καὶ ἐπιδεικνύντα τὸ κάλλος τῶν πτερῶν, ὅταν ἁβρύνηται πρὸς τὴν θήλειαν, ἀνακλάσας τὴν οὐρὰν καὶ περιστήσας αὑτῷ πανταχόθεν ὥσπερ εὐειδὲς θέατρον ἤ τινα γραφῇ μιμηθέντα οὐρανὸν ποικίλον ἄστροις, σύν γε τῷ λοιπῷ χρώματι1 θαυμαστόν, ἐγγύτατα χρυσοῦ κυάνῳ κεκραμένου, καὶ δὴ ἐν ἄκροις τοῖς πτεροῖς οἷον ὀφθαλμῶν ἐνόντων ἤ τινων δακτυλίων τό τε σχῆμα καὶ κατὰ τὴν 3ἄλλην ὁμοιότητα; εἰ δ᾿ αὖ ἔτι τι ἐθέλεις, σκοπεῖ2 τῆς πτερώσεως τὸ κοῦφον, ὡς μὴ χαλεπὸν εἶναι μηδὲ δύσφορον διὰ τὸ μῆκος. ἐν μέσῳ μάλα ἥσυχον καὶ ἀτρεμοῦντα παρέχει θεάσασθαι ἑαυτόν, ὥσπερ ἐν πομπῇ περιστρεφόμενος· ὅταν δὲ βουληθῇ ἐκπλῆξαι, σείων τὰ πτερὰ καί τινὰ ἦχον οὐκ ἀηδῆ ποιῶν, οἷον ἀνέμου κινήσαντος οὐ πολλοῦ πυκνήν τινα ὕλην.
Ἀλλ᾿ οὔτε τὸν ταῶ πάντα ταῦτα καλλωπιζόμενον τὰ ὄρνεα βούλεται ὁρᾶν οὔτε τῆς ἀηδόνος ἀκούοντα τῆς φωνῆς ἕωθεν ἐπορθρευομένης οὐδὲν 4πάσχει πρὸς αὐτήν, ἀλλ᾿ οὐδὲ τὸν κύκνον ἀσπάζεται διὰ τὴν μουσικήν, οὐδὲ ὅταν ὑμνῇ τὴν ὑστάτην ᾠδὴν ἅτε εὐγήρως, ὑπὸ ἡδονῆς τε καὶ λήθης τῶν ἐν τῷ βίῳ χαλεπῶν εὐφημῶν ἅμα καὶ προπέμπων ἀλύπως αὑτόν, ὡς ἔοικε, πρὸς ἄλυπον τὸν θάνατον—οὔκουν οὐδὲ τότε ἀθροίζεται κηλούμενα τοῖς μέλεσι πρὸς ὄχθην ποταμοῦ
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 theatre1 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. 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—nay, not even the swan2 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
- 1Horace (Satires 2. 2. 26) says of the peacock, “spreads out a ‘spectacle’ with its painted tail”—picta pandat spectacula cauda. By Achilleus Tatius (p. 22) the peacock is said “to display the ‘theatre’ of its feathers”: τὸ θέατρον ἐπιδεικνύναι τῶν πτερῶν—the likeness being in the theatre-shaped expanse of the tail-feathers.
- 2Just 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.