ARACHNE - VOLUME 6.
ARACHNE - VOLUME 6.
At the third hour after sunrise a distinguished assemblage of people
gathered at the landing place east of the Temple of Poseidon in the great
harbour of Alexandria.
Its members belonged to the upper classes for many had come in carriages
and litters and numerous pedestrians were accompanied by slaves bearing
in delicately woven baskets and cornucopias a laurel wreath a papyrus
crown or bright-hued flowers.
The most aristocratic among the gentlemen had gathered on the western
side of the great sanctuary between the cella and the long row of Doric
columns which supported the roof of the marble temple.
The Macedonian Council of the city was already represented by several of
its members. Among their number was Archias Daphne's father a man of
middle height and comfortable portliness from whose well-formed
beardless face looked forth a pair of shrewd eyes and whose quick
movements revealed the slight irritability of his temperament.
Several members of the Council and wealthy merchants surrounded him
while the grammateus Proclus first talked animatedlv with other
government officials and representatives of the priesthood and then with
Archias. The head of the Museum who bore the title of "high priest"
had also appeared there with several members of this famous centre of the
intellectual life of the capital. They shared the shade of this part of
the temple with distinguished masters of sculpture and painting
architecture and poetry and conversed together with the graceful
animation of Greeks endowed with great intellectual gifts.
Among them mingled distinguishable neither by costume nor language
a number of prominent patrons of art in the great Jewish community.
Their principal the alabarch was talking eagerly with the philosopher
Hegesias and the Rhodian leech Chrysippus; Queen Arsinoe's favourite
whom at Althea's instigation she had sent with Proclus to receive the
Sometimes all gazed toward the mouth of the harbour where the expected
ship must soon pass the recently completed masterpiece of Sostratus the
towering lighthouse still shining in its marble purity.
Soon many Alexandrians also crowded the large platform in front of the
Temple of Poseidon and the very wide marble staircase leading from it to
the landing place.
Beneath the bronze statues of the Dioscuri at the right and left of the
topmost step had also gathered the magnificent figures of the Phebi and
the younger men from the wrestling school of Timagetes with garlands on
their curling locks as well as many younger artists and pupils of the
The statues of the gods and goddesses of the sea and their lofty
pedestals standing at the sides of the staircase cast upon the marble
steps gleaming in the radiance of the morning sun narrow shadows which
attracted the male and female chorus singers who also wearing beautiful
garlands had come to greet the expected arrival with solemn chants.
Several actors were just coming from rehearsal in the theatre of
Dionysus east of the Temple of Poseidon of which like all the stages
in the city Proclus was chief manager.
A pretty dancing girl who hung on the arm of the youngest extended her
hand with a graceful gesture toward the staircase and asked:
"Whom can they be expecting there? Probably some huge new animal for the
Museum which has been caught somewhere for the King for yonder stiff
wearer of a laurel crown who throws his head back as though he would
like to eat the Olympians and take the King for a luncheon into the
bargain is Straton the denier of the gods and the little man with the
bullethead is the grammarian Zoilus."
"Of course" replied her companion. "But there too is Apollodorus the
alabarch of the Jews and the heavy money-bag Archias--"
"Why look at them!" cried the younger mime. "It's far better worth while
to stretch your neck for those farther in front. They are genuine
friends of the Muses--the poets Theocritus and Zenodotus."
"The great Athene Apollo and all his nine Pierides have sent their
envoys" said the older actor pathetically "for there too are the
sculptors Euphranor and Chares and the godlike builder of the
lighthouse Sostratus in person."
"A handsome man" cried the girl flute-player "but vain I tell you
"Self-conscious you ought to say" corrected her companion.
"Certainly" added the older actor patting his smooth cheeks and chin
with a rose he held in his hand. Who can defend himself against the
highest merit self-knowledge? But the person who is to have this
reception by the staff of Dionysus! if modesty flies away from him like
the bird from a girl it ought Just look there! The tall broad-
shouldered fellow yonder is Chrysippus the right hand of Arsinoe as our
grammateus Proclus is her left. So probably some prince is expected."
"The gentlemen of the Museum and the great artists yonder would not stir
a foot far less lose so precious a morning hour for any mere wearer of
a crown or sceptre" protested the other actor; "it must be--"
"That the King or the Queen command it" interrupted the older player.
"Only Arsinoe is represented here. Or do you see any envoy of Ptolemy?
Perhaps they will yet arrive. If there were ambassadors of the great
"Or" added the dancer "envoys from King Antiochus. But--goose that I
am!--then they would not be received here but in the royal harbour at
the Lochias. See if I don't prove to be right! Divine honours are to be
paid to some newly attracted hero of the intellect. But--just follow my
finger! There--yonder--it comes floating along at the left of the island
of Antirrhodus. That may be his galley! Magnificent! Wonderfully
beautiful! Brilliant! Like a swan! No no like a swimming peacock!
And the silver embroidery on the blue sails! It glitters and sparkles
like stars in the azure sky."
Meanwhile the elder actor shading his eyes with his hand had been
gazing at the harbour where amid the innumerable vessels the expected
one whose sails were just being reefed was steered by a skilful hand.
Now he interrupted the blond beauty with the exclamation: "It is
Archias's Proserpina! I know it well." Then in a declamatory tone he
continued: "I too was permitted on the deck of the glittering vessel
lightly rocked by the crimson waves to reach my welcome goal; as the
guest of peerless Archias I mean. The most magnificent festival in his
villa! There was a little performance there in which Mentor and I
allowed ourselves to be persuaded to take part. But just see how the
beautiful ship uses the narrow passage between the two triremes as if it
had the bloodleech's power of contraction! But to return to the festival
of Archias: the oyster ragout served there the pheasant pasties--"
Here he interrupted himself exclaiming in surprise: "By the club of
Hercules the Proserpina is to be received with a full chorus! And there
is the owner himself descending the stairs! Whom is she bringing?"
"Come! come!" cried the dancing girl to her companion dragging him after
her "I shall die of curiosity."
The singing and shouting of many voices greeted the actors as they
approached the platform of the Temple of Poseidon.
When from this spot the dancer fixed her eyes upon the landing place she
suddenly dropped her companion's arm exclaiming: "It is the handsome
blind sculptor Hermon the heir of the wealthy Myrtilus. Do you learn
this now for the first time you jealous Thersites? Hail hail divine
Hermon! Hail noble victim of the ungrateful Olympians! Hail to thee
Hermon and thy immortal works! Hail hail hail!"
Meanwhile she waved her handkerchief with frenzied eagerness as if she
could thus force the blind man to see her and a group of actors whom
Proclus the grammateus of the Dionysian arts had sent here to receive
Hermon worthily followed her example.
But her cries were drowned by the singing of the chorus and by thousands
of shouting voices while Hermon was embraced by Archias on board the
galley and then by his guidance stepped on shore and ascended the
staircase of the Temple of Poseidon.
Before the ship entered the harbour the artist had had a large goblet of
unmixed wine given to him that he might conquer the emotion that had
Though his blind eyes did not show him even the faintest outline of a
figure he felt as if he was flooded with brilliant sunshine.
While the Proserpina was bearing him past the lighthouse Gras told him
that they had now reached the great harbour and at the same time he
heard the shouts whistles signals and varying sounds of the landing
place with its crowded shipping and of the capital.
His blood surged in his veins and before his mind rose the vision of the
corn-flower blue sky mirrored in the calm surface of the bluest of seas.
The pharos built by Sostratus towered in dazzling whiteness above the
tide and before him rose the noble temple buildings palaces and
porticoes of the city of Alexandria with which he was familiar and
before and between them statue after statue of marble and bronze the
whole flooded with radiant golden light.
True darkness sometimes swallowed this wonderful picture but an effort
of the will was sufficient to show it to him again.
"The Temple of Poseidon!" cried Gras. "The Proserpina is to land at the
foot of the steps." And now Hermon listened to the sounds from the
shore whose hum and buzz transported him into the midst of the long-
missed city of commerce knowledge and arts.
Then the captain's shouts of command fell imperiously upon his ears the
strokes of the oars ceased their blades sank with a loud splash into the
water and at the same instant from the temple steps Hermon was greeted
by the solemn notes of the chorus from whose rhythm his own name rang
forth again and again like so many shouts of victory.
He thought his heart would fairly burst through his arched chest and the
passionate violence of its throbbing did not lessen when Gras exclaimed:
"Half Alexandria has assembled to greet you. Ah if you could only see
it! How the kerchiefs are waving! Laurel after laurel in every hand!
All the distinguished people in the capital have gathered on the sacred
soil of the Temple of Poseidon. There is Archias too; there are the
artists and the famous gentlemen of the Museum the members of the
Ephebi and the priests of the great gods."
Hermon listened with his hand pressed on his breast and while doing so
the power of his imagination showed the vast harmoniously noble
structure of the many-pillared Temple of Poseidon surrounded by as many
thousands as there were in reality hundreds. From all parts of the
sanctuary even from the tops of the roofs he beheld laurel branches and
kerchiefs waving and tossing and wreaths flung on the ground before him.
If this picture was correct the whole city was greeting him headed by
the men whom he honoured as great and meritorious and in front of them
all Daphne with drooping head full of feminine grace and heart-winning
While the chorus continued their song and the welcoming shouts grew
louder the brilliant picture faded away but in return he felt friendly
arms clasp him. First Archias then Proclus and after him a succession
of fellow-artists-the greatest of all--drew him into a warm embrace.
Finally he felt himself led away placed his feet as his Uncle Archias
whispered directions and as they gropingly obeyed them ascended the
temple steps and stood in utter darkness upon the platform listening to
the speeches which so many had prepared.
All the distinguished men in the city expressed their sympathy their
pity their admiration their hopes or sent assurances of them to him.
The Rhodian Chrysippus despatched by the Queen delivered the wreath
which the monarch bestowed and informed Hermon with her greetings that
Arsinoe deemed his Demeter worthy of the laurel.
The most famous masters of his art the great scholars from the Museum
the whole priesthood of Demeter which included Daphne the servants of
Apollo his dear Ephebi the comrades of his physical exercises--all whom
he honoured admired loved-loaded him with praises and good wishes as
well as the assurance of their pride in numbering him among them.
No form no colour from the visible world penetrated the darkness
surrounding him not even the image of the woman he loved. Only his ears
enabled him to receive the praises honours congratulations lavished
here and though he sometimes thought he had received enough he again
listened willingly and intently when a new speaker addressed him in warm
words of eulogy. What share compassion for his unprecedentedly sorrowful
fate had in this extravagantly laudatory and cordial greeting he did not
ask; he only felt with a throbbing heart that he now stood upon a summit
which he had scarcely ventured to hope ever to attain. His dreams of
outward success which had not been realized because he deemed it treason
to his art to deviate from the course which he believed right and best
adapted to it he now without having yielded to the demands of the old
school heard praised as his well-earned possessions.
He felt as if he breathed the lighter purer air of the realms of the
blessed and the laurel crown which the Queen's envoy pressed upon his
brow the wreaths which his fellow-artists presented to him by hands no
less distinguished than those of the great sculptor Protogenes and
Nicias the most admired artist after the death of Apelles seemed like
the wings on the hat and shoes of Hermes messenger of the gods to raise
him out of himself and into the air.
Darkness surrounded him yet a bright dazzling light issued from his soul
and illuminated his whole being with the warm golden radiance of the sun.
Not even the faintest shadow dimmed it until Soteles his fellow-student
at Rhodes who sustained him with ardent earnestness in the struggle to
prefer truth to beauty greeted him.
He welcomed him and wished that he might recover his lost sight as warmly
as his predecessors. He praised the Demeter too but added that this
was not the place to say what he missed in her. Yet that she did lack it
awakened in him an emotion of pain for this Hermon's last work
apparently gave the followers of the ancients a right to number him in
His cautious expression of regret must refer to the head of his Demeter.
Yet surely it was not his fault that Daphne's features bore the impress
of that gentle winning kindness which he himself and Soteles imitating
him had often condemned as weak and characterless.
The correctness of his belief was instantly proved to him by the address
of gray-haired highly praised Euphranor who spoke of the Demeter's
countenance with warm admiration. And how ardently the poets Theocritus
and Zenodotus extolled his work to the skies!
Amid so much laudation one faint word of dissatisfaction vanished like a
drop of blood that falls into a clear stream.
The welcome concluded with a final chant by the chorus and continued to
echo in Hermon's ears as he entered his uncle's chariot and drove away
with him crowned with laurel and intoxicated as if by fiery wine.
Oh if he could only have seen his fellow-citizens who so eagerly
expressed their good will their sympathy their admiration! But the
black and coloured mist before his eyes revealed no human figure not
even that of the woman he loved who he now learned for the first time
from her father had appeared among the priestesses of Demeter to greet
Doubtless he was gladdened by the sound of her voice the clasp of her
hand the faint fragrance of violets exhaling from her fair hair which
he had often remembered with so much pleasure when alone in Tennis; but
the time to devote himself to her fully and completely had not yet come
for what manifold and powerful impressions how much that was elevating
delightful and entertaining awaited him immediately!
The Queen's envoy had expressed his mistress's desire to receive the
creator of the Demeter the Ephebi and his fellow-artists had invited him
to a festival which they desired to give in his honour and on the way
Archias informed him that many of his wealthy friends in the Macedonian
Council expected that he the honoured hero of the day would adorn with
his presence a banquet in their houses.
What a rich brilliant life awaited him in spite of his blindness! When
he entered his uncle's magnificent city home and not only all the
servants and clients of the family but also a select party of ladies and
gentlemen greeted him with flowers and hundreds of other tokens of
affection and appreciation he gave himself up without reserve to this
novel excess of fame and admiration.
Notwithstanding his blindness he felt after the burns on his face had
healed thoroughly well as strong as a giant--nay more vigorous and
capable of enjoyment than ever. What prevented him from revelling to the
full in the superabundant gifts which Fate recently so cruel now
suddenly cast into his lap with lavish kindness?
Yet many flattering and pleasant things as he had experienced that day
he was far from feeling satiety. On entering the hall of the men in his
uncle's dwelling the names of famous men and proud beauties had been
repeated to him. Formerly they had taken little notice of him yet now
even the most renowned received him like an Olympian victor.
What did all these vain women really care for him? Yet their favour was
part of the triumph whose celebration he must permit to-day. His heart
held but one being for whom it yearned and with whom thus far he had
been able only to exchange a few tender greetings.
The time for a long conversation had not yet arrived but he asked Thyone
to lead him to her and while she listened anxiously described with
feverish animation the incidents of the last few days. But he soon
lowered his voice to assure her that he had not ceased to think of her
even for a single hour and the feeling of happiness which in spite of
his misfortune had filled and lent wings to his soul was not least due
to the knowledge of being near her again.
And her presence really benefited him almost as much as he had
anticipated during the hours of solitary yearning in Tennis; he felt it
a great favour of Fate to be permitted to strive to possess her felt
even during the delirium of this reception that he loved her. What a
tremendous longing to clasp her at once in his arms as his betrothed
bride overwhelmed him; but her father's opposition to the union of his
only child with a blind man must first be conquered and the great
agitation in his soul as well as the tumult around him seemed like a
mockery of the quiet happiness which hovered before him when he thought
of his marriage with Daphne. Not until everything was calmer would the
time come to woo her. Until then both must be satisfied with knowing
from each other's lips their mutual love and he thought he perceived in
the tone of her voice the deep emotion of her heart.
Perhaps this had prevented Daphne's expressing her congratulations upon
the success of his Demeter as eagerly and fully as he had expected.
Painfully disturbed by her reserve he had just attempted to induce her
to give a less superficial opinion of his work when the curtains of the
dining room parted-the music of flutes singing and pleasant odours
greeted him and the guests. Archias summoned them to breakfast and a
band of beautiful boys with flowers and garlands of ivy obeyed the
command to crown them.
Then Thyone approached the newly united pair and after exchanging a few
words with Daphne whispered in an agitated voice to the blind sculptor
over whose breast a brown-locked young slave was just twining a garland
of roses: "Poverty no longer stands between you and the object of your
love; is it Nemesis who even now still seals your lips?"
Hermon stretched out his hand to draw her nearer to him and murmur softly
that her counsel had aided him to break the power of the terrible
goddess but he grasped the empty air. At the same time the deep voice
of his love's father whose opposition threatened to cloud his new
happiness singing flute-playing and the laughter of fair women greeted
him and only half master of his own will he assented by a slight bend
of the head to the matron's question. A light shiver ran through his
frame with the speed of lightning and the Epicurean's maxim that fear
and cold are companions darted through his brain. But what should he
fear? He had endured severe trials it is true for the sake of
remaining faithful to truth in art and life; but who probably ever
reached the age of manhood without once deviating from it? Besides he
was surely aware that had he been obliged to answer Thyone in words he
would not have been guilty of the falsehood. His reply had consisted of
a slight motion of the head and it negatived nothing; it was merely
intended to defer for a short time the thing he most desired.
Yet the rash answer weighed heavily on his mind; but it could no longer
be recalled that day and was believed for Thyone whispered "We shall
succeed in reconciling the terrible being."
Again the light tremour ran through him but it lasted only an instant;
for Chrysilla the representative of the dead mistress of the house
whose duty it was to assign the guests their places called to Hermon
"The beautiful Glycera does you the honour of choosing you for a
neighbour" and before the sentence was finished Archias himself
seized his arm and led him to the cushions at the side of the much-
The guests began the banquet in a very joyous mood.
Greek gaiety and the quick intellect and keen wit of the Alexandrians
combined with the choicest viands of the luxurious capital where the
wines and dainties of all the countries of the Mediterranean found
sellers and buyers and the cook's vocation was developed into a fine
art to spice this banquet with a hundred charms for the mind and senses.
To-day the principal place in this distinguished circle of famous men
great and wealthy nobles beautiful and aristocratic women was awarded
to the blind sculptor. He was pledged by every one who had admired his
Demeter who compassionated his sad fate or who desired to be agreeable
to him or his host.
Every kind remark about his person his blindness and his masterpiece
was repeated to him and after the wine and the effort to attract
Daphne's attention and shine in the presence of his beautiful neighbour
had heated and winged his thoughts he found an apt reply to each
When the dessert was finally eaten and after sunset in the brilliant
light of the lamps and candles greater attention was paid to the mixing
vessels all remained silent to listen to his fervid speech.
Glycera had asked him at the beginning of the banquet to tell her about
the attack in Tennis. Now he yielded to her wish that he should repeat
the captivating tale to the others and the spirits of the wine helped
him to perform the task with such animation that his hearers listened to
his description in breathless suspense and many eyes rested on the
handsome face of the great blind artist as if spellbound.
When he paused loud applause rewarded him and as it reached him from
every part of the spacious room his deep resonant voice put him in
communication even with the more distant guests and he might have been
taken for the symposiarch or director of the banquet.
This conspicuous position of the feted artist did not please every one