how you can have quantities of anchovies for an obol;
’tis to seize on all the dishes the merchants have.” With mouths gaping with admiration, they applauded me. However, the Paphlagonian winded the matter and, well knowing the sort of language which pleases the Senate best, said,
“Friends, I am resolved to offer one hundred oxen to the goddess in recognition of this happy event.” The Senate at once veered to his side. So when I saw myself defeated by this ox filth, I outbade the fellow, crying,
“Two hundred!” And beyond this I moved, that a vow be made to Diana of a thousand goats if the next day anchovies should only be worth an obol a hundred. And the Senate looked towards me again.
The other, stunned with the blow, grew delirious in his speech, and at last the Prytanes and the guards dragged him out. The Senators then stood talking noisily about the anchovies.
Cleon, however, begged them to listen to the Lacedæmonian envoy, who had come to make proposals of peace; but all with one accord, cried, “‘Tis certainly not the moment to think of peace now!
If anchovies are so cheap, what need have we of peace? Let the war take its course!” And with loud shouts they demanded that the Prytanes should close the sitting and then leapt over the rails in all directions.
As for me, I slipped away to buy all the coriander seed and leeks there were on the market and gave it to them gratis as seasoning for their anchovies. ‘Twas marvellous!
They loaded me with praises and caresses; thus I conquered the Senate with an obol’s worth of leeks, and here I am.