Classical Texts Library >> Philostratus the Elder, Imagines >> Book 2.1-16




0. Book 1
1. Scamander
2. Comus
3. Fables
4. Menoeceus
5. Dwarfs
6. Cupids
7. Memnon
8. Amymone
9. A Marsh
10. Amphion
11. Phaethon
12. Bosphorus
13. Bosphorus
14. Semele
15. Ariadne


16. Pasiphae
17. Hippodameia
18. Bacchantes
19. The Tyrrhenian Pirates
20. Satyrs
21. Olympus
22. Midas
23. Narcissus
24. Hyacinthus
25. Andrians
26. Birth of Hermes
27. Amphiaraüs
28. Hunters
29. Perseus
30. Pelops
31. Xenia


1. Singers
2. Education of Achilles
3. Female Centaurs
4. Hippolytus
5. Rhodogoune
6. Arichion
7. Antiolochus
8. Meles
9. Pantheia
10. Cassandra
11. Pan
12. Pindar
13. The Gyraean Rocks
14. Thessaly
15. Glaucus Pontius
16. Palaemon


17. Islands
18. Cyclops
19. Phorbas
20. Atlas
21. Antaeus
22. Heracles among Pygmies
23. The Madness of Heracles
24. Theiodamas
25. The Burial of Abderus
26. Xenia
27. The Birth of Athena
28. Looms
29. Antigone
30. Evadne
31. Themistocles
32. Palaestra
33. Dodona
34. Horae



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.