PHILOSTRATUS YOUNGER 1
 

PHILOSTRATUS THE YOUNGER was a Greek writer who flourished in the C3rd AD. He was the author of a work entitled the Imagines (or Images), a collection of seventeen short essays describing mostly myth-themed paintings in poetic detail. His writing followed in the footsteps of Philostratus the Elder, his grandfather, who had produced a work of the same title and theme.

Elder Philostratus, Younger Philostratus, Callistratus. Translated by Fairbanks, Arthur. Loeb Classical Library Volume 256. London: William Heinemann, 1931.

The most recent edition of this volume is available new from Amazon.com (click on image right for details). In addition to the work of the Younger Philostratus the book also contains translations of the Imagines of the Elder Philostratus, the Descriptions of Callistratus, source Greek texts and Fairbanks' introduction and footnotes.


PHILOSTRATUS II INDEX

IMAGINES 1 - 9

0. Prooemium
1. Achilles on Scyros
2. Marsyas
3. Hunters
4. Heracles or Acheloüs
5. Heracles in Swaddlings
6. Orpheus
7. Medea among the Colchians
8. Boys at Play
9. Pelops

IMAGINES 10 - 17

10. Pyrrhus or the Mysians
11. The Argo or Aeëtes
12. Hesione
13. Sophocles
14. Hyacinthus
15. Meleager
16. Nessus
17. Philoctetes

IMAGINES, TRANSLATED BY ARTHUR FAIRBANKS

PROOEMIUM

Let us not deprive the arts of their chance to be kept up for ever, on the ground that we think the earlier period hard to match; and let us not, just because we have been anticipated in any undertaking by some writer of former time, refrain from emulating his work to the best of our ability, using a specious pretext with which to gloss over our indolence; but let us rather challenge our predecessor for, if we attain our goal, we shall accomplish something worth while; but if at any point we fail, at least we shall do ourselves the credit of showing that we strive for the noble ends we praise.

Why have I made this prelude? A certain description of works in the field of painting was written with much learning by one whose name I bear, my mother’s father, in very pure Attic Greek and with extreme beauty and force. Desiring to follow in his footsteps we felt obliged before setting out on the task to discourse somewhat on the art of painting, in order that our discussion may have its own matter in harmony with what is proposed.

Most noble is the art of painting1 and concerned with not insignificant matters. For he who is to be a true master of the art must have a good knowledge of human nature, he must be able to discern the signs of men’s character even when they are silent, ad what is revealed in the state of the cheeks and the expression of the eyes and the character of the eyebrows and, to put the matter briefly, whatever has to do with the mind. If proficient in these matters he will grasp every trait and his hand will successfully interpret the individual story of each person – that a man is insane, perhaps, or angry, or thoughtful, or happy, or impulsive, or in love, and, in a word, will paint in each case the appropriate traits. And the deception2 inherent in his work is pleasurable and involved no reproach; for to confront objects which do not exist as though they existed and to be influenced by them, to believe that they do exist, is not this, since no harm can come of it, a suitable and irreproachable means of providing entertainment?

Learned men of olden times have written much, I believe, about symmetry in painting, laying down laws, as it were, about the proper relation of each part of the figure to the other parts, as though ti were impossible for an artist to express successfully the emotions of the mind, unless the body’s harmony falls within the measurements prescribed by nature; for the figure that is abnormal and that exceeds these measurements cannot, so they claim, express the emotions of a rightly constituted being. If one reflects upon the matter, however, one finds that the art of painting has a certain kinship with poetry, and that an element of imagination is common to both, their stage as actually present, and with them all the accessories that make for dignity and grandeur and power to charm the mind; and so in like manner does the art of painting, indicating in the lines of the figures what the poets are able to describe in words.3

And yet why need I say what has been admirably said by many,4 or by saying more give the impression that I am undertaking an encomium of painting? For even these words, few indeed though they be, suffice to show that our present effort will not have been wasted. For when I have met with paintings not without refinement, I have not thought it right to pass them by in silence. But in order that our book may not proceed on one foot,5 let it be assumed that there is a person present to whom the details are to be described, that thus the discussion itself may have its proper form.

1. Lit. “figure-painting,”
2. Plutarch (Mor. 348C) discusses the “deception” inherent in the art of the drama, in particular tragedy, quoting Gorgias to the effect that the poet who deceives is wiser than the one who does not; and that the hearer who is deceived is wiser than the one who is not, in that he is easily moved by his pleasure in what he hears.
3. Cf. Plutarch (Mor. 748A), who discusses the relation of poetry, dancing, and painting. “For dancing is silent poetry, and on the other hand poetry is a dance of speech . . . It would seem that as poetry resembles the use of colour in painting, so dancing resembles the lines by which figures are defined.”
4. Cf. the same sentiment, Od. 12. 451f.
5. i.e., as a discourse of one person.

1. ACHILLES ON SCYROS 6

The heroine crowned with reeds – for doubtless you see the female figure at the foot of the mountain, sturdy of form and dressed in blue – is the island of Scyros, my boy, which the divine Sophocles calls “wind-swept.” 7 She has a branch of olive in her hands and a spray of vine. And the tower in the foot-hills of the mountain – that is the place where the daughters of Lycomedes follow their maidenly pursuits with the seeming daughter of Thetis. For when Thetis learned from her father Nereus the decree of the Fates about her son – that one of two things had been allotted to him, either to live ingloriously or becoming glorious to die very soon8 – her son was put away among the daughters of Lycomedes on Scyros and now lives hidden there; to the other girls he seems to be a girl, but one of them, the eldest, he has known in secret love, and her time is approaching when she will bring forth Pyrrhus. But this is not in the picture. There is a meadow before the tower, for this part of the island is a garden made to produce flowers in abundance for the maidens, and you see them scattered here and there plucking the flowers. All are surpassingly beautiful, but while the others incline to a strictly feminine beauty, proving indisputably their feminine nature by the frank glances of their eyes and the bloom of their cheeks and their vivacity in all they do, yet yonder girl who is tossing back her tresses, grim of aspect along with delicate grace will soon have her sex betrayed, and slipping off the character she has been forced to assume will reveal Achilles. For as the rumour of Thetis’ secret spreads among the Greeks, Diomedes in company with Odysseus sets forth to Scyros to ascertain the truth of this story.

You see them both, one keeping the glance of his eyes9 sunk low by reason, I think, of his craftiness and his habit of continual scheming, the other, Tydeus’ son, prudent, ready in counsel and intent on the task before him. What does the man behind them mean, the one who blows the trumpet? And what is the significance of the painting?10 Odysseus, shrewd and an able tracker of secrets,11 devises the following plan to test what he is tracking out; when he throws down on the meadow wool-baskets and objects suited to girls for their play and a suit of armour, the daughters of Lycomedes turn to objects suitable to their sex, but the son of Peleus, though he claims to find pleasure in baskets and weaving-combs, forthwith leaves these things to the girls,and rushing to the suit of armour he divests himself of the feminine attire he ahs been wearing . . .

[PYRRHUS ON SCYROS] 12

. . . And Pyrrhus is no longer a country boor nor yet growing strong amid filth like brawling sons of herdsmen, but already he is a soldier. For he stands leaning on a spear and gazing towards the ship; and he wears a purple mantle brought up from the tip of the shoulder over to his left arm and a white tunic that does not reach the knee; and though his eye is flashing, it is not so much the eye of a man in full career as of one still holding back and vexed at the delay; and his mind images something of what will happen a little later in Ilium. His hair now, when he is at rest, hangs down his forehead, but when he rushed forward it will be in disorder, following, as it tosses to and fro, the emotions of his spirit. The goats skipping about unchecked, the straying herds, and the shepherd’s staff with its crook lying among them where it has been thrown13 imply some such story as this, my boy: – Vexed with his mother and his grandfather for being kept on the island, since after the death of Achilles in fear for the boy they had sworn that Pyrrhus should not depart, he set himself over the goats and kine, subduing14 the bulls that scorned the herd – the bulls that may be seen on the mountain at the right. But when the oracle came to the Greeks that Troy would be captured by none other than the descendants of Aeacus, Phoenix is sent to Scyros to fetch the boy, and putting ashore he encounters him, each unknown to the other except in so far as the boy’s graceful and well-grown form suggested that he was Achilles’ son. And as soon as Phoenix recognized who he was, he himselfbe came known to Lycomedes and Deiodameia. All this is what art would teach us by means of this small picture, and it is so painted as to furnish to poets also a theme for song.

6. While the Homeric poems tell nothing of Achilles’ connection with Scyros, later writers say that Peleus sent him there to king Lycomedes at the age of nine in order to keep him out of the expedition against Troy. There he was brought up in maiden’s garments with the daughters of Lycomedes, till Odysseus and Diomedes (or Ajax or Phoenix and Nestor) were sent at the bidding of Calchas the prophet to fetch him. The scene was a favourite one with Greek painters from Polygnotus on.
7. Soph. Frag. 539N.
8. Cf. Iliad 9. 410f. “Thetis telleth me that twofold fates are bearing me towards the doom of death: if I abide here and war about the city of the Trojans, then lost is my home return, but my renown shall be imperishable; but if I return home . . . lost then is my glorious renown, yet shall my life long endure.” Trans. Murray, L.C.L.
9. For the phrase tên tôn ophthalmôn aktina, cf. the elder Phil. Vit. Soph. 61, 3 and Imag. i. 11.
10. The same phrase is used by the elder Philostratus, Vit. Apoll. ii, 20.
11. Cf. Soph. Ajax 2, where the word thêrômenon, “ever on the prowl,” is used by Odysseus.
12. Pyrrhus (Neoptolemus) was the son of Achilles by Deïdameia, daughter of Lycomedes. Born after the departure of Achilles, the boy was brought up by Lycomedes till, at the bidding of the seer Helenus, Odysseus and Phoenix came to fetch him to accomplish the capture of Troy. His victory of Eurypylus is described below (No. 10). The departure of Pyrrhus from Scyros, his assistance to Odysseus in securing the bow of Philoctetes, and his exploits at Troy are scenes frequently depicted on Greek red-figure vases.
13. Iliad 23. 845-6: “Fat as a herdsman flings his crook, and it flieth whirling over the herds of kine ... "
14. Lit. “turning back the neck” and thus throwing them to the ground; cf. Philostratus, Her. 190, 1, where the same phrase has been used.

2. MARSYAS 15

The Phrygian has been overcome; at any rate his glance is that of a man already perished, since he knows what he is to suffer, and he realizes that he has played the flute for the last time, inasmuch as inopportunely he acted with effrontery toward the son of Leto. His flute has been thrown away, condemned never to be played again, since just now it has been convicted of playing out of tune. And he stands near the pine tree from which he knows he will be suspended, he himself having named this penalty for himself – to be skinned for a wine-bottle.16 He glances furtively at the barbarian yonder who is whetting the edge of the knife to be applied to him; for you see, I am sure, that the man’s hands are on the whetstone and the iron, but that he looks up at Marsyas with glaring eyes, his wild and squalid hair all bristling. The red on his cheek betokens, I think, a man thirsty for blood, and his eyebrow overhands the eye, all contracted as it faces the light17 and giving a certain stamp to his anger; nay, he grins, too, a savage grin in anticipation of what he is about to do – I am not sure whether because he is glad or because his mind swells in pride as he looks forward to the slaughter. But Apollo is painted as resting upon a rock; the lyre which lies on his left arm is still being struck by his left hand in gentle fashion, as though playing a tune. You see the relaxed form of the god and the smile lighting up his face; his right hand rests on his lap, gently grasping the plectrum, relaxed because of his joy in the victory. Here also is the river which is to change its name to that of Marsyas.18 And look, please, at the band of Satyrs, how they are represented as bewailing Marsyas, but as displaying, along with their grief, their playful spirit and their disposition to leap about.

15. The story is that Marsyas presumptuously undertook to prove that the music of his flute was superior to Apollo’s music on the lyre. Defeated in the contest, he was flayed alive. Cf. Xen. Anab. i. 28: "It was here (at Celaenae), according to the story, that Apollo flayed Marsyas, after having defeated him in a contest of musical skill; he hung up his skin in the cave from which the sources issue, and it is for this reason that the river is called Marsyas.”
16. i.e. in case he should be defeated by Apollo in the contest. The expression is current in classical writers, e.g. Solon, Frag. 33, 7 Bergk.; Aristophanes, Nub. 442.
17. A similar expression is used by the elder Philostratus, Vit. Apoll. 7. 28.
18. Ovid, Metam. vi. 383f., after describing the death of Marsyas, tells how the tears of his companions gave rise to a river which bore his name.

3. HUNTERS 19

Is there any praise you would withhold from these men whom the painting is bringing back from the hunt? And it causes a pure spring of sweet and pellucid water to gush for them from the earth. And no doubt you see the grove around the spring, the work of wise Nature, I believe; for Nature is sufficient for all she desires, and has no need of art; indeed it is she who is the origin of arts themselves. For what is lacking here to provide shade? Those wild vines climbing high up on the trees have brought clusters of shoots together, fasting them to one another; while the bryony yonder and the ivy, both together and separately provide for us over there a close-knit roof that is more pleasant than art could produce.20 The chorus of nightingales and the choirs of other birds21 bring clearly to our tongues the verses of Sophocles, sweetest of poets: “And within (the copse) a feathered choir makes music.” 22

But the band of hunters, charming sturdy youths still breathing the excitement of the hunt but now variously engaged, are resting themselves. Ye gods! how wonderful and how charming is the clearness of the painter’s art, and how well we may discern the story of each one! This improvised couch, made of nets, I think receives those whom we may rightly call “the leaders of the hunt.” They are five in number. You see the midmost of them, how he has raised himself and has turned towards those who lied above him, to whom, it seems to me, he is relating the story of his contest and how he was first to bring down one of the two wild beasts which are suspended from the trees in nets, a deer apparently and a boar. For does he not seem to you to be elated23 and happy over what he has done? The others gaze on him intently as he tells his story; and the second of them as he leans back on the couch seems to be resting a while and planning soon to describe some exploit of his own in the hunt. As to the other wing of the company, the man next to the central figure, a cup half full in one hand and swinging his right hand above his head, seems to me to be singing the praises of Artemis Agrotera,24 while his neighbour, who is looking towards the servant, is bidding him hurry the cup along.

The painter is clever and exact in his craftsmanship; for if one examines the whole picture, nothing has been overlooked, not even as regards the attendants. The man yonder, having found a branch broken from a tree, sits on it, dressed just as he was in the chase after the quarry and making a meal from the pouch which hangs at his side. One of the two dogs, stretched out in front of him, is eating, while the other squats upon his hind legs and stretches out his neck to catch the morsels that are being thrown to him. A second man kindles a fire, and putting over it some of the pots adapted to this use he makes ready for the hunters the abundant food, hurrying at his task; this wine-skin has been thrown down here at random for anyone that wishes to draw drink from it; of two other servants, one the carver I suppose, tells us that he is cutting portions with due care to make them equal, and the other holds out the platter that is to receive the meat, doubtless demanding that the portions be equal; for in this matter at least the management of a hunt leaves nothing to Fortune.

19. Cf. the treatment of the same theme by the elder Philostratus, Imag. i. 28.
20. The description is based on a passage in the elder Philostratus, Vit. Apoll. ii. 7.
21. Eur. Frag. 88. 2f. has the phrase “choir of nightingales.”
22. Quoted from Soph. Oed. Col. 17f.
23. For this use of epairein, cf. Phil. Imag. ii. 5.
24. Artemis the goddess of wild beasts whom the hunter must propitiate.

4. HERACLES OR ACHELOÜS 25

Probably you are asking what these three figures have to do with each other – a serpent “ruddy of back" 26 which rises there lifting its long form, a bead hanging beneath an erect serrated crest, its glare terrible and its glance one that cannot but work consternation; a bull that curves its neck beneath those mighty horns and, pawing the earth at its feet, rushes as for a charge27; and here a man that is half animal, for he has the forehead of a bull and a spreading beard, while streams of water un in floods from his chin.28 The multitude that has gathered as for a spectacle; the girl in their midst, a bride, I suppose (for this must be inferred from the ornaments she wears); an old man yonder of sad countenance; a youth who is divesting himself of a lion’s skin and holding in his hands a club; and here a heroine of sturdy form who has been crowned with beech leaves in harmony with the story of her Arcadian nurture – all this, I think, is Calydon.

What is the meaning of the painting? The river Acheloüs, my boy, in love with Deianeira the daughter of Oeneus, presses for the marriage29; and Persuasion has no part in what he does, but by assuming now one and now another of the shapes we see here, he thinks to frighten Oeneus. For you are to recognize the figure in the painting as Oeneus, despondent on account of his daughter Deianeira, who looks so dolefully at her suitor. For she is painted, not with cheek reddening through modesty, but as greatly terrified at the thought of what she will suffer in union with that unnatural husband. But the noble Heracles willingly assumes the task as an “incident of his journey,” to use a popular phrase.

So much by way of prelude; but now see how the contestants have already joined battle, and you must imagine for yourself all that has transpired in the first bouts of the struggle between god and irresistible hero. Finally, however, the river, assuming the form of a horned bull, rushes at Heracles, but he, grasping the right horn with his left hand, uproots the other horn from its forehead with the aid of his club; thereupon the river-god, now emitting streams of blood instead of water, gives up the struggle, while Heracles, full of joy at his deed, looks at Deianeira, and throwing his club on the ground holds out to her the horn of Acheloüs as his nuptial gift.

25. The contest between Heracles and Acheloüs was a favourite subject in art from early times (cf. Paus. 6. 19, 22 for the description of a group at Olympia, which included Ares, Athena, Zeus and Deianeira as well as Heracles and Acheloüs). In early drawings Acheloüs is given the form of a centaur, but by the fifth century he is regularly represented as a bull with a human face. As pointed out by Jahn (Eph. Arch. 1682, p. 317f.), Acheloüs here has the form of a man, but with the horns of a bull springing from his forehead. While the presence of the serpent and the bull with Acheloüs is not explained in the description, apparently the painter intended to depict two of the forms that the river assumed during the struggle. The failure of Philostratus to understand what he described may be regarded as direct evidence that he was dealing with an actual picture. Evidently the picture gave two scenes (if not three): first the situation before the conflict, and secondly the outcome of the conflict; for the latter can hardly be treated as mere rhetoric on the part of Philostratus. The subject is depicted on a tripod base in the Consantinople Museum (Mitth. d. deutsch. Palaestina-vereins vii, Pl. iii), where Acheloüs appears as a bearded man with horns of a bull; one horn lies at the feet of Heracles, and blood spouts from the head where it has been broken off. (Benndorf.)
26. Quoted from Homer, Il. 2. 308.
27. Cf. Eur. Her. Fur. 869: “Like a bull in act to charge.”
28. Cf. Soph. Trach. 8f.: “For my wooer was a river-god, Acheloüs, who in three shapes was ever asking me from my sire – coming now as a bull in bodily form, now as a serpent with sheeny coils, now with trunk of man and front of ox, while from a shaggy beard the streams of fountain-water flowed abroad.” Trans. Jebb.
29. It must be remembered that Deianeira had been promised to Acheloüs by Oeneus.

5. HERACLES IN SWADDLING CLOTHES 30

You are playing, Heracles, playing, and already laughing at your labour, though you are still in swaddling clothes; and taking the serpents sent by Hera one in each hand you pay no heed to your mother, who stands near by crazed with fear.31 But he serpents, already exhausted, are stretching out their coils upon the ground and drooping their heads towards the babe’s hands, showing withal a glimpse of their teeth; these are jagged and poisonous, and their crests sag to one side as death approaches, their eyes have no vision in them, their scales are no longer resplendent with golden and purple colours, nor do they gleam with the various movements of their bodies, but are pale and, where they were once blood-red, are livid.

Alcmene, if one looks carefully at her face, seems to be recovering from her first fright, but she now distrusts what she really sees, and her fright has not permitted her to remain in bed even though she has lately given birth to a child. For doubtless you see how, leaping from her bed, unsandalled and only in her shift, with disordered hair and throwing out her arms she utters a shout, while the maidservants that were attending her in her travail are in consternation, talking confusedly each to her neighbour. Here are men in armour, and one man who stands ready with drawn sword32; the former are the chosen youth of the Thebans, come to the aid of Amphitryon; but Amphitryon has at the first tidings drawn his sword to ward off danger and has come with them to the scene of action; nor do I know whether he is overcome with fear or rejoices; for his hand is still ready to act, but the thoughtfulness revealed33 by his eyes sets a cru to his hand, since he finds no danger to ward off, and he sees that the situation before him needs the insight of an oracle to interpret it. Here, in fact, is Teiresias near at hand, foretelling, I think, what a hero the babe in swaddling clothes will become; and he is represented as divinely inspired and breathing out prophecies. Night also, the time in which these events take place, is represented in human form34 she is shedding a light upon herself with a torch that the exploit of the child may not lack a witness.

30. Cf. the treatment of the birth of Hermes by the elder Philostratus, Imag. i. 26.
31. The description of the scene follows closely the story as told by Pindar, Nem. i. 41f., viz. the attack of two serpents on the new-born babe, Alcmene’s rush to the rescue, the approach of Theban chiefs led by Amphitryon, and the prophecy of Teiresias. Theocritus, xxiv. 55f., gives the story in much the same form, except that here the babe Heracles is ten months old.
32. The phrase is taken from the elder Philostratus, Her. 182, 14K.
33. The phrase is taken from the elder Phil. Imag. ii. 21.
34. For en eidei in this sense, see the elder Phil. Imag. ii. 22.

6. ORPHEUS 35

That Orpheus, the son of the Muse, charmed by his music even creatures that have not the intelligence of man, all the writers of myth agree, and the painter also so tells us. Accordingly, a lion and a boar near by Orpheus are listening to him, and also a deer and a hare who do not leap away from the lion’s onrush, and all the wild creatures to whom the lion is a terror in the chase now herd with him, both they and he unconcerned. And pray do not fail to note carefully the birds also, not merely the sweet singers whose music is wont tot fill the groves, but also note, please, the “chattering daw,” 36 the “cawing crow,” 37 and the eagle of Zeus. The eagle, poised aloft on both his wings,38 gazes intently at Orpheus and pays no heed to the hare near by, while the animals, keeping their jaws closed – both wolves yonder and the lambs are mingled together – are wholly under the spell of the enchanter, as though dazed. And the painter ventures a still more striking thing; for having torn trees up by the roots he is brining them yonder to be an audience for Orpheus and is stationing them about him. Accordingly, pine and cypress and alder and poplar and all the other trees stand about Orpheus with their branches joined like hands, and thus, without requiring the craft of man, thy enclose for him a theatre, that therein the birds may sit on their branches and he may make music in the shade. Orpheus sits there, the down of a first beard spreading over his cheeks, a tiara39 bright with gold standing erect upon his head, his eye40 tender, yet alert, and divinely inspired as his mind ever reaches out to divine themes.41 Perhaps even now he is singing a song; indeed his eyebrow seems to indicate the sense of what he sings, his garment changes colour with his various motions, his left foot resting on the ground supports the lyre which rests upon his thigh, his right foot marks the time by beating the ground with its sandal, and, of the hands, the right one is firmly grasping the plectrum gives close heed to the notes, he elbow extended and the wrist bent inward, while he left with straight fingers strikes the strings.42 But an amazing thing will happen to you, Orpheus: you now charm wild beasts and trees, but to women of Thrace you will seem to be sadly out of tune and they will tear your body in pieces,43 though even wild beasts had gladly listened to your voice.

35. Cf. the elder Phil. Imag. i. 10, on the power of music. Priest, seer, founder of mystic cults in many parts of Greece, Orpheus is here simply the “son of the Muse,” the singer whose music had power to charm nature, animate and inanimate, as well as men. As a musician he was closely associated with Helicon and the Muses, and in this capacity he went on the Argonautic expedition. In wall-painting, on painted vases, and in mosaics, Orpheus the musician was a favourite subject.
36. Quoted from Pind. Nem. iii. 82.
37. Quoted from Hesiod, Opp. 747.
38. Cf. Pind. Pyth. i. 6f and schol. The notes of Apollo’s lyre cause the eagle to sleep on the sceptre of Zeus.
39. Orpheus is frequently represented in art as wearing the tiara or Phrygian cap, apparently because of his associations with Thrace and Asia Minor.
40. Cf. the description of Amphion, the elder Phil. Imag. i. 10. The erect tiara was the prerogative of royalty in Persia and Near East kingdoms.
41. The phrase is taken from the elder Phil. Imag. i. 20.
42. Apparently the left arm steadies the lyre, which rests on the left thigh.
43. The story of Orpheus’ death at the hands of the Thracian women was widely current in Greece, but it is told in most various forms and explained in different ways. Commonly it is stated that he was torn to pieces by the women of Thrace, as Pentheus was torn in pieces by the Bacchantes, while the Muses, the animals and trees, and even the rocks joined in mourning his death. Cf. the version of Ovid, Met. ii. 1-66.

7. MEDEA AMONG THE COLCHIANS

Who is the woman with a grim frown above her eyes,44 her brow charged with deep thought, her hair bound in hieratic mode, her eye shining either already with love or with inspiration, I know not which, and with an ineffable radiance, when she permits her face to be seen? This in truth is the distinguishing mark of the descendants of Helios45; I believe one must recognize Medea, the daughter of Aeëtes. For now that he expedition of Jason, on its quest of the golden fleece, has come ashore at the river Phasis and has arrived at the city of Aeëtes, the girl is in love with the stranger, and unwonted reflections enter her mind; and though she does not know what has happened to her, her thoughts are all confused and she is distraught of soul. She is not now dressed for her priestly functions, nor as if she were in the company of her superiors, but in a manner suitable for the eyes of many. The form of Jason is slender, but not at all lacking in strength; his flashing eye is overhung by a brow that is haughty and defiant of all opposition; the first beard creeping over his face grows luxuriantly,46 and his light-brown hair tumbles down upon his forehead; as for his dress, he wears a white tunic fastened by a girdle, over which a lion’s skin is flung, and on his feet are laced boots; he stands leaning on his spear; and the character revealed by his face is that of one who is neither over-proud, since he is modest, nor meek since he is bold for his undertaking. Eros is claiming this situation as his own, and he stands leaning on his bow with his legs crossed, turning his torch towards the earth, inasmuch as the work of love is as yet hardly begun.

44. Lit. “lifting the ridge of skin above her eyes in a grim frown.”
45. Cf. Apollonius Rhodius, Argon. iv. 726f. Circe recognises Medea by this characteristic, “And she longed to hear the voice of the maiden, her kinswoman, as soon as she saw that she had raised her eyes from the ground. For all those of the race of Helios were plain to discern, since by the far flashing of their eyes they shot in front of them a gleam of gold.” Trans. Seaton, L.C.L.
46. The phrase it taken from the elder Phil. Her, 141, 27K.

8. BOYS AT PLAY

The boys who are playing the palace of Zeus are, I suppose, Eros and Ganymede,47 if the one may be known by his tiara and the other identified by his bow and his wings. They are playing with dice; and Eros is represented as taunting the other insolently and as shaking the fold of his garment, full as it is of his winnings, while his companion is represented as having lost one of the two dice left to him and as throwing the other no better hope.48 His cheek is downcast and the glance of his eye, albeit a beautiful eye, indicates by its despondency his vexation. And these three goddesses standing near them – they need no interpreter to tell who they are; for Athena is recognized at a glance, clothed as she is in what the poets call the “panoply of her race,” 49 casting a “bright glance” 50 from under her helmet, and ruddy of face as well as masculine in general appearance; the second one even in the painting shows the “laughter-loving” 51 disposition caused by the magic of her girdle52; and that the third is Hera her dignity and queenliness of form declare.

What do the goddesses desire and what necessity brings them together? The Argo carrying its fifty heroes ahs anchored in the Phasis after passing through the Bosphorus and the Clashing Rocks. You see the river himself lying on this deep bed of rushes53; his countenance is grim, for his hair is thick and stands upright, his beard bristles, and his eyes glare; and the abundant water of the stream, since it does not flow from a pitcher as is usually the case, but comes in flood from his whole figure, gives us to understand how large a stream is poured into the Pontus. You have heard, I am sure, about the prize which was the object of this voyage, since poets tell of “the golden fleece,” 54 and the songs of Homer also describe the Argo as “known of all.” 55 But while the sailors of the Argo are considering the situation, the goddesses have come as suppliants to be Eros that he assist them in saving the sailors by going to fetch Medea, the daughter of Aeëtes; and as pay for this service his mother shows him a ball which she says was once a plaything56 of Zeus. Do you see the clever art of the painting? The ball itself is of gold; the stitching on it is such as to be assumed by the mind rather than seen by the eye, and spirals of blue encircle it; and very likely, when it is tossed in the air, the radiance emanating from it will lead us to compare it with the twinkling of stars. As for Eros, he no longer even looks at the dice, but throwing them on the ground he clings to his mother’s dress, begging her to make good her promise to him; for, he says, he will not fail in the task.

47. Eros and Ganymede are associated apparently as the two young boys in the company of the gods, who play together in Olympus, Ganymede, son of Tros (or Laomedon) was snatched away by Zeus from the hills near Troy to be the cup-bearer of the gods, since he was the most beautiful of mortal men. As coming from Asia Minor rather than Greece proper, he wears a tiara.
48. The account follows closely the description of Eros and Ganymede playing dice in Apoll. Rhod. Argon. iii. 117f.
49. Because “born” with her when she sprang from the head of Zeus.
50. Referring to the Homeric epithet glaukôpis, “bright-glancing,” if this interpretation of the word be accepted.
51. The epithet applied to Aphrodite in Homer, e.g. Iliad 3. 424.
52. The “magic of her girdle” is described, Iliad 14. 214f.
53. On the representations of the river Phasis, cf. Purgold, Archaeologische Untersuchunuen zu Claudian und Sidonius, p. 34f. (Benndorf). The type of the recumbent river god is found in description of Meles, the elder Phil. Imag. ii. 8, and again in the description of Xanthus, younger Phil. Imag. 10.
54. The word for the golden fleece, depas, is the one regularly used by the poets, e.g. Eur. Med. 5.
55. Quoted from the Odyssey, 12. 70.
56. Here also the account closely follows Apoll. Rhod. Argon. iii. 132f.

9. PELOPS 57

The man mounted on a four-horse chariot who is setting out to drive across the mainland, wearing an upright tiara58 and Lydian dress, is Pelops, I believe, a “bold charioteer” 59 it is fair to call him. For he once guided this chariot even across the sea, doubtless because it was the gift of Poseidon, speeding over the back of the clam sea on the very edge of the wheel and keeping the axle unwetted.60 His flashing eye and erect head attest his alertness of mind, and his haughty brow indicates that he youth despises Oenomaüs.61 For he is proud of his horses, since they hold their necks high, are broad of nostril, hollow of hoof,62 dark-eyed and alert, and they lift their abundant manes above their dark necks as is the manner of sea-horses. Near them stands Hippodameia; she colours her cheek with a modest blush, wears the raiment of a bride, and gazes with eyes that choose rather the stranger’s part.63 For she loved him and she loathes the parent who takes pride in such spoils as indeed you see – these heads which have been suspended one after another from the gateway, and the time which has elapsed since each of the men perished has given them each a distinctive appearance. For Oenomaüs slew those who came to sue for his daughter’s hand and he delights in the tokens of their death. But their shades hovering over the place lament each the contest in which it took part as they descant upon the covenant of marriage64; for Pelops, they recount, has made a covenant, promising that henceforth the girl will be free from the curse. And Myrtilus is witness to the covenant of the twain. Oenomaüs is not far away; nay, his chariot is ready, and on the seat is laid the spear with which to slay the youth when he overtakes him65; and he is hurriedly sacrificing to his father Ares, this man of savage aspect and with murder in his eye; and he urges Myrtilus on. But Eros, said of mien, is cutting66 the axle of the chariot, making clear two things: that the girl in love with her lover is conspiring against her father, and that the future which is in stores for the house of Pelops comes from the Fates.

57. The description should be compared with the treatment of the same subject by the elder Phil. Imag. i. 17. The scene is laid at Olympia and pictures the preparation for the race.
58. The upright tiara was the prerogative of royalty, cf. elder Phil. Imag. ii. 31 and note.
59. Quoted from Iliad 8. 261.
60. Iliad 13. 127. Poseidon in his car “set out to drive over the waves . . . and the axle of bronze was not wetted beneath”; cf. the description of Pelops’ chariot, the elder Phil. Imag. i. 17. In Greek story, Pelops is associated with Asia Minor, usually with Lycia, from which he came to the Peloponnesus, which bears his name. Because he was the favourite of Poseidon, he god gave him the chariot which bore him across the sea from Asia Minor to secure Hippodameia as his bride.
61. The father of Hippodameia.
62. Xenophon, Art of Horsemanship i. 3: “For high hoofs have the frog, as it is called, well of the ground . . . Moreover, Simonides says that the ring, too, is a clear test of good feet; for a hollow hoof rings like a cymbal on striking the ground.” Trans. Marchant, L.C.L.
63. i.e. she sides with Pelops, while her father is hostile to all the suitors.
64. The covenant of marriage seems to mean in the first instance the agreement that a suitor should win Hippodameia if his chariot should outrun that of Oenomaüs, while otherwise he should be slain by Oenomaüs. In the case of Pelops the covenant includes Pelops’ promise to Hippodameia to free her from the curse due to the death of her former suitors.
65. Cf. Apoll. Rhod. Argon. i. 756f.: “And therein (on the mantle of Pallas) were fashioned two chariots, racing, and the one in front Pelops was guiding, as he shook the reins, and with him was Hippodameia at his side, and in pursuit Myrtilus urged his steeds, and with him Oenomaüs had grasped his couched spear, but fell as the axle swerved and broke in the nave, while he was eager to pierce the back of Pelops.”
66. The action of Eros may be ascribed to the love of Pelops for Hippodameia, or as we may thing of the love of Myrtilus for Hippodameia as the reason for the betrayal of Oenomaüs by his charioteer (Benndorf).

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