These notes are intended principally for readers with a good knowledge of Attic Greek who wish to learn why I have translated Aristophanes’ text as I have


The received text is examined in some detail, though not exhaustively. Many manuscript variants are only evidence of poor lighting or deteriorating eyesight. My comments are based on the Oxford Classical Text of Hall and Geldart (1906), from which the Greek headwords are excerpted. My own views regarding the text are similarly shown in bold in the context of the notes.

When comparing material from other works I have tried to cite closely contemporary writings, principally Aristophanes’ own Ἀχαρνεῖς (425 B.C.), Ἱππεῖς (424), and Σφῆκες (422), Euripides’ Ἱππόλυτος (428), and Ἱκέτιδες (423),. Where I refer to Roman sources, I do so cautiously, since the image projected by the later lens is often distorted. Greek works are cited by their Greek titles and Greek names are transliterated into Latin letters not into their Latin forms (unless the Latinized name has been so widely adopted in English that the original form would be obscure). One Latin distortion which is unavoidable (at my age) is the use of ‘long’ (longum) and ‘short’ (brevis) for syllables in prosody, instead of the more accurate adjectives ‘heavy’ and ‘light’.

I have found the editions of Dover and Sommerstein most useful and stimulating, especially whenever we disagree, and I recommend those studying the play in depth to follow my example and consult their work wherever possible. It is also worth comparing some of the other translations available, of which there are many. The academic publications referred to in the commentary will be found listed in the bibliography at the end. A round-up of journal articles prefaces Alan Sommerstein’s most recent, revised edition (xxxvi-vii). The absence of an index to this commentary will distress some, but no one is perfect.

Philologists will recognize that this drama, perhaps more than any other work of Aristophanes, has a wide appeal to non-specialist readers. Therefore, I have not confined my comments solely to matters of syntax and linguistic interpretation, but have allowed myself license to untether my ‘flying beetles’ as and when the fancy has taken me.


The principal codices, all dating from the Christian era, are referred to by the following letters:

R – Ravennas 429 (10th/11th centuries)

V – Venetus Marcianus 474 (12th century)

A – Parisinus 2712 (13th century)

E – Estensis (14th century)

Θ – Laurentianus 2779 (14th century)

N – Neapolitanus (14th/15th centuries)

Δ – Laurentianus plut.31.16 (16th century)