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Discourse 11

This webpage reproduces one of the

Dio Chrysostom

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1939

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Discourse 13

(Vol. II) Dio Chrysostom

 p1  The Twelfth or Olympic Discourse:
or, On Man's First Conception of God

The Olympic Discourse was delivered by Dio at Olympia in the year A.D. 97 before a large audience of Greeks which had come to the city to witness the games, and in sight of the famous statue of Zeus which had been made by Pheidias, the greatest of Greek sculptors, more than five centuries before.

After his introductory remarks, in which he tells us that he has just returned from the Danube, where the Roman army under Trajan was about to begin the Second Dacian War, he raises the question as to whether he shall tell his hearers about the land of the Dacians and the impending war, or take a subject suggested by the god in whose presence they stood. He chooses the latter and, after explaining that a conception of the nature of the gods, and especially of the highest one, is innate in all mankind, and that this innate conception and belief is strengthened by men's experiences and observations in the world about them, Dio gives a classification of the way in which a conception of and a belief in their existence are implanted in the minds of men. In section 39 he makes a classification into notions innate and notions acquired. Then in section 44 and following he subdivides the acquired notions into (1) the voluntary and hortatory, given by the poets, (2) the compulsory and prescriptive, given by the lawgivers, (3) those given by the painters and sculptors, and (4) the notions and concepts as set forth and expounded by the philosophers. He is careful, however, to point out that the poets, lawgivers, and sculptors and others would have  p2 no influence whatever if it were not for that primary and innate notion.

After this the speaker proceeds to what is the most important part of his address, in which he offers a great wealth of apparently original ideas as to what is the field and function of the plastic arts and what are their limitations. He puts his thoughts on this subject into the mouth of Pheidias, who takes the specific case of his own great statue of Zeus and attempts to show that he has used all the resources of the sculptor's art in producing a worthy statue of the greatest of the gods. Pheidias in the course of his exposition says among other things that he took his conception of Zeus from Homer, and he makes a detailed comparison between the respective capacities of poetry and sculpture to portray and represent, to the decided advantage of poetry.

No ancient writer up to Dio's time, whose works are extant, has given us such a full treatment of the subject. The others, such as Plutarch, make just a passing reference to the plastic arts. Certainly no one of them has made such a detailed comparison between them and poetry. Not until we come to Flavius Josephus do we find such a treatment of the subject, and Dio by many centuries anticipated the most important principles upon which the theory of Lessing's Laokoön is based.

Paul Hagen, however, in his Quaestiones Dioneae (Kiliae 1887) attempts with some success to show by a comparison with certain passages in Cicero, Pliny, and Quintilian that Dio was not original in these theories of art, but got them from Pergamum, where there was a famous school of sculpture flourishing at this time. The best known example of its work is the 'Dying Gaul,' now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. Dio certainly was within easy reach of Pergamum at any rate. If he was not original in his ideas on art, he was at all events greatly interested in it, as is shown by his Thirty-First Discourse.

Some maintain that Dio gave this address on more than one occasion and that traces of different recensions to make the address suit different places and audiences are to be found in the versionsº that have come down to us.

 p5  The Twelfth or Olympic Discourse:
or, On Man's First Conception of God

Can it be, Sirs, that here before you, just as before many another audience — to use a familiar saying​1 — I have met with the strange and inexplicable experience of the owl? For though she is no whit wiser than the other birds nor more beautiful in appearance, but on the contrary only what we know her to be, yet whenever she utters her mournful and far from pleasing note, they all flock to her​2 — yes, and even when they merely see her, the reason being, as it seems to me, that they look with scorn upon her insignificance and weakness; and yet people in general say that the birds admire the owl.

2 Surely, however, the birds ought rather to admire the peacock when they see him, beautiful and many-coloured as he is, and then again truly when he lifts  p7 himself up in pride and shows the beauty of his plumage, as he struts before his hen with his tail spread out and arched all about him like a fair-shaped theatre​3 or some picture of the heavens studded with stars — a figure well deserving of admiration for the colouring also, which is nearest to gold blended with dark blue; and then too on the tips of his feathers there are eyes, as it were, or markings like rings both in shape and in their general similitude. 3 And, if you want something further, observe the lightness of his plumage, so light indeed that it is not an encumbrance nor hard to carry on account of its length. In the centre of it he offers himself to the spectator's gaze, quite calm and unconcerned, turning himself this way and that as if on parade; and when he wishes really to astound us, he rustles his feathers and makes a sound not unpleasing, as of a light breeze stirring some thick wood.

But it is not the peacock with all this fine display that the birds want to see, nor when they hear the song of the nightingale as she rises at early dawn are they at all affected by her — 4 nay, not even the swan​4 do they greet on account of its music, not even when in the fullness of years it sings its last song, and through joy, and because it has forgotten the troubles of life, utters its triumphant notes and at the same time without sorrow conducts itself, as it seems, to a sorrowless death — even then, I say, the birds are not so charmed by its strains that they  p9 gather on some river's bank or on a broad mead or the clean strand of a mere, or on some tiny green islet in a river.5

5 And since you likewise, though having so many delight­ful spectacles to behold, and so many things to hear — able orators, most charming writers of both verse and prose, and finally, like gorgeous peacocks, sophists in great numbers, men who are lifted aloft as on wings by their fame and disciples​6 — since you, I say, despite all these attractions, draw near and wish to listen to me, a man who knows nothing and makes no claim to knowing, am I not right in likening your interest to that which the birds take in the owl, one might almost say not without some divine purpose? 6 This purpose is seen in men's belief that this bird is beloved of Athenê also, the fairest of the gods and the wisest, and indeed at Athens it was honoured by the art of Pheidias, who did not count the owl unworthy to share a dedication with the goddess, the popular assembly approving; but Pericles and his own self  p11 he depicted covertly, so we are told, on the shield of the goddess.7

However, it does not occur to me to regard all this as good fortune on the part of the owl, unless she really does in fact possess some superior sagacity. 7 And this, I imagine, is the reason why Aesop composed the fable in which he represents her as being wise and as advising the birds, when the first oak tree began to grow, not to let it happen, but by all means to destroy the plant; for, she explained, the tree would produce a drug from which none might escape, the bird-lime,​8 and they would be caught by it. Again, when men were sowing flax, she bade them pick up this seed also, since if it grew, no good would come of it.​9 8 And in the third place, when she saw a man armed with a bow, she prophesied, saying: "Yonder man will outstrip you with the help of your own feathers, for though he is on foot himself, he will send feathered shafts after you."10

But the other birds mistrusted her words of warning.  p13 They considered her foolish, and said she was mad; but afterwards through experience they came to admire her and to consider her in very truth exceedingly wise. And that is the reason why, whenever she shows herself, they draw near to her as to one possessing all knowledge; but as for her, she no longer gives them advice, but merely laments.

9 So perhaps there has been delivered unto you some true word and salutary counsel, which Philosophy gave to the Greeks of old, but the men of that time comprehended it not and despised it; whereas those of the present day, recalling it, draw near to me on account of my appearance,​11 thus honouring Philosophy as the birds honour the owl, although it is in reality voiceless and reticent of speech. For I am quite well aware that I have not hitherto said anything worthy of consideration, and that now I have no knowledge superior to your own. 10 But there are other men who are wise and altogether blessed; and if you wish, I shall make them known to you, mentioning each one by name.​12 For indeed this alone I consider to be profitable — to know the men who are wise and able and omniscient. To such if you are willing to cleave, neglecting all other things — both parents and the land of your birth, the shrines of the gods, and the tombs of your forefathers — following wherever they lead, or remaining wherever they establish themselves — whether in the Babylon​13 of Ninus and Semiramis, or in Bactra,​14 or Sousa,15  p15 or Palibothra,​16 or in some other famous and wealthy city — giving them money or in some other way winning their favour, you will become happier than happiness itself. 11 But if you not willing to do this yourselves, mistrusting your own natural ability, or pleading poverty or age or lack of physical strength, you will at least not begrudge your sons this boon nor deprive them of the greatest blessings, but will entrust them to these teachers if they are willing to receive them; and if they are unwilling, you will persuade them or compel them by any and all means, to the end that your sons, having been properly educated and having grown wise, may thenceforth be renowned among all Greeks and barbarians, being pre-eminent in virtue and reputation and wealth and in almost every kind of power. For not only do virtue and renown attend upon wealth, as we are told, but wealth likewise and of necessity accompanies virtue.17

12 This is the prophecy and counsel that I give you in the presence of yonder god,​18 moved by a spirit of goodwill and friendship toward you. And I suppose that it would be my duty to urge and exhort myself first of all, if only the state of my health and my advanced age permitted, but the fact is that, on account of the infirmities which afflict me,​19 I am under the necessity, if perchance I shall find it in any way  p17 possible, of discovering some bit of wisdom which has already been from the ancients cast aside as it were, and had grown stale​20 for lack of teachers who are both better and still living.

And I shall tell you of another respect too in which I am like the owl, even if you are ready to laugh at my words. 13 For just as that bird makes no use herself of the others that fly to her side, but to the fowler is the most useful of all possessions — since he has no need to throw out feed or mimic a call, but merely to show the owl and then have a great multitude of birds — so I too have nothing to gain by the interest of the many. For I do not take disciples, since I know there is nothing I should be able to teach them, seeing that I know nothing myself;​21 but to lie and deceive by my promises, I have not the courage​22 for that. But if I associated myself with a professional sophist, I should help him greatly by gathering a great crowd to him and then allowing him to dispose of the catch as he wished. However, for some reason or other, not one of the sophists is willing to take me on, nor can they bear the sight of me.

14 Now I am almost sure that you believe me when I speak of my own inexperience and lack of knowledge and sagacity — and it seems to me that you not only believe me on this point, but would have believed  p19 Socrates also, when he continually and to all men advanced on his own behalf the same defence — that he knew nothing; but that Hippias​23 and Polus​24 and Gorgias,​25 each of whom was more struck with admiration of himself than of anyone else, you would have considered wise and blessed. 15 But notwithstanding, I declare to that, great as is your number, you have been eager to hear a man who is neither handsome in appearance nor strong, and in age is already past his prime, one who has no disciple, who professes, I may almost say, no art or special knowledge either of the nobler or of the meaner sort, no ability either as a prophet or a sophist, nay, not even as an orator or a flatterer, one who is not even a clever writer, who does not even have a craft deserving of praise or of interest, but who simply — wears his hair long!26

But if you think it a better and wiser course,​27

16 I must do this and try to the best of my ability. However, you will not hear words such as you would hear from any other man of the present day, but words much less pretentious and wearisome, in fact just such as you now observe. And in brief, you must allow me to pursue any thought that occurs to me and not become annoyed if you find me wandering  p21 in my remarks exactly as in the past I have lived a life of roving, but you must grant me your indulgence, bearing in mind that you are listening to a man who is a layman and who is fond of talking.28

For in fact, as it happens, I have just finished a long, long journey, all the way from the Ister​29 and the land of the Getae, or Mysians​30 as Homer, using the modern designation of the race, calls them. 17 And I went there, not as a merchant with his wares, nor yet as one of the supply-train of the army in the capacity of baggage-carrier or cattle-driver, nor was I discharging a mission as ambassador to our allies or on some embassy bearing congratulations, the members of which join in prayers with the lips only. I went

Unarmed, with neither helm nor shield nor lance,​31

18 nor indeed with any other weapon either, so that I marvelled that they brooked the sight of me. For I, who could not ride a horse and was not a skilled bowman or man-at‑arms, nor yet a javelin-thrower, or slinger, belonging to the light-armed  p23 troops who carry no heavy armour, nor, again, was able to cut timber or dig a trench, nor to mow fodder from an enemy's meadow 'with many a glance behind,'​32 nor yet to raise a tent or a rampart, just as certain non-combatants do who follow the legions as helpers,​33 19 I, who was useless for all such things, came among men who were not dullards, and yet had no leisure to listen to speeches, but were high-strung and tense like race-horses at the starting barriers, fretting at the delay and in their excitement and eagerness pawing the ground with their hoofs. There one could see everywhere swords, everywhere corselets, everywhere spears, and the whole place was crowded with horses, with arms, and with armed men.​34 Quite alone I appeared in the midst of this mighty host, perfectly undisturbed and a most peaceful observer of war, 20 weak in body and advanced in years, not bearing 'a golden sceptre' or the sacred fillets of any god​35 and arriving at the camp on an enforced journey to gain a daughter's release, but desiring to see strong men contending for empire and power, and their opponents for freedom and native land. Then, not because I shrank from the danger — let no one think this — but because I recalled to mind an old vow, I turned my course hither to you, ever considering that things divine have the greater claim and are more profitable than things human, however important these may be.

 p25  21 Now is it more agreeable and more opportune for you that I should describe what I saw there — the immense size of the river and the character of the country, what climate the inhabitants enjoy and their racial stock, and further, I suppose, the population and their military strength? Or should you prefer that I take up the older and greater tale of this god at whose temple we are now? 22 For he is indeed alike of men and gods the king and ruler and lord and father, and in addition, the dispenser of peace and of war, as the experienced and wise poets of the past believed​36 — to see if perchance we can commemorate both his nature and his power in a brief speech, which will fall short of what it should be even if we confine ourselves to these two themes alone.

23 Should I, then, begin in the manner of Hesiod, a man good and beloved of the Muses, imitating the way in which he, quite shrewdly, does not venture to begin in his own person and express his own thoughts, but invites the Muses to tell about their own father? For this hymn to the goddesses is altogether more fitting than to enumerate those who went against Ilium, both themselves and the benches of their ships seriatim, although the majority of the men were quite unknown. And what poet is wiser and better than he who invokes aid for this work in the following manner? —

 p27  24 O ye Pierian Muses, who glorify man by your lays,

Draw nigh me, and sing for me Zeus your father, and chant his praise.

It is he through whom mortal men are renowned or unrenowned;

At the pleasure of Zeus most high by fame are they crowned or discrowned;

For lightly he strengtheneth this one, and strength unto that one denies;

Lightly abases the haughty, the lowly he magnifies;

Lightly the crooked he straightens, and withers the pride of the proud,

Even Zeus who thunders on high, who dwelleth in mansions of cloud.​37

25 Answer, therefore and tell me whether the address I offer and the hymn would prove more suitable to this assemblage, you sons of Elis — for you are the rulers and the directors of this national festal gathering, both supervisors and guardians of what is said and done here — or perhaps those who have gathered here should be spectators merely, not only of the sights to be seen, admittedly altogether beautiful and exceedingly renowned, but, very specially, of the worship of the god and of his truly blessed image, which your ancestors by lavish expenditure and by securing the service of the highest art made and set up as a dedication — of all the statues which are upon the earth the most beautiful and the most  p29 dear to the gods,​38 Pheidias having, as we are told, taken his pattern from Homer's poesy, where the god by a slight inclination of his brows shook all Olympus, 26 as the great poet most vividly and convincingly has expressed it in the following verses:

He said, and nodded with his shadowy brows;

Wav'd on th' immortal head th' ambrosial locks,

And all Olympus trembled at his nod.​39

Or, should we somewhat more carefully consider these two topics themselves, I mean the expressions of our poets and the dedications here, and try to ascertain whether there is some sort of influence which in some way actually moulds and gives expression to man's conception of the deity, exactly as if we were in a philosopher's lecture-room at this moment?

27 Now concerning the nature of the gods in general,  p31 and especially that of the ruler of the universe,​40 first and foremost an idea regarding him and a conception of him common to the whole human race, to the Greeks and to the barbarians alike, a conception that is inevitable and innate in every creature endowed with reason,​41 arising in the course of nature without the aid of human teacher and free from the deceit of any expounding priest, has made its way, and it rendered manifest God's kinship with man and furnished many evidences of the truth, which did not suffer the earliest and most ancient men to doze and grow indifferent to them; 28 for inasmuch as these earlier men were not living dispersed far away from the divine being or beyond his borders apart by themselves, but had grown up in his company and had remained close to him in every way, they could not for any length of time continue to be unintelligent beings, especially since they had received from him intelligence and the capacity for reason, illumined as they were on every side by the divine and magnificent glories of heaven and the stars of sun and moon, by night and day encountering varied and dissimilar experiences, seeing wondrous sights and hearing manifold voices of winds and forest and rivers and sea, of animals tame and wild; while they themselves uttered a most pleasing and clear sound, and taking delight in the proud and intelligent  p33 quality of the human voice, attached symbols to the objects that reached their senses, so as to be able to name and designate everything perceived, 29 thus easily acquiring memories and concepts of innumerable things. How, then, could they have remained ignorant and conceived no inkling of him who had sowed and planted and was now preserving and nourishing them, when on every side they were filled with the divine nature through both sight and hearing, and in fact through every sense? They dwelt upon the earth, they beheld the light of heaven, they had nourishment in abundance, for god, their ancestor, had lavishly provided and prepared it to their hand. 30 As a first nourishment the first men, being the very children of the soil, had the earthy food — the moist loam at that time being soft and rich — which they licked up from the earth, their mother as it were, even as plants now draw the moisture therefrom. Then the later generation, who were now advancing, had a second nourishment consisting of wild fruits and tender herbs along with sweet dew and

fresh nymph-haunted rills.​42

Furthermore, being in contact with the circumambient air and nourished by the unceasing inflow of their breath, they sucked in moist air​43 as infants suck in their food, this milk never failing them because the teat was ever at their lips. 31 Indeed, we should almost be justified in calling this the  p35 first nourishment for both the earlier and the succeeding generations without distinction. For when the babe, still sluggish and feeble, is cast forth from the womb, the earth, its real mother, receives it, and the air, after breathing into it and quickening it, at once awakens it by a nourishment more liquid than milk and enables it to emit a cry. This might reasonably be called the first teat that nature offered to human beings at the moment of birth. 32 So experiencing all these things and afterwards taking note of them, men could not help admiring and loving the divinity, also because they observed the seasons and saw that it is for our preservation that they come with perfect regularity and avoidance of excess in either direction, and yet further, because they enjoyed this god-given superiority over the other animals of being able to reason and reflect about the gods. 33 So it is very much the same as if anyone were to place a man, a Greek or a barbarian, in some mystic shrine​44 of extraordinary beauty and size to be initiated, where he would see many mystic sights and hear many mystic voices, where light and darkness would appear to him alternately, and a thousand other things would occur; and further, if it should be just as in the rite called enthronement,45  p37 where the inducting priests are wont to seat the novices and then dance round and round them — pray, is it likely that the man in this situation would be no whit moved in his mind and would not suspect that all which was taking place was the result of a more than wise intention and preparation, even if he belonged to the most remote and nameless barbarians and had no guide and interpreter at his side — provided, of course, that he had the mind of a human being? 34 Or rather, is this not impossible? impossible too that the whole human race, which is receiving the complete and truly perfect initiation, not in a little building erected by the Athenians for the reception of a small company, but in this universe, a varied and cunningly wrought creation, in which countless marvels appear at every moment, and where, furthermore, the rites are being performed, not by human beings who are of no higher order than the initiates themselves, but by immortal gods who are initiating mortal men, and night and day both in sunlight and under the stars are — if we may dare to use the term — literally dancing around them forever​46 — is it possible to suppose, I repeat, that of all these things his senses told him nothing, or that he gained no faintest inkling of them,​47 and especially when the leader of the choir was in charge of the whole spectacle and directing the entire heaven and universe, even as a skilful pilot commands a ship that has been perfectly furnished and lacks nothing?

35 That human beings should be so affected would occasion no surprise, but much rather that, as we see, this influence reaches even the senseless and irrational brutes, so that even they recognize and honour the god and desire to live according to his ordinance; and it is still stranger that the plants, which have no conception of anything, but, being soulless and voiceless, are controlled by a simple kind of nature — it is passing strange, I say, that even these voluntarily and willingly yield each its own proper fruit; so very clear and evident is the will and power of yonder god. 36 Nay, I wonder if we shall be thought exceedingly absurd and hopelessly behind the times in view of this reasoning, if we maintain that this unexpected knowledge is indeed more natural for the beasts and the trees than dullness and ignorance are for us? Why, certain men have shown themselves wiser than all wisdom;​48 yes, they have poured into their ears, not wax, as I believe they say that the sailors from Ithaca did that they might not hear the song of the Sirens,​49 but a substance like lead, soft at once and impenetrable by the human voice, and they also methinks have hung before their eyes a curtain of deep darkness and mist like that which, according to Homer, kept the god from being recognized when he was caught;​50 these men, then, despise all things divine, and having set up the image of one female divinity, depraved and monstrous,  p41 representing a kind of wantonness or self-indulgent ease and unrestrained lewdness, to which they gave the name of Pleasure — an effeminate god in very truth — her they prefer in honour and worship with softly tinkling cymbal-like instruments, or with pipes played under cover of darkness​5137 a form of entertainment which nobody would grudge such men if their cleverness went only as far as singing, and they did not attempt to take our gods from us and send them into banishment, driving them out of their own state and kingdom, clean out of this ordered universe to alien regions, even as unfortunate human beings are banished to sundry uninhabited isles; and all this universe above us they assert is without purpose or intelligence or master, has no ruler, or even steward or overseer, but wanders at random and is swept aimlessly along,​52 no master being there to take thought for it now, and no creator having made it in the first place, or even doing as boys do with their hoops, which they set in motion of their own accord, and then let them roll along of themselves.

38 Now to explain this digression — my argument is responsible, having turned aside of itself; for perhaps it is not easy to check the course of a philosopher's thoughts and speech, no matter what direction they may take; for whatever suggests itself to his mind always seems profitable, nay indispensable, for his audience, and my speech has not been prepared to "suit the water-clock and the constraint of court procedure," to use somebody's  p43 expression,​53 but allows itself a great deal of license. Well, it is not difficult to run back again, just as on a voyage it is not difficult for competent steersmen who have got a little off their course to get back upon it.

39 To resume, then: Of man's belief in the deity and his assumption that there is a god we were maintaining that the fountain-head, as we may say, or source, was that idea which is innate in all mankind and comes into being as the result of the actual facts and the truth, an idea that was not framed confusedly nor yet at random, but has been exceedingly potent and persistent since the beginning of time, and has arisen among all nations and still remains, being, one may almost say, a common and general endowment of rational beings.54

As the second source we designate the idea which has been acquired and indeed implanted in men's souls through no other means than narrative accounts, myths, and customs, in some cases ascribed to no author and also unwritten, but in others written and having as their authors men of very great fame.​55 40 Of this acquired notion of the divine being let us say that one part is voluntary and due to exhortation, another part compulsory and prescriptive.  p45 By the kind that depends upon voluntary acceptance and exhortation I mean that which is handed down by the poets, and by the kind that depends upon compulsion and prescription I mean that due to the lawgivers. I call these secondary because neither of them could possibly have gained strength unless that primary notion had been present to begin with; and because it was present, there took root in mankind, of their own volition and because they already possessed a sort of foreknowledge, the prescriptions of the lawgivers and the exhortations of the poets, some of them​56 expounding things correctly and in consonance with the truth and their hearers' notions, and others going astray in certain matters. 41 But which of the two influences mentioned should be called the earlier in time, among us Greeks at any rate, namely, poetry or legislation, I am afraid I cannot discuss at length on the present occasion; but perhaps it is fitting that the kind which depended, not upon penalties, but upon persuasion should be more ancient than the kind which employed compulsion and prescription. 42 Now up to this point, we may almost say, the feelings of the human race towards their first and immortal parent, whom we who have a share in the heritage of Hellas call Ancestral Zeus, develop step by step along with those which men have toward their mortal and human parents. For in truth the goodwill and desire to serve which the offspring feel toward their parents is, in the first type, present in them, untaught, as a gift of nature and as a result of acts of kindness received, 43 since that which has been begotten straightway from birth loves and cherishes in return, so far as it may, that which begat and nourishes and loves it, whereas  p47 the second and third types, which are derived from our poet and lawgivers, the former exhorting us not to withhold our gratitude from that which is older and of the same blood, besides being the author of life and being, the latter using compulsion and the threat of punishment for those who refuse obedience, without, however, making anything clear and showing plainly just who parents are and what the acts of kindness are for which they enjoin upon us not to leave unpaid a debt which is due. But to an even greater extent do we see this to be true in both particulars in their stories and myths about the gods.

Now I am well aware that to most men strict exactness in any exposition is on every occasion irksome, and that exactness in a speech is no less so for those whose sole interest is in quantity alone; these without any preface whatever or any statements defining their subject-matter, nay, without even beginning their speeches with any beginning, but straight off 'with unwashen feet,'57 as the saying is, proceed to expound things most obvious and naked to the sight. Now as for 'unwashen feet,' though they do no great harm when men must pass through mud and piles of refuse, yet an ignorant tongue causes no little injury to an audience. However, we may reasonably expect that the educated men of the audience, of whom one ought to take some account, will keep up with us and go through the task with us until we merge from bypath and rough ground, as it were, and get our argument back upon the straight road.

 p49  44 Now that we have set before us three sources of man's conception of the divine being, to wit, the innate, that derived from the poets, and that derived from the lawgivers, let us name as the fourth that derived from the plastic art and the work of skilled craftsmen who make statues and likenesses of the gods​58 — I mean painters and sculptors and masons who work in stone, in a word, everyone who has held himself worthy to come forward as a portrayer of the divine nature through the use of art, whether (1) by means of a rough sketch, very indistinct or deceptive to the eye,​59 or (2) by the blending of colours and by line-drawing, which produces a result which we can almost say is the most accurate of all, or (3) by the carving of stone, or (4) by the craft which makes images of wood, in which the artist little by little removes the excess of material until nothing remains but the shape which the observer sees,​60 or (5) by the casting of bronze and the like precious metals, which are heated and then either beaten out or poured into moulds, or (6) by the moulding of wax, which most readily answers the artist's touch and affords the greatest opportunity for change of intention.​61 45 To this class belong not only Pheidias but also Alcamenes​62 and Polycleitus​63 and  p51 further, Aglaophon​64 and Polygnotus​65 and Zeuxis​66 and, earlier than all these, Daedalus.​67 For these men were not satisfied to display their cleverness and skill on commonplace subjects, but by exhibiting all sorts of likenesses and representations of gods they secured for their patrons both private persons and the states, whose people they filled with an ample and varied conception of the divine; and here they did not differ altogether from the poets and lawgivers, in the one case that they might not be considered violators of the laws and thus make themselves liable to the penalties imposed upon such, and in the other case because they saw that they had been anticipated by the poets and that the poets' image-making was the earlier.​68 46 Consequently they preferred not to appear to the many as untrustworthy and to be disliked for making innovations. In most matters, accordingly, they adhered to the myths and maintained agreement with them in their representations, but in some few cases they contributed their own ideas, becoming in a sense the rivals as well as fellow-craftsmen of the poets, since the latter appealed to the ear alone, whereas it was simply through the eye​69 that they, for their part, interpreted the divine attributes to their more numerous and less cultivated spectators. And all these influences won strength from that primary impulse, as having originated with the honouring of the divine being and winning his favour.

47 And furthermore, quite apart from that simple  p53 and earliest notion of the gods which develops in the hearts of all men along with their reasoning power,​70 in addition to those three interpreters and teachers, the poets, the lawgivers, and creative artists, we must take on a fourth one, who is by no means indifferent nor believes himself unacquainted with the gods, I mean the philosopher,​71 the one who by means of reason interprets and proclaims the divine nature, most truly, perhaps, and most perfectly.

48 As to the lawgiver, let us omit for the present to hale him here for an accounting; a stern man is he and himself accustomed to hold all others to an accounting. Indeed, we ought to have consideration for ourselves and for our own preoccupation.​72 But as for the rest, let us select the foremost man of each class, and consider whether they will be found to have done by their acts or words any good or harm to piety, and how they stand as to agreement with each other or divergence from one another, and which one of them adheres to the truth most closely, being in harmony with that primary and guileless view. Now in fact all these men speak with one voice, just as if they had taken the one track and were keeping to it, some clearly and others less plainly. Would the true philosopher, perhaps, not stand in need of consolation if he should be brought into comparison with the makers of statues or of poetic measures, and that too, before the throng of a national festive-gathering where the judges are predisposed in their favour?

 p55  49 Suppose, for instance, that someone were to take Pheidias first and question him before the tribunal of the Hellenes, Pheidias, that wise and divinely-inspired creator of this awe-inspiring masterpiece of surpassing beauty, and should appoint as judges the men who are directing this contest in honour of the god, or better, a general court of all Peloponnesians and of the Boeotians, too, and Ionians and of the other Hellenes, wherever they are to be found in Asia as well as in Europe, and then suppose they should demand an accounting, not of the monies or of the sum spent on the statue — the number of talents paid for gold and ivory, and for cypress and citron-wood, which are durable and indestructible timber for the interior work, or of the expenditure for the maintenance and wages of the workmen, who were not few in number and worked for so long a time, the wages not only of the men in general, who were no mean artisans, but of Pheidias also, to whom went the greatest and fullest reward on account of his artistic skill — of these items, I say, it was fitting that the Eleans, who poured out their money so lavishly and magnificently, should have called for a reckoning; 50 but as for us, we shall maintain that it is for something else that Pheidias must submit to trial. Suppose, then, that someone should actually say to him:

"O best and noblest of artists, how charming and pleasing a spectacle you have wrought, and a vision of infinite delight for the benefit of all men, both Greeks and barbarians, who have ever come here, as they have come in great throngs and time after time, no one will gainsay. 51 For verily even the irrational brute creation would be so struck with awe if they  p57 could catch merely a glimpse of yonder statue, not only the bulls​73 which are being continually led to the altar, so that they would willingly submit themselves to the priests who perform the rites of sacrifice, if so they would be giving some pleasure to the god, but eagles too, and horses and lions, so that they would subdue their untamed and savage spirits and preserve perfect quiet, delighted by the vision; and of men, whoever is sore distressed in soul, having in the course of his life drained the cup of many misfortunes and griefs, nor ever winning sweet sleep — even this man, methinks, if he stood before this image, would forget all the terrors and hardships that fall to our human lot. 52 Such a wondrous vision did you devise and fashion, one in very truth a

Charmer of grief and anger, that from men

All the remembrance of their ills could loose!​74

So great the radiance and so great the charm with which your art has clothed it. Indeed it is not reasonable to suppose that even Hephaestus himself would criticize this work if he judged it by the pleasure and delight which it affords the eye of man."

"But, on the other hand, was the shape you by your artistry produced appropriate to a god and was its form worthy of the divine nature, when you not only used a material which gives delight but also presented a human form of extraordinary beauty and size; and apart from its being a man's shape, made also all the other attributes as you have made them? that is the question which I invite you  p59 to consider now. And if you make a satisfactory defence on these matters before those present and convince them that you have discovered the proper and fitting shape and form for the foremost and greatest god, then you shall receive in addition a second reward, greater and more perfect than the one given by the Eleans. 53 For you see that the issue is no small one, nor the danger, for us. Since in times past, because we had no clear knowledge, we formed each his different idea, and each person, according to his capacity and nature, conceived a likeness for every divine manifestation and fashioned such likenesses in his dreams; and if we do perchance collect any small and insignificant likenesses made by the earlier artists, we do not trust them very much nor pay them very much attention. But you by the power of your art first conquered and united Hellas and then all others by means of this wondrous presentment, showing forth so marvellous and dazzling a conception, that none of those who have beheld it could any longer easily form a different one.​75 54 Pray, do you imagine that it was owing to lack of money that Iphitus​76 and Lycurgus​77 and the Eleans of that period, while instituting the contest and the sacrifice in such wise as to be worthy of Zeus, yet failed to search for and find a statue to bear the name and show the aspect of the god, although they were, one might almost say, superior in power to their descendants? Or was it rather because they feared that they would never be able adequately to portray  p61 by human art the Supreme and most Perfect Being?"

55 Perhaps in answer to this Pheidias would say, since he was not tongue-tied nor belonged to a tongue-tied city, and besides was the close friend and comrade of Pericles:78

"My Greek fellow-citizens, the issue is the greatest that has ever arisen. For it is not about empire or the presidency of one single state or the size of the navy or as to whether an army of infantry has or has not been correctly administered, that I am now being called to account, but concerning that god who governs the universe and my representation of him: whether it has been made with due respect to the dignity of the god and so as to be a true likeness of him, in no way falling short of the best portrayal of the divinity that is within the capacity of human beings to make, or is unworthy of him and unbefitting.

56 "Remember, too, that it is not I who was your first expounder and teacher of the truth, for I was not even born as yet when Hellas began to be and while it still had no ideas that were firmly established about these matters, but when it was rather old, so to speak, and already had strong beliefs and convictions about the gods. And all the works of sculptors or painters earlier than my art which I found to be in harmony therewith, except so far as the perfection of the workman­ship is concerned, I omit to mention; 57 your views, however, I found to be ingrained, not to be changed, so that it was not possible to oppose them, and I found other artistic  p63 portrayers of the divinity who were older than I and considered themselves much wiser, namely the poets,​79 for they were able through their poetry to lead men to accept any sort of idea, whereas our artistic productions have only this one adequate standard of comparison.​80 58 For those divine manifestations — I mean the sun and the moon and the entire heavens and the stars — while in and of themselves they certainly appear marvellous, yet the artist's portrayal of them is simple and has no need of artistic skill, if one should wish merely to depict the moon's crescent or the sun's full orb; and furthermore, whereas those heavenly bodies certainly, taken by themselves, reveal in abundance character and purpose, yet in their representations they show nothing to suggest this: which perhaps is the reason why at first they were not yet regarded by the Greeks as deities. 59 For mind and intelligence in and of themselves no statuary or painter will ever be able to represent; for all men are utterly incapable of observing such attributes with their eyes or of learning of them by inquiry. But as for that in which this intelligence manifests itself, men, having no mere inkling thereof but actual knowledge, fly to it for refuge, attributing to God a human body as a vessel to contain intelligence and rationality, in their lack of a better illustration, and in their perplexity seeking to indicate that which is invisible and unportrayable by means of something portrayable and visible, using the function of a symbol and doing so better than certain barbarians, who are said to represent the divine by animals — using as his starting-point symbols which are trivial and absurd. But that man who has stood out most  p65 above others in respect of beauty and majesty and splendour,​81 he, we may say, has been by far the greatest creator of the images of the divine beings.82

60 For certainly no one would maintain that it had been better that no statue or picture of gods should have been exhibited among men, on the ground that we should look only at the heavens. For although the intelligent man does indeed reverence all those objects, believing them to be blessed gods that he sees from a great distance, yet on account of our belief in the divine all men have a strong yearning to honour and worship the deity from close at hand, approaching and laying hold of him with persuasion by offering sacrifice and crowning him with garlands. 61 For precisely as infant children when torn away from father or mother are filled with terrible longing and desire, and stretch out their hands to their absent parents often in their dreams, so also do men to the gods, rightly loving them for their beneficence and kinship, and being eager in every possible way to be with them and to hold converse with them. Consequently many of the barbarians, because they lack artistic means and find difficulty in employing them, name mountains gods, and unhewn trees, too, and unshapen stones, things which are by no means whatever more appropriate in shape than is the human form.

62 "But if you find fault with me for the human figure, you should make haste to be angry with Homer first; for he not only represented a form most  p67 nearly like this statue of mine by mentioning the flowing locks of the god and the chin too at the very beginning of the poem, when he says that Thetis made supplication for the bestowal of honour upon her son; but in addition to these things he ascribes to the gods meetings and counsellings and harangues, then also journeyings from Ida to the heavens and Olympus, and sleep-scenes and drinking-bouts and love-embraces, clothing everything in very lofty poetical language and yet keeping close to mortal likeness. And the most striking instance of this is when he ventured to liken Agamemnon to the god in respect to the most distinctive features by saying,

His eye and lofty brow the counterpart

Of Zeus, the Lord of thunder.​83

63 But as to the product of my workman­ship nobody, not even an insane person, would liken it to any mortal man soever, if it be carefully examined from the point of view of a god's beauty or stature; since, if I shall not be found to be a better and more temperate​84 artificer than Homer, whom you thought godlike in his skill, I am willing to pay any fines you wish! But I am speaking with an eye to what is possible in my art. 64 For an extravagant thing is poetry and in every respect resource­ful and a law unto itself, and by the assistance of the tongue and a multitude of words is able all by itself to express all the devisings of the heart, and whatever conception it may arrive at concerning any shape or action or emotion or magnitude, it can never be at a loss,  p69 since the voice of a Messenger​85 can disclose with perfect clearness each and all these things. For, as Homer himself says,

For glib runs the tongue, and can at will

Give utterance to discourse in ev'ry vein;

Wide is the range of language; and such words

As one may speak, another may return.​86

65 Indeed, the race of man is more likely to run short of everything else than of voice and speech; of this one thing it possesses a most astounding wealth. At any rate it has left unuttered and undesignated no single thing that reaches our sense perceptions, but straightway puts upon everything the mind perceives the unmistakable seal of a name, and often even several vocal signs for one thing, so that when man gives utterance to any one of them, they convey an impression not much less distinct than does the actual thing itself. Very great indeed is the ability and power of man to express in words any idea that comes into his mind. 66 But the poets' art is exceedingly bold and not to be censured therefor; this was especially true of Homer, who practiced the greatest frankness and freedom of language; and he did not choose just one variety of diction, but mingled together every Hellenic dialect which before his time were separate — that of the Dorians and Ionians, and also that of the Athenians​87 — mixing them together much more thoroughly than dyers do their colours — and not  p71 only the languages of his own day but also those of former generations; if perchance there survived any expression of theirs taking up this ancient coinage, as it were, out of some ownerless treasure-store, 67 because of his love of language; and he also used many barbarian words as well, sparing none that he believed to have in it anything of charm or of vividness. Furthermore, he drew not only from things which lie next door or near at hand, but also from those quite remote, in order that he might charm the hearer by bewitching and amazing him; and even these metaphors he did not leave as he first used them, but sometimes expanded and sometimes condensed them, or changing them in some other way.

68 "And, last of all, he showed himself not only a maker of verses but also of words, giving utterance to those of his own invention, in some cases by simply giving his own names to the things and in others adding his new ones to those current, putting, as it were, a bright and more expressive seal upon a seal. He avoided no sound, but in short imitated the voices of rivers and forests, of winds and fire and sea, and also of bronze and of stone, and, in short, of all animals and instruments without exception, whether of wild beasts or of birds or of pipes and reeds. He invented the terms 'clang' (kanache), 'boom' (bombos), 'crash' (ktupos), 'thud' (doupos), 'rattle' (arabos), and spoke of 'roaring rivers,' 'whizzing missiles,' 'thundering waves,' 'raging winds,' and other such terrifying and truly astonishing phenomena, thus filling the mind with great confusion and uproar. 69 Consequently  p73 he had no lack of fear-inspiring names for things and of pleasant ones, and also of smooth and rough ones, as well as of those which have countless other differences in both their sounds and their meanings. As a result of this epic art of his he was able to implant in the soul any emotion he wished.

"But our art, on the other hand, that which is dependent on the workman's hand and the artist's creative touch, by no means attains to such freedom; but first we need a material substance, a material so tough that it will last, yet can be worked without much difficulty and consequently not easy to procure;​88 we need, too, no small number of assistants. 70 And then, in addition, the sculptor must have worked out for himself a design that shows each subject in one single posture, and that too a posture that admits of no movement and is unalterable, so perfected that it will comprise within itself the whole of the god's nature and power. But for the poets it is perfectly easy to include very many shapes and all sorts of attitudes in their poetry, adding movements and periods of rest to them according to what they consider fitting at any given time, and actions and spoken words, and they have, I imagine, an additional advantage in the matter of difficulty​89 and that of time. For the poet when moved by one single conception and one single impulse of his soul draws forth an immense volume of verses, as if from a gushing spring  p75 of water, before the vision and the conception he had grasped can leave him and flow away. But of our art the execution is laborious and slow, advancing with difficulty a step at a time, the reason being, no doubt, that it must work with a rock-like and hard material.

71 "But the most difficult thing of all is that the sculptor must keep the very same image in his mind continuously until he finishes his work, which often takes many years.​90 Indeed, the popular saying that the eyes are more trustworthy than the ears​91 is perhaps true, yet they are much harder to convince and demand much greater clearness; for while the eye agrees exactly with what it sees, it is not impossible to excite and cheat the ear by filling it with representations under the spell of metre and sound.​92 72 Then again, while the measures of our art are enforced upon us by considerations of numbers and magnitude, the poets have the power to increase even these elements to any extent. For this reason it was easy enough for Homer to give the size of Eris by saying,

With humble crest at first, anon her head,

While yet she treads the earth, affronts the skies.​93

But I must be content, I suppose, merely to fill up the space designated by Eleans or Athenians.

73 "Thou certainly wilt agree, O Homer, wisest of poets, who both in the power of thy poetry and in  p77 time dost by far excel and wast practically the first to show the Hellenes many beautiful images of all the gods, and especially of the greatest among them, some images mild but others fear-inspiring and dread.​94 74 But our god is peaceful and altogether gentle, such as befits the guardian of a faction-free and concordant Hellas; and this I, with the aid of my art and of the counsel of the wise and good city of the Eleans have set up — a mild and majestic god in pleasing guise, the Giver of our material and our physical life and of all our blessings, the common Father and Saviour and Guardian of mankind, in so far as it was possible for a mortal man to frame in his mind and to represent the divine and inimitable nature.

75 "And consider whether you will not find that the statue is in keeping with all the titles by which Zeus is known. For he alone of the gods is entitled 'Father and King,' 'Protector of Cities,' 'God of Friendship,' and 'God of Comradeship' and also 'Protector of Suppliants,' and 'God of Hospitality,' 'Giver of Increase,'​95 and has countless other titles, all indicative of goodness: he is addressed as 'King' because of his dominion and power; as 'Father,' I think, on account of his solicitude for us and his kindness: as 'Protector of Cities' in that he upholds the law and the common weal; as 'Guardian of the Race' on account of the tie of kinship which unites gods and men; 76 as 'God of Friendship' and 'God of Comradeship' because he brings all men together  p79 and wills that they be friends of one another and never enemy or foe; as 'Protector of Suppliants' since he inclines his ear and is gracious to men when they pray; as 'God of Refuge' because he gives refuge from evils; as 'God of Hospitality' because we should not be unmindful even of strangers, nor regard any human being as an alien; as 'Giver of Wealth and Increase' since he is the cause of all crops and is the giver of wealth and power.

77 "And so far as it was possible to reveal these attributes without the help of words, is the god not adequately represented from the point of view of art? For his sovereignty and kingship are intended to be shown by the strength in the image and its grandeur; his fatherhood and his solicitude by its gentleness and kindliness; the 'Protector of Cities' and 'Upholder of the Law' by its majesty and severity; the kinship between gods and men, I presume, by the mere similarity in shape, being already in use as a symbol;​96 the 'God of Friends, Suppliants, Strangers, Refugees,' and all such qualities in short, by the benevolence and gentleness and goodness appearing in his countenance. The 'God of Wealth' and the "Giver of Increase' are represented by the simplicity and grandeur shown by the figure, for the god does in very truth seem like one who is giving and bestowing blessings.

78 "As for these attributes, then, I have represented them in so far as it was possible to do so, since I was not able to name them. But the god who continually sends the lightning's flash, portending war and the destruction of many or a mighty downpour  p81 of rain, or of hail or of snow,​97 or who stretches the dark blue rainbow across the sky, the symbol of war,​98 or who sends a shooting star, which hurls forth a stream of sparks, a dread portent to sailors or soldiers,​99 or who sends grievous strife upon Greeks and barbarians so as to inspire tired and despairing men with unceasing love for war and battle,​100 and the god who weighed in the balance the fates of the godlike men or of whole armies to be decided by its spontaneous inclination​101 — that god, I say, it was not possible to represent by my art; nor assuredly should I ever have desired to do so even had it been possible. 79 For of thunder what sort of soundless image, or of lightning and of the thunderbolt what kind of a likeness without the lightning's flash​102 could by any possibility be made from the metals taken from the subterranean workings of this land at least?​103 Then when the earth was shaken and Olympus was moved by a slight inclination of the eyebrows, or a crown of cloud was about his head, it was easy enough for  p83 Homer to describe them, and great was the freedom he enjoyed for all such things; but for our art it is absolutely impossible, for it permits the observer to test it with his eyes from close at hand and in full view.104

80 "But if, again, anyone thinks that the material used is too lacking in distinction to be in keeping with the god, his belief is true and correct. But neither those who furnished it, nor the man who selected and approved it, has he any right to criticize. For there was no other substance better or more radiant to the sight that could have come into the hands of man and have received artistic treatment. To work up air, at any rate, or fire, or 'the copious source of water,'​105 what tools possessed by mortal men can do that? 81 These can work upon nothing but whatever hard residuary substance is held bound within all these elements.​106 I do not mean gold or silver, for these are trivial and worthless things, but the essential substance, tough all through and heavy; and to select each kind of material and entwining them together to compose every species, both of animals and of plants — this is a thing which is impossible for even the gods, all except this God alone, one may almost say, whom  p85 another poet​107 quite beautifully has addressed as follows:

Lord of Dodona,​108 father almighty, consummate artist.

82 For he is indeed the first and most perfect artificer, who has taken as his coadjutor in his art, not the city of Elis, but the entire material of the entire universe. But of a Pheidias or of a Polycleitus you could not reasonably demand more than they have done; nay, even what they essayed is too great and august for our handiwork. 83 Indeed, not even Hephaestus did Homer represent as showing his skill in other materials, but while he furnished a god as the craftsman for the making of the shield, he did not succeed in finding any different sort of material for it. For he speaks as follows:

The stubborn brass, and tin, and precious gold,

And silver, first he melted in the fire;​109

Nay, I will not concede to any man that there ever has been a better sculptor than I, but to Zeus, who fashioned the whole universe, it is not right to compare any mortal."

84 So if Pheidias had said these things in his defence, I believe that the assembled Hellenes would have been justified in conferring a crown upon him.

But perhaps the majority of my hearers have failed to notice the several topics of my address, although, in my opinion, it has been quite as suitable for the multitude as for the philosophers to hear. It has dealt with the dedication of statues, how it should  p87 best be done, and with the poets, as to whether their conceptions of the gods are better or inferior, and also with the first conception of God, what it was and how it came into existence among men. And much too, I believe, was said about the power of Zeus and about his titles. If this was accompanied by a eulogy of the statue and of those who dedicated it, so much the better. 85 For in reality the god now seems to us to have such an expression, altogether benevolent and solicitous, that I at least can almost fancy that he is speaking like this:

"All this rite, you Eleans and all Hellas, you are carrying out, as one may see, very beautifully and fittingly, by offering sacrifices of a magnificence in keeping with your means, and, above all, by holding as from the beginning this most renowned contest of physical condition, strength, and speed, and lastly, because you are preserving in regard to festive occasions and secret rites all the customs which you have inherited. But with deep concern I observe that

Yourself untended seem, and wretched age

With mean attire and squalor is your lot."​110

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 This opening reminds one of Socrates' words at the opening of Plato's Gorgias (447A) ἄλλ’ ἦ τὸ λεγόμενον, κατόπιν ἐορτῆς καὶ ὑστεροῦμεν — "Well, have I come when the feast is over, to use a familiar saying, and am I late?"

καὶ παρ’ ὑμῖν καὶ παρ’ ἑτέροις πλείοσι was evidently a proverbial expression. It occurs in almost the same form, καὶ παρ’ ὑμῖν καὶ παρὰ τοῖς ἄλλοις, at the beginning of Dio's Second Tarsian Discourse.

Dio's words are prompted by the sight of the vast throng assembled to hear him in the Altis, or sacred grove, at Olympia, before the temple of Zeus with its world-renowned statue of that god, resplendent in ivory and gold. He also refers to the greatness of his audience in § 15.

2 Plutarch (Nicias 19.4)º quotes Timaeus as saying τῷ Γυλίππῳ φανέντι καθάπερ γλαυκὶ πολλοὶ προσέτησαν ἐτοίμως στρατευόμενοι — "When Gylippus showed himself, many flocked to him, as birds to an owl, with offers of military service."

3 Horace (Satires 2.2.26) says of the peacock, "spreads out a 'spectacle' with its painted tail" — picta pandat spectacula cauda. By Achilleus Tatius (p22) the peacock is said "to display the 'theatre' of its feathers"; τὸ θέατρον ἐπιδεικνύμαι τῶν πτερῶν — the likeness being in the theatre-shaped expanse of the tail-feathers.

4 Just as Dio, the philosopher, is represented by the owl, so is the sophist represented by the peacock, and the poets by the nightingale and the swan.

5 The words 'on some river's bank . . . in a river' are somewhat reminiscent of Homer (Iliad 2.459‑462):

"As many tribes of winged fowl, wild geese or cranes or long-necked swans, upon the Asian mead about Caÿstrius' streams, fly hither and thither, rejoicing in their wings and clamouring as they alight, while the mead resounds."

. . . ὥς τ’ ὀρνίθων πετεηνῶν ἔθνεα πολλά,

χηνῶν ἤ γεράνων ἢ κύκνων δουλιχοδείρων,

Ἀσίῳ ἐν λειμῶνι, Καϋστρίου ἀμφὶ ῥέεθρα,

ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα ποτῶνται ἀγαλλόμενα πτερύγεσσιν,

κλαγγηδὸν προκαθιζόντων, σμαραγεῖ δέ τε λειμών.

Themistius (336C) censures the sophists for using such language: "And do not think that I idly give myself airs with the swan and the nightingale, just as the elegant sophists, who embellish their speeches, use these birds as a sort of rouge" — καὶ μή με ἄλλως νομῖσῃς ὡραΐζεσθαι τῷ κύκνῳ καὶ τῇ ἀηδόνι, καθάπερ οἱ κομψοὶ σοφισταὶ οἱ κοσμοῦντες τοὺς λόγους οἶον φυκίῳ κέχρηνται τούτοις τοῖς ὀρνέοις.

6 Cf. Plutarch ( Moralia 78E):º "Theophrastus, admired for having many disciples" — Θεόφραστον ἐπὶ τῷ πολλοὺς μαθητὰς ἔχειν θαυμαζόμενον, and Theognis (237‑239): "To you I have given wings, with which you will fly over the boundless main and every land, raised aloft, lightly" —

Σοὶ μὲν ἐγὼ πτέρ’ ἔδωκα, σὺν οἷσ’ ἐπ’ ἀπείρονα πόντον

πωτήσει καὶ γῆν πᾶσαν ἀειρόμενος


7 Dio refers to the statue of Athenê Parthenos, the most famous of the statues of Athenê made by Pheidias. This statue, nearly 40 feet high, stood in the cella of the Parthenon and represented the goddess as just having stepped out of her chamber to accept the worship of her people. The face, hands, and feet, where flesh was exposed, were represented by ivory, the drapery and ornaments by pure gold.

According to Plutarch (Pericles 31.4‑5) Pheidias, in the battle of the Amazons represented on the outer side of the shield of the goddess, carved a figure that represented himself as a bald old man lifting a stone with both hands and also inserted a good likeness of Pericles fighting with an Amazon.

8 Bird-lime was made from the juice of the mistletoe, which grows on the oak. Athenaeus (451D) says it was also made from oak-gum.

9 Because nets for catching birds would be made from it.

10 The same idea is expressed by Aeschylus (frg. 139):

"So in the Libyan myth it is told

That once an eagle, stricken with a dart,

Said when he saw the fashion of the shaft,

'With our own feathers, not by others' hands,

Are we now smitten.' " (Plumptre's Translation.)

ὧδ’ ἐστὶ μύθων τῶν Λιβυστικῶν κλέος,

πληγέντ’ ἀτράκτῳ τοξικῷ τὸν αἰετὸν

εἰπεῖν ἰδόντα μηχανὴν πτερώματος,

τάδ’ οὐχ ὑτ’ ἄλλων, ἄλλα τοῖς αὑτῶν πτεροῖς


For the same idea in English poetry see Waller, To a Lady singing a Song of his Composing; Byron, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers; Thomas Moore, Corruption.

11 His philosopher's garb, long hair and beard, etc.

12 A reference to certain sophists.

13 Nineveh, and not Babylon, was founded by Ninus and Semiramis, but perhaps the text is corrupt here.

14 The chief city of Bactria, which corresponds to the modern Turkestan.

15 The capital of Ancient Persia; marked now by the so‑called tomb of Daniel. See also vol. I, p251.

Thayer's Note: For Sousa, usually spelled Susa in English, see this 4‑page site at Livius; Daniel's tomb gets two interesting large photos — click on thumbnails — on this page of that site.

16 Palibothra, or Pataliputra, famous city of Ancient India and capital of Magadha; situated at the confluence of the Erannobas (modern Son) and the Ganges. It was the residence of Megasthenes during his stay in India about 305 B.C. He wrote a work called Τὰ Ἴνδικα.

17 Hesiod (Works and Days, 313) says πλούτῳ δ’ ἀρετὴ καὶ κῦδος ὀπηδεῖ — "virtue and fame attend wealth." Compare Homer (Iliad, 17.251): ἐκ δὲ Διὸς τιμὰ καὶ κῦδος ὀπηδεῖ. — "from Zeus honour and fame attend," and the Gospel according to Matthew (6.33) ζητεῖτε δὲ πρῶτον τὴν βασιλείαν καὶ τὴν δικαιοσύνην αὐτοῦ, καὶ ταῦτα πάντα προστεθήσεται ὑμῖν.

18 This reference is to the statue of Zeus at Olympia. The statue, about forty feet high if the base was included, represented Zeus stand in the front chamber of the temple facing the entrance and with his back to the wall. It was visible only at such festivals as this. At other times it was concealed by a magnificent curtain.

19 A reference to Dio's ill health caused by the hardships of exile. He refers to it also in §§ 15 and 19.

20 See Themistius (20A): "He does not permit the ancient views to wither" — μαραίνεσθαι οὐκ ἐᾷ τὰς ἀρχίας δόξας, and in the same author (205B): "For the examples from Homer I pass over as stale and excessively ancient" — τὰ γὰρ ἐξ Ὁμήρου παραδείγματα ὡς ἕωλα παραιτοῦμαι καὶ λίαν ἀρχαῖα.

21 Socrates made this claim. Plato (Apology 20C, 23B); cf. § 14 infra.

22 In Discourse 11.23 also Dio speaks of boldness being required for lying.

23 Sophist contemporary with Socrates. Had a power­ful memory, great versatility, and considerable vanity.

24 Sophist, pupil of Gorgias.

25 From Leontini in east of Sicily. Born about 480 B.C. and lived more than 100 years. Celebrated rhetorician and sophist.

26 Dio divides the arts and professions into two broad divisions, the nobler and the meaner. To the nobler division would belong philosophy, oratory, writing in verse or prose, sculpture, and painting; to the meaner, the trades and crafts among others. The prophet and the sophist, the orator and the flatterer, belong to the nobler and to the meaner divisions respectively.

Long hair was the badge of the philosopher, as Dio himself says in Discourse 35.2 in no very respect­ful tone. In Discourse 72.2 he refers to the derision caused by long hair.

27 Homer, Odyssey 1.376; 2.141.

28 See also Discourse 7.1.

29 The Danube.

30 The Getae, a Thracian people, were called Daci by the Romans. The Mysi, to whom Homer refers, were also a Thracian people who crossed over from Europe to Asia at a very early period. Dio identifies the Mysi with the Moesi, who lived south of the Danube, and these Moesi with the Getae, or Dacians, who lived north of the river.

Dio wrote a historical work τὰ Γετικά, now lost.

31 Homer, Iliad 21.50.

32 This phrase is found in Xenophon, Anabasis 6.1.8.

33 ὑπηρέται are servants of the hoplites in Thucydides 3.17.

34 A reference to Trajan's army preparing to attack the Getae, or Dacians, in the second Dacian War.

35 An allusion to Iliad 1.13‑15, whose Chryses came to the Greek camp before Troy to ransom his daughter.

36 In the works of Homer Zeus is often spoken of as Father, e.g. in the Iliad 1.544, 4.225, but the term βασιλεύς is never applied to him or to any other god, but only to men. The term ἄναξ (lord or master) is applied to both gods and men. In Hesiod (Theogony 886) Zeus is called θεῶν βασιλεύς. For Zeus as dispenser of peace and war see, e.g. Iliad 22.210‑213. Compare § 78 of this Discourse.

37 Hesiod, Works and Days 1‑8, translated by A. S. Way.

38 Another reference to Pheidias' masterpiece, the statue of Zeus at Olympia. The god was seated upon a throne of cedar wood, every available part of which was adorned with smaller statues. The flesh was represented by ivory, the robe was of beaten gold. In his right hand Zeus held an ivory and gold statue of Victory, in his left hand he held a sceptre which was ornamented with various kinds of metal and surmounted by an eagle.

This statue needed repairs in the second century B.C., when Damophon of Messene was called in for the purpose. In A.D. 475 it was carried off to Constantinople by the Emperor Theodosius I, where it was destroyed in a fire.

There are many references in ancient literature to the great admiration the statue aroused. Arrian (Dissertations of Epictetus, 1.6) says that it was considered a calamity to die without having seen it. Quintilian (12.10.9) says, "This beautiful statue is even thought to have added something to the accepted religion" — cuius pulchritudo adiecisse aliquid etiam receptae religioni videtur. Compare also §§ 51 and 52 of this Discourse.

39 Homer, Iliad I.528‑530,º translated by the Earl of Derby. Compare Milton, Paradise Lost 3.135‑137:

Thus while God spake, ambrosial fragrance fill'd

All heaven, and in the blessed spirits elect

Sense of new joy ineffable diffused.

That Pheidias selected the Zeus of Homer as pictured in the above passage in the Iliad is attested by other passages in ancient literature, e.g. Strabo 354A;º Valerius Maximus 3.7.4; Plutarch, Life of Aemilius Paulus 28.5.º See also this Discourse, §§ 26 and 62.

40 Here follows an account of the origin of man and of his first conception of God which has stoic and epicurean elements, but some of the ideas find their roots in Plato. See for example, Plato, Phaedrus 247A; Republic 2.376E.

41 This idea of an innate conception of God (see also 39) is also found in Cicero, Laws 1.8.24. It is believed that both got the idea from Poseidonius, a stoic philosopher born about 135 B.C. who gave instruction to Cicero. See Hagen, op. cit., p4 and H. Binder, Dio Chrysostomus und Posidonius. Quellenuntersuchungen zur Theologie des Dio von Prusa. Tübingen 1905. Compare Xenophon, Memorabilia Socratis 4.419: "Among all men the first custom is to worship the gods" — παρὰ πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις πρῶτον νομίζεται θεοὺς σέβειν.

42 This phrase, which in Greek falls into the choriambic metre, is apparently quoted from some lyric poet. The phrase πότιμον νᾶμα occurs in Philostratus, Epistles 10.

43 According to Theophrastus (De Sensu) the breathing of moist air led to stupidity.

44 In what follows we have a reference to the Eleusinian Mysteries. On the fifteenth of Boëdromion (nearly our September) those who were to be initiated into the Mysteries assembled to be arranged and instructed under the guidance of experts called mystagogues (leaders of the mystae or novices). Those accepted had to be free from crime and ignominy and be pure in heart and life. On the nineteenth the procession of novices and mystagogues moved off to Eleusis, where secret rites were held for four days in the τελεστήριον (initiation hall), a building 170 feet square with two entrances on each of three sides. This is the small building referred to in § 34. Round the walls ran seats capable of seating 3000 people, the small crowd referred to by Dio in the same section. This passage throws some light on the nature of those secret rites, about which very little is known.

Thayer's Note: For details, with sources, see the article Eleusinia in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

45 θρονισμὸς, so far as I know, occurs only here and in Manetho 4.104. Manetho was an Egyptian priest, a contemporary of Dio. But in Plato, Euthydemus 277D, we find the synonym θρόνωσις used to refer to a similar rite of the Corybantes. See the following note.

46 Just as in the initiation ceremony of the Corybantes. See Plato, Euthydemus 277D: "These two are doing just the same as those in the initiation ceremony of the Corybantes when they make the enthronement about the man whom they are about to initiate. For in that case too there is dancing and jesting, as you know, if have ever been initiated. And now these two fellows are doing nothing but circle about you and dance as it were in sport, as if intending to initiate you after that" — ποιεῖτον δὲ ταὐτὸν ὅπερ οἱ ἐν τῇ τελετῇ τῶν Κορυβάντων, ὅταν τὴν θρόνωσιν ποιῶσιν περὶ τοῦτον ὃν ἂν μέλλωσιν τελεῖν· καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖ χορεία τίς ἐστι καὶ παιδιά, εἰ ἄρα τετέλεσαι· καὶ νῦν τούτω οὐδὲν ἄλλο ἢ χορεύετον περὶ σὲ καὶ οἷον ὀρχεῖσθον παίζοντε, ὡς μετὰ τοῦτο τελοῦντε.

47 With αἴσθησιν Dio refers to the visible gods such as the sun and with ὑποψίαν he refers to the supreme and invisible ruler of the universe, as von Arnim remarks.

48 The Epicureans are meant. For a similar expression see § 11.

49 Homer, Odyssey 12.173.

50 Zeus with Hera: see Homer, Iliad 14.342 and Discourse 11.21.

51 Dio refers to the soft tinkling of the sistrum in the worship of Isis.

52 This was the teaching of Epicurus. Compare Hippocrates 343.20 "to wander senseless," ἀγνώμονα πλανᾶσθαι.

53 Compare Plato, Theaetetus 172D: "The flowing water urges me on" — κατεπείγει γὰρ ὕδωρ ῥέον. A reference to the κλεψύδρα or water-clock, which was a receptacle filled with water and having a small vent through which water trickled slowly. Used to measure the time allotted to the speakers in Athenian law courts. See Aristophanes, Wasps 93, 857; Aristotle, Constitution of Athens 67.2.

Thayer's Note: For exhaustive details and fuller sources, see the article Horologium in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, and then especially the offsite link in my footnote there.

54 See Cicero, Laws 1.8.4 for the same thought: "And so, of all the many kinds of living creatures there is none except man that has any concept of a god, while among men themselves there is no race so highly civilized or so savage that, even if it does not know what sort of god it ought to have, yet thinks that it ought to have one. This goes to show that man recognizes God because in a sense he remembers and recognizes the source from which he sprang" — Itaque ex tot generibus nullum est animal praeter hominem, quod habeat notitiam aliquam dei, ipsisque in hominibus nulla gens est neque tam mansueta neque tam fera, quae non, etiamsi ignoret qualem habere deum deceat, tamen habendum sciat. ex quo efficitur illud, ut is agnoscat deum qui unde ortus sit quasi recordetur et agnoscat.

55 Plato (Phaedrus 273D) speaks of two 'ideas,' the inborn desire (ἔμφυτος ἐπιθυμία) and the acquired opinion (ἐπίκτητος δόξα). See also his Republic 618D.

56 That is, some of both the lawgivers and the poets.

57 For another form of this expression, which means 'unprepared,' see Lucian, Pseudologista 4: ἀνίπτοις ποσί.

58 See Strabo 1.2.7‑9, p19‑20 for the enumeration of these four.

59 Compare Plato, Critias, 107C: "We use a rough sketch very dim and illusive" — σκιαγραφίᾳ δὲ ἀσαφεῖ καὶ ἀπατηλῷ χρώμεθα. Such rough sketches were used in scene-painting.

60 Compare Cicero, De Divinatione, 2.21.48: "but when many things have been removed and the outlines of the features have been reached, then one can perceive that what has now been polished had always been inside the block" — sed cum multa sunt detracta etº ad lineamenta oris perventum est, tum intellegas illudº quod iam expolitum sit intus fuisse.

61 For correction of error in original design or for improvement of it.

62 Greek artist and pupil of Pheidias.

63 Fl. 452‑412, sculptor, architect, artist in toreutic. Excelled in making images of men as Pheidias did in making those of gods.

64 Father and teacher of Polygnotus. Famed as prince in first half of fifth century B.C.

65 One of the most celebrated Greek painters. Came to Athens about 463 B.C.

66 Fl. 424‑380, celebrated Greek painter.

67 Mythical personage, whose name means 'cunning craftsman.' Said to have been very skilled sculptor and mechanic. Made the wooden cow for Pasiphaë and the labyrinth to hold the Minotaur.

68 Compare Strabo 1.2.7‑9 and § 57 of this Discourse.

69 Compare Herodotus, 1.8: ὦτα γὰρ τυγχάνει ἀνθρώποισι ἔοντα ἀπιστότερα ὀφθαλμῶν. See also § 79 of this Discourse.

70 Cf. § 27.

71 see p18 f, note 4.

72 The Olympic Games offered many attractions to the people, and Dio feels that he must not hold them too long.

73 The statue of Zeus was within the temple, where the bulls being sacrificed at the altar outside could not see it.

74 Homer, Odyssey 4.221, translated by Mackail.

75 See p28, note 1.

76 The Olympic Games are said to have been renewed by a certain Iphitus after a long interruption. See Pausanias 5.8.5; scholia to Pindar Olymp. 3.20.

77 Said to have helped Iphitus re-establish the Olympian Games, but according to Xenophon lived 200 years earlier.

78 The Athenians in contrast to the taciturn Spartans approved of lengthy discussion and oratory. Pericles' eloquence helped him to maintain his political power in Athens.

79 He means Homer; cf. next note.

80 i.e., sculpture could only be compared with sculpture as to truthful portrayal, based on sculptors' conception of the deity. He refers to Homer; cf. section 62 infra.

81 i.e., of his conception of God.

82 He refers to Homer; cf. § 62 infra.

83 Homer, Iliad 2.478, translated by the Earl of Derby.

84 i.e., less given to exaggeration than Homer was in his description of Agamemnon; cf. 'extravagant,' § 67.

85 What Greek tragedy could not depict by action it could describe in detail through a Messenger.

86 Homer, Iliad 20.248‑249, translated by the Earl of Derby.

87 Compare Discourse 11.23, where the Aeolic dialect also is mentioned. See also Aristotle's Poetics 1461A.

88 It was easy to find hard marble whose grain was coarse so that it resisted the chisel and was liable to chip, but it was not so easy to find blocks of the fine-grained easily worked Pentelic marble that were not streaked or otherwise imperfect.

89 Cf. Plato Critias 107E: "For one must conceive of mortal objects as being difficult, and not easy, to represent satisfactorily" — οὐ γὰρ ὡς ῥᾳδια τὰ θνητὰ ἀλλ’ ὡς χαλεπὰ πρὸς δόξαν ὄντα ἀπεικάζειν δεῖ διανοεῖσθαι.

90 Compare Cicero, Orator 2.9,º where in speaking of Pheidias he says: "In his mind resided a most splendid concept of beauty, which beholding and keeping his mind fixed on it, he directed his art and hand in harmony with its likeness": Ipsius in mente insidebat species pulchritudinis eximia quaedam, quam intuens in eaque defixus ad illius similitudinem artem et manum dirigebat.

91 Herodotus 1.8.

92 See p51, note 6 and § 79.

93 Homer, Iliad 4.443, translated by the Earl of Derby.

94 See for example, Iliad 2.350‑354.

95 These titles of Zeus with the reasons for them are found in Aristotle, de Mundo 401B, where we also read Ζεὺς κεφαλή, Ζεὺς μέσσα, Διὸς δ’ ἐκ πάντα τέτυκται — "Zeus is head, Zeus is middle, by Zeus all thing have been made." Compare Plato, Laws 4.715E, and Dio, Discourse I.39‑40.

96 As explained supra, § 56.

97 See Iliad 10.5‑8: "Even as when the lord of fair-tressed Hera lightens, fashioning either heavy rain unspeakable or hail or snow, when the flakes sprinkle the fields, or fashioning perhaps the wide mouth of bitter war":

ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἂν ἀστράπτῃ πόσις Ἥρης ἠυκόμοιο,

τεύχων ἢ πολὺν ὄμβρον ἀθέσφατον ἠὲ χάλαζαν

ἢ νιφετόν, ὅτε πέρ τε χιὼν ἐπάλυνεν ἀρούρας,

ἠέ ποθι πτολέμοιο μέγα στόμα πευκεδανοῖο.

98 Compare Iliad 17.547‑549: "Like as Zeus spreadeth the bright rainbow from heaven for mortals to be a portent either of war or else of unkindly winter."

ἠύτε πορφυρέην ἶριν θνητοῖσι τανύσσῃ

Ζεὺς ἐξ οὐρανόθεν, τέρας ἔμμεναι ἢ πόλεμοιο

ἢ καὶ χειμῶνος δυσθαλπέος, κ. τ. λ.

99 Compare Iliad 4.75‑77: "Just as the son of Cronos of crooked counsel hath sent a star, a bright portent either for sailors or for a broad host of the people; and many sparks stream from it" —

οἷον δ’ ἀστέρα ἧκε Κρόνου πάις ἀγκυλομήτεω,

ἢ ναύτῃσι τέρας ἠὲ στρατῷ εὐρέι λαῶν,

λαμπρόν· τοῦ δέ τε πολλοὶ ἀπὸ σπινθῆρες ἵενται.

100 See Iliad 11.3: "And Zeus sent forth grievous strife to the ships of the Achaeans, holding a portent of war in her hands" —

Ζεὺς δ’ Ἔριδα προΐαλλε θοὰς ἐπὶ νῆας Ἀχαιῶν

ἀργαλέην, πολέμοιο τέρας μετὰ χερσὶν ἔχουσαν.

101 See Iliad 22.210‑213.

102 See Iliad 8.69‑71.

103 Referring to the silver mines at Laurium.

104 See Pliny, Natural History 35.96: "Apelles also painted things that cannot be painted; claps of thunder, heat lightning, flashing lightning, which they (the Greeks) call brontê, astrape, and ceraunobolia" — Pinxit (Apelles) et quae pingi non possunt, tonitrua, fulgetra, fulgura, quae bronten, astrapen, ceraunoboliam appellant.

105 That is, the ocean, 14.246. The phrase seems to be taken from a lyric poet.

106 Euripides, Helen, 854 for the phrase ἕρμα στερεόν.

107 Pindar frg. 57 (Bergk).

108 Dodona, situated in Epirus. Most ancient oracle of Greece and dedicated to Zeus.

109 Homer, Iliad 18.474‑475, translated by the Earl of Derby.

110 Homer, Odyssey 24.249‑250, translated by Mackail.

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