Scenes from an ill-spent youth (Aristophanes, Knights 411-12)

S. Douglas Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In response to the Paphlagonian's insistence that he will never be outdone in shamelessness, given his close association with the Agora (Ar. Knights [= Eq.] 409-10), the Sausage-Seller offers his own set of dubious political and social credentials, describing how as a good-for-nothing boy he endured countless punches (,literally 'knuckles') Translators and editors, seemingly anticipating the mention of thefts of meat in the Sausage-Seller's continuation of his account of his youthful misadventures at Eq. 417-20, routinely take this as a reference to attacks with butchers' knives.2 But the context suggests fast summary blows of a sort judged appropriate for disciplining an underage trouble-maker, not assaults with a deadly weapon, and the lexicographers are agreed in any case that was the Attic word for 'barbers' shears',3 i.e. a set of spring shears, made of a single U-shaped piece of metal with two overlapping blades at the ends (in contrast to modern pivot scissors, which consist of two separate blade-handle pieces linked in the middle).4 Barbers' shops were a common place for Athenian men to sit and gossip,5 and what the Sausage-Seller presumably means is that he hung about them with everyone else, but that the proprietors occasionally struck him with the standard tool of their trade to drive him away, perhaps for verbal insolence, an attempt to filch something from one of the customers, or the like.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)774-775
Number of pages2
JournalClassical Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


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