IMAGINES BOOK 1, TRANS. BY ARTHUR FAIRBANKS
Pasiphaë is in love with the bull and begs Daedalus to devise some lure for the creature; and he is fashioning a hollow cow like a cow of the herd to which the bull is accustomed.1 What their union brought forth is shown by the form of the Minotaur, strangely composite in its nature. Their union is not depicted here, but this is the workshop of Daedalus; and about it are statues, some with forms blocked out, others in a quite complete state in that they are already stepping forward and give promise of walking about.2 Before the time of Daedalus, you know, the art of making statues had not yet conceived such a thing. Daedalus himself is of the Attic type in that his face suggests great wisdom and that the look of the eye is so intelligent; and his very dress also follows the Attic style; for he wears this dull coarse mantle and also he is painted without sandals, in a manner peculiarly affected by the Athenians. He sits before the framework of the cow and he uses Cupids [Erotes] as his assistants in the device so as to connect with it something of Aphrodite. Of the Cupids, my boy, those are visible who turn the drill, and those by Zeus that smooth with the adze portions of the cow which are not yet accurately finished, and those that measure off the symmetrical proportions on which craftsmanship depends. But the Cupids that work with the saw surpass all conception and all skill in drawing3 and colour. For look! The saw has attacked the wood and is already passing through it, and these Cupids keep it going, one on the ground, another on the staging, both straightening up and bending forward in turn. Let us consider this movement to be alternate; one has bent low as if about to rise up, his companion has risen erect as if about to bend over; the one on the ground draws his breath into his chest, and the one who is aloft fills his lungs down to his belly as he presses both hands down on the saw.
Pasiphaë outside the workshop in the cattlefold gazes on the bull, thinking to draw him to her by her beauty and by her robe, which is divinely resplendent and more beautiful than any rainbow. She has a helpless look – for she knows what the creature is that she loves – and she is eager to embrace it, but takes no notice of her and gazes at its own cow. The bull is depicting with proud mien, the leader of the herd, with splendid horns, white, already experienced in love, its dewlap low and its neck massive, and it gazes fondly at the cow; but the cow in the herd, ranging free and all white but for a black head, disdains the bull. For its purpose suggests a leap, as of a girl who avoids the importunity of a lover.
1. Cf. Robert, Der Pasiphaë-Sarkophag, xiv Hall. Winckel-mannsprogr., where Cupids are present but not assisting in the work. Mau, Röm. Mitth. XI (1896), p. 50, published a Pompeian wall-painting which depicts Pasiphaë, Daedalus with a young assistant, and the wooden cow.
2. Greek legend emphasized the skill of Daedalus as a sculptor by saying that he made statues which could walk about and even could speak. Cf. Eur. Hecuba, 838.
3. Lit. “all skill of hand and colours.”
Here is consternation over Oenomaüs the Arcadian4; these are men who shout a warning for him – for perhaps you can hear them – and the scene is Arcadia and a portion of the Peloponnesus. The chariot lies shattered through a trick of Myrtilus. It is a four-horse chariot; for though men were not yet bold enough to use the quadriga in war, yet in the games it was known and prized, and the Lydians also, a people most devoted to horses, drove four abreast in the time of Pelops and already used chariots, and at a later time devised the chariot with four poles and, it is said, were the first to drive eight horses abreast.5
Look, my boy, at the horses of Oenomaüs, how fierce they are and keen to run, full of rage and covered with foam – you will find such horses especially among the Arcadians – and how black they are, harnessed as they were for a monstrous and accursed deed. But look at the horse of Pelops, how white they are, obedient to the rein, comrades as they are of Persuasion, neighing gently and as if aware of the coming victory. And look at Oenomaüs, how like he is to the Thracian Diomedes as he lies there, a barbarian and savage of aspect. But as to Pelops, on the other hand, you will not, I think, be inclined to doubt that Poseidon once on a time fell in love with him for his beauty when he was wine-pourer for the gods on Mount Sipylus,6 and because of his love set him, though still a youth, upon this chariot.7 The chariot runs over the sea as easily as on land, and not even a drop of water ever splashes on its axle, but the sea, firm as the earth itself, supports the horses. As for the race, Pelops and Hippodameia are the victors, both standing on the chariot and there joining hands; but they are so conquered by each other that they are on the point of embracing one another. He is dressed in the delicate Lydian manner, and is of such youth and beauty as you noticed a moment ago when he was begging Poseidon for his horses; and she is dressed in a wedding garment and has just unveiled her cheek, now that she has won the right to a husband’s embrace. Even the Alpheius leaps from his eddy to pluck a crown of wild olive for Pelops as he drives along the bank of the river.
The mounds along the race-course mark the graves of the suitors by whose death Oenomaüs postponed his daughter’s marriage, thirteen youths in all.8 But the earth now causes flowers to spring up on their graves, that they too may share the semblance of being crowned on the occasion of Oenomaüs’ punishment.
4. The story is that Oenomaüs promised his daughter Hippodameia to the suitor who should beat him in a chariot race, but with the understanding that he should slay the unsuccessful suitors. Thirteen suits had thus met their death, when Myrtilus, the charioteer of Oenomaüs, gave the race to Pelops by removing the pin that held a wheel in his master’s chariot. The chariot race of Pelops and Oenomaüs is not infrequently depicted on vase-paintings, cf. Arch. Zeit. 1853, Pl. 55; Mon Inst. II. 32.
5. Cf. Xen. Cyrop. 6. 4. 2: tetrarhumon harma kai hippôn oktô, “And Abradatas’ chariot with its four poles and eight horses.”
6. Cf. Pind. Ol. 1. 61 f.
7. Cf. Pind. Ol. 1. 139 f.
8. Cf. Pind. Ol. 1. 127 f.: epei treis ge kai dek’ andra olesais erôntas anaballetai gamon thugatros.
1.18 BACCHANTES 9
Here are also painted, my boy, scenes from Mount Cithaeron – choruses of Bacchantes, and rocks flowing with wine, and nectar dripping from clusters of grapes, and the earth enriching the broken soil with milk.10 Lo! ivy creeps over the ground, serpents stand erect, and thyrsus trees are dripping, I think, with honey. This fir you see lying on the ground is a great deed of women inspired by Dionysus; it fell as it shook off Pentheus in the form of a lion11 into the hands of the Bacchantes. They rend in pieces their prey – that mother of his and his mother’s sisters, they tearing off his arms while she is dragging her son by the hair.12 You would even say they were raising the shout of victory, so like the Bacchic cry13 is their panting. Dionysus himself stands where he can watch them, puffing out his cheek with passion and applying the Bacchic goad to the women. At any rate they do not see what they are doing, and in the supplication of Pentheus they say they hear a lion’s roaring.
That is what is taking place on the mountain; but here in the foreground we now see Thebes and the palace of Cadmus and lamentation over the prey, while the relatives try to fit the corpse together that it may perhaps be rescued for burial. There lies the head of Pentheus, no longer a dubious thing, but such as to excite the pity even of Dionysus – very youthful, with delicate chin and locks of reddish hue, not wreathed with ivy or bryony or sprays of vine, nor are they tossed in wild disorder by flute or Bacchic frenzy. From those locks he derived his vigour, and he imparted vigour to them; but this itself was his madness, that he would not join Dionysus in madness.
Pitiful also we must consider the state of the women. For of what things were they unaware on Cithaeron and of what things do they here have knowledge! Not only has their madness left them, but also the strength they possessed in the Bacchic revel. On Cithaeron you see how, inspired by the conflict, they rush headlong, rousing the echoes on the mountain side, but here they stand still and have come to a realization of what they did in their revels; sinking to the ground one rests her head on her knees, another on her shoulder, while Agave is eager to embrace her son but shrinks from touching him. Her son’s blood is smeared on her hands and on her cheek and on her naked breast.
Harmonia and Cadmus are there, but not as they were before; for already they have become serpents from the thighs down and already scales are forming on them. Their feet are gone, their hips are gone, and the change of form is creeping upward. In astonishment they embrace each other as though holding on to what is left of the body, that this at least may not escape them.
9. Cf. Hartwig, “Der Tod des Pentheus,” Jahr. Inst. VII (1892), p. 153 f., Pl. V.
10. Cf. Eur. Bacch. 142 f., 707 f., cf. elder Phil. Imag. 1. 15.
11. Cf. Eur. Bacch. 1109, 1141 for the felling of the fir, and Pentheus imagined to be a lion.
12. Cf. ibid. 1127 f., which describes the tearing off of Pentheus’ arms.
13. i.e. their lips seem to form the cry “Evoë.”
1.19 THE TYRRHENIAN PIRATES
A mission ship14 and a pirate’s ship. Dionysus steers the former, on board the latter are Tyrrhenians, pirates who ravage their own sea.15 The one is a sacred ship; in it Dionysus revels and the Bacchantes cry out in response to him, and orgiastic music resounds over the sea, which yields its broad surface to Dionysus as readily as does the land of the Lydians; on the other ship they go mad and forget to row and already the hands of many of them are gone. What does the painting mean? Tyrrhenian sailors, my boy, are lying in wait for Dionysus, as word has come to them that he is effeminate and a vagabond and a mine of gold so far as his ship is concerned, because of the wealth it carries, and that he is accompanied only by Lydian women and Satyrs and fluteplayers, and an aged narthex-bearer,16 and Maronian wine, and by Maron17 himself. Hearing that Pans sail with him in the form of goats, they planned to carry off the Bacchantes for themselves and to turn over to the Pans she-goats,18 such as are raised in the land of the Tyrrhenians. Now the pirate ship sails with warlike mien; for it is equipped with prow-beams and beak, and on board are grappling-irons and spears and poles armed with scythes. And, in order that it may strike terror into those they meet and may look to them like some sort of monster, it is painted with bright colours, and it seems to see with grim eyes set into its prow,19 and the stern curves up in a thin crescent like the end of a fish’s tail. As for the ship of Dionysus, it has a weird appearance20 in other respects, and it looks as if it were covered with scales at the stern, for cymbals21 are attached to it in rows, so that, even if the Satyrs are overcome by wine and fall asleep, Dionysus may not be without noise on his voyage; and its prow is drawn out in the semblance of a golden leopardess. Dionysus is devoted to this animal because it is the most exciteable of animals and leaps lightly like a Bacchante. At any rate you see the very creature before you22; it sails with Dionysus and leaps against the Tyrrhenians without waiting for his bidding. And the thyrsus here has grown in the midst of the ship23 and serves as a mast, and sails dyed purple are attached to it, gleaming as they belly out in the wind, and woven in them are golden Bacchantes on Mount Tmolus and Dionysiac scenes from Lydia. That the ship seems to be embowered with vine and ivy and that clusters of grapes swing above it24 is indeed a marvel, but more marvelous is the fountain of wine, for the hollow ship pours forth the wine and lets it drain away.
But let us turn to the Tyrrhenians while they still remain; for under the maddening power of Dionysus the forms of dolphins25 are creeping over the Tyrrhenians – not at all the dolphins we know, however, nor yet those native to the sea. One of the men has dark sides, one a slippery breast, on the back of one a fin is growing, one is growing a tail, the head of one is gone but that of another is left, the hand of one is melting away, while another laments over his vanishing feet.
Dionysus on the prow of his ship laughs at the scene and shouts orders to the Tyrrhenians as fishes in shape instead of men, and as good in character instead of bad.26 Soon, at any rate, Palaemon will ride on a dolphin’s back, not awake, but lying prone upon it sound asleep; and the Arion at Taenarum27 makes it clear that dolphins are the companions of men, and fond of song, and worthy to take the field against pirates in defence of men and the art of music.
14. The ship used for conveying a sacred mission.
15. i.e. the Tyrrhenian sea.
16. Narthex: a plant with a hollow stalk which furnished the Bacchic wands.
17. Cf. Od. 9. 147 f. Maron was a priest of Apollo, who gave Odysseus wine in gratitude for protection. Later, because of the fame of his wine, he was thought of as an attendant of Dionysus.
18. i.e. in place of Bacchantes.
19. It was customary to paint eyes on the prow of Greek ships, apparently with the idea that thus the ship might see its way.
20. Cymbals where, in a ship of war, shields would be hung.
21. i.e. the figure-head which forms the prow.
22. Cf. the ship of Dionysus on a black-figured kylix, Wien. Volegeblätter, 1988, Pl. VII, 1a.
23. Cf. Hom. Hymns 7. 38 ff. for a description of the vine.
24. Cf. ibid. 7. 35 f. for the fountain of wine.
25. Cf. ibid. 7. 51 f. for the transformation of the sailors into dolphins.
26. It is implied that henceforth the transformed pirates will have the traits which later Greek legends attribute to dolphins.
27. i.e. the bronze statue of Arion seated on a dolphin, which Herodotus (1. 24) describes.
The place is Celaenae, if one may judge by the springs and the cave; but Marsyas has gone away either to watch his sheep or because the contest is over. Do not praise the water; for, though it looks sweet and placid, you will find Olympus28 sweeter. He sleeps after having played his flute, a tender youth lying on tender flowers, whilst the moisture on his forehead mingles with the dew of the meadow; and Zephyrus summons him by breathing on his hair, and he breathes in response to the wind, drawing the air from his lungs. Reeds already yielding music lie beside Olympus, and also the iron tools with which the holes are bored in the pipes. A band of Satyrs gaze lovingly upon the youth, ruddy grinning creatures, one desiring to touch his breast, another to embrace his neck, another eager to pluck a kiss; they scatter flowers over him and worship him as if he were a divine image; and the cleverest of them draws out the tongue of the second pipe which is still warm and eats it, thinking he is thus kissing Olympus, and he says he tasted the boy’s breath.
28. i.e. the figure of Olympus which he is about to describe. Olympus was a pupil of Marsyas and beloved by him; cf. the red-figured vase painting, Roscher, Lexicon d. gr. u. röm. Myth. III. 861.
For whom are you playing the flute, Olympus? And what need is there of music in a desert place? No shepherd is here with you, nor goatherd, nor yet are you playing for Nymphs, who would dance beautifully to your flute; and I do not understand just why you take delight in the pool of water by the rock and gaze into it.29 What interest have you in it? It does not murmur for you like a brook and sing an accompaniment to your flute, nor do we need its water to measure off the day30 for you, we who would fain prolong your music even into the night. If it is beauty you are investigating, pay no heed to the water; for we are more competent than it to tell all your charms. Your eye is bright, and many a provoking glance comes from it to the flute; your brow overarching the eye indicates the meaning of the tune you play; your cheek seems to quiver and as it were to dance to the melody; your breath does not puff out your cheeks because it is all in the flute; your hair is not unkempt, nor does it lie smooth, made sleek with unguents as in a city youth, but it is so dry that it is fluffy, yet without giving the impression of squalid dryness by reason of the bright fresh sprays of pine upon it. Beautiful is such a crown and well adapted to adorn beautiful youths; but let flowers grow for maidens and let them produce their rosy colour for women. Your breast, I should say, is filled not merely with breath for the flute, but also with thoughts of music and meditation on the tunes you will play. As far as the breast the water pictures you, as you bend down over it from the rock; but if it pictured you full length, it would not have shown you as comely from the breast down; for reflections in the water are but on the surface, imperfect because stature is foreshortened in them.31 The fact that your reflection is broken by ripples may be due to your flute breathing upon the water of the fountain, or all that we see may be due to Zephyrus, who inspires you in playing the flute, the flute in breathing its strain, and the spring in being moved by the flute-playing.
29. Cf. Narcissus gazing at his reflection in a pool, elder Phil. Imag. 1.23.
30. An allusion to the water-clock used in the courts to time the speeches.
31. Olympus is standing far enough back from the pool, so that he sees only the reflection of his head and breast; these are bent forward so as to be nearly parallel to the surface of the water, and therefore the reflection is not unduly foreshortened; whereas, if he had been standing near enough to the water to see the rest of his body, the reflection of it would have been very much foreshortened.
The Satyr is asleep; let us speak of him with bated breath, lest he wake and spoil the scene before us. Midas has captured him with wine in Phrygia32 on the very mountain-side, as you see, by filling with wine the spring beside which he lies disgorging the wine in his sleep.
Charming is the vehemence of satyrs when they dance, and charming their ribaldry when they laugh; they are given to live, noble creatures that they are, and they subdue the Lydian women to their will by their artful flatteries. And this too is true of them: they are represented in paintings as hardy, hot-blooded beings, with prominent ears, lean about the loins, altogether mischievous, and having the tails of horses.33
The Satyr caught by Midas34 is here depicted as satyrs in general are, but he is asleep as a result of the wine, breathing heavily like a drunken man. He has drunk up the whole spring more easily than another would have taken a cupful, and the Nymphs dance, mocking the Satyr for having fallen asleep. How dainty is Midas and how he takes his ease! He is careful of his head-dress and his curling locks, and he carries a thyrsus and wears a robe woven with gold. See the long ears,35 which give his seemingly attractive eyes a sleepy look and turn their charm into dullness; for the painting purposely hints that this story ahs already been divulged and published abroad among men by the pen, since the earth could not keep secret what it heard.36
32. The story is told by Xen. Anab. 1. 2. 13, and Philostratus, Vita Apoll. 6. 27.
33. The older type of representing Satyrs is here described: Benndorf.
34. On a black-figured kylix by Ergotimus (Wiener Vorlegeblätter, 1881, Pl. IV. 2) the captured Seilenus is being led to Midas by attendants carrying a rope and a wine skin; cf. also a red-figured amphora.
35. The ears of an ass, which Apollo gave Midas because he presumed to think his own music superior to that of Apollo.
36. The story runs that Midas concealed the ass’s ears from everyone but his hairdresser, who was sworn to secrecy; but the latter whispered the secret to a hole in the earth, and bushes that grew there when shaken by the wind told the story to the world.
The pool paints Narcissus, and the painting represents both the pool and the whole story of Narcissus.37 A youth just returned from the hunt stands over a pool, drawing from within himself a kind of yearning and falling in love with his own beauty; and, as you see, he sheds a radiance into the water. The cave is sacred to Acheloüs and the Nymphs, and the scene is painted realistically. For the statues are of a crude art and made from a local stone; some of them are worn away by time, others have been mutilated by children of cowherds or shepherds while still young and unaware of the presence of the god. Nor is the pool without some connection with the Bacchic rites of Dionysus, since he had made it known to the Nymphs of the wine-press; at any rate it is roofed over with vine and ivy and beautiful creeping plants, and it abounds in clusters of grapes and the trees that furnish the thyrsi, and tuneful birds disport themselves above it, each with its own note, and white flowers grow about the pool, not yet in blossom but just springing up in honour of the youth. The painting has such regard for realism that it even shows drops of dew dripping from the flowers and a bee settling on the flowers – whether a real bee has been deceived by the painted flowers of whether we are to be deceived into thinking that a painted bee is real, I do not know. But let that pass. As for you, however, Narcissus, it is no painting that has deceived you, nor are you engrossed in a thing of pigments or wax; but you do not realize that the water represents you exactly as you are when you gaze upon it, nor do you see through the artifice of the pool, though to do so you have only to nod your head or change your expression or slightly move your hand, instead of standing in the same attitude; but acting as though you had met a companion, you wait for some move on his part. Do you then expect the pool to enter into conversation with you? Nay, this youth does not hear anything we say, but he is immersed eyes and ears alike, in the water and we must interpret the painting for ourselves.
The youth, standing erect, is at rest38; he has his legs crossed and supports one hand on the spear which is planted on his left, while his right hand is pressed against his hip so as to support his body and to produce the type of figure in which the buttocks are pushed out because of the inward bend on the left side. The arm shows an open space at the point where the elbow bends, a wrinkle where the wrist is twisted, and it casts a shadow as it ends in the palm of the hand, and he lines of the shadow are slanting because the fingers are bent in. Whether the panting of his breast remains from his hunting or is already the painting of love I do not know. The eye, surely, is that of a man deeply in love, for its natural brightness and intensity are softened by a longing that settles upon it, and he perhaps thinks that he is loved in return, since the reflection gazes at him in just he way that he looks at it. There would be much to say about he hair if we found him while hunting. For there are innumerable tossings of the hair in running, especially when it is blown by a wind; but even as it is the subject should not be passed over in silence. For it is very abundant and of a golden hue; and some it clings to the neck, some is parted by the ears, some tumbles over the forehead, and some falls in ripples to the beard. Both the Narcissi are exactly alike in form and each repeats the traits of the other, except that one stands out in the open air while the other is immersed in the pool. For the youth stands over the youth who stands in the water, or rather who gazes intently at him and seems to be athirst for his beauty.
37. Narcissus gazing at his reflection in a pool is the subject of a Pompeian wall-painting (Ternite, Wandgemaelde, III. 4. 25).
38. Cf. the attitude of Oenomaüs in the east pediment of the temple of Zeus at Olympia.
1.24 HYACINTHUS 39
Read the hyacinth, for there is writing on it40 which sys it sprang from the earth in honour of a beautiful youth; and it laments him at the beginning of spring, doubtless because it was born from him when he died. Let no the meadow delay you with the flower, for it grows here41 also, not different from the flower which springs from the earth. The painting tells us that the hair of the youth is “hyacinthine,” 42 and that his blood, taking on life in the earth, has given the flower its own crimson colour. It flows from the head itself where the discus struck it. Terrible was the failure to hit the mark and incredible is the story told of Apollo; but since we are not here to criticize the myths and are not ready to refuse them credence, but are merely spectators of the paintings, let us examine the painting and in the first place the stand set for throwing the discus.
A raised thrower’s stand43 has been set apart, so small as to suffice for only one person to stand on, and then only when it supports the posterior portions and the right leg of the thrower, causing the anterior portions to bend forward and the left leg to be relieved of weight; for this leg must be straightened and advanced along with the right arm. As for the attitude of the man holding the discus, he must turn his head to the right and bend himself over so far that he an look down at his side, and he must hurl the discus by drawing himself up and putting his whole right side into the throw. Such, no doubt, was the way Apollo threw the discus, for he could not have cast it in any other way; and now that he discus has stuck the youth, he lies there on the discus itself – a Laconian youth, straight of leg, not unpractised in running, the muscles of his arm already developed, the fine lines of the bones indicated under the flesh; but Apollo with averted face is still on the thrower’s stand and he gazes down at the ground. You will say he is fixed there, such consternation has fallen upon him. A lout is Zephyrus, who was angry with Apollo and caused the discus to strike the youth, and the scene seems a laughing matter to the wind and he taunts the god from his look-out. You can see him, I think, with his winged temples and his delicate form; and he wears a crown of all kinds of flowers, and will soon weave the hyacinth in among them.
39. Hyacinthus, a youthful favourite of Apollo, was accidentally slain by the discus thrown by the god, and the event was commemorated by the hyacinth which is said to have sprung from his blood. The accident is here explained as due to Zephyrus, the wind which diverted the discus from its true course.
Furtwängler, Ant. Gemmen, Pl. xx. 31, publishes an Etruscan scarab representing Hyacinthus; the youth is bending forward, drops of blood fall from his head, and at his feet is the discus that caused his death.
40. Referring to the letters AI AI (“woe, woe”) on the petals of the flower.
41. i.e. in the curling hair of the youth Hyacinthus in the painting.
42. Cf. Od. 6. 231: komas, huakinthinô anthei homoias.
43. It was the stone slab marked with incised lines which gave a firm footing to the athlete; cf. Ausgrabungen in Olympia, v. 35. The present description closely follows the well-know Discobolus of Myron.
The stream of wine which is on the island of Andros, and the Andrians who have become drunken from the river, are the subject of this painting. For by act of Dionysus the earth of the Andrians is so charged with wine that it bursts forth and send up for them a river; if you have water in mind, the quantity is not great, but if wine, it is a great river – yes, divine! For he who draws from it may well disdain both Nile and Ister and may say of them that they also would be more highly esteemed if they were small, provided their streams were like this one.
These things, methinks, the men, crowned with ivy and bryony, are singing to their wives and children, some dancing on either bank, some reclining. And very likely this also is the theme of their song – that while the Acheloüs bears reeds, and the Peneius waters Tempe, and the Pactolus . . . flowers, this river makes men rich and powerful in the assembly, and helpful to their friends, and beautiful and, instead of short, four cubits tall; for when a man has drunk his fill of it he can assemble all of these qualities and in his though make them his own. They sing, I feel sure, that this river alone is not disturbed by the feet of cattle or of horses, but is a draught drawn from Dionysus, and is drunk unpolluted, flowing for men alone. This is what you should imagine you hear and what some of them really are singing, though their voices are thick with wine.
Consider, however, what is to be seen in the painting: The river lies on a couch of grape-clusters, pouring out its stream, a river undiluted and of agitated appearance44; thyrsi grow about it like reeds about bodies of water, and if one goes alone past the land and these drinking groups on it, he comes at length on Tritons at the river’s mouth, who are dipping up the wine in sea-shells. Some of it they drink, some they flow out in streams, and of the Tritons some are drunken and dancing. Dionysus also sails to the revels of Andros and, his ship now moored in the harbour, he leads a mixed throng of Satyrs and Bacchantes and all the Seileni. He leads Laughter (Gelon) and Revel (Comus), two spirits most gay and most fond of the drinking-bout, that with the greatest delight he may reap the river’s harvest.
44. A river of pure wine undiluted with water, and turgid, as if under the influence of wine.
1.26 BIRTH OF HERMES
The mere babe still in swaddling clothes, the one who is driving the cattle into the cleft of the earth, who furthermore is stealing Apollo’s weapons – this is Hermes.45 Very delightful are the thefts of the god; for the story is that Hermes, when Maia bore him, loved thievery and was skilled in it, though it was by no means through poverty that the god did such things, but out of pure delight and in a spirit of fun. If you wish to follow his course step by step, see how the painting depicts it. He is born on the crest of Olympus,46 at the very top, the abode of the gods. There, as Homer says,47 one feels no rain and hears no wind, nor is it ever beaten by snow, it is so high; but it is absolutely divine and free from the ills that pertain to the mountains which belong to men. There the Horae care for Hermes at his birth.48 The painter has depicted these also, each according to her time, and they wrap him in swaddling clothes, sprinkling over him the most beautiful flowers, that he may have swaddling clothes not without distinction. While they turn to the mother of Hermes lying on her couch of travail, he slips out of his swaddling clothes and begins to walk at once and descends from Olympus. The mountain rejoices in him – for its smile is like that of a man – and you are to assume that Olympus rejoices because Hermes was born there.
Now what of the theft?49 Cattle grazing on the foothills of Olympus, yonder cattle with golden horns and whiter than snow – for they are sacred to Apollo – he leads over a winding course into a cleft of the earth, not that they may perish, but that they may disappear for one day, until their loss vexes Apollo; and then he, as though he had had no part in the affair, slips back into his swaddling clothes. Apollo comes to Maia to demand back the cattle, but she does not believe him and thinks the god is talking nonsense. Would you learn what he is saying? For, from his expression he seems to me to be giving utterance, not merely to sounds, but to words; he looks as though he were about to say to Maia, “Your son whom you bore yesterday wrongs me; for the cattle in which I delight he has thrust into the earth, nor do I know where in the earth. Verily he shall perish and shall be thrust down deeper than the cattle.” But she merely marvels, and does not believe what he says. While they are still disputing with one another Hermes takes his stand behind Apollo, and leaping lightly on his back, he quietly unfastens Apollo’s bow and pilfers it unnoticed,50 but after he has pilfered it, he doest not escape detection. Therein lies the cleverness of the painter; for the melts the wrath of Apollo and represents him as delighted. But his laughter is restrained, hovering as it were over his face, as amusement conquers wrath.
45. Cf. the red-figured vase in the Museum Gregorianum, Baumeister, Denkmäler, fig. 741.
46. Cf. Alcaeus, Frag. 2, Edmond’s Lyra Graeca I; the story is told at length in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes.
47. Homer, Od. 6. 42 ff. “Neither is it shaken by winds, nor ever wet with rain, nor does the snow fall upon it, but the air is outspread clear and cloudless.” Translation of Murray in L.C.L.
48. Cf. Alcaeus, Frag. 3, Edmonds, Lyra Graeca I.; Philostratus, Vita Apollon. 5. 15. For the Horae, cf. elder Phil. Imag. ii. 34.
49. Hermes’ theft of the cattle is depicted on the mentioned in note 45.
50. The same scene is described at length in Horace’s Ode to Mercury, I. 10. 11. 9-12: Te boves olim, nisi reddisses, per dolum amotas, Puerum minaci voce dum terret, viduos pharetra risit Apollo.
The two-horse chariot – for the four-horse chariot51 was not yet in use by the heroes except by Hector the Bold – is bearing Amphiaraüs52 on his way back from Thebes at the time when the earth is said to have opened to receive him, in order that he may prophesy in Attica53 and utter true answers, a sage among men most sage. Of those seven who sought to gain the kingdom for the Theban Polyneices none returned save Adrastus and Amphiaraüs; the rest the Cadmeian soil received.54 These were slain by spears and stones and battle-axes, all but Capaneus, who, it is said, was struck down by a thunderbolt after he had first, as I recall, struck at Zeus with a boastful taunt.55
Now those others belong to another tale, but the painting bids you look at Amphiaraüs alone as in his flight he sinks beneath the earth, fillets and laurel and all. His horses are white, the whirling of his chariot wheels shows urgent haste, the panting breath of the horses issues from every nostril, the earth is bespattered with foam, the horses’ manes are all awry, and fine dust settling on their bodies wet with sweat makes them less beautiful but more true to life. Amphiaraüs otherwise is in full armour, but he ahs left off his helmet, thus dedicating56 his head to Apollo, for his look is holy and oracular. The painting depicts also Oropus as a youth57 among bright-eyed women, nymphs of the sea, and it depicts also the place used by Amphiaraüs for meditation, a cleft holy and divine. Truth clad all in white is there and the gate of dreams58 – for those who consult the oracle must sleep – and the god of dreams himself is depicted in relaxed attitude, wearing a white garment over a black one, I think representing his nocturnal and diurnal work.59 And in his hands he carries a horn, showing that he brings up his dreams through the gate of truth.
51. Cf. elder Phil. Imag. 1. 17.
52. For Amphiaraüs on his chariot, cf. Benndorf-Neumann, Das Grabmal von Gjölbaschi, p. 194 f., Pl. xxiv a, 5.
53. i.e. at the Amphiaraüm at Oropus in northern Attica, a dream-oracle and health-resort.
54. Cf. Il. 3. 243.
55. Aeschylus gives the boast of Capaneus, Septem.: 427 f. Trans. Smyth, L.C.L.: “For whether Heaven wills it or wills it not, he vows he will make havoc of the city, and that even the rival fire of Zeus, though it crash upon the earth in his path, shall not stay his course . . . “
56. avieis with double meaning, (1) “leaving it free to the light” and (b) “dedicating it.”
57. The personification of the town of Oropus on the seashore, where the oracle of Amphiaraüs was situated.
58. i.e. the Gate of Horn, through which come dreams that are true; cf. Od. 19. 566. Those who consulted the oracle slept in the shrine, and were cured by the god or learned the means of cure through dreams, a practice called “incubation.”
59. The Dream-god wears white over black because dreams come by night as well as day.
Do not rush past us, ye hunters, nor urge on your steeds till we can track down what your purpose is and what the game is you are hunting. For you claim to be pursuing a “fierce wild boar,” 60 and I see the devastation wrought by the creature – it has burrowed under the olive trees, cut down the vines, and has left neither fig tree nor apple tree or apple branch, but has torn them all out of the earth, partly by digging them up, partly by hurling itself upon them, and partly by rubbing against them. I see the creature, its mane bristling, its eyes flashing fire, and it is gnashing its tusks at you, brave youths61; for such wild animals are quick to bear the hunter’s din from a very great distance. But my own opinion is that, as you were hunting the beauty of yonder youth, you have been captured by him and are eager to run into danger for him. For why so near? Why do you touch him? Why have you turned toward him? Why do you jostle each other with your horses?62
How I have been deceived! I was deluded by the painting into thinking that the figures were not painted but were real beings, moving and loving – at any rate I shout at them as though they could hear and I imagine that I hear some response – and you63 did not utter a single word to turn me back from my mistake, being as much overcome as I was and unable to free yourself from the deception and the stupefaction induced by it. So let us look at the details of the painting; for it really is a painting before which we stand.
About the lad are gathered beautiful youths, who engage in beautiful pursuits, such as are becoming to men of noble parentage. One shows in his face a touch of the palaestra, anther shows grace, another urbanity, and the fourth, you will say, has just raised his head from a book. The horses they ride are no two alike, white and chestnut and black and bay, horses with silver bits, dappled horses with golden trappings – these pigments,64 it is said, the barbarians living by Oceanus compound of red-hot bronze, and they combine, and grow hard, and preserve what is painted with them – nor have the youths the same clothing or equipment. One lightly armed horseman wears his tunic girt up, a good javelin thrower I suppose, another has his breast protected with armour, threatening fight with the wild beast, another has his shins protected, another his legs. That youth65 rides on a white horse which, as you see, has a black head, and a white medallion is fashioned on his forehead in imitation of the full moon; and it has golden trappings, and bridle of Median scarlet; for his colour flashes on the gold with the effect of fiery-red jewels. The youth’s garment is a chlamys bellying out in the wind; in colour it is the sea-purple66 which the Phoenicians love, and it should be prized above other purple dyes; for though it seems to be dark it gains a peculiar beauty from the sun and is infused with the brilliancy of the sun’s warmth. And from shame of exposing himself unclad to those about him he wears a sleeved chiton of purple which reaches half-way down his thighs and likewise half-way to his elbows. He smiles, and his eye flashes, and he wears his hair long, but not long enough to shade his eyes when the wind shall throw it into disorder. Doubtless many a one will praise his cheeks and the proportions of his nose and each several feature of his face, but I admire his spiritedness; for as a hunter he is vigorous and is proud of his horse, and he is conscious of the fact that he is beloved. Mules and a muleteer bring their luggage, snares and nets and boar-spears and javelins and lances with toothed blades67; masters of hounds accompany the expedition and trackers and all breeds of dogs, not alone the keen-scented and swift of foot, but also the high-spirited dogs, for courage also was required to confront the wild beast. And so the painting shows Locrian, Laconian, Indian, and Cretan dogs,68 some sportive and baying, . . . and some attentive; and they all follow the trail with grinning muzzles.69 And the hunters as they advance will hymn Artemis Agrotera70; for yonder is a temple to her, and a statue worn smooth with age, and heads of boars and bears; and wild animals sacred to her graze there, fawns and wolves and hares, all tame and without fear of man. After a prayer the hunters continue the hunt.
The boar cannot bring himself to keep out of sight, but leaps from the thicket and rushes at the horsemen; at first it confuses them by its sudden onset, then it is overcome by their missiles, though it is not mortally wounded, partly because it is on its guard against their thrusts and partly because it is not hit by bold hunters; but, weakened by a superficial wound in the thigh, it runs through the woods till it finds refuge in a deep marsh and a pool adjoining the marsh. So with shouting the rest follow it to the edge of the marsh, but the youth keeps on after the creature into the pool and these four dogs with him; the creature tries to wound his horse, but bending well over on his horse and leaning to the right he delivers with the full force of his arm a blow that hits the boar just where the shoulder-blade joins the neck. Thereupon the dogs drag the boar to the ground, and the lovers on the bank shout as if in rivalry to see who will outshout his neighbour; and one is thrown from his horse which he excited beyond control instead of holding it I check; and he weaves for the youth a crown of flowers from the meadow in the marsh. The lad is still in the pool, still in the attitude in which he hurled his javelin, while the youths stand in astonishment and gaze at him as though he were a pictures.
60. Cf. Il. 9. 539: chlounên sun.
61. Cf. Il. 13. 473 f.: “He bristleth up his back and his two eyes blaze with fire, and he whetteth his tusks, eager to ward off dogs and men.” Trans. Murray, L.C.L.
62. i.e. as they try to get near the youth.
63. Addressed to the boy to whom he is interpreting the pictures.
64. The pigments used by the ancients were ordinarily earth colours (not vegetable colours, or chemical preparations), and were often brought from a great distance.
65. i.e. the central figure, the leader.
66. This “sea-purple” was obtained from a shell-fish, murex.
67. On the equipment of the hunter cf. Xen. De Venat. ix. 11 f.; x. 2 f., 16.
68. On hunting dogs cf. ibid. ix. 2; x. 1.
69. Cf. Xen. De Venat. iv. 3: emmeidiôsai men pros ta ichnê.
70. Artemis the Huntress. Cf. Xen. De Venat. vi. 13; Eur. Hipp. 58 f. gives the huntsmen’s hymn to Artemis.
No, this is not the Red Sea nor are these inhabitants of India, but Ethiopians and a Greek man in Ethiopia. And of the exploit which I think the man undertook voluntarily for love, my boy, you must have heard – the exploit of Perseus71 who, they say, slew in Ethiopia a monster from the sea of Atlas,72 which was making its way against herds and the people of this land. Now the painter glorifies this tale and shows his pity for Andromeda in that she was given over to the monster. The contest is already finished and the monster lies stretched out on the strand, weltering in streams of blood – the reason the sea is red – while Eros frees Andromeda from her bonds. Eros is painted with wings as usual, but here, as it not usual, he is a young man,73 panting and still showing the effects of his toil; for before the deed Perseus put up a prayer to Eros that he should come and with him swoop down upon the creature, and Eros came, for he heard the Greek’s prayer. The maiden is charming in that she is fair of skin though in Ethiopia, and charming is the very beauty of her form; she would surpass a Lydian girl in daintiness, an Attic girl in stateliness, a Spartan in sturdiness. Her beauty is enhanced by the circumstances of the moment; for she seems to be incredulous, her joy is mingled with fear, and as she gazes at Perseus she begins to send a smile towards him. He, not far from the maiden, lies in the sweet fragrant grass, dripping sweat on the ground and keeping the Gorgon’s head hidden lest people see it and be turned to stone. Many cow-herds come offering him milk and wine to drink,74 charming Ethiopians with their strange colouring and their grim smiles; and they show that they are pleased, and most of them look alike, Perseus welcomes their gifts and, supporting himself on his left elbow, he lefts his chest, filled with breath through panting, and keeps his gaze upon the maiden, and lets the wind blow out his chlamys, which is purple and spattered with drops of blood and with the flecks which the creature breathed upon it in the struggle. Let he children of Pelops perish75 when it comes to a comparison with the shoulder of Perseus! for beautiful as he is and ruddy of face, his bloom has been enhanced by his toil and his veins are swollen, as is wont to happen when the breath comes quickly. Much gratitude does he win from the maiden.
71. The story is that Andromeda was bound on the seashore as prey for the sea monster, that thus the city of her father might be saved. There Perseus finds her as he goes on his quest for the head of Medusa; he slays the monster, frees the girl, and carried her off to be his wife.
72. Cf. Eur. Andromeda, Frag 145 Nauck: kêtos . . . ex Atlantikês halos.
73. Eros was often depicted as a youth in the firth and fourth centuries B.C., while in the Hellenistic and Roman periods the Erotes (or Cupids) were winged children.
74. Cf. Eur. Andromeda, Frag. 146N: pas de poimenôn erhei leôs, ho men galaktos kissinon pherôn skuphos, ponôn anapsuktêr, ho d’ ampelôn ganos.
75. Lit. “Good-bye to”; Pelops (see next Description) was famous for his ivory white shoulder, but the shoulders of Perseus were more beautiful and withal more muscular.
A delicate garment of Lydian fashion, a lad with beard just beginning to grow, Poseidon smiling at him and honouring76 the lad with a gift of horses – all this shows that it is Pelops the Lydian who has come to the sea in order to invoke Poseidon’s aid against Oenomaüs; since Oenomaüs accepts no son-in-law, but slaying the suitors of Hippodameia he takes pride in their severed members as hunters who have captures game take pride in the heads of bears or lions.77 And in answer to Pelops’ prayer a golden chariot ahs come out of the sea, but the horses are of mainland breed, and able to speed over the Aegean with dry axle and light hoof. The task will go off well for Pelops, but let us examine the task of the painter.
It requires no small effort, in my opinion to compose four horses together and not to confuse their several legs one with another, to impart to them high spirits controlled by the bridle, and to hold them still, one at the very moment when he does not want to stand still, another when he wants to paw the ground, a third when he [wants to lift up his head], while the fourth takes delight in the beauty of Pelops and his nostrils are distended as though he were neighing.78 This too is a clever touch: Poseidon loves the lad and brings him to the cauldron and to Clotho, after which Pelops’ shoulder seemed to shine79; and he did not try to divert him from the marriage, since the lad is eager for it, but being content even to touch his hand, he clasps the right hand of Pelops while he counsels him about the race; and already Pelops proudly “breathes Alpheius,” 80 and his look follows the steeds. Charming is his glance and elated because he is proud of the diadem, from which the hair of the lad trickling down like golden sprays of water follows the lines of his forehead, and joins the bright down on his cheeks, and though it falls this way and that, yet it lies gracefully. The hip and breast, and the other parts of the naked body of Pelops which might be mentioned, the painting conceals; a garment covers his arms and even his lower legs. For the Lydians and the upper barbarians, encasing their beauty in such garments, pride themselves on these weavings, when they might pride themselves on their natural form.81 While the rest of his figure is out of sight and covered, the garment by his left shoulder is artfully neglected in order that its gleam may not be hidden; for the night draws on, and the lad glows with the radiance of his shoulder as does the night with that of the evening star.
76. There are reminiscences of Pindar’ First Olympian Ode in the language of this description, e.g. agallôn, 19, and Ol. 1. 139, erôntas, 23, and Ol. 1. 127. Other echoes are noted below.
77. Sophocles is said to have referred to this practice in his play entitled Oenomaüs, cf. Frag. 432 N. For the chariot race of Pelops and Oenomaüs see elder Phil. Imag. i. 17, and Philostratus the Younger, Imag. 9.
78. Benndorf observes that Philostratus is describing the four-horse team as it is so often depicted on the vases of the fifth century B.C., on of the four turning back his head towards the charioteer, and one raising his head. The same scheme appears on a coin of Syracuse.
79. Cf. Pindar, Ol. 1. 39 f. The story that Tantalus served his son Pelops to the gods at a banquet is denied by Pindar, who explains it as malicious gossip; but Pindar accepts the “pure cauldron” from which Clotho, goddess of birth, took Pelops with the ivory shoulder. Pindar also tells of Poseidon’s love for Pelops, and of the gifts of the golden chariot with winged steeds, by which Pelops won Hippodameia.
80. “breathes Alpheius,” as in Aristophanes, Birds, 1121, of a runner at full stretch like an Olympic runner. The Olympic race-course was on the banks of the Alpheius.
81. Cf. Hdt. i. 10: the Lydians considered it a disgraceful thing for even a man to be seen naked.
It is a good thing to gather figs and also not to pass over in silence the figs in this picture. Purple figs dripping with juice are heaped on vine-leaves; and they are depicted with breaks in the skin, some just cracking open to disgorge their honey, some split apart, they are so ripe. Near them lies a branch, not bare, by Zeus, or empty of fruit, but under the shade of its leaves are figs, some still green and “untimely,” 82 some with wrinkled skin over-ripe, and some about to turn, disclosing the shining juice, while on the tip of the branch a sparrow buries its bill in what seems the very sweetest of the figs. All the ground is strewn with chestnuts, some of which are rubbed free of the burr, others lie quite shut up, and others how the burr breaking at the lines of division. See, too, the pears on pears, apples on apples, both heaps of them and piles of ten, all fragrant and golden. You will say that their redness has not been put on from outside, but has bloomed from within. Here are gifts of the cherry tree, here is fruit in clusters heaped in a basket, and the basket is woven, not from alien twigs, but from branches of the plant itself. And if you look at the vine-sprays woven together and at the clusters hanging from them and how the grapes stand out one by one, you will certainly hymn Dionysus and speak of the vine as “Queenly giver of grapes.” 83 You would say that even the grapes in the painting are good to eat and full of winey juice. And the most charming point of all this is: on a leafy branch is yellow honey already within the comb and ripe to stream forth if the comb is pressed; and on another leaf is cheese new curdled and quivering; and there are bowls of milk not merely white but gleaming, for the cream floating upon it makes it seem to gleam.
82. The kind that are picked green and seldom ripen.
83. Aristophanes, Pax 520, where Eirênê is addressed.