“Now,” Korax said to Phales, “before we begin the interrogation, a few housekeeping questions. First: For the record, who shall we put down as next of kin?” “Why do you need to know that?” Phales wondered. “Just in case. You never know.” “Cleon of Skambonidai,” said Phales. “Delta-Nu-Rho order?” Phales screwed up his face. “What’s…

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This was the most precious commodity under heaven—a lovely maiden in her mid-teens, immaculately dressed and apparently well-off, loose among the city’s males. Forget philosophy and art. Forget Anaxagoras and the Parthenon and Pheidias’ thirty-eight-foot-tall Athena Parthenos of ivory and gold. Forget Pindar and Aeschylus and even Homer. Forget money and power and the honor…

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Sitting up to drink, Aristophanes was able to observe Lysistrata in detail for the first time. Pale-skinned, blemish-free, she was tall—taller than the playwright, who was two finger-widths shy of average height. A crimson silk ribbon circled the top of her head, ran down behind her ears, and wrapped around her long, nearly black hair,…

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With detachments of marauding Spartans harrying the city even when it wasn’t campaign season, disposing of privy waste outside of the city walls was no matter for cowards or bad businessmen. But where others saw a problem, Phales saw an opportunity. All he had to do was charge the same as everyone else, but eliminate…

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“General, sir,” said his son-in-law Scebylas, “I know it’s probably a painful question; but I wanted to ask your reaction to winning the election instead of losing it, as you intended.” Cleon looked grave. “On papyrus, our opponent looked hard to lose to. We started well, but our support just kept growing. It just goes…

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Aristophanes wanted to check the final version of the Narcissus scene one last time: [Stage left: Narcissus is lying down staring at his reflection in a pool of water.] Narcissus: Never have I beheld such divine beauty. I beg you, be mine, fair one! [Enter Cleon stage right.] Cleon: Narcissism can be a useful quality.…

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