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Philostratus, Imagines



An Aphrodite, made of ivory, delicate maidens are hymning in delicate myrtle groves. The chorister who leads them is skilled in her art, and not yet past her youth; for a certain beauty rests even on her first wrinkle, which, though it brings with it the gravity of age, yet tempers this with what remains of her prime. The type of the goddess if that of Aphrodite goddess of Modesty, unclothed and decorous, and the material is ivory, closely joined. However, the goddess is unwilling to seem painted, but she stands out as though one could take hold of her.

Do you wish us to pour a libation of discourse on the altar? For of frankincense and cinnamon and myrrh it has enough already, and it seems to me to give out also a fragrance as of Sappho. Accordingly the artistry of the painting must be praised, first, because the artist, in making the border1 of precious stones, has used not colours but light to depict them, putting a radiance in them like the pupil in an eye, and, secondly, because he even makes us hear the hymn. For the maidens are singing, are singing, and the chorister frowns at one who is off the key, clapping her hands and trying earnestly to bring her into tune2 . . . For as to their garments, they are simple and such as not to impede their movements if they should play – for instance, the close-fitting girdle, the chiton that leaves the arm free, and the way they enjoy treading with naked feet on the tender grass and drawing refreshment from the dew; and the flowered decoration of their garments, and the colours used on them – the way they harmonize the one with the other – are represented with wonderful truth; for painters who fail to make the details consistent with one another do not depict the truth in their paintings. As to the figures of the maidens, if we were to leave the decision regarding them to Paris or any other judge, I believe he would be at a loss how to vote, so close is the rivalry among them in rosy arms and flashing eyes and fair cheeks and in “honeyed voices,” 3 to use the charming expression of Sappho.

Eros, tilting up the centre of his bow, lightly strikes the string for them and the bow-string resounds with a full harmony and asserts that it possesses all the notes of a lyre; and swift are the eyes of the god as they recall, I fancy, some particular measure. What, then, is the song they are singing? For indeed something of the subject has been expressed in the painting; they are telling how Aphrodite was born from the sea through an emanation of Uranus. Upon which one of the islands she came ashore they do not yet tell, though doubtless they will name Paphos; but they are singing clearly enough of her birth, for by looking upward they indicate that she is from Heaven (Uranus), and by slightly moving their upturned hands they show that she has come from the sea, and their smile is an intimation of the sea’s calm.

1. The edge of the painting seems to be adorned by painted precious stones: Benndorf.
2. Praise of the maidens themselves seems to be missing at this point.
3. Cf. Sappho, Frag. 30: mellichothônais, “gentle-voiced,” Trans. Edmonds, Lyra Graeca I. The other epithets in this passage are also familiar in the poets.


A fawn and a hare – these are the spoils of hunting of Achilles as he is now, the Achilles who at Ilium will capture cities and horses and the ranks of men, and rivers will do battle with him when he refuses to let them flow, and as reward of those exploits he will bear away Briseïs and the seven maidens from Lesbos and gold and tripods4 and authority over the Achaeans; but the exploits here depicted, done at Cheiron’s home, seem to deserve apples and honey as rewards, and you are content with small gifts, Achilles, you who one day will disdain whole cities and marriage with Agamemnon’s daughter. Nay, the Achilles who fights at the trench, who puts the Trojans to rout merely by his shouting, and who slays men right and left,5 and reddens the water of the Scamander,6 and also his immortal horses, and his dragging of Hector’s body around the walls, and his lamentation on the breast of Patroclus – all this has been depicted by Homer, and he depicts him also as singing and praying and receiving Priam under his roof.
This Achilles, however, a child not yet conscious of valour, whom Cheiron still nourishes upon milk and marrow and honey, he has offered to the painter as a delicate, sport-loving child and already light of foot. For the boy’s leg is straight and his arms come down to his knees (for such arms are excellent assistants in the race); his hair is charming and loose; for Zephyrus in sport seems to shift it about, so that as it falls, now here, now there, the boy’s appearance may be changed. Already the boy has a frowning brow and an air of spirited haughtiness, but these are made gentle by a guileless look and by gracious cheeks that send for a tender smile. The cloak he wears is probably his mother’s gift; for it is beautiful and its colour is sea-purple with red glints shading into a dark blue. Cheiron flatters him by saying that he catches hares like a lion and vies with fawns in running; at any rate, he has just caught a fawn and comes to Cheiron to claim his reward, and Cheiron, delighting to be asked, stands with fore-legs bent so as to be on a level with the boy and offers him apples fair and fragrant from the fold of his garment – for their very fragrance seems to be depicted – and with his hand he offers him a honeycomb dripping with honey, thanks to the diligent foraging of the bees. For when bees find good meadows and become big with honey, the combs get filled to overflowing and their cells pour it forth. Now Cheiron is painted in every aspect like a centaur; yet to combine a horse and human body is no wondrous deed, but to gloss over the juncture and make the two into one whole and, by Zeus, cause on to end and the other to begin in such wise as to elude the eye of the observer who should try to detect where the human body ends, this seems to me to demand an excellent painter. That the expression seen in the eye of Cheiron is gentle is the result of his justice, but the lyre also does its part, through whose music he has become cultured; but now there is also something of cozening in his look, no doubt because Cheiron knows that this soothes children and nurtures them better than milk.

This is the scene at the entrance of the cave; and the boy out on the plain, the one who is sporting on the back of the centaur as if it were a horse, is still the same boy; for Cheiron is teaching Achilles to ride horseback and to use him exactly as a horse, and he measures his gait to what the boy can endure, and turning around he smiles at the boy when he laughs aloud with enjoyment, and all but says to him, “Lo, my hoofs paw the ground for you without use of spur; lo, I even urge you on; the horse is indeed a spirited animal and gives no ground for laughter. For although you have been taught by me thus gently the art of horsemanship, divine boy, and are suited to such a horse as I, some day you shall ride on Xanthos and Balios; and you shall take many cities and slay many men, you merely running and they trying to escape you.” Such is Cheiron’s prophecy for the boy, a prophecy fair and auspicious and quite unlike that of Xanthos.7

4. Il. 11. 264, 270 mentions the seven Lesbian women, the gold and the tripods among Agamemnon’s gifts to Achilles.
5. The word of Homer, Il. 10. 483.
6. Cf. Iliad, 21. 21; 16. 154; 24. 50 ff.; 18. 318 for the phraseology as well as the story.
7. Cf. Il. 19. 408, where the horse Xanthos prophesies the impending death of Achilles.


You used to think that the race of centaurs sprang from trees and rocks or, by Zeus, just from mares – the mares which, men say, the son of Ixion8 covered, the man by whom the centaurs though single creatures came to have their double nature. But after all they had, as we see, mothers of the same stock and wives next and colts as their offspring and a most delightful home; for I think you would not grow weary of Pelion and the life there and its wind-nurtured growth of ash which furnishes spear-shafts that are straight and at the same time do not break at the spearhead. And its caves are most beautiful and the springs and the female centaurs beside them, like Naïads if we overlook the horse part of them, or like Amazons if we consider them along with their horse bodies; for the delicacy of their female form gains in strength when the horse is seen in union with it. Of the baby centaurs here some lie wrapped in swaddling clothes, some have discarded their swaddling clothes, some seem to be crying, some are happy and smile as they suck flowing breasts, some gambol beneath their mothers while others embrace them when they kneel down, and one is throwing a stone at his mother, for already he grows wanton. The bodies of the infants have not yet taken on their definite shape, seeing that abundant milk is still their nourishment, but some that already are leaping about show a little shagginess, and have sprouted mane and hoofs, though these are still tender.

How beautiful the female centaurs are, even where they are horses; for some grow out of white mares, others are attached to chestnut mares, and the coat’s of others are dappled, but they glisten like those of horses that are well cared for. There is also a white female centaur that grows out of a black mare, and the very opposition of the colours helps to produce the united beauty of the whole.

8. Centaurus, who united with the Magnesian mares and begat the centaurs according to the version of the story here referred to.


The wild best is the curse of Theseus9; swift as dolphins it has rushed at the horses of Hippolytus in the form of a white10 bull, and it has come from the sea against the youth quite unjustly. For his stepmother Phaedra concocted a story against him that was not true, to the effect that Hippolytus loved her, - but it was really herself that was in love with the youth – and Theseus, deceived by the tale, calls down upon his son the curse which we see here depicted.

The horses, as you see, scorning the yoke toss their manes unchecked, not stamping their feet like well bred and intelligent creatures, but overcome with panic and terror, and spattering the plain with foam, one while fleeing has turned its head toward the beast, another has leaped up at it, another looks at it askance, while the onrush of the fourth carries him into the sea as though he had forgotten both himself and dry land; and with erect nostrils they neigh shrilly, unless you fail to hear the painting. Of the wheels of the chariot one has been torn from its spokes as the chariot has tipped over upon it, the other has left its axle and goes rolling off by itself, its momentum still turning it. The horses of the attendants also are frightened and in some cases throw off their riders, while as for those who grasp them firmly about the neck, to what goal are they now carrying them?

And thou, O youth that lovest chastity, thou hast suffered injustice at the hands of thy step-mother, and worse injustice at the hands of thy father, so that the painting itself mourns thee, having composed a sort of poetic lament in thine honour. Indeed yon mountain-peaks over which thou didst hunt with Artemis take the form of mourning women that tear their cheeks, and the meadows in the form of beautiful youths, meadows which thou didst call “undefiled,” 11 cause their flowers to wither for thee, and nymphs thy nurses emerging from yonder springs tear their hair and pour streams of water from their bosoms.12 Neither did thy courage protect thee nor yet thy strong arm, but of thy members some have been torn off and others crushed, and thy hair has been defiled with dirt; they breast is still breathing as though it would not let go of the soul, and thine eye gazes at all thy wounds. Ah, thy beauty! How proof it is against wounds no one would have dreamed. For not even now does it quit the body; nay, a charm lingers even on thy wounds.

9. Cf. Eur. Hipp. 1166f.; The description includes many reminiscences from the play of Euripides.
10. The bull painted white occurs on a vase-painting, Arch. Zeit. 1883, Taf. vi.
11. Cf. Eur. Hipp. 73.
12. i.e. in lieu of tears.


The blood and also the bronze weapons and the purple garments lend a certain glamour to the battles-scene, and a pleasing feature of the painting is the men who have fallen in different postures, and horses running wildly in terror, and the pollution of the water of the river by which these events occur, and the captives, and the trophy commemorating the victory over them. Rhodogoune and the Persians are conquering the Armenians who broke the treaty, on the occasion when Rhodogoune is said to have won the battle, not even having allowed herself to tarry long enough to fasten up the right side of her hair. Is she not elated and proud of the victory and conscious that she will be celebrated for her exploit with lyre and flute and wherever there are Greeks? Her horse also is in the painting, a black Nisaean mare with white legs; its breast also is white, its breath comes from white nostrils and its forehead is marked with white in a perfect circle. Nay, Rhodogoune has bestowed upon the mare precious stones and necklaces and every dainty ornament, that it may delight in them and champ its bit delicately; and Rhodogoune is resplendent with scarlet raiment, all except her face; she wears a charming girdle which permits her robe to fall only to her knee, and charming trousers in which designs are woven; her chiton is fastened with brooches set at intervals from shoulder to elbow, the arm showing between the fastenings, though the shoulder is covered; the dress is not that of an Amazon.14 One should also admire the shield, of moderate size but large enough to cover the breast. And at this point one should examine carefully the effectiveness of the painting; for the left hand extends beyond the handle of the shield and grasps the spear, holding the shield away from the breast; and though the rim is held out straight, the outside of the shield is also visible – is it not resplendent and as it were animate with life? – while the inside, where the arm is, is of a purple hue and the forearm shines against this background.

It seems, my boy, that you have a feeling for the beauty in this figure and desire to hear something on this point also, so listen. Rhodogoune is pouring a libation for her victory over the Armenians, and the artist’s conception is of a woman praying. She prays to conquer men, even as she has now conquered them; for I do not think she loves to be loved. The part of her hair that is fastened up is arranged with modesty that tempers her high spirit, while that which hangs loose gives her vigour and the look of a bacchant. Yellow, even yellower than gold, is her disarranged hair; while the hair on the other side differs also somewhat in hue because of its orderly arrangement. The way her eyebrows15 begin at the same point and rise together from the nose is charming; but more charming still is the curve they make; for the brows ought not only to be set above the eyes but should also be set in an arch around them. As for the cheek, it receives the yearning that emanates from the eyes, yet it delights in merriment – for it is mostly in the cheek that mirth is shown – and he colour of the eyes varies from grey to black; the joy they show is due to the occasion, their beauty is a gift of nature, while their haughtiness arises from her authority as ruler. The mouth is delicately formed and filled with “love’s harvest,” 16 most sweet to kiss, most difficult to describe. But you may observe, my boy, all you need to be told: the lips are full of colour and even the mouth is well proportioned and it utters its prayer before the trophy of victory; if we care to listen attentively, perhaps it will speak in Greek.

13. Probably the Persian queen of whom Polyaenus 27 relates that while she was washing her hair she heard that a subject tribe had revolted. Hastily binding up her hair and swearing that she would not wash it until she had put down the rebellion, she leapt upon her horse and went to battle.
14. The dress of the Amazons was a sleeveless chiton girded, that did not reach quite to the knees.
15. Cf. Anacreontea, 16. 13 f. to mesophruon de mê moi diakopte mêde misge, echetô d’, hopôs ekeinê, to lelêthotôs sunophru blespharôn itus kelainê. “Her eyebrows neither join nor sever, but make (as ‘tis) that selvage never clearly one nore surely two.”
16. Cf. Pind. Isthm. 2. 6: Aphroditas . . . adistan opôran.


You have come to the Olympic games themselves and to the noblest of the contests held at Olympia; for this is the pancratium17 of men. Arrichion is being crowned18 for winning this event, having died just after his victory, and the Judge of the Games yonder is crowning him – let him be called “the strict judge,” 19 both because he sedulously strives for the truth and because he is indeed depicted like the Olympic judges. The land furnishes a stadium in a simple glen of sufficient extent,20 from which issues the stream of the Alpheius, a light stream – that, you know, is why it alone of rivers flows on top of the sea21; and about it grow wild olive trees of green-grey colour, beautiful and curly like parsley leaves.

Now after we have observed the stadium, we will turn our attention to various other points, and in particular let us take note of the deed of Arrichion before it is ended. For he seems to have conquered not his antagonist alone, but also all the Greeks; at any rate the spectators jump up from their seats and shout, some wave their hands, some their garments, some leap from the ground, and some grapple with their neighbours for joy; for these really amazing deeds make it impossible for the spectators to contain themselves. Is anyone so without feeling as not to applaud this athlete? For after he had already achieved a great deed by winning two victories in the Olympic games, a yet greater deed is here depicted, in that, having won this victory at the cost of his life, he is being conducted to the realms of the blessed wit the very dust of victory still upon him. Let not this be regarded as mere chance, since he planned most shrewdly for the victory.

And as to the wrestling? Those who engage in the pancratium, my boy, employ a wrestling that is hazardous; for they must needs meet blows on the face that are not safe for the wrestler, and must clinch in struggles that one can only win by pretending to fall, and they need skill that they may choke an adversary in different ways at different times, and the same contestants are both wrestling with the ankle and twisting the opponent’s arm, to say nothing of dealing a blow and leaping upon the adversary; for these things are all permissible in the pancratium – anything except biting and gouging. The Lacedaemonians, indeed, allow even these, because, I suppose, they are training themselves for battle, but the contests of Elis exclude them, though they do permit choking. Accordingly the antagonist of Arrichion, having already clinched him around the middle, thought to kill him22; already he had wound his forearm about the other’s throat to shut off the breathing, while, pressing his legs on the groins and winding his feet one inside each knee of his adversary, he forestalled Arrichion’s resistance by choking him till the sleep of death thus induced began to creep over his senses. But in relaxing the tension of his legs he failed to forestall the scheme of Arrichion; for the latter kicked back with the sole of his right foot (as the result of which his right side was imperiled since now his knee was hanging unsupported), then with his groin he holds his adversary tight till he can no longer resist, and, throwing his weight down toward the left while he locks the latter’s foot tightly inside his own knee, by this violent outward thrust he wrenches the ankle from its socket.23 Arrichion’s soul, though it makes him feeble as it leaves his body, yet gives him strength to achieve that for which he strives.

The one who is choking Arrichion is painted to look like a corpse, and as indicating with his hand that he gives up the struggle; but Arrichion is painted as all victors are; for his blood is of rich colour, the perspiration is still fresh on his body and he smiles as do the living when they are conscious of victory.

17. The pancratium, so-called because it brought into play all the powers of those who engaged in it, was a combination of boxing and wrestling. It was permissible to maim or choke one’s opponent, but only at Sparta was biting allowed. The contest began with the opponents standing, while it continued if one was thrown down and only ended when one was killed or acknowledged himself defeated by raising his hand.
18. Cf. Paus. 8. 40. 2 records this fact; see note 22 (below).
19. Cf. Pind. Ol. 3. 21: atrekês Hellanodikas, referring to the judge at Olympia.
20. The stadium at Olympia was not equipped with rising tiers of seats like the one at Athens.
21. Alpheius, an Arcadian hunter, fell in love with Arethusa, who fled across the sea to Syracuse, where she was transformed into a fountain on the island of Ortygia. Alpheius was changed into a river and followed her across the sea. Cf. Pausanias 5. 7. 2.
22. Paus. 8. 40. 2 describes the archaic statue of Arrachion (whom Philostratus calls Arrichion) in the market place of Phigaleia, which was erected for his victory in the pancratium in the 55th Olympiad (B.C. 564). His adversary, Pausanias says, got the first grip, and “twining his legs around him held him fast, while he squeezed his throat with his hands. Arrachion put one of his adversary’s toes out of joint and expired under the grip that his adversary had on his throat, but the latter in the act of throttling him was obliged at the same moment by the pain in his toe to give in. The Eleans crowned and proclaimed victorious the dead body of Arrachion” (Trans. Frazer).
Philostratus refers to the story again, de arte gymn. 21; and a brief account of it is given by Eusebius, Chron. 1. p. 202, Schöne.
23. The pair wrestle standing, the opponent on the back of Arrichion with one arm clinched about his throat and the other apparently under his armpit, and with the legs on his groins and the feet twisted under the inside of his knees. But when his opponent relaxes his hold in the belief that Arrichion is conquered, the latter jerks back his right foot (giving up his firm stance) and throws himself over to the left. The very weight of his body, as his strength fails, helps the manoeuvre. His opponent’s foot is caught the more securely under his knee and the force of his leftward thrust twists the ankle from its socket.


That Achilles loved Antilochus you must have discovered in Homer, seeing Antilochus to be the youngest man in the Greek host24 and considering the half talent of gold25 that was given him after the contest. And it is he who brings word to Achilles26 that Patroclus has fallen, for Menelaüs cleverly devised this as a consolation to accompany the announcement, since Achilles’ eyes were thus diverted to his loved one; and Antilochus laments in grief for his friend and restrains his hands lest he takes his own life, while Achilles no doubt rejoices at the touch of the youth’s hand and at the tears he sheds.27

Now such is the scene in Homer, but the events depicted by the painter are as follows: Memnon coming from Ethiopia slays Antilochus who had thrown himself in front of this father,28 and he seems to strike terror among the Achaeans – for before Memnon’s time black men were but a subject for story – and the Achaeans, gaining possession of the body, lament Antilochus, both the sons of Atreus and the Ithacan and the son of Tydeus and the two heroes of the same name.29 The Ithacan is made known by his austere and vigilant look, Menelaus by his gentleness, Agamemnon by his god-like mien, while the son of Tydeus is marked by his nobility, and you would recognize the Telamonian Ajax by his grimness and the Locrian by his alertness. And the army mourns the youth, standing about him in lamentation; and, their spears fixed in the ground and their legs crossed, they stand, most of them in their grief bowing their sorrowing heads on their spears. You are not to recognize Achilles by his long hair, for that is gone since the death of Patroclus, but let his beauty make him known to you, and his stature, aye, and the very fact that he does not wear long hair.30 He laments, throwing himself on the breast of Antilochus, and he seems to be promising him a funeral pyre and the offerings to be placed upon it and perchance the arms and head of Memnon; for he proposes that Memnon shall pay all the penalties Hector paid, that in this respect also Antilochus may have no less honour than Patroclus had. Memnon, stands, terrible to look upon, in the army of the Ethiopians, holding a spear and wearing a lion’s skin and sneering at Achilles. Let us next look at Antilochus. He is in the prime of youth, just beyond the period of downy beard, and his bright hair is his pride. His leg is slender and his body proportioned for running with ease,31 and his blood shines red, like colour on ivory,32 where the spear-point penetrated his breast. The youth lies there, not sad of aspect nor yet like a corpse, but still joyous and smiling; for it was with a look of joy on his face (because, I fancy, he had saved his father’s life) that Antilochus died from the spear-thrust, and the soul left his countenance, not when he was in pain, but when gladness prevailed.

24. Cf. Il. 15. 569: “Antilochus, none other of the Achaeans is younger than thou, nor swifter of foot.” Trans. Murray, L.C.L.
25. Cf. Il. 23. 796: Achilles says, “Nay, I will add to thy prize a half talent of gold.” Trans. Murray, L.C.L.
26. Cf. Il. 18. 1 f. for the description of this scene.
27. Cf. Il. 18. 33 f.: “Antilochus wailed and shed tears, holding the hands of Achilles . . . for he feared lest he should cut his throat asunder with the knife.” Trans. Murray, L.C.L.
28. Antilochus was the son of Nestor.
29. i.e. the two Ajaxes, the son of Telamon and the son of Oïleus.
30. Cf. Il. 23. 141 f. for Homer’s account of Achilles’ dedication of his long hair at the funeral pyre of Patroclus.
31. Cf. Il. 23. 756; Od. 3. 112.
32. Cf. Il. 4. 141 f: “As when a woman staineth ivory with scarlet . . . even in such wise, Menelaüs, were thy thighs stained with blood.” Trans. Murray, L.C.L.


The story of Enipeus and of Tyro’s love for the river has been told by Homer,33 and he tells of Poseidon’s deception of her and of the splendid colour of the eave beneath which was their couch – but the story here told is a different one, not from Thessaly but Ionian. Critheïs loves the river Meles34 in Ionia, and it takes the form of a young man and is wholly visible to the spectator, for it empties into the sea in the region where it arises. She drinks the water though she is not thirsty, and takes it in her hands, and keeps up a conversation with it as though the murmur of the water were human speech, and sheds tears of love into the water; and the river, since it loves her in return, delights to mingle her tears with its stream. Now a delightful feature of the painting is the figure of Meles lying on a bed of crocus and lotus blossoms and delighting in the hyacinth because of its fresh young bloom, and presenting an appearance delicate and youthful and not at all lacking in cleverness – indeed you would say that the eyes of Meles were contemplating some poetic theme. It is a delightful feature also that he does not pour forth turbulent streams at his source, as boorish rivers are usually painted; nay, he but cuts a passage through the earth with the tips of his fingers and holds his hand beneath the water as it trickles noiselessly by; and to us35 it is clear that, for Critheïs, this is no dream,36 nor ware you writing this love of yours in water37; for the river loves you, I know it well, and he is devising a chamber for you both by lifting up a wave beneath which shall be your couch. If you do not believe me, I will tell you the very construction of the chamber; a slight breeze running under a wave causes it to curve over and makes it resonant and also of brilliant hue; for the reflection of the sun lends colour to the uplifted water.

Why do you seize hold of me, my boy? Why do you not let me go on and describe the rest of the painting? If you wish, let us next describe Critheïs, since you say you are pleased when my tale roams freely over such things. Well, let us speak of her; her figure is delicate and truly Ionian, and modesty is manifest upon it, and the colour we see in her cheeks suffices for them; and her hair is caught up under the ear38 and adorned with a veil of sea-purple. I think the veil is the gift of some Nereid or Naiad, for it is reasonable to assume that these goddesses dance together in honour of the river Meles, since it offers them fountains not far from its mouth. Her glance has something so charming and simple about it, that even tears do not cause it to lose its graciousness. Her neck is all the more lovely for not being adorned, since chains and flashing stones and necklaces lend a not unpleasing brilliance to women of moderate beauty and by Zeus they contribute something of beauty to them, but they are not becoming to ugly women or to very beautiful women; for they show up the ugliness of the former and detract from the beauty of the latter. Let us examine the hands; the fingers are delicate, of graceful length, and as white as the fore-arm. And you see the forearm, how it appears yet whiter through the white garment; and the firm breasts gleam under the garment.

Why do the Muses come hither? Why are they present at the source of the Meles? When the Athenians set out to colonize Ionia, the Muses in the form of bees guided their feet; for they rejoiced in Ionia, because the waters of Meles are sweeter than the waters of Cephisus and Olmeius.39 Some day, indeed, you will find them dancing there; but now, by decree of the fates, the Muses are spinning the birth of Homer; and Meles through his son40 will grant to the Peneius41 to be “silver-eddied,” to the Titaresius42 to be “nimble” and “swift,” and to the Enipeus43 to be “divine,” and to the Axius44 to be “all-beautiful,” and he will also grant to the Xanthus45 to be born from Zeus, and to Oceanus46 that all rivers spring from him.

33. Cf. Od. 11. 235. “She (Tyro) became enamoured of the river . . . and she was wont to resort to the fair waters of Enipeus. But the Enfolder and Shaker of the earth took his form, and lay with her at the mouth of the eddying river. And the dark wave stood about them like a mountain, vaulted over, and hid the god and the mortal woman.” Trans. Murray, L.C.L.
34. A small river near Smyrna. [The river-god Meles and the nymph Critheïs were the parents of Homer in myth.]
35. i.e. to those who look at the painting.
36. The Teubner editors suggest this explanation: “The delicate youth Meles, reclining on a high spot among the flowers, by the striking disposition of the figure provides a double charm; with his hand he lets the water flow very gently into the stream, on the bank of which at a lower level Critheïs stays, giving herself up to her love; and, being unseen by her, rocks or bushes for example intervening between them, he makes it clear to the spectators that to Critheïs he seems to be water and that she is dallying with a dream.”
The proverb seems to suggest that the reclining river was dreaming of her, the beloved, while she sits at his side as a Greek wife was wont to sit beside her sleeping husband.
37. Another proverbial expression; cf. Sophocles, frag. 742 n., horkous egô gunaikos eis huôr graphô, "A woman’s oaths I write in water.”
38. Hair covering the ears was a mark of modesty in a girl (Benndorf).
39. Rivers of Boeotia.
40. i.e. Homer; those who make Smyrna the birthplace of Homer regard Meles as his father.
41. The chief river of Thessaly; for the epithet cf. Il. 2. 753.
42. A river of Thessaly; cf. Il. 2. 751, where, however, the epithet is himertos, “lovely.”
43. Also in Thessaly; cf. Od. 11. 238.
44. The chief river of Macedonia; cf. Il. 2. 850, where the epithet is kallistos.
45. The chief river of Lycia; cf. Il. 14. 434.
46. Cf. Il. 21. 195 f. Ôkeanoio ex ouper pantes potamoi . . . naousin.


The character of Pantheia the beautiful has been described by Xenophon,47 how she disdained Araspas and would not yield to Cyrus and wished the same earth to cover her and Abradates in the grave; but what her hair was like, what the breadth of her brow, what her glance and the expression of her mouth Xenophon did not describe, though he was particularly clever at telling of such things; but a man not good at writing though very clever at painting, who, though he had never seen Pantheia herself, was nevertheless well acquainted with Xenophon, here paints Pantheia as from her soul he divined her to be.

The walls, my bow, and the burned houses and the fair Lydian women – these let us leave to Persians to ravage and to capture what of them can be captured.48 And so with Croesus, for whom the pyre was destined,49 though Xenophon himself does not mention this – hence our painter does not know of him and does not make him a prisoner of Cyrus. But as for Abradates and Pantheia, who died upon his dead body, since this is what the painting aims to depict, let us consider them, the great tragedy they enacted. These two loved each other and the woman had made her own ornaments into armour for him50; he was fighting for Cyrus against Croesus on a chariot with four poles and eight horses,51 . . . still a youth of downy beard, of an age when the poets consider even young trees which have been torn out of the ground to be objects of pity.52 The wounds, my boy, are such as swordsmen make – for it accords with this style of fighting so to cut down the foe – some of his pure blood stains his armour, some the man himself, and some is sprinkled on the crest which rises hyacinthine red from the golden helmet53 and sheds splendour on the gold itself. A beautiful burial offering are these arms, for one who had not brought shame upon them nor cast them away in battle; and Cyrus brings many Assyrian and Lydian gifts to a brave man, among other things a chariot load of golden sand from the over-abundant treasures of Croesus; but Pantheia believes that the tomb still lacks the offerings due it unless she gives herself as a funeral sacrifice to Abradates. She has already driven the dagger through her breast, but with such fortitude that she has not uttered even a groan at the thrust. At any rate she lies there, her mouth retaining its natural shapeliness and by Zeus a beauty the bloom of which so rests upon her lips that it shines forth clear, silent though she is. She has not yet drawn out the dagger but still presses on it, holding it by the hilt – a hilt that resembles a golden stalk with emeralds for its branches – but the fingers are more charming still; she has lost none of her beauty through pain, and indeed she does not seem to suffer pain at all but rather to depart in joy because she sends herself away. And she departs, not like the wife of Protesilaüs,54 wreathed with the garlands of the Bacchic rites she had been celebrating, nor yet like the wife of Capaneus,55 decked out as for sacrifice; but she keeps her beauty unadorned and just as it was while Abradates was alive, and takes it thus away with her, letting her thick black hair fall unrestrained over her shoulders and neck, yet just showing her white throat, which she had torn in her grief, though not in a way to disfigure it; indeed the marks made by her finger-nails are more charming than a painting.56 The flush on her cheeks has not left her even in death; her beauty and modesty have supplied it. Look at the moderately up-curved nostrils57 that form a base for the nose from which the crescent eyebrows spring like branches, black beneath the white forehead. As for the eyes my boy, let us not consider them for their size, nor ask if they are black, but let us consider the great intelligence there is in them, and by Zeus all the virtues of the soul which they have absorbed; for though their state excites pity, yet they have not lost their look of gladness, and though they are courageous, yet they show the courage of reason rather than of rashness, and though they are aware of death, they have not yet departed from life. Desire, the companion of love, so suffuses the eyes that it seems clearly to drip from them.58 Love also is represented in the picture, as a part of the narrative of the deed59; so also is the Lydian woman,60 catching the blood, as you see, in a fold of her golden robe.

47. Cf. Xen. Cyr. 6. 1. 31 f.; 5. 1. 6; 6. 4. 6. According to Xenophon (Cyr. 5. 1. 1 f.) Pantheia, wife of Abradates was assigned to Cyrus as his share of the booty, and was entrusted by him to his boyhood friend Araspas, who fell violently in love with her. She repulsed his advances (6. 1. 31) and finally appealed to Cyrus; in gratitude to him for his protection she persuaded her husband Abradates to desert the enemy and make common cause with Cyrus. Then Pantheia arrayed her husband for battle in purple raiment and armour of gold, which she had made for him, and exhorted him to bravery. When he was killed in battle, his wife brought back his body for burial, and plunged a dagger in her own breast to die on the bosom of her dead husband.
48. Cf. Hdt. 1. 84, where the supposed impregnability of the walls of Sardis is described.
49. Herodotus (1. 86) describes the pyre erected for Croesus; but Xenophon (Cyr. 7. 2. 9 f.) says nothing about the pyre; and in his story Croesus is not made prisoner.
50. Quoted from Xen. Cyr. 6. 4. 3.
51. Quoted from ibid. 6. 4. 2.
52. e.g. Il. 17. 53 f.
53. Quoted from Xen. Cyr. 6. 4. 2.
54. Protesilaüs was the first of the Greeks to die before Troy (Il. 2. 700 f.). The story of his wife’s death for love of him as described in the tragedy of Euripides (cf. Mayer, Hermes xx. 114 f.) is illustrated on a sarcophagus in Naples (Baumeister, Denkmäler, fig 1574). Laodameia, who was celebrating Bacchic rites, sinks down in astonishment when her husband, his prayer for a brief return to his wife being granted, appears to her. When his day with her is ended, she plunges a dagger in her breast to join him in Hades.
55. Eur. Suppl. 1054 f. Evadne, decked in festal attire, appears on the rocks above the funeral pyre of her husband Capaneus, and throws herself into the flames.
56. “As in a picture” is a Greek phrase for something beautiful; cf. Aesch. Agam. 242, prepousa th’ hôs en graphais of Iphigeneia. Benndorf compares the scars of wounds on the well-known bronze statue of a boxer in the Museo Nazionale, Rome, Ant. Denkm. i. 4. p. 2.
57. Cf. the nose of the Farnese Hera with nostrils slightly curling up, or the head on a vase by Euphronios, Pfuhl, Malerei und Zeichnung der Griechen, Taf. 415C.
58. Cf. Eur. Hipp. 525 f. Erôs, Erôs, ho kat’ ommatôn stazeis pothon.
59. The text is rendered as it stands, but it is probably corrupt.
60. A Lydian woman representing the land of Lycia, which was the scene of the incident depicted.


The men who lie here and there in the men’s great hall, the blood commingled with the wine, the men who sprawling on the tables breathe out their life, and yonder mixing-bowl that has been kicked aside by the man who lies gasping beside it,61 a maiden in the garb of a prophetess who gazes at the axe which is about to descend upon her – thus Clytemnestra welcomes Agamemnon on his return from Troy. And while others are slaying Agamemnon’s followers,62 who are so drunken as to embolden even Aegisthus for the deed, Clytemnestra, enveloping Agamemnon in a device of a mantle from which there is no escape,64 brings down upon him this two-edged axe by which even great trees are laid low,63 and the daughter of Priam, esteemed by Agamemnon as of surpassing beauty, who chanted prophecies that were not believed, she slays with the still warm axe.65 If we examine this scene as a drama, my boy, a great tragedy has been enacted in a brief space of time, but if as a painting, you will see more in it than a drama. For look, here are torches to provide light – evidently these events take place at night – and yonder are mixing-bowls to provide drink, bowls of gold brighter than the torches’ flame, and there are tables laden with food, the food on which hero kings were feasting; but all these things are in disorder, for the banqueters in their death throes have kicked some over,66 others have been shattered, others lies at a distance from the banqueters. And cups, most of them defiled with gore, fall from their hands; nor have the dying men any power to defend themselves, for they are drunken. As for the attitudes of those that have fallen, one has had his throat cut as he is partaking of food or of drink, another as he bent over the mixing-bowl has had his head cut off, another has had his hand lopped off as it carried a beaker, another as he tumbled from his couch drags the table after him, another has fallen “head foremost,” as a poet would say,67 upon his shoulders and head; one has no suspicion of death, and another lacks the strength to flee since drunkenness like a fetter has enchained him. Nor is any one of the fallen pallid of hue, since when men die in their cups the flush does not immediately leave their faces.

The most prominent place in the scene is occupied by Agamemnon, who lies, not on the plains of Troy68 nor on the banks of some Scamander, but among boys and women-folk, like “an ox at the crib” 69 – for this means rest after toil and partaking of food – but even more striking in its pathos is the figure of Cassandra – the way Clytemnestra, her eyes crazed, her hair flying, her arm savagely raised, stands over her with the axe, and the way Cassandra herself, tenderly and in a state of inspiration, has tried to throw herself upon Agamemnon as she hurls her fillets from her and as it were casts about him the protection of her prophetic art; and as the axe is now poised above her, she turns her eyes toward it and utters so pathetic a cry that even Agamemnon, with the remnant of life that is in him, pities her, hearing her cry; for he will recount it to Odysseus in Hades in the concourse of souls.70

61. Cf. the words of the shade of Agamemnon to Odysseus, Od. 11. 419 f. “Thou wouldst have felt most pity hadst thou seen that sight, how about the mixing-bowl and the laden tables we lay in the hall, and the floor swam with blood.” Trans. Murray, L.C.L
62. There is no tradition that Agamemnon was drunk, as the Teubner text is amended to say; rather, it is the drunkenness and powerlessness of his followers which embolden Aegisthus to carry out his plan. Apparently the plan referred to is the ambush of warriors (Od. 11. 529 f.) who can successfully overcome the veterans from Troy only because the latter are drunken.
63. Aeschylus (Agam. 1382) speaks of a net, Euripides (Orest. 25) of a mantle, “from which there is no escape.”
64. Soph. El. 92 f. “All night I muse upon my father dead, not in a foreign land at Ares’ call, but, here at home, by my own mother slain, her and Aegisthus, these adulterers twain; felled by their axe’s bloody stroke, e’en as a woodman fells an oak.” Trans. Storr. L.C.L. Cf. Il. 13. 390 f.
65. Cf. Aesch. Agam. 1278. “Butchered by the hot stroke of bloody sacrifice.” Trans. Smyth, L.C.L.
66. Cf. Od. 22. 19 f. “And quickly he [Antinoüs] thrust the table from him with a kick of his boot, and spilled all the food on the floor, and the bread and roast flesh were defiled.” Trans. Murray, L.C.L. Benndorf points out that the description follows the scene on reliefs depicting the death of the suitors of Penelope, particularly on the reliefs from Trysa, Benndorf-Neumann, Das Heroon von Gjölbaschi.
67. Cf. Il. 5. 585 f. ekpese diphrou kumbachos en koniêsin.
68. Cf. Aesch. Choeph. 363 f. Electra points the same contrast between death on the battlefield and treachery at home.
69. Cf. Od. 11. 411. hôs tis te katektane boun epi phatên. In the proverb the ox is at rest and eating, i.e. it means rest after toil and enjoying food.
70. Cf. Od. 11. 421. The soul of Agamemnon says, “But the most piteous cry that I heard was that of the daughter of Priam, Cassandra, whom guileful Clytemnestra slew by my side. And I sought to raise my hands and smite down the murderess, dying though I was, pierced through with the sword.” Trans. Murray, L.C.L. Cf. Aesch. Agam. 1262 f.; Eur. Troad. 450 f.

2.11 PAN

Pan, the nymphs say, dances badly and goes beyond bounds in his leaping, leaping up and jumping aloft after the manner of sportive goats; and they say that they would teach him a different kind of dancing, or a more delightful character; when he, however, pays no heed to them but, his garment extended, tries to make love to them they set upon him at noon, when Pan is said to abandon the hunt and go to sleep. Formerly he used to sleep relaxed, with peaceful nostril71 and soothing his angry spirit with slumber, but today he is very angry; for the Nymphs have fallen upon him, and already Pan’s hands have been tied behind his back, and he fears for his legs since the Nymphs wish to seize them. Moreover, his beard, which he values most highly, has been shaven off with razors which have been roughly applies to it, and they say that they will persuade Echo to scorn him and no longer even to answer his call. Here are the Nymphs in a group, but do you look at them by classes; for some are Naiades – these who are shaking drops of dew from their hair; and the lean slenderness of the country nymphs is no white less beautiful than dew; and the flower nymphs have hair that resembles hyacinth flowers.72

71. Cf. Theocr. 1. 17. “No, no, man; there’s no piping for me at high noon. I go in too great dread of Pn for that. I wot high noon’s his time for taking rest after the swink o’ the chase; and he’s one of the tetchy sort; his nostril’s ever sour wrath’s abiding place.” Trans. Edmonds, Greek Bucolic Poets, L.C.L.
72. Cf. Od. 6. 231. komas huakinthinô anthei homoias. Cf. elder Phil. Imag. i. 24.

I suppose you are surprised that these bees73 are painted with such detail, for the proboscis is clearly to be seen, and feet and wings and the colour of their garb are as they should be, since the painting gives them the many hues with which nature endows them. Why, then, are the clever insects not in their hives? Why are they in a city? They are going on a revel to the doors of Daïphantos74 – for Pindar has already been born, as you see – in order to mould the babe from earliest childhood that he may even now be inspired with harmony and music; and they are busy with this task. For the child has been laid on laurel branches and sprays of myrtle, since his father conjectured that he was to have a sacred son, inasmuch as cymbals resounded in the house when the child was born, and drums of Rhea were heard, and the Nymphs also, it was said, danced for him, and Pan leaped aloft; nay, they say that when Pindar began to write poetry, Pan neglected his leaping and sang the odes of Pindar.
A carefully wrought statue of Rhea has been set up by the very door, and methinks the statue is clearly of marble, for the painting has taken on a certain harness at this point and what else is it, pray, but carved stone? She brings both the Nymphs of early morning dew and the Nymphs of the springs, and Pan is dancing a certain measure and his expression is radiant and his nostril75 without a trace of anger. The bees inside the hose are busily at work over the boy, dropping honey upon him and drawing back their stings for fear of stinging him. From Hymettus doubtless they have come, and from the “gleaming city sung in story”; for I think that this is what they instilled into Pindar.76

73. Cf. Aelian, Varia Historia 12. 45: Pindarô tas patrôas oikias ektethenti melittai trophoi egenonto, huper tou galaktos paratitheisai meli. See Paus. 9. 23. 2; Dio Chrys. Or. 64. 22.
74. The father of Pindar.
75. Cf. elder Phil. Imag. ii. 11.
76. Pindar, Frag. 76 Bgk. “Oh! the gleaming and the violet-crowned, and the sun in story; the bulwark of Hellas, famous Athens, city divine.” Trans. Sandys, L.C.L.


The rocks rising out of the water and the boiling sea about them, and on the rocks a hero glaring fiercely and with a certain proud defiance toward the sea – the ship of the Locrian77 has been struck by lightning; and leaping from the ship as it bursts into flame, he struggles with the waves, sometimes breaking his way through them, sometimes drawing them to him, and sometimes sustaining their weight with his breast; but when he reaches the Gyrae – the Gyrae78 are rocks that stand out in the Aegean gulf – he utters disdainful words against the very gods, whereupon Poseidon himself sets out for the Gyrae, terrible, my boy, tempestuous, his hair standing erect. And yet in former days he fought as an ally of the Locrian against Ilium, when the hero was discreet and forbore to defy the gods – indeed, Poseidon strengthened him with his sceptre79; but now, when the god sees him waxing insolent, he raises his trident against the man and the ridge of rock that supports Ajax will be so smitten that it will shake him off, insolence and all.

Such is the story of the painting, but what is shown to the eye is this: the sea is whitened by the waves; the rocks are worn by the constant drenching; flames leap up from the midst of the ship, and as the wind fans the flames the ship still sails on as if using the flames as a sail. Ajax gazes out over the sea like a man emerging from a drunken sleep, seeing neither ship nor land; nor does he even fear the approaching Poseidon, but he looks like a man still tense for the struggle; the strength has not yet left his arms, and his neck still stands erect even as when he opposed Hector and the Trojans. As for Poseidon, hurling his trident he will dash in pieces the mass of rock along with Ajax himself, but the rest of the Gyrae will remain as long as the sea shall last and will stand unharmed henceforth by Poseidon.80

77. Ajax, son of Oïleus; the story follows quite closely the Homeric account, Od. 4. 499 f. According to Hyginus and the mathematician Hero, where the story is described in scenes on the stage, it is Athena who causes the shipwreck and death of Ajax because he had snatched the Palladium from Cassandra (cf. Schöne, Jahr. d. Arch. Inst. V. 73 f.).
78. Located by the ancients near Myconos, or, more commonly, off the Eastern promontory of Euboea.
79. Cf. Il. 13. 59. “Therewith the Shaker of Earth smote the twain [the two Ajaxes] with his staff and filled them with valorous strength.”
80. Cf. Od. 4. 505 f. “Poseidon heard his boatful speech and straightway took his trident in his mighty hands, and smote the rock of Gyrae and clove it in sunder. And one part abode in its place, but the sundered part fell into the sea, even that on which Aias sat . . . and bore him down into the boundless surging deep.” Trans. Murray, L.C.L.


This painting suggests Egypt at first view, but the story it tells is not Egyptian; rather, in my opinion, it deals with the Thessalians. For whereas the land which the Egyptians occupy is a gift of the Nile,81 the Thessalians in early times were not permitted by the Peneius to have any land at all, since mountains encompassed the level spaces, which the stream continually flooded because it had as yet no outlet.82 Therefore Poseidon will break through the mountains with his trident and open a gateway for the river. Indeed, this is the work which he has now undertaken, the mighty task of uncovering the plains; his hand is raised to break the mountains apart, but, before the blow has fallen, they separate a sufficient space to let the river through. In the painter’s effort to make the action clear, the right side of Poseidon has been at the same time both drawn back and advanced83 and he threatens to strike his blow, not merely with his hand but with his whole body. He is painted, not dark blue nor yet as a god of the sea, but as a god of the mainland. Accordingly he greets the plains as he sees that they are both broad and level like stretches of the sea. The river also rejoices as one exulting; and, keeping the usual posture of resting on his elbow84 (since it is not customary for a river to stand erect), he takes up the river Titaresius85 as being light water and better to drink and promises Poseidon that he will flow out in the course he had made. Thessaly emerges, the water already subsiding; she wears tresses of olive and grain and grasps a colt that emerges along with her. For the horse also is to be her gift from Poseidon, when the earth shall receive the seed of the god while he sleeps and shall bear a horse.

81. “That Egypt to which the Greeks sail is land acquired by the Egyptians, given them by the river.” Hdt. 2. 5.
82. Cf. Hdt. 7. 129: “In ancient days, it is said, there was not yet this channel, but those rivers . . . had the same volume of water as now, and thereby turned all Thessaly into a sea. Now the Thessalians say that Poseidon made this passage whereby the Peneius flows; and this is reasonable; for whosoever believes that Poseidon is the shaker of the earth and that rifts made by earthquakes are that god’s handiwork, will judge from the sight of that passage that it is of Poseidon’s making; for it is an earthquake, it seems to me, that has riven the mountains asunder.” Trans. Godley, L.C.L.
83. Apparently the body, including the right side, is bent backward in order to lend its force to the blow, while it is twisted so that the right side is more advanced than the left.
84. e.g. the river god Cephisus in the west pediment of the Parthenon.
85. i.e. the river Titaresius is a tributary of the river Peneius; the river and the river-god Peneius are identified in a way somewhat confusing to the reader.


After passing through the Bosporus and between the Symplegadae the Argo is already cutting its way through the midst of the surging Euxine and Orpheus is beguiling the sea by his singing, moreover the Euxine listens and is calm under the spell of his song. The freight which the ship carries consists of the Dioscuri and Heracles, the sons of Aeacus and of Boreas, and all the offspring of the demigods who flourished at this time; and the keel which had been fitted beneath the ship was wrought of an ancient tree, the tree which Zeus used for his oracular utterances at Dodona. Now the purpose of the voyage was as follows: In Colchis is preserved a golden fleece, the fleece of the ancient ram that ferried Helle with Phrixus across the sky, as the story goes. Jason, my boy, undertakes the task of securing this fleece (a task indeed, for to guard the fleece a dragon of fear-inspiring look and disdainful of sleep holds it encircled in his coils); for this reason he is commander of the ship, since the responsibility for the voyage devolves upon him. And Tiphys, my boy, is pilot of the ship; and he is said to be the first of men to have been bold enough for the art which was still then mistrusted; and Lynceus son of Aphareus is stationed at the prow, a man gifted in seeing far ahead and in peering deep down into the depths, always the first to discern submerged reefs and the first to salute land as it dimly appears on the horizon.

But now, methinks, even the eye of Lynceus is stricken with consternation at the approach of the apparition, which also causes the fifty sailors to stop their rowing; Heracles, it is true, remains unmoved at the sight, as one who has met with many like monsters, but the rest, I believe, are calling it a wonder. For they see Glaucus Pontius. The story is that he once dwelt in ancient Anthedon and that he ate a certain grass on the seashore, and that when a wave came upon him unawares he was borne away to the haunts of the fishes. Now he is probably uttering some great oracle, for he excels in this art. As to his appearance, the curls of his beard are whet, but white as gushing fountains to the sight; and heavy are the locks of his hair, which conduct on to his shoulders all the water they have taken up form the sea; his eyebrows are shaggy and they are joined together as though they were one. Ah, the arm! how strong it has become through exercise against the sea, continually battling against the waves and making them smooth for his swimming. Ah, the breast! what a shaggy covering of seaweed and tangle is spread over it like a coat of hair; while the belly beneath is undergoing a change and already begins to disappear. That Glaucus is a fish as to the rest of his body is made evident by the tail, which is lifted and bent back toward the waist; and the part of it that is shaped like a crescent is sea-purple in colour. Kingfishers circle about him both singing the deeds of men (for they like Glaucus have been transformed from the men they once were) and at the same time giving to Orpheus a specimen of their own song, by reason of which not even the sea is without music.

86. Glaucus, a sea divinity, is associated with Anthedon, a city on the north coast of Boeotia near the Locrian border. He was the son of Anthedon, eponymous hero of the city, and Halcyone (the “kingfisher”). A fisherman, he noted that one of the fish he had caught came to life again by contact with a certain herb and leapt into the sea. When he himself tasted the same herb, he also plunged into the sea and became a sea divinity.
The story of the Argo and the golden fleece, the fleece of the ram that bore Phrixus and Helle over the Hellespont, belongs to the heroes of the generation before the Trojan war. The keel of the Argo was fashioned of the oracular oak at Dodona, the rustling of whose leaves made known the will of Zeus in answer to those who consulted the god; sacred doves made their home in its branches, and a sacred spring welled up at its foot (cf. Description ii. 33). When the ship Argo was completed, Jason set sail with the heroes of his day as companions, including Castor and Pollux (the Dioscuri), and Zetes and Calaïs (sons of Boreas). It was after passing through the Hellespont and between the clashing rocks of the Stymplegadae, that they encountered Glaucus Pontius in the Black Sea (Euxine). Cf. also elder Phil. Imag. i. 12 and younger Phil. 8.

2.16 PALAEMON 87

The people sacrificing at the Isthmus, they would be the people of Corinth; and yonder king of the people, let us consider him to be Sisyphus; and this precinct of Poseidon gently resounding to the murmur of the sea – for the foliage of the pines makes this music – all this, my boy, indicates the following: Ino throwing herself from the land for her part becomes Leucothea and one of the band of the Nereides, while as for the child, the earth will claim the infant Palaemon. Already the child is putting in towards shore on a dolphin obedient to his will, and the dolphin making its back level bears the sleeping child, slipping noiselessly through the calm water so as not to disturb his sleep. And as he approaches, a sanctuary opens in the Isthmus as the earth is split apart by Poseidon, who, I fancy, announces to Sisyphus here the advent of the child and bids him offer sacrifice to him. Sisyphus is sacrificing yonder black bull which he has no doubt taken from the herd of Poseidon. The meaning of the sacrifice, the garb worn by those who conducted it, the offerings,88 my boy, and the use o the knife must be reserved for the mysterious rites of Palaemon – for the doctrine is holy and altogether secret, inasmuch as Sisyphus the wise first hallowed it; for that he is a wise man is shown at once, methinks, by the intent look on his face. And as for the face of Poseidon, if he were about to shatter the Gyrean rocks89 or the Thessalian mountains,90 he would doubtless been painted as terrible and like one dealing a blow; but since he is receiving Melicertes as his guest in order that he may keep him on land, he smiles as the child makes harbour, and bids the Isthmus spread out its bosom and become the home of Melicertes. The Isthmus, my boy, is painted in the form of divinity reclining at full length upon the ground, and it has been appointed by nature to lie between the Aegean and the Adriatic as though it were a yoke laid upon the two seas. On the right it has a youth, surely the town of Lechaeum,91 and on the left are girls; these are the two seas, fair and quite calm, which lie alongside the land that represents the Isthmus.

87. Palaemon is another name for Melicertes, son of Ino Leucothea. Incurring the anger of Hera, Ino was stricken with madness and taking her younger son Melicertes jumped in the sea, whereupon she became the sea-goddess Leucothea, and Melicertes the sea-god Palaemon. The worship of Palaemon was carried on at the Isthmus of Corinth and at various points on the shores of Greece. At the Isthmus the Isthmian games apparently were established in his honour, and only later were taken up into the worship of Poseidon.
88. enagismata and sphattein, like orgia, refer to a class of sacrifices offered to heroes and chthonic gods, but not to Olympian gods.
89. Cf. elder Phil. Imag. ii. 13.
90. Cf. ibid. ii. 14.
91. Lechaeum, the north port of Corinth, on the Corinthian Gulf: Cenchreae (represented by the “girls”), the east port of Corinth on the Saronic Gulf.


[1] Would you like, my boy, to have as discourse about those islands just as if from a ship, as though we were sailing in and out among them in the spring-time, when Zephyrus makes the sea glad by breathing his own breeze upon it? But you must be willing to forget the land and to accept this as the sea, not roused and turbulent nor yet flat and calm, but a sea fit for sailing and as it were alive and breathing. Lo, we have embarked; for no doubt you agree? Answer for the boy “I agree, let us go sailing.” You perceive that the sea is large, and the islands in it are not, by Zeus, Lesbos, nor yet Imbros or Lemnos, but small islands herding together like hamlets or cattlef-olds or, by Zeus, like farm-buildings on the sea-shore.

[2] The first1 of these is steep and sheer and fortified by a natural wall; it lifts its peak aloft for all-seeing Poseidon; it is watered with running water and furnishes the bees with food of mountain flowers, which the Nereids also doubtless pluck when the sport along the seashore.

[3] The adjoining island, which is flat and covered with a deep soil, is inhabited by both fishermen and farmers, who offer each other a market, the latter brining of the fruits of their husbandry, the former of the fish they have caught; and they have set up yonder a statue of Poseidon the Farmer with a plough and a yoke,2 crediting him with the fruits of the earth; but that Poseidon may not seem too much a landsman, the beak of a ship is attached to the plough and he breaks the ground as though sailing through it.

[4] The two islands next to these were formerly both joined in one3; but having been broken apart in the middle by the sea its two parts have become separated by the width of a river. This you might know from the painting, my boy; for you doubtless see that the two severed portions of the island are similar, and correspond to each other, and are so shaped that concave parts fit those that project. Europe once suffered the same experience in the region of the Thessalian Tempe; for when earthquakes laid open that land, they indicated on the fractures the correspondence of the mountains once to the other, and even to-day there are visible cavities where rocks once were, which correspond to the rocks torn from them, and, moreover, traces have not yet disappeared of the heavy forest growth that must have followed the mountain sides when they split apart; for the beds of he trees are still left. So we may consider that some such thing happened to this island; but a bridge has been thrown over the channel, wit the result that the two islands look like one; and while ships sail under the bridge, wagons go over it; in fact you doubtless see the men making the passage, that they are both wayfarers and sailors.

[5] The neighbouring island, my boy, we may consider a marvel4; for fire smoulders under the whole of it, having worked its way into underground passages and cavities of the island, through which as though ducts the flames break forth and produce terrific torrents from which pour mighty rivers of fire5 that run in billows to the sea. If one wishes to speculate about such matters, the island provides natural bitumen and sulphur; and when these are mixed by the sea, the island is fanned into flame by many winds, drawing from the sea that which sets the fuel aflame. But the painting, following the accounts given by the poets,6 goes farther and ascribes a myth to the island. A giant, namely, was once struck down there, and upon his as he struggled in the death agony the island was placed as a bond to hold him down, and he doest not yet yield but from beneath the earth renews the fight and breathes forth this fire as he utters threats. Yonder figure, they say, would represent Typho in Sicily or Enceladus here in Italy,7 giants that both continents and island are pressing down, not yet dead indeed but always dying.8 And you, yourself, my boy, will imagine that you have not been left out of the contest, when you look at the peak of the mountain; for what you see there are thunderbolts which Zeus is hurling at the giant, and the giant is already giving up the struggle but still trusts in the earth, but the earth has grown weary because Poseidon does not permit her to remain in place. Poseidon ahs spread a mist over the contest, so that it resembles what has taken place in the past rather than what is taking place now.

[6] This hill encircled by the sea is the home of a serpent,9 guardian doubtless of some rich treasure that lies hidden under the earth. This creature is said to be devoted to gold and whatever golden thing it sees it loves and cherishes; thus the fleece in Colchis and the apples of the Hesperides, since they seemed to be of gold, two serpents that never slept guarded and claimed as their own. And the serpent of Athena, that even to-day still makes its home on the Acropolis10 in my opinion has loved the people of the Athenians because of the gold which they make into grasshopper pins for their hair.11 Here the serpent himself is of gold; and the reason he thrusts his head out of the hole is, I think, that he fears for the safety of the treasure hidden below.

[7] Canopied with ivy and bryony and grape-vines, this next island claims to be dedicated to Dionysus, but adds that Dionysus in now absent, doubtless reveling somewhere on the mainland, having entrusted to Seilenus the sacred objects of the place; these objects are yonder cymbals lying upside down, and golden mixing-bowls overturned, and flutes still warm, and drums lying silent; the west wind seems to lift the fawn-skins from the ground; and thee are serpents, some of which are twined about the thyrsi and others, in a drunken sleep, are at the disposal of the Bacchantes for use as girdles. Of the clusters of grapes some are ripe to bursting, some are turning dark, some are still green, and some appear to be budding, since Dionysus has cunningly fixed the seasons of the vines so that he may gather a continuous harvest.12 The clusters are so abundant that they both hang from the rocks and are suspended over the sea, and birds of both the sea and the land fly up to pluck them; for Dionysus provides the vine for all birds alike except the owl, and this bird alone he drives away from the clusters because it gives man a prejudice against wine. For if an infant child that has never tasted wine should eat the eggs of an owl, he hates wine all his life and would refuse to drink it and would be afraid of drunken men.13 But you are bold enough, my boy, not to fear even the Seilenus that guards the island, though he is both drunken and is trying to seize a Bacchante. She, however, does not deign to look at him, but since she loves Dionysus she fashions his image in her mind and pictures him and sees him, absent though he is; for though the look of the Bacchante’s eyes is wavering, yet assuredly it is not free from dreams of love.

[10] Nature in fashioning yonder mountains has made an island thickly grown and covered with forest, lofty cypress and fir and pine, oaks also and cedar; for the trees are painted each in its characteristic form. The regions on the island where wild beasts abound are tracked by hunters of boar and deer, some equipped with hunting-spears and with bows. Knives and clubs, my boy, are carried by the bold hunters that attack at close quarters; and here nets are spread through the forest, some to surround the animals, some to entrap them, and some to check their running. Some of the animals have been taken, some are struggling, some have overpowered the hunter; every youthful arm is in action, and dogs join men in an outcry, so that you might say that Echo herself joins in the revel of the hunt. Woodsmen cult through the tall tress and trim them; and while one raises his axe, another has driven it home, a third whets his axe which he finds dull from hewing, another examines his fir tree, judging the tree with a view to a mast for his ship,14 and still anther cuts young and straight trees for oars.

[11] The precipitous rock and the flock of seagulls15 and the bird16 in their midst have been painted for some such reason as this: The men are attacking the sea-gulls, but not, by Zeus, for their flesh, which is black and noisome and unpalatable even to a hungry man; but these birds supply to the son of the doctors17 a stomach of such properties as to assure a good appetite in those who eat it and to make them agile. The birds being drowsy are easily caught by torchlight, for the hunters flash a light upon them at night. But the gulls induce the tern with a part of the food they catch to act as a warden and to keep awake for them. Now though the tern is a sea-bird, yet it is simple-minded, easy-going, and inefficient at catching prey; but in resisting sleep it is strong and in fact sleeps but little. For this reason it lets out the use of its eyes to the gulls. So when the gulls fly away after food, the tern keeps guard around the home rock, and the gulls return towards evening bringing to it a tithe of what they have caught; they at once sleep round about the tern, and it stays awake and is never overcome by sleep except when they are willing. If it senses the approach of any danger it raises a piercing shrill cry, and they rise at the signal and fly away, supporting their warden if ever it grows wearing in flight. But in this picture it is standing and watching over the gulls. In that it stands in the midst of the its birds, the tern is like Proteus among his seals,18 but it is superior to Proteus in that it does not sleep.

[12] On this island, my boy, we have put ashore; and though I do not know what its name is, I at least should call it “golden,” had not the poets applies this epithet at random to everything beautiful and marvelous. It is only big enough to have a small palace19; for no one will plough here or cultivate the vine; but it has an abundance of springs, to some of which it furnishes pure cold water and to some water that it has heated. Let us conclude that it is an island so well supplied with water that the water overflows into the sea. As for this surging water, bubbling springs that leap up and bound on high as from a cauldron cause the rippling waves, and this island surrounds the springs. Now the marvel of he source of the springs, whether one should assume that they come from the earth or should locate them in the sea, Proteus here shall decide; for he has come to render judgment on this point. Let us examine the city that has been built upon the island. For in truth there has been built there a likeness of a fair and splendid city no larger than a house, and therein is nurtured a royal child and the city is his plaything. There is a theatre large enough to receive him and his playfellows, and a hippodrome has been constructed of sufficient size for little Melitaean20 dogs to run races in; for the boy uses these as horses and they are held together by yoke and chariot, and the drivers will be these apes that the boy regards as his servants. Yonder hare, brought into the house only yesterday, I believe, is fastened with a purple leash like a dog, but it objects to being bound and seeks to slip its bonds with the help of its front feet; and a parrot and a magpie in a woven cage sing like Sirens on the island; the magpie sings what it knows, but the parrot what it has been taught.

1. Welcker recognized the seven (or nine) islands of Aeolus, described by Servius ad Virg. Aen. 1. 52; see Pereira, Im Reiche des Aeolus.
2. The type of Poseidon with right foot on the prow of a ship is illustrated by the Vatican statue (prow and dolphin restored). As Benndorf points out the Poseidon of the picture follows this familiar type; but the god is dressed like a farmer, the ship’s prow has been transformed to serve as a plough, and his foot is pressed on the plough like a farmer’s in ploughing. The “yoke” seems to mean a yoke of oxen.
3. Apparently the island of Didyme (modern Salina) suggested to the painter (or the writer) the conception of two islands connected by a bridge: Benndorf.
4. The island may be the modern Volcano (the ancient Hiera).
5. Pind. Pyth. 1. 21. “Etna, from whose inmost caves burst forth the purest founts of unapproachable fire.” Trans. Sandys, L.C.L.
6. The story of Typho (Typhoeus), offspring of Gaia, is told by Hesiod, Theog. 820 f. In the battle of the Gods and the Giants he is overthrown but not slain by a thunderbolt of Zeus, and a mountain is placed upon him to hold him confined. While the story was first localized in Asia Minor, it was transferred to Sicily, where the eruptions of Etna were interpreted as the fire of his breath. The story of Enceladus, the opponent of Athena in the battle of the Gods and the Giants, was transferred from Attica to various volcanic regions in Italy and Sicily.
7. An indication that Philostratus is writing in Campania, which confirms the statement in the Prooenium: Benndorf.
8. Cf. Pind. Pyth. 1. 15 f. “That foeman of the gods, Typhon with his hundred heads, who was nurtured of old by the famed Cilician cave, though now the steep shores above Cyme, and Sicily too, lieth heavy on his shaggy breast, and the column that soareth to heaven crusheth him, even snow-clad Etna . . . And that monster flingeth aloft the most fearful founts of fire . . . “ Sandys in L.C.L.
9. Benndorf points out that to-day many Greek islands abound, or are thought to abound, in snakes, so that such names as Drakonisi, Ophioussa, Hudra, etc., are often applied to them; he also quotes Brunn’s suggestion that this “home of a serpent” may be the well known island of Phoenicusa (Filicudi) now called the “grotto del bove marino.”
10. The “serpent of Athena,” which was regularly represented with the Athena of the Athenian acropolis, is connected with the story of the snake-king Erechtheus. Probably its home was the crypt beneath the north porch of the Erechtheum. According to Plutarch, the story that the honey-cake, with which this serpent was fed each month, remained untested at the time of the Persian invasion, was used by Themistocles to prove that the serpent and Athena herself had deserted the city of Athens.

11. The golden cicada, worn by the Athenians before Solon’s time, was an emblem of their claim to be autochthonous, for the cicada was thought to be earth-born.
12. The author is influenced by Homer’s description of the gardens of Alcinoüs, Od. 7. 125 ff.
13. Cf. Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius, iii. 40 (Conybeare’s translation, L.C.L.), where a father is enjoined to make his infant son a teetotaller by this prescription: “for if it is fed upon them [owl’s eggs] before it tastes wine, distaste for wine will be bred in it, etc.”
14. Pikkolos would insert to mêkos before tou dendrou, “for a mast, judging the height of the tree in relation to his ship.”
15. On the island of Filicudi (the ancient Phoenicusa) visitors are shown a cave near the shore, frequented by an immense number of gulls. Pereira, Im Reiche des Aeolus, p. 90.
16. i.e. the tern mentioned below.
17. i.e. the medical profession: sons was the regular name for disciples, e.g. “Asclepiads” for disciples of Asclepius; and “sons of the prophets” for disciples of the prophets.
18. The reference is to Od. 4. 413 f.
19. On the modern Basuluzzo, one of the Liparian Islands (“Basilidin,” Geogr. Rev. V.23, p. 406, 12), there are still ruins of ancient walls and other remains from antiquity; and along its eastern shore gases are said to bubble up in the sea. Pereira, Im Reiche des Aeolus, p. 90 (Benndorf). The plural basileia is used of one palace, “royal quarters.”
20. i.e. Maltese.


These men harvesting the fields and gathering the grapes, my boy, neither ploughed the land nor planted the vines21; but of its own accord the earth sends forth these its fruits for them; they are in truth Cyclopes, for whom, I know not why, the poets will that the earth shall produce its fruits spontaneously. And the earth has also made a shepherd-folk of them by feeding the blocks, whose milk they regard as both drink and meat. They know neither assembly nor council nor yet houses, but they inhabit the clefts of the mountain.

Not to mention the others, Polyphemus son of Poseidon, the fiercest of them, lives here; he has a single eyebrow extending above his single eye and a broad nose astride his upper lip,22 and he feeds upon men after the manner of savage lions. But at the present time he abstains from such food that he may not appear gluttonous or disagreeable; for he loves Galatea, who is sporting here on the sea, and he watches her from the mountain-side. And though his shepherd’s pipe is still under his arm and silent, yet he has a pastoral song to sing that tells how white she is and skittish and sweeter than unripe grapes,23 and how he is raising for Galatea fawns and bear-cubs.24 All this he sings beneath an evergreen oak, heeding not where his flocks are feeding nor their number nor even, any longer, where the earth is. He is painted a creature of the mountains, fearful to look at, tossing his hair, which stands erect and is as dense as the foliage of a pine tree,25 showing a set of jagged teeth in his voracious jaw, shaggy all over – breast and belly and limbs even to the nails. He thinks, because he is in love, that his glance is gentle, but it is wild and stealthy still, like that of wild beasts subdued under the force of necessity.

The nymph sports on the peaceful sea, driving a team of four dolphins yoked together and working in harmony; and maiden-daughters of Triton, Galatea’s servants, guide them, curving them in if they try to do anything mischievous or contrary to the rein. She holds over her heads against the wind a light scarf of sea-purple to provide a shade for herself and a sail for her chariot, and from it a kind of radiance falls upon her forehead and her head, though no white more charming than the bloom on her cheek; her hair is not tossed by the breeze, for it is so moist that it is proof against the wind. And lo, her right elbow stands out and her white forearm is bent back, while she rests her fingers on her delicate shoulder, and her arms are gently rounded, and her breasts project, nor yet is beauty lacking in her thigh. Her foot, with the graceful part that ends in it, is painted as on the sea, my boy, and it lightly touches the water as if it were the rudder guiding her chariot. Her eyes are wonderful, for they have a kind of distant look that travels as far as the sea extends.

21. The first section of the description is full of reminiscences of Homer: e.g. Od. 9. 108, the Cyclopes “plant nothing with their hands nor plough; but all these things spring up for them without sowing or ploughing, wheat, and barley, and vines”; 112, “Neither assemblies for council have they, nor appointed laws,” but they “dwell on the peaks of the mountains in hollow caves”; 246 f., Polyphemus drinks milk and eats cheese and (291) makes his supper on two of the companions of Odysseus.
22. Cf. Theocr. 11. 31 f. “One long shag eyebrow ear to ear my forehead o’er doth go, and but one eye beneath doth lie, and the nose stands wide on the lip.” Trans. Edmonds, Greek Bucolic Poets, L.C.L.
23. Theocritus has written the song of the Cyclop’s serenade from which Philostratus draws freely in § 2; cf. Idyll 11. 19 ff. “O Galatea fair and white, white as the curds in whey, dapper as lamb a-frisking, wanton as calf at play, and plump of shape as ruddying grape, . . . “
hêdiôn omphakos seems to be a witticism suggesting Polyphemus’ idea of a compliment; in Theocritus 1. 21 phiarôtera omphakos ômus, “plumper of shape than ruddying grape,” is found the clue to the interpretation of Philostratus.
24. Cf. Theocr. 11. 40 “And O, there’s gifts in store for thee, eleven fawns, all white collars, and cosset bear’s cubs four for thee.”
25. The comparison is to an umbrella pine.

2.19. PHORBAS 26

This river, my boy, is the Boeotian Cephisus, a stream not unknown to the Muses; and on its bank Phlegyans are encamped, barbarian people who do not yet live in cities. Of the two men boxing you doubtless see that one is Apollo, and the other is Phorbas, whom the Phlegyans have made king because he is tall beyond all of them and the most savage of the race. Apollo is boxing with him for the freedom of the road. For since Phorbas seized control of the road which leads straight to Phocis and Delphi, no one any longer sacrifices at Pytho or conducts paeans in honour of the god, and the tripod’s oracles and prophetic sayings and responses have wholly ceased. Phorbas separates himself from the rest of the Phlegyans when he makes his raids; for this oak-tree, my boy, he has taken as his home, and the Phlegyans visit him in these royal quarters in order, forsooth, to obtain justice. Catching those who journey toward the shrine, he sends the old men and children to the central camp of the Phlegyans for them to despoil and hold for ransom; but as for the stronger, he strips for a contest with them and overcomes some in wrestling, outruns others, and defeats others in the pancratium and in throwing the discus; then he cuts off their heads and suspends these on the oak, and beneath this defilement he spends his life. The heads hang dank from the branches, and some you see are withered and others fresh, while others have shrunken to bare skulls; and they grin and seem to lament as the wind blows on them.

To Phorbas, as he exults over these “Olympian” victories, has come Apollo in the likeness of a youthful boxer. As for the aspect of the god, he is represented as unshorn, my boy, and with his hair fastened up so that he may box with girt-up head; rays of light rise from about his brow and his cheek emits a smile mingled with wrath27; keen is the glance of his eyes as it follows his uplifted hands. And the leather thongs are wrapped about his hands, which are more beautiful than if garlands adorned them. Already the god has overcome him in boxing – for the thrust of the right hand shows the hand still in action and not yet discontinuing the posture wherewith he has laid him low – but the Phlegyan is already stretched on the ground, and a poet will tell how much ground he covers28; the wound has been inflicted on his temple, and the blood gushes forth from it as from a fountain. He is depicted as savage, and of swinelike features – the kind that will feed upon strangers rather than simply kill them. Fire from heaven rushes down to smite the oak and set it afire, not, however, to obliterate all record of it; for the place where these events occurred, my boy, is still called “Heads of Oak."29

26. Phorbas was a mythical king of the Phlegyans, who is said to have lived at Panopeus in Phocis, and who made the sacred way to Delphi unsafe for those who wished to visit the shrine of Apollo.
27. For the “smile mingled with wrath” Benndorf compares the expression of Apollo Belvedere; rays of light emanating from the forehead are seen on the head of Helios on later coins of Rhodes, e.g. Brit Mus. Cat., Caria, Pl. XL.
28. Cf. Il. 21. 406 f. “Thereupon she smote furious Ares on the neck, and loosed his limbs. Over seven roods he stretched in his fall.” Trans. Murray, L.C.L.
29. Cf. Hdt. 9. 39. “The pass over Cithaeron that leads to Plataea, which pass the Boeotians call the Three Heads, and the Athenians the Oaks’ Heads.”

2.20 ATLAS

With Atlas also did Heracles contend, and that too without a command from Eurystheus, claiming that he could sustain the heavens better than Atlas. For he saw that Atlas was bowed over and crushed by the weight and that he was crouching on one knee alone and barely had strength left to stand, while as for himself, he averred that he could raise the heavens up and after setting them aloft could hold them for a long time. Of course he does not reveal this ambition at all, but merely says that he is sorry for Atlas on account of his labour and would willingly share his burden with him. And Atlas has so gladly seized upon the offer of Heracles that he implores him to venture the task.

Atlas is represented as exhausted, to judge by all the sweat that trickles from him and to infer from his trembling arm, but Heracles earnestly desires the task. This is shown by the eager look on his face, the club thrown on the ground and the hands that beg for the task. There is no need to admire the shaded parts of Heracles’ body because they are vigorously drawn – for the attitudes of recumbent figures or persons standing erect are easily shaded, and their accurate reproduction is not at all a mark of skill – but the shadows on Atlas show a high degree of skill; for the shadows on a crouching figure like his run into one another, and do not darken any of the projecting parts but they produce light on the parts that are hollow and retreating.30 The belly of Atlas, for instance, one can see although he is bending forward, and one can perceive that he is panting. The bodies in the heavens which he carries are painted in the ether that surrounds the stars; one can recognize a bull, that is the Bull of the heavens, and bears, the kind that are seen here. Of the winds some are represented facing in the same direction and others as facing in the opposite direction, and while some are friendly with each other others seem to keep up their strife in the heavens.

You will uphold these heavenly bodies for the present, Heracles; but before long you will live with them in the sky, drinking, and embracing the beautiful Hebe31; for you are to marry the youngest of the gods and the one most revered by them, since it is through her32 that they also are young.

30. The understanding of shadows in this passage shows acute observation. No shadow is unvarying solid dark (black), through the shadows on a figure standing or lying down are relatively simple. In the case of a crouching figure the shadows are very complex because of light reflected from the ground and from the figure itself; protruding parts catch more of this reflected light, but even the hollow get enough to make their form visible.
Philostratus doubtless gives the reader the results of art criticism current in his day, as interpreted by his own observation. The difficulty with his statement is that he makes the shadows the agent that fails to darken the protruding parts, and that produces light on the hollows, whereas in fact these results are due to the modification of the shadows by reflected light.
31. Cf. Od. 11. 602 f. “For he himself (Heracles) among the immortal gods takes his joy in the feast, and has to wife Hebe of the fair ankles.” Trans. Murray, L.C.L. Cf. also Hom. Hymn 15. 7 f.
32. i.e. as the goddess of youth.


Fine sand, like that found in the famous wrestling places, hard by a fountain of oil,33 two athletes, one of whom is binding up his ears34 and the other removing a lion’s skin from his shoulder, funeral mounds and monuments and incised letters – this is Libya, and Antaeus whom Earth bore to do mischief to strangers by practicing, I fancy, a piratical style of wrestling. To the giant who undertook these contests and buried those he slew in the wrestling ground itself, as you see, the painting brings Heracles; he has already secured the golden apples here shown and has won renown for his exploit among the Hesperid Nymphs – to overcome them was not such an amazing feat for Heracles, but rather the serpent.35 Without even bending the knee, as the saying is,36 he strips to meet Antaeus, while yet breathing heavily from his journey; his eyes are intent upon some purpose, as if in contemplation of the contest; and he has put a curb upon his anger that it may not carry him beyond the bounds of prudence. But Antaeus, disdainful and puffed with pride, seems to say to Heracles, “Ye children of wretched men,” 37 or some such thing, confirming his own courage by his insolence.

If Heracles had been devoted to wrestling, his natural characteristics would not have been different from those represented in the painting; for he is represented as strong, and, in that his body is so symmetrically developed, as abundantly endowed with skill; he might even be a giant and of a stature surpassing man’s. He is red-blooded, and his veins seem to be in travail as though some passion had stolen into them. As for Antaeus, I think you must be afraid of him, my boy; for he resembles some wild beast, being almost as broad as he is tall, and his neck is attached to the shoulders in such wise that most of the latter belongs to the neck, and the arm is as big around as are the shoulders. Yonder breast and belly that are “wrought with the hammer” 38 and the fact that the lower leg is not straight but ungainly mark Antaeus as strong, indeed, but muscle-bound and lacking in skill. Furthermore, Antaeus is black, dyed by exposure to the sun. Such are the qualifications of the two for the wrestling-match.

You see them engaged in wrestling, or rather at the conclusion of their bout, and Heracles at the moment of victory. But he lays his opponent low at a distance above the earth,39 for Earth was helping Antaeus in the struggle by arching herself up and heaving him up to his feet again whenever he was thrust down. So Heracles, at a loss how to deal with Earth, has caught Antaeus by the middle just above the waist, where the ribs are, and set him upright on his thigh, still gripping his arms about him; then pressing his own fore-arm against the pit of Antaeus’ stomach, now flabby and panting, he squeezes out his breath and slays him by forcing the points of his ribs into his liver. Doubtless you see Antaeus groaning and looking to Earth, who does not help him, while Heracles is strong and smiles at his achievement. Do not look carelessly at the top of the mountain, but assume that gods have there a place from which to view the contest; for, observe, a golden cloud is painted, which serves, I fancy, as a canopy for them; and here comes Hermes to visit Heracles and crown him because he finds that Heracles plays his part so well in the wrestling-match.

33. Olive oil was used by the Greeks before athletic contests, especially wrestling, to protect the perspiring skin from the sun; it was also used before and after the bath. So much oil was needed that a tank for it was often provided.
34. Wrestlers, especially boys, sometimes wore a cap, amphôtis, to protect the ears (cf. the red-figured kylix, Arch. Zeit. 1878, Pl. XI and Schreiber, Kulthurhist. Atlas, Pl. XXIV. 8). Greek boxers protected their ears in this way, but in the games it was not customary for wrestlers.
35. i.e. to kill the serpent, a terrible monster.
36. “To bend the knee in rest” is the Homeric phrase for resting after labour, e.g. Il. 7. 118.
37. The Homeric phrase used in addressing opponents contemptuously, cf. Il. 21. 151, dustênôn de te paides emô menei antioôsin.
38. i.e. wrought metal (not cast), “as strong as iron”; quoted from Theocr. 22. 47.
39. The contradiction in terms is of course intentional.


While Herakles is asleep in Libya after conquering Antaeuss, the Pygmies set upon him with the avowed intention of avenging Antaeus; for they claim to be brothers of Antaeus, high-spirited fellows, not athletes, indeed, nor his equals at wrestling, but earth-born and quite strong besides, and when they come up out of the earth the sand billows in waves. For the Pygmies dwell in the earth just like ants and store their provisions underground, and the food they eat is not the property of others but their own and raised by themselves. For they sow and reap and ride on a cart drawn by pigmy horses, and it said that they use an axe on stalks of grain, believing that these are trees. But ah, their boldness! Here they are advancing against Heracles and undertaking to kill him in his sleep; though they would not fear him even if he were awake. Meanwhile he sleeps on the soft sand, since weariness has crept over him in wrestling; and, filled with sleep, his mouth open, he draws full breaths deep in his chest, and Sleep himself stands over him in visible form, making much, I think, of his own part in the fall of Heracles. Antaeus also lies there, but whereas art paints Heracles as alive and warm, it represents Antaeus as dead and withered and abandons him to Earth.

The army of the Pygmies envelops Heracles; while this one phalanx attacks his left hand, these other two companies march against his right hand as being stronger; bowmen and a host of slingers lay siege to his feet, amazed at the size of his shin; as for those who advance against his head, the Pygmy King has assumed the command at this point, which they think will offer the stoutest resistance, and they bring engines of war to bear against it as if it were a citadel – fire for his hair, mattocks for his eyes, doors of a sort for his mouth, and these, I fancy, are gates to fasten on his nose, so that Heracles may not breathe when his head has been captured. All these things are being done, to be sure, around the sleeping Heracles; but lo! he stands erect and laughs at the danger, and sweeping together the hostile forces he puts them in his lion’ skin, and I suppose he is carrying them to Eurystheus.


Fight, brave youths, [surround]41 Heracles, and advance. But heaven grant that he spare the remaining boy, since two already lie dead and his hand is aiming the arrow with the true aim of a Heracles. Great is your task, no whit less great than the contests in which he himself engaged before his madness. But fear not at all; he is gone from you, for his eyes are directed toward Argos, and he thinks he is slaying the children of Eurystheus42; indeed, I heard him in the play of Euripides; he was driving a chariot and applying a goad to his steeds and threatening to destroy utterly the house of Eurystheus; for madness is a deceptive thing and prone to draw one away from what is present to what is not present.

Enough for these youths; but as for you, it is high time for you to occupy yourself with the painting. The chamber which was the object of his attack still holds Megara and the child; sacrificial baskets and lustral basins and barley-grains and firewood and missing bowl, the utensils of Zeus Herkeios,43 all have been kicked aside, and the bull is standing there; but there have been thrown on the altar, as victims, infants of noble birth, together with their father’s lion’s skin. One has been hit in the neck and the arrow has gone through the delicate throat, the second lies stretched out full upon his breast and barbs of the arrow have torn through the middle of the spine, the missile having evidently been shot into his side.44 Their cheeks45 are drenched with tears, and you should not wonder that they wept beyond the due measure of tears; for tears flow easily with children, whether what they fear be small or great. The frenzies Heracles is surrounded by the whole body of his servants, like a bull that is running riot, surrounded by herdsmen; one tires to bind him, another is struggling to restrain him, another shouts loudly, one clings to his hands, one tries to trip him up, and others leap upon him. He, however, has no consciousness of them, but he tosses46 those who approach him and tramples on them, dribbling much foam from his mouth and smiling a grim and alien smile,47 and while keeping his eyes intently fixed on what he is doing, yet letting the thought behind his glance stray away to the fancies that deceive him. His throat bellows, his neck dilates, and the veins about the neck swell, the veins through which all that feeds the disease flows up to the sovereign parts of the head.48 The Fury which has gained this mastery over him you have many times seen on the stage, but you cannot see her here; for she has entered into Heracles himself and she dances through his breast49 and leaps up inside him and muddles his mind. To this point the painting goes, abut poets go on to add humiliating details, and they even tell of the binding of Heracles, and that too though they say that Prometheus was freed from bonds by him.

40. In early life Heracles by his prowess won the independence of Thebes from Orchomenus, and received as a reward Megara, the daughter of Creon, as his wife. The end of this happy period in his life is attributed to the jealousy of Hera, who made him violently insane. In his madness he slew his young children and his wife Megara.
41. There is no clue to the word lost here.
42. Much of this description seems to be drawn from the Heracles Furens of Euripides. Cf. 935 f. "Suddenly with a maniac laugh he spake: ‘Why, ere I slay Eurystheus . . . ‘” Trans. Way, L.C.L.
43. The god of social institutions, and especially the family and the home.
44. i.e. the barb is seen projecting through the spine at an angle, showing that it entered at the side.
45. For the thought Gomperz compares Herodotus, 3. 14.
46. i.e. lie a bull.
47. Eur. Her. Fur. 934 f. “While dripped the slaver down his bearded cheek, suddenly with a maniac laugh . . . “ Trans. Way, L.C.L.
48. i.e. to the temples.
49. Eur. Her. Fur. 863: hoi egô stadia dramoumai sternon eis Hêrakleous (from the speech of the Fury).


This man is rough and, by Zeus! in a rough land; for this island is Rhodes, the roughest part of which the Lindians inhabit, a land good for yielding grapes and figs but not favourable for ploughing and impossible to drive over. We are to conceive o the man as crabbed, a farm labourer of “premature old age”; 51 he is Theiodamas the Lindian, if perchance you have heard of him. But what boldness! Theiodamas is angry with Heracles, because the latter, meeting him as he ploughed, slew one of the oxen and made a meal of it, being quite accustomed to such a meal. For no doubt you have read about Heracles in Pindar,52 of the time when he came to the home of Coronus and at a whole ox, not counting even the bones superfluous; and dropping in to visit Theiodamas toward evening he fetched fire – and even dung53 is good fuel for a fire – and roasting the ox he tries the flesh to see if it is already tender, and all but finds fault with the fire for being so slow.

The painting is so exact that it does not fail to show the very nature of the ground; for where the ground presents even a little of its surface to the plough, it seems anything but poor, if I understand the picture. Heracles is keeping his thoughts intently on the ox, and pays but scant attention to the curses of Theiodamas, only enough to relax his face into a smile, while the countryman makes after him with stones. The mode of the man’s garments is Dorian; his hair is squalid and there is grime on his forehead; while his thigh and his arm are such as the most beloved land54 grants to its athletes. Such is the deed of Heracles; and this Theiodamas is revered among the Lindians; wherefore they sacrifice a plough-ox to Heracles, and they begin the rites with all the curses which I suppose the countryman then uttered, and Heracles rejoices and gives good things to the Lindians in return for their imprecations.

50. In the more usual form of the story Theiodamas is king of the Dryopes on the slopes of Parnassus; in the service of Apollo, Heracles with Deianeira and the boy Hyllus enters the land of the Dryopians, asks Theiodamas for food, and, when refused, consumes entirely one of the yoke of oxen which the king is driving. Philostratus follows the Rhodian form of the myth; here Theiodamas is a peasant ploughing, one of whose oxen Heracles consumes amid the curses of the peasant. This story is used to explain the worship of Heracles,w ith sacrifice of an ox and curses, at the hot springs (Thermydrae) near the harbour of Lidus. Cf. Ant. Pal. 16. 101.
51. Cf. Od. 15. 357: en ômô gêrai.
52. The passage in Pindar is now lost ; Coronus was king of the Lapiths, enemies of the Dorians, who were said to live near the pass of Tempe.
53. The use of dried dung in the East for fuel is very old; cf. Livy 38. 18. 4.
54. Perhaps a reference to Sparta.


Let us not consider the mares of Diomedes to have been a task56 for Heracles, my boy, since he has already overcome them and crushed them with his club – one of them lies on the ground, another is gasping for breath, a third, you will say, is leaping up, another is falling down; their manes are unkempt, they are shaggy down to their hoofs, and in every way they resemble wild beasts; their stalls are tainted with flesh and bones of the men whom Diomedes used as food for his horses, and the breeder of the mares himself is even more savage of aspect than the mares near whom he has fallen – but you must regard this present labour as the more difficult, since Eros57 enjoins it upon Heracles in addition to many others, and since the hardship laid upon him was no slight matter. For Heracles is bearing the half-eaten body of Abderus, which he has snatched from the mares; and they devoured him white yet a tender youth and younger than Iphitus, to judge from the portions that are left; for, still beautiful, they are lying on the lion’s skin. The tears he shed over them, the embraces he may have given them, the laments he uttered, the burden of grief on his countenance – let such marks of sorrow be assigned to another lover; for another likewise let the monument placed upon the fair beloved’s58 tomb carry the same tribute of honour59; but, not content with the honours paid by most lovers, Heracles erects for Abderus a city, which we call by his name,60 and games also will be instituted for him, and in his honour contests will be celebrated, boxing and the pancratium and wrestling and all the other contests except horse-racing.

55. The story of Abderus was told to explain the founding of the city of Abdera on the south coast of Thrace and the institution of the Abderite games. The death of Abderus is attributed to the mares of Diomedes, and it is Heracles’ desire to pay special honour to his young friend which led him to found a city and to establish games which were called by his name.
56. The slaying of Diomedes and the capture of his man-eating mares was one of the twelve labours of Heracles; but we are here asked to regard the second episode of it as harder than the first, since the killing of the mares has proved too easy to have been a “labour.” Benndorf’s conjecture, “a slight task,” seems unnecessary.
57. While the other labours were assigned to Heracles by Eurystheus, the present “labour” is difficult only because of Heracles’ great love for Abderus.
58. kalos is here used for the youth who is beloved, as, for instance, on Attic pottery vases.
59. i.e. the inscription reciting the exploits of the departed.
60. i.e. Abdera, a city on the south coast of Thrace.

2.26 XENIA 61

This hare in his cage is the prey of the net, and he sits on his haunches moving his forelegs a little and slowly lifting his ears, but he also keeps looking with all his eyes and tries to see behind him as well, so suspicious is he and always cowering with fear; the second hare that hangs on the withered oak tree, his belly laid wide open and his skin stripped off over the hind feet, bears witness to the swiftness of the dog which sits beneath the tree,62 resting and showing that he alone has caught the prey. As for the ducks near the hare (count them, then), and the geese of the same number as the ducks, it is not necessary to test them by pinching them, for their breasts, where the fat gathers in abundance on water-birds, have been plucked all over. If you care for raised bread of “eight-piece loves,” 63 they are here near by in the deep basket. And if you want any relish, you have the loaves themselves – for they have been seasoned with fennel and parsley and also with poppy-seed, the spice that brings sleep – but if you desire a second course, put that off till you have cooks, and partake of the food that needs no fire. Why, then, do you not take the ripe fruit, of which there is a pile here in the other basket? Do you not know that in a little while you will no longer find it so fresh, but already the dew will be gone from it? And do not overlook the desert, if you care at all for medlar fruit and Zeus’ acorns,64 which is the smoothest of trees bears in a prickly husk that is horrid to peel off. Away with even the honey, since we have here this palathè,65 or whatever you like to call it, so sweet a dainty it is! And it is wrapped in its own leaves, which lend beauty66 to the palathè.

I think the painting offers these gifts of hospitality to the master of the farm, and he is taking a bath, having perhaps the look in his eyes of Pramnian or Thasian wines, although he might, if he would, drink the sweet new wine at the table here, and then on his return to the city might smell of pressed grapes and of leisure67 and might belch in the faces of the city-dwellers.

61. “For when the Greeks became more luxurious . . . they began to provide dining-rooms, chambers, and stores of provisions for their guests from abroad, and on the first day they would invite them to dinner, sending them on the next chickens, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and other country produce. This is why artists called pictures representing things sent to guest ‘xenia’.” Vitruvius, vi. 7, 4, Trans. Morgan.
The account beings with a description of the painting, then it passes over into an address to the owner of the farm in which the painting itself is the speaker, and only in the last sentence does the writer speak in his own name. Cf. elder Phil. Imag. i. 31.
62. In early Greek art it was customary to represent trees without leaves.
63. Quoted from Hesiod, Op. et Dies, 442, “a loaf of four quarters and eight slices for his dinner.” In Hesiod the loaf is marked with two intersecting lines which divide it into four quarters; the scholiast explains the word here quoted as “giving eight mouthfuls,” but Philostratus uses it as in contrast to leavened bread.
64. A popular term for sweet chestnuts.
65. The hypothetical speaker uses the term palathè for the confection as though he were not quite sure of its being the right word. Its meaning is given by Hesychius as “a layer of figs set close together.”
66. i.e., attractiveness and freshness.
67. For similar expressions cf. Aristoph. Nub. 50, 1008.


These, wonder-struck beings are gods and goddesses, for the decree has gone forth that not even the Nymphs may leave the heavens, but that they, as well as the rivers from which they are sprung,68 must be at hand; and they shudder69 at the sight of Athena, who at this moment has just burst forth fully armed from the head of Zeus, through the devices of Hephaestus, as the axe tells us. As for the material of her panoply, no one could guess it; for as many as are the colours of the rainbow, which changes its light now to one hue and now another, so many are the colours of her armour. Hephaestus seems at a loss to know by what gift he may gain the favour of the goddess; for his lure70 is spent in advance because her armour was born with her. Zeus breathes deeply with delight, like men who have undergone a great contest for a great prize, and he looks searchingly for his daughter, feeling pride in his offspring; nor yet is there even on Hera’s face any trace of indignation; nay, she rejoices, as though Athena were her daughter also.

Two peoples are already sacrificing to Athena on the acropolis of two cities, the Athenians and the Rhodians, one on the land and one on the sea, [sea-born] and earth-born men; the former offer fireless sacrifices that are incomplete, but the people of Athens offer fire, as you see yonder, and the savour of burnt flesh. The smoke is represented as fragrant and as rising with the savour of the offerings. Accordingly the goddess has come to the Athenians as to men of superior wisdom who make excellent sacrifices. For the Rhodians, however, as we are told, gold flowed down from heaven and filled their houses and their narrow streets, when Zeus caused a cloud to break over them, because they also gave heed to Athena. The divinity Plutus71 also stands on their acropolis, and he is represented as a winged being who has descended from the clouds, and as golden because of the substance in which he has been made manifest. Moreover, he is painted as having his sight72; for of set purpose he has come to them.

68. Il. 20. 7 f. To the council summoned by Zeus “there was no river that came not, save only Oceanus, nor any nymph of all that haunt the fair copses, the springs that feed the rivers, and the grassy meadows.” Trans. Murray, L.C.L.
69. The account given has many reminiscences of Pindar, Ol. 7. Eg. 38: “Heaven and Mother Earth trembled before her”; 35: “What time by the cunning craft of Hephaestus, at the stroke of the brazen hatchet, Athena leapt forth from the crest of her father’s head”; 48: “Thus it was with fireless sacrifices that, on the citadel, they laid out the sacred precinct”; 49 f.: “He (Zeus) caused a yellow cloud to draw night to them and rained on them abundant gold.” Trans. Sandys, L.C.L.
70. As when, for instance, he made a gift of golden armour to Thetis for Achilles.
71. i.e. wealth.
72. Plutus is usually conceived of as blind.

2.28 LOOMS 73

Since you sing the praises of Penelope’s loom, having found an excellent painting of it, and you think the loom complete in all its parts – and it is stretched tight with the warp, and lint gathers under the threads, and the shuttle all but sings, while Penelope herself sheds tears so hot that Homer74 melts snow with them, and she unravels what she has woven, look also at the spider weaving in a picture near by, and see if it does not excel in weaving both Penelope and the Seres75 too, though the web these people make is exceedingly fine and scarcely visible.76 Now this doorway belongs to a house by no means prosperous77; you will say it has been abandoned by its master, and the court within seems deserted, nor do the columns still support its roof, for they have settled and collapsed; nay, it is inhabited by spiders only, for this creature loves to weave its web in quiet. Look at the threads also; for as the spiders spew out their yarn they let it down to the pavement – and the painter shows them descending on it and scrambling up and “soaring aloft,” as Hesiod says,78 and trying to fly – and in the angles they weave their nests, some spread out flat, some hollow; the flat ones are good to summer in, and the hollow sort they weave is useful in winter. Now the painter has been successful in these respects also: that he has wrought the spider itself in so painstaking a fashion, has marked its spots with fidelity to nature and has painted its repulsive fuzzy surface and its savage nature – all this is the mark of a good craftsman and one skilled in depicting the truth. And he has also woven these delicate webs for us. For look! here is a cord forming a square79 that has been thrown about the corners to be as it were a cable to hold the web, and to this cord is attached a delicate web of many concentric circles, and tight lines, making meshes running from the outside circle to the smallest one, are interwoven at intervals corresponding to the distance between the circles. And the weavers travel across them, drawing tight such of the threads as have become loose. But they win a reward for their weaving and feed on the flies whenever any become enmeshed in the webs. Hence the painter has not omitted their prey either; for one fly is caught by the feet, another by the tip of its wing, the head of another is being eaten, and they squirm in their effort to escape, yet they do not disarrange or break the web.

73. Although Kayser suggests that the description of a painting representing Penelope’s loom once preceded this Description 28 and has been lost, Schenkl regards this introductory paragraph as merely a rhetorical device of the sophist. The writer assumes that “the boy” has spoken of a painting near by of Penelope’s loom, and uses this device to enrich his description of the present painting.
Benndorf calls attention to representations of Penelope’s loom in Mon. Inst. IX. 42, and Froehner, Collection Branteghem, Pl. 45; also to a painting of spiders’ webs, Helbig, Campan. Wandmal. Pl. 99.
74. Od. 19. 204 f. What Homer really says is, “Her tears flowed and her face melted as the snow melts on the lofty mountains . . . and as it melts the streams of the rivers flow full: so her fair cheeks melted as she wept.” Trans. Murray.
75. The people of the country of silk (sericus), somewhere in eastern Asia.
76. Cf. the description of the spider’s web in Od. 8. 284: “When the snare was fashioned for Ares, many of the bonds were hung from above, from the roof beams, fine as spiders’ webs, so that no one even of the blessed gods could see them.” Trans. Murray.
77. One looks through the doorway into a court surrounded by columns; the wooden columns have given way, the flat roof has fallen in, and the room is occupied only by spiders.
78. Quoted from Hes. Op. et Dies, 777.
79. One must assume one of the three alternatives: (1) that Philostratus did not observe accurately, for spiders do not make their webs in squares, or (2) that tetragônos should be amended, e.g. to some such word as tetraplasios (“woven of four strands,” cf. Bougot, p. 552), or (3) that it should be interpreted as “four-angled,” not with the usual meaning “square.” In the latter case the web in the corners would take the usual form. Bougot (p. 486) quotes Blanchard, Metamorphoses des Insectes, p. 684, who describes the web of the large Epeira as having clearly “a cable to hold the web” i.e. hung from “cables,” the encircling lines in a spiral, and the whole “four-angled.”


Tydeus and Capaneus and their comrades, and any Hippomedon or Parthenopaeus that may be here, will be buried by the Athenians, when they take up the war to recover their bodies; but Polyneices the son of Oedipus is being buried by his sister Antigone, who steals outside the walls at night, though proclamation has been made that no one shall bury him or commit him to the earth he had tried to enslave. And so we see in the plain corpses upon corpses, and horses lying as they fell, and the arms of the warriors as they slipped from their hands, and this mire of gore in which they say Enyo80 delights; while beneath the wall are the bodies of the other captains – they are tall and beyond the normal height of men – and also Capaneus, who is like a giant; for not only is he of huge stature, but also he has been smitten by the thunderbolt of Zeus81 and is still smouldering. As for the body of Polyneices, tall like his associates, Antigone has lifted it up82 and will bury it by the tomb of Eteocles, thinking to reconcile her brothers in the only manner that is still possible. What shall we say, my boy, of the merits of the picture? Well, the moon sheds a light that the eyes cannot quite trust, and the maiden, overcome with fear, is on the point of uttering a cry of lamentation as she throws her strong arms about her brother, but nevertheless she masters the cry because, no doubt, she fears the ears of the guards, and though she wants to keep watch in every direction, yet her gaze rests upon her brother as she kneels on the ground.

This shoot of a mulberry, my boy, has sprung up of itself, for the Erinnyes,83 it is said, caused it to grow on the tomb; and if you pluck its fruit, blood spurts out even to this day. Wonderful also is the fire that has been kindled for the funeral sacrifices; for it does not come together or join its flames into one, but from this point on84 it turns in different directions, thus indicating the implacable hatred that continues even in the tomb.

80. Goddes of war, the companion of Ares.
81. As were the Giants in their battle with the Gods, cf. elder Phil. Imag. ii. 17 and note. For the fate of Capaneus cf. elder Phil. Imag. ii. 30.
82. Benndorf calls attention to the relief in the Villa Pamfili (Robert, Sarkophagreliefs, II. p. 193, Pl. 60), where Antigone is carrying the body of Polyneices; and to Heibig’s discussion of night-scenes (Camp. Wandmal. P. 363 f.).
83. i.e. the avenging Furies.
84. The speaker apparently points to the place where the flame begins as a solid mass, before it spreads out in divergent directions.

2.30 EVADNE 85

The pyre and the victims sacrificed upon it and the corpse, laid on the pyre, which seems too large for that of a man, and the woman who takes so mighty a leap into the flames, make up a picture, my boy, to be interpreted as follows. Capaneus is being buried in Argos86 by his kinsmen, having been slain at Thebes by Zeus, as you recall, when he had already mounted the walls. Doubtless you have heard the poets87 tell how, when he uttered a boast against Zeus, he was struck by a thunderbolt and died before he reached the ground, at the time when the rest of the captains fell beneath the Cadmeia.88

Now when the Athenians have secured by their victory the burial of the dead, the body of Capaneus is laid out with the same honours as those of Tydeus and Hippomedon and the rest, but in this one point he was honoured above all the captains and kings: his wife, Evadne, has determined to die for love of him, not by drawing a knife against her throat nor by hanging herself from a noose, modes of death often chosen by women in honour of their husbands, but she throws herself into the fire itself, which cannot believe it possesses the husband unless it has the wife as well.89 Such is the funeral-offering made to Capaneus; and his wife, like those who deck their victims with wreaths and gold90 that these may go to the sacrifice resplendent and pleasing to the gods, thus adorning herself and with no piteous look, leaps into the flames, calling her husband, I am sure; for she looks as if she were calling out. And it seems to me that she would even submit her head to the thunderbolt for the sake of Capaneus. But the Cupids, making this task their own, kindle the pyre with their torches and claim that they do not defile their fire, but that they will find it sweeter and more pure,91 when they have used it in the burial of those who have dealt so well with love.

85. Compare the story of the death of Evadne, Euripides, Suppl. 990 f.
86. Philostratus apparently follows a different version of the story from that of Euripides, for in the latter the burial is conducted by the Athenians, whereas here Capaneus is being buried by his kinsmen in Argos.
87. e.g. Aeschylus, Sept. in Theb. 423 f.; Sophocles, Antig. 127 f.; Euripides, Phoen. 1172 f.
88. The citadel of Thebes.
89. Some editors would amend to yield the meaning, “thinking that her husband had not yet received due honours unless . . . “
90. Probably the reference is to gold-leaf used to cover the horns of the victim, a practice often mentioned by Homer.
91. i.e. the fire of their torches which association with death will in this instance not pollute, but render more pure.


A Greek among barbarians, a true man among those who are not men, inasmuch as they are ruined and dissolute, surely an Athenian to judge by his coarse cloak, he addresses some wise discourse to them, I think, trying to change their ways and make them give up their luxury. Here are Medes and the centre of Babylon, and the royal device – the golden eagle on the shield,93 – and the king on a golden throne richly spangled like a peacock. The painter does not ask to be praised for his fine representation of tiara and tasseled cloak (kalasiris) or sleeved jacket (kandys) or of the monstrous shapes of animals with which barbarian garments are embroidered94; but he should be praised for the gold which he has painted as threads skillfully interwoven in the cloth and preserving the design to which it has been constrained, and, by Zeus, for the faces of the eunuchs. The palace court must also be of gold – indeed, it seems not to be a painting at all; for it is so painted as to seem to be a real building – we catch the fragrance of both frankincense and myrrh – for the barbarians use these to pollute the freedom of the air; and let us infer that one spearman is talking to another about the Greek, marveling at him from a vague knowledge of his great achievements. For I think that Themistocles the son of Neocles has come from Athens to Babylon after the immortal victory at Salamis because he is at a loss to know where in Greece he would be safe, and that he is conversing with the king about the services which he rendered to Xerxes while in command of the Greek forces. He is not perturbed at all by his Median surroundings, but is as bold as though he stood on the Athenian bema; and this language he speaks is not ours, but Themistocles is using the Median tongue, which he took the pains to acquire there.95 If you doubt this, look at his hearers, how their eyes indicate that they understand him easily, and look also at Themistocles, the posture of whose head is like that of one speaking, but note that there is hesitancy in the thoughtful expression of the eyes, due to his speaking a new language recently learned.

92. Ostracized from Athens in 472 B.C., Themistocles went first to Argos, then to Corcyra and Epirus and Ionia. When Artaxerxes came to the throne in Persia, Themistocles went up to Susa and won the favour of the new king: he was assigned the government of the district of Magnesia, where he died.
93. Xenophon, Anab. 1. 10. 12, uses these same terms in describing the standard of Cyrus the Younger. “They did see, they said, the royal standard, a kind of golden eagle on a shield, raised aloft upon a pole.” Trans. Brownson, L.C.L.
94. On the dress of Cyrus the Great, see Xenophon, Cyr. 8. 3. 13: “Next after tehse Cyrus himself upon a chariot appeared in the gates wearing his tiara upright, a purple tunic shot with white (no one but the king may wear such an one), trousers of scarlet dye about his legs and a mantle (kandys) all of purple. He had also a fillet about his tiara, and his kinsmen also had the same mark of distinction, and they retain it even now. His hands he kept outside his sleeves.” Trans. Miller, L.C.L.
95. Cf. Plutarch, Them. 126D, tên Persida glôttan apoxhrôntôs ekmathôn, enetunchane basilei di’ autou.


The place is Arcadia,96 the most beautiful part of Arcadia and that in which Zeus takes most delight – we call it Olympia – and as yet there is no prize for wrestling nor even any love of wrestling, but there will be. For Palaestra, the daughter of Hermes, who has just come to womanhood in Arcadia, ahs discovered the art, and the earth seems to rejoice at the discovery, since iron as an instrument of war will be laid aside by men during the truce, and the stadium will seem to them more delightful than armed camps, and with naked bodies they will content with each other. The kinds of wrestling are represented as children. For they leap sportively around Palaestra, bending towards her in one wrestler’s posture after another; and they may be sprung from the earth, for the maiden shows by her manly aspect that she would neither marry any man willingly nor bear children. The kinds of wrestling differ from one another97; indeed, the best is the one combined with boxing.98

The figure of Palaestra,99 if it be compared with a boy, will be that of a girl; but if it be taken for a girl, it will seem to be a boy. For her hair is too short even to be twisted into a knot; the eye might be that of either sex; and the brow indicates disdain for both lovers and wrestlers; for she claims that she is able to resist both the one and the other and that not even in a wrestling bout could anyone touch her breasts, so much does she excel in the art. And the breasts themselves, as in a boy of tender years, show but slight signs of beginning fullness. She cares for nothing feminine; hence she does not even wish to have white arms, and apparently even disapproves of the Dryads because they stay in the shade to keep their skin fair; nay, as one who lives in the vales of Arcadia, she begs Helius for colour, and he brings it to her like a flower and reddens the girl with moderate heat. It shows the skill of the painter, my boy, that the maiden is sitting, for there are most shadows on seated figures, and the seated position is distinctly becoming to her; the branch of olive on her bare bosom is also becoming her. Palaestra apparently delights in this tree, since its oil is useful in wrestling and men find great pleasure in it.

96. Pelops, near whose tomb the Olympic games were celebrated, seems to have been originally a deity of the pre-Dorian population of Arcadia and Pisa; in the earliest form of the legend he was the son of Hermes, the authochthonic god of Arcadia. In locating Olympia in Arcadia rather than Elis, Philostratus follows the pre-Dorian story of the origin of the Olympic games.
97. Schenkl and Benndorf think that something has been lost from the text after palaismata – an enumeration of the kinds of wrestling ending with the pancratium, a combination of wrestling and boxing (Plato, Rep. i. 338c).
98. The reference seems to be to the pancratium.
99. Fröhner (Gaz. arch. XIV, 1889, p. 56) published a Roman terracotta vase with medallions, in which are depicted Schoeneus, Atalanta with an apple, the victorious Hippomedon carrying a palm branch, and Palaestra, a seated young woman nude to the waist and carrying a palm branch.

2.33 DODONA 100

Here is the golden dove still on the oak, wise in her sayings; here are oracles which are utterances of Zeus; here lies the axe abandoned by the tree-cutter Hellus, from whom are descended the Helloi of Dodona; and fillets are attached to the oak, for like the Pythian tripod it utters oracles. One comes to ask it a question and another to sacrifice, while yonder band from Thebes stands about the oak, claiming as their own the wisdom of the tree; and I think the golden bird has been caught there101 by decoy. The interpreters of Zeus, whom Homer knew as “men with unwashen feet that couch on the ground,” 102 are a folk that live from hand to mouth and have as yet acquired no substance, and they assert that they will never do so, since they think they enjoy the favour of Zeus because they are content with a picked-up livelihood. For these are the priests; and one is charged with hanging the garlands, one with uttering the prayers, a third must attend to the sacrificial cakes, and another to the barley-grains and the basket, another makes a sacrifice, and another will permit no one else to flay the victim. And here are Dodonaean priestesses of stiff and solemn appearance, who seem to breathe out the odour of incense and libations. The very place, my boy, is painted as fragrant with incense and replete with the divine voice; and in it honour is paid to a bronze Echo, whom I think you see placing her hand upon her lips, since a bronze vessel has been dedicated to Zeus at Dodona, that resounds most of the day and is not silent till someone takes hold of it.

100. Dodona was the seat of the oracle of Zeus, reputed to be the oldest oracle in Greece (cf. Iliad 16. 233); it was situated in Epirus near the modern Janina. Hesiod places it in Hellopia (Cat. Of Women and Eoiae, 97): “A rich land on the border of which is built a city, Dodona; and Zeus loved it and (appointed) it to be his oracle, reverenced by men . . . And they (the doves) lived in the hollow of an oak (phêgou).” Trans. Evelyn-White, L.C.L. Herodotus (ii. 55) speaks of the holy doves who first called attention to its mantic power. The oracles were answers to questions, in the form of a rustling of the oak’s branches. (Cf. elder Phil. Imag. ii. 15) A spring at its foot inspired those who drank of it. The priests, called by Homer “Selloi” (here Helloi), found favour by depending wholly on Zeus for their food; the fact that they slept on the ground suggests contact with the god in sleep (incubation) as a means of learning the divine will.
101. This would naturally mean Thebes. The allusion is uncertain. Benndorf thought that the reference was to Egypt, where, according to Aelian, De Nat. An. 6. 33, birds are brought down from the sky by a kind of magic.
102. Quoted from Iliad 16. 235.

2.34 HORAE

That the gates of heaven are in charge of the Horae103 we may leave to the special knowledge and prerogative of Homer,104 for very likely he became an intimate of the Horae when he inherited the skies; but the subject that is here treated in the painting is easy for a man105 to understand. For the Horae, coming to earth in their own proper forms, with clasped hands are dancing the year through its course, I think, and the Earth in her wisdom brings forth for them all the fruits of the year. “Tread not on the hyacinth or the rose” I shall not say to the Horae of the spring-time; for when trodden on they seem sweeter and exhale a sweeter fragrance than the Horae themselves. “Walk not on the ploughed fields when soft” I shall not say to the Horae of the winter-time; for if they are trodden on by the Horae they will produce ear of grain. And the golden-haired Horae yonder are walking on the spikes of the ears, but not so as to break or bend them106; nay, they are so light that they do not even sway the stalks. It is charming of you, grape-vines, that ye try to lay hold of the Horae of autumn-tide; for you doubtless love the Horae because they make you fair and wine-sweet.107

Now these are our harvestings,108 so to speak, form the painting; but as for the Horae themselves, they are very charming and of marvelous art. How they sing, and how they whirl in the dance! Note too the fact that the back of none of them is turned to us; and note the raised arm, the freedom of flying hair, the cheek warm from the running, and the eyes that join in the dance. Perhaps they permit us to weave a tale about the painter; for it seems to me that he, falling in with the Horae as they danced, were caught up by them into their dance, the goddesses perhaps thus intimating that grace (hora) must attend his painting.109

103. The Seasons.
104. Cf. Iliad, 5. 749: “The gates of Heaven which the Horae had in their keeping, to whom are entrusted great heaven and Olympus, whether to throw open the great cloud of shut it to.” Trans. Murray.
105. It is implied both here and in the phrase “inherited the skies” that Homer became a god after his death; and works of ancient art depict his apotheosis.
106. Cf. Iliad, 20. 227: “Would course over the topmost ears of ripened corn and break them not” (said of the mares of Erichthonius). Trans. Murray.
107. The word is taken from Homer, Iliad 2. 148.
108. The interpretation of Benndorf, who compares elder Phil. Imag. i. 6. 2 and i. 12. 20. The painting furnishes the writer with fruits to gather as the fields yield a harvest to the farmer.
109. According to Benndorf, whose interpretation is here followed, seisthênai (for enthesthênai) seems to mean that one of the surrounding spectators has been caught up by the dancers and made to share their dance. Benndorf interprets in this way a relief found on the Athenian Acropolis (pulished by Lechat, Bull. corr. hell. xiii. Pl. XIV, p. 467 f.), where Hermes with a flute is leading the dance of three Charites, the third of whom is initiating a small figure, i.e. not a divine being but a man, into their dance. Lechat calls attention to the essential likeness of Charites, Horae, and Nymphs, but names these figures Charites because the latter were worshipped in mysteries “in front of the entrance to the Acropolis” (Paus. 9. 35. 3).




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