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90 pages, Kindle Edition
First published January 1, 406
HERACLES: But surely there are dozens of these young whippersnappers churning out tragedies these days: for sheer verbiage, if that's what you want, they leave Euripides standing.
DIONYSIUS: Small fry, I assure you, insignificant squeakers and twitterers (is this an ancient reference to a popular social media site), like a lot of swallows. A disgrace to their art, If ever they are granted a chorus, what does their offering at the shrine of Tragedy amount to? One cock of the hind leg and they've pissed themselves dry. You never hear of them again. I defy you to find a really seminal poet among the whole crowd of them: someone who can coin a fine resounding phrase. (Page 159)
AESCHYLUS: That is the kind of thing a poet should go for. You see, from the very earliest times the really great poet has been the one who had a useful lesson to teach. Orpheus gave us the mysteries and taught people that it was wrong to kill; Musaeus showed us how to cure diseases and prophesised the future; Hesiod explained about agriculture and the seasons for ploughing and harvest. And why is Homer himself held in such high esteem, if not for the valuable military instruction embodied in his work? Organisation, training, equipment, it's all there. (Page 194)
Γλύκεια μᾶτερ, οὔ τοι δύναμαι κρέκην τὸν ἴστον,Often, context genders the word, but not in this instance; most translations of Sappho translate the word as “boy,” with only a few opting for “girl.” Neither is more correct. (Contemporary cognates include the decidedly masculine Latin “puer,” so I could see the association there; however, the only reason the Greek is assumed to be masculine is due to patriarchal misogyny.)
πόθῳ δάμεισα παῖδοσ βραδίναν δἰ Ἀφρόδιταν
ἤδη ποτ᾽ ἐπεθύμησας ἐξαίφνης ἔτνους;But Lattimore translates this line as:
for instance / at one time / desire (for) / suddenly / soup?
Did you ever feel a sudden longing for baked beans?What? Where did that come from?! Soup is better.
In translating Frogs from ancient Greek to modern English, I am already participating in an act of aesthetic anachronism, and we have to accept that many of our ideas about how we receive the works of Aeschylus and Euripides are, more often than not, quite different than how they were viewed in antiquity. Then what about being “faithful” to the “original Greek”? I would suggest that there is no such thing: we do not have the original play script of Frogs as described earlier, and through the miracle and fortitude of diligent, through culturally predicated scholarship and textual transmission, and a textual version of the play has survived, perhaps remembered by actors and written down at some point after the first performance. But it has gone through a long series of adaptations, emendations, corrections, and interpretations—not all of which can or should be trusted today. We have no stage directions, no assigned character parts, no director’s notes, no information from the playwright about how the play might be staged. We have no program from the original performance, and no representations of that performance on stage in other media. Nor do we have the masks, costumes, or props, or even most of the theatre where it was first staged. In short, it is a miracle of scholarship that we have this play with us today at all.Normally I would disagree, but honestly, I have a weak spot for this particular play. I think it can genuinely be adapted for the better with the addition of anachronistic and/or culturally specific elements. Meineck’s translation is intended for performance, and doesn’t read well in and of itself; but there are no glaring errors I could see at a quick glance, and the scholarship is good. Even if it mentions the Wu-Tang Clan.
Frogs was first performed at the Dionysian Lenaia festival in January 405 BCE, where it won first prize. This would have been just a single daytime performance, probably at the theatre at the Sanctuary of Dionysos Eleuthereus on the southeast slope of the Acropolis. We do not know when the text of Frogs was first written down, whether by Aristophanes himself or by somebody in his circle, or if it is a later version from a few years after the original performance. In any event we do not have that text. The Greek text of Frogs that we have today has been meticulously reconstructed from over eighty manuscripts from the tenth to sixteenth centuries CE and two papyrus texts from the fifth and sixth centuries CE. These versions have been corrected, edited, and interpreted by many scholars from the medieval period on, and were probably copies of texts collected and edited by the Alexandrian scholars in the Hellenistic period. Scholars today are still involved in interpreting the text we have based on new information about Athens at the time, and the latest interpretations of both existing and emerging texts. It does seem clear that there were very few copies, and perhaps only one edition, of Frogs in the hundred years following the first performance, and the play did not become more widely copied until Alexandrian scholars and others became interested in establishing collections of classical playwrights.