The New Birds
Act 1, Scenes 1–3
The following manuscript (which will need to be presented in several installments) represents a first scholarly translation of a text recently found in a large find of clay pots in the Syrian desert. Fabulously preserved across the ages by the dry air of a remote cave system, the author seems to have been one Lycinus (or -a?) Secund-a?/us? (The blurred name endings in the original make the gender of the author unclear. It is thus necessary to refer to [them] with neutral pronouns, with due apologies to those presently sensitive about this issue).
Nothing is known of the life of our author. Sadly, cross references to their texts in other sources — which we so often have at our disposal— are in this case absent.
It is in any case clear that Lycinus/a must have had a classical education, at least in rhetoric, but perhaps in one of the philosophical schools at Athens. Perhaps they were an actor themselves, for there is knowledge of stagecraft implied in the setting of the actions of the following satire, called “The New Birds”.
The manuscript, originally in Koine, shows the clear influence of Aristophanes and the old comedy, as well as of the satire of Lucian. The latter influence suggests that Lycinus must have been active around 200–250CE, and could not have been active earlier.
On the other hand, the target of the satire must be the leading intellectuals of the later imperium and their followers, including in the philosophical schools set up under Marcus Aurelius. This datum suggests caution about any much later dating than 250 to 270 CE.
One commentator, asked by our team to comment on the drafts, has suggested that “the Crow”, “the Condor” and the other “great ones” who form the principal target of Lycinus’ comedic wrath remind us inescapably of celebrity intellectuals of the early 21st century. The suggestion is so absurd that we do not credit it with further comment.
The “New Birds”, with its Aristophanic title, has in total some three acts, leading up to the extraordinary, farcical culmination. Its principal conceit is that a young human girl (“Sally” or “Sallia”, most likely, from the blurred text — often only…