Painting – Poetry: Plutarch on Simonides’ Apophthegm

  • Krystyna Bartol Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań
Keywords: correspondence of the arts; poetry — painting; Simonides; Plutarch


In the article the author proposes to examine Simonides’ famous dictum promoting the link between poetry and painting as presented by Plutarch within his Moralia. Three main problems have been discussed:
1. Plutarch’s opinion concerning the authorship of the saying,
2. Are the Plutarchean passages the verbatim quotations of Simonides?,
3. The meaning of the apophthegm.

It seems that Plutarch favoured Simonides’ authorship of the saying. His treatment of the apophthegm in some places of his work as a common saying as well as the attribution of it to one from among the σοφοί do not contradict the Simonidean authorship. It highlights the widespread approval of the saying.

We may assume that Plutarch came quite close to the verbatim quotation of Simonides although there are the discrepancies in the lectiones of the quotation. The serious obstacle preventing us from treating the Plutarchean citation as genuine Simonidean words is the fact that poetry is called ποιητική here which is completely unsuitable for the poets of the early period.

Simonides in his famous saying about the relationship between the arts intended to highlight the importance of imitation in painters’ and poets’ art. Dio of Prusa additionally noticed the difference between the means and ways of imitation in both kinds of the arts. It does not seem, however, that also Simonides made them distinguishable and that Plutarch intended to emphasize this very aspect of the association of painting and poetry.


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