Lysistrata, Aristophanes


Originally performed in Athens in 411 BCE, Aristophanes’s play, Lysistrata, tells of the bold efforts of women to end the Peloponnesian War. Led by Lysistrata, whose name means “Army Disbander,” the women of various cities, including Sparta and Thebes, withhold sex from the men in order to bring the war to a close. In a style that breaks from the previous comedic play of Aristophanes, this play is a comedy with deep socio-political resonance. Linking the desire for sex and war, this is one of the earliest articulations of the role of sex in a male-dominated (which is to say patriarchal) society. Greek plays are not just about entertainment; they are invitations to the audience to discuss political events. In this respect, the play enters the political discourse and becomes as influential as the speeches and rhetoric of the politicians themselves. Do we have a corollary today? Are there films, television shows, music, podcasts, comedians, or YouTube channels that masquerade as entertainment, but are actively engaging with current political discourse?

Consider that Greek comedies usually dealt with the absurd and the impossible. In this sense, the idea that women could withhold sex and change men’s minds through such an action is rather implausible—not least because Greek men had a variety of venues to appease their sexual desire. Nevertheless, even the perceived impossible can still shape the political discourse of the time. This type of literature/drama/art offers a new and different avenue to the discussion of the purpose of war and the toll it takes on society. Two years before the play’s first performance, Athens had suffered a catastrophic defeat against Sparta and these wounds were still raw for the Athenian audience. There are many ways to discuss the effects of war on society and Aristophanes chooses to introduce women into the socio-cultural dialogue—as absurd as it may seem to the Greeks. In our current moment, we might consider not only the role women play in our political discussions, but the types of power and action women take to have their voice heard or directly affect political change—one need only look to AOC’s twitter feed. Similarly, consider a comparison to Euripides, what might be the civic function of Aristophanes’s play vis-à-vis comedy? How might stereotypes function in the play? What types of stereotypes does Aristophanes deploy and what meaning do they hold? On a more contemporary note, how are current women utilizing and wielding power in non-traditional or unorthodox ways?


The Persons of the Drama

Stratyllis, etc.
Chorus of Women.
Porter, Market Idlers, etc.
Chorus of old Men.

  • LYSISTRATA stands alone with the Propylaea at her back.
    If they were trysting for a Bacchanal,
  • A feast of Pan or Colias or Genetyllis,
  • The tambourines would block the rowdy streets,
  • But now there’s not a woman to be seen
  • Except–ah, yes–this neighbour of mine yonder.

    Enter CALONICE.

  • Good day Calonice.
    Good day Lysistrata.
  • But what has vexed you so? Tell me, child.
  • What are these black looks for? It doesn’t suit you
  • To knit your eyebrows up glumly like that.
    Calonice, it’s more than I can bear,
  • I am hot all over with blushes for our sex.
  • Men say we’re slippery rogues–
    And aren’t they right?
    Yet summoned on the most tremendous business
  • For deliberation, still they snuggle in bed.
    My dear, they’ll come. It’s hard for women, you know,
  • To get away. There’s so much to do;
  • Husbands to be patted and put in good tempers:
  • Servants to be poked out: children washed
  • Or soothed with lullays or fed with mouthfuls of pap.
    But I tell you, here’s a far more weighty object.
    What is it all about, dear Lysistrata,
  • That you’ve called the women hither in a troop?
  • What kind of an object is it?
    A tremendous thing!
    And long?
    Indeed, it may be very lengthy.
    Then why aren’t they here?
    No man’s connected with it;
  • If that was the case, they’d soon come fluttering along.
  • No, no. It concerns an object I’ve felt over
  • And turned this way and that for sleepless nights.
    It must be fine to stand such long attention.
    So fine it comes to this–Greece saved by Woman!
    By Woman? Wretched thing, I’m sorry for it.
    Our country’s fate is henceforth in our hands:
  • To destroy the Peloponnesians root and branch–
    What could be nobler!
    Wipe out the Boeotians–
    Not utterly. Have mercy on the eels!
  • [Footnote: The Boeotian eels were highly esteemed delicacies in Athens.]
    But with regard to Athens, note I’m careful
  • Not to say any of these nasty things;
  • Still, thought is free…. But if the women join us
  • From Peloponnesus and Boeotia, then
  • Hand in hand we’ll rescue Greece.
    How could we do
  • Such a big wise deed? We women who dwell
  • Quietly adorning ourselves in a back-room
  • With gowns of lucid gold and gawdy toilets
  • Of stately silk and dainty little slippers….
    These are the very armaments of the rescue.
  • These crocus-gowns, this outlay of the best myrrh,
  • Slippers, cosmetics dusting beauty, and robes
  • With rippling creases of light.
    Yes, but how?
    No man will lift a lance against another–
    I’ll run to have my tunic dyed crocus.
    Or take a shield–
    I’ll get a stately gown.
    Or unscabbard a sword–
    Let me buy a pair of slipper.
    Now, tell me, are the women right to lag?
    They should have turned birds, they should have grown
  • wings and flown.
    My friend, you’ll see that they are true Athenians:
  • Always too late. Why, there’s not a woman
  • From the shoreward demes arrived, not one from Salamis.
    I know for certain they awoke at dawn,
  • And got their husbands up if not their boat sails.
    And I’d have staked my life the Acharnian dames
  • Would be here first, yet they haven’t come either!
    Well anyhow there is Theagenes’ wife
  • We can expect–she consulted Hecate.
  • But look, here are some at last, and more behind them.
  • See … where are they from?
    From Anagyra they come.
    Yes, they generally manage to come first.

    Enter MYRRHINE.

    Are we late, Lysistrata? … What is that?
  • Nothing to say?
    I’ve not much to say for you,
  • Myrrhine, dawdling on so vast an affair.
    I couldn’t find my girdle in the dark.
  • But if the affair’s so wonderful, tell us, what is it?
    No, let us stay a little longer till
  • The Peloponnesian girls and the girls of Bocotia
  • Are here to listen.
    That’s the best advice.
  • Ah, there comes Lampito.

    Enter LAMPITO.

    Welcome Lampito!
  • Dear Spartan girl with a delightful face,
  • Washed with the rosy spring, how fresh you look
  • In the easy stride of your sleek slenderness,
  • Why you could strangle a bull!
    I think I could.
  • It’s frae exercise and kicking high behint.
  • [Footnote: The translator has put the speech of the Spartan characters
  • in Scotch dialect which is related to English about as was the Spartan
  • dialect to the speech of Athens. The Spartans, in their character,
  • anticipated the shrewd, canny, uncouth Scotch highlander of modern
  • times.]
    What lovely breasts to own!
    Oo … your fingers
  • Assess them, ye tickler, wi’ such tender chucks
  • I feel as if I were an altar-victim.
    Who is this youngster?
    A Boeotian lady.
    There never was much undergrowth in Boeotia,
  • Such a smooth place, and this girl takes after it.
    Yes, I never saw a skin so primly kept.
    This girl?
    A sonsie open-looking jinker!
  • She’s a Corinthian.
    Yes, isn’t she
  • Very open, in some ways particularly.
    But who’s garred this Council o’ Women to meet here?
    I have.
    Propound then what you want o’ us.
    What is the amazing news you have to tell?
    I’ll tell you, but first answer one small question.
    As you like.
    Are you not sad your children’s fathers
  • Go endlessly off soldiering afar
  • In this plodding war? I am willing to wager
  • There’s not one here whose husband is at home.
    Mine’s been in Thrace, keeping an eye on Eucrates
  • For five months past.
    And mine left me for Pylos
  • Seven months ago at least.
    And as for mine
  • No sooner has he slipped out frae the line
  • He straps his shield and he’s snickt off again.
    And not the slightest glitter of a lover!
  • And since the Milesians betrayed us, I’ve not seen
  • The image of a single upright man
  • To be a marble consolation to us.
  • Now will you help me, if I find a means
  • To stamp the war out.
    By the two Goddesses, Yes!
  • I will though I’ve to pawn this very dress
  • And drink the barter-money the same day.
    And I too though I’m split up like a turbot
  • And half is hackt off as the price of peace.
    And I too! Why, to get a peep at the shy thing
  • I’d clamber up to the tip-top o’ Taygetus.
    Then I’ll expose my mighty mystery.
  • O women, if we would compel the men
  • To bow to Peace, we must refrain–
    From what?
  • O tell us!
    Will you truly do it then?
    We will, we will, if we must die for it.
    We must refrain from every depth of love….
  • Why do you turn your backs? Where are you going?
  • Why do you bite your lips and shake your heads?
  • Why are your faces blanched? Why do you weep?
  • Will you or won’t you, or what do you mean?
    No, I won’t do it. Let the war proceed.
    No, I won’t do it. Let the war proceed.
    You too, dear turbot, you that said just now
  • You didn’t mind being split right up in the least?
    Anything else? O bid me walk in fire
  • But do not rob us of that darling joy.
  • What else is like it, dearest Lysistrata?
    And you?
    O please give me the fire instead.
    Lewd to the least drop in the tiniest vein,
  • Our sex is fitly food for Tragic Poets,
  • Our whole life’s but a pile of kisses and babies.
  • But, hardy Spartan, if you join with me
  • All may be righted yet. O help me, help me.
    It’s a sair, sair thing to ask of us, by the Twa,
  • A lass to sleep her lane and never fill
  • Love’s lack except wi’ makeshifts…. But let it be.
  • Peace maun be thought of first.
    My friend, my friend!
  • The only one amid this herd of weaklings.
    But if–which heaven forbid–we should refrain
  • As you would have us, how is Peace induced?
    By the two Goddesses, now can’t you see
  • All we have to do is idly sit indoors
  • With smooth roses powdered on our cheeks,
  • Our bodies burning naked through the folds
  • Of shining Amorgos’ silk, and meet the men
  • With our dear Venus-plats plucked trim and neat.
  • Their stirring love will rise up furiously,
  • They’ll beg our arms to open. That’s our time!
  • We’ll disregard their knocking, beat them off–
  • And they will soon be rabid for a Peace.
  • I’m sure of it.
    Just as Menelaus, they say,
  • Seeing the bosom of his naked Helen
  • Flang down the sword.
    But we’ll be tearful fools
  • If our husbands take us at our word and leave us.
    There’s only left then, in Pherecrates’ phrase,
  • To flay a skinned dog–flay more our flayed desires.
    Bah, proverbs will never warm a celibate.
  • But what avail will your scheme be if the men
  • Drag us for all our kicking on to the couch?
    Cling to the doorposts.
    But if they should force us?
    Yield then, but with a sluggish, cold indifference.
  • There is no joy to them in sullen mating.
  • Besides we have other ways to madden them;
  • They cannot stand up long, and they’ve no delight
  • Unless we fit their aim with merry succour.
    Well if you must have it so, we’ll all agree.
    For us I ha’ no doubt. We can persuade
  • Our men to strike a fair an’ decent Peace,
  • But how will ye pitch out the battle-frenzy
  • O’ the Athenian populace?
    I promise you
  • We’ll wither up that curse.
    I don’t believe it.
  • Not while they own ane trireme oared an’ rigged,
  • Or a’ those stacks an’ stacks an’ stacks O’ siller.
    I’ve thought the whole thing out till there’s no flaw.
  • We shall surprise the Acropolis today:
  • That is the duty set the older dames.
  • While we sit here talking, they are to go
  • And under pretence of sacrificing, seize it.
    Certie, that’s fine; all’s working for the best.
    Now quickly, Lampito, let us tie ourselves
  • To this high purpose as tightly as the hemp of words
  • Can knot together.
    Set out the terms in detail
  • And we’ll a’ swear to them.
    Of course…. Well then
  • Where is our Scythianess? Why are you staring?
  • First lay the shield, boss downward, on the floor
  • And bring the victim’s inwards.
    But, Lysistrata,
  • What is this oath that we’re to swear?
    What oath!
  • In Aeschylus they take a slaughtered sheep
  • And swear upon a buckler. Why not we?
    O Lysistrata, Peace sworn on a buckler!
    What oath would suit us then?
    Something burden bearing
  • Would be our best insignia…. A white horse!
  • Let’s swear upon its entrails.
    A horse indeed!
    Then what will symbolise us?
    This, as I tell you–
  • First set a great dark bowl upon the ground
  • And disembowel a skin of Thasian wine,
  • Then swear that we’ll not add a drop of water.
    Ah, what aith could clink pleasanter than that!
    Bring me a bowl then and a skin of wine.
    My dears, see what a splendid bowl it is;
  • I’d not say No if asked to sip it off.
    Put down the bowl. Lay hands, all, on the victim.
  • Skiey Queen who givest the last word in arguments,
  • And thee, O Bowl, dear comrade, we beseech:
  • Accept our oblation and be propitious to us.
    What healthy blood, la, how it gushes out!
    An’ what a leesome fragrance through the air.
    Now, dears, if you will let me, I’ll speak first.
    Only if you draw the lot, by Aphrodite!
    SO, grasp the brim, you, Lampito, and all.
  • You, Calonice, repeat for the rest
  • Each word I say. Then you must all take oath
  • And pledge your arms to the same stern conditions–
    To husband or lover I’ll not open arms
    To husband or lover I’ll not open arms
    Though love and denial may enlarge his charms.
    Though love and denial may enlarge his charms.
  • O, O, my knees are failing me, Lysistrata!
    But still at home, ignoring him, I’ll stay,
    But still at home, ignoring him, I’ll stay,
    Beautiful, clad in saffron silks all day.
    Beautiful, clad in saffron silks all day.
    If then he seizes me by dint of force,
    If then he seizes me by dint of force,
    I’ll give him reason for a long remorse.
    I’ll give him reason for a long remorse.
    I’ll never lie and stare up at the ceiling,
    I’ll never lie and stare up at the ceiling,
    Nor like a lion on all fours go kneeling.
    Nor like a lion on all fours go kneeling.
    If I keep faith, then bounteous cups be mine.
    If I keep faith, then bounteous cups be mine.
    If not, to nauseous water change this wine.
    If not, to nauseous water change this wine.
    Do you all swear to this?
    We do, we do.
    Then I shall immolate the victim thus.
  • She drinks.
    Here now, share fair, haven’t we made a pact?
  • Let’s all quaff down that friendship in our turn.
    Hark, what caterwauling hubbub’s that?
    As I told you,
  • The women have appropriated the citadel.
  • So, Lampito, dash off to your own land
  • And raise the rebels there. These will serve as hostages,
  • While we ourselves take our places in the ranks
  • And drive the bolts right home.
    But won’t the men
  • March straight against us?
    And what if they do?
  • No threat shall creak our hinges wide, no torch
  • Shall light a fear in us; we will come out
  • To Peace alone.
    That’s it, by Aphrodite!
  • As of old let us seem hard and obdurate.

    LAMPITO and some go off; the others go up into the Acropolis.

    Chorus of OLD MEN enter to attack the captured Acropolis.

  • Make room, Draces, move ahead; why your shoulder’s chafed, I see,
  • With lugging uphill these lopped branches of the olive-tree.
  • How upside-down and wrong-way-round a long life sees things grow.
  • Ah, Strymodorus, who’d have thought affairs could tangle so?
  • The women whom at home we fed,
  • Like witless fools, with fostering bread,
  • Have impiously come to this–
  • They’ve stolen the Acropolis,
  • With bolts and bars our orders flout
  • And shut us out.
  • Come, Philurgus, bustle thither; lay our faggots on the ground,
  • In neat stacks beleaguering the insurgents all around;
  • And the vile conspiratresses, plotters of such mischief dire,
  • Pile and burn them all together in one vast and righteous pyre:
  • Fling with our own hands Lycon’s wife to fry in the thickest fire.
  • By Demeter, they’ll get no brag while I’ve a vein to beat!
  • Cleomenes himself was hurtled out in sore defeat.
  • His stiff-backed Spartan pride was bent.
  • Out, stripped of all his arms, he went:
  • A pigmy cloak that would not stretch
  • To hide his rump (the draggled wretch),
  • Six sprouting years of beard, the spilth
  • Of six years’ filth.
  • That was a siege! Our men were ranged in lines of seventeen deep
  • Before the gates, and never left their posts there, even to sleep.
  • Shall I not smite the rash presumption then of foes like these,
  • Detested both of all the gods and of Euripides–
  • Else, may the Marathon-plain not boast my trophied victories!
  • Ah, now, there’s but a little space
  • To reach the place!
  • A deadly climb it is, a tricky road
  • With all this bumping load:
  • A pack-ass soon would tire….
  • How these logs bruise my shoulders! further still
  • Jog up the hill,
  • And puff the fire inside,
  • Or just as we reach the top we’ll find it’s died.
  • Ough, phew!
  • I choke with the smoke.
  • Lord Heracles, how acrid-hot
  • Out of the pot
  • This mad-dog smoke leaps, worrying me
  • And biting angrily….
  • ‘Tis Lemnian fire that smokes,
  • Or else it would not sting my eyelids thus….
  • Haste, all of us;
  • Athene invokes our aid.
  • Laches, now or never the assault must be made!
  • Ough, phew!
  • I choke with the smoke. ..
  • Thanked be the gods! The fire peeps up and crackles as it should.
  • Now why not first slide off our backs these weary loads of wood
  • And dip a vine-branch in the brazier till it glows, then straight
  • Hurl it at the battering-ram against the stubborn gate?
  • If they refuse to draw the bolts in immediate compliance,
  • We’ll set fire to the wood, and smoke will strangle their defiance.
  • Phew, what a spluttering drench of smoke! Come, now from off my back….
  • Is there no Samos-general to help me to unpack?
  • Ah there, that’s over! For the last time now it’s galled my shoulder.
  • Flare up thine embers, brazier, and dutifully smoulder,
  • To kindle a brand, that I the first may strike the citadel.
  • Aid me, Lady Victory, that a triumph-trophy may tell
  • How we did anciently this insane audacity quell!
  • Chorus of WOMEN.
  • What’s that rising yonder? That ruddy glare, that smoky skurry?
  • O is it something in a blaze? Quick, quick, my comrades, hurry!
  • Nicodice, helter-skelter!
  • Or poor Calyce’s in flames
  • And Cratylla’s stifled in the welter.
  • O these dreadful old men
  • And their dark laws of hate!
  • There, I’m all of a tremble lest I turn out to be too late.
  • I could scarcely get near to the spring though I rose before dawn,
  • What with tattling of tongues and rattling of pitchers in one jostling din
  • With slaves pushing in!….
  • Still here at last the water’s drawn
  • And with it eagerly I run
  • To help those of my friends who stand
  • In danger of being burned alive.
  • For I am told a dribbling band
  • Of greybeards hobble to the field,
  • Great faggots in each palsied hand,
  • As if a hot bath to prepare,
  • And threatening that out they’ll drive
  • These wicked women or soon leave them charring into ashes
  • there.
  • O Goddess, suffer not, I pray, this harsh deed to be done,
  • But show us Greece and Athens with their warlike acts repealed!
  • For this alone, in this thy hold,
  • Thou Goddess with the helm of gold,
  • We laid hands on thy sanctuary,
  • Athene…. Then our ally be
  • And where they cast their fires of slaughter
  • Direct our water!
  • STRATYLLIS (caught)
  • Let me go!
    You villainous old men, what’s this you do?
  • No honest man, no pious man, could do such things as you.
  • MEN
    Ah ha, here’s something most original, I have no doubt:
  • A swarm of women sentinels to man the walls without.
    So then we scare you, do we? Do we seem a fearful host?
  • You only see the smallest fraction mustered at this post.
  • MEN
    Ho, Phaedrias, shall we put a stop to all these chattering tricks?
  • Suppose that now upon their backs we splintered these our sticks?
    Let us lay down the pitchers, so our bodies will be free,
  • In case these lumping fellows try to cause some injury.
  • MEN
    O hit them hard and hit again and hit until they run away,
  • And perhaps they’ll learn, like Bupalus, not to have too much to say.
    Come on, then–do it! I won’t budge, but like a dog I’ll bite
  • At every little scrap of meat that dangles in my sight.
  • MEN
    Be quiet, or I’ll bash you out of any years to come.
    Now you just touch Stratyllis with the top-joint of your thumb.
  • MEN
    What vengeance can you take if with my fists your face I beat?
    I’ll rip you with my teeth and strew your entrails at your feet.
  • MEN
    Now I appreciate Euripides’ strange subtlety:
  • Woman is the most shameless beast of all the beasts that be.
    Rhodippe, come, and let’s pick up our water-jars once more.
  • MEN
    Ah cursed drab, what have you brought this water for?
    What is your fire for then, you smelly corpse? Yourself to burn?
  • MEN
    To build a pyre and make your comrades ready for the urn.
    And I’ve the water to put out your fire immediately.
  • MEN
    What, you put out my fire?
    Yes, sirrah, as you soon will see.
  • MEN
    I don’t know why I hesitate to roast you with this flame.
    If you have any soap you’ll go off cleaner than you came.
  • MEN
    Cleaner, you dirty slut?
    A nuptial-bath in which to lie!
  • MEN
    Did you hear that insolence?
    I’m a free woman, I.
  • MEN
    I’ll make you hold your tongue.
    Henceforth you’ll serve in no more juries.
  • MEN
    Burn off her hair for her.
    Now forward, water, quench their furies!
  • MEN
    O dear, O dear!
    So … was it hot?
  • MEN
    Hot! … Enough, O hold.
    Watered, perhaps you’ll bloom again–why not?
  • MEN
    Brrr, I’m wrinkled up from shivering with cold.
    Next time you’ve fire you’ll warm yourself and leave us to our lot.

    MAGISTRATE enters with attendant SCYTHIANS.

    Have the luxurious rites of the women glittered
  • Their libertine show, their drumming tapped out crowds,
  • The Sabazian Mysteries summoned their mob,
  • Adonis been wept to death on the terraces,
  • As I could hear the last day in the Assembly?
  • For Demostratus–let bad luck befoul him–
  • Was roaring, “We must sail for Sicily,”
  • While a woman, throwing herself about in a dance
  • Lopsided with drink, was shrilling out “Adonis,
  • Woe for Adonis.” Then Demostratus shouted,
  • “We must levy hoplites at Zacynthus,”
  • And there the woman, up to the ears in wine,
  • Was screaming “Weep for Adonis” on the house-top,
  • The scoundrelly politician, that lunatic ox,
  • Bellowing bad advice through tipsy shrieks:
  • Such are the follies wantoning in them.
  • MEN
    O if you knew their full effrontery!
  • All of the insults they’ve done, besides sousing us
  • With water from their pots to our public disgrace
  • For we stand here wringing our clothes like grown-up infants.
    By Poseidon, justly done! For in part with us
  • The blame must lie for dissolute behaviour
  • And for the pampered appetites they learn.
  • Thus grows the seedling lust to blossoming:
  • We go into a shop and say, “Here, goldsmith,
  • You remember the necklace that you wrought my wife;
  • Well, the other night in fervour of a dance
  • Her clasp broke open. Now I’m off for Salamis;
  • If you’ve the leisure, would you go tonight
  • And stick a bolt-pin into her opened clasp.”
  • Another goes to a cobbler; a soldierly fellow,
  • Always standing up erect, and says to him,
  • “Cobbler, a sandal-strap of my wife’s pinches her,
  • Hurts her little toe in a place where she’s sensitive.
  • Come at noon and see if you can stretch out wider
  • This thing that troubles her, loosen its tightness.”
  • And so you view the result. Observe my case–
  • I, a magistrate, come here to draw
  • Money to buy oar-blades, and what happens?
  • The women slam the door full in my face.
  • But standing still’s no use. Bring me a crowbar,
  • And I’ll chastise this their impertinence.
  • What do you gape at, wretch, with dazzled eyes?
  • Peering for a tavern, I suppose.
  • Come, force the gates with crowbars, prise them apart!
  • I’ll prise away myself too…. (LYSISTRATA appears.)
    Stop this banging.
  • I’m coming of my own accord…. Why bars?
  • It is not bars we need but common sense.
    Indeed, you slut! Where is the archer now?
  • Arrest this woman, tie her hands behind.
    If he brushes me with a finger, by Artemis,
  • The public menial, he’ll be sorry for it.
    Are you afraid? Grab her about the middle.
  • Two of you then, lay hands on her and end it.
    By Pandrosos I if your hand touches her
  • I’ll spread you out and trample on your guts.
    My guts! Where is the other archer gone?
  • Bind that minx there who talks so prettily.
    By Phosphor, if your hand moves out her way
  • You’d better have a surgeon somewhere handy.
    You too! Where is that archer? Take that woman.
  • I’ll put a stop to these surprise-parties.
    By the Tauric Artemis, one inch nearer
  • My fingers, and it’s a bald man that’ll be yelling.
    Tut tut, what’s here? Deserted by my archers….
  • But surely women never can defeat us;
  • Close up your ranks, my Scythians. Forward at them.
    By the Goddesses, you’ll find that here await you
  • Four companies of most pugnacious women
  • Armed cap-a-pie from the topmost louring curl
  • To the lowest angry dimple.
    On, Scythians, bind them.
    On, gallant allies of our high design,
  • Vendors of grain-eggs-pulse-and-vegetables,
  • Ye garlic-tavern-keepers of bakeries,
  • Strike, batter, knock, hit, slap, and scratch our foes,
  • Be finely imprudent, say what you think of them….
  • Enough! retire and do not rob the dead.
    How basely did my archer-force come off.
    Ah, ha, you thought it was a herd of slaves
  • You had to tackle, and you didn’t guess
  • The thirst for glory ardent in our blood.
    By Apollo, I know well the thirst that heats you–
  • Especially when a wine-skin’s close.
  • MEN
    You waste your breath, dear magistrate, I fear, in answering back.
  • What’s the good of argument with such a rampageous pack?
  • Remember how they washed us down (these very clothes I wore)
  • With water that looked nasty and that smelt so even more.
    What else to do, since you advanced too dangerously nigh.
  • If you should do the same again, I’ll punch you in the eye.
  • Though I’m a stay-at-home and most a quiet life enjoy,
  • Polite to all and every (for I’m naturally coy),
  • Still if you wake a wasps’ nest then of wasps you must beware.
  • MEN
    How may this ferocity be tamed? It grows too great to bear.
  • Let us question them and find if they’ll perchance declare
  • The reason why they strangely dare
  • To seize on Cranaos’ citadel,
  • This eyrie inaccessible,
  • This shrine above the precipice,
  • The Acropolis.
  • Probe them and find what they mean with this idle talk; listen,
  • but watch they don’t try to deceive.
  • You’d be neglecting your duty most certainly if now this mystery
  • unplumbed you leave.
    Women there! Tell what I ask you, directly….
  • Come, without rambling, I wish you to state
  • What’s your rebellious intention in barring up thus on our noses
  • our own temple-gate.
    To take first the treasury out of your management, and so stop the war
  • through the absence of gold.
    Is gold then the cause of the war?
    Yes, gold caused it and miseries more, too many to be told.
  • ‘Twas for money, and money alone, that Pisander with all of the army of
  • mob-agitators.
  • Raised up revolutions. But, as for the future, it won’t be worth while
  • to set up to be traitors.
  • Not an obol they’ll get as their loot, not an obol! while we have the
  • treasure-chest in our command.
    What then is that you propose?
    Just this–merely to take the exchequer henceforth in hand.
    The exchequer!
    Yes, why not? Of our capabilities you have had various clear evidences.
  • Firstly remember we have always administered soundly the budget of all
  • home-expenses.
    But this matter’s different.
    How is it different?
    Why, it deals chiefly with war-time supplies.
    But we abolish war straight by our policy.
    What will you do if emergencies arise?
    Face them our own way.
    What you will?
    Yes we will!
    Then there’s no help for it; we’re all destroyed.
    No, willy-nilly you must be safeguarded.
    What madness is this?
    Why, it seems you’re annoyed.
  • It must be done, that’s all.
    Such awful oppression never,
  • O never in the past yet I bore.
    You must be saved, sirrah–that’s all there is to it.
    If we don’t want to be saved?
    All the more.
    Why do you women come prying and meddling in matters of state touching
  • war-time and peace?
    That I will tell you.
    O tell me or quickly I’ll–
    Hearken awhile and from threatening cease.
    I cannot, I cannot; it’s growing too insolent.
    Come on; you’ve far more than we have to dread.
    Stop from your croaking, old carrion-crow there….
  • Continue.
    Be calm then and I’ll go ahead.
  • All the long years when the hopeless war dragged along we, unassuming,
  • forgotten in quiet,
  • Endured without question, endured in our loneliness all your incessant
  • child’s antics and riot.
  • Our lips we kept tied, though aching with silence, though well all the
  • while in our silence we knew
  • How wretchedly everything still was progressing by listening dumbly the
  • day long to you.
  • For always at home you continued discussing the war and its politics
  • loudly, and we
  • Sometimes would ask you, our hearts deep with sorrowing though we spoke
  • lightly, though happy to see,
  • “What’s to be inscribed on the side of the Treaty-stone
  • What, dear, was said in the Assembly today?”
  • “Mind your own business,” he’d answer me growlingly
  • “hold your tongue, woman, or else go away.”
  • And so I would hold it.
    I’d not be silent for any man living on earth, no, not I!
    Not for a staff?
    Well, so I did nothing but sit in the house, feeling dreary, and sigh,
  • While ever arrived some fresh tale of decisions more foolish by far and
  • presaging disaster.
  • Then I would say to him, “O my dear husband, why still do they rush on
  • destruction the faster?”
  • At which he would look at me sideways, exclaiming, “Keep for your web
  • and your shuttle your care,
  • Or for some hours hence your cheeks will be sore and hot; leave this
  • alone, war is Man’s sole affair!”
    By Zeus, but a man of fine sense, he.
    How sensible?
  • You dotard, because he at no time had lent
  • His intractable ears to absorb from our counsel one temperate word of
  • advice, kindly meant?
  • But when at the last in the streets we heard shouted (everywhere ringing
  • the ominous cry)
  • “Is there no one to help us, no saviour in Athens?” and, “No, there is
  • no one,” come back in reply.
  • At once a convention of all wives through Hellas here for a serious
  • purpose was held,
  • To determine how husbands might yet back to wisdom despite their
  • reluctance in time be compelled.
  • Why then delay any longer? It’s settled. For the future you’ll take
  • up our old occupation.
  • Now in turn you’re to hold tongue, as we did, and listen while we show
  • the way to recover the nation.
    You talk to us! Why, you’re mad. I’ll not stand it.
    Cease babbling, you fool; till I end, hold your tongue.
    If I should take orders from one who wears veils, may my
  • neck straightaway be deservedly wrung.
    O if that keeps pestering you,
  • I’ve a veil here for your hair,
  • I’ll fit you out in everything
  • As is only fair.
    Here’s a spindle that will do.
    I’ll add a wool-basket too.
    Girdled now sit humbly at home,
  • Munching beans, while you card wool and comb. For war from now on
  • is the Women’s affair.
  • WOMEN.
    Come then, down pitchers, all,
  • And on, courageous of heart,
  • In our comradely venture
  • Each taking her due part.
  • I could dance, dance, dance, and be fresher after,
  • I could dance away numberless suns,
  • To no weariness let my knees bend.
  • Earth I could brave with laughter,
  • Having such wonderful girls here to friend.
  • O the daring, the gracious, the beautiful ones!
  • Their courage unswerving and witty
  • Will rescue our city.
  • O sprung from the seed of most valiant-wombed grand-mothers,
  • scions of savage and dangerous nettles!
  • Prepare for the battle, all. Gird up your angers. Our way
  • the wind of sweet victory settles.
    O tender Eros and Lady of Cyprus, some flush of beauty I
  • pray you devise
  • To flash on our bosoms and, O Aphrodite, rosily gleam on
  • our valorous thighs!
  • Joy will raise up its head through the legions warring and
  • all of the far-serried ranks of mad-love
  • Bristle the earth to the pillared horizon, pointing in vain to
  • the heavens above.
  • I think that perhaps then they’ll give us our title–
  • Peace-makers.
    What do you mean? Please explain.
    First, we’ll not see you now flourishing arms about into the
  • Marketing-place clang again.
    No, by the Paphian.
    Still I can conjure them as past were the herbs stand or crockery’s sold
  • Like Corybants jingling (poor sots) fully armoured, they noisily round
  • on their promenade strolled.
    And rightly; that’s discipline, they–
    But what’s sillier than to go on an errand of buying a fish
  • Carrying along an immense. Gorgon-buckler instead the usual platter
  • or dish?
  • A phylarch I lately saw, mounted on horse-back, dressed for the part
  • with long ringlets and all,
  • Stow in his helmet the omelet bought steaming from an old woman who
  • kept a food-stall.
  • Nearby a soldier, a Thracian, was shaking wildly his spear like Tereus
  • in the play,
  • To frighten a fig-girl while unseen the ruffian filched from her
  • fruit-trays the ripest away.
    How, may I ask, will your rule re-establish order and justice in lands
  • so tormented?
    Nothing is easier.
    Out with it speedily–what is this plan that you boast you’ve invented?
    If, when yarn we are winding, It chances to tangle, then, as perchance you
  • may know, through the skein
  • This way and that still the spool we keep passing till it is finally clear
  • all again:
  • So to untangle the War and its errors, ambassadors out on all sides we will
  • send
  • This way and that, here, there and round about–soon you will find that the
  • War has an end.
    So with these trivial tricks of the household, domestic analogies of
  • threads, skeins and spools,
  • You think that you’ll solve such a bitter complexity, unwind such political
  • problems, you fools!
    Well, first as we wash dirty wool so’s to cleanse it, so with a pitiless
  • zeal we will scrub
  • Through the whole city for all greasy fellows; burrs too, the parasites,
  • off we will rub.
  • That verminous plague of insensate place-seekers soon between thumb and
  • forefinger we’ll crack.
  • All who inside Athens’ walls have their dwelling into one great common
  • basket we’ll pack.
  • Disenfranchised or citizens, allies or aliens, pell-mell the lot of them
  • in we will squeeze.
  • Till they discover humanity’s meaning…. As for disjointed and far
  • colonies,
  • Them you must never from this time imagine as scattered about just like
  • lost hanks of wool.
  • Each portion we’ll take and wind in to this centre, inward to Athens
  • each loyalty pull,
  • Till from the vast heap where all’s piled together at last can be woven
  • a strong Cloak of State.
    How terrible is it to stand here and watch them carding and winding at
  • will with our fate,
  • Witless in war as they are.
    What of us then, who ever in vain for our children must weep
  • Borne but to perish afar and in vain?
    Not that, O let that one memory sleep!
    Then while we should be companioned still merrily, happy as brides may,
  • the livelong night,
  • Kissing youth by, we are forced to lie single…. But leave for a moment
  • our pitiful plight,
  • It hurts even more to behold the poor maidens helpless wrinkling in
  • staler virginity.
    Does not a man age?
    Not in the same way. Not as a woman grows withered, grows he.
  • He, when returned from the war, though grey-headed, yet
  • if he wishes can choose out a wife.
  • But she has no solace save peering for omens, wretched and
  • lonely the rest of her life.
    But the old man will often select–
    O why not finish and die?
  • A bier is easy to buy,
  • A honey-cake I’ll knead you with joy,
  • This garland will see you are decked.
    I’ve a wreath for you too.
    I also will fillet you.
    What more is lacking? Step aboard the boat.
  • See, Charon shouts ahoy.
  • You’re keeping him, he wants to shove afloat.
    Outrageous insults! Thus my place to flout!
  • Now to my fellow-magistrates I’ll go
  • And what you’ve perpetrated on me show.
    Why are you blaming us for laying you out?
  • Assure yourself we’ll not forget to make
  • The third day offering early for your sake.
  • OLD MEN.
    All men who call your loins your own, awake at last, arise
  • And strip to stand in readiness. For as it seems to me
  • Some more perilous offensive in their heads they now devise.
  • I’m sure a Tyranny
  • Like that of Hippias
  • In this I detect….
  • They mean to put us under
  • Themselves I suspect,
  • And that Laconians assembling
  • At Cleisthenes’ house have played
  • A trick-of-war and provoked them
  • Madly to raid
  • The Treasury, in which term I include
  • The Pay for my food.
  • For is it not preposterous
  • They should talk this way to us
  • On a subject such as battle!
  • And, women as they are, about bronze bucklers dare prattle–
  • Make alliance with the Spartans–people I for one
  • Like very hungry wolves would always most sincere shun….
  • Some dirty game is up their sleeve,
  • I believe.
  • A Tyranny, no doubt… but they won’t catch me, that know.
  • Henceforth on my guard I’ll go,
  • A sword with myrtle-branches wreathed for ever in my hand,
  • And under arms in the Public Place I’ll take my watchful stand,
  • Shoulder to shoulder with Aristogeiton. Now my staff I’ll draw
  • And start at once by knocking
  • that shocking
  • Hag upon the jaw.
  • WOMEN.
    Your own mother will not know you when you get back to the town.
  • But first, my friends and allies, let us lay these garments down,
  • And all ye fellow-citizens, hark to me while I tell
  • What will aid Athens well.
  • Just as is right, for I
  • Have been a sharer
  • In all the lavish splendour
  • Of the proud city.
  • I bore the holy vessels
  • At seven, then
  • I pounded barley
  • At the age of ten,
  • And clad in yellow robes,
  • Soon after this,
  • I was Little Bear to
  • Brauronian Artemis;
  • Then neckletted with figs,
  • Grown tall and pretty,
  • I was a Basket-bearer,
  • And so it’s obvious I should
  • Give you advice that I think good,
  • The very best I can.
  • It should not prejudice my voice that I’m not born a man,
  • If I say something advantageous to the present situation.
  • For I’m taxed too, and as a toll provide men for the nation
  • While, miserable greybeards, you,
  • It is true,
  • Contribute nothing of any importance whatever to our needs;
  • But the treasure raised against the Medes
  • You’ve squandered, and do nothing in return, save that you make
  • Our lives and persons hazardous by some imbecile mistakes
  • What can you answer? Now be careful, don’t arouse my spite,
  • Or with my slipper I’ll take you napping,
  • faces slapping
  • Left and right.
  • MEN.
    What villainies they contrive!
  • Come, let vengeance fall,
  • You that below the waist are still alive,
  • Off with your tunics at my call–
  • Naked, all.
  • For a man must strip to battle like a man.
  • No quaking, brave steps taking, careless what’s ahead, white shoed,
  • in the nude, onward bold,
  • All ye who garrisoned Leipsidrion of old….
  • Let each one wag
  • As youthfully as he can,
  • And if he has the cause at heart
  • Rise at least a span.
  • We must take a stand and keep to it,
  • For if we yield the smallest bit
  • To their importunity.
  • Then nowhere from their inroads will be left to us immunity.
  • But they’ll be building ships and soon their navies will attack us,
  • As Artemisia did, and seek to fight us and to sack us.
  • And if they mount, the Knights they’ll rob
  • Of a job,
  • For everyone knows how talented they all are in the saddle,
  • Having long practised how to straddle;
  • No matter how they’re jogged there up and down, they’re never thrown.
  • Then think of Myron’s painting, and each horse-backed Amazon
  • In combat hand-to-hand with men…. Come, on these women fall,
  • And in pierced wood-collars let’s stick
  • quick
  • The necks of one and all.
  • WOMEN.
    Don’t cross me or I’ll loose
  • The Beast that’s kennelled here….
  • And soon you will be howling for a truce,
  • Howling out with fear.
  • But my dear,
  • Strip also, that women may battle unhindered….
  • But you, you’ll be too sore to eat garlic more, or one black bean,
  • I really mean, so great’s my spleen, to kick you black and blue
  • With these my dangerous legs.
  • I’ll hatch the lot of you,
  • If my rage you dash on,
  • The way the relentless Beetle
  • Hatched the Eagle’s eggs.
  • Scornfully aside I set
  • Every silly old-man threat
  • While Lampito’s with me.
  • Or dear Ismenia, the noble Theban girl. Then let decree
  • Be hotly piled upon decree; in vain will be your labours,
  • You futile rogue abominated by your suffering neighbour
  • To Hecate’s feast I yesterday went.
  • Off I sent
  • To our neighbours in Boeotia, asking as a gift to me
  • For them to pack immediately
  • That darling dainty thing … a good fat eel [1] I meant of course;
  • [Footnote 1:Vide supra, p. 23.]
  • But they refused because some idiotic old decree’s in force.
  • O this strange passion for decrees nothing on earth can check,
  • Till someone puts a foot out tripping you,
  • and slipping you
  • Break your neck.

    LYSISTRATA enters in dismay.

    Dear Mistress of our martial enterprise,
  • Why do you come with sorrow in your eyes?
    O ’tis our naughty femininity,
  • So weak in one spot, that hath saddened me.
    What’s this? Please speak.
    Poor women, O so weak!
    What can it be? Surely your friends may know.
    Yea, I must speak it though it hurt me so.
    Speak; can we help? Don’t stand there mute in need.
    I’ll blurt it out then–our women’s army’s mutinied.
    O Zeus!
    What use is Zeus to our anatomy?
  • Here is the gaping calamity I meant:
  • I cannot shut their ravenous appetites
  • A moment more now. They are all deserting.
  • The first I caught was sidling through the postern
  • Close by the Cave of Pan: the next hoisting herself
  • With rope and pulley down: a third on the point
  • Of slipping past: while a fourth malcontent, seated
  • For instant flight to visit Orsilochus
  • On bird-back, I dragged off by the hair in time….
  • They are all snatching excuses to sneak home.
  • Look, there goes one…. Hey, what’s the hurry?
    I must get home. I’ve some Milesian wool
  • Packed wasting away, and moths are pushing through it.
    Fine moths indeed, I know. Get back within.
    By the Goddesses, I’ll return instantly.
  • I only want to stretch it on my bed.
    You shall stretch nothing and go nowhere either.
    Must I never use my wool then?
    If needs be.
    How unfortunate I am! O my poor flax!
  • It’s left at home unstript.
    So here’s another
  • That wishes to go home and strip her flax.
  • Inside again!
    No, by the Goddess of Light,
  • I’ll be back as soon as I have flayed it properly.
    You’ll not flay anything. For if you begin
  • There’ll not be one here but has a patch to be flayed.
    O holy Eilithyia, stay this birth
  • Till I have left the precincts of the place!
    What nonsense is this?
    I’ll drop it any minute.
    Yesterday you weren’t with child.
    But I am today.
  • O let me find a midwife, Lysistrata.
  • O quickly!
    Now what story is this you tell?
  • What is this hard lump here?
    It’s a male child.
    By Aphrodite, it isn’t. Your belly’s hollow,
  • And it has the feel of metal…. Well, I soon can see.
  • You hussy, it’s Athene’s sacred helm,
  • And you said you were with child.
    And so I am.
    Then why the helm?
    So if the throes should take me
  • Still in these grounds I could use it like a dove
  • As a laying-nest in which to drop the child.
    More pretexts! You can’t hide your clear intent,
  • And anyway why not wait till the tenth day
  • Meditating a brazen name for your brass brat?
    And I can’t sleep a wink. My nerve is gone
  • Since I saw that snake-sentinel of the shrine.
    And all those dreadful owls with their weird hooting!
  • Though I’m wearied out, I can’t close an eye.
    You wicked women, cease from juggling lies.
  • You want your men. But what of them as well?
  • They toss as sleepless in the lonely night,
  • I’m sure of it. Hold out awhile, hold out,
  • But persevere a teeny-weeny longer.
  • An oracle has promised Victory
  • If we don’t wrangle. Would you hear the words?
    Yes, yes, what is it?
    Silence then, you chatterboxes.
  • Here–
  • Whenas the swallows flocking in one place from the hoopoes
  • Deny themselves love’s gambols any more,
  • All woes shall then have ending and great Zeus the Thunderer
  • Shall put above what was below before.
    Will the men then always be kept under us?
    But if the swallows squabble among themselves and fly away
  • Out of the temple, refusing to agree,
  • Then The Most Wanton Birds in all the World
  • They shall be named for ever. That’s his decree.
    It’s obvious what it means.
    Now by all the gods
  • We must let no agony deter from duty,
  • Back to your quarters. For we are base indeed,
  • My friends, if we betray the oracle.
  • She goes out.
  • OLD MEN.
    I’d like to remind you of a fable they used to employ,
  • When I was a little boy:
  • How once through fear of the marriage-bed a young man,
  • Melanion by name, to the wilderness ran,
  • And there on the hills he dwelt.
  • For hares he wove a net
  • Which with his dog he set–
  • Most likely he’s there yet.
  • For he never came back home, so great was the fear he felt.
  • I loathe the sex as much as he,
  • And therefore I no less shall be
  • As chaste as was Melanion.
  • MAN
    Grann’am, do you much mind men?
    Onions you won’t need, to cry.
  • MAN
    From my foot you shan’t escape.
    What thick forests I espy.
  • MEN
    So much Myronides’ fierce beard
  • And thundering black back were feared,
  • That the foe fled when they were shown–
  • Brave he as Phormion.
  • WOMEN.
    Well, I’ll relate a rival fable just to show to you
  • A different point of view:
  • There was a rough-hewn fellow, Timon, with a face
  • That glowered as through a thorn-bush in a wild, bleak place.
  • He too decided on flight,
  • This very Furies’ son,
  • All the world’s ways to shun
  • And hide from everyone,
  • Spitting out curses on all knavish men to left and right.
  • But though he reared this hate for men,
  • He loved the women even then,
  • And never thought them enemies.
    O your jaw I’d like to break.
  • MAN
    That I fear do you suppose?
    Learn what kicks my legs can make.
  • MAN
    Raise them up, and you’ll expose–
    Nay, you’ll see there, I engage,
  • All is well kept despite my age,
  • And tended smooth enough to slip
  • From any adversary’s grip.
  • LYSISTRATA appears.
    Hollo there, hasten hither to me
  • Skip fast along.
    What is this? Why the noise?
    A man, a man! I spy a frenzied man!
  • He carries Love upon him like a staff.
  • O Lady of Cyprus, and Cythera, and Paphos,
  • I beseech you, keep our minds and hands to the oath.
    Where is he, whoever he is?
    By the Temple of Chloe.
    Yes, now I see him, but who can he be?
    Look at him. Does anyone recognise his face?
    I do. He is my husband, Cinesias.
    You know how to work. Play with him, lead him on,
  • Seduce him to the cozening-point–kiss him, kiss him,
  • Then slip your mouth aside just as he’s sure of it,
  • Ungirdle every caress his mouth feels at
  • Save that the oath upon the bowl has locked.
    You can rely on me.
    I’ll stay here to help
  • In working up his ardor to its height
  • Of vain magnificence…. The rest to their quarters.

    Enter CINESIAS.

  • Who is this that stands within our lines?
    A man?
    Too much a man!
    Then be off at once.
    Who are you that thus eject me?
    Guard for the day.
    By all the gods, then call Myrrhine hither.
    So, call Myrrhine hither! Who are you?
    I am her husband Cinesias, son of Anthros.
    Welcome, dear friend! That glorious name of yours
  • Is quite familiar in our ranks. Your wife
  • Continually has it in her mouth.
  • She cannot touch an apple or an egg
  • But she must say, “This to Cinesias!”
    O is that true?
    By Aphrodite, it is.
  • If the conversation strikes on men, your wife
  • Cuts in with, “All are boobies by Cinesias.”
    Then call her here.
    And what am I to get?
    This, if you want it…. See, what I have here.
  • But not to take away.
    Then I’ll call her.
    Be quick, be quick. All grace is wiped from life
  • Since she went away. O sad, sad am I
  • When there I enter on that loneliness,
  • And wine is unvintaged of the sun’s flavour.
  • And food is tasteless. But I’ve put on weight.
  • I love him O so much! but he won’t have it.
  • Don’t call me down to him.
    Sweet little Myrrhine!
  • What do you mean? Come here.
    O no I won’t.
  • Why are you calling me? You don’t want me.
    Not want you! with this week-old strength of love.
    Don’t go, please don’t go, Myrrhine.
  • At least you’ll hear our child. Call your mother, lad.
    Mummy … mummy … mummy!
    There now, don’t you feel pity for the child?
  • He’s not been fed or washed now for six days.
    I certainly pity him with so heartless a father.
    Come down, my sweetest, come for the child’s sake.
    A trying life it is to be a mother!
  • I suppose I’d better go. She comes down.
    How much younger she looks,
  • How fresher and how prettier! Myrrhine,
  • Lift up your lovely face, your disdainful face;
  • And your ankle … let your scorn step out its worst;
  • It only rubs me to more ardor here.
  • MYRRHINE (playing with the child)
  • You’re as innocent as he’s iniquitous.
  • Let me kiss you, honey-petting, mother’s darling.
    How wrong to follow other women’s counsel
  • And let loose all these throbbing voids in yourself
  • As well as in me. Don’t you go throb-throb?
    Take away your hands.
    Everything in the house
  • Is being ruined.
    I don’t care at all.
    The roosters are picking all your web to rags.
  • Do you mind that?
    Not I.
    What time we’ve wasted
  • We might have drenched with Paphian laughter, flung
  • On Aphrodite’s Mysteries. O come here.
    Not till a treaty finishes the war.
    If you must have it, then we’ll get it done.
    Do it and I’ll come home. Till then I am bound.
    Well, can’t your oath perhaps be got around?
    No … no … still I’ll not say that I don’t love you.
    You love me! Then dear girl, let me also love you.
    You must be joking. The boy’s looking on.
    Here, Manes, take the child home!… There, he’s gone.
  • There’s nothing in the way now. Come to the point.
    Here in the open! In plain sight?
    In Pan’s cave.
  • A splendid place.
    Where shall I dress my hair again
  • Before returning to the citadel?
    You can easily primp yourself in the Clepsydra.
    But how can I break my oath?
    Leave that to me,
  • I’ll take all risk.
    Well, I’ll make you comfortable.
    Don’t worry. I’d as soon lie on the grass.
    No, by Apollo, in spite of all your faults
  • I won’t have you lying on the nasty earth.
  • (From here MYRRHINE keeps on going off to fetch things.)
    Ah, how she loves me.
    Rest there on the bench,
  • While I arrange my clothes. O what a nuisance,
  • I must find some cushions first.
    Why some cushions?
  • Please don’t get them!
    What? The plain, hard wood?
  • Never, by Artemis! That would be too vulgar.
    Open your arms!
    No. Wait a second.
    O….Then hurry back again.
    Here the cushions are.
  • Lie down while I–O dear! But what a shame,
  • You need more pillows.
    I don’t want them, dear.
    But I do.
    Thwarted affection mine,
  • They treat you just like Heracles at a feast
  • With cheats of dainties, O disappointing arms!
    Raise up your head.
    There, that’s everything at last.
    Yes, all.
    Then run to my arms, you golden girl.
    I’m loosening my girdle now. But you’ve not forgotten?
  • You’re not deceiving me about the Treaty?
    No, by my life, I’m not.
    Why, you’ve no blanket.
    It’s not the silly blanket’s warmth but yours I want.
    Never mind. You’ll soon have both. I’ll come straight back.
    The woman will choke me with her coverlets.
    Get up a moment.
    I’m up high enough.
    Would you like me to perfume you?
    By Apollo, no!
    By Aphrodite, I’ll do it anyway.
    Lord Zeus, may she soon use up all the myrrh.
    Stretch out your hand. Take it and rub it in.
    Hmm, it’s not as fragrant as might be; that is,
  • Not before it’s smeared. It doesn’t smell of kisses.
    How silly I am: I’ve brought you Rhodian scents.
    It’s good enough, leave it, love.
    You must be jesting.
    Plague rack the man who first compounded scent!
    Here, take this flask.
    I’ve a far better one.
  • Don’t tease me, come here, and get nothing more.
    I’m coming…. I’m just drawing off my shoes….
  • You’re sure you will vote for Peace?
    I’ll think about it.
  • She runs off.
  • I’m dead: the woman’s worn me all away.
  • She’s gone and left me with an anguished pulse.
  • MEN
    Baulked in your amorous delight
  • How melancholy is your plight.
  • With sympathy your case I view;
  • For I am sure it’s hard on you.
  • What human being could sustain
  • This unforeseen domestic strain,
  • And not a single trace
  • Of willing women in the place!
    O Zeus, what throbbing suffering!
  • MEN
    She did it all, the harlot, she
  • With her atrocious harlotry.
    Nay, rather call her darling-sweet.
  • MEN
    What, sweet? She’s a rude, wicked thing.
    A wicked thing, as I repeat.
  • O Zeus, O Zeus,
  • Canst Thou not suddenly let loose
  • Some twirling hurricane to tear
  • Her flapping up along the air
  • And drop her, when she’s whirled around,
  • Here to the ground
  • Neatly impaled upon the stake
  • That’s ready upright for her sake.
  • He goes out.


  • The MAGISTRATE comes forward.
    What here gabs the Senate an’ the Prytanes?
  • I’ve fetcht despatches for them.
    Are you a man
  • Or a monstrosity?
    My scrimp-brained lad,
  • I’m a herald, as ye see, who hae come frae Sparta
  • Anent a Peace.
    Then why do you hide that lance
  • That sticks out under your arms?
    I’ve brought no lance.
    Then why do you turn aside and hold your cloak
  • So far out from your body? Is your groin swollen
  • With stress of travelling?
    By Castor, I’ll swear
  • The man is wud.
    Indeed, your cloak is wide,
  • My rascal fellow.
    But I tell ye No!
  • Enow o’ fleering!
    Well, what is it then?
    It’s my despatch cane.
    Of course–a Spartan cane!
  • But speak right out. I know all this too well.
  • Are new privations springing up in Sparta?
    Och, hard as could be: in lofty lusty columns
  • Our allies stand united. We maun get Pellene.
    Whence has this evil come? Is it from Pan?
    No. Lampito first ran asklent, then the others
  • Sprinted after her example, and blocked, the hizzies,
  • Their wames unskaithed against our every fleech.
    What did you do?
    We are broken, and bent double,
  • Limp like men carrying lanthorns in great winds
  • About the city. They winna let us even
  • Wi’ lightest neif skim their primsie pretties
  • Till we’ve concluded Peace-terms wi’ a’ Hellas.
    So the conspiracy is universal;
  • This proves it. Then return to Sparta. Bid them
  • Send envoys with full powers to treat of Peace;
  • And I will urge the Senate here to choose
  • Plenipotentiary ambassadors,
  • As argument adducing this connection.
    I’m off. Your wisdom none could contravert.
  • They retire.
  • MEN
    There is no beast, no rush of fire, like woman so untamed.
  • She calmly goes her way where even panthers would be shamed.
    And yet you are fool enough, it seems, to dare to war with me,
  • When for your faithful ally you might win me easily.
  • MEN
    Never could the hate I feel for womankind grow less.
    Then have your will. But I’ll take pity on your nakedness.
  • For I can see just how ridiculous you look, and so
  • Will help you with your tunic if close up I now may go.
  • MEN
    Well, that, by Zeus, is no scoundrel-deed, I frankly will admit.
  • I only took them off myself in a scoundrel raging-fit.
    Now you look sensible, and that you’re men no one could doubt.
  • If you were but good friends again, I’d take the insect out
  • That hurts your eye.
  • MEN
    Is that what’s wrong? That nasty bitie thing.
  • Please squeeze it out, and show me what it is that makes this sting.
  • It’s been paining me a long while now.
    Well I’ll agree to that,
  • Although you’re most unmannerly. O what a giant gnat.
  • Here, look! It comes from marshy Tricorysus, I can tell.
  • MEN
    O thank you. It was digging out a veritable well.
  • Now that it’s gone, I can’t hold back my tears. See how they fall.
    I’ll wipe them off, bad as you are, and kiss you after all.
  • MEN
    I won’t be kissed.
    O yes, you will. Your wishes do not matter.
  • MEN
    O botheration take you all! How you cajole and flatter.
  • A hell it is to live with you; to live without, a hell:
  • How truly was that said. But come, these enmities let’s quell.
  • You stop from giving orders and I’ll stop from doing wrong.
  • So let’s join ranks and seal our bargain with a choric song.
    Athenians, it’s not our intention
  • To sow political dissension
  • By giving any scandal mention;
  • But on the contrary to promote good feeling in the state
  • By word and deed. We’ve had enough calamities of late.
  • So let a man or woman but divulge
  • They need a trifle, say,
  • Two minas, three or four,
  • I’ve purses here that bulge.
  • There’s only one condition made
  • (Indulge my whim in this I pray)–
  • When Peace is signed once more,
  • On no account am I to be repaid.
  • And I’m making preparation
  • For a gay select collation
  • With some youths of reputation.
  • I’ve managed to produce some soup and they’re slaughtering for me
  • A sucking-pig: its flesh should taste as tender as could be.
  • I shall expect you at my house today.
  • To the baths make an early visit,
  • And bring your children along;
  • Don’t dawdle on the way.
  • Ask no one; enter as if the place
  • Was all your own–yours henceforth is it.
  • If nothing chances wrong,
  • The door will then be shut bang in your face.
    Here come the Spartan envoys with long, worried beards.
  • Hail, Spartans how do you fare?
  • Did anything new arise?
    No need for a clutter o’ words. Do ye see our condition?
    The situation swells to greater tension.
  • Something will explode soon.
    It’s awfu’ truly.
  • But come, let us wi’ the best speed we may
  • Scribble a Peace.
    I notice that our men
  • Like wrestlers poised for contest, hold their clothes
  • Out from their bellies. An athlete’s malady!
  • Since exercise alone can bring relief.
    Can anyone tell us where Lysistrata is?
  • There is no need to describe our men’s condition,
  • It shows up plainly enough.
    It’s the same disease.
  • Do you feel a jerking throbbing in the morning?
    By Zeus, yes! In these straits, I’m racked all through.
  • Unless Peace is soon declared, we shall be driven
  • In the void of women to try Cleisthenes.
    Be wise and cover those things with your tunics.
  • Who knows what kind of person may perceive you?
    By Zeus, you’re right.
    By the Twa Goddesses,
  • Indeed ye are. Let’s put our tunics on.
    Hail O my fellow-sufferers, hail Spartans.
    O hinnie darling, what a waefu’ thing!
  • If they had seen us wi’ our lunging waddies!
    Tell us then, Spartans, what has brought you here?
    We come to treat o’ Peace.
    Well spoken there!
  • And we the same. Let us callout Lysistrata
  • Since she alone can settle the Peace-terms.
    Callout Lysistratus too if ye don’t mind.
    No indeed. She hears your voices and she comes.


  • Hail, Wonder of all women! Now you must be in turn
  • Hard, shifting, clear, deceitful, noble, crafty, sweet, and stern.
  • The foremost men of Hellas, smitten by your fascination,
  • Have brought their tangled quarrels here for your sole arbitration.
    An easy task if the love’s raging home-sickness
  • Doesn’t start trying out how well each other
  • Will serve instead of us. But I’ll know at once
  • If they do. O where’s that girl, Reconciliation?
  • Bring first before me the Spartan delegates,
  • And see you lift no rude or violent hands–
  • None of the churlish ways our husbands used.
  • But lead them courteously, as women should.
  • And if they grudge fingers, guide them by other methods,
  • And introduce them with ready tact. The Athenians
  • Draw by whatever offers you a grip.
  • Now, Spartans, stay here facing me. Here you,
  • Athenians. Both hearken to my words.
  • I am a woman, but I’m not a fool.
  • And what of natural intelligence I own
  • Has been filled out with the remembered precepts
  • My father and the city-elders taught me.
  • First I reproach you both sides equally
  • That when at Pylae and Olympia,
  • At Pytho and the many other shrines
  • That I could name, you sprinkle from one cup
  • The altars common to all Hellenes, yet
  • You wrack Hellenic cities, bloody Hellas
  • With deaths of her own sons, while yonder clangs
  • The gathering menace of barbarians.
    We cannot hold it in much longer now.
    Now unto you, O Spartans, do I speak.
  • Do you forget how your own countryman,
  • Pericleidas, once came hither suppliant
  • Before our altars, pale in his purple robes,
  • Praying for an army when in Messenia
  • Danger growled, and the Sea-god made earth quaver.
  • Then with four thousand hoplites Cimon marched
  • And saved all Sparta. Yet base ingrates now,
  • You are ravaging the soil of your preservers.
    By Zeus, they do great wrong, Lysistrata.
    Great wrong, indeed. O! What a luscious wench!
    And now I turn to the Athenians.
  • Have you forgotten too how once the Spartans
  • In days when you wore slavish tunics, came
  • And with their spears broke a Thessalian host
  • And all the partisans of Hippias?
  • They alone stood by your shoulder on that day.
  • They freed you, so that for the slave’s short skirt
  • You should wear the trailing cloak of liberty.
    I’ve never seen a nobler woman anywhere.
    Nor I one with such prettily jointing hips.
    Now, brethren twined with mutual benefactions,
  • Can you still war, can you suffer such disgrace?
  • Why not be friends? What is there to prevent you?
    We’re agreed, gin that we get this tempting Mole.
    Which one?
    That ane we’ve wanted to get into,
  • O for sae lang…. Pylos, of course.
    By Poseidon,
  • Never!
    Give it up.
    Then what will we do?
  • We need that ticklish place united to us–
    Ask for some other lurking-hole in return.
    Then, ah, we’ll choose this snug thing here, Echinus,
  • Shall we call the nestling spot? And this backside haven,
  • These desirable twin promontories, the Maliac,
  • And then of course these Megarean Legs.
    Not that, O surely not that, never that.
    Agree! Now what are two legs more or less?
    I want to strip at once and plough my land.
    And mine I want to fertilize at once.
    And so you can, when Peace is once declared.
  • If you mean it, get your allies’ heads together
  • And come to some decision.
    What allies?
  • There’s no distinction in our politics:
  • We’ve risen as one man to this conclusion;
  • Every ally is jumping-mad to drive it home.
    And ours the same, for sure.
    The Carystians first!
  • I’ll bet on that.
    I agree with all of you.
  • Now off, and cleanse yourselves for the Acropolis,
  • For we invite you all in to a supper
  • From our commissariat baskets. There at table
  • You will pledge good behaviour and uprightness;
  • Then each man’s wife is his to hustle home.
    Come, as quickly as possible.
    As quick as ye like.
  • Lead on.
    O Zeus, quick, quick, lead quickly on.
  • They hurry off.
    Broidered stuffs on high I’m heaping,
  • Fashionable cloaks and sweeping
  • Trains, not even gold gawds keeping.
  • Take them all, I pray you, take them all (I do not care)
  • And deck your children–your daughter, if the Basket she’s to bear.
  • Come, everyone of you, come in and take
  • Of this rich hoard a share.
  • Nought’s tied so skilfully
  • But you its seal can break
  • And plunder all you spy inside.
  • I’ve laid out all that I can spare,
  • And therefore you will see
  • Nothing unless than I you’re sharper-eyed.
  • If lacking corn a man should be
  • While his slaves clamour hungrily
  • And his excessive progeny,
  • Then I’ve a handfull of grain at home which is always to be had,
  • And to which in fact a more-than-life-size loaf I’d gladly add.
  • Then let the poor bring with them bag or sack
  • And take this store of food.
  • Manes, my man, I’ll tell
  • To help them all to pack
  • Their wallets full. But O take care.
  • I had forgotten; don’t intrude,
  • Or terrified you’ll yell.
  • My dog is hungry too, and bites–beware!
  • Some LOUNGERS from the Market with torches approach
  • the Banqueting hall. The PORTER bars their entrance.
                Open the door.
    Here move along.
                What’s this?
  • You’re sitting down. Shall I singe you with my torch?
  • That’s vulgar! O I couldn’t do it … yet
  • If it would gratify the audience,
  • I’ll mortify myself.
                   And I will too.
  • We’ll both be crude and vulgar, yes we will.
    Be off at once now or you’ll be wailing
  • Dirges for your hair. Get off at once,
  • And see you don’t disturb the Spartan envoys
  • Just coming out from the splendid feast they’ve had.
  • The banqueters begin to come out.
    I’ve never known such a pleasant banquet before,
  • And what delightful fellows the Spartans are.
  • When we are warm with wine, how wise we grow.
    That’s only fair, since sober we’re such fools:
  • This is the advice I’d give the Athenians–
  • See our ambassadors are always drunk.
  • For when we visit Sparta sober, then
  • We’re on the alert for trickery all the while
  • So that we miss half of the things they say,
  • And misinterpret things that were never said,
  • And then report the muddle back to Athens.
  • But now we’re charmed with each other. They might cap
  • With the Telamon-catch instead of the Cleitagora,
  • And we’d applaud and praise them just the same;
  • We’re not too scrupulous in weighing words.
    Why, here the rascals come again to plague me.
  • Won’t you move on, you sorry loafers there!
          Yes, by Zeus, they’re already coming out.
    Now hinnie dearest, please tak’ up your pipe
  • That I may try a spring an’ sing my best
  • In honour o’ the Athenians an’ oursels.
    Aye, take your pipe. By all the gods, there’s nothing
  • Could glad my heart more than to watch you dance.
  • Let thy fire storm these younkers,
  • O tongue wi’ stormy ecstasy
  • My Muse that knows
  • Our deeds and theirs, how when at sea
  • Their navies swooped upon
  • The Medes at Artemision–
  • Gods for their courage, did they strike
  • Wrenching a triumph frae their foes;
  • While at Thermopylae
  • Leonidas’ army stood: wild-boars they were like
  • Wild-boars that wi’ fierce threat
  • Their terrible tusks whet;
  • The sweat ran streaming down each twisted face,
  • Faen blossoming i’ strange petals o’ death
  • Panted frae mortal breath,
  • The sweat drenched a’ their bodies i’ that place,
  • For the hurly-burly o’ Persians glittered more
  • Than the sands on the shore.
  • Come, Hunting Girl, an’ hear my prayer–
  • You whose arrows whizz in woodlands, come an’ bless
  • This Peace we swear.
  • Let us be fenced wi’ age long amity,
  • O let this bond stick ever firm through thee
  • In friendly happiness.
  • Henceforth no guilefu’ perjury be seen!
  • O hither, hither O
  • Thou wildwood queen.
    Earth is delighted now, peace is the voice of earth.
  • Spartans, sort out your wives: Athenians, yours.
  • Let each catch hands with his wife and dance his joy,
  • Dance out his thanks, be grateful in music,
  • And promise reformation with his heels.
    O Dancers, forward. Lead out the Graces,
  • Call Artemis out;
  • Then her brother, the Dancer of Skies,
  • That gracious Apollo.
  • Invoke with a shout
  • Dionysus out of whose eyes
  • Breaks fire on the maenads that follow;
  • And Zeus with his flares of quick lightning, and call,
  • Happy Hera, Queen of all,
  • And all the Daimons summon hither to be
  • Witnesses of our revelry
  • And of the noble Peace we have made,
  • Aphrodite our aid.
  • Io Paieon, Io, cry–
  • For victory, leap!
  • Attained by me, leap!
  • Euoi Euoi Euai Euai.
    Piper, gie us the music for a new sang.
    Leaving again lovely lofty Taygetus
  • Hither O Spartan Muse, hither to greet us,
  • And wi’ our choric voice to raise
  • To Amyclean Apollo praise,
  • And Tyndareus’ gallant sons whose days
  • Alang Eurotas’ banks merrily pass,
  • An’ Athene o’ the House o’ Brass.
  • Now the dance begin;
  • Dance, making swirl your fringe o’ woolly skin,
  • While we join voices
  • To hymn dear Sparta that rejoices
  • I’ a beautifu’ sang,
  • An’ loves to see
  • Dancers tangled beautifully;
  • For the girls i’ tumbled ranks
  • Alang Eurotas’ banks
  • Like wanton fillies thrang,
  • Frolicking there
  • An’ like Bacchantes shaking the wild air
  • To comb a giddy laughter through the hair,
  • Bacchantes that clench thyrsi as they sweep
  • To the ecstatic leap.
  • An’ Helen, Child o’ Leda, come
  • Thou holy, nimble, gracefu’ Queen,
  • Lead thou the dance, gather thy joyous tresses up i’ bands
  • An’ play like a fawn. To madden them, clap thy hands,
  • And sing praise to the warrior goddess templed i’ our lands,
  • Her o’ the House o’ Brass.
  • Source:

    Lysistrata by Aristophanes is produced by Project Gutenberg and released under a public domain license.


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    Introduction to World Literature Anthology Copyright © 2021 by Christian Beck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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