Its diatribes against the War and fierce criticism of the general policy of
the War party so enraged Cleon that as already mentioned he
endeavoured to ruin the author who in 'The Knights' retorted by a direct
and savage personal attack on the leader of the democracy.
The plot is of the simplest. Dicaeopolis an Athenian citizen but a native of
Acharnae one of the agricultural demes and one which had especially
suffered in the Lacedaemonian invasions sick and tired of the ill-success
and miseries of the War makes up his mind if he fails to induce the
people to adopt his policy of "peace at any price" to conclude a private and
particular peace of his own to cover himself his family and his estate. The
Athenians momentarily elated by victory and over-persuaded by the
demagogues of the day--Cleon and his henchmen refuse to hear of such a
thing as coming to terms. Accordingly Dicaeopolis dispatches an envoy to
Sparta on his own account who comes back presently with a selection of
specimen treaties in his pocket. The old man tastes and tries special terms
are arranged and the play concludes with a riotous and uproarious rustic
feast in honour of the blessings of Peace and Plenty.
Incidentally excellent fun is poked at Euripides and his dramatic methods
which supply matter for so much witty badinage in several others of our
Other specially comic incidents are: the scene where the two young
daughters of the famished Megarian are sold in the market at Athens as
suck[l]ing-pigs--a scene in which the convenient similarity of the Greek
words signifying a pig and the 'pudendum muliebre' respectively is
utilized in a whole string of ingenious and suggestive 'double entendres'
and ludicrous jokes; another where the Informer or Market-Spy is packed
up in a crate as crockery and carried off home by the Boeotian buyer.
The drama takes its title from the Chorus composed of old
men of Acharnae.
WIFE OF DICAEOPOLIS
DAUGHTER OF DICAEOPOLIS
CEPHISOPHON servant of Euripides
ATTENDANT OF LAMACHUS
MAIDENS daughters of the Megarian
CHORUS OF ACHARNIAN ELDERS
SCENE: The Athenian Ecclesia on the Pnyx; afterwards Dicaeopolis' house in the country.
What cares have not gnawed at my heart and how few have been the
pleasures in my life! Four to be exact while my troubles have been
as countless as the grains of sand on the shore! Let me see! of what
value to me have been these few pleasures? Ah! I remember that I was
delighted in soul when Cleon had to disgorge those five talents; I was
in ecstasy and I love the Knights for this deed; 'it is an honour to
Greece.' But the day when I was impatiently awaiting a piece by
Aeschylus what tragic despair it caused me when the herald called
"Theognis introduce your Chorus!" Just imagine how this blow struck
straight at my heart! On the other hand what joy Dexitheus caused
me at the musical competition when he played a Boeotian melody
on the lyre! But this year by contrast! Oh! what deadly torture
to hear Chaeris perform the prelude in the Orthian mode!
--Never however since I began to bathe has the dust hurt my
eyes as it does to-day. Still it is the day of assembly; all should be
here at daybreak and yet the Pnyx is still deserted. They are
gossiping in the marketplace slipping hither and thither to avoid
the vermilioned rope. The Prytanes even do not come; they will be
late but when they come they will push and fight each other for a
seat in the front row. They will never trouble themselves with the
question of peace. Oh! Athens! Athens! As for myself I do not fail to
come here before all the rest and now finding myself alone I groan
yawn stretch break wind and know not what to do; I make sketches in
the dust pull out my loose hairs muse think of my fields long for
peace curse town life and regret my dear country home which never
told me to 'buy fuel vinegar or oil'; there the word 'buy' which
cuts me in two was unknown; I harvested everything at will. Therefore
I have come to the assembly fully prepared to bawl interrupt and
abuse the speakers if they talk of anything but peace. But here come the
Prytanes and high time too for it is midday! As I foretold hah! is it
not so? They are pushing and fighting for the front seats.
f A name invented by Aristophanes and signifying 'a just citizen.'
f Clean had received five talents from the islanders subject to Athens
on condition that he should get the tribute payable by them reduced; when
informed of this transaction the knights compelled him to return
f A hemistich borrowed from Euripides' 'Telephus.'
f The tragedies of Aeschylus continued to be played even after the
poet's death which occurred in 436 B.C. ten years before the production
of 'The Acharnians.'
f A tragic poet whose pieces were so devoid of warmth and life that he
was nicknamed [the Greek for] 'snow.'
f A bad musician frequently ridiculed by Aristophanes; he played both
the lyre and the flute.
f A lively and elevated method.
f A hill near the Acropolis where the Assemblies were held.
f Several means were used to force citizens to attend the assemblies;
the shops were closed; circulation was only permitted in those streets which
led to the Pnyx; finally a rope covered with vermilion was drawn round those
who dallied in the Agora (the market-place) and the late-comers ear-
marked by the imprint of the rope were fined.
f Magistrates who with the Archons and the Epistatae shared the care
of holding and directing the assemblies of the people; they were fifty
f The Peloponnesian War had already at the date of the representation
of 'The Acharnians' lasted five years 431-426 B.C.; driven from their lands
by the successive Lacedaemonian invasions the people throughout the
country had been compelled to seek shelter behind the walls of Athens.
Move on up move on move on to get within the consecrated area.
f Shortly before the meeting of the Assembly a number of young pigs
were immolated and a few drops of their blood were sprinkled on the
seats of the Prytanes; this sacrifice was in honour of Ceres.
Has anyone spoken yet?
Who asks to speak?