Γράφουσι γοῦν οἱ γραφεῖς τοὺς μὲν ποταμοὺς ὠχρούς, τὴν δὲ θάλατταν κυανέαν.

Painters paint rivers as pale (whitish yellow) and the sea as blue (dark-blue).

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Created by Valérie Toillon

Les peintres peignent les rivières en jaune pâle et la mer en bleu (bleu foncé).

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Created by Valérie Toillon

Commentary

  1. The Problems was not written by Aristotle himself. It is probably the (collective) work of several different Peripatetic philosophers who were working at the Lyceum sometime between the end of the 4th century to the 2nd century BC, after Aristotle’s death (Forster 1928; Louis 1991, pp. XXIII-XXX; Mayhew 2011, pp. XIII-XXIV).
  2. This passage comes from a paragraph that discusses the colours of rivers and the sea: “why rivers are whiter (leukoteros) than sea." In turn, this paragraph is part of a larger section concerning salt water and the sea. (On the color of the sea in Aristotelian thought, see Sorabji 2004, pp. 129-131).
  3. The author gives an example of convention in painting: rivers are supposed to be a pale colour (ôkhros) while the sea should be blue (kuanê) (on the colors of the sea, see also Prob. 26.37). The word "kuanos" dates back to Mycenaean times and evokes a valuable material that is dark-blue and shiny, such as enamel or lapis-lazuli. Since Euripides, "kuanos" is one of the words commonly used to describe the color of the sea (Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris, 6, 392, 746; in Latin = caeruleus; Mugler 1964, pp. 230-231; Christol 2002, esp. p.33 n.8; Grand-Clément 2011, pp. 121-129). On the other hand, "ôkhros" evokes a pale yellow color (in Latin = lividus; Mugler 1964, pp. 457-458; Grand-Clément 2011, pp. 211-213).
Annotation Authors and Editors
Created by Valérie Toillon

Bibliography

Aristote. Problèmes, 3 vol, Pierre Louis (trad. et commentaires), 1991-1994, Belles Lettres, Paris;

Aristotle. Problems, Volume I: Books 1-19, 2011, Edited and translated by Robert Mayhew, Loeb Classical Library 316, Harvard University Press,Cambridge;

Aristotle. Problems, Volume II: Books 20-38. Rhetoric to Alexander, 2011, Edited and translated by Robert Mayhew, David C. Mirhady, Loeb Classical Library 317, Harvard University Press,Cambridge;

Christol, A. 2002, "Les couleurs de la mer" in Villard, L. (ed.) Couleurs et visions dans l'antiquité classique, Publications de l'université de Rouen, Mont-Saint-Aignan, pp. 29-44;

Forster, E.S. 1928, " The Pseudo-Aristotelian Problems: Their Nature and Composition" in Classical Quarterly 22 n. 3/4, pp. 163-165;

Grand-Clément, A. 2011, La fabrique des couleurs. Histoire du paysage sensible des Grecs anciens (VIIIe- déb. Ve s. av. n. è), De Broccard, Paris;

Mugler, C. 1964, Dictionnaire historique de la terminologie optique des Grecs : douze siècles de dialogues avec la lumière, Klincksieck, Paris;

Sassi, M.M. 2003, "Il problema del colore fra stria e antropologia" in Beta Simone and Sassi Maria M. (ed.), I colori nel mondo antico: esperienze linguistiche e quadri simbolici : atti della giornata di studio, Siena, 28 marzo 2001, Fiesole, pp. 9-23.

Annotation Authors and Editors
Created by Valérie Toillon