ἅνθρωπος οἶνον. αὐτὸ τοῦτ’ ἐκπλήττομαι
ἔγωγ’. ὑπὲρ δὲ τοῦ μεθύσκεσθ’ οὐ λέγω.
ἀπιστίᾳ γάρ ἐσθ’ ὅμοιον τοῦτό γε,
εἰ καὶ βιάζεται κοτύλην τις τοὐβόλου130
ὠνούμενος πίνειν ἑαυτόν.
προσέμενον· οὗτος ἐμπεσὼν διασκ̣εδᾷ
τί δέ μοι τοῦτο; πάλιν οἰμωζέτω.
προῖκα δὲ λαβὼν τάλαντα τέτταρ’ ἀργύρου
οὐ τῆς γυναικὸς νενόμιχ’ αὑτὸν οἰκέτην·135
ἀπόκοιτός ἐστι· πορνοβοσκῷ δώδεκα
τῆς ἡμέρας δραχμὰς δίδωσι.
πέπυστ’ ἀκριβῶς οὑτοσὶ τὰ πράγματα.
μηνὸς διατροφὴν ἀνδρὶ καὶ πρὸς ἡμερῶν
εὖ λελόγισται. δύ’ ὀβόλους τῆς ἡμέρας,
ἱκανόν τι τῷ πεινῶντι πρὸς πτισάνην ποτέ.
The beginning of the play’s script has yet to be recovered. The earliest part covers the last part of Act 1 (see introduction for an overview of the plot and characters of the play as a whole.)
The first legible lines of the play come when the old man SMIKRINES is complaining to the audience about the behavior of his son-in-law, CHARISIOS. CHAIRESTRATOS, CHARISIOS’ friend and neighbor, is also on stage talking to the audience, but not directly to SMIKRINES.
See the link under the Media tab for a video of this scene in performance (the translation used in the performance is also linked there).
127: ἅνθρωπος οἶνον: This is a sentence fragment, as the rest of the sentence would have been in the previous (lost) line. From the lines that do survive here, it is evident that Smikrines is complaining about Charisios (the ἅνθρωπος) drinking too much wine.
128 ὑπὲρ…τοῦ μεθύσκεσθ(αι): articular infinitive (Goodell 562a, CGCG 51.39)
129 ἀπιστίᾳ … ἐσ(τι) ὅμοιον τοῦτο: lit. “This is similar to disbelief” (dative of equal comparison), meaning “This borders on being unbelievable.”
130: Smikrines is complaining about the cost of the wine that Charisios drinks. It is notoriously difficult to assess the prices for items in antiquity and hence even more difficult to be certain about Smikrines’ attitude here. The size of the drink of wine that Smikrines mentions is close to the size of a glass of wine now. Elsewhere ancient sources talk about an obol purchasing six such drinks, but at other times only two or, as here, close to an obol for the same size. In any case, Smikrines throughout the play is obsessed with numbers and finances. In the performance script, in line with this obsession, the joke hinges on the cheapness of the wine, rather than its expense. βιάζεται …ὠνούμενος πίνειν ἑαυτόν: “he forces himself to buy and drink…”
133 τί … μοι τοῦτο: Lit. “What (is) this to me?” meaning “What difference does it make to me?" οἰμωζέτω: lit. “Let him suffer,” meaning “He’ll suffer for it anyway.”
134: Four talents (a weight of silver exceeding 200 lbs) is a huge dowry, even in the world of the Greek comic stage, where half as much in other plays is generous. At the price Smikrines mentions in line 130 for a drink of wine, for example, four talents would buy 144,000 drinks.
135 τῆς γυναικὸς: i.e., a resident at home with his wife.
137: Smikrines is referring to Charisios paying for the services of the hetaira Habrotonon. As in line 130 about the cost of wine, Smikrines is complaining about the high cost, but it is impossible to know whether the figure he quotes would have sounded excessive in Menander’s time. For comparison, twelve drachmas would pay for 72 drinks at the price given in line 130. The four talent dowry would pay for 500 days at this rate.
138 πέπυστ(ο) > πυνθάνομαι: 3rd sing. perf. dep. ind.
141: Chairestratos’ comment to the audience here suggests that Smikrines is complaining about an amount that is in fact the opposite of extravagant.
οἶνος, -ου, ὁ: wine
ἐκπλήττω: to strike, stun
ἔγωγε = ἐγώ + γε
μεθύσκω: to intoxicate, make drunk
ἀπιστία, -ας, ἡ: disbelief
βιάζω: to force
κοτύλη, -ης, ἡ: ½ pint
ὀβολός, -οῦ, ὁ: obol
ὠνέομαι: to buy, purchase
προσμένω: to expect
ἐμπίπτω, ἐμπέσομαι, ἔμπεσον: to stumble in, barge in
διασκεδάω: to disperse, ruin
ἔρως, -ωτος, ὁ: love
οἰμώζω: to suffer
προίξ, προῖκος, ἡ: dowry
τάλαντον, -ου, τό: talent (a measure of money)
ἀργύρος, -ου, ὁ: silver (as a measure of money)
οἰκέτης, -ου, ὁ: resident of the house
ἀπόκοιτος, -ον: sleeping out, sleeping around
πορνοβοσκός, -οῦ, ὁ: brothel-keeper, pimp
δραχμή, -ῆς, ἡ: drachma
μῆς, μηνός, ὁ: month
διατροφή -ῆς, ἡ: sustenance
λογίζομαι, λογιοῦμαι, ἐλογισάμην, λελόγισμαι: to count up, make an accounting
πεινάω: to be hungry, starve
πτισάνη, -ης, ἡ: porridge
The first 125 lines of the play are not extant; an introduction, delivered by CHAIRESTRATOS (shaded text), has been added to set the scene.
Hello, hello! I hope you’re all prepared to be totally immersed in the world of Menander’s Arbitration! It may be fragmentary, but I promise it’s still a very full experience. Take a moment to settle in now, get comfortable. I’d come down there to greet you all personally but
(gestures to his designated space and the COVID procedure signs)
unprecedented times and all that.
(looks around at the audience, as if checking to make sure no more are coming in)
Everyone seated? All ready to go? Excellent! Let’s get down to business. Here we are in Athens. I’m Chairestratos. That’s my house there
(gestures to the door behind him),
but our story really starts over there
(gestures to the other house),
at the house of Charisios and his wife, Pamphile. You can probably guess that this isn’t really supposed to be my monologue, I’m just the character next door after all, but since I’m just a fragmentary character in a fragmentary play, I figured, hey! Why not? Who’s gonna stop me? Might as well get a little extra time in the spotlight, y’know? Anyway, here’s where the story gets good! Pamphile had a baby not too long ago… but they’ve only been married five months! I know what you’re thinking, “Wait a minute, that math doesn’t add up!” well, Charisios thought it was pretty suspicious, too, so he moved out of his house and into mine! He’s been pouting in there ever since… but not alone! He’s hired a girl named Habrotonon to be his “professional company,” but wait, it gets better! It turns out, Charisios is actually the father – but no one knows it yet! Not Charisios, not Pamphile, and certainly not Smikrines, Pamphile’s father, whew! He’s a nasty one
(Smikrines enters, grumbling and huffing)
– ah! Speak of the devil! Guess that means it’s time to take my place!
(hurries into his position for his part in the act)
I love this act! I actually have lines!
(settles in and “gets into character”)
(pacing heavily, ranting to the audience, oblivious of Chairestratos’ presence)
(126) … the bastard drinks the most expensive wine –
(sharp turn towards the audience)
IT’S UNHEARD OF –
(throwing hands up as if to physically stop himself)
NO – I won’t – I CAN’T even mention his drunkenness!
(deep breath, as if to calm himself – then flies back into his rage)
(130) IT’S UNBELIEVABLE! How can anyone – even HIM – force himself to drink such swill! Who evens buys wine that cheap?! TWO DOLLARS A BOTTLE?!
(to the audience, exasperated)
Oh of course, just what I expected! Here he comes to mess up the love. But what’s it to me? To hell with him!
(to audience, increasing in agitation and volume)
(135) He took a dowry of-
(coming up with a random/excessive number)
of TWO MILLION! AND IN CASH NO LESS!
and yet won’t even consider himself a resident of his wife’s house! OF MY HOUSE! HAH! Instead he sleeps out! That’s right – he gives three hundred and ninety-six dollars a day – THREE HUNDRED AND NINETY-SIX OF MY DOLLARS – to some pimp!
(to audience, heavily sarcastic)
Wow, three hundred and ninety-six!
(pointing to Smikrines)
That guy’s got his numbers exactly right!
That keeps a man for…
([attempting to] count on fingers [spastically])
for a month! NO! A month and- and SIX DAYS! (140)
(to the audience, laughingly/mocking)
(140) He sure knows how to count! Eleven dollars a day –
just enough for porridge when you’re starving.