(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Demus, a selfish and irritable old man, a tyrant to his slaves, purchases a tanner, nicknamed the Paphlagonian. This slave, a fawning, foxy fellow, quickly ingratiates himself with his new master, to the dismay of all the other slaves in Demus’s household, Demosthenes and Nicias in particular. As a result of the Paphlagonian’s lies, Demosthenes and Nicias receive many floggings. The two at one time consider running away but decide against this course because of the terrible punishment they will receive if caught and returned to their owner. They also consider suicide, but in the end they decide to forget their troubles by tippling. Going for the wine, Nicias finds the Paphlagonian asleep in a drunken stupor.

While the drunken man sleeps, Nicias steals the writings of the sacred oracle that the Paphlagonian guards carefully. In the prophecies of the oracle, Demosthenes and Nicias read that an oakum seller should first manage the state’s affairs; he should be followed by a sheep seller, and he in turn should be followed by a tanner. At last the tanner would be overthrown by a sausage seller.

As they are about to set out in search of a sausage seller, a slave of that butcher’s trade comes to the house of Demus to sell his wares. Nicias and Demosthenes soon win him over to their cause, flattering him out of all reason and assuring him that his stupidity and ignorance fit him admirably for public life. When the Paphlagonian awakens, he loudly demands the return of the oracle’s writings. The sausage seller, however, is able to fight him with success. Spectators become involved. Some of the citizens protest against the Paphlagonian’s...

(The entire section is 682 words.)