.... The aim is to retrieve missing artifacts, investigate reports of new ones and understand the importance of what they are doing.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Moon, the Witch and the Round Box

 "The Clouds" is a comedy written by the celebrated playwright Aristophanes. It was originally produced in 423 BC and it was not well received. It was revised between 420-417 BC and thereafter it was circulated in manuscript form. In this comedy we find a magic box and a burning lens.

The plot is the following. Faced with legal action for non-payment of debts, Strepsiades, an elderly Athenian, enrolls his son in the "thinkeria" so that he might learn the rhetorical skills necessary to defeat their creditors in court. In the school, Strepsiades met Socrates. ...Let me write a dialog between them in the translation by William James Hickie.

"Strep. I have got a device for cheating them of the interest.
Soc. Exhibit it.
Strep. Now tell me this, pray; if I were to purchase a Thessalian witch, and draw down the moon by night, and then shut it up, in a round case, like a mirror, and then carefully keep it. [Για πες μου τούτο ακόμη: Αν πληρώσω [λόγου χάρι] μια μαγίστρα Θεσσαλή, και τη νύχτα το φεγγάρι κατεβάσω και το κλείσω σε μια θήκη στρογγυλή (round box), και το έχω σαν καθρέφτη (mirror )]
Soc. What good, pray, would this do you?
Strep. What? If the moon were to rise no longer anywhere, I should not pay the interest.
Soc. Why so, pray?
Strep. Because the money is lent out by the month.
Soc. Capital! But I will again propose to you another clever question. If a suit of five talents should be entered against you, tell me how you would obliterate it.
Strep. How? How? I do not know but I must seek.
Soc. Do not then always revolve your thoughts about yourself; but slack away your mind into the air, like a cock-chafer tied with a thread by the foot.
Strep. I have found a very clever method of getting rid of my suit, so that you yourself would acknowledge it.
Soc. Of what description?
Strep. Have you ever seen this stone in the chemist's shops, the beautiful and transparent one, from which they kindle fire?
Soc. Do you mean the burning-glass?
Strep. I do. Come what would you say, pray, if I were to take this, when the clerk was entering the suit, and were to stand at a distance, in the direction of the
sun, thus, and melt out the letters of my suit?
Soc. Cleverly done, by the Graces! ... and so on, until Socrates concludes "You talk nonsense".