Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.22.6

ἔστι δὲ ἐν ἀριστερᾷ τῶν προπυλαίων οἴκημα ἔχον γραφάς: ὁπόσαις δὲ μὴ καθέστηκεν ὁ χρόνος αἴτιος ἀφανέσιν εἶναι, Διομήδης ἦν, ὁ μὲν ἐν Λήμνῳ τὸ Φιλοκτήτου τόξον, ὁ δὲ τὴν Ἀθηνᾶν ἀφαιρούμενος ἐξ Ἰλίου. ἐνταῦθα ἐν ταῖς γραφαῖς Ὀρέστης ἐστὶν Αἴγισθον φονεύων καὶ Πυλάδης τοὺς παῖδας τοὺς Ναυπλίου βοηθοὺς ἐλθόντας Αἰγίσθῳ: τοῦ δὲ Ἀχιλλέως τάφου πλησίον μέλλουσά ἐστι σφάζεσθαι Πολυξένη. Ὁμήρῳ δὲ εὖ μὲν παρείθη τόδε τὸ ὠμὸν οὕτως ἔργον: εὖ δέ μοι φαίνεται ποιῆσαι Σκῦρον ὑπὸ Ἀχιλλέως ἁλοῦσαν, οὐδὲν ὁμοίως καὶ ὅσοι λέγουσιν ὁμοῦ ταῖς παρθένοις Ἀχιλλέα ἔχειν ἐν Σκύρῳ δίαιταν, ἃ δὴ καὶ Πολύγνωτος ἔγραψεν. ἔγραψε δὲ καὶ πρὸς τῷ ποταμῷ ταῖς ὁμοῦ Ναυσικᾷ πλυνούσαις ἐφιστάμενον Ὀδυσσέα κατὰ τὰ αὐτὰ καθὰ δὴ καὶ Ὅμηρος ἐποίησε. γραφαὶ δέ εἰσι καὶ ἄλλαι καὶ Ἀλκιβιάδης,[7] ἵππων δέ οἱ νίκης τῆς ἐν Νεμέᾳ ἐστὶ σημεῖα ἐν τῇ γραφῇ: καὶ Περσεύς ἐστιν ἐς Σέριφον κομιζόμενος, Πολυδέκτῃ φέρων τὴν κεφαλὴν τὴν Μεδούσης. καὶ τὰ μὲν ἐς Μέδουσαν οὐκ εἰμὶ πρόθυμος ἐν τοῖς Ἀττικοῖς σημῆναι: ἔτι δὲ τῶν γραφῶν παρέντι τὸν παῖδα τὸν τὰς ὑδρίας φέροντα καὶ τὸν παλαιστὴν ὃν Τιμαίνετος ἔγραψεν, ἐστὶ Μουσαῖος. ἐγὼ δὲ ἔπη μὲν ἐπελεξάμην, ἐν οἷς ἐστι πέτεσθαι Μουσαῖον ὑπὸ Βορέου δῶρον, δοκεῖν δέ μοι πεποίηκεν αὐτὰ Ὀνομάκριτος καὶ ἔστιν οὐδὲν Μουσαίου βεβαίως ὅτι μὴ μόνον ἐς Δήμητρα ὕμνος Λυκομίδαις.

[6] On the left of the gateway is a building with pictures. Among those not effaced by time I found Diomedes taking the Athena from Troy, and Odysseus in Lemnos taking away the bow of Philoctetes. There in the pictures is Orestes killing Aegisthus, and Pylades killing the sons of Nauplius who had come to bring Aegisthus succor. And there is Polyxena about to be sacrificed near the grave of Achilles. Homer did well in passing by this barbarous act. I think too that he showed poetic insight in making Achilles capture Scyros, differing entirely from those who say that Achilles lived in Scyros with the maidens, as Polygnotus has represented in his picture. He also painted Odysseus coming upon the women washing clothes with Nausicaa at the river, just like the description in Homer. There are other pictures, including a portrait of Alcibiades,[7] and in the picture are emblems of the victory his horses won at Nemea. There is also Perseus journeying to Seriphos, and carrying to Polydectes the head of Medusa, the legend about whom I am unwilling to relate in my description of Attica. Included among the paintings—I omit the boy carrying the water-jars and the wrestler of Timaenetus1—is Musaeus. I have read verse in which Musaeus receives from the North Wind the gift of flight, but, in my opinion, Onomacritus wrote them, and there are no certainly genuine works of Musaeus except a hymn to Demeter written for the Lycomidae.

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À gauche des Propylées se trouve un local contenant des tableaux. Parmi ceux que le temps n'a pas effacés, il y avait Diomède et Ulysse, l'un emportant l'arc de Philoctète, à Lemnos, et l'autre, l'Athéna de Troie. Pami les tableaux, on voit Oreste tuant Égisthe, et Pylade massacrant les fils de Nauplios qui accourent au secours d'Égisthe, et Polyxène sur le point d'être Égorgée sur le tombeau d'Achille. Homère a bien fait d'Omettre cette scène sauvage. Homère a bien fait aussi de représenter Skyros prise par Achille, en divergence avec la tradition d'Achille vivant dans la société des jeunes filles à Skyros. C'est cette dernière version de la légende qu'a suivie Polygnote. Polygnote a représenté aussi Ulysse sur le rivage du fleuve avec Nausicaa. Le tableau correspond excatement au récit d'Homère. [Il y a encore d'autres peintures, par exemple Alcibiade avec les insignes de la victoire qu'il obtint à Némée dans la course de chars]. Il y a aussi un Persée au moment où il arrive à Sériphos, apportant à Polydectès la tête de Méduse. Quant à ce qui concerne Méduse je ne désire pas m'y étendre dans les Attika. Puis, passant entre autres peintures celles du jeune garçon qui tient une hydrie et celle du luteur peint par Timainétos, ontrouve Musée. J'ai lu des poèmes où il est dit que Musée reçut de Borée le don de voler; mais j'ai idée que ces vers sont l'oeuvre d'onomacrite et que rien ne peut être attribué avec certitude à Musée excepté son hymne à Déméterr pour les Lykomides.

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Commentary

  1. The Propylaia were the monumental gateway to the Acropolis. It was an enormous and complex building ordered by Pericles and designed by the architect Mnesikles (ca. 450-400 B.C.). Its construction began ca. 437 and was interrupted in 432 B.C. due to the Peloponnesian Wars, but also certainly because of economic reasons (Tomlinson 1990; Dinsmoor 2004, pp. 3-4. figs. 7.1, 9.1). As Pausanias says, the so-called Pinakotheke ("oikêma ekôn graphas"- "room with paintings") was "on the left of the Propylaia"; i.e the northwest wing of the building which was almost completely preserved. The inner chamber is rectangular, 10.706 m. in length and 8.951/8.952 m. in width. The room is preceded by a vestibule with three Doric columns. Then a cross-wall separates the vestibule from the main room. This wall is pierced by a doorway and two windows. According to current research, it is possible that the Pinakotheke was designed as a public dining room (hestiatorion) for hosting sacred meals at the Panathenaic festival. However, we are unable to determine with certainty when this became a "picture gallery." (Travlos 1980, pp. 482-483; Dinsmoor 1982; Hellström 1988, pp. 114-118; Dinsmoor 2004, pp. 369-398).

  2. Following Pausanias' testimony, it seems that all the paintings were on small wooden tablets. However, according to the excavators, there is no hole or trace of any feature meant to receive small tablets on the walls of the Pinakotheke. It appears that the walls were rather prepared for receiving wall-paintings (Hellström 1988, p. 118). Following Pausanias' description, it seems that not all paintings were made at the same time. There were earlier paintings like the ones attributed to Polygnotos (ca. 460 B.C.), paintings attributed to Aglaophontos, a painter of the 420's B.C., and other, much later paintings such as the paintings of Timainetos (third or first century B.C.). Moreover, unlike other buildings in which the paintings correspond to a decorating program (The Stoa Poikile or the Lesche of the Cnidians for example), in the Pinakotheke, the paintings were not thematically linked. There were portraits of historical figures paired with mythological episodes and portraits of unidentified individuals. For this reason, and despite the lack of evidence, it seems logical that the paintings were on removable panels. In this way, the paintings could have been added gradually into the Pinakotheke.

  3. Pausanias talks about not less than twelve paintings. It is very likely that the Pinakotheke contained even more paintings, since Pausanias informs us that he did not discuss those paintings which had been damaged over time. As is his habit, Pausanias talks about what he considers worthy. Moreover, Harpocration mentions a treaty by Polemon Periegetes (end of third/second century B.C.) called "Peri tôn en tois Propylaiois pinakôn" -"On the Paintings inside the Propylalaia" - which hints at a considerable collection (Harpocration s.v. λαμπάς; Reinach et al. 1921, pp. 144-145).

  4. The subjects of the paintings described by Pausanias are listed below:

    a. "Odysseus stealing Philoctetes' bow" (LIMC VII s.v. Philoktetes 61). According to ancient testimonies, the key to the fall of Troy resides in the return of Philoctetes who was abandoned on the island of Lemnos after having his foot bitten by a snake. Philoctetes was a fine archer who possessed a bow offered to him by Herakles. So, in order to convince Philoctetes to come back to Troy and fight alongside the Achaeans, Odysseus takes away the bow (on literary sources see: LIMC VII s.v. Philoktetes, pp. 376-385; Gantz 1993, pp. 635-639; Mackie 2009). Nothing is mentioned about either the painter (maybe fifth century B.C.?) or the composition of that painting. Reinach argues that this painting formed a pair with “Diomedes and the Palladion” (see below [b]), thus illustrating the main exploit of the two heroes during the Trojan War (Reinach et al. 1921, pp. 144-145). However, Diomedes and Odysseus could have been pictured in a single painting, too (see below [b]). Pausanias' account is not very clear on this. The stealing of Philoctetes’ bow is only known in Etruscan, Italic and Roman works of art from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D. (LIMC VII s.v. Philoktetes 62-69, pp. 382-383).

    b. "Diomedes and the Palladion" (LIMC III s.v. Diomedes I 33). Maybe this painting formed a pair with "Odysseus stealing Philoctetes' bow" (see above [a]). The painter remains unknown, as well as the date of the painting (maybe fifth century B.C.?). The story of the theft of the Palladion precedes the final story of the Trojan horse and the Fall of Troy. The Palladion was a sacred idol given by Zeus to Dardanus when he founded Troy.The fate of the city was linked to the possession of the Palladion (Dion.Hall. I. 69.1; Apollod. II. 12.3; Epitome, V.10; Paus. II. 23.5; Conon, Narr. 34; Moret 1975, pp. 87-90). The theft of the sacred statue was a necessary task, ensuring the victory of the Greek army (just as the return of Philoctetes) which was prophesied by the seer Helenos. Odysseus accompanied by Diomedes enters in secret into the city and steals the Palladion (on literary sources see: Gantz 1993, pp. 641-645; on iconography see: LIMC III s.v. Diomedes, pp. 401-402). According to Pausanias, Diomedes was pictured alone carrying the Palladion. Or it might be that Odysseus and Diomedes were pictured together in a single painting in order to resume the two main exploits of the heroes during the Trojan War. In fact, in some versions preceding Sophocles' Philoctetes (409 B.C.), Diomedes assisted Odysseus in the stealing of Philoctetes' bow (Gantz 1993, pp. 635-639).

    c. "Orestes killing Aegisthus" (LIMC I s.v. Aigisthos 14). After Orestes learned about his father's (Agamemnon) death by the hand of his mother Klytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus, he seeks revenge. Assisted by his sister, Elektra, and in some versions by his friend Pylades, Orestes kill Aegisthus and his mother. Immediately afterwards, Orestes is struck by madness, chased by his mother's Erinyes. Then, for his safety, he seeks refuge into Apollo's temple at Delphi (a complete account of this story is Aeschylus' Oresteia performed in 458 B.C. See: Gantz 1993, pp. 676-686; LIMC I s.v. Aigisthos, p. 371; VII s.v. Orestes, pp. 68-76). According to Pausanias' account, the painting represented only Aegisthus' murder by Orestes, assisted by Pylades who killed the sons of Nauplios. One can suppose that "Orestes killing Aegisthus" and "Pylades slaughtering Nauplios' sons" (see below [d]) formed a single painting. Pausanias does not give any details concerning either the painter or the dating of the painting. Some have supposed that Polygnotos was the painter and, for this reason, the painting formed a pair with “the sacrifice of Polyxena” (see below [e]) which was a work of Polygnotos (Reinach et al. 1921, p. 144; LIMC I s.v. Aigisthos 14; VII s.v. Pylades 8). The artistic tradition of Aegisthus' murder is quite uniform already since the early fifth century B.C. In vase-painting, Aegisthus is attacked by Orestes, while Klytemnestra threatens the latter with an ax. At the same time, Elektra runs after Klytaimnestra to protect her brother (LIMC I s.v. Aigisthos 7, 12-13, 16-17, 23, 30, 32-35; Orestes, p. 71). Therefore, the painting described by Pausanias is surprising, since no literary source speaks about an alliance between Aegisthus and the sons of Nauplios (Gantz 1993, pp. 683-685). For E. Vermeule, this painting is linked to Euripides' Orestes (408 B.C.) which alludes to the sons of Nauplios in lines 431-436 (Vermeule 1966, p. 15). In that case, the painting could be from the late fifth century B.C. rather than the time of Polygnotos (ca. 460 B.C.).

    d. "Pylades slaughtering Nauplios' sons" (LIMC VII s.v. Pylades 8 = Oiax 1). According to ancient literary sources, Nauplios' sons were Palamedes, Oiax, and Nausimedon. In Euripides' Orestes, Oiax seeks revenge for the death of Palamedes who, according to later sources (that is, Orestes' scholia, Apollodorus, Hyginus), was framed by Odysseus, Agamemnon, and Diomedes, as a result of jealousy (Gantz 1993, pp. 604-607). Pylades as a companion of Orestes appears in literary sources from the fifth century B.C. in Pindar, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. He has a small part in Orestes' revenge. Therefore, as mentioned above, the murder of Nauplios son's aiming at protecting Orestes, seems to be a late addition, maybe of the late fifth century (on literary sources: LIMC VII s.v. Pylades, pp. 601-602; Gantz 1993, pp. 679, 685).

    e. "The sacrifice of Polyxena" (LIMC VII s.v. Polyxene 25). The painting is attributed to Polygnotos by an epigram in the Greek Anthology (text 122). Pausanias does not say much about the painting, just that Polyxena was about to have her throat cut near Achilles' tomb, by Neoptolemos with certainty, as told in ancient literary sources (Gantz 1993, pp. 658-659). The scene is known in ancient works of art as early as the seventh century B.C. According to the epigram in the Greek Anthology (text 122), the painting was very dramatic. Polyxena was covering her nudity with one hand, covering the breast with her peplos. She was supplicating for her life and, according to the epigram, the painter expressed all the suffering caused by the Trojan War in her eyes.

    f. "Achilles at Skyros" (LIMC I s.v. Achilleus 95). Pausanias identifies the painting as a work of Polygnotos (ca. 460 B.C.). The picture is linked to the episode of Achilles hidden among the daughters of Lykomedes at Skyros. Here he secretly marries Deidameia who gives him a son, Neoptolemos. In this tale, there are two opposite versions both known by Pausanias. The first one, related to the Little Iliad and the Iliad (IX. 666-668), recounts the conquest of Skyros by Achilles from where he takes away the girl Iphis, as a gift to Patroclos. The second version is the one which Polygnotos chose to paint. So far as we know, this painting of his is the earliest evidence for this version of the story (LIMC I s.v. Achilleus, pp. 55-56; Huxley 1975; Gantz 1993, pp. 580-582). The painting is believed to belong to a group of paintings made by Polygnotos (that is, "Odysseus and Nausica" and "the sacrifice of Polyxena") maybe for a "Kimonian building" (see: Jeffery 1965, p. 45, n.17). A volute-krater by the Niobid painter (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 33.56), dated ca. 450 B.C., can be connected to the painting of Polygnotos. Erika Simon has convincingly shown that the scene on the volute-krater in Boston represents Achilles leaving Lykomedes and his daughters (Simon 1963, pp. 57-59). Moreover, it is known that the Niobid painter drew his inspiration from Polygnotos' work (Simon 1963; Denoyelle 1997; Stansbury-O’Donnell 2014). The volute-krater in Boston is a fine example of what we could identify as the "polygnotean style", i.e. the representation of the "ethos" of the characters (see texts 130 to 133), especially when looking at the central group of Achilles and Deidameia, who stare into each other’s eyes, while Deidameia is tenderly holding Achilles' fingers. It is a very moving scene which well expresses the "ethos" of the characters, especially Deidameia's. She is the main character of this scene, the one who wins and loses her husband at the same time (Simon 1963, ibid)

    g. "Odysseus and Nausica" (LIMC VI s.v. Nausika 1). The painting is attributed to Polygnotos (dated ca. 460 B.C.). The story of the meeting between Odysseus and Nausica is told in Odyssey, book 6. Pausanias says that the painting was "just like the description in Homer." Therefore one can suppose that Polygnotos painted Odysseus naked, with shaggy hair, and holding an olive branch to cover his genitals. Nausica was standing still and looking at Odysseus. Near them were her handmaidens, a river, and some trees. This painting is more or less contemporaneous with (the lost) Sophocles' Nausica (TrGF IV F 449-451; LIMC VI s.v. Odysseus pp. 712-714). The particularity of that painting lies on the landscape in which the characters are presented (that is, a river, trees, the river bank), just as on the paintings at the Lesche of the Cnidians (see texts 107a and 107b). The scene is, for example, pictured on an amphora in Munich (Antikensammlung J420, 2322) dated ca. 440 B.C. (LIMC VI s.v. Nausicaa 2). On this vase, Odysseus is naked, holding sprigs, and young girls are running, while Nausica stands still. The main character here is Odysseus. On the contrary, on Polygnotos' painting, the main character seems to be Nausica, just as Polyxena and Dedameia were in the two other pinakes discussed above. Thus, Polygnotos appears as a painter of female beauty and destiny. Likewise, Pliny says that Polygnotos was the first to take an interest in depicting transparent female clothes and headdresses of many colors (see text 100 and 128; Simon 1963, pp. 59-61; Touchefeu-Meynier 1968, pp. 203-208).

    h. A portrait of Alcibiades by Aglaophontos "the Young" (see text 93). The painting celebrated the victory of Alcibiades at the chariot race in the Nemean games, ca. 417-416 B.C. This painting is described in text 92 (Athenaeus, XII. 534d). This Aglophontos was probably the grandson of the elder Aglaophontos, father of Polygnotos (see texts 91 and 92). Pliny places his "floruit" in the 90th Olympiad (ca. 420-417 B.C). On Alcibiades and the painting by Aglaophontos, see text 92 and 93.

    i. "Perseus at Seriphos" (LIMC VII s.v. Perseus 28; Gantz 1993, pp. 300-301). Pausanias does not mention the artist of this painting. According to the text, it seems that the painting represented Perseus still flying and carrying the head of Medusa into the "kibisis" (a kind of bag) (Reinach et al. 1921, p. 147). It is very likely that Perseus was pictured with his usual garment, in other words, a winged cap, winged shoes, the "harpe" (a sickle) and the "kibisis", as was common in the archaic and classical art (see LIMC VII s.v. Perseus pp. 332-348). The earliest known depiction of the Seriphos episode is on a red-figure pelike dated ca. 480-470 B.C. signed by Hermonax (Rome, Villa Giulia; LIMC VII s.v. Polydektes 2). On this vase, Perseus is showing the head of Medusa to Polydektes among a crowd of onlookers. But nothing indicates that the men are petrified by the sight of the Gorgon head, contrary to what is said in Pindar's Pythian 10 (Pyth. 10.46-48) and Pherekydes (3F11) (Gantz 1993, pp. 300-301; Boardman 1997, pp. 193-194; Benson 1999, pp. 248-250). Unfortunately, in the absence of a more detailed depiction of the picture in the "Pinakotheke" by Pausanias, it is difficult to make any connection between the picture on the vase and the painting at the Propylaia.

    j. A young boy carrying water (hydrophoros). This painting was maybe a work by Timainetos, forming, according to A. Reinach, a pair with (k).

    k. A wrestler by Timainetos. Timainetos is an unknown artist except for this single mention by Pausanias. Reinach places him among Hellenistic painters of the third to first century B.C. (see text 531; Reinach et al. 1921, p. 399; Vollkommer & Vollkommer-Glökler 2001, p. 467).

    l. A portrait of Mousaios (LIMC VI s.v. Mousaios 1). Painter and dating unknown (fifth century B.C.?). Mousaios was a legendary poet, seer, and musician, considered as a predecessor of Homer and Hesiod. His genealogy is complex. Some ancient sources say that his father was Antiphenos, others Eumolpos (who is sometimes referred to as a son of Mousaios), Linos, Thamyris or Orpheus. His mother was, according to different ancient sources, Selene, Pandia or Mene (Henrichs 1985). Ancient testimonies attribute to him numerous oracles and hymns (especially a Hymn to Demeter). Moreover, according to some ancient literary sources, Mousaios was capable of flying. This capacity was a gift by Boreas, the North wind (on literary sources see: LIMC VI s.v. Mousaios, pp. 685-686). For that reason A. Reinach believes that Mousaios was pictured winged. But, Pausanias does not give any detail about the synthesis of this painting. Rather, it seems that Pausanias is sharing knowledge about Mousaios' myth (Reinach et al. 1921, p. 148). According to A. Kauffmann-Samaras, the figure of Mousaios was certainly an Athenian invention, a sort of "Attic Orpheus" (see LIMC VI s.v. Mousaios, p. 687; on that point see: Shapiro 1990; Burkert 2011, pp. 168-169, 392-393). In fact, in attic vase-painting, Mousaios is usually pictured among the Muses, playing kithara (just as Orpheus in contemporary works of art), but not before ca. 460-450 B.C.

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