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Ancient and modern

Aristophanes’ advice for Nigel Farage

11 May 2013

9:00 AM

11 May 2013

9:00 AM

Ukip is on the march, and the F word on the lips of every ashen-faced MP in the House — or the NF word, to be exact. What should be NF’s next step? Let the Athenian comic poet Aristophanes insert a tiny thought under his seething trilby.

Aristophanes’ Men of Acharnae (425 BC), reflecting the feelings among ordinary, farming people during Athens’ long war against Sparta (the Peloponnesian War, 431–404 BC), opens with the hero farmer Dikaiopolis waiting for the democratic Assembly (all citizen males over 18) to begin. The war has been going on for six years now, and like everyone else he is cooped up inside Athens’ impregnable walls, his farm ravaged by Spartan troops. All he wants is for the war to end and peace to return: ‘My heart’s in the fields, out there. I’m fed up with the city. I just want peace.’


But when the Assembly eventually begins, no one is interested in peace, especially not the embassy newly returned from Persia with a (fraudulent) promise of money with which to continue the war. It had been dreadful, they explain: double expenses, luxury travel, drinking unmixed wine from glass-gold goblets and so on. All very EU.

Thoroughly fed up, Dikaiopolis decides to take radical action. He seals a UDI on his farm, and concludes a personal 30-year peace treaty with the Spartans. But the men of Acharnae (just north of Athens), committed to revenge on Sparta for its attacks, assail him. He manages to win them round, pointing out that it’s the military that get all the good jobs and top pay: and when were Acharnians ever sent on luxury embassies abroad? He drives off various creeps trying to take advantage of his treaty, and the play ends with him, drunk and randy with a girl on either arm, celebrating with the Acharnians. The little man has triumphed.

NF, like Dikaiopolis, represents the sort of ‘populism’ so shocking to MPs and Brussels bureaucrats, whose idea of ‘democracy’ is based on the ghastly plebs doing what they are told, and certainly not asserting their independence. Outrageous! Perhaps NF might suggest a UDI against the EU in Yeovil and Boston.


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