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Aristophanes' BIRDS Complete

A Literal Translation, with Notes.

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PROMETHEUS. Towards them I am a veritable Timon;[353] but I must return in all haste, so give me the umbrella; if Zeus should see me from up there, he would think I was escorting one of the Canephori.[354]

PISTHETAERUS. Wait, take this stool as well.

CHORUS. Near by the land of the Sciapodes[355] there is a marsh, from the borders whereof the odious Socrates evokes the souls of men. Pisander[356] came one day to see his soul, which he had left there when still alive. He offered a little victim, a camel,[357] slit his throat and, following the example of Ulysses, stepped one pace backwards.[358] Then that bat of a Chaerephon[359] came up from hell to drink the camel's blood.

[353] A celebrated misanthrope, contemporary to Aristophanes. Hating the society of men, he had only a single friend, Apimantus, to whom he was attached, because of their similarity of character; he also liked Alcibiades, because he foresaw that this young man would be the ruin of his country.

[354] The Canephori were young maidens, chosen from the first families of the city, who carried baskets wreathed with myrtle at the feast of Athene, while at those of Bacchus and Demeter they appeared with gilded baskets.--The daughters of 'Metics,' or resident aliens, walked behind them, carrying an umbrella and a stool.

[355] According to Ctesias, the Sciapodes were a people who dwelt on the borders of the Atlantic. Their feet were larger than the rest of their bodies, and to shield themselves from the sun's rays they held up one of their feet as an umbrella.--By giving the Socratic philosophers the name of Sciapodes here ([Greek: podes], feet, and [Greek: skia], shadow) Aristophanes wishes to convey that they are walking in the dark and busying themselves with the greatest nonsense.

[356] This Pisander was a notorious coward; for this reason the poet jestingly supposes that he had lost his soul, the seat of courage.

[357] A [Greek: para prosdokian], considering the shape and height of the camel, which can certainly not be included in the list of small victims, e.g. the sheep and the goat.

[358] In the evocation of the dead, Book XI of the Odyssey.

[359] Chaerephon was given this same title by the Herald earlier in this comedy.--Aristophanes supposes him to have come from hell because he is lean and pallid.

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