Classical Texts Library >> Philostratus the Elder, Imagines >> Book 2.17-33




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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

2.19. PHORBAS 26

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

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

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

2.20 ATLAS

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

2.26 XENIA 61

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

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

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


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

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

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

2.28 LOOMS 73

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

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


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

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

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

2.30 EVADNE 85

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

2.33 DODONA 100

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

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

2.34 HORAE

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

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

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