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Fletcher Flora

Lysistrata

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1

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She was in bed.

Athens slept, and so did Lysistrata. But even as the streets of sleeping Athens were disturbed by nocturnal rowdies — in spite of the vigilance of Scythian police from marketplace to the brothels of the Piraeus — so was the sleeping mind of Lysistrata disturbed by dreams of Lycon and Lycon’s love.

It had been now seven long and barren months since he had left her for the fortress of Pylos in distant Messenia. Seven months of days since she had served him Boeotian eels and the wines of Hellas. Seven months of nights since she had received him in the service of Aphrodite. Seven months of days and nights of empty heart and aching groin. It simply did not pay in these days of endless war to be the respected wife of a citizen. One had much better become one of the hetairai, the highest of courtesans, and dye one’s hair yellow and wear flowery robes. One could then, at least, have a little fun out of life.

So Athens and Lysistrata slept, and the night passed. At dawn, since Athenians were early risers, a slave girl came into the room to start the day. The girl was called Theoris, and she had a slender and delicate body that seemed to float with an incredible grace of motion, and to glow softly in the thinning darkness. She carried a small torch which cast a distorted shadow behind her. Kneeling beside the bed of her mistress, she applied the flame of the torch to the wick of an oil lamp, a flat terra-cotta bowl standing on exquisite candelabra. The light of the lamp flickered and grew and spread softly over the sleeping Lysistrata. Leaning forward, Theoris looked upon her mistress with tenderness and compassion. It had been, after all, an intolerable time since the master had come to her on Aphrodite’s business — and chastity, which was a virtue, could quite easily, like other virtues, be overdone. With small and delicate hands, the compassionate slave girl, who had not herself been forced to an excess of virtue, shook her mistress gently awake, making in her throat as she did so a kind of solicitous crooning sound that was like a phrase of barbarous music. Waking slowly to the day and the day’s certain boredom, Lysistrata sat up and stretched in the light of the terra-cotta lamp, her body strong and supple and still firm-fleshed, itself in the light a thing of light and shadow.

“Good-morning, Theoris,” she said. “What time is it?”

“Dawn,” the slave girl said. “Earlier, I should think, than it is necessary for you to get up.”

Lysistrata stretched again, lowering her hands to caress for the briefest instant her alert breasts and the clean lines of her sides.

“Well,” she said bitterly, “I have nothing to keep me in bed in the morning, and nothing, so far as that goes, to send me there at night.”

Theoris understood her mistress’s meaning clearly, feeling almost as resentful as if she were the one who had been deserted, but she was forced by her station to use restraint in her response.

“Men are idiots,” she said.

Lysistrata laughed, patting with affection the bare shoulder of her pretty slave.

“You are certainly right,” she said. “Since they spend their lives in the practice of idiocy, it is perfectly apparent that they are idiots. I must admit, Theoris, that I am frequently astonished by your perception. How old are you?”

“I don’t know, Mistress.”

“Well, no matter. Can you remember a time when Athens was not at war?”

“No. All of my life there has been the war.”

“And almost all of mine. I was a child when it began, long ago in the time of Pericles. Well, Pericles has been dead and out of it for almost two decades now, but his precious war has gone on and on without him, except for the short time of the Peace of Nicias, which was no real peace, and it has been all this time like a hungry beast that eats our idiot men, who nourish and support it in true idiocy so that they may be eaten. Does this make sense?”

“Now that you have asked me, I confess that it doesn’t.”

“Naturally not. That’s because you are a woman and therefore sensible. Do you believe that it makes sense to the women of Sparta and Corinth and Boeotia and all the states of the Peloponnesus?”

“It does not seem likely.”

“Truly you are perceptive, Theoris, and I must say that I have great admiration for your natural intelligence. Women are women before they are Spartans or Corinthians or anything else, and while a Spartan or a Corinthian may not object to sleeping alone, a woman does. To put it mildly, we are sick of this idiocy, which you have perceived and labeled, and if we were permitted, we could do a much better job of managing things. As it is, we have all too few pleasures at present, and not many more to remember or anticipate. Truly a woman is in the worst possible state when there is no purpose in going to bed on the one hand and none for getting out of it on the other. Is the basin filled?”

“Yes, Mistress.”

“Good. I feel inclined to make myself seductive. There is nothing to be gained from this, of course, but I like to keep in practice in case things should improve. I shall bathe and oil and scent myself as if I were preparing for the arms of Lycon, and then I’ll sit around and do nothing and be bored, and perhaps later my friend Calonice will come to entertain me with some more intimate details of her relationship with her husband Acron. He is home temporarily from the war, and I honestly believe she tells me these things with the idea of satisfying me vicariously.”

Getting up, followed by the slave girl, Lysistrata went out of the room into the Proitas, the central court around which the house was built, and in which stood the family altar and the statue of Hestia, protectress of the hearth. But Hestia, as Lysistrata saw it, had been grossly remiss in her function, and the deserted wife did not linger to offer thanks for nothing. Passing swiftly around a part of the court’s perimeter, she entered a paved bathroom. Naked, standing beside the large marble basin that Theoris had filled, she bathed and dried quickly with the slave girl’s help, and the touch of the slave reminded her suddenly of the touch of Lycon, and she shivered a little and was filled with the disruptive ambivalence of love and longing and anger. Passing again around the court past the statue of Hestia, she returned to the room in which she slept too much alone.

Without instruction, having been told already that the morning toilet would be as if for the arms of Lycon, Theoris opened a chest and began to set out the items her mistress would need. First a shining mirror to catch and reflect the shadow of beauty in the soft light of the oil lamp. Alkanet root for lips and cheeks. Antimony for the eyebrows and kohl for the lids. Oil of mastic to keep the body sweet. Thyme and marjoram, mint and myrrh. Lysistrata sat before the mirror and the mirror’s image, and she thought bitterly that the firm flesh she saw might well be dry and withered on its bones before men returned to sanity and Lycon to his home.

She sat quietly while Theoris braided and bound her hair, securing it with many pins. Afterward, working with a deft economy of motion, she applied to herself in the areas designated by proper usage the oils and paints and scented unguents. This done, she put on a white peplos, a garment in two pieces secured at the waist by a girdle, and sandals.

“I think I’ll go out into the garden for a few minutes,” she said. “I’ll have some bread and wine when I come in.”

Turning away, she went into a passage and through a gate into a small garden. Gardens were rare in Athens, and only fortunate women had one. Only extremely fortunate women had both a garden and a husband.

2

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She passed the morning in desultory supervision of household slaves, who tolerated her meddling amicably, and she was aware of her futility, and was bored, and in the afternoon Calonice came. They sat in the boudoir and shared a bowl of good wine from the Cyclades. Calonice looked a little tired, as if she had not been sleeping enough, and more than a little smug.

“Are you ill, Calonice?” Lysistrata said. “I must say that you look rather peaked.”

“On the contrary,” said Calonice, “I am feeling remarkably well. I can’t remember, as a matter of fact, when I’ve felt better.”

“Really? It seems to me that you are looking distinctly tired.”

“Oh, well, I admit that I am a little tired, which is quite a different thing from being ill.” She laughed in what seemed to Lysistrata an evident tone of condescension. “Acron is absolutely voracious,  you know. He’s a very strong fellow.”

“No doubt all husbands are like that when they are just home from the war for a few days. When you come to think of it, it’s rather disgusting.”

“Disgusting? I’m bound to say that I simply don’t understand your attitude, Lysistrata. As for me, I consider it a very fortunate state of affairs.”

“Well, you may be right, but I have been thinking about it, and it doesn’t seem to me that we are being treated at all properly in the long run. Our husbands just slip in now and then to make use of us, and then they are off again immediately to some unlikely place to kill other Greeks who merely happen to be from another town or state or something. In my opinion, there is something contemptuous in this, and it becomes, after a while, exceedingly annoying. The trouble is, we are far too accommodating.”

“It’s true that we are very accommodating, but you have to admit that there’s considerable satisfaction in it for us also.”

“Nevertheless, we are taken advantage of at every turn and made secondary to a foolish war that goes on and on forever to no purpose. Consider for a moment our incredible submission to endless impositions. We exert ourselves to make everything comfortable and pleasant at home, day and night. When our idiot husbands condescend to stay around for a while, we permit them to loaf all day in the marketplace without nagging, and in addition supervise the preparation of feasts of poultry and eels and cheese and other good things when they invariably drag several hungry guests home in the evening to dine. Finally, we are always ready to be obliging in other ways at the drop of a peplos. Is it fair, in return for such service and devotion, that we should be deserted half our lives for the questionable pleasure of killing other Greeks and making slaves of women and children?”

“When you put it that way, I can see that you have a point, but I can also see that you are feeling unnaturally bitter under the circumstances. How long has Lycon been gone to Pylos?”

“Over seven months. And since you have mentioned it, I feel free to say that I consider it unfair of you to take advantage of the situation by reporting constantly on Acron’s excessive virility. You will not be so superior when he has gone off again.”

“It’s a fact that he will soon be leaving, and after resting up a bit, I shall certainly be as dissatisfied with my condition as you are now. Would you object to my having a little more of the wine?”

“Not at all. I’ll have a little more also.”

“It’s truly excellent wine. Did you say it’s from the Cyclades?”

“Yes. It is not only pleasant to the taste, but also serves as a tonic. It restores the energy and builds up the blood.”

“As a matter of fact, I am already feeling much better than I did when I arrived. Not nearly so exhausted, that is.”

“Perhaps if you exercised a little temperance at night you would not need so much wine during the day.” Lysistrata was stopped by the look on her friend’s face. Then she said, “I’m sorry. You can see that I am only envious and therefore inclined to be nasty. Honestly, I was thinking only this morning that the hetairai have all the better of things as compared with respectable wives.”

“I confess that I have often thought myself that respectability has many disadvantages.”

“The truth is, we are expected to serve our husbands and rear children and supervise the slaves and behave ourselves always with perfect virtue, and I am prepared to state that it gets pretty dull. If we give offense, we are subject to being beaten and divorced out of hand, whereas our husbands can be divorced only for adultery, and this is no great threat to them because we are kept so close that we would never discover it if they were sleeping with every second woman in Athens. To be perfectly honest, we are considered little better than scented simpletons, as Euripides said, but the hetairai study philosophy and write poetry and frequently become the mistresses of famous men. They are not only allowed to have fun, it is even expected of them.”

“You are absolutely right, of course. I have heard that Aspasia gave pleasure to Socrates the philosopher before Pericles acquired her. Do you believe it?”

“Certainly I believe it, because it has been established. I don’t believe, however, that she procured other women for Pericles, as was charged at her trial. That is simply too much.”

“It is also too much to believe, if you ask me, that some of them have received as much as a thousand drachmas a night as a fee.”

“Oh, such stories become exaggerated, naturally, but the point is that the hetairai are permitted to entertain at home and enjoy themselves and are not compelled by custom to waste away and grow old in interminable waiting. In the process of enjoying themselves, moreover, they frequently become renowned and are recorded in history as exceptional women. On the other hand, can you name a single respectable wife who has been recorded as exceptional?”

“I am trying to think of one, and I admit that I can’t.”

“You see? In return for our devotion and service, we are rewarded with neglect and oblivion.”

Calonice sighed and helped herself without asking to more of the good wine from the Cyclades. Lysistrata also helped herself. The wine, although diluted with water, was quite comforting. Calonice sipped it with pleasure and thought that it was really getting quite late and that she had better say good-by and leave at once if she was to get home ahead of Acron, who would be petulant if she didn’t. She finished the wine and sighed again and stood up.

“Well,” she said, “I positively must run. Thank you very much for the wine, Lysistrata. It has quite restored me.”

“Is it necessary to go so early?”

“It isn’t early, actually, and Acron will be returning soon from the marketplace. As you remarked a while ago, he will undoubtedly bring guests unannounced to be prepared for, and later, when he has been sufficiently inflamed by odes and eels and wine, he will certainly come to my apartment to be accommodated. All this, as you may remember, requires considerable preparation and places quite a strain on a wife’s ingenuity and endurance. So I must go, although I would otherwise be pleased to stay for some more of the wine.”

“In my judgment,” said Lysistrata, “you would be wise to refuse Acron accommodation.”

“What? What’s that?”

Calonice could not believe her ears. She stared at Lysistrata with an incredulous expression, her mouth gaping slightly. The truth was, Lysistrata was rather surprised herself. She had not really intended saying any such thing, but now that she had said it, she began immediately to see merit in the advice.

“You would be wise to refuse Acron accommodation,” she repeated. “He has come home to satiate himself like a pig after having neglected you grossly, and it would serve him right if he were denied. Moreover, I am convinced that you would gain from it in the long run.”

“Well, I never heard anything so preposterous in my life before, and I’m compelled to tell you so. Please tell me what I could possibly gain.”

“It would teach Acron a good lesson that he badly needs. If he were taught to expect such treatment every time he returns, perhaps he would think twice before running off so frequently to this foolish war with other Greeks who should also be at home taking care of things.”

“That’s all very well for you to say, Lysistrata, for you have nothing to lose at the moment in advocating such a scheme, but I predict that you will think otherwise when Lycon comes home.”

“It is apparent,” said Lysistrata, “that you are truly just as eager as Acron is.”

“As for that,” said Calonice, “I’ll not deny it. There is great satisfaction for both parties in accommodation, and you know it perfectly well.”

“I know it and admit it, but you should take the long view. If Acron could be prevailed upon to stay at home more, even at the price of some sacrifice now, you would achieve more accommodation over a period of time, which would be an improvement. Surely that is obvious.”

“What’s obvious,” said Calonice, “is that I must leave at once to prepare for Acron, and I absolutely will not waste any more time listening to such nonsense, which must have been put into your head by prolonged abstinence. At least,” she said, “I will not listen to any more of it until I have completed the short run and Acron has gone off to war again.”

After so qualifying herself, she went, and Lysistrata decided that she would have just a few more swallows of the good wine. Far from befuddling her, the wine actually seemed to sharpen her wits and make them active, and she began to amuse herself by imagining what would happen if all the wives of Athens refused to accommodate their husbands, as she had suggested impetuously to Calonice, and it seemed to her that this would surely have some very entertaining consequences. Soon she began to consider specifically the consequences of refusing accommodation to Lycon when he returned, if ever, and though she didn’t know it, Lycon was at that moment on his way home.

3

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He arrived early in the morning, before dawn, and what he had in mind was to slip into the house and have a quick bath and scent himself in the accepted fashion and then duck down to his wife’s chambers for what he’d been thinking of for a long time in Pylos and with mounting enthusiasm all the way home. After rousing a slave to fill the marble basin in the bathroom, he undressed in his quarters and went through the Proitas past the statue of Hestia. Bathed and scented, he hurried back to his room and through into the passage to Lysistrata’s boudoir.

It was still very dark, and he carried a torch to light his way. Beside Lysistrata’s bed, he touched the flame to the wick of the terra-cotta lamp, and the light of the lamp flickered and flared and spread softly — and Lycon stood looking down at Lysistrata for a long moment — and finally he shook her gently and woke her up. When she opened her eyes and saw him bending over her, she was clearly aware at once of what he wanted, which was nothing she didn’t want herself, so far as that went. At first she thought she would participate, and then she remembered her advice to Calonice.

“Well,” she said in a very cool voice, “if it isn’t Lycon. My husband, as I recall. Have you actually decided to come home for a change? Where in the world have you been for the last six, eight months?”

Having naturally anticipated a more ardent welcome, Lycon was momentarily paralyzed. He stood looking at Lysistrata with a kind of stricken expression on his face, and he could in no way understand the meaning of such an incredible attitude. What he did understand, though, was that this certainly wasn’t a proper way for a wife to welcome a husband home from the wars.

“What do you mean, where have I been?” he said finally. “You know very well where I’ve been. I’ve been off fighting the war in Pylos, that’s where I’ve been.”

“Pylos?” she said. “Where’s Pylos?”

“Why, Pylos is down in Messenia on the Bay of Sphacteria, that’s where it is, and you know it as well as I do. What’s the matter with you, anyhow? Why do you want to waste time asking questions about geography? Just move over a little and let me lie down.”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” she said. “I don’t seem to be in the mood or something.”

This was something he had never expected to hear, Greek women being generally eager to cooperate in matters of this kind, and Lysistrata even a little more eager than most. He finally began to understand that he was getting the treatment, and it made him feel frustrated and angry.

“Now isn’t that just too bad!” he said. “I surely wouldn’t want to bother you if you’re not in the mood, especially since it’s only been seven months and ten days since I’ve been accommodated, and if you want to know what I think, I think it’s been a lot less since you’ve  been accommodated, or you’d certainly be  in the mood.”

“That’s right,” she said. “Go ahead and abuse me and accuse me of infidelity and anything else you can think of that isn’t true. It’s to be expected, I suppose, from someone who’s always off at the Bay of Sphacteria or someplace like that and never home taking care of his business like a sensible person.”

“Well, I can’t believe it!” he said. “It’s just absolutely impossible to tell what’s going to get into the head of a woman, and that’s no lie. Maybe you don’t even think I’ve been at Pylos. Maybe you think I’ve been down at the Piraeus all this time drinking wine and having fun with the girls. Maybe you haven’t heard that there’s a war going on at all, and if you haven’t, I’m the one to assure you that there is, and I’ve been there, and I’m bound to say that this is a wonderful reception for a man to get from his wife when he’s just back from it for a few days.”

“Oh, the war,” she said, sounding bored. “I’ve heard of the war, all right. As a matter of fact, I’ve been hearing about it all my life. It started just about the time I was born, and I don’t mind telling you that I’m sick of it and don’t ever want to hear of it again.”

“It’s all right for you to talk this way to me,” he said, “because I’m your husband and know very well that you have surely lost your mind, but you’d better not let anyone else hear you say such crazy things. You might find yourself in more trouble than you can handle. Women, of course, are of inferior intelligence, as you are plainly demonstrating, and can’t be expected to understand masculine enterprises.”

Lysistrata looked at him and laughed scornfully, and he was tempted for a moment to give her a beating immediately, which was his prerogative, but he didn’t do it because he still had hopes of giving her something else more satisfactory to both.

“The superiority of men to women,” she said, “is a myth which men have developed in order to avoid exposing their own idiocy by comparison. The truth is, women are much more sensible than men, and if it had been left to the women, this silly war would have been over long ago, or never started, and everyone would be much better off as a consequence.”

“That’s all,” he said. “I tell you I am sick of this foolish evasion. I came here for a little pleasure, which would incidentally be a pleasure to you also, and all I get are insults and an invitation to discuss the Peloponnesian War from the time of Pericles. As a husband with certain rights, I must insist that you move over and make ready.”

“If you insist on your rights,” she said, “there’s nothing I can do about it, and I guarantee that I’ll do exactly that. Nothing, I mean. It will be a very dull performance.”

“Perhaps a good beating would change your mind,” he said.

“I’m quite prepared to have you beat me,” she said, “because you are a superior person and have learned to handle all problems by hitting someone with your fist or an axe, or by sticking him with a spear. There is really no reason why you should make an exception of your wife. Nevertheless I don’t wish to move over and make ready for the simple reason that I have got out of the habit. You are gone so much of the time that I have learned to amuse myself in other ways, and I may even take up philosophy in the manner of Aspasia.”

“Well, that just shows how little you know about anything at all. Aspasia was one of the hetairai, the consort of Pericles himself, and you can bet your girdle that both of them considered philosophy a poor second in the way of amusement to the habit you claim to have got out of.”

“I don’t doubt it at all, especially on the part of Pericles, for he was obviously a dunce who didn’t know the true value of anything.”

This was just something to say for an argument, for the truth was that she didn’t know or care any more about philosophy than a Boeotian eel, and she was really just as eager to move over and make ready as Lycon was to have her do it. What she planned, however, was to hold out for concessions, and she was determined on this in spite of everything.

As for Lycon, when she slandered Pericles in such a reckless fashion, he looked at her in horror, as if he expected her to be split up the middle at any second by a thunderbolt.

“Now I know you’re completely crazy,” he said, “and in no way responsible for anything you say or do or refuse to do. Everyone knows that Pericles was the greatest man who ever lived. He made Athens the greatest city in all Greece, besides which he fostered the arts and had many fine shrines built on the Acropolis.”

“All that may be true,” she said, “but he also got us into this foolish war which never ends, and no sooner had he got us into  it than he died like a coward of the plague and got himself out  of it. Furthermore, I believe he was really guilty of embezzling all that money from the treasury, as he was accused, even though he was later exonerated. He probably used it to buy votes with.”

“That’s absolutely the last word!” Lycon said. “What you are saying is certainly no less than treason, and you are lucky that I’m a man of patience who is inclined to overlook your insanity as an effect of excessive chastity.”

“Oh, nonsense. I’m only pointing out the palpable truth that men are idiots. It is also true that women are not, and that they would, if they could, make a favorable change in things. It pleases the men in their arrogance to mock our talents and assign us an inferior place in the pattern of affairs. This is merely a part of the sum of nonsense that men maintain. Actually, women are naturally superior and much more capable of giving matters their proper importance.”

At that, Lycon began to laugh, but it wasn’t because he saw anything funny in the situation, and the fact of the matter was, he was hysterical. After a while he quit laughing and wiped his eyes and looked at Lysistrata, and she was lying there propped up on one elbow just as she came naturally, and the juices began to boil up in him again, and he was tempted to take charge of things, but he knew it wouldn’t be satisfactory in the end.

“Well,” he said, “I am just home from the war after seven months and ten days, and I have come here like a devoted husband, and I don’t want any more evasions or lectures or general foolishness. All I want to know is, are you going to move over and make ready, or aren’t you?”

“I don’t intend to voluntarily,” Lysistrata said, “and that’s final.”

He was forced to concede that he was absolutely stymied short of violence. Frustrated and confused, he went back to his quarters, raging. After he’d had a little breakfast of bread and wine, he put on a clean chiton and got out of the house and went down to the marketplace.

4

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The marketplace was located in the middle of the town where all the main streets crossed, which made it easy to reach from all directions. Athenians were a gregarious breed and spent a lot of time at this lively center, not because they had anything in particular to do there, but just loafing and talking with cronies and passing the time of day in one way or another.

Having reached the marketplace, Lycon wandered around the square looking at this and that, and after a while he began to feel a little better.

The farmers from the country around town had hauled in their produce to be sold, peas and lentils and other vegetables, as well as fruit and milk and honey, and all this produce was available in the stalls for anyone who had the obols to buy it. There were also wine stalls, and these were doing a brisk b


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usiness, because the Greeks were very handy with a skin of wine. It was essential in shopping to watch the merchants like a hawk, for they were sharp fellows who took great pride in weighing up a thumb or slipping a customer the wrong change from a drachma.

There were very few women in the marketplace, the Greek custom being to keep the women in the home, unless they happened to be the yellow-headed whores called hetairai, who wore flowery robes and entertained the more prosperous citizens. Exceptions were the girls who sold flowers and bread, and the flower-girls established for themselves a quality of charm that was celebrated by artists and poets and other romantic people.

Pretty soon, after wandering around the square and looking things over, Lycon stopped and watched a pair of clowns cutting capers in front of a studio, but he couldn’t get much fun out of it, and decided that he simply wasn’t in the mood. Thinking of the mood he  wasn’t in, he began brooding again over the mood that Lysistrata hadn’t been in, even after seven months and ten days. It didn’t seem to him in any way reasonable, and the only explanation that he could consider acceptable off-hand was that she had another lover, in which case he was bound in honor to throw her out of the house. The truth was, however, he didn’t want to do it. For his obols, when it came to stirring up the juices in a man, there wasn’t another female in Athens, hetairai or otherwise, who could come close to her. Besides, it would probably turn out that she hadn’t been unfaithful at all. It was just that she didn’t understand about how a man had to be a patriotic citizen and do his duty in the war. What he ought to do, he decided, now that he had a chance to think about it clearly with some detachment, was to beat her thoroughly and exercise his prerogatives, which was more than likely what she wanted anyhow, women being generally peculiar.

Moving along, he came to a small group that had gathered to listen to the spiel of a vendor who was selling some kind of medicine that was guaranteed to cure all known diseases. After listening for a while with the others, he went on to a lounge in which a couple of fellows were discussing the situation in Sicily, but he couldn’t get interested in it, and was bored, and just then along came Acron, the husband of Calonice.

“Well, well,” said Acron, “if it isn’t old Lycon. I thought you were in Pylos.”

“I was in Pylos,” said Lycon, “but I have come back temporarily for a rest.”

“When did you get home?”

“Just this morning, as a matter of fact.”

“Well, I’m very glad to see you. How’s everything in Pylos, by the way?”

“Pretty dull, to tell the truth.”

“Oh, that’s to be expected, of course. War’s always a dull business, when you come right down to it.”

“I’m inclined to agree with you, Acron, but I doubt that it’s patriotic to admit it.”

“That depends on which day it is. I understand that Alcibiades, after betraying us to the Spartans, is returning to Athens. Yesterday, therefore, it was treasonous to admire him, and tomorrow it will be expected.”

“Oh, well. Alcibiades always was a wild one. Even when he was a kid running around the streets, you never could tell from one day to the next what he’d be up to. A juvenile delinquent was what he was, to tell the truth, and in my opinion he was guilty of knocking the phalli off all the statues of Hermes, just as he was accused.”

“You’re probably right. You have to admit, though, that he had a way about him. The hetairai were crazy about him, and it’s common knowledge that the Queen of Sparta went to bed with him, and even had a bastard by him, and everyone can remember when he slapped the face of old Hipponicus and then had the nerve to talk him out of his daughter and a big dowry of twenty talents besides.”

“I admit that he was successful with the girls, and I only wish he’d been half as successful with the Syracusans.”

“He wasn’t in the campaign against Syracuse, and you know it perfectly well. Before he could get started, he was snatched back to Athens to stand trial for mimicking the Eleusinian Mysteries.”

“They used his plan of campaign, just the same, and where did it get them? Everyone wound up dead or in the stone quarries, that’s where it got them. If you want to know what I think, I think it’s too bad they didn’t get him on that Eleusinian Mysteries business, instead of letting him escape and run off to Sparta.”

“Oh, I don’t know. You have to admire him in a way. I guess it’s true that he offered to help Sparta beat us in the war, which is certainly treason, but he didn’t last long down there after all, and nothing came of it.”

“Of course he didn’t last long. How could you expect anyone to last long anywhere when he’s all the time crawling in and out of bed with someone else’s wife? The minute old King Agis heard he’d tumbled with the Queen, he was a dead pigeon so far as his chances in Sparta were concerned.”

“But he certainly was successful with the girls, all right.” Acron laughed. There was an envious expression on his face, and it was easy to see that this accomplishment was one that he admired. “Do you remember when poor old Hipparete, his wife, went before the archon for a divorce on the grounds that he’d been sleeping around with the hetairai? Well, he didn’t do a thing but snatch her right out from under the old archon’s nose and haul her off home. He carried her right through this marketplace, and I can testify to it, because I was right here when it happened.”

“Well,” he said bitterly, “I don’t make any excuse for most of the silliness that Alcibiades was always up to, but I can see how he might have been justified in sleeping around with the hetairai, and if things don’t pick up around my house pretty fast, I may take it up myself.”

Acron looked at him with interest, smelling something juicy.

“What’s the matter, old boy? You run into something unexpected when you got home? Personally, I make a special point of never coming home unexpectedly at night or early in the morning. It prevents a lot of unnecessary trouble, you know.”

“It’s not anything like that.”

“No? What’s the trouble, then? It might do you good to get it off your chest.”

“Well, the truth is, Lysistrata seems to be on a strike.”

“Strike? What kind of strike?”

“To come right out with it, the first thing I did when I got home this morning was to duck down to her bed chamber.”

“Naturally.”

“But Lysistrata refused to move over and make ready.”

“Really? That’s incredible.”

“It’s worse than that. It’s dereliction of duty, to say the least.”

“Of course you beat her and made her get ready just the same.”

“I didn’t, as a matter of fact. I was so surprised that I just couldn’t do anything.”

“Oh, that was a bad mistake. You certainly should have beaten her. I’ve never had precisely the same situation arise, but I’ve frequently been compelled to beat Calonice for other reasons having to do with pigheadedness. The results are always very satisfactory.”

“I don’t know. Somehow I got the idea that beating Lysistrata wouldn’t accomplish much in this case.”

“Did she give you a reason for not making ready? Is she ill or anything like that?”

“No. The best I can understand it, she’s annoyed because I spend too much time in the war and not enough at home.”

“Is that all? That’s common among wives, Lycon, old boy. Surely you realize that. Calonice is always bitching about the war, especially when it creates a shortage of Boeotian eels. You just don’t pay any attention to it, that’s all.”

“How can you help paying attention to it if your wife refuses absolutely to make ready?”

“Well, that complicates the problem, and I admit it. Did she declare openly that she was on strike because of the war and all?”

“Not exactly, but that’s what’s behind it, I’m certain. She just said she didn’t seem to be in the mood.”

“Not in the mood? I don’t want to plant nasty suspicions in your mind, old boy, but I feel compelled to point out that seven months without love is just as long to a wife as to a husband. Almost anyone short of an octogenarian should be able to work up a mood in seven months, and it’s my opinion that in every case where no mood is present, it hasn’t been  seven months.”

“I thought of that myself, and I said so, but she just accused me of having a dirty mind. It was pretty confusing, if you want to know it.”

“Women are very clever at that sort of thing. They play some dirty trick on you, and you beat them or take some other appropriate action, and the first thing you know they’ve got you feeling like you’re completely wrong and it was all your fault in the first place. How do you feel? Physically, I mean. It’s hard on the health to be frustrated in these matters.”

“It is, especially after seven months and ten days, and it’s the truth that I’m feeling rather peculiar right now, not at all well.”

“In that case, you had better resolve the situation at home as soon as possible. Do you feel light in the head?”

“I believe I do, now that you mention it.”

“A stiffness?”

“Well, naturally. That’s to be expected.”

“In the joints, I mean. I’ve heard that it’s usual in this sort of thing to get a temporary stiffness in the joints, which is followed by a general muscular twitching and foaming at the mouth.”

“Really?”

“Well, I never actually saw it happen, but I was told that it’s so by a vendor of nostrums that I met one day at the Piraeus. He sold me a packet of powder that was guaranteed to relieve the attack if taken in time, but I lost it in the excursion against Melos. Fortunately, I have never been in a position to need it.”

“I don’t intend to need it either, I can promise you that, and I’ll relieve myself with something besides a packet of powder long before I begin to twitch in the muscles and foam at the mouth.”

“That’s the spirit, old boy. But these attacks are pretty sneaky, according to this vendor of nostrums, and get onto you fast. What I mean is, it doesn’t pay to fool around with anything as serious as this too long. By the way, isn’t that old Cadmus coming across the square?”

Acron pointed with a finger, and Lycon followed the gesture and saw a tall thin fellow approaching at a kind of lope with a too-short chiton flapping around his shanks.

“Yes, it is,” he said. “It’s certainly old Cadmus.”

“Do you suppose he’d be willing to chip in on a skin of wine with us?”

“It seems likely enough to me.”

“He’s a deadly old bore, to be honest about it, and is always talking about the theories of Empedocles, as if anyone cared, but I’m willing to tolerate him if he pays for his share of the wine. How about you?”

“I’m willing to tolerate him, and I’m strongly in favor of the wine.”

“In that case, I’ll put it up to him.”

As it turned out, Cadmus was prepared to pay for his share, so they bought the wine and began to drink it, and after a while, sure enough, Cadmus began to talk about the theories of Empedocles, but Lycon was thinking about Lysistrata, and Acron was hardly thinking at all, and neither paid much attention.

5

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After Lycon had departed in a frenzy of frustration, Lysistrata lay in bed for a long time and thought about what she had done, or hadn’t done, and at first she was sorry for it and was inclined to call Lycon back and say that it was all just a joke and that she was willing to make ready. The truth of the matter was, of course, she was in quite a condition herself, seven months being seven months in Athens as well as in Pylos. At the same time she was shrewd enough to understand that nobody but a simpleton would refuse to invest a drachma to earn a talent, and she was becoming convinced already that she had stumbled onto something with possibilities. In the beginning, because of being left alone all the time without any fun, she’d only meant to hold out long enough to show her resentment. Then she’d intended to cooperate for her own sake as well as his, but now she wondered if she would, and decided that she wouldn’t. And what she’d determined to do was to go on strike until Lycon came home to stay.

Although this seemed the sheerest futility, and probably would turn out so, the detested Peloponnesian War was surely sufficient to drive any reasonable person to desperate measures, because it had been going on for about twenty years and had made very little sense in the beginning and even less as things kept developing. Of course, it wasn’t going to end just because she went on a strike in bed, because no one was going to care at all whether Lycon ever got accommodated or not, so long as the condition did not become general.

Well, then, what was plainly necessary, she thought, was to fix it up so that no one else got accommodated either, not a single Athenian idiot. But even this wouldn’t work unless all the men in Sparta and Boeotia and all the other places on the other side of the war were in the same condition, because they were just as stupid as the Athenians about keeping the war going. One simply couldn’t rely on their having sense enough to be willing to quit killing Athenians just because Athenians decided to quit killing them.

It was just a crazy idea that got into her head and kept growing from necessity in order to meet all the problems that kept arising. The first thing she knew, she had every last man-Jack in all of Greece barred from his wife’s bed. Only in her mind, that is. She kept lying there and thinking about it, and it amused her immensely.

Sometime after dawn, later than usual, Theoris came and looked into the room with a shocked expression on her pretty face.

“Are you actually alone?” she said.

“As you see,” said Lysistrata, “I am quite alone.”

The slave girl came hesitantly into the room and stood beside her mistress’s bed.

“The cook, who is a monstrous liar, told me that the Master returned before dawn and left soon afterward in a temper.”

“The cook is indeed a monstrous liar, which I tolerate because of his superior talent, but in this case he was telling the truth. Lycon has returned from Pylos and has already gone to market. At least, I am prepared to believe that he has gone to market, though I have made no effort to verify it.”

Bending over the bed, Theoris laid a slim hand gently on Lysistrata’s forehead and made in her throat the musical barbarous crooning.

“Are you ill, Mistress? Do you have a fever?”

“Because I am not making love in bed like a reasonable wife? No, I am not ill and have no fever, though I am grateful for your concern. The truth is, I have decided quite suddenly to deprive myself of pleasure in order to teach my husband a lesson. Have you ever thought, Theoris, of the possible results if every woman in Athens were to adopt an identical attitude?”

“No, I have not, and I confess that it is a thought that does not appeal to me.”

“That’s because you, like my friend Calonice, have no vision. However, I referred only to citizens.”

“In that case, I find the thought tolerable.”

“Think it, then. Suppose we were to insist upon abstinence until the war was ended.”

“I predict an enormous increase in the incidence of rape.”

“Rape is not satisfactory to anyone and would relieve nothing.”

“In my opinion, it is at least as satisfactory as abstinence.”

“True. Abstinence is also unsatisfactory. Therefore, perhaps the war could be forced to a conclusion. Do you consider this an extreme tactic?”

“If I were a citizen and faced with the alternatives of love or war, I declare that I wouldn’t hesitate an instant.”

“That’s quite encouraging, especially since you have had practically no personal contact with the war, except for having been made a slave at an age you cannot remember. Are you familiar with the history of this foolish conflict?”

“No, Mistress. I know next to nothing about it.”

“Sit down on the floor beside me, then, for I am determined to instruct you. When I am finished, I challenge you to deny that desperate measures are called for to end it.”

Obediently, Theoris sat cross-legged on the floor beside the bed, and Lysistrata, after collecting her thoughts, began to tell her about the Peloponnesian War.

“The war,” she said, “started about twenty years ago, and Pericles was in power at the time. It’s difficult to tell just how it got started exactly, and it is necessary to discount all the nonsense that was presented to the citizens. The truth seems to be that Athens had a lot of other places under its domination in the Empire and was determined not to give any of them up regardless of how they felt about it themselves. Besides this, as usual, there were many young hotheads around without much of anything to do, and they thought it would be a very interesting experience to have a war, and Pericles, who was supposed to be very smart about such matters, had the idea that war was bound to come sooner or later in any event, and that it had just as well be sooner. So it wasn’t long before we had it and couldn’t get rid of it.

“Athens didn’t have much of an army, but she had a good navy. The idea was to let the navy win the war practically by itself, but it didn’t work out. The Spartans, who had a good army but no navy to speak of, came over into Attica and overran the country. Instead of putting up a fight, as you might have expected, Pericles brought all the farmers and everyone else inside the walls of the city, and it was his plan not to risk a thing on the ground but just to sit tight and let the navy do it, and this was held to be a good idea by some, and still is, and maybe it was. One thing he didn’t take into proper account, though, in spite of being so smart and all, was that Athens wasn’t big enough to accommodate all those extra people, and it became very crowded and unsanitary, and pretty soon we had a plague.

“This plague got started and kept growing, and it was very bad. A person would be walking around and feeling good, normal and all, and then all of a sudden it would have him by the ears. The symptoms that he displayed in the beginning were a fever and dizziness in the head, a sore throat and foul breath. Then he began to sneeze and cough and have a sore chest, and the sickness worked down him from top to bottom. One felt so hot with fever that he couldn’t stand any clothes on his body, and so the afflicted ran around the streets naked and jumped into the fountains and the rain-tanks and places like that, and so many people died that they started burning the bodies in the streets. The physicians didn’t have anything to cure it, of course, and a lot of people wound up dead. As a matter of fact, one-third of the entire population died.”

“Indeed,” said Theoris, “it must have been terrible.”

“So it was,” said Lysistrata. “One might be inclined to think, after a mess like this, that men would get sensible and take up ordinary living again. Nothing of the sort. They kept right on being as pigheaded as ever about the war.

“One thing about it, Pericles got the plague himself and died of it, which served him right in my opinion, and the worst thing to come of it was that the men who got control of things afterward were even less sensible than he was, if you can believe it.

“There was one fairly sensible man named Nicias who thought it would be a good idea to stop the war and resume activities like fishing and farming and other kinds of work, but there was another man against him who was called Cleon the Tanner and he had no sense whatever. Naturally it was the one with no sense who was voted into office that gave him control of affairs.

“This Cleon was a spellbinder who removed his cloak and beat his thigh when he made a speech to the people, and he made a great point of passing himself off as a common workingman, which he surely wasn’t, because any common workingman would rather work than fight a foolish war with no sense in it. And Cleon was for the war, first and last, and the truth was, he made a lot of money out of it.

“There were a lot of battles here and there that didn’t prove much of anything one way or another, except the idiocy of Greeks, and finally, after quite a long time, there was a big fight in the country of Thrace, and Cleon got himself killed in this fight, which was a good thing. The only thing wrong with it, to be truthful, was that it didn’t happen much sooner than it did. After Cleon was dead, old Nicias finally got people to listen to him, and there was a peace made that didn’t last long, and one reason it didn’t last long was Alcibiades.

“Alcibiades was considered by many a glamorous character, and still is, and he was especially eager to be a war hero. His father was killed in some earlier battle, and after this, Alcibiades went to live with Pericles himself, who did a very sloppy job of bringing him up, if you can judge by results. Alcibiades was an insolent brat for a fact, and Socrates the philosopher took a fancy to him and tried to call him to virtue, as the saying goes, but Alcibiades didn’t answer the call appreciably. What he really needed, if you ask me, was a few good beatings. He ran around the streets and threw wild parties and slept with the hetairai, and finally he got married to a girl named Hipparete, whose father he’d previously slapped in the face publicly. But this didn’t settle him down much, and Hipparete tried to get a divorce, but couldn’t do it, and finally died young as the only way out of it. Alcibiades’ father had left him a lot of money, and he lived about as high as it was possible to live, but he also gave big donations to this or that cause, and this kept him popular, of course, for anyone who gives away money is always popular. The truth was, he was spoiled and arrogant and got away with a great deal. He finally did something that almost got him into serious trouble. He knocked the phalli off all the statues of Hermes around town.

“Hermes, as you know, is a god who is held in great respect in Athens, and it was considered the worst kind of sacrilege. It wasn’t ever definitely proved that Alcibiades did it, but everyone was certain that he did, and they intended to take him into court for it, but in the meantime, he’d got himself elected one of the Ten Generals and was off to Sicily on an expedition against Syracuse. After he was gone, it was discovered that he’d been participating in ceremonies mocking the Eleusinian Mysteries, and he’d done this with some of his cronies just for fun. But no one else seemed to see the humor in it, and in fact everyone was pretty upset, and they sent a ship to bring him back for trial, but he slipped off to Sparta and slept with the Queen and went on to Persia when the King got annoyed about it.”

“Certainly,” said Theoris, “he was very accomplished in certain ways.”

It was evident that she was already admiring Alcibiades very much, and Lysistrata looked at her sternly and shook her head.

“You will have less admiration for him,” she said, “when I have finished. Before the expedition sailed for Sicily, which turned out to be a great mistake, the crazy men of Athens, under the influence of Alcibiades, attacked the little island of Melos and captured the people there. They killed off all the men and slapped the women and children into slavery and gave the entire island to a gang of Athenians who went there to live and farm it. All of this was just a kind of warmup for the business in Sicily, the idea being to capture the town of Syracuse. Alcibiades thought that this was really going to be the road to glory, but as I said, he was jerked out of it because of the Eleusinian Mysteries thing. This was a lucky break for him in the end, because the Syracusans happened to be very tough and hard to beat.”

“You are right,” Theoris said sadly. “I am admiring him less and less.”

“Well, never mind. You will recover nicely, I imagine. This was a very big expeditionary force, and it practically depleted the Athenian treasury. There were almost thirty thousand troops and sailors on about a hundred and fifty triremes, and besides these there were many smaller boats hauling supplies. Three generals were in charge, including Alcibiades, but he was jerked out of it before the campaign got under way.

“After a lot of fighting back and forth for a long time, the Syracusans captured all the Athenian army that hadn’t already been killed, and they threw what was left into the stone quarries. The two generals were executed, instead of being permitted to die slowly in the quarries. One of these generals was no one but old Nicias, who hadn’t wanted to fight in the first place.

“This occurred not long ago, and all this foolishness has been going on for nearly twenty years, impossible as it seems, and Sparta is now back in the fight and defeating Athenian forces here and there around the country, and things are bad all over. In my judgment, it is time to end it, even at the price of abstinence.”

“I agree that it is a terrible war,” said Theoris, “but it is also a terrible price.”

“Well,” said Lysistrata, sighing, “however that may be, we must now forget the past and consider the present. It is practically certain that Lycon has gone off to the marketplace, where he will talk and loaf all day with his cronies, and it’s just as certain that he will bring them home to dinner this evening, and so you had better make sure that the kitchen force has plenty of wine and cheese and Boeotian eels. You had also better make sure that the table and couches are prepared in his rooms. As for me, I have decided that there are going to be some changes made around here, and I don’t intend to be bothered with it.”

Theoris went away to do as she was told, and Lysistrata got up and put on a clean peplos. Since the house was small and scantily furnished in the current fashion, there was very little to occupy her, the slaves doing most of what needed doing, and she concerned herself throughout the day with trifles. In the evening, after bathing at the marble basin in the bathroom, she applied the scented unguents and oils in the prescribed places and painted her cheeks and lips. Last of all, she put on a robe of thin purple material that was certain to send Lycon’s blood pressure soaring. She didn’t do this because she intended for an instant to concede, but only because she understood slyly that the sustenance of Lycon’s frustration was contingent upon renewed desire.

A short while later, as she had anticipated, he arrived from the market in the company of Acron and Cadmus.

6

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“The eels are delicious,” said Cadmus. “As something of a connoisseur, I declare that I have never eaten better.”

“I agree,” said Acron. “They are truly superior.”

Leaning over from the couch on which he lay propped on one elbow, he helped himself to the esteemed fish and popped a generous bite into his mouth. The table was loaded with vegetables and cheese and grapes and flat honeycakes, in addition to the eels, and a slave was present to pour wine as it was needed, which was frequently.

“It’s the cook,” said Lycon. “He’s an insolent fellow and would rather lie than tell the truth, even when the truth would be an advantage, but I suppose it is necessary to overlook such things in someone with genuine talent.”

“That’s true,” Cadmus said. “It has always been the practice to excuse exceptional talent from a strict adherence to the rules. Consider Socrates, for example. There is no question but that he is sceptical of our gods and teaches unusual doctrines in the marketplace, but he is properly excused because he is a philosopher with more brains than is ordinary, and in my opinion he may even be remembered by our grandchildren.”

“Well, I don’t know that I agree with you entirely,” said Acron. “I agree that he is excused, since no action is taken against him, but I disagree that it is proper. It is no small matter to doubt the gods, which is an attitude that may bring disaster upon us all, and I predict that he will eventually come to a bad end.”

“The trouble with Socrates,” said Lycon gloomily, “is that he has a bitch of a wife.”

Acron, detecting a special significance in the remark, looked at Lycon with open sympathy. Helping himself to a cluster of grapes from the table, he ate three in succession before responding.

“True,” he said. “I am more inclined to excuse him on the grounds of his wife than on his exceptional brains. If I had a wife like Xanthippe, I would be a philosopher also.”

Cadmus, aware of subtleties which he couldn’t quite grasp, looked sharply from Acron to Lycon and back again. Acron continued to eat grapes, and Lycon looked into his wine gloomily.

“Regardless of the grounds on which you may be inclined to excuse him,” Cadmus said, “it is certain that he is an exceptional man and is therefore falsely accused of many offenses by people who are not exceptional at all. You will have to admit that this is a common practice and always has


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been. Recall, for instance, the persecution of Pericles himself. And as for the disaster you fear he may bring upon us, this is nonsense comparable to the charge that he corrupts the young.”

“Well,” said Lycon, “it is apparent that something  is bringing disaster upon us, for we are being beaten by Sparta these days at every turn.”

“Perhaps,” said Acron, looking at Cadmus with sly malice, “it is because we eat too many eels. Wasn’t the eating of flesh considered a cardinal sin by your precious Empedocles, Cadmus?”

“It’s true,” said Cadmus, “that Empedocles believed in transmigration and therefore condemned the eating of all flesh as the cannibalistic consumption of reincarnated humans.”

“That was my impression. I am no authority on Empedocles, as you are, but I am bound to say that I can’t understand how you can profess to follow his teachings and still be a connoisseur of eels. Perhaps that very bite you now have in your fingers is a morsel of Empedocles himself.”

“Considering that there are millions of eels and only one Empedocles, the odds are against it. Moreover, I reject the theory of transmigration. It is possible to accept the substance of his teaching without swallowing all the details.”

“That’s because you would rather swallow the eels. Do you believe that he miraculously cured the sick and practiced magic and was in fact, as he claimed, a god?”

“As for me,” said Lycon, “I no more believe that he was a god than I believe he is now an eel. To tell the truth, this discussion bores me more than a little, and I don’t know how we got into it.”

“We were trying to decide why the Spartans are beating us at every turn,” explained Acron. “You are the one who brought the subject up, Lycon, if you will kindly remember.”

“Well, I didn’t intend to initiate an interminable discussion of the theories of Empedocles, which is all too easy to do where Cadmus is concerned. I am convinced that our misfortunes can be explained more simply.”

Cadmus shrugged and consumed another bite of eel. He washed the bite down with wine and extended his empty goblet to the slave for a refill.

“I must say, Lycon,” he remarked amiably, “that you are quite touchy this evening. After all, it is only the most basic hospitality to let your guests bore you if they please. If you had not just returned to the pleasures of Athens from Pylos, I would swear that you are not happy.”

“I apologize for my bad manners,” said Lycon. “As you have detected, I am somewhat depressed by something that has occurred.”

“Rather, something that has not  occurred,” Acron said.

He laughed at his little joke, and Lycon looked at him with distaste and did not join in the laughter. As for Cadmus, he was palpably confused and curious and did not know if it was proper to be amused or not.

“I believe,” he said, “that there is a meaning in these remarks that I don’t grasp.”

“Quite likely,” Lycon said.

“Well,” Acron said, “I propose that we sing some odes. The singing of odes will sometimes work wonders in lightening the spirit.”

“I don’t believe I care to sing any odes,” Lycon said. “Excuse me, please.”

“You don’t care to sing odes?” Cadmus said. “Really, Lycon, you are in a deplorable state. A merry feast among friends is hardly complete without the singing of odes.”

“Nevertheless, I don’t care to sing any.”

“Perhaps you would care to tell us what is depressing you. Whatever it is, it is obviously critical, and you are surely aware that it is dangerous to keep such things entirely to yourself. I had a friend who did that when he suspected that his consort was entertaining a minor poet on the side, refused to tell a soul about it, and he eventually went mad, if you’ll believe it, and had to be confined.”

“Well,” said Lycon bitterly, “I certainly see no necessity for singing odes to cheer me up so long as you are here to talk to me, Cadmus. You are probably one of the most cheering influences I have ever encountered.”

“He is curing you with words,” said Acron, “which is something he learned from Empedocles. Isn’t it true, Cadmus, that Empedocles claimed to cure various diseases and maladies with words?”

“At the risk of being considered inhospitable again,” said Lycon, “I would like to request that we avoid bringing Empedocles into the conversation.”

“All right,” said Cadmus. “I can easily see that my solicitousness is not wanted. Excuse me for imposing my attention upon you.”

“Oh, come off, Cadmus. You mustn’t become offended.” Lycon signaled the slave to replenish goblets. “I suggest that we drink some more of this good wine, which is from the Cyclades and is infinitely superior to words, if you ask me, in the curing of depression.”

“Good wine is hard to beat,” said Cadmus. “You are right there. Would you believe that a fellow tried recently to convince me that beer is a superior drink?”

“Beer is for barbarians,” Acron said.

“The man was obviously a maniac,” Lycon said.

United in favor of wine, they applied themselves to the drinking of it. Cadmus belched and did not even bother to ask pardon. He was trying very hard to act indifferent to the obvious fact that Lycon and Acron had a secret between them that they were determined not to share, but all he accomplished was to give the appearance of being sulky. It was not fair or courteous, in his judgment, for two friends making merry at a feast of eels and other good things to keep a secret from a third. The harder he tried to achieve an attitude of indifference, the more offended he felt, and the sulkier he looked. He was, in fact, beginning to feel that the situation smacked of conspiracy, and that he was somehow being made a fool of. The only honorable thing to do in the circumstances, he thought, was to retire with dignity.

“Although I am enjoying the eels and the wine,” he said after a few minutes, “I now feel that I must leave.”

“Leave?” Acron looked at him with astonishment. “Why must you leave? It’s quite early yet, Cadmus.”

“Yes, it is. It is far earlier than I would ordinarily leave the table of a friend, but I definitely feel that I am an outsider here, and not wanted.”

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous, Cadmus,” Lycon said. “Of course you’re wanted.”

“Nevertheless, it is not courteous of you to make sly references to something which I am not permitted to know. It’s disconcerting to me, as you must surely realize.”

“I apologize.”

“That does not alter the situation in the least.”

“Well, I can see that you are determined to know what it is that depresses me. It’s a personal matter, and rather humiliating, but I am prepared to tell you rather than have you accuse me of being deficient in hospitality. As a matter of fact, it’s Lysistrata.”

“Lysistrata? That’s difficult to believe. I’ll tell you frankly, as a friend whose motives are surely above suspicion, that Lysistrata is a woman who can disturb a man in various pleasant ways, but I find it incredible that she can be depressing. Especially to her husband who has just returned after seven months in Pylos.”

“At any rate,” said Lycon, “it’s true. Lysistrata has depressed me.”

“If you say so, it must be true, but I can scarcely believe it.”

“She has refused to receive him in her bedchamber,” Acron said.

“What? What’s that?” Cadmus turned to Acron with his eyes bulging a little. “Did I understand you properly? She has refused to accommodate her husband?”

“That’s what I said.”

“Well, isn’t that treason or mutiny or some kind of crime? Surely she can be beaten or renounced for such behavior!”

“True. Besides a beating or renunciation, there are also several other permissible actions that could be taken, but all of them, in the end, are no more than unsatisfactory alternatives to what is really desired.”

“I can see that,” said Cadmus. “I certainly can. When did she refuse you, if I may ask?”

“Only this morning. I went to her at once like a devoted husband, of course.”

“I can see that you behaved correctly, and have nothing to reproach yourself for. Did she attempt to explain her unreasonable attitude?”

“Feebly. She said that I was gone so much that she had lost the habit and was considering the study of philosophy as a substitute. Apparently she is annoyed because the war takes up more of my time than she thinks proper.”

“Women are constantly complaining about the war, including my own wife, but I have never before heard of one taking such a radical position, and I don’t mind saying that I consider it a serious menace to us all. Suppose it were adopted by women generally.”

“Knowing Athenian women, I hardly think that likely.”

“Did you think it likely of Lysistrata?”

“No, I didn’t, as a matter of fact. It never once occurred to me.”

“Well, then.”

Cadmus ate a few more grapes and drank more wine, but now he seemed to get no pleasure from either. He looked at Lycon as if, on second thought, he held his host responsible for getting into difficulties that might have to be shared by others, including Cadmus.

“I declare, Lycon,” he said crossly, “you have quite spoiled my pleasure in the evening. I am a peculiarly sensitive man, and always easily disturbed by abnormalities of this sort. I believe that I had better go home at once, and if you want my advice, I would tell you to settle this business to your satisfaction immediately. Have you seen Lysistrata since this morning?”

“You know I have not, since we have been at the market together.”

“You see? You have so disturbed me with this news that I am unable to think clearly. Well, perhaps Lysistrata is already repentant and is waiting for you at this moment to demonstrate it.” Cadmus rose from his couch and shook out his chiton. “Goodnight, Lycon. I thank you for your hospitality and apologize for having questioned it. Are you going my way, Acron?”

“I suppose,” said Acron, “that I might as well, since you are clearly determined to spoil the fun. Good-by, Lycon. It is my opinion that we have exaggerated the importance of this pigheadedness of Lysistrata’s, and I predict that it is a temporary condition that will be changed within thirty minutes after our departure.”

“I hope you are right,” Lycon said.

He showed Cadmus and Acron to the door and then returned to have a little more wine. He drank the wine while the slave cleared the table. Drinking and considering Acron’s prediction, he convinced himself that his friend was certainly right, though he may have been a little optimistic in the time element. Convinced by thinking and fortified by wine, he went down the passage to his wife’s room.

Lying on her bed in the thin purple gown, Lysistrata was eating grapes. The flame of the terra-cotta lamp, spreading its light across her, created an exceedingly interesting pattern of suggestion. She placed a single grape between her teeth and bit into it daintily, permitting the sweet juice to run into her mouth. Looking at Lycon, she said nothing. As for him, he was sorely tempted to resort to direct action, but on the other hand, he was sufficiently wary to feel that more might be accomplished in the end by an oblique technique.

“Well,” he said, “I have had Cadmus and Acron to dine.”

“That’s very nice, I’m sure,” she said politely. “I hope you enjoyed yourselves.”

“Up to a point, Cadmus and Acron had a pleasant time, both of them being perfect pigs about Boeotian eels. But I confess that I was unable to get into the proper spirit. The eels were delicious, by the way. Both Cadmus and Acron commented on them. Your supervision and preparation were excellent, as always.”

“I’m compelled to correct you. In this case, my supervision and preparation were not excellent because, as it happens, I had absolutely nothing to do with the dinner.”

“No? How can that be? It is an inviolable custom for a wife to supervise the preparation and serving of dinner for her husband and his guests.”

“It may be a custom, but it is not inviolable, for I have violated it.”

“I swear, you seem determined to try me beyond endurance. I simply cannot understand you.”

“I am not determined to try you at all. As I explained this morning, I have merely adjusted to the necessity of foregoing certain pleasures and customs, and I see no sense whatever in taking up again what I would only have to relinquish again in a little while. This on again — off again existence causes excessive stress and becomes quite disturbing after a time, and it is much more comfortable, I have decided, to be one way or the other permanently.”

Resisting an urge to beat her thoroughly without further delay, he decided that the most effective attitude would be a kind of good-humored tolerance of what was, of course, her temporary whimsy.

“Oh, this morning!” he said. “Do you suppose for an instant that I took your little joke seriously? I assure you that I’ve had several good laughs over it since, and I have now returned to resume our natural relationship in the best of humor.”

“Have you, really?” she said. “Well, I only hope that you will be in just as good a humor when you leave, but I seriously doubt it, for I will tell you directly that I don’t intend to accommodate you voluntarily until you give up your foolishness and stay at home like a sensible person.”

“I’m becoming convinced at last that you actually mean to persist in this insanity.”

“It’s a fact that I do.”

“It’s monstrous, that’s what it is. Quite apart from my health and honor, which are certainly in jeopardy, what would become of Athens if your attitude were generally adopted?”

“I dare say Athens would stop killing other Greeks and start doing a little more honest work.”

“Do you want us to stop defending ourselves? Would you have Sparta overrun us entirely?”

“Oh, nonsense. The women of Sparta are certainly as sick of masculine idiocy as the women of Athens. It’s my conviction that they would be only too happy to cooperate in ending it.”

“Well, never in my life before have I heard such perfect silliness on such a grandiose scale! Do you think all the women of the Peloponnesus have lost their minds at precisely the same time you have clearly lost yours?”

“As for that,” she said, “instantaneous insanity among the men of the Peloponnesus is a common enough occurrence, so I can’t see why you should consider it an impossibility among the women.”

“Are you bound to infuriate me to the point of violence?”

“Not at all. Now that I have clarified my position, I am even prepared to be amicable. Would you care for a grape?”

Taking another herself, she bit into it and sucked its sweet juice into her mouth and disposed of the skin and seeds and pulp in a small bowl that she had beside her for the purpose. The sight of this bit of minor sensuality had the strange effect of inflaming Lycon almost beyond reason, and he felt that he would certainly do no less than foam at the mouth and twitch in the muscles, as Acron had warned, if he lingered a moment longer. Besides, he was now convinced that she was surely mad and possibly dangerous. Turning away, he went back to his room and was miserable.

7

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The next afternoon, Lysistrata was in the kitchen annoying the cook when Theoris came to find her. She was not in the kitchen because it was in any way essential, but simply because it was pleasant on occasion to putter about the house, and the cook wished that she would go away and leave him alone. He was well aware of his rather exalted station as a man of extraordinary talent in his trade, and this caused him to feel secure in the assumption of a certain air of independence, but he was a shrewd fellow and also aware, on the other hand, that his independence was severely qualified by slavery. Not wishing to force an issue that could only be uncomfortable to himself in the end, he had learned to judge with a nice precision the almost exact limit of Lysistrata’s tolerance. He was allowed to grunt and look sullen, which he did, but not to be overtly abusive, which he never was.

“Mistress,” said Theoris, “Calonice, wife of Acron, is waiting for you.”

“Calonice?” Lysistrata turned to Theoris with a look of surprise. “Calonice again? It was only the day before yesterday that she was here.”

“Nevertheless, she has returned today. She is waiting in the court near the statue of Hestia.”

“Whatever can she want?”

“That, not knowing, I can’t say. I can say, however, that she seems somewhat agitated.”

“Really? How strange! Calonice is ordinarily as placid as a cow. Something quite disturbing must have happened to her.”

“Well, perhaps I have expressed it too strongly. Let me think of a softer word.”

“Now I am not so astonished. You must admit, Theoris, that there’s considerable difference. One can be pleasurably excited. Calonice is excited frequently, in a cow-like way, but I can’t remember ever seeing her in a state of agitation. I wish you would try to be more precise.”

“I’m sorry. Truly, I’m a deplorable ignoramus.”

“Well, never mind. You are loyal and diligent and pleasantly pretty, and I cannot expect you to be educated besides. And now, since we have revised your judgment of what I may anticipate, I had better go at once and see what Calonice wants. Did you say she is in the court?”

“Yes, Mistress.”

Lysistrata went out to meet Calonice, and Theoris lingered in the kitchen to have her behind patted by the cook. There were virtues in the cook, as Theoris had learned, of which Lysistrata was not aware, and his exceptional talent was by no means limited to the preparation of Boeotian eels.

“You’re a naughty fellow,” she said.

“That’s what you say every time.”

“Because you are a naughty fellow every time. You’re lewd and vulgar, that’s what you are. You must always be pinching and patting.”

“Oh, come off. You like to be pinched and patted.”

“What makes you think so?”

“Because you make yourself available. Do you think I’m a fool, just because I had the misfortune to be made a slave? If you don’t like to be pinched and patted, you have only to stay out of reach?”

“I permit it only to tease you. I know what you’re after, all right, and it’s much more fun to refuse you if you are properly eager.”

“If you try such business with me, you are likely to end up in the chowder.”

“What a violent fellow you are! Besides being naughty, you are violent and dominating. I’m absolutely terrified!”

“You can mock if you wish, but you will learn that I am not a man to be trifled with. Moreover, it doesn’t become you to be so conceited. In spite of being pretty and having a tempting behind, you are nothing but an ignorant slave.”

“Well, just hear who’s calling who an ignorant slave! Have you, perhaps, been elevated to citizenship overnight?”

“It’s true that I am a slave, just as you, but it’s also true that I am a master of my trade, which is highly esteemed in Athens, and therefore I am exceptional and to a degree honored.”

“Indeed! It may interest you to know that I am a master of my trade, too, which is the trade of all women, whether they are citizens or slaves, and if you were not such an ugly and offensive fellow, I might be tempted to prove it to you.”

“If you don’t watch your step, you may be required to prove it whether you are tempted or not. Tease me indeed! One would think, to hear you talk, that you were the most accomplished temptress, rather than a simple house slave who is excited to the grossest vanity just because someone occasionally pinches her behind. Perhaps you are afflicted with delusions of grandeur because you have the same name as the famous Theoris who slept with all the Athenian Generals and peddled their secrets to the Persians.”

“I know nothing about Theoris or Athenian Generals or Persians, but I don’t mind telling you that I am now receiving instruction from the Mistress, who is about as accomplished an instructor as one could wish.”

“Your loose tongue will surely get you into trouble. What do you mean, you foolish wench, instruction from the Mistress?”

“Never mind.”

“Oh, I know what you mean, all right. You’ve been peeping at night, that’s what you mean, and if you get caught at it you will not have enough skin left on your behind to pinch.”

“That’s a lie. I have not been peeping. Moreover, if you want to know, there is nothing to peep at.”

“Nothing to peep at! With the Master just back from Pylos after seven months? You are certainly as green as grass, in spite of your big talk, and there’s no question about it.”

“You may accuse me of anything you like, but it is true just the same. You are not as close to the intimate affairs of this house as I am, and I assure you that the Master has not been permitted to take his feet off the floor of the Mistress’s room since returning home.”

“Careful! If you are determined to lie, you had at least better tell one that is reasonable!”

“Oh, well, if you don’t care to believe me, you needn’t think it makes the slightest difference to me. I’m only trying to keep you informed of affairs, which is hopeless, I suppose, since you are obviously stupid as well as ugly and vulgar.”

“Why should she do such a monstrous thing? Furthermore, why should he let her get away with it? Can you answer those questions?”

“As to why he lets her, I can’t answer. But she is doing it in rebellion against the war. She will not have anything more to do with him  until he refuses to do with it.” 

“I’m actually beginning to believe you. Surely you could have no purpose in making up a fantastic tale like this.”

“It’s true. She’s rebelling against the war.”

“Well, I am against the war myself, since it made a slave of me, but I declare that this is carrying things too far. If I were the Master, I would know how to lay this rebellion promptly.”

“That, of course, is the exact remedy, and if you know how to accomplish it, you had better confer with the Master at once, for he apparently doesn’t.”

“I’ll mind my own business, that’s what I’ll do. And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll do the same.”

“I am not involved, being a slave, but my feelings are on the side of the Mistress. I agree that men have been allowed to behave like idiots in regard to this war far longer than should be essential to their silly pride.”

“What do you know about the war?”

“I know a great deal, for the Mistress has instructed me.”

“It seems to me that the Mistress has been instructing you in a good many matters, directly or indirectly.”

“That’s true. We are on good terms and frequently exchange pleasantries and even intimacies.”

“I imagine you are also her private spy and make reports on the activities of the other household slaves.”

“Do you, really? If so, perhaps you had better mend your manners.”

“If you don’t want to find yourself simmering in the pot in little pieces, you had better not peddle any tales about me.” 

“I am tempted, as a matter of fact, to tell her that you pinch and pat my behind in an offensive manner.”

“In that case, I may as well give you the evidence to prove it.”

Reaching for her quickly with a strong hand, he gave her a pinch that was calculated to leave a beautiful bruise, and she fled with a squeal from the kitchen.

8

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Lysistrata found Calonice, as Theoris had directed, waiting in the court near the statue of Hestia. It was apparent at once, even from a distance, that Calonice was truly in a state of excitement. Her dark eyes sparkled, her body seemed actually to vibrate beneath its peplos, and she looked at Lysistrata as if the latter had somehow undergone metamorphosis since the day before yesterday, becoming in the interim a strange and incredible person.

“What on earth has happened to you, Calonice?” Lysistrata said. “You look as if you were in danger of exploding at any moment.”

“I don’t believe it for an instant,” Calonice said. “I didn’t believe you were capable of it when you were advocating such a course for me, and I don’t believe it now.”

“Will you kindly be good enough to tell me what it is you don’t believe?”

“You know perfectly well what it is. Acron has told me that you refused accommodation to Lycon. Is it true? If you tell me that it is, I suppose I’ll be compelled to believe it then, but I shall find it difficult.

“May I ask how Acron happens to be informed on such a matter?”

“Why, Lycon told him, of course. Or so he claims. How else would he become informed?”

“I am astonished that he’s informed at all. In fact, it is quite distressing and is further evidence of masculine irresponsibility. Men are always accusing us of having loose tongues, but they themselves cannot retain the most delicate matters. Do you suppose it becomes a topic of conversation in the marketplace every time we make love?”

“I do wish you wouldn’t try to evade answering my question, Lysistrata. Besides, this is not a case of Lycon’s reporting that you made love, but that you refused to do so. You will have to admit that there’s a distinction.”

“The principle, I think, is the same.”

“Well, you may be as technical as you choose about it, but all I want to know is, is it true or not true?”

“It is perfectly true.”

“That was the night before last, however. I imagine that conditions have changed since then.”

“On the contrary, conditions are exactly the same.”

“It’s absolutely incredible. As I thought, I am having difficulty believing it. Could you possibly have a motive for lying about such a matter?”

“That’s something you will have to determine for yourself, although I feel obligated to say that I resent your attitude somewhat, Calonice. I advised you to adopt such a policy with Acron, and now I have adopted it with Lycon, and that’s all there is to it.”

“What, may I ask, do you hope to gain from such a policy, besides depriving yourself needlessly of simple pleasure which is available, because of the war, all too seldom at best?”

“Perhaps I hope to make it available more frequently. Regularly, as a matter of fact. At any rate, I am determined to play for all or nothing. Lycon will stay sensibly at home and be a husband, or I shall quit being a wife. This is, in my opinion, a perfectly fair position.”

“Suppose he refuses to concede.”

“Then I have no husband, and he has no wife. Since this is a state which prevails most of the time anyhow, the loss would not be nearly so great as might be at first imagined. On the other hand, the gain, if I am successful, will be considerable.”

“I see that you have thought the matter through admirably.”

“If I do say so myself, I believe I have. I have even considered the consequences if all the wives of Athens were to follow my example.”

“The first consequence, as I see it, would be to drive all the husbands into the arms of the hetairai and the pornai of the Piraeus immediately. Do you wish us to be replaced entirely by whores?”

“The hetairai and the pornai don’t have enough arms to take care of all the husbands. Besides, such women are not satisfactory indefinitely and would fail to provide adequate compensation. When a man loses a wife, he loses more than a bedmate, as you know. He loses a mother and a housekeeper and a priestess and a minor physician, and most of all he loses what he considers in his heart a piece of property. This is the hardest possible blow to his foolish pride, as well as to his sense of economy.”

“Do you really imagine that the wives of Athens would follow you in such a program?”

“It’s at least conceivable.”

“And if so, do you imagine the husbands would come to terms?”

“That’s also conceivable.”

“What then? Do the Spartans invade Attica and slaughter us all in our beds while we are making up lost time?”

“You are pursuing the same line of questioning as Lycon last night, and I will give you the same answer. It would be necessary, of course, to arrange matters so that the Spartans would be occupied at home as we would be. Also the Boeotians and all the other parties to this stupid and boring war.”

“Under the same kind of coercion?”

“Precisely.”

“A world revolution of wives?”

“All the world of immediate consequence to us, at any rate.”

“Lysistrata, I declare that you are suffering from delusions of grandeur.”

“Not at all. I conceive of women united in good sense, which is surely no more impossible than the union for twenty years of men in idiocy.”

“Do you expect the men to capitulate immediately?”

“Not immediately.”

“After how long?”

“I’ll not venture an exact prediction. Sooner than you might think, I dare say.”

“It would require organization and simultaneous action.”

“I’m aware of that.”

“I cannot think how you even begin to accomplish it.”

“Are you afraid?”

“Yes, I am. I admit that also. Acron would


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certainly beat me unmercifully and do as he pleased in spite of my protests.”

“This might be uncomfortable for you, but it would be little or no satisfaction to him. Passive resistance will accomplish wonders.”

“That’s easy enough to say, but in the matter of accommodation I confess that I invariably have an irresistible urge to cooperate actively.”

“Consider the ultimate objective, Calonice. Would you rather eat a seed than grow an olive tree?”

“Well, I refuse to become involved with figures of speech. They are only confusing to me and cause me to see virtues where none exist.”

At that moment another woman entered the court and hurried across it toward Lysistrata and Calonice. She was tall and rather angular and walked with a flurry of elbows and knees. It was Nausica, wife of Cadmus, and she was obviously bursting with curiosity.

“It is clear,” said Lysistrata, “that Cadmus has also had a report on affairs in my bed chamber, which he has promptly passed on, no doubt with embellishment, to our friend Nausica.”

“As you say,” said Calonice, “it’s clear.”

It was equally clear that Nausica had been walking rapidly and was short of breath. Without greetings, she began to speak in short bursts of words with little breaks between for gasps of air.

“Can you imagine, Lysistrata, what that fool husband of mine, Cadmus, has told me? The most preposterous story, I assure you. He has told me that you have refused accommodation to Lycon.”

“It’s true,” said Lysistrata. “I may as well admit it immediately.”

“You are just in time,” said Calonice, “to be the first disciple of our friend Lysistrata, which is an honor I willingly relinquish. She is planning a world rebellion of wives.”

“What’s this? What’s this? Explain yourself, please.”

“I mean that she plans to organize all the wives of all the citizens of all the countries involved in the Peloponnesian War into a great rebellion. No husband shall be accommodated until peace is assured.”

“What an absolute stroke of genius, Lysistrata! How ever did you think of it?”

“Well, it began with my personal grievances and developed quite naturally from there.”

“I knew at once that there was something more significant in this than Cadmus was willing to tell. The fool stuttered and stammered and related it most reluctantly. As a matter of fact, he volunteered nothing, and I had literally to force the truth from him after detecting that he was exceedingly disturbed. He is absolutely incapable of hiding his feelings, you know. What frightens him is that I may be influenced by the example.”

“Why should you be influenced?” said Calonice. “It is well known that Cadmus does not go to war.”

“True. He is like a grandmother with his ailments, none of which seem to handicap him in the least bit after dark. On the other hand, I have reached a time when accommodation, except on special occasions, is more of a nuisance than a pleasure. I think I should find Lysistrata’s rebellion exciting and satisfying, to say nothing of a relief.”

“Really?” said Lysistrata. “Do you consent, then, Nausica, to become my first disciple?”

“I do. I declare this instant that I do.”

“Good. I welcome you to the cause, and I must say that I admire you more than certain other people I could mention.”

“Thank you. I believe, however, that this rebellion can never be sustained in the home. The wives could not hold out. We must fortify ourselves, Lysistrata.”

“I agree that we must remove ourselves from temptation, and also from accessibility.”

“What place do you suggest?”

“There is only one place adequate.”

“Not the Acropolis!”

“Nothing else.”

“Lysistrata, you are becoming more and more daring all the time. Could it be managed?”

“I’m convinced that it could. The Acropolis is in the custody of old men who should be easily expelled by sufficiently determined women.”

“Why, I am all over goose pimples in anticipation of it! We must work out our strategy most carefully.”

“You are certainly right. Let us go inside and discuss it and have a little wine.”

“I shall come, too,” said Calonice, “although I feel that I am sure to regret it later.”

9

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Lycon wandered disconsolately around the square. The babble of voices and the ascendant cries of vendors, always previously so melodious in his ears, now struck him as a hideous cacophony. The antics of the clowns were the gyrations and contortions of a kind of sinister madness. The flower girls, in spite of romantic nonsense of poets to the contrary, were vulgar wenches without grace or glamour. Nothing was bright, nothing was sane, nothing was pleasing to the senses. It was absolutely intolerable, he thought, to submit any longer to such monstrous distortions of reality. Or of what he had once considered reality. The truth was, he had become so confused and depressed by events that he no longer had any faith in his ability to distinguish between what was real or normal and what was not. The only thing he knew with certainty was that he must return to Pylos at once for the sake of his dignity, if not for his very sanity. He had never before thought of Pylos as a refuge, but he did so now.

Looking ahead, he was suddenly aware of Acron approaching. Having no desire whatever to see or talk with Acron at this time, he ducked into a convenient lounge, but it was no use. Acron had seen him, and followed him immediately into the lounge.

“Lycon,” he said, “I hope I am mistaken, for the sake of our long friendship, but I had the distinct impression just now that you were trying to avoid me.”

“Avoid you?” said Lycon. “Why in the world should I want to avoid you?”

“You know very well why you want to avoid me, and I assure you that you are wasting time in trying to evade the issue. It is not an act of friendship to be so deceptive.”

“To my knowledge, I have not deceived you in any way, and I’d appreciate your being specific, at least, if you feel compelled to abuse me.”

“Oh, such dissemblance! Shame on you, Lycon! Do you deny that you have gotten us into the most humiliating and distressing mess through your inability to control things at home?”

“I don’t deny that I am in such a mess, which is truly humiliating, as you say, but I don’t see why you  should be excessively disturbed about it.”

“I declare, Lycon, you are either the most artful dodger in the world, or you are truly ignorant of what has developed.”

“If anything at all has developed, I am certainly ignorant of it.”

“Then permit me to inform you that Calonice has been converted to Lysistrata’s treachery.”

“You mean she has refused to accommodate you?”

“What else could I mean? Furthermore, I am convinced that she would never have adopted such a monstrous attitude, or even have thought of it, if she had not been subjected to Lysistrata’s influence. You are therefore responsible, Lycon, and must answer for it.”

“In what way can I be held responsible for someone who is obviously irrational? It’s not my fault, Acron, that you are being deprived of pleasure. Besides, as you well know, I have troubles of my own, and am not inclined at this time to assume yours.”

“If your dog goes mad and bites a neighbor, you’re responsible, aren’t you? Of course, you are. And a man is certainly as responsible for his wife as he is for his dog. The only difference that I can see is that a wife’s defections are likely to have more serious consequences.”

“This is nonsense, and you know it, and you are only trying to put the blame on me because you are naturally upset and disgruntled. Have you made any effort to restore Calonice’s reason?”

“I’ve beat her thoroughly, if that’s what you mean.”

“Was it effective?”

“Not particularly. She did a lot of howling, which was some satisfaction to me, but in the end she only seemed to become more stubborn because of it. I have never known her to show such fortitude before, and I’m convinced that Lysistrata has put her under some kind of spell which induces extraordinary powers of resistance.”

“I know what you mean. It’s exceedingly frustrating, for a fact. Do you think this business is contagious and will spread generally?”

“After piecing together some of the idiocies babbled by Calonice after her beating, I concluded that some program of evangelism is actually projected. I doubt, however, that it will go any farther than Lysistrata and Calonice. They are close friends, as we know, and are peculiarly susceptible to each other’s nonsense. You are more experienced in this rebellion by two days than I am, Lycon. Surely you can now suggest a practical way to bring them around.”

“I have had no luck whatever with Lysistrata and can suggest nothing regarding Calonice.”

“Have you no plan of action?”

“Yes, I have. If you want to know the truth, old boy, I plan to leave town as soon as possible.”

“Really? When?”

“Tomorrow, perhaps.”

“Well, now that you have mentioned it, I have had something like that in mind myself. Perhaps our affairs will have returned to normal by the time we come back to Athens again.”

“Possibly. I have heard that various manias and mental ills will dissipate naturally if left alone and not aggravated by nostrums and ignorant physicians.”

“Will you return to Pylos?”

“Yes, to Pylos. And I wish I were there this instant, as a matter of fact, for here comes Cadmus. In my condition, I would rather be kicked three times around the square than to be compelled to listen to his chatter.”

“Notice how fierce he looks. It seems to me that he is angry about something.”

And he was. Cadmus was angry. He loped into the lounge with his chiton flapping, bending slightly forward from the waist as if he were about to launch a physical attack and glaring in the most ferocious manner at Lycon.

“There you are, Lycon,” he said. “I have been looking all over for you.”

“How are you, Cadmus?”

“I am not at all well, if you want to know. In fact, I have never before been so upset and positively furious.”

“That’s an unusual condition for a philosopher, isn’t it? Hasn’t Empedocles taught you how to sustain serenity, as well as how to heal the afflicted with words?”

“Well, never mind that. I refuse to be distracted in this matter.”

“What is  the matter, by the way?”

“Corruption, that’s the matter! I simply will not tolerate having my wife corrupted by your wife Lysistrata.”

“Nausica, too?” said Acron.

“What do you mean?” Cadmus turned toward Acron, his voice skidding upward. “Is it possible that Calonice is also party to this depravity?”

“Since we are all fools together, I may as well admit that she is.”

“Monstrous! It’s absolutely monstrous! I tell you that I had the most frightful forebodings of disaster the instant I was told of Lysistrata’s strange behavior. Lycon, it would have been only simple decency on your part to have kept your troubles at home and not go passing them around among your friends.”

“Well, I’m delighted to have your opinion, Cadmus. My friend Acron has just been abusing me shamefully for something I could in no way help, and now I can see that you expect to do likewise. I ought to warn you, however, that I’m in a state of nerves, which you may understand, and it’s possible that I may lose control of myself and punch you in the eye.”

Cadmus blinked and took a step backward and appeared to be considering the threat to his person.

“I may have been unjust in my remarks, Lycon,” he said finally, “but I am quite upset and not wholly responsible. What we must do, rather than to squander our potential in squabbling, is to combine forces in an effort to end this humiliating situation before it spreads to the wives of other unfortunate citizens. I declare, this is something that could become as fashionable among women as a new paint for the eyelids. What do you suggest?”

“Have you tried beating Nausica?” Acron asked.

“Yes, I have. I tried.”

“You seem to be implying a qualification. Were the results unfortunate?”

“To tell the truth, they were exactly the reverse of what I intended. That Nausica is a resourceful and powerful woman, she really is. When I approached to strike the first blow, she picked up a heavy stick, which she had taken to bed in anticipation of my action, and beat me on the back and shoulders with it. Only by covering my head with my arms was I able to avoid a fractured skull. In the meanwhile, she called me several names that I didn’t dream were in her vocabulary. If you’re interested in evidence, I can show you the welts and bruises under my chiton.”

“I am not interested,” said Lycon.

“Nor I,” said Acron. “I don’t care to see them.”

“We hope you will excuse us,” said Lycon.

“Certainly,” said Cadmus. “I just thought you might be interested, but I have no desire to impose my injuries upon you. What action did you take with Calonice, Acron?”

“The same. I beat her.”

“Did she respond?”

“Only with howls and pigheadedness. Like you, I accomplished nothing constructive or encouraging.”

“They’re demented, that’s what they are. It is well known that demented people become as courageous as lions. What possible plan of action can we devise?”

“Acron and I have already devised one,” Lycon said.

“Really? Since I am vitally concerned, perhaps you would be good enough to tell me what it is.”

“We are going to leave town.”

“What? That’s clearly impossible.”

“On the contrary, it’s quite simple.”

“Well, it’s all right for you two fellows to run back to the war, but I am a non-combatant, as you know very well, and have no such place to go. You are leaving me to bear the brunt of this alone, that’s what you’re doing, and I tell you frankly that I consider it cowardly.”

“Cowardly! Who are you, Cadmus, to accuse anyone of cowardice? At least we have not permitted ourselves to be beaten by a woman with a stick.”

“You know perfectly well that I am frail physically, Lycon, and it is petty of you to ridicule me because of it.”

“If you don’t wish to be ridiculed, you had better stop charging people with cowardice.”

“Yes, Cadmus,” said Acron, “do stop to consider before you speak. As for deserting you, I will be happy to have you accompany me when I leave. I’m sure you could be fitted in somewhere, in spite of your frailty.”

“Not at all!” Cadmus looked horrified. “It might be the death of me.”

“Well,” said Acron, “a war might be the death of anyone. That’s understood.”

“At any rate,” said Lycon, “a little wine would not be the death of us, and on the other hand it might do us considerable good. Shall we split the price of a skin?”

10

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Theoris came again to rouse her Mistress, casting her shadow behind her. This morning, however, she was exceptionally early even for the early rising Athenians, for it was still two full hours before dawn. In the city streets, the rowdies and roisterers were thinning and dispersing after the gaudy night. From the fields of Attica, farmers were moving through darkness toward the city walls with fresh produce for the market. In her bed, sleeping lightly, Lysistrata stirred and wakened to the whispers of sound Theoris made. She sat up immediately and yawned and stretched and knuckled her eyes like a child.

“Theoris,” she said, “has the time arrived?”

“Yes, Mistress,” Theoris said. “I have come obediently, as you instructed, but I am still of the opinion that you had much better stay in bed like a lady and forego this dangerous business for good and all.”

“Do you think it a cardinal requisite of being a lady to lie in bed passively and suffer indignities endlessly?”

“I don’t know about that, for I have had no personal experience in being a lady. What I know, however, is that you are likely to be destroyed in the plot you have contrived, and it will cause me to feel bad and take the pleasure out of life.”

“For how long?”

“Surely you don’t mock my concern.”

“Not at all. The truth is, I am quite touched by it. I am only pointing out that it is customary to recover eventually from grief. But regardless of that, I will not be deterred in my undertaking, which I consider basically noble and beneficial to all of us.”

“To my way of thinking, there is little benefit in being killed or beaten or exiled to an unpleasant place.”

“That’s true, of course, but we must be optimistic about our chances of avoiding all those possibilities. Anyhow, everything is arranged and settled and must now be carried out according to plan at any cost. We have achieved wonders, Theoris, since Lycon and Acron ran off abjectly to their miserable war. This achievement is the result of intelligence and application, and I believe that the men could never have managed anything comparable. They would have gobbled interminably about it in open assembly, and would then have turned it over to the Council of Five Hundred, which would have gobbled about it even longer than the Assembly. You will have to admit that we have proceeded much more quietly and efficiently.”

“I do admit it. I only hope it goes as well hereafter.”

“Well, we have reached the crisis of the matter, and we shall soon see. Nausica, who has been absolutely fierce in her devotion and determination, will lead this morning the shock troops of intrepid Athenian wives who will wrest the Acropolis from its keepers. Meanwhile, outside the five gates, I shall meet the envoys of the wives of Athens’ enemies. Even now they are on their various ways to the appointed place, and it will be my task as local leader to enlist their aid in converting their countrywomen to our rebellion.”

“As to your power of persuasion, I am convinced. But I am not so certain of Nausica’s part. Can she possibly succeed in such a perilous undertaking? Surely there will be violence and blood and broken skulls. Suppose she is repulsed, the Acropolis un-taken.”

“Nausica fail? Pshaw, Theoris! I can see that you have underestimated Nausica, even as I was guilty of doing, I confess, before she demonstrated her capacity so brilliantly. The Acropolis is in the care of old men who will be no match, I assure you. Haven’t you heard how effectively she handled Cadmus?”

“I have heard that she made things difficult for him.”

“It’s true. She leaped upon him with a stick and beat thoroughly, and she has twice beaten him since on the thinnest pretexts, just to make certain that he doesn’t attempt to assert himself again. The poor fellow is absolutely cowed.”

“I must confess that I feel rather sorry for him.”

“So do I, to tell the truth, but it is essential to the cause to be ruthless. Pity, for the moment, has no place. Cadmus is, of course, in an impossible position. Lycon and Acron ran off like cowards to Pylos, being afraid of the situation at home, but poor Cadmus is afraid of everything in the least threatening, Pylos as well as Nausica, and so he is utterly trapped and has no escape whatever.”

“Is Calonice firm in the cause?”

“Oh, yes. After her initial reluctance, she has become quite rabid. This is often the case with reluctant converts. It has been in her favor that Acron left so soon after she joined us. She is especially susceptible to requests for accommodation and might have defected if he had remained to tempt her. But time is passing, Theoris, and I must waste no more of it. Is my bath ready?”

“Yes, Mistress.”

“Good. You needn’t come to assist me. While I am bathing, lay out a clean white peplos and a warm cloak. The air in the streets will be chill, and especially on the height of the Acropolis.

“Bring me some wine and bread from the kitchen. I had better eat before I leave, for it may be some time before I have another chance.”

“Are you actually determined, then, to go ahead?”

“Certainly. What must I do to convince you?”

“I only hoped that you might find it expedient to change your mind, but I can see now that there is no hope of it, and I must become resigned.”

“You are a loyal and cherished companion and maid, Theoris, but you do not understand the problems of citizens. Now do as I instructed, for I shall certainly waste not another minute.”

She went out of the room into the court on her way to the bathroom, and Theoris, after laying out the peplos and cloak, hurried to the kitchen. To her surprise, the kitchen was lighted by torches placed in holders on the walls, and the cook was already puttering about in a rather leisurely manner among his pots. She pulled up with a startled little whinny, and sidled warily around him on an imaginary circumference of safety.

“You don’t have to be so cautious,” he said sullenly. “It’s far too early in the morning to enjoy patting your behind. If you weren’t so vain, it wouldn’t even occur to you at this hour.”

“One does not need to be vain,” she said, “to suspect you of the grossest bestiality at any hour whatever. I am still bearing the marks of your great thumb and finger.”

“I don’t believe it. You are only trying to make something big out of a trifling pinch. It wouldn’t surprise me if you told the Mistress that I attacked you.”

“It occurred to me, to tell the truth, and I may do it yet if you don’t begin treating me with a little more consideration.”

“Tell her what you like. My services are more valuable than yours in this house. Besides, I would only deny it and make you appear a flagrant little liar, which is what you are.”

“You forget that I have the marks to prove it.”

“Another of your lies. The marks have vanished long ago.”

“They have not. I tell you I still have them, although a bit faded.”

“Prove it, then.”

“Oh, no! Do you think I’m so innocent as to be taken in that crudely? You are only trying to get me to display myself, you lewd fellow. I thought you weren’t interested in such things at this hour.”

“I’m not. I merely wanted you to display your vanity again, for it amuses me. Do you think I would get any pleasure out of seeing your skinny behind?”

“It’s not skinny, and you are truly the most ignorant and offensive fellow I have ever known. You’re an animal, that’s what you are. I feel like spitting on you.”

“You ever spit on me, it will be slut chowder for dinner.”

“Step aside, if you please! I was sent here on an urgent errand for the Mistress, and I am delayed by your interference. If you don’t stop molesting me, I shall certainly get you into serious trouble.”

“You persist in lying, I see. The Mistress is sound asleep in her bed.”

“On the contrary, she is wide awake. In fact, she is at this moment bathing, and I have been sent in the meanwhile to bring bread and wine for her breakfast.”

“Why should she have breakfast so early? When you trifle with the truth, you should at least make your stories reasonable.”

“I concede that you are fully qualified to instruct me in the art of lying, for you are known to everyone as the most accomplished liar alive. You have become so used to lies, however, that you have lost the capacity to recognize the truth when you hear it.”

“You still haven’t told me why the Mistress should breakfast so early.”

“Because she is going out on an important mission, that’s why.”

“Indeed! And I suppose she always confides in you concerning matters of importance?”

“Yes, she does. We are really quite intimate, as I have told you, and I am allowed to know what is going on.”

“Pardon me, please. I didn’t dream that you were of such tremendous importance around here.”

“You would do well to learn it and remember it the next time you are inclined to molest me.”

By this time, Theoris had inched her way to the bread. Helping herself, she moved with more boldness to the supply of wine, from which she also helped herself. She then moved toward the door with an exaggerated swaying of her slender hips. The cook, plainly uncertain as to the truth of her story, but strongly inclined to believe that she was brazenly taking the bread and wine for her own use, watched her for a minute in indecision. Then, regaining his assurance a fraction of a second too late, he made a powerful swipe at her behind that would certainly have knocked her sprawling if it had landed. With a skip and a squeal, holding tightly to the bread and wine, Theoris reached the door. Turning, she spat in the direction of the cook and then scurried back through the court to Lysistrata’s room.

Lysistrata had already returned from her bath and was clothed in the white peplos. She looked at Theoris curiously.

“Why are you breathing so hard?” she said. “Have you been running?”

“I know you wish to be about your business, so I hurried.”

“On the contrary, it seems to me that you took an unconscionable time.”

“I’m truly sorry, Mistress. I had to convince the cook, who was already in the kitchen, that I was not stealing the bread and wine for myself.”

“Well, no matter. In order to save time, I’ll eat while you are braiding my hair. Will that disturb you?”

“No, Mistress.”

While Lysistrata ate sparingly of bread dipped in wine, for she was far too excited to have an appetite, Theoris deftly braided her hair and bound the heavy braids around her head. After Theoris was finished, Lysistrata stood up and drew her heavy cloak about her shoulders.

“Now I must leave,” she said. “How long I shall be gone is impossible to predict. Theoris, my good companion as well as my slave, I charge you to look after my affairs until I return. And please don’t produce any tears, for they are not required. Do you think you can handle things competently?”

“I can handle everything, Mistress, except possibly the cook. I am not sure of the cook.”

“It’s true that he’s a sullen and insolent fellow, besides being a natural liar. I often find him difficult to handle myself. I advise you to stay out of the kitchen as much as possible, which is usually my own policy except in cases of strict necessity.”

“I shall do as you advise, I assure you, for he is in fact extremely naughty, as well as being the other things you mentioned.”

“Oh, well, naughtiness often lends a little interest to things if it is controlled properly. Good-by, Theoris.”

“Good-by, Mistress, and good luck.”

Turning away, Lysistrata went out through the rear garden into the street. Theoris sat down and began to finish the bread and wine that her mistress had left. She wondered how far the cook was likely to go in response to her baiting, and more important than that, how far she was willing for him to go.

11

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The air in the streets was chill. Holding her cloak about her, Lysistrata walked swiftly in the direction of the Acropolis, sustained by a rising sense of exhilaration. In the distance ahead of her, touched by a flickering of thin light, a Scythian policeman, armed with bow and arrows, crossed the street on his vigilant patrol. Reaching her through darkness from another street, there came the heavy rumbling of a wooden cart, a farmer of Attica on his way to market.

In the center of the city, a vital organ that Lysistrata could feel but not see, the slumbering marketplace seemed to send out through the streets, which were its arteries, the slow and rhythmic beat of its powerful pulse. Lysistrata felt the pulse as a supplement to her own, throbbing in her wrists and temples and breast. In her heart she felt the breath of Athens, in her flesh and bones its restless stirring before waking. It was very exciting to be abroad in the streets, a part of activity that was all too restricted in the dull days of respectable wives. Respectability was, in fact, an honorable estate in which she shared reluctantly. She did not wish to be a man, since this would entail the loss of advantages she now possessed, but she wished often for a man’s freedom, or even the relative freedom of the hetairai or the flower girls of the market, who were permitted to be in the thick of things. In the old days, she knew, the women of Athens had been allowed to move about and play a part in affairs, and they had then exerted an influence which had since been lost. Manners and customs had changed, as they do in time, and the modern wife was expected to remain circumspectly hidden within the walls of her house, which was, in Lysistrata’s judgment, dull business indeed.

Reaching at last the hill of the Acropolis, a rocky projection rising five hundred feet above the plain of Athens, she began to ascend the zig-zag terraced path to the summit. She paused at intervals to rest, but even so she was breathing hard from the climb when it was finished, and her breath was taken even more, as it always was, by the beauty of the Propylaea, which had been


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begun in the time of Pericles a quarter of a century before. Above her rose the six Doric columns of the portico, and beyond the portico, still filled with shadows of night in the final short while before dawn, was the great entrance hall itself, divided into three aisles by rows of Ionic columns. At the far end of the hall was the wall of five gates, beyond which was another portico identical to this, and from which one might look across the Acropolis and see enough of beauty in one small space to last for life and light a world. There stood the serene Parthenon, raised to the glory of the patron goddess of Athens. There stood the Erechtheum of ineffable grace. There stood the giant image of Athene Promachos, lifting her head almost fifty feet above the crest to stare eternally out to sea. There stood, in temple and shrine and image of deity, the best art of Athens. And it was almost beyond credence, Lysistrata thought, that the men who fostered it and loved it and paid for it could be capable at the same time of behaving perpetually like imbeciles.

After reaching the crest, Lysistrata had scarcely caught her breath before she heard her name called clearly. A moment later Nausica came out of the shadows of the Propylaea. She hurried down the broad flight of stairs with her elbows threshing at her sides as if the thinning darkness were a material resistance through which she had to beat her way. As she came near, it was evident that she was quite exuberant.

“There you are, Lysistrata,” she said. “I have been waiting and waiting for you, and I have been positively on the verge of prostration for fear something had occurred to upset our plans.”

“Not at all, Nausica. At least, not to my knowledge. You are up and about your duties early enough, I must say. And that is more than I can say for those who are pledged to meet me here for council. It’s simply disgusting, that’s what it is. If they had been called out to celebrate a festival, they would be cavorting and displaying themselves in all the streets by this time. As it is, they are probably lying sluggishly in bed.”

“Perhaps you do them an injustice. After all, it is not a simple matter to get promptly away from home, especially if one has a suspicious husband to evade or children to provide for.”

“Such considerations must be temporarily set aside. As for husbands, Nausica, you have set a remarkably clear example for how that problem can be handled.”

“Oh, well, I simply beat Cadmus with a stick as the need arises. It is not to be expected that every woman can handle the matter so directly.”

“Nevertheless, it is plainly the duty of each of us to tolerate no interference. Strict adherence to the cause is required, Nausica, if we are to accomplish our objective, and it is obvious that we must watch diligently for weakness and signs of defection. Where are the women you are to lead against the old men of the Acropolis?”

“Inside.”

“What! Inside, did you say?”

“That’s what I’ve come to report, Lysistrata. The Acropolis is in our hands, and has been so for a full quarter of an hour.”

“So quickly and so easily? Nausica, you are an absolute genius. You must tell me this instant how you accomplished it.”

“Well, I gathered my troops early, all armed with stout sticks which we concealed under our cloaks. Without waiting for a pair of laggards who did not appear, we approached the gate and gained admission on the pretext of having come to offer sacrifices. Once inside, we had in practically no time at all assumed complete authority.”

“Didn’t the old men resist?”

“Not even enough to make it interesting. I had hoped for a little more action, to tell the truth. Oh, they howled and cried and called us the dirtiest kinds of names, but this did not deter us in the least, and only gave us an excuse for beating them with the sticks, which we enjoyed immensely. One ugly old fellow actually lost his chiton and ran away as naked as an eel. Anyhow, they have all been expelled and have no doubt gone for reinforcements.”

“Do you expect an attack?”

“Undoubtedly there will be an attempt to drive us out. I am looking forward to it with great pleasure.”

“What a stalwart you are, Nausica! I might even say a little bloodthirsty. I can see that I have made no mistake in assigning you critical responsibilities. Are you preparing the defense of our position?”

“Certainly. My troops even now are engaged in boiling many pots of water on fires we have built among the shrines. The old men will get a blistering reception when they come, never fear about that.”

“Good. You are loyal and competent beyond all my expectations, Nausica, and I apologize for thinking in the beginning that you might be somewhat erratic and unreliable.”

“That’s all right. I am frequently misjudged in the beginning. When are the envoys due to arrive?”

“They are due now, at this moment, and if they don’t get here soon, it will be completely light, and our situation will become precarious. It’s simply intolerable that they are so tardy.”

“Did everyone contacted agree to come?”

“Everyone. From all the cities and states with which Athens has been at odds so long in this dreary war. From Sparta and Boeotia and Corinth and all the rest. As I suspected and predicted, if you will remember, the wives there are as sick of foolishness and deprivation of pleasure as we are.”

“Well, they will all arrive shortly, I have no doubt, and in the meanwhile I had better get back into the Acropolis to see that the water is being boiled properly. As you said, one must carefully supervise the smallest details. I hear someone coming up the path now, if I’m not mistaken. Can you see who it is?”

“Not yet. It is still too dark to make her out at such a distance.”

“Is it a woman, then?”

“Yes. I’m sure of that. I can tell by her walk.”

“Your eyes are sharper than mine, I must confess. I declare, Lysistrata, she is panting like an overheated dog. Even such a climb as this cannot account entirely for such snorting and gasping.”

“She’s carrying something. If it’s a skin of wine, it’s Calonice. I told her to bring one. Yes, it is. It’s Calonice with the wine, and I will tell her frankly that it’s high time. Calonice means well and is a good friend of mine, but it is necessary to prod her at all turns if you expect her to accomplish anything.”

“Yes, you are right. I can now see myself that it is Calonice. I don’t believe it is necessary for me to talk with her at this time, which can become rather complicated and aggravating at any time, and so I will leave at once before she gets here. Will you come into the Acropolis after the council?”

“Yes. Immediately after. Perhaps even sooner if the old men return reinforced before we’re finished.”

“I doubt that they will. At any rate, we shall certainly be ready for them.”

Retreating up the broad stairs, Nausica disappeared into the shadows among the Ionic columns. Facing the path up which Calonice labored, Lysistrata waited for the former to attain the crest and deposit the skin of wine on the ground with a gusty sigh of relief.

“Well, Calonice,” Lysistrata said, “here you are at last, I see.”

Calonice did not reply at once. She glared at Lysistrata and waited until she had regained sufficient breath to express her indignation properly.

“Please don’t be critical, Lysistrata,” she said. “If you are determined to make a pack animal of me, you can hardly expect me to be anywhere at an exact moment.”

“Oh, well. Excuse me, Calonice. It is hardly appropriate for us to quarrel pettily at this time about something that can’t be remedied and has caused no harm. The truth is, the others have not yet come.”

“They are on the path now. When I stopped to rest, I saw them coming below me in a group.”

“What could be delaying them?”

“It’s a steep path. No doubt they are resting frequently.”

“I declare, it is apparent that they will have to be continually incited. Well, I have news for them that will certainly stimulate enthusiasm for our cause.”

“What news?”

“Nausica has taken the Acropolis, expelling the old men by threshing them with heavy sticks.

“It’s incredible! How did she accomplish it so quickly.”

“Nausica, as she demonstrated decisively in the case of Cadmus, is extremely efficient in such affairs. The old men, in her opinion, have retired for reinforcements and will attack our position later.”

“Really? If that is so, we should finish our business here quickly and disperse.”

“Exactly. Why do you think I am so impatient over the dawdling of the others? Is that the sound of voices below us now?”

“Yes, it is. They are nearing the crest at this moment. Wait a moment, Lysistrata. I can begin to make them out. There, in the lead, is Lampito of Sparta.”

“I am glad to hear it. Since Sparta is our strongest foe in this war, it is certainly a good omen that she is also leading the delegation for peace.”

After a couple of minutes, during which time Lysistrata and Calonice waited impatiently, Lampito of Sparta came upon the crest before the Propylaea. She was followed immediately by many other women, all breathing heavily from the climb, and Lysistrata recognized among them citizens of Acharnae and Anagyra, which were demes of Attica, as well as Spartans, Corinthians and Boeotians.

“Well,” said Lysistrata, “you are here at last and very welcome, I’m sure, though I admit I was beginning to wonder if you would ever come at all. Myrrhine, you are from Anagyra, which is in Attica and not a great distance away, and I should have thought that you and the women of Acharnae, which is also close, could have been a little more prompt.”

“Please don’t presume to abuse me, Lysistrata,” said Myrrhine testily. “It is not so easy to get up in the middle of the night and dress in the dark and make such a journey as this without even time for a proper breakfast. If we have committed such a grave offense in being a little late, you had better not make it worse by taking the time to deliver a lecture. Why don’t you simply tell us at once why you called us here?”

“In a moment. First, however, I must speak to Lampito of Sparta, who is my friend.

“Lampito, you are truly lovely and look no older than when I last saw you, quite a long while ago. How on earth do you manage it?”

“Thank you, Lysistrata. You are also looking lovely, I must say. As to how I manage it, you know that Spartans are expected to take exercises regularly and keep in good shape.”

“Well, your shape is certainly good. There’s no question about that.”

Lysistrata turned to another woman who stood a little to the side of the Spartan.

“How stout you are!” she said. “Please tell me where you are from.”

“I am a Corinthian.”

“Truly? I have heard that the women of Corinth apply themselves to nothing but frivolity and are given greatly to prostitution. I am happy to see that this is not true in all cases.”

“Lysistrata,” said Myrrhine, “I am losing all patience. I swear I am. I am criticized and practically insulted because I am a trifle tardy, and now you seem determined to delay us indefinitely while you admire Spartan figures and comment on the bad habits of Corinthians. Will you tell us what you want, or will you not?”

“I am about ready to tell you. First, however, I must have the answer to a question. Would you like to see the war ended?”

“The Peloponnesian War?”

“Certainly. What other war is there?”

“None that I am aware of. I was only surprised to hear you speaking of its ending as if it were a possibility. It has been going on for as long as I can remember and will no doubt continue. It is as firmly established, so far as I can see, as this hill we stand on.”

“Nevertheless, would you like to see it ended?”

“I must say, Lysistrata, that I consider that a foolish question. The war is clearly an absolute bore that deprives us of much pleasure we would have without it. Of course, being sensible women, we would like to see it ended.”

“So we are agreed. I tell you, then, that I have called you here to enlist your collaboration in accomplishing what we all want.”

“The end of the war?”

“Please don’t be so obtuse, Myrrhine. That is clearly what I mean, and I should not be required to repeat it endlessly.”

“I am all for it,” said Lampito, “if it can be accomplished. I have had so little pleasure of my husband that he is more of an aggravation than a satisfaction. He comes home to make use of me, and then is gone again immediately to some silly place to resume the war. Besides being an aggravation, it is also rather degrading, to tell the truth.”

“There is your mistake, Lampito. When he comes for accommodation, you should refuse it.”

“What? Refuse accommodation? You are surely mad, Lysistrata.”

“Yes,” said Myrrhine, “it is quite obvious that you are not thinking rationally, Lysistrata. Our principal complaint is that requests of accommodation are much too infrequent, and you would solve our problem by eliminating them entirely. The accommodation, at least, if not the requests. This is going into the fire from the pan and is, in my judgment, in no way sensible.”

“On the contrary, it is quite sensible.”

“How is it sensible?”

“Yes, Lysistrata,” said Lampito, “do explain it.”

“Gladly,” said Lysistrata, “if you will only stop chattering long enough. It is sensible because it will, after a period of sacrifice on our parts, bring about a period of plenty. We rebel, in brief, until the men meet our terms, which is peace for all. When peace is secured, as it will be if we are only sufficiently determined in this cause, our men will be at home to give us pleasure frequently instead of only once in a while.”

“Lysistrata,” said Lampito, “you are ingenious and daring, if nothing else, and I admit that you have a point. Has such a thing ever been tried before? Will it work, do you think?”

“Calonice and Nausica and I have tried it, and it works.”

“Actually?” said Myrrhine. “Have you actually refused accommodation? My husband would surely beat me.”

“I was beaten by Acron,” said Calonice, “but I was surprisingly strong and refused to concede. Isn’t that true, Lysistrata?”

“It is,” said Lysistrata. “On the other hand, instead of being beaten herself, Nausica took a heavy stick to Cadmus, her husband. This may be possible in certain other instances.”

“As for me,” said Lampito, “I confess that I am becoming quite excited and would be willing to try it for the sake of peace if it were not for one thing which disturbs me. I have confidence in our ability in Sparta to bring our men to terms, once we are organized, but I doubt that Athenians will ever become peaceable for any reason whatever so long as they have a trireme or a drachma.”

“In reply to that,” said Lysistrata, “permit me to inform you that we have already taken the Acropolis, and it is even now in the hands of Nausica and her stout troops. Since the treasury of Athens, every drachma, is kept there in the Shrine of Athene, we control the public funds, as well as private accommodation, and nothing of either, believe me, shall be issued.”

“If this is true, I am fully convinced.”

“It’s perfectly true, and Calonice will verify it.”

“Not only is it true,” said Calonice, “but we are expecting a counterattack of old men at any time. Consequently, we had better conclude our deliberations as quickly as possible.”

“In that case,” said Lampito, “I am fully converted to the cause, and I shall return to Sparta at once to organize the rebellion personally. I promise the brave wives of Athens our fullest support.”

“I, too,” said the woman of Corinth. “I shall have all female Corinthians behind me in jig time.”

“How about the others?” said Lysistrata. “Are Boeotia and all the others with us?”

“So far as I can see,” said Lampito, “there is absolutely no use in wasting time calling the roll, especially if the old men are due to return for battle, as you say. We are all united, that’s plain, and we had better bind ourselves to the compact by oath immediately. Is that a skin of wine lying there on the ground?”

“Yes, it is. And that’s a large bowl beside it. Being women and therefore sensible, we shall slit the skin instead of a sheep, and swear in wine instead of blood. This is not only as effective, but a great deal more pleasant and economical.”

“It truly is,” said Lampito. “It is clearly evident already that affairs immediately improve the instant we women begin to assert ourselves. What shall we swear?”

“Simply that neither husband nor lover shall be accommodated until peace is secured for all on honorable terms.”

“Well,” said Lampito, “I am sure that I speak for all in agreeing unconditionally, and I am compelled to say that the sight of the skin has my tongue hanging quite out of my mouth. Fill the bowl at once, Calonice!”

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The old men toiled up the hill of the Acropolis. Straggling in a long line on the steep zig-zag path, carrying enormous flaming faggots with which they proposed, if necessary, to burn down the gates, they creaked and grumbled and cursed in their beards. At the head of the ragged column, accompanied by an old fellow whose name was Draces, was no one but Cadmus. Whenever they stopped to rest, which was frequently, Draces would berate Cadmus thoroughly, and the latter was of the opinion that he had surely been subjected to all the humiliation and abuse any one man should be called upon to bear, especially a man who was basically a philosopher and asked little of life except peace and wine and an occasional pleasant feast of eels.

Cadmus was not with the attacking force by design. In fact, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to think of a single place he would not have preferred being. He had simply been trapped, that was the truth of it, and it was all his fault for not staying quietly at home in bed and minding his own affairs. When Nausica had left the house in the small hours of the morning, obviously bent on some development of the mischief in which she was engaged, he had rolled out and followed her, and it was bad luck for him that he had. Skulking at the bottom of the hill of the Acropolis, he had been discovered by the old men when they descended, howling for reinforcements, and it was considered entirely appropriate by everyone but him, since Nausica had led the rebel force and was preparing a defense against them, that Cadmus should do his fair share in the approaching engagement. It was this cursed old goat beside him who had actually set up the loudest clamor about it, and now he simply would not let bad enough alone, but must continue constantly to harangue and abuse Cadmus. Cadmus was sick of it.

“I tell you, Cadmus,” Draces said, “it is utterly intolerable that you have permitted your wife to proceed so far in this deplorable conspiracy, and if you were at all adequate as a man you would have taken steps to prevent it.”

“Well,” said Cadmus angrily, “you are a great one to be casting aspersions on my adequacy, I must say! You were charged with the care of the Acropolis, and you have retreated like the basest cowards before a small force of women armed with sticks. And it is evident, moreover, as I have learned from comments of the others, that you personally put up the sorriest appearance of all. You needn’t think, Draces, that I am deaf and did not hear how you were frightened right out of your chiton and were chased naked among the shrines with a stout stick whacking your backside every other step.”

“I was caught at a disadvantage in the honorable performance of my duty, that’s all. It’s very petty of you, Cadmus, to ridicule me for what has happened. At least I participated valiantly in the engagement, in spite of any slanderous comments to the contrary that you may have heard or now care to invent, and this is more than you can claim, although your responsibility is clearly the greatest of all because of Nausica.”

“You are wrong there. I am not basically responsible at all. In fact, I am as injured in this as anybody, and a great deal more than most, and you are only exposing your ignorance, Draces, to accuse me unjustly. Lysistrata, wife of Lycon, is in truth the arch conspirator who devised this rebellion and developed it. Therefore, if there must be any guilt by association, Lycon is the one who qualifies. Unfortunately, he has run off to the war with his friend Acron, leaving me to bear the entire stigma, and I have done nothing except to marry, long ago at a time when it was impossible to anticipate the consequences, a woman excessively susceptible to foolishness.”

“Nevertheless, Nausica has played a principal part in the desecration of our shrines, to say nothing of having thrashed me naked with a stick, and you will see that she and her terrible companions withdraw at once, or you will pay a penalty, and it may be that you will pay one anyhow.”

“I do wish you would quit whining about your trifling beating, Draces. I have myself been beaten three times by Nausica, and I am in no frame of mind to be overly sympathetic with you.”

“The more shame on you, Cadmus. The idea of being beaten by one’s own wife whenever the fancy strikes her! There is certainly a difference, which you will admit if you are at all fair-minded, between being thrashed in the heat of a major engagement and weakly submitting to it in one’s own home.”

“There is no difference where Nausica is concerned, and I must warn you that I am sick of being scolded by you, Draces, and if you don’t stop, I shall pull out your beard and kick you down the hill.”

“Careful, Cadmus! You are in trouble enough already without getting into more by striking your superior officer, which is what I am.”

“Superior officer, indeed! In my judgment, Draces, you are not superior to anyone.”

“You are entitled to your judgment, I suppose, but if you are sensible you will not force me to exercise my authority. Anyhow, I can’t delay our attack any longer just to convince you of what you should already know, Cadmus. Let us get on with our duty, which is to destroy these treacherous women who have expelled us from the Acropolis and seized our shrines.”

Getting to his feet, Draces continued up the slope, the last steep climb below the crest, and the long line behind him also got into motion jerkily, the faggots giving off thick clouds of smoke that merged and swirled and hovered overhead. As he labored upward, his back bent and his thin legs wavering, Draces grumbled incessantly and cursed the smoke of the faggots that got into his eyes and stung them cruelly and caused the tears to stream down his sunken cheeks into his beard.

When the line of the attackers came upon the crest and moved toward the gates of the Acropolis, Draces and Cadmus came suddenly to a halt, the old men behind them piling upon one another and getting into a tangle of arms and legs and faggots and long poles. There was an uproar of cursing and complaining and shrill demands to move ahead, but Draces and Cadmus stood rooted, staring incredulously.

“What’s this?” said Draces. “Have these rash women actually come outside the walls to meet us?”

“Obviously they have,” said Cadmus, “and I am bound to say that they look quite fierce and determined, to say the least. Furthermore, that is clearly Nausica among them giving orders. What do you think is in the pots, Draces? If I am not mistaken, it is boiling water.”

“It is certainly water, and I would say, from the steam rising from the pots, that it has been boiling recently, if not at this moment.”

“Surely they wouldn’t throw it on us. That is far too depraved to be considered.”

“If you had been present when these shameless women fell upon us with sticks in the darkness, you would not consider anything too depraved for them to do. Cadmus, I tell you that your wife Nausica is a monster who justifies all the vilifications of Euripides. Previously, I was always inclined to think he exaggerated in the matter of the duplicity of women, but now I realize that he was far too conservative.”

Nausica, while Cadmus and Draces held up the attackers, had arranged the defenders before the gates to suit her, and now she turned and recognized Cadmus for the first time. She was clearly amazed to see him in such circumstances, and for a moment she could not speak at all, though she had intended to speak at once in defiance of the old men with their faggots.

“Is that you, Cadmus?” she called finally. “Is it a fact that you have not yet been sufficiently beaten and have come here like a simpleton to be beaten again? Very well. It is not necessary to wait any longer, for I have my stick here and will gladly accommodate you in this respect, although in no other. You, too, Draces. Do you wish another beating? I see you have put on your chiton again, and I must say that you look much more presentable than when I chased you naked among the shrines.”

“Do you hear the woman taunt me, Cadmus?” Draces said furiously. “As her husband, do you intend to stand here like a coward and tolerate such absolute insolence?”

“As to that,” said Cadmus, “I am moving forward as fast as you are, Draces, which is not at all. I suggest that you demonstrate some of the courage you accuse me of lacking.”

“Cadmus, your irresponsibility is simply beyond belief. This ferocious woman is admittedly your wife, and it is your duty to see that she does not cause trouble for honest folk who wish only to be left alone.”

“Well, she may be my wife, which I can’t deny, but you are the one she is insulting at present. Don’t expect me to defend you on every occasion, Draces. It won’t do. You are obligated to do a few things for yourself.”

“Curse me, Cadmus, I tell you frankly that I have always considered you a questionable fellow, but you have turned out to be far baser than I ever dreamed! As your leader, I demand to know what you propose to do.”

“I propose to let you lead, as a matter of fact, since you are so insistent upon being a leader.”

“Oh, I see that I can depend upon no one, and must do everything in this perilous business for myself. Stand aside, please, and give me room.”

More than willing for once to obey orders, Cadmus did as he was told, and Draces took two cautious steps forward and addressed Nausica in a loud voice, after waving his smoking faggot about his head a few times for effect.

“Nausica, you shameless woman,” he said, “if you do not wish your backside roasted by this faggot which you see in my hand, I charge you to disperse your wanton rabble and return to your home this instant.”

After the conclusion of his ultimatum, which he considered conservative and well-spoken, a shrill cackling of derision rose from the body of women before the gates, and the shrillest and most terrifying of all was the cackling of Nausica herself. Draces paled perceptibly and took a quick step backward.

“Are you serious, Draces?” Nausica said. “Do you honestly expect us to submit meekly to a nasty old man who jumps out of his chiton at the first raising of a stick? It is clear from the way you hesitate and prod yourself with words that you are nothing but a windbag. If you wish to roast my backside with your faggot, I invite you to come forward and try, and I promise that you shall soon see what our pots of water are for.”

“I can bear no more!” cried Draces. “I absolutely can bear not another insult from this unspeakable woman who desecrates our shrines and mocks their keepers.” Raising his smoking faggot he flourished it again above his head, causing it to burst suddenly into flame. “Forward!” he cried. “Forward into the citadel!”

He had not intended to issue the command so precipitately. Goaded into a kind of frenzied indiscretion by Nausica’s mockery, as well as by his own brave words, he did not allow himself time to assume a more tactical position of command, slightly more to the rear, and he was caught in the sudden surge of old men and propelled in spite of himself toward the ferocious Nausica. Picking up her pot, she dowsed him thoroughly with hot water and was upon him in an instant with her terrible stick. To make matters worse, the shock of the water caused him to drop his faggot, thus depriving him of his only weapon, and all he could do, being prevented from running by the press behind him, was to dance wildly in a futile effort to avoid the stick, and to cry out in a shrill voice for immediate help. All around him was a welter of action, which was characterized primarily by flailing sticks and howling old men, and which was made all the more sinister in effect by a great hissing and boiling of steam and smoke as water struck the faggots.

“Cadmus!” cried Draces. “Curse me, Cadmus, if you do not rescue me from your vicious bitch this instant, you will surely suffer severely!”

But Cadmus did not hear, and he certainly would not have responded if he had. He was by that time, in fact, a substantial distance down the zig-zag path on his way to the foot of the hill. Reacting more shrewdly and promptly than Draces to the occasion, he had immediately fallen flat on his face when the impetuous command to advance had


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been given. He had thus avoided being trapped by the surge that had carried Draces to his unfortunate engagement with Nausica. To be sure, he was somewhat trampled by the old men, but this was, in his judgment, preferable to being beaten and scalded.

Behind him on the path, he could hear the groans and wheezing of Draces’ retreating troops. The old fools, so far as he could see, were as great a menace as the rebellious women, and they could not understand that a man with a philosophical turn of mind simply was not cut out for this sort of rude business. It was true, of course, that Socrates himself had twice performed military service, but this was clearly exceptional and could not be taken as an example of what should be expected.

He did not even wait for the others at the foot of the hill.

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“Nausica,” said Lysistrata, “you have been inspirational and indispensable from the start, and I wish to commend you.”

“I seem to have a particular knack for military affairs,” said Nausica, “and that’s the truth.”

“I understand that the old men were thrown into confusion and disorder without delay. You have certainly acquitted yourself nobly, there’s no mistake about that. Do you anticipate still another attack?”

“No, I don’t, though we shall be prepared in any event. They were utterly routed and demoralized, and I consider it unlikely that they will venture again to accomplish what we have plainly demonstrated to be impossible. Oh, they were perfectly ludicrous, to tell the truth, and you would have laughed to see them coming up the hill with their chitons flapping around their spindly shanks. They waved their silly faggots and made threats against our backsides.”

“Truly? I know that I would have been greatly amused, and I regret that I was compelled to miss it by being otherwise engaged.”

“Well, I regret it, too, for you will certainly not believe me when I tell you who was in the forefront of the attackers.”

“According to my report, they were led by Draces.”

“That’s true. Draces was the leader, but at his side, obviously under some kind of compulsion, was no one but Cadmus.”

“Are you actually telling the truth? Cadmus beside Draces? That’s quite enough to make me laugh even in the telling, Nausica. I would have sworn that Cadmus was not the type to participate in anything that involved the slightest peril.”

“So he isn’t. But he was plainly present under some kind of compulsion. It would have been disgusting, if not so comical, to see how he behaved. It is no exaggeration to say that he was as white as your peplos, and he was shaking so that his teeth must have rattled like tambourines, if only it had been possible to hear them above the general confusion. Cadmus is a good provider and for the most part satisfactory as a husband, but he does not make a favorable impression under stress, and I am the first to admit it. In my opinion, he was sneaking about the outskirts and was detected and forced to do his share.”

“You threshed him soundly with your stick, of course.”

“I was unable to do it, as a matter of fact, for he miraculously disappeared in the thick of things. I have been puzzling about it ever since, and I can’t understand for the life of me how he accomplished it. First he was there, and then he simply wasn’t.”

Lysistrata, who was about to comment on this mystery, closed her mouth without speaking and stood staring intently over Nausica’s shoulder.

“Here are Calonice and Myrrhine coming in a hurry,” she said, “and it is apparent that something has occurred which requires my attention.”

Nausica turned and looked in the direction indicated by Lysistrata’s gaze.

“Yes,” she said. “They seem quite excited, for a fact, but this does not necessarily mean, in respect to Calonice and Myrrhine, that they have anything particularly significant on their minds.”

“True,” said Lysistrata. “But there is no use speculating, for we shall know at once. Calonice, whatever has prompted you and Myrrhine to come rushing at us in this alarming fashion?”

Calonice and Myrrhine, clearly convinced that they were bearing important news, however it might be evaluated in the end by Lysistrata, stopped and gasped and struggled to speak, and Calonice managed it first.

“There is a Magistrate at the gate,” Calonice said, “who demands admission.”

“Does he, indeed? And you admitted him without delay, naturally, and gave him every consideration.”

“To be truthful, I didn’t. Should I have? I was definitely under the impression, Lysistrata, that no man was to be admitted.”

“Oh, well, Calonice, I suppose it is futile to expect you to grasp the subtleties of irony. You were quite right in not admitting him.”

“I’m relieved to hear it, for we shut the gate in his face and called him names.”

“Good. What was his reaction to that?”

“He has with him a force of absolutely gigantic Scythians, and he is calling upon them to break down the gate.”

“The worse luck for them if they do. If they come inside the walls we shall certainly flay them properly with our sticks.”

“As for me,” said Nausica, “I had as soon beat a Scythian as an Athenian, and I might even prefer it, since they are not citizens.”

“Did he state his business?” said Lysistrata. “What does this Magistrate want?”

“He says he has a draft upon the treasury for drachmas with which to purchase oars.”

“This is more of the foolishness of war. No drafts upon the treasury are being honored. Did you tell him that?”

“Yes, I did. He then flew into such a rage that I thought he would drop of apoplexy, and I hurried here with Myrrhine, as you see, to relate the incident. No doubt he is urging his Scythians upon the gate at this moment, and you had better go there quickly if you wish to stop him.”

“Oh, we’ll stop him, all right. Nausica, you must come and lend me your support. Calonice, you and Myrrhine must come also. We shall certainly send this Magistrate and his ridiculous Scythians packing with their ears full.”

They started for the gate in a group, Calonice a little in advance in her assumed role of guide, though everyone knew the way perfectly well, and as they approached, the banging and clamor outside grew steadily louder.

“Nausica,” said Lysistrata, “this Magistrate has obviously prevailed upon his Scythians to assault the gate. Since your lungs are superior to mine, please tell them to draw back in order that we may go out to confront them.”

“Leave it to me,” said Nausica. “I shall put a proper fright into them, never fear.”

Moving up against the gate, she put her mouth close to the crack between the gate and the wall and began to shout in a loud voice that was truly remarkable in respect to volume.

“Step back, you scoundrels! If you do not retreat ten steps immediately, we will scald you thoroughly with boiling water that has been brought to the gate for the purpose.”

The Scythians, who were familiar with the fate of the old men, wasted no time in doing as they were told. The Magistrate, delaying only long enough to display sufficient additional defiance to do honor to his position, followed their example. After a few moments of comparative quiet, the gate opened enough to permit Lysistrata, followed by Nausica and Calonice and Myrrhine in that order, to slip out.

“Now,” said Lysistrata fiercely, “please explain this disturbance, if you don’t mind.”

“Well,” said the Magistrate in a high voice, “you are certainly either mad or the most brazen woman who ever lived. Disturbance, indeed! You have invaded the Acropolis, seized the treasury, beaten off the keepers, incited rebellion among the women of Athens, and you have the effrontery to accuse me, a Magistrate in the execution of his duty, of creating a disturbance! Scythians, seize this wicked slut and bind her with stout cords!”

“If I am touched by a single Scythian,” said Lysistrata, “you will be sorry.”

“We will throw you down and trample on your belly,” said Myrrhine.

Said Nausica, “I’ll snatch every Scythian present as bald as stones.”

“I’ll not tolerate this!” cried the Magistrate. “Scythians, if you do not wish to be butchered like sheep, you will fulfill the obligations of your office this moment, which is to seize and bind these insolent rebels.”

The Scythians, threatened from both sides, moved forward with apparent reluctance. Nausica, measuring the distance with precision, leaped forward with her stick and gave the nearest of them a whack on the skull that sent him sprawling headlong. Lysistrata, closing with the next, brought up a knee into his groin and then jerked him about by the hair when he doubled over and clutched himself and danced in agony. Calonice and Myrrhine, while not actually contributing anything in physical combat, emitted such shrill and horrifying screams that the other Scythians, a pair of them, retreated precipitately to a point behind the Magistrate.

“This,” said the Magistrate furiously, “is for a certainty the nadir of Athenian history. If I did not know better by virtue of common sense, I’d swear that I just saw four great, hulking Scythians utterly routed by as many spitting women, two by blows and kicks and two by nothing more than horrific shrieks.”

“Since you are in doubt of what you saw,” said Lysistrata, “perhaps you would care to step forward and be convinced by means of a personal demonstration.”

“Lysistrata, wife of Lycon, you are on perilous ground when you presume to threaten a Magistrate! I demand as a duly constituted official that you clarify your position in this treasonous action. Why do you bar the gates of the Acropolis?”

“That’s simply answered. So that we may make ourselves and the treasury unavailable to idiots.”

“Idiots! Did you say idiots?”

“Being kind by nature and inclined in all cases to generosity, I did.”

“Oh, I see now what’s truly at the bottom of your activity. You are completely mad, that’s what, and have exploited these foolish women for your own ends with a craftiness that everyone knows is frequently a quality of madness. Tell me, you mad bitch, what do you hope to gain? Is it power? Position? Or do you merely want to make a spectacle of yourself for the sake of your insatiable vanity?”

“None of these, old idiot. My motive is unimpeachable, which is more than can be said for you in your petty public duties, I’m sure, for I’ve no doubt that one drachma drops into your pocket for every two you spend for supplies. I want the end of the war, as do all the women of Athens.”

“And how, if I am not impertinent in asking, do you propose to achieve that which has eluded the greatest of Athenian statesmen since Pericles?”

“I have already made our position clear, I think, but I’m happy to repeat myself for your sake, since you are obviously old and somewhat senile and no longer have full control of your wits. We will administer the treasury as we administer household accounts, sensibly and for good purposes, which eliminates at once such things as your silly oars and all other items intended to supply the needs of war. In the meanwhile, until peace is secured, we have resolved to accommodate no man. This latter position would be ineffective with the likes of you, of course, considering the deficiency that is part of your age, but it is certain, nevertheless, to influence those who still have the sap running in them.”

“Well, I can see that insanity does not necessarily preclude a sense of humor. You are really very funny, I must admit, and I’d have a good laugh if it weren’t that your foolishness is certain to have unfortunate consequences.”

“You are quite free to laugh if you choose. You are an old man, which is the same as saying an old idiot, and it is expected, therefore, that you will see nothing plausible in behaving with good sense. In self-defense, in order to sustain the fable of their superiority, men insist that we women restrict ourselves to the supervision of housekeeping and the assumption of interesting positions for our husbands after they have, with their friends, become inflamed with wine and loud discussions of nonsense. If we ask about public affairs, we are told not to concern ourselves. If we venture an opinion, we are told not to be presumptuous. Meanwhile, as Athens groans and staggers under the endless burdens of war, Sparta beating us at every turn, men continue to swagger in the marketplace with shields and swords and lances, as if they had gathered to assault the lentils. It seems, in fact, that they must surely lie awake nights thinking up ways of displaying their silly conceits. This is truly intelligent behavior!”

“Woman, have a care! Are you honestly prepared to mock the heroes of Athens?”

“Heroes, indeed! If these are heroes, we are sick of them. They are forever dashing off here and there in a great pother to make Greek widows and orphans for no good reason, and in the meanwhile we are forced to lie in beds that are half empty.”

All the time Lysistrata was talking, the Magistrate was clearly becoming more and more agitated, and by the time she had finished, he was dancing up and down in one place in a perfect frenzy of rage.

“I will not listen to another word!” he cried. “I tell you that I am determined to have, without further foolishness, the drachmas necessary for the purchase of oars, and I warn you that I am becoming so furious that I have a feeling of being on fire.”

“Well,” said Lysistrata, “we cannot favor you by honoring your draft for drachmas, but at least I can do you the service of putting out your fire.”

Saying this, she picked up a pot of water and threw the contents on the Magistrate. Turning then, she went back through the gate, followed by Nausica and Calonice and Myrrhine. The Magistrate, dancing and cursing with marvelous agility and malevolence, urged his Scythians to the bloodiest of massacres, but the Scythians didn’t seem to have the heart for it.

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Smoothly, swiftly, softly as a shadow, Theoris glided on bare feet across the courtyard past the statue of Hestia to the entrance to the kitchen. It was very dark inside the kitchen, but she moved with assurance, having carefully committed to memory the positions of all possible impediments. She was, therefore, as much startled as injured, though she barked a shin fearfully, when she stumbled over a low bench and fell sprawling to the floor. Before she could raise herself, she was seized roughly by a huge paw and hauled to her feet.

“So you are a thief, as well as a tease and a liar,” the cook said. “It is apparent that you have absolutely no character at all.”

She called him a dirty name, and he guffawed.

“Also,” he said, “you have a foul mouth. In spite of your ridiculous pretensions, you are clearly no better than you have to be. I am greatly tempted to demonstrate what is quite likely to happen to ignorant wenches with flippant behinds who sneak into the cook’s kitchen in the middle of the night to steal wine.”

“If you molest me in the slightest, you lewd ruffian,” she said, “you will surely come to a worse end than has been predicted even for you.”

“My, what a brave-talking, lying, teasing, thieving slut you are! There is absolutely no limit to your gall. By laying a clever ambush, I catch you slinking barefooted and half-naked into the kitchen at night to steal wine, and you are actually capable of threatening me for finding you out!”

“It is only your opinion that I came here to steal wine. You have no proof whatever. If you were half so clever as you think you are, you would have brought a witness and waited until I was in possession of your precious wine. As it is, if you accuse me, I shall be compelled to say that you are only trying to play me a dirty trick because I refused to submit to your naughty propositions.”

“Wait a minute! This won’t do at all. Do you think I’m so stupid that I’ve been unaware that the wine has been disappearing at an unwarranted rate ever since the Mistress left? You have been stealing it, all right, you little thief, and I am also of the opinion that you have been taking liberties with the Mistress’s things, and have, in fact, been sleeping in her bed.”

“Really? I’m surprised that a lout like you is capable of forming an opinion. And what, I would like to know, makes you think that I’ve been sleeping in the Mistress’s bed? Have you possibly been prowling past the door at night, where you have absolutely no business, in hopes of seeing something that would excite your base nature? I believe, now that you have practically confessed it, that I shall tell the Mistress what you have been up to. You will certainly be skinned alive at the very least.”

“I think not. Not after I have reported that you stole wine, got drunk, and used the Mistress’s bed for your evening’s activity.”

This was said with such assurance that Theoris hesitated before replying. Staring up through darkness at the cook’s face, she wished greatly that there was a light so that she could study his expression. He was such an accomplished liar that she could not be certain from the timbre of his voice whether he was bluffing or speaking truthfully for a change. At any rate, it might be well to proceed with a little caution before alienating him entirely.

“What a wickedly slanderous fellow you are! You have no respect whatever for one’s reputation, do you? You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

“Should I? Please tell me why I should show any more respect for your reputation than you show yourself. The truth is, as I have stated several times, you are a liar, a thief, a tippler and a fornicator, and there is nothing slanderous in speaking the truth. If you do not wish to be called such names, you should quit giving cause.”

Seeing that he was so assured and so emphatic, she decided that it might be wise to maneuver the conversation into another direction. She had, of course, been helping herself to the wine, and she was inclined to believe, moreover, that the unpredictable fellow had actually ventured to peep in at the door of the Mistress’s room at an unfortunate time.

“Please let go of my arm,” she said. “You are hurting me with your great horny claw, and I am certain to be black and blue in the morning. Do you wish to give me evidence to prove to the Mistress that you attacked me physically?”

“You have worn out that threat of telling the Mistress this or that, my little fraud. I tell you finally that I am not at all concerned about your telling the Mistress anything whatever.”

“No? Do you believe that she would accept your word over mine in respect to any difference? I warn you that I am held in high esteem by the Mistress.”

“That makes absolutely no difference, so far as I can see, for the Mistress is obviously never coming back.”

“Not coming back! Besides being ugly and vulgar and slanderous, you now demonstrate that you are a fool as well. Why shouldn’t the Mistress come back?”

“If you weren’t twice the fool you accuse me of being, you would see that she has destroyed herself by organizing this wild rebellion of wives.”

“On the contrary, it is quite successful. She is secure and indomitable in the Acropolis and has been so now for three weeks.”

“Do you actually expect the men of Athens to submit to such pressure?”

“Certainly. Of Athens and Corinth and Sparta and Boeotia and all the rest. The news is abroad for all but stupid fellows like you to hear. Being deprived of accommodation throughout the peninsula, the erstwhile valiant warriors are all in heat and groaning for peace.”

“You are a pretentious little slut, I must say. If one did not know in advance that you are an inveterate liar, one might be impressed. How would an ignoramus like you know what is going on throughout the peninsula?”

“I am not by any means so ignorant as it pleases you to imagine. I make a point of keeping up on current affairs.”

“Oh, certainly, certainly! I’m sure that you are constantly in touch with the most important and best informed people in Athens.”

“You may be as sarcastic as you like, but there are ways of learning things if one only has ears and brains. Although you are generously equipped with the former, it is unfortunate that you are deficient in the latter.”

“I beg your tolerance, you remarkable wench, I really do. You must be patient with underprivileged fellows like me, who are so busy becoming recognized masters of their trades that they have no time to peep into bed-chambers and pick up gossip in the slave quarters, and hardly have time, in fact, to trap pretty thieves in the kitchen at night.”

“I am quite willing to be patient, and even amicable, if you will only make an effort to be a little less offensive. Do you concede that I am pretty?”

“Do you concede that you are a thief?”

“Being a woman, I would consider the concessions a fair exchange.”

“In that case, I must be fair and admit that you are pretty. But that we are amicable, and since I deprived you of your wine by preventing your stealing it, I might be prevailed upon to share a bowl with you. What do you think of that?”

“I think it is exceedingly generous, which I am happy to admit in our new amiable relationship, and I accept on one condition.”

“What condition?”

“Well, I am inclined to relax excessively under the influence of wine, and you must promise to behave properly for both of us.”

“I’m not sure that I can make such a promise in good faith, for I have the same inclination that you have. I’ll tell you what I’ll do, however. I promise to repent for both of us afterward, if necessary, which will relieve you of any discomfort in the matter whatever.”

“You are truly being amiable,” she said, “and I accept the condition as being satisfactory.”

15

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Lysistrata was worried and depressed. Standing quietly near the base of the colossal statue of Athene Promachos, she held the elbow of her right arm in the cup of her left hand. With the thumb and index finger of her right hand she alternately pinched and released her lower lip in a gesture that indicated intense concentration. As she stared at the ground a few feet ahead of her, her brows were drawn down in an expression of absolute ferocity. Nausica, approaching her, was aware at once that something was amiss, but she could not for the life of her imagine what it was.

“Lysistrata,” she said, “it is apparent that you are disturbed about something. You are looking absolutely fierce.”

“It’s true that I’m disturbed — and angry,” said Lysistrata, looking up and discontinuing the abuse of her lip. “As a matter of fact, something has developed that is a far greater threat to our success than any other threat to date, and I am frank to say that I am uncertain as to the proper measures to take against it.”

“In that case, perhaps you had better confide in me. It may be that I can resolve the matter with my stick.”

“I don’t think so. I confess that I’ve been tempted to whack a few backsides myself, but I doubt that it would be effective in the present difficulty. Have you detected growing evidence of dissatisfaction among the women?”

“Well, I’ve heard considerable grumbling, if that’s what you mean, but this is natural under the best of circumstances and can only be expected among women with less fortitude than you and I possess.”

“It’s a fact that you and I are exceptional. That has been proven. However, the nature of this enterprise precludes our being able to conclude it satisfactorily alone, and we are imperiled by weaklings.”

“I declare, Lysistrata, I do wish you would simply say outright what it is that disturbs you.”

“Defection, that’s what. The women are all in a passion for the very thing they are sworn to withhold. They are absolutely shameless in their behavior, Nausica, and I am astonished that you haven’t noticed it.”

“As I have told you, I have rather worn out my enthusiasm for this form of entertainment, except now and then on special occasions, and that is why I may be somewhat deficient in recognizing the symptoms of those who have not.”

“I assure you that there is no limit to their duplicity, and they exercise incredible craftiness in devising ways to take unauthorized leave. Not an hour ago I intercepted one trying to slip out the postern gate by the Cave of Pan. And yesterday, if you will believe it, one actually tried to lower herself from the wall by means of a rope. They are absolutely frantic, that’s the truth, and I am compelled to confess that I am not entirely unsympathetic, being myself somewhat disturbed in the same way, but it is necessary to be exceptionally strong at this critical period.”

“I agree. It is certainly a bad sign for our cause if these passionate geese are prepared to jeopardize everything for the sake of accommodation.”

“We must be all the more vigilant, Nausica, that’s what. Besides, there is a brighter interpretation to this, if you will only take the trouble to see it.”

“Well, I’m perfectly willing to take the trouble, so far as that goes, but I am still unable to see anything bright in this development.”

“Stop to consider, Nausica. If the women are so frantic, what do you suppose is the condition of the men?”

“Why, frantic, of course! That’s perfectly logical, Lysistrata. You are quite clever to see it so clearly.”

“As leader, it is my duty to see affairs clearly. It can be taken as established that our men have, by this time, been driven to desperation. It is well-known that one always feels that he must have at once at any price whatever he is denied. Any philosopher will tell you that. So now it is simply a matter of seeing who can restrain themselves the longer, Nausica, the men or the women. Our business has reached its crisis.”

“You are right. I can see that this is so, now that you have pointed it out, and I am thankful that you have done so, for I shall be doubly alert for signs of desertion. I promise you, Lysistrata, if I catch even one of these silly women trying to slip through a gate or scale a wall in an attempt to run off to bed, I shall use my stick upon her behind so roughly that she will be forced to maintain an upright position, even if she escapes me.”

“Exercise reasonable control. We must not be too severe. This is a kind of weakness that I can understand, even though you can’t. However, it is certain that we must prevent any general defection, and if we must abuse a few behinds to accomplish it, that is what we’ll do. I tell you, though, Nausica, it is impossible not to admire the ingenuity of these women. They can in an instant devise the most elaborate lies to justify temporary leave to go home, and you shall see at once that this is true, for here come two of them now. See the expressions on their faces? Did you ever in your life before see such perfect innocence mixed with such honest distress? They have their stories fixed in advance, that’s plain, the dissembling little sluts, and it will require all my mental discipline, which is considerable, to render a judgment based on the simple truth that they are monstrous liars and cannot be trusted for a moment.”

The two women approached, stopped a few paces away and stood waiting. For a minute or two, in order to discomfit them and perhaps deter them in their palpable scheme to deceive, Lysistrata ignored their presence completely. Then, turning suddenly, she looked at them directly with a ferocious scowl, but she was forced to admit that it did not seem particularly effective.

“Well,” she said, “you have obviously come to speak with me, although you stand there like bumpkins and say nothing at all. I advise you to speak up quickly, for you can see that I am in conference with Nausica, who is second in command here, and I am not inclined at this time to concede more than a few minutes to you at most.”

It was her feeling that a brusque voice and the scowl might serve to convince the two women in advance that it would be dangerous to trifle with the truth, but it was evident immediately that they were not to be denied, being motivated by something a great deal more compelling than any dread of Lysistrata or Nausica or both. One of the pair, a young woman who was, in fact, hardly more than a girl, took another step forward and began to speak boldly.

“To tell the truth,” she said, “I have just remembered something that makes it necessary for me to go home.”

“Really? That’s very interesting, I must say, and you have no idea how much I appreciate your consideration in coming to tell me instead of attempting, like others I could mention, to clamber over a wall or slip through a gate. What is it that compels you to go home in such a rush?”

“When I heard of the capture of the Acropolis, I left so hurriedly


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to join the forces of the women that I quite forgot a quantity of new Miletus wool I had just purchased. If it is not attended to properly, it will surely spoil, and I must go home at once and bed it down.”

Lysistrata turned to Nausica with a look of contrition.

“Nausica,” she said, “I have done this honest girl a gross injustice. I predicted, as you know, that she would lie to me flagrantly, and instead she has told the simple truth. She wishes, she says, to go home and bed something down, and I believe her without reservation.” Turning to the other of the two women with the same look of contrition, she said, “I shall not do you the injustice that I have done your friend, for I am convinced that you could not be in her company and be anything but truthful, and that you will certainly give honest answers to honest questions. Do you wish to go home also?”

“Yes, I do. It is necessary that I go without delay.”

“Would you object to telling me why?”

“I have some flax that I must strip.”

“You see, Nausica?” Lysistrata looked so delighted that she seemed for a moment on the verge of skipping and clapping her hands like a child. “At last we have found an honest pair. One wants to go home and bed something down, while the other desires to go home and strip, and each says so straight-forwardly and without equivocation. They are precious young things, to be sure, and it makes me feel worse than I can say to be compelled to tell them that stripping and bedding are contrary to the spirit and practice of our cause and are not allowed.”

“It’s a shame,” said Nausica. “It truly is. I am myself so overwhelmed with compassion for these two sweet girls that I can hardly contain it. Bed, says one. Strip, says the other. I swear that I have never before been privileged to observe such engaging openness in a sex which is said generally to be deceptive.”

The two young women, understanding at last that they were being castigated with soft words, began to squirm and look as if they wished themselves immediately elsewhere. Lysistrata, turning back to them from Nausica, saw that it was time to abandon her tactic of sarcasm and deal directly with the matter. She assumed again her ferocious scowl.

“Did you actually presume to think,” she said, “that I am so dull as to be deceived by your foolish talk of wool and flax? Your verbs are more significant than your nouns, you simple geese, and I am just the one to perceive it. Shame on you! Do you wish to jeopardize all we have accomplished by submitting prematurely to the appeal of accommodation? Don’t you realize that our men are surely in as desperate a condition as we are, if not more so, and that they are already at the point of concession? Now is the time of crisis when we must all adhere strictly to the terms of our allegiance, for I have heard within the day from my friend Lampito of Sparta that the men of her country are already at work organizing a peace party to sue for terms. As your leader, so that all this may not be lost, I charge you to abandon your plans for immediate pleasure and to return at once to your duties, whatever they are, and I assign my comrade Nausica the task of seeing that you reach your assigned places safely.”

Without further delay or any open dissension whatever, the two frustrated women turned and walked away, followed briskly by Nausica, who brandished her stick a little to signify what might very well happen if they ventured to resist. They had gone no more than half a dozen yards before Myrrhine of Anagyra arrived breathlessly from another direction in a state of high excitement.

“Well, Myrrhine,” said Lysistrata, “it seems that every time I see you, you are coming in a great rush from someplace or other. What in the world is disturbing you now?”

“Lysistrata, you will never guess who has been permitted to come inside our lines, and if I told you, you would surely not believe me.”

“As to that, you had better tell me and find out, which will at least save a great deal of time, if it accomplishes nothing else.”

“It’s Cinesias.”

“Cinesias? You sound as if you were saying Pericles at the very least, but I would swear that you said Cinesias. Is it a secret, or would you be willing to tell me who Cinesias is?”

“Why, Cinesias is my husband, of course.”

“Oh, of course! I should certainly have realized immediately that he is your husband, though I have never heard his name spoken previously to my knowledge, for there is some kind of edict, I believe, which makes it impossible for you to have a husband of any other name.”

“It is not kind or even courteous, Lysistrata, for you to be so sarcastic on every occasion. It is getting so that one cannot consult you at all without getting blistered.”

“I’m sorry. You are right, and I must certainly exercise a greater patience. It is the constant stress of my responsibility that causes it. Tell me, Myrrhine, what does your precious Cinesias want?”

“Surely that can be assumed, Lysistrata. He wants what he is being deprived of, naturally. I am quite positive of this, though I ran directly here after hearing of his arrival and have not seen him or spoken with him yet.”

“Good. He is surely in an absolute frenzy to have taken such risks in coming to you, and we shall see that he is in no less of one when he leaves. I’ll tell you what we must do, Myrrhine. I’ll go and encounter him first, while you stand some distance away and out of sight. I’ll fan his fever by reporting how much you love him and how ardently you long for him, and all in all I’ll lead him to believe that he will surely consummate his mission here. When he has reached the precise point of readiness, I’ll call you to come, and you must carry on from there.”

“Carry on? What is the meaning of that?”

“Not what you clearly wish, I assure you. You must encourage him, excite him, and finally frustrate him utterly. This is essential.”

“Poor Cinesias! I doubt that I shall be able to treat him so shabbily.”

“Poor Cinesias, indeed! Poor Myrrhine is what you mean. Do you think I am not sensitive to your condition? If Lycon were to appear at this moment, I should be in a perfect state myself.”

“I doubt that I shall have the endurance to withstand his entreaties, Lysistrata, I truly do.”

“Don’t worry about that. I’ll be watching you at all times from near by, which is something you had better not forget. I guarantee that you will not be permitted to achieve a position from which you can’t retreat, or at least be rescued.”

“Well, you had better be prepared to act in an instant, if necessary, for I warn you that I am quite weak in situations of this sort and have practically no capacity at all for resisting temptation.”

“Never mind that. As I said, I will help you resist, if necessary, for I am not so susceptible as you are, though not invulnerable. Where is Cinesias now?”

“I was told that he is waiting near the Cave of Pan.”

“I’ll go there at once and talk with him. Remember, please, that you are to follow at a distance and not be seen until the proper time. Is that understood?”

Myrrhine said that it was, though with little conviction, and Lysistrata turned away and went directly to the area where Cinesias was said to be waiting. He was there, as reported, and she could detect the signs of his agitation as she approached. Assuming the ferocious scowl which she had found useful in matters of discipline, she accosted him boldly.

“What are you doing here, you reckless fellow? Are you aware that you could hardly have found a more perilous place if you had searched the world for it?”

“I am here looking for Myrrhine, if you want to know,” he said, “and I warn you not to trifle with me in the least, for I am bound to have her in spite of anything.”

“Well, you are a belligerent rascal, I’ll say that for you. Kindly identify yourself at once if you wish to escape being flayed alive.”

“I’m Cinesias of Anagyra, that’s who I am.”

“Myrrhine’s husband?”

“In name I am. In fact, as you well know, I can’t claim to be.”

“I do know, and I am, whether you believe it or not, filled with true compassion for you. It is very hard to go neglected for so long a time.”

“I’m happy to learn that you think so. Perhaps, in that case, you would be willing to alleviate my condition as a substitute for my irresponsible wife.”

“You mustn’t tempt me to such indiscretion. From what Myrrhine has reported, I am already disposed to accept your invitation.”

“What do you mean? What has Myrrhine said of me?”

“It would be simpler to tell you what she hasn’t  said. She talks of you incessantly, and sometimes becomes rather a bore about it, to tell the truth, though I am now more inclined, after seeing you, to be tolerant in my judgment. She says, among other extravagant things, that you are handsome and tender and ingenious in love. I have myself heard her call out to you in her sleep, hugging herself in ecstasy all the while.”

“Do you know where she is?”

“As a matter of fact, I do.”

“Go get her at once, or take me to her.”

“I am filled with compassion for you, as I admitted, but it is forbidden to entertain men or to be a party to it. I’d be running a great risk in assisting you.”

“What could they do to you if you were detected?”

“They could thresh me with their sticks, that’s what they could do. This is the very least punishment I could expect and is no slight matter, I assure you. However, your own courage in coming here has inspired me to imitate it. If you will stay here quietly, I’ll send Myrrhine to you, and all I ask is that you practice a little discretion and promise not to involve me in anything unfortunate that may develop.”

“You will not be involved in any way. I promise.”

Leaving him in a state of greater agitation than ever, since his anticipation was now given a reasonable chance of fulfillment, Lysistrata retreated and exchanged places with Myrrhine, who approached Cinesias in turn. Lysistrata watched developments closely, prepared to advance in an instant if Myrrhine proved excessively susceptible and permitted things to get out of hand. The truth was, though she did not care to admit it, she had herself been severely tempted to indiscretion with Cinesias, more because of his simple availability than anything else, and she was for that reason more sceptical than ever that Myrrhine was to be trusted at all in such a delicate and critical situation.

“Myrrhine,” said Cinesias, “is it actually you?”

“It actually is,” said Myrrhine.

“I swear I have never seen you look so absolutely ravishing before. To be honest, I came here with the intention of beating you soundly before taking any other action, but now I have decided to change the order of things, and in fact I may not beat you at all.”

“That’s kind of you, I’m sure. And what comes first in the new order?”

“Why, love, of course. As a husband, I intend to love you at once in accordance with my rights.”

“Well, I have never denied that I love you and take pleasure in accommodating you, and I am not prepared to deny it now, but it must be clear even to you that certain things are not accomplished in certain places.”

“Tell me quickly what you mean, for I am not in a humor to discuss the matter at length.”

“It’s wide open here, as you can plainly see if you will look about you. Anyone who happened to come along could see us, and this would be, in my opinion, somewhat embarrassing.”

“That’s no great problem, if you are so modest. We’ll go into the Cave of Pan.”

“What would we lie upon?”

“So far as I’m concerned, the grass will be satisfactory.”

“Well, I’m not so common as to lie on the grass, even if you are, and I insist upon something more appropriate.”

“I’ll carry in a bench.”

“That might serve the purpose if we had some cushions.”

“I declare, Myrrhine, you seem determined to drive me to distraction. I simply can’t understand why you wish to make an issue of cushions at a time like this.”

“I am not going to break my back on a hard bench, whatever you may think of me. If you wish me to accommodate you in the Cave of Pan, you must find some cushions for the bench, and a cover besides.”

“That’s clearly impossible. Where would I find cushions and a cover here?”

“That’s your problem. If you are half so anxious as you pretend, you will manage. Moreover, we must have some perfume with which to scent ourselves.”

“Perfume! Do you expect me to carry bottles of myrrh in my chiton?”

“Perfume is essential, as you know very well. Only the most vulgar women accommodate unscented men.”

“Well, you may be as delicate and refined as you like, and you may cry to heaven for cushions and covers and myrrh, but I am tired of this intolerable evasion, and I propose to show you instantly just how vulgar a man can be when he is provoked sufficiently.”

Saying this, he leaped forward and seized Myrrhine by the hair, but Lysistrata charged at that moment from her place of observation with such ferocity, raising at the same time such a clamor for assistance, that he released his hold immediately and took to his heels. Not actually wishing to capture him, nor even knowing what disposition she would make of him if she did, Lysistrata gave up the pursuit and watched him disappear.

“Myrrhine,” she said, “you were truly admirable, and I want to tell you so.”

“I would prefer that you didn’t,” said Myrrhine, “for the truth is, I wish you had not felt called upon to interfere.”

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Staring across the bright water of the bay toward the wooded island of Sphacteria, Lycon thought bitterly that it was simply impossible to anticipate the trouble one might come into, or the dirty tricks that might be played upon one by the gods. It seemed to be entirely irrelevant that one did one’s duty and behaved consistently in a reverent and patriotic manner. One’s life turned sour just the same, and instead of being rewarded for one’s honest efforts with pleasures and the regard of his fellows, he was humiliated and made a fool of, and deprived of all pleasures whatever. There was certainly no justice in this, so far as he could see, and it was extremely difficult to maintain a proper attitude under such unmerited adversity.

It was simply incredible how certain things lost the importance once attributed to them, and how other things, on the other hand, acquired importance they had never seemed previously to possess. This was a peculiar metamorphosis and quite disturbing to one’s sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, and it was definitely not fair that one should be made to feel that he had wasted practically all his life in the pursuit of costly trifles that were in no way worth the time and effort. Pylos was a case in point, though it would certainly not be wise to admit it publicly. When it was established as an Athenian fortification under Demosthenes in the seventh year of the war, it was considered a glorious victory and had been celebrated in the streets and marketplace of Athens. It had in fact caused withdrawal of Spartan troops under the general Agis from the soil of Attica, but by and large, nothing much else had come of it.

The Spartans had occupied the island in the bay, the same which could now be seen, and had been blockaded there by the Athenian fleet. Their position was clearly hopeless, which they were finally ready to acknowledge, and they sent an embassy to the Assembly of Athens to sue for peace, which would have ended the war long ago. But Cleon had wanted the chitons off their backs, nothing less, and so nothing was agreed upon, and the war went on, as it was still going. Eventually, with the assistance of a great fire which swept the island and destroyed defenses, the Athenians had invaded the island and defeated the Spartans, who had surrendered, but by this time it was too late to arrange terms of peace as a result, and it had been, in the opinion of Lycon, who was now thinking of it, entirely too bad, to put it mildly, for if peace had been secured, it was quite likely that he would not now be in the shameful and unfortunate position in which he in fact was.

Affairs changed so quickly, that was one of the great troubles. One was given no time at all to prepare himself or to decide upon a reasonable course of action in given circumstances. Only a short while ago, he reflected bitterly, he had been a happy man with no good reason at all to believe that he would be otherwise in the near future. He had done honorable service at Pylos for seven months and ten days and was on his way home to a wife whom he considered exceptional in the qualities and skills that give pleasure to a husband, and he had nothing on his mind but accommodation and comparable pleasantries. There was simply no way to anticipate that he was on the verge of ruin, everything going sour all at once, and that he was by the incomprehensible caprice of the gods doomed in his innocence to humiliation and disgrace, an object of the contempt and anger of his fellows who had once held him in high esteem.

It was absolutely intolerable, the way he was treated. He, Lycon of Athens, who had done battle with Spartans. He was plainly scorned and avoided, as if he were at least a leper, and he was forced constantly to resort to Acron for companionship. He was also scorned and avoided too. But though a fine fellow in his way and a crony of long standing, Acron did become rather tedious, if he was taken too steadily and without relief. There were even certain unreasonable fellows who were furious with him, and wished him punished severely as being in some way responsible for all that had happened. He had heard mutterings and threats that made him wonder about his safety, and he had actually been compelled to punch an Anagyrian in the eye for making remarks that could only be taken as insulting.

It had been a mistake to return to Pylos so quickly. That had to be conceded. He had thought, of course, that his difficulty would, in effect, resolve itself, but he had been wrong about it. It was apparent that nothing had improved at home, but on the contrary everything had gotten worse than he had ever dreamed possible. Well, he was prepared now to believe anything, for anything imaginable was surely possible in a world where someone like Lysistrata and her crazy friend Calonice could start a rebellion of women that could spread throughout Attica and all the states of the Peloponnesus in little or no time at all and have all the men in a positive frenzy. He had even heard that Sparta was actually capitulating to the extent of sending an embassy to negotiate for peace. He had heard it, and he believed it, for he was ready to believe anything whatever. If he and Acron had remained in Athens instead of running off to Pylos, it was unlikely that anything would have turned out better, but certainly nothing could have have turned out worse, and perhaps they would at least have been given credit for trying and would not now be glared and grumbled at by quondam cronies who even threatened them at times with bodily damage.

What he had been thinking he would do, and was now determined to do in spite of anything, was to return to Athens the quickest possible way and take whatever consequences were to be taken, and he wondered if there was a supply vessel going there anytime soon that he could catch a ride on.

Starting out toward the island of Sphacteria, he was so absorbed in his thoughts that he didn’t hear Acron approaching from behind, but he was aware of his presence all at once.

“Hello, Acron,” he said, not turning his head.

“Hello, Lycon,” Acron said gloomily. “How are things with you?”

“Things with me are bad, and you know it.”

“Yes, I do, and they are equally bad with me.”

“It serves you right, Acron. Don’t think that I have forgotten how you abused and blamed me in the beginning of this business, and now it is only just that you should suffer the same treatment for having been so unreasonable.”

“Well, I was excessively upset at the time, and I’ll not deny that I may have used poor judgment. I declare, Lycon, you have the most tenacious memory for matters which would be better forgotten. Anyhow, it would be foolish for us to renew our differences now, for if we did, neither of us would have a soul in the world to associate with.”

“That’s true. Our necessary interdependence extends even to the passing of the time of day.”

“I’ve been thinking of old Cadmus lately. I wonder how he’s making out.”

“It was reported by an Athenian who was on leave at the time that he disgraced himself completely in an engagement on the Acropolis, going the opposite way from everyone else, and that he is scarcely seen outside his house since that time.”

“I doubt that Cadmus feels the disgrace to any appreciable extent. He has a hide like an elephant in such matters.”

“You are right there. His staying so closely at home undoubtedly has more to do with security than a sense of shame.”

“I can’t help feeling a little guilty about him, though, to tell the truth. When we came back to Pylos, we did not leave him in an enviable position, you’ll have to admit that.”

“I’m perfectly willing to admit it.”

“Tell me, Lycon, what do you think will be the outcome of it all?”

“I wouldn’t venture to predict, and I don’t even like to think about it, for I can see terrifying possibilities every way I look.”

“It makes me uncomfortable to hear you talk like that, Lycon. I swear it does. Do tell me what you mean precisely.”

“Well, suppose the rebellion is put down without anything established. It is highly unlikely, as I see it, that we will be permitted to resume our former stations without suffering any consequences whatever, and the consequences are likely to be unfortunate by even the most conservative estimate. On the other hand, if the rebellion succeeds, Lysistrata and Calonice, as well as the other women involved, will certainly be arrogant and intolerable and impossible to live with pleasantly.”

“Do you think it can possibly succeed, Lycon? Do you really?”

“Incredible as it may seem, I’m beginning to believe it can. You have heard the reports the same as I, Acron, and are surely aware of the fantastic accomplishments to date. I have it from witnesses that Nausica, wife of old Cadmus, is an absolute demon when it comes to combat.”

“I don’t know. I would never have believed such a thing possible, and it is confusing and rather alarming to discover all of a sudden that it is. Did you hear the news that Sparta is considering a peace embassy?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Do you think acceptable terms can be arranged?”

“I would not have thought so a month ago, but now I am not so certain.”

“Tell me truly, Acron, how do you feel personally regarding the establishment of a peace? We are quite alone here, and you can speak freely to an old friend.”

“Between the two of us, I am in favor of it.”

“Really? Do you actually want to quit killing Spartans and other Greeks?”

“Yes, I am ready to quit. The war does not seem to interest me as much as it formerly did.”

“Since you have answered me so honestly, I may as well admit that I would also like to quit. I have been intrigued lately by the prospect of doing other things. It seems to me, however, that there are points of difference which can never be settled to everyone’s satisfaction. I’m certain, for example, that the Spartans would never quit unless we agreed to return Pylos to them.”

“It would serve them right if we did,” said Lycon bitterly.

They were silent for a few minutes, remaining quietly side by side and staring out across the bay.

“It is unbearable here,” Acron said after a while.

“I agree,” said Lycon. “Things are made difficult for us.”

“We are scorned and shunned and made to feel miserable.”

“That’s true.”

“Do you suppose it would be possible to leave?”

“Since you ask the question, I don’t mind admitting that I plan to go back to Athens on the first supply vessel that will take me.”

“Would you object to my going along?”

“Not at all,” said Lycon. “You are welcome to come if you want to.”

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Lysistrata was radiant. She had bathed and scented herself with perfumes and unguents and had put on a purple robe. Her hair was bound about her head in thick, bright braids.

“Lysistrata,” said Nausica, “you are at this moment as beautiful as any woman I have ever seen, and I doubt that Helen herself, in spite of all the claims made for her by Homer, was any more beautiful.”

“I agree,” said Calonice, “and this leads me to wonder if it is quite safe for you to venture among all these men, considering their condition after such long deprivation.”

“I am grateful for your compliments,” said Lysistrata, “and also for your concern. However, although I admit a slight danger, it is necessary for me to go and speak to the embassies which are now gathered in the Propylaea and waiting for me. They made the condition, you know, that I should appear and give their negotiations a direction. We cannot afford to jeopardize the final phase of our victory by an excessive concern for the safety of our virtue.”

“Yes,” Nausica said, “you must certainly go in spite of the danger, Lysistrata, for it has been established that Spartans and Athenians can never get together without a quarrel, and they would never accomplish anything without your assistance. If it will make you feel more secure, however, I’ll be happy to accompany you with my stick.”

“I don’t think so. You have acquired a reputation for ferocity that would not be beneficial in a peace conference, and might even work to the contrary of what we want.”

“I suppose that is so,” said Nausica. “I can see that I have nearly outlived my usefulness.”

“As for me,” said Calonice, “I still find difficulty in believing that we have brought it off. Do you suppose they will actually reach agreement on terms?”

“They will either reach agreement,” said Lysistrata, “or they will be sorry. Not, of course, that they will not quibble and fuss, for that is the nature of men, especially men who have become famous and are charged with affairs of state. But we must allow them their pretensions, which are essential to their vanity, and I am sure that it can be arranged so that each party will imagine that it has rooked the other. And now it is necessary that I go without further delay, for if I leave them waiting too long together in their present urgency, they may begin making use of each other and discover at the last moment that we are not so essential as they have been led to believe. That, you will admit, would be disastrous to our cause.”

“If you have no objection,” said Nausica, “we will walk to the Five Gates with you.”

“On the contrary,” said Lysistrata, “I shall be delighted with your company, and I tell you frankly that there is one aspect of peace which I do not anticipate with pleasure, and that is the termination of the fine fellowship we have developed under arms.”

“To tell the truth,” said Nausica sadly, “our stations will be reduced in a number of ways by the peace. I suppose, since the fable of masculine dominance is essential to a tolerable life at home, that I will have to give up threshing Cadmus with my stick.”

“Perhaps not entirely,” said Calonice. “You could thresh him with discretion in emergencies, I should think.”

“Do you really think so? It might be managed at that, now that I consider it. Anyhow, to be perfectly honest about it, I have been missing old Cadmus lately, and I’ll not deny it. I have it in mind to consider the signing of the peace a special occasion, which is the only time, if you will recall, that I am inclined to accommodate him.”

“For my part,” said Calonice, “I do not require anything special, and I wish Acron were here this instant instead of in Pylos.”

“Never mind, Calonice,” said Lysistrata. “He will be here soon enough after the peace is signed, as will Lycon, and it will not be necessary to endure prolonged abstinence in the future.”

While talking, they had been walking together toward a gate, and now, having reached it, Calonice and Nausica wished Lysistrata good luck in the negotiations and stood aside as she passed on through the gate alone. On the other side, Lysistrata faced the peace parties that had gathered among the Ionic columns, and she was pleased and gratified by the expressions on the faces turned toward her. When she had approached and taken her position, an Athenian stepped forward from his party and spoke.

“Lysistrata,” he said, “here are assembled, as you can easily see, some of the foremost men of Greece, and we have come to consider a treaty of peace, and we will have no one but you to guide our deliberations. This is most unusual, you being a woman, and it may set a precedent we will later regret.”

“It is true that I am a woman,” said Lysistrata, “and I can see


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that you are now exceptionally conscious of it, but I think it has been established that I am not, for that reason, to be discounted as a person, and on the contrary I have demonstrated clearly that I, as well as my companions, am much more clever than was previously acknowledged, and have, moreover, accomplished things which were not thought possible. Nor am I ignorant and untaught, having sat at the feet of my father and learned the wise precepts of the elders, and I remember from childhood the stories of great victories and common shrines where Greeks supported each other in the defeat of common enemies. It is a shame that you have forgotten the heritage which we all share, and have for many years devoted yourselves to the neglect of your homes and wives and the making of widows and orphans, and all the while, if you will be so sensible as to consider it, the barbarians to the north have been preparing to destroy us entirely, which may be unnecessary, after all, if we do not immediately refrain from destroying each other.

“Spartans, have you forgotten how Pericleidas, your countryman, came to ask for help when you were threatened by rebellious helots and angry Messenians? At that time, please remember, Cimon of Athens marched with four thousand hoplites to save you, and for this you have shown your gratitude by the systematic invasion and ravishing of Attica since the time of Pericles.

“Athenians, do not think that I consider you innocent in this foolishness just because I have chosen to speak directly to the Spartans first. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and I would like to remind you this instant how Spartan fought beside Athenian in the recovery of our freedom from the Thessalians, and the truth is, as we all know, nothing would have been won without Spartan spears.”

Having said all she cared to say at the moment, Lysistrata stopped speaking and waited for a response, and the spokesman for the Spartans stepped forward at once.

“This is all true enough,” he said, “and we will not deny that Athens on occasion has done us a good turn. On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that she has also on occasion done us a bad turn. In my judgment, it is as proper to remember the one as the other, and we are not inclined to assume an amicability that would make us vulnerable to deceit and deprive us of what is justly ours.”

“What do you mean?” said Lysistrata. “I would appreciate it if you would be a little more specific.”

“We want Pylos,” said the spokesman, “and that’s as specific as it is possible to be.”

Lysistrata turned to the Athenians, speaking to the man who had spoken first to her.

“What do you say to the return of Pylos?”

“I say that we are determined not to give it up. It was taken honorably by Demosthenes and Cleon the Tanner, and is considered essential to our welfare, and we have not forgotten, furthermore, that the Spartans were especially obstinate about giving it up at the time, and have been ever since.”

“Kindly do not be as obstinate as you have accused the Spartans of being. It is necessary to give and take in these matters if we are to reach an understanding.

Think, like sensible men, in terms of compensation. Conceding Pylos, what would be acceptable in return?”

“Echinus, at least, and the long walls known as the Megarean Legs.”

“I can see,” said the Spartan, “that the Athenians are as deceptive as ever, and do not really wish to come to terms, for they would not, if they did, make such ridiculous conditions.”

“As for me,” said Lysistrata, “I see nothing ridiculous at all in the exchange. Pylos for Echinus and the Megarean Legs, and peace for everyone.”

“You are not informed as to the relative values of such places,” said the Spartan. “That is perfectly evident.”

“Well,” said Lysistrata, “I may not be informed as to the relative values of this and that, but nevertheless I do not propose to countenance the interminable bickering over trifles that has gone on among informed men for two decades and has accomplished nothing. I tell you directly that Athens will have the Megarean Legs in return for Pylos, or you will all continue to be deprived of legs of another variety, and you can take my word for it.”

“Since you put it that way,” said the Spartan, “we are compelled to accept the exchange. This being our major difference, which is now settled, I suggest that we draw up the rest of the terms without delay so that we can get on with the celebration that is traditionally a part of such happy occasions.”

“Now you are truly being sensible,” said Lysistrata. “A celebration would be a pleasure to everyone, there is no question about that, and while you are completing the details of the treaty, which certainly do not require my personal attention, I shall go inside the Acropolis and see to the preparation of a feast, to which you are all invited. Afterward, each man may take his wife home, if she is here, or go at once to claim her, wherever she is.”

Turning, she went back through the gate into the Acropolis, and she wished very much that Lycon were available so that the celebration might be completed in her own case in an appropriate and pleasurable manner.

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It was quite late by the time Lycon and Acron reached the marketplace. All the way there they had found the streets of the city especially lively with dancing and merry-making and various degrees of roistering, and the marketplace itself was even livelier than the streets. As a matter of fact, everyone seemed to have lost his normal inhibitions to a great extent, and this was not unusual on festive occasions, but Lycon could not for the life of him recall what occasion this was.

“Acron,” he said, “it is perfectly apparent that something is being celebrated, and I wonder what it is.”

“So do I,” said Acron. “I don’t like to show my ignorance in such matters, but I think I’ll ask one of these happy fellows.”

“In my opinion, it would be justified. Here, coming toward us, is an old gentleman who has drunk far more wine than will be good for him in the morning. Perhaps he can tell us what is going on.”

The old man came dancing up and was stopped, and he leaned forward and cupped a hand behind his near ear in order to hear what was asked of him, and then, having heard, he straightened into as erect a position as his bent bones would permit and stared at Lycon and Acron with an expression of complete incredulity.

“Do you mean to say,” he asked finally, “that you have not heard?”

“We have just come from Pylos,” said Lycon, “and it is apparent that we have heard nothing about anything, or we would not now be wasting time in asking. Be so good as to tell us clearly what has happened to cause these festivities.”

“Why,” said the old roisterer, “peace has happened, that’s what. Lysistrata, wife of Lycon, a woman as remarkable as any in the history of Hellas, has compelled Athens and Sparta to come to terms. This very day the treaty was signed, and tonight in the Acropolis the victorious women sat down to a feast with all the parties to it. In the meanwhile, the good word was spread abroad, and this accounts for the liveliness of our public places. This is news to fill one with great satisfaction, is it not, my good fellows?”

“Well,” said Acron, “it may be, and it may not be, for owing to our particular connection with it, it is something that will have to be determined.”

The old man obviously did not understand a word of this, for he only cackled shrilly and nodded his head vigorously several times and went dancing away.

“They have accomplished it, Acron,” he said. “Incredible as it may seem, it cannot be denied. Whereas we were faced previously with terrifying alternatives, we are faced now with terrifying certainty.”

“Is that an improvement, do you think, or otherwise?”

“I don’t know. At least we are relieved of the discomfort of speculation.”

“Do you think we should walk up to the Acropolis and see if anything is still going on?”

“Not I. I have no confidence at all that I am wanted up there. What I intend to do is go home, which is all that I have the heart for, and I am by no means certain that I am wanted there, either.”

“Perhaps you are being too pessimistic, Lycon. It may be that things will return to normal, eventually if not immediately, and it is entirely possible that we may be respected again by our wives, and even accommodated.”

“It’s agreeable to think so,” said Lycon, “but I have no faith in it.”

“I do wish you would make a special effort not to be so gloomy, Lycon. I am trying to be an optimist and look on the bright side of things, and you seem determined to make it as difficult as possible.”

“I’m sorry if I depress you, but I am in no mood to pretend to a cheerfulness I do not feel. I simply haven’t the strength for it. In order to avoid depressing you further, however, I’ll leave you at once and go home as I said I would. Possibly you can find more congenial companions among these maniacs who are dancing and shrieking and drinking wine in the streets.”

“You needn’t be so touchy, Lycon. I have suffered as much in this as you have.”

“In that case, it would be foolish for us to add to the suffering of each other. Good-night, Acron. No doubt I’ll be seeing you soon at the market. I may be spending most of my time here in the future.”

“Good-night, Lycon. I’d walk along a little farther with you, but I feel inclined to hang around here for a while to see if anything exciting develops.”

Leaving Acron in the marketplace, Lycon walked alone through the streets to his house. He went directly to his chambers and sat for a while in darkness, thinking about what had happened and was likely to happen, and he became more and more dejected and certain that nothing would ever be acceptable again, and after a long time he decided that he might feel a little better if he had a bath. Getting up, he stripped and went out to the paved bathroom and filled the basin and bathed, but as a consequence he did not feel any better after all. Back in his room, he wondered if he should go get some wine and fill a bowl and drink it by himself, but this did not seem like a particularly good idea, or anything that he really wanted to do. Then, all of a sudden, he felt a compulsion to go to Lysistrata’s room and sit for a while on a bench there. So he went down the passage and into the room, and to his surprise the flat terra-cotta lamp was burning brightly beside the bed, and in the bed was Lysistrata in a transparent purple gown, and she was looking at him quite pleasantly, and even with a kind of eagerness.

“Hello, Lycon,” she said. “Theoris has been to tell me that you had arrived. I did not expect you home from Pylos for quite some time.”

“I simply came back,” he said. “I was made to feel miserable by my fellows and could not stand it any longer.”

“At any rate, I am happy to see you.”

“Are you? Somehow I felt that you might not be.”

“Whatever could possibly give you such an absurd idea?”

“Well, you were not happy to see me the last time I came home, and besides, you are now famous for having accomplished exceptional things and might not wish to devote yourself to a simple fellow like me who has done little or nothing to excite admiration. Do you know what I was told? I was told tonight by an old rogue in the marketplace that you are one of the most remarkable women in the history of Hellas.”

“Oh, well. You must not be excessively influenced by the opinions of others, no matter how correct they may be.”

“I understand you had a feast in the Acropolis to celebrate the peace.”

“Yes, we did. It was required as a courtesy to the embassies.”

“I suppose it is unnecessary to ask if you enjoyed yourself.”

“It was quite entertaining for a while, besides being satisfying as a symbol of our victory, but later it became dull.”

“It is a quality of exceptional people, I understand, to become bored with what they are doing and wish to be doing something a little more exceptional. If I am allowed to ask, now that you are famous, what do you intend doing next?”

“That’s entirely up to you.”

“To me? I don’t understand, I’m sure. Would you mind explaining?”

“Well, in the natural order of things, I must do almost immediately whatever I do next, and it might be to eat a grape, or paint my toes, or go to sleep, or do something else of your choosing.”

Lycon, having been made somewhat timid by misfortune, was hesitant to understand this as he was clearly meant to. Such an abrupt reversal of an established attitude was rather confusing and suspicious, to say the least, and he was naturally reluctant to expose himself to further humiliation and rejection after having suffered them sufficiently. On the other hand, things could hardly become any worse, whereas they could certainly become a great deal better, and he decided that it would be no less than cowardly if he failed to assert himself in the hope of achieving something.

“Lysistrata,” he said, stepping close to the bed,” I have asked you and asked you to make ready, and you have refused to do it, and now I am asking you again, and it will surely be the last time if you do not do it.”

“Why, it is entirely unnecessary for you to be so aggressive about it,” Lysistrata said. “Not only am I prepared to do my clear duty as a wife, I am even prepared to take pleasure in it.”

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“As things are going,” said Theoris, “we are not likely to be disturbed for a long time.”

The cook leered at her and shook his head with a kind of reluctant admiration.

“Have you been peeping and listening again?” he said. “It’s absolutely astonishing, the risks you take and get away with.”

“The necessity to reconnoiter should be apparent even to a stupid lout like you. At any rate, the household has returned to normalcy in all its parts, including my lady’s boudoir.”

“I’m not so certain that it pleases me to hear it. The Master will now begin dragging his cronies home to dinner again, and it will make a good deal of additional work.”

“If you don’t like being a cook, you should quit. It does no good whatever to be forever complaining.”

“One of the unfortunate aspects of slavery, goose, is that one is not permitted to resign whenever one chooses.”

“It doesn’t matter. You have no talent for anything but cooking, anyhow.”

“Not for anything?”

“Please don’t presume to make improper allusions simply because I have been generous with you a time or two out of compassion.”

“Never mind. You must maintain the fiction that you are something you are not, I suppose. I’ll get out the wine, and we can continue our celebration of the peace which was interrupted by the return of the Mistress and Master.”

“I’m not at all sure that I wish to continue it.”

“Nonsense. Your tongue is hanging out of your head.”

“It’s true that I am quite fond of wine, and perhaps somewhat fonder than is good for me, but nevertheless I think that I have had enough at this time, for I have reached the point at which I am inclined to relax excessively.”

“I can’t see why that should deter you. You haven’t yet been made miserable as a consequence of relaxing, have you?”

“I admit that I haven’t. You’re a vulgar promiscuous fellow, but you have kept your word strictly with regard to assuming all necessary remorse.”

“To tell the truth, I have found very little necessary.”

“Really? That being the case, I’ll not hesitate to share another bowl with you. Let us have some of the choice vintage from the Cyclades, if you please.”


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