Lucian, Zeuxis, or Antiochus

LCL 430: 156-157

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The Works of Lucian

κανόνα συγκειμένων ἢ νοῦ ὀξέος ἢ περινοίας τινὸς ἢ χάριτος Ἀττικῆς ἢ ἁρμονίας ἢ τέχνης τῆς ἐφ᾿ ἅπασι, τούτων δὲ πόρρω ἴσως τοὐμόν. οὐ γὰρ ἂν παρέντες αὐτὰ ἐκεῖνα ἐπῄνουν μόνον τὸ καινὸν τῆς προαιρέσεως καὶ ξενίζον. ἐγὼ δὲ ὁ μάταιος ᾤμην, ὁπότε ἀναπηδῶντες ἐπαινοῖεν, τάχα μέν τι1 καὶ αὐτὸ τοῦτο προσάγεσθαι αὐτούς· ἀληθὲς γὰρ εἶναι τὸ τοῦ Ὁμήρου, καὶ τὴν νέαν ᾠδὴν κεχαρισμένην ὑπάρχειν τοῖς ἀκούουσιν· οὐ μὴν τοσοῦτόν γε οὐδὲ2 ὅλον τῇ καινότητι νέμειν ἠξίουν, ἀλλὰ τὴν μὲν ὥσπερ ἐν προσθήκης μοίρᾳ συνεπικοσμεῖν τι καὶ πρὸς τὸν ἔπαινον συντελεῖν καὶ αὐτήν, τὰ δὲ τῷ ὄντι ἐπαινούμενα καὶ ὑπὸ τῶν ἀκουόντων εὐφημούμενα ἐκεῖνα εἶναι. ὥστε οὐ μετρίως ἐπήρμην καὶ ἐκινδύνευον πιστεύειν αὐτοῖς ἕνα καὶ μόνον ἐν τοῖς Ἕλλησιν εἶναι λέγουσι καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα. τὸ δὲ κατὰ τὴν παροιμίαν ἄνθρακες ἡμῶν ὁ θησαυρὸς ἦσαν, καὶ ὀλίγου δέω θαυματοποιοῦ τινος ἔπαινον ἐπαινεῖσθαι πρὸς αὐτῶν.

3Ἐθέλω γοῦν ὑμῖν καὶ τὸ τοῦ γραφέως διηγήσασθαι. ὁ Ζεῦξις ἐκεῖνος ἄριστος γραφέων γενόμενος τὰ δημώδη καὶ τὰ κοινὰ ταῦτα οὐκ ἔγραφεν, ἢ ὅσα πάνυ ὀλίγα, ἥρωας ἢ θεοὺς ἢ πολέμους, ἀεὶ δὲ καινοποιεῖν ἐπειρᾶτο καί τι ἀλλόκοτον ἂν καὶ ξένον ἐπινοήσας ἐπ᾿ ἐκείνῳ τὴν ἀκρίβειαν τῆς τέχνης ἐπεδείκνυτο. ἐν δὲ τοῖς ἄλλοις τολμήμασι καὶ θήλειαν Ἱπποκένταυρον ὁ Ζεῦξις οὗτος3 ἐποίησεν, ἀνατρέφουσάν γε προσέτι παιδίω Ἱπποκενταύρω διδύμω κομιδῇ νηπίω. τῆς εἰκόνος ταύτης ἀντίγραφός ἐστι νῦν Ἀθήνησι πρὸς αὐτὴν


Zeuxis or Antiochus

penetration of intellect, power of perception, Attic grace, good construction, general competence, perhaps have no place in my work. Otherwise they would not have ignored these qualities and praised only the novel and strange element in my style. I, fool that I was, had thought when they rose in approbation that perhaps this particular feature too had some attraction for them—I remembered the truth of Homer’s remark1 that the new song takes the fancy of an audience; but I did not think to attribute so much—indeed all of it—to novelty, but supposed novelty to be a kind of additional ornament making some contribution indeed to the approbation of my work, the audience’s real praise and commendation, however, going to those other qualities. As a result my elation overstepped its bounds—to think I nearly believed them when they called me unique and in a class apart in Greece and other flatteries of this kind. In the words of the proverb, my treasure turned out ashes, and their approval is not much different from that which they would give a conjurer.

I want to give you an example from a painter. Zeuxis, that pre-eminent artist, avoided painting popular and hackneyed themes as far as he could (I mean heroes, gods, wars); he was always aiming at novelty, and whenever he thought up something unheard-of and strange he showed the precision of his craftsmanship by depicting it. Among the bold innovations of this Zeuxis was his painting of a female Hippocentaur, one moreover that was feeding twin Hippocentaur children, no more than babies. There is a copy of this picture now at Athens made with

  • 1Od. i, 352.
DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.lucian-herodotus_antiochus.1959