Produced by James D. Simmons
which this is
No . . . . . . . .
COMPLETE AND INTEGRAL TRANSLATION
Illustrated by ED. ZIER
Privately printed for Subscribers only
was executed on the
Printing Presses of CHARLES
HERISSEY, at Evreux, (France),
for Mr. CHARLES CARRINGTON, Paris, Bookseller et
Publisher, and is the only
The very ruins of the Greek
world instruct us how our
modern life might be made
The learned Prodicos of Ceos, who flourished towards the end of the fifth century before our era, is the author of the celebrated apologue that Saint Basil recommended to the meditations of the Christians: Heracles between Virtue and Pleasure. We know that Heracles chose the former and was therefore permitted to commit a certain number of crimes against the Arcadian Stag, the Amazons, the Golden Apples, and the Giants.
Had Prodicos gone no further than this, he would simply have written a fable marked by a certain cheap Symbolism; but he was a good philosopher, and his collection of tales, The Hours, in three parts, presented the moral truths under the various aspects that befit them, according to the three ages of life. To little children he complacently held up the example of the austere choice of Heracles; to young men. doubtless, he related the voluptuous choice of Paris, and I imagine that to full-grown men he addressed himself somewhat as follows:
“One day Odysseus was roaming about the foot of the mountains of Delphi, hunting, when he fell in with two maidens holding one another by the hand. One of them had glossy, black hair, clear eyes, and a grave look. She said to him: ‘I am Arete.’ The other had drooping eyelids, delicate hands, and tender breasts. She said: ‘I am ‘Tryphe.’ And both exclaimed: ‘Choose between us.’ But the subtile Odysseus answered sagely. ‘How should I choose? You are inseparable. The eyes that have seen you pass by separately have witnessed but a barren shadow. Just as sincere virtue does not repel the eternal joys that pleasure offers it, in like manner self-indulgence would be in evil plight without a certain nobility of spirit. I will follow both of you. Show me the way.’ No sooner had he finished speaking than the two visions were merged in one another, and Odysseus knew that he had been talking with the great golden Aphrodite.”
The principal character of the novel which the reader is about to have under his eyes is a woman, a courtesan of antiquity; but let him take heart of grace: she will not be converted in the end.
She will be loved neither by a saint, nor by a prophet, nor by a god. In the literature of to-day this is a novelty.
A courtesan, she will be a courtesan with the frankness, the ardour, and also the conscious pride of every human being who has a vocation and has freely chosen the place he occupies in society; she will aspire to rise to the highest point; the idea that her life demands excuse or mystery will not even cross her mind. This point requires elucidation.
Hitherto, the modern writers who have appealed to a public less prejudiced than that of young girls and upper-form boys have resorted to a laborious stratagem the hypocrisy of which is displeasing to me. “I have painted pleasure as it really is,” they say, “in order to exalt virtue.” In commencing a novel which has Alexandria for its scene, I refuse absolutely to perpetuate this anachronism.
Love, with all that it implies, was, for the Greeks, the most virtuous of sentiments and the most prolific in greatness. They never attached to it the ideas of lewdness and immodesty which the Jewish tradition has handed down to us with the Christian doctrine. Herodotos (I. 10) tells us in the most natural manner possible, “Amongst certain barbarous peoples it is considered disgraceful to appear in public naked.” When the Greeks or the Latins wished to insult a man who frequented women of pleasure, they called him [Greek: moichos] or mœchus, which simply means adulterer. A man and a woman who, without being bound by any tie, formed a union with one another, whether it were in public or not, and whatever their youth might be, were regarded as injuring no one and were left in peace.
It is obvious that the life of the ancients cannot be judged according to the ideas of morality which we owe to Geneva.
For my part, I have written this book with the same simplicity as an Athenian narrating the same adventures. I hope that it will be read in the same spirit.
In order to continue to judge of the ancient Greeks according to ideas at present in vogue, it is necessary that not a single exact translation of their great writers should fall in the hands of a fifth-form schoolboy. If M. Mounet—Sully were to play his part of Œdipus without making any omissions, the police would suspend the performance. Had not M. Leconte de Lisle expurgated Theocritos, from prudent motives, his book would have been seized the very day it was put on sale. Aristophanes is regarded as exceptional! But we possess important fragments of fourteen hundred and forty comedies, due to one hundred and thirty-two Greek poets, some of whom, such as Alexis, Philetairos, Strattis, Euboulos, Cratinos, have left us admirable lines, and nobody has yet dared to translate this immodest and charming collection.