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A monologue from the play by Aristophanes


At the outset I will prove to you that there exists no king whose might is greater than ours. Is there a pleasure, a blessing comparable with that of a juryman? 

Is there a being who lives more in the midst of delights, who is more feared, aged though he be? From the moment I leave my bed, men of power, the most illustrious in the city, 

await me at the bar of the tribunal; the moment I am seen from the greatest distance, they come forward to offer me a gentle handy-that has pilfered the public funds; 

they entreat me, bowing right low and with a piteous voice, “Oh, father,” they say, “pity me, I adjure you by the profit you were able to make in the public service or in the army, when dealing with the victuals.” 

Why, the man who speaks thus would not know of my existence, had I not let him off on some former occasion.

These entreaties have appeased my wrath, and I enter-firmly resolved to do nothing that I have promised. Nevertheless I listen to the accused.

Oh! what tricks to secure acquittal! Ah! there is no form of flattery that is not addressed to the Heliast! Some groan over their poverty and exaggerate it.

Others tell us anecdotes or some comic story from Aesop. Others, again, cut jokes; they fancy I shall be appeased if I won If we are not even then won over, why,

then they drag forward their young children by the hand, both boys and girls, who prostrate themselves and whine with one accord, and then the father, trembling as if before a god, beseeches me not to condemn him out of pity for them,

“If you love the voice of the lamb, have pity on my sons”; and because I am fond of little sows, I must yield to his daughter’s prayers.

Then we relax the heat of our wrath a little for him. Is not this great power indeed, which allows even wealth to be disdained?

We are entrusted with the inspection of the young men, and thus we have a right to examine their tools. If Oeagrus is accused, he is not acquitted before he has recited a passage from ‘Niobe’ and he chooses the finest. 

If a flute-player gains his case, he adjusts his mouth-strap in return and plays us the final air while we are leaving. 

A father on his death-bed names some husband for his daughter, who is his sole heir; but we care little for his will or for the shell so solemnly placed over the seal; we give the young maiden to him who has best known how to secure our wavour. 

Name me another duty that is so important and so irresponsible.

Read the play here

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