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V.1. Demetrius Rex et Menander Poeta


Parallels: For parallel versions, see Perry 523.


Demetrius rex, qui Phalereus dictus est,

Athenas occupauit imperio improbo.

Vt mos est uulgi, passim et certatim ruit;

"Feliciter!" succlamant. Ipsi principes

illam osculantur qua sunt oppressi manum,

tacite gementes tristem fortunae uicem.

Quin etiam resides et sequentes otium,

ne defuisse noceat, repunt ultimi;

in quis Menander, nobilis comoediis,

quas ipsum ignorans legerat Demetrius

et admiratus fuerat ingenium uiri,

unguento delibutus, uestitu fluens,

ueniebat gressu delicato et languido.

Hunc ubi tyrannus uidit extremo agmine:

"Quisnam cinaedus ille in conspectu meo

audet ceuere?" Responderunt proximi:

"Hic est Menander scriptor." Mutatus statim

"Homo" inquit "fieri non potest formosior."


Here is the poem in a more prose-like word order for easy reading:


Not yet available.


Here is the poem with meter marks:


Not yet available.




King Demetrius of Phalerum had seized control of Athens unlawfully. As is the general custom, the people all came rushing, vying with one another to salute the victor. The most prominent citizens kissed the hand which had caught them in its clutches, while silently bemoaning this grievous reversal of fortune. Not even the retired gentlemen and men of leisure were absent, although they came creeping in last of all simply in order to have their attendance duly noted. Among them was Menander, famous for his comedies. Demetrius had read his work, and although he did not know Menander personally, he admired the man's poetic genius. Menander made his entrance on dainty, dawdling footsteps, reeking of perfume and dressed in flowing robes. When the king noticed him at the end of the line, he said, 'Who is that faggot, and how dare he strut about like that in my presence!' The men standing next to him replied, 'That is Menander, the poet.' Demetrius abruptly changed his demeanor and said, 'Why, no man could be more handsome!'


Demetrius and Menander (trans. C. Smart)

If Esop's name at any time

I bring into this measured rhyme,

To whom I've paid whate'er I owe,

Let all men by these presents know.

I with th' old fabulist make free,

To strengthen my authority.

As certain sculptors of the age,

The more attention to engage,

And raise their price, the curious please,

By forging of Praxiteles;

And in like manner they purloin

A Myro to their silver coin.

'Tis thus our fables we can smoke,

As pictures for their age bespoke:

For biting envy, in disgust

To new improvements, favors rust;

But now a tale comes in of course,

Which these assertions will enforce.

Demetrius, who was justly call'd

The tyrant, got himself install'd,

And held o'er Athens impious sway.

The crowd, as ever is the way,

Came, eager rushing far and wide,

And, "Fortunate event!" they cried.

The nobles came, the throne address'd'

The hand by which they were oppress'd

They meekly kiss'd, with inward stings

Of anguish for the face of things.

The idlers also, with the tribe

Of those who to themselves prescribe

Their ease and pleasure, in the end

Came sneaking, lest they should offend.

Amongst this troop hies,

So famous for his comedies

(Him, though he was not known by sight,

The tyrant read with great delight,

Struck with the genius of the bard.)

In flowing robes bedaub'd with nard,

And saunt'ring tread he came along,

Whom, at the bottom of the throng,

When Phalereus beheld, he said:

" How dares that fribble show his head

In this our presence ?" he was told-

" It is you behold."

Then, changed at once from fierce to bland,

He call'd, and took him by the hand.




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