DEMOSTHENES: a slave in the service of Demos
NICIAS: a slave in the service of Demos
A SAUSAGE SELLER: a low-born Athenian street merchant
PAPHLAGONIAN: a slave in the service of Demos
DEMOS: an elderly Athenian citizen
CHORUS OF KNIGHTS.
[The action takes place in an Athenian street in the Pnyx,
the part of the city where the public assemblies were held.
At the back there is an entrance to the house belonging to
Demos. From within the house comes the noise of a slave
being beaten with a whip and crying out in pain.]
DEMOSTHENES [bursting out of the door]
All right, that’s it, that’s just too much to take!
I’ve had it! That bastard interloper!
That miserable Paphlagonian!
I wish the gods would obliterate him—
him and his schemes. Since that awful day
he came into this house, because of him
we slaves keep getting beaten all the time.
NICIAS [coming out behind Demosthenes, in obvious pain]
That man is the very worst—a first-class
Paphlagonian—all those lies he tells!
Hey, you poor man, how you doing?
Not good. 10
The same as you.
All right, come over here,
so we can moan together, pipe a tune,
a duet in the manner of Olympus.1
[Demosthenes and Nicias put their heads together and act as
if they are
both playing flutes, making whimpering sounds in harmony.]
1 Olympus was a musician from
the 7th century who composed flute music.
DEMOSTHENES AND NICIAS
What can we do-o-ooooo, 
We’re just so black and blue-oo-oo.1
Why waste our moaning? We should stop whining
and look for some way to preserve our hides.
How could we do that?
Well, suggest something.
No, you tell me—that way I can avoid
fighting you about it.
[Here Demosthenes and Nicias briefly parody the grand tragic
No. By Apollo. No. 20
I shall not speak.
Ah, if only you would tell me
what I should say.
Come. Screw your courage up
and speak. And then I shall confide in you.
But I dare not. How could I ever utter
the delicate phrasings of Euripides—
“Can’t thou not speak for me what I must say”?2
No, I don’t want that. Don’t toss those herbs around.
Instead find us some way we can dance off
and leave our master.3
1 The Greek simply has them
repeating a series of mu sounds.
2 Nicias is here quoting
Euripides, a line where Phaedra wishes to confess her
passion for her stepson without actually
saying the words.
3 Aristophanes is satirizing
Euripides’ origins by reminding people of the false rumour
that his mother, Cleito, sold
vegetables. The previous lines also satirize Euripides’