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Smilis

*Smi=lis), the son of Eucleides, of Aegina, a sculptor of the legendary period, whose name appears to be derived from σμίλη, a knife, for carving wood, and afterwards a sculptor's chisel. In the accounts respecting this artist, there is a great confusion between the mythical and historical elements; but the only safe conclusion to be drawn from those accounts is that the name is purely mythical, and that Smilis is the legendary head of the Aeginetan school of sculpture, just as Daedalus is the legendary head of the Attic and Cretan schools. Pausanias (7.4.4) makes Smilis a contemporary of Daedalus, but inferior to him in fame, and states (§ 5. s. 7) that the Eleians and the Samians were the only people to whom he travelled, and that he made for the latter the statue of Hera in her great temple in the island. From this tradition, coupled with another preserved by Clemens Alexandrinus (Protropt. 4, p. 40), which referred the statue of Hera to the time of Procles, an attempt has been made to fix the date of Smilis to the period of the Ionian migration, which took place, according to the chronologers, about 100 years after the Trojan War, or about B. C. 1044, er. Eratosth., or 988, er. Callim. (Clinton, F. H. vol. i. pp. 119, 140), and in which migration it is assumed that Smilis accompanied the colonists from Epidaurus, under Procles, who settled at Samos (Müller, Aegin. p. 98; Thiersch, Epochen, pp. 45, 46, 194). Few examples could be better, of the absurdities which result from the attempt to make up chronological history by piecing together different legends. In the first place the statement of Pausanias, that Smilis was contemporary with Daedalus, has to be modified to suit a conclusion for which Pausanias himself is made the chief authority; and then, when this has been done, another piece of chronological evidence has to be dealt with, totally inconsistent with either of the other accounts; for Pliny tells us that the architects of the labyrinth of Lemnos were Smilis, Rhoecus, and Theodorus (Plin. Nat. 36.13. s. 19 ; adopting the certainly correct emendation of Heyne, Smilis, Rhoecus, for Zmilus, Rholus). Now, although there is much difficulty about the precise date of Rhoecus and Theodorus, yet it is tolerably clear that they were historical personages, and that they lived after the commencement of the Olympiads. How Pliny (or the Greek writer from whom he derived the statement) came to associate Smilis with these artists, whether it was because he found Rhoecus and Theodorus mentioned as the architects of the Heraeum, and Smilis as the maker of the statue in it, or whether their names were already thus associated in some native legend respecting the labyrinth at Lemnos,--it is now hopeless to determine; but, at all events, the historical existence of Smilis cannot be admitted on the authority of this passage; nor can we accept, without some positive evidence, the conjecture of Müller, followed by Thiersch, that the Smilis meant by Pliny was a real person belonging to a family which, like the Daedalids at Athens, pretended to derive its descent from the mythical artist Smilis; much less can we even admit into discussion the miserably uncritical expedient proposed by Sillig. (Cat. Art. s. v.), namely, to assume that the Lemnian labyrinth was commenced by Smilis, and finished about 200 years later by Rhoecus and Theodorus !

The true state of the case seems to be something of the following kind. Long before the historical period and even before the state of society contemplated in some of the later legends, the necessities of an idolatrous worship had given rise to the art of carving rude statues of divinities out of wood. This art, according to a general analogy, soon became established at particular spots, among which Athens and Aegina were conspicuous; at such places schools of art grew up, and the art itself made rapid progress; so that the skill of the artists of these schools established their schools more and more firmly at those spots, which soon became centres from which the art was diffused. Now it was in most perfect keeping with the common Greek mode of embodying legends, that a personal representative should be imagined for each school, whose native place is its native home, and whose travels represent the diffusion of the art from that centre. Thus, like Daedalus at Athens, Smilis represents at Aegina the early establishment of a school of sculpture (wood-carving), and his visits to Samos and the Eleians 1 represent the early employment of the Aeginetan sculptors at two of the chief centres of Grecian worship. But more than this : as the Greeks had the most perfect faith in the reality of their legendary personages, it became the custom to ascribe actually existing works to these mythical artists; and among the works ascribed to them were of course those extremely ancient wooden images (ξόανα), which the care of a succession of priests had preserved from a period beyond any historical record, which were regarded with more reverence, as the original symbol of the god, than even the gold and ivory statues of a Pheidias, and the real origin of which was so entirely forgotten that some images of the same character, like that of Artemis at Ephesus, were even believed to have fallen straight from heaven [comp. DAEDALUS]. To this class of works belonged the statue of Hera in her temple at Samos. Pausanias, indeed, (l.c.) appears to fall into the error of assuming the contemporaneousness of the temple and the statue; but, in the very same words, he gives us the means of correcting his mistake, for he infers the high antiquity of the temple from the high antiquity of the image; and he goes on to explain what precise degree of antiquity he means, by stating that Smilis was contemporary with Daedalus. A still more decided testimony to the extreme antiquity of the image is furnished by the tradition, referred to by Pausanias just before, that the Argives brought it with them, when they first established at Samos the worship of their own great goddess Hera. The statue is also expressly called a wooden one by Clemens Alexandrinus (Protrept. p. 13), and by Callimachus (Fr. 105, Bentley), as quoted by Eusebius (Praep. Evang. 3.8); and from the words used in these passages to describe the image (ἕδος and ξύλινον ἕδος), it may be inferred that it was a wooden statue in a sitting posture, one of the most ancient types of the statues of divinities. Of the same class were, no doubt, the statues of the Hours sitting upon thrones in the Heraeum at Elis, which were also ascribed to Smilis (Paus. 5.17.1, where the common reading Ἔμιλος is undoubtedly wrong, and the alteration of it into Σμῖλις is supported, besides other arguments, by the statement of Pausanias in the other passage referred to, that Smilis visited the Eleians).

[P.S]

1 * When Pausanias says that these were the only places which the artist visited, he can mean nothing else than that they were the only places where works ascribed to him existed.

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1044 BC (1)
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