12. ΟΛΥΜΠΙΚΟΣ Η ΠΕΡΙ ΤΗΣ ΠΡΩΤΗΣ ΤΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ ΕΝΝΟΙΑΣ
1Ἀλλ᾿ ἦ τὸ λεγόμενον, ὦ ἄνδρες, ἐγὼ καὶ παρ᾿ ὑμῖν καὶ παρ᾿ ἑτέροις πλείοσι πέπονθα τὸ τῆς γλαυκὸς ἄτοπον καὶ παράδοξον πάθος; ἐκείνην γὰρ οὐδὲν σοφωτέραν αὐτῶν οὖσαν οὐδὲ βελτίω τὸ εἶδος, ἀλλὰ τοιαύτην ὁποίαν ἴσμεν, ὅταν δήποτε φθέγξηται λυπηρὸν καὶ οὐδαμῶς ἡδύ, περιέπουσι τὰ ἄλλα ὄρνεα, καὶ ὅταν γε ἴδῃ μόνον, τὰ μὲν καθιζόμενα ἐγγύς, τὰ δὲ κύκλῳ περιπετόμενα, ὡς μὲν ἐμοὶ δοκεῖ, καταφρονοῦντα τῆς φαυλότητος καὶ τῆς ἀσθενείας· οἱ δὲ ἄνθρωποί φασιν ὅτι θαυμάζει τὴν γλαῦκα τὰ ὄρνεα.
2Πῶς δὲ οὐ τὸν ταῶ μᾶλλον ὁρῶντα θαυμάζει, καλὸν οὕτω καὶ ποικίλον, ἔτι δ᾿ αὖ τοι1 ἐπαιρόμενον
The 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 saying1—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 her2—yes, and even when they merely see her, some alighting near and others circling about 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.
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
- 1This opening reminds one of Socrates’ words at the
opening of Plato’s Gorgias (447 a) ἄλλ᾿ ἦ τὸ λεγόμενον, κατόπιν
ἑορτῆς ἥκομεν 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 throngassembled 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.
- 2Plutarch (Nicias I. 9. 4) quotes Timaeus as saying τῷ Γυλίππῳ φανέντι καθάπερ γλαυκὶ πολλοὶ προσέπτησαν ἑτοίμως στρατευόμενοι—“When Gylippus showed himself, many flocked to him, as birds to an owl, with offers of military service.”