John Henry Wright.

Masterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; online

. (page 18 of 29)
Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 18 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

To levy a fine.

Neptune \open to conviction^ hut anxious to pro-
ceed on sure grou7id~\. How would you do it?
Tell me. 85

Peisthetairus. Why, for example, when he 's count-
ing money.
Or sitting in the bath, we give the warrant
To a pursuivant of ours, a kite or magpie ;
And they pounce down immediately, and distrain
Cash or apparel, money or money's worth, 90

To twice the amount of your demand upon him.

^ The Triballian speaks very imperfect Greek, but seems to mean
that he favors breaking- off the negotiations and returning to Olympns.
So the interpretation which Peisthetau'us puts upon his words is comic.

^ Very volubly — quite at his ease.


Hercules. Well, I 'm for giving up the sovereignty.
For my part.

Neptune [convinced^ hut wishing to avoid respons
bility, hy voting last^. The Triballian, what
says he ?
Hercules \_aside to the Triballian, shoioing his
Jist~\, You, sir; do you want to be well
banged or not ?
Mind, how you vote ! Take care how you provoke
me. 95

Trihallian. Yaw, yaw. Goot, goot.
Hercules, He 's of the same opinion.

Neptune. Then, since you 're both agreed, I must

Hercules \shouting to Peisthetairus, the negotia-
tors having withdrawn to consult at the ex-
tremity of the stagel. Well, you ! we Ve set-
tled this concern, you see,
About the sovereignty ; we 're all agreed.

Peisthetairus. O, faith there 's one thing more, I
recollect, loo

Before we part ; a point that I must mention.
As for dame Juno, we '11 not speak of her ;
I 've no pretensions, Jupiter may keep her ;
But, for that other queen, his manager,
The sovereign goddess, her surrender to me los

Is quite an article indispensable.

Neptune.'^ Your views, I find, are not disposed for
peace :
We must turn homewards.

Peisthetairus. As you please, so be it.

Cook, mind what you 're about there with the sauce ;
Let 's have it rich and savory, thicken it up ! iio

^ With gravity and dignity.


Hercules. How now, man ? Neptune ! are you fly-
ing off?
Must we remain at war, here, for a woman ?

Neptune, But what are we to do ?

Hercules. Do ? Why, make peace.

Neptune} I pity you really ! I feel quite ashamed
And sorry to see you ruining yourself ! us

If anything should happen to your father,
After surrendering the sovereign t}'^,
What 's to become of you ? When you yourself
Have voted away your whole inheritance :
At his decease, you must remain a beggar. 120

Peisthetairus [aside to Hercules] . Ah there ! I
thought so ; he 's coming over ye ;
Step here a moment ! Let me speak to ye !

Your uncle's chousing you, my poor dear friend ;
You Ve not a farthing's worth of expectation.
From what your father leaves. Ye can't inherit 125
By law : ye 're illegitimate, ye know.

Hercules. Heigh-day ! Why, what do you mean ?

Peisthetairus. I mean the fact !

Your mother was a foreigner ; ^ Minerva
Is counted an heiress, everybody knows ;
How could that be, supposing her own father 130

To have had a lawful heir ?

Hercules. But, if my father

Should choose to leave the property to me.
In his last will.

Peisthetairus. The law would cancel it !

And Neptune, he that 's using all his influ-
To work upon ye, he 'd be the very first 13s

^ In great wrath like an uncle scolding- a great fool of a nephew.
2 Marriages between Athenians and foreig-ners were not legal.


To oppose ye, and oust ye, as the testator's brother.
I'll tell ye what the law says, Solon's law :

" A foreign heir shall not succeed,
Where there are children of the lawful breed :
But, if no native heir there be, i40

The kinsman nearest in degree
Shall enter on the property."

Hercules, Does nothing come to me, then ? No-
thing at all,
Of all my father leaves ?

JPeisthetairus. Nothing at all,

I should conceive. But you perhaps can tell me. i45
Did he, your father, ever take ye with him,
To get ye enrolled upon the register ? ^

Hercules. No, truly I . . . thought it strange, . . .

he . . . never did.
JPeisthetairus. Well, but don't think things strange.
Don't stand there, stammering, i5o

Puzzling and gaping. Trust yourself to me,
'T is I must make your fortune after all !

If you '11 reside and settle amongst us here,
I '11 make you chief commander among the birds.
Captain, and Autocrat and everything. 155

Here you shall domineer and rule the roast,
With splendor and opulence and pigeon's milk,
Hercules [in a more audible voice, and in a for-
mal decided tone ^j , I agreed with you before :
I think your argument
Unanswerable. I shall vote for the surrender.

1 Viz. of the citizens.

^ They had withdrawn apart, and their previous conversation wa3
supposed not to have been audible to Neptune and the Triballian,
whose by-play might have consisted in Neptune's formal attempts to
soothe and gain the Triballian, who would only shrug his shoulders.


jPeisthetairus [to Neptune] . And what say you ?
JVeptune [firmly and vehemently~\ . Decidedly I dis-
sent. 161
JPeisthetairus. Then it depends upon our other
It rests with the Triballian ; what say you ?

Trihallian, Me tell you ; pretty girl, grand beau-
tiful queen.
Give him to birds,

Hercules, Aye, give her up, you mean, les

Neptune, Mean ! He knows nothing about it. He
means nothing
But chattering like a magpie.

Peisthetairus} Well, " the magpies,"

He means the magpies or the birds in general.
The republic of the birds — their government — -
That the surrender should be made to them. 170

Neptune [in great wratJi\. Well, settle it your-
selves ; amongst yourselves ;
In your own style : I 've nothing more to say,

Hercules [to Peisthetairus^, Come, we're agreed
in fact, to grant your terms ;
But you must come, to accompany us to the sky ;
To take back this same queen, and the other mat-
ters, 176
Peisthetairus [veiy quietly~\. It happens lucky
enough, with this provision
For a marriage feast. It seems prepared on purpose.
Hercules. Indeed, and it does. Suppose in the
meanwhile, v
I superintend the cookery, and turn the roast,
While you go back together,

1 Peisthetairus, being- sure of his point, amuses himself with arg-uiug
nonsensically to provoke Neptune.


Neptune [with a start of surprise and disgust].

Turn the roast ! iso

A pretty employment ! Won't you go with us ?
Hercules. No, thank ye ; I 'm mighty comfortable

Peisthetairus. Come, give me a marriage robe ; I
must be going.


The Crossing of the Styx.

Bacchus, accompanied by his slave Xanthias, has come down
to the lower world to get a tragic poet to carry back to Athens.
Charon, the old ferryman, is ready at the bank of the Styx to
carry him across to Hades.

Charon. Bacchus. Xanthias.
Charon. Hoy ! Bear a hand, there. — Heave ashore.
Bacchus. What 's this ?

Xanthias. The lake it is, the place he told us of.
By Jove I and there 's the boat, and here 's old Charon.
Bacchus. Well, Charon ! Welcome, Charon ! Wel-
come kindly !
Charon. Who wants the ferryman ? Anybody
waiting 5

To remove from the sorrows of life ? A passage any-
To Lethe's wharf ? — to Cerberus's Reach ?
To Tartarus ? — to Taenarus ? ^ — to Perdition ?
Bacchi/is. Yes, I.
Char/m. Get in then.

Bacchus (Jiesitatingly). Tell me, where are you
To Perdition really — ?

1 Cape Matapan, the most southerly point of Greece and of Europe,
where was a cavern which was said to lead to Hades.


Charon (not sarcastically^ hut civilly^ in the luay
ofhusiness^. Yes, to oblige you, I will iq
With all my heart — ■ Step in there.

Bacchus, Have a care !

Take care, good Charon ! Charon, have a care !

Bacchus gets into the boat.

Come, Xanthias, come !

Charon, I take no slaves aboard

Except they 've volunteer'd for the naval victory.^
Xanthias. I could not : — I was suffering with sore
eyes. 15

Charon. You must trudge away then, round by the

end of the lake there.
Jianthias. And whereabouts shall I wait ?
Charon. At the Stone of Repentance,

By the Slough o£ Despond beyond the Tribula-
tions ;
You understand me ?

Xanthias. Yes, I understand you ; ^

A lucky, promising direction, truly.

Charon (to Bacchus^. Sit down at the oar. 20

Come quick, if there 's more coming !

( To Bacchus again^ Holloh ! what 's that you 're
doing ?

[Bacchus is seated in a huffoonish attitude on the side of
the boat where the oar loas fastened.

Bacchus. What you told me.

I 'm sitting at the oar.

Charon, Sit there., I tell you,

You Fatguts ; that 's your place.

Bacchus (changes his place). W^ell, so I do.

^ The Athenians were in such straits for lack of soldiers that they
offered freedom to any slave who volunteered.


Charon. Now ply your hands and arms.

Bacchus (rnaJces a silly motion with his arms^.
Well, so I do. 25

Charon. You 'd best leave off your fooling. Take
to the oar,
And pull away.

Bacchus. But how shall I contrive ?

I 've never served on board. — I 'm only a landsman ;
I 'm quite unused to it. —

Charon. We can manage it.

As soon as you begin you shall have some music 30
That will teach you to keep time.

Bacchus. What music 's that ?

Charon. A chorus of Frogs — uncommon musical

Bacchus. Well, give me the word and the time.

Charon. Whooh up, up ; whooh up, up.


Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash.

Shall the Choral Quiristers of the Marsh 35

Be censured and rejected as hoarse and harsh ;

And their Chromatic essays

Deprived of praise ?
No, let us raise afresh

Our obstreperous Brekeke-kesh ; 40

The customary croak and cry

Of the creatures

At the theatres,*^
In their yearly revelry.
Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash. 45

^ The Chorus in this play was made up of men dressed to represent

2 The region near the theatre was marshy.


Bacchus (rowing in great misery^.
How I 'm maul'd,
How I 'm gall'd ;
Worn and mangled to a mash —
There they go ! " Koash^ hoasJi ! '*
Frogs. Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash. m

Bacchus. Oh, beshrew,

All your crew ;
You don't consider how I smart.
Frogs. Now for a sample of the Art !

Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash. 55

Bacchus. I wish you hang'd, with all my heart.

Have you nothing else to say ?
" Brelcehe-hesh.^ hoash " all day !
Frogs. We 've a right, we 've a right ;

And we croak at ye for spite. eo

We 've a right, we 've a right ;
Day and night, day and night ;
Night and day.
Still to creak and croak away.
Phoebus and every Grace 65

Admire and approve of the croaking race ;
And the egregious guttural notes
That are gargled and warbled in their lyrical throats.
In reproof of your scorn
Mighty Pan nods his horn ; 70

Beating time to the rhyme
With his hoof, with his hoof.
Persisting in our plan
We proceed as we began,
Breke-kesh, breke-kesh, koash, koash.
Bacchus. Oh, the Frogs, consume and rot 'em, 79
I 've a blister on my bottom.
Hold your tongues, you tuneful creatures.


Frogs. Cease with your profane entr

All in vain for ever striving : '^^ arms).

Silence is against our natur 25

With the vernal heat reviving, ^g* Take

Our aquatic crew repair
From their periodic sleep,
In the dark and chilly deep,
To the cheerful upper air ; ^^ ?

Then we frolic here and there
All amidst the meadows fair ;
Shady plants of asphodel
Are the lodges where we dwell ; so

Chanting in the leafy bowers
All the livelong summer hours,
Till the sudden gusty showers
Send us headlong, helter-skelter,
To the pool to seek for shelter ; 95

Meagre, eager, leaping, lunging.
From the sedgy wharfage plunging
To the tranquil depth below,
There we muster all a-row ;
Where, secure from toil and trouble, 100
With a tuneful hubble-bubble.
Our symphonious accents flow.
Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash.

Bacchus. I forbid you to proceed.

Frogs. That would be severe indeed ; 105

Arbitrary, bold, and rash —
Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash.

Bacchus. 1 command you to desist —

— Oh, my back, there ! oh, my wrist I
What a twist ! 110

What a sprain !

Frogs. Once again —


Bacchus We renew the tuneful strain.
He Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash.
H( I disdain — (Hang the pain !) ns

Worr All your nonsense, noise, and trash.
The^ O, my blister ! O, my sprain !
Ftoq' Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash.
Ba( Friends and Frogs, we must display

All our powers of voice to-day ; 120

Suffer not this stranger here,
With fastidious foreign ear,
To confound us and abash.
Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash.
Bacchus. Well, my spirit is not broke, 125

If it 's only for the joke,
I '11 outdo you with a croak.
Here it goes, (very loud) "Koash, koash."
Frogs, Now for a glorious croaking crash,
{Still louder).
Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash. wo

Bacchus \_splashing ivith his oar^,

I '11 disperse you with a splash.
Frogs. Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash.
Bacchus. I '11 subdue

Your rebellious, noisy crew —
Have amongst you there, slap-dash. 135

^Strikes at them.

Frogs. Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash.
We defy your oar and you.
Charon. Hold! We're ashore just — shift your
oaro Get out.
. — Now pay for your fare.

Bacchus. There — there it is — the twopence. ^

1 A small coin was put into tiie mouth of the corpse as a fee for


Herodotus, the Father of History, as he has been called
since Cicero's time, was born about 484 B. c. He was a
native not of Greece proper but of Halicarnassus, a city of
Asia Minor, founded by the Dorians but at the time of his
birth subject to the Persians. When he was a little over
thirty years of age he was obliged to leave his native city on
account of political dissensions there, and traveled for more
than ten years, traversing Asia Minor and European Greece
in all directions, and making a long visit to Egypt. He
was a great admirer of Athens, where on one occasion he is
said to have received a gift of ten talents ($10,000) from
the people for a recitation from his works, which glorify
that city as the savior of Greece in the contests with Per-
sia. Finally he became a citizen of Thurii, a new Athenian
colony in southern Italy, where he died about 425 B. c.

The History, Herodotus's one great work, has come down
to us in its entirety. The subject was the conflict between
the Greeks and the Barbarians (Asiatics) which culminated
in the Persian wars of invasion. The first six of the nine
books deal with the earlier history of the two nations, and
form a magnificent introduction to the description of the
final conflict in the last three books.

Before Herodotus, the writing of history had been con-
fined to two classes of people, — the Epic Poets, who aimed
at the picturesque rather than the accurate, and the Logo-
graphers, who stated unconnected facts without regard to
form. He was the first to describe historical events with
attention to literary style, unity of theme, and fidelity to


facts. As a writer, he has been universally praised by both
ancients and moderns. " O that I were in a condition,"
says Lucian, " to resemble Herodotus, if only in some mea-
sure ! I by no means say in all his gifts, but only in some
single point; as for instance, the beauty of his language, or
its harmony, or the natural and peculiar grace of the Ionic
dialect, or his fulness of thought, or by whatever name those
thousand beauties are called which, to the despair of his
imitator, are united in him."

His trustworthiness has many times been called into ques-
tion by those who urge that his credulity, his love of effect,
and his partisanship for Athens unfitted him for the histo-
rian's office. But it seems clear at least that he was not will-
fully deceitful, and that the picture he paints of the world
of his time is the world as it appeared to him.

Canon Rawlinson's translation is used in the following


Having, however, thus wreaked his vengeance on
the Gyndes by dispersing it through three hundred
and sixty channels, Cyrus, with the first approach of
the ensuing spring, marched forward against Baby-
lon. The Babylonians, encamped without their walls,
awaited his coming. A battle was fought at a short
distance from the city, in which the Babylonians were
defeated by the Persian king, whereupon they with-
drew within their defences. Here they shut them-
selves up, and made light of his siege, having laid in
a store of provisions for many years in preparation
against this attack ; for when they saw Cyrus con-
quering nation after nation, they were convinced that
he would never stop, and that their turn would come
at last.


Cyrus was now reduced to great perplexity, as time
went on and he made no progress against the place.
In this distress either some one made the suoo^estion
to him, or he bethought himself of a plan, which he
proceeded to put in execution. He placed a portion
of his army at the point where the river enters the
city, and another body at the back of the place where
it issues forth, with orders to march into the town by
the bed of the stream, as soon as the water became
shallow enough : he then himself drew off with the
unwarlike portion of his host, and made for the place
where Nitocris dug the basin for the river, where he
■did exactly what she had done formerly : he turned
the Euphrates by a canal into the basin, which was
then a marsh, on which the river sank to such an extent
that the natural bed of the stream became fordable.
Hereupon the Persians, who had been left for the pur-
pose at Babylon by the river-side, entered the stream,
which had now sunk so as to reach about midway up
a man's thigh, and thus got into the town. Had the
Babylonians been apprised of what Cyrus was about,
or had they noticed their danger, they would not have
allowed the entrance of the Persians within the city,
which was what ruined them utterly, but would have
made fast all the street-gates which gave upon the
river, and mounting upon the walls along both sides
of the stream, would so have caught the enemy as :
were in a trap. But, as it was, the Persians came
upon them by surprise and so took the city. Owing
to the vast size of the place, the inhabitants of the
central parts (as the residents at Babylon declare)
long after the outer portions of the town were taken,
knew nothing of what had chanced, but as they were
engaged in a festival, continued dancing and revelling


until they learnt the capture but too certainly. Such,
then, were the circumstances of the first taking of
Babylon. (^Book /., Chcqjters 190, 191.)


The customs which I know the Persians to observe
are the following. They have no images of the gods,
no temples nor altars, and consider the use of them a
sign of folly. This comes, I think, from their not_
believing the gods to have the same nature with men,
as the Greeks imagine. Their wont, however, is to
ascend the summits of the loftiest mountains, and
there to offer sacrifice to Jupiter, which is the name
they give to the whole circuit of the firmament. They
likewise offer to the sun and moon, to the earth, to
fire, to water, and to the winds. These are the only
gods whose worship has come down to them from an-
cient times. At a later period they began the wor-
ship of Urania, which they borrowed from the Ara-
bians and Assyrians. Mylitta is the name by which
the Assyrians know this goddess, whom the Arabians
call Alilat, and the Persians Mitra.

To these gods the Persians offer sacrifice in the fol-
lowing manner : they raise no altar, light no fire, pour
no libations ; there is no sound of the flute, no put-
ting on of chaplets, no consecrated barley-cake ; but
the man who wishes to sacrifice brings his victim to
a spot of gfbund which is pure from pollution, and
there calls upon the name of the god to whom he in-
tends to offer. It is usual to have the turban encir-
cled with a wreath, most commonly of myrtle. The
sacrificer is not allowed to pray for blessings on him-
self alone, but he prays for the welfare of the kind,


and of tlie wliole Persian people, among whom he is
of necessity included. He cuts the victim in pieces,
and having boiled the flesh, he lays it out upon the
tenderest herbage that he can find, trefoil especially.
When all is ready, one of the Magi comes forward
and chants a hymn, which they say recounts the origin
of the gods. It is not lawful to offer sacrifice unless
there is a Magus present. After waiting a short time
the sacrificer carries the flesh of the victim away with
him, and makes whatever use of it he may please.

Of all the days in the year, the one which they cele-
brate most is their birthday. It is customary to have
the boa,rd furnished on that day with an ampler sup-
ply than common. The richer Persians cause an ox,
a horse, a camel, and an ass to be baked whole and so
served up to them ; the poorer classes use instead the
smaller kinds of cattle. They eat little solid food, but
abundance of dessert, which is set on the table a few
dishes at a time : this it is which makes them say that
" the Greeks, when they eat, leave off hungry, having
nothing worth mention served up to them after the
meats ; whereas, if they had more put before them,
they would not stop eating." They are very fond of
wine, and drink it in large quantities. Such are their
customs in these matters.

It is also their general practice to deliberate upon
affairs of weight when they are drunk ; and then on
the morrow, when they are sober, the decision to
which they came the night before is put before them
by the master of the house in which it was made ; and
if it is then approved of, they act on it ; if not, they
set it aside. Sometimes, however, they are sober at
their first deliberation, but in this case they always
reconsider the matter under the influence of wine.
iBooh /., Chapters 131-133.^



Now the Nile, when it overflows, floods not only
the Delta, but also the tracts of country on both sides
the stream which are thought to belong to Libya and
Arabia, in some places reaching to the extent of two
days' journey from its banks, in some even exceeding
that distance, but in others falling short of it.

Concerning the nature of the river, I was not able to
gain any information either from the priests or from
others. I was particularly anxious to learn from them
why the Nile, at the commencement of the summer
solstice, begins to rise, and continues to increase for a
hundred days ; and why, as soon as that number is
past, it forthwith retires and contracts its stream, con-
tinuing low during the whole of the winter until the sum-
mer solstice comes round again. On none of these points
could I obtain any explanation from the inhabitants,
though I made every inquiry, wishing to know what
was commonly reported, — they could neither tell me
what special virtue the Nile has which makes it so
opposite in its nature to all other streams, rior why,
unlike every other river, it gives forth no breezes
from its surface.

Some of the Greeks, however, wishing to get a repu-
tation for cleverness, have offered explanations of the
phenomena of the river, for which they have accounted
in three different ways. Two of these I do not think
it worth while to speak of, further than simply to men-
tion what they are. One pretends that the Etesian
winds cause the rise of the river by preventing the
Nile-water from running off into the sea. But in the
first place it has often happened, that when the Ete-
sian winds did not blow, the Nile has risen according


to its usual wont ; and further, if the Etesian winds
produced the effect, the other rivers which flow in a
direction opposite to those winds ought to present the
same phenomena as the Nile, and the more so as they
are all smaller streams, and have a weaker current.
But these rivers, of which there are many both in
Syria and Libya, are entirely unlike the Nile in this

The second opinion is even more unscientific than
the one lust mentioned, and also, if I may so say,
more marvellous. It is that the Nile acts so strangely
because it flows from the ocean, and that the ocean
flows all round the earth.

The third explanation, which is very much more
plausible than either of the others, is positively the
furthest from the truth ; for there is really nothing
in what it says, any more than in the other theo-
ries. It is, that the inundation of the Nile is caused by
the melting of snows. Now, as the Nile flows out of
Libya, through Ethiopia, into Egypt, how is it possi-

Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 18 of 29)