Sophocles, too, had a great fancy for hating boy-favourites, equal to the addiction of Euripides for women. And accordingly, Ion the poet, in his book on the Arrival of Illustrious Men in the Island of Chios, writes thus:—"I met Sophocles the poet in Chios, when he was sailing to Lesbos as the general: he was a man very pleasant over his wine, and very witty. And when Hermesilaus, who was connected with him by ancient ties of hospitality, and who was also the proxenus1 of the Athenians, entertained him, the boy who was mixing the wine was standing by the fire, being a boy of a very beautiful complexion, but made red by the fire: so Sophocles called him and said, 'Do you wish me to drink with pleasure? and when he said that he did, he said, 'Well, then, bring me the cup, and take it away again in a leisurely manner.' And as the boy blushed all the more at this, Sophocles said to the guest who was sitting next to him, 'How well did Phrynichus speak when he said—
The light of love doth shine in purple cheeks.And a man from Eretria, or from Erythræ, who was a school— [p. 964] master, answered him,—' You are a great man in poetry, O Sophocles; but still Phrynichus did not say well when he called purple cheeks a mark of beauty. For if a painter were to cover the cheeks of this boy with purple paint he would not be beautiful at all. And so it is not well to compare what is beautiful with what is not so.' And on this Sophocles, laughing at the Eretrian, said,—' Then, my friend, I suppose you are not pleased with the line in Simonides which is generally considered among the Greeks to be a beautiful one—
And you do not either like the poet who spoke of the golden-haired' Apollo; for if a painter were to represent the hair of the god as actually golden, and not black, the picture would be all the worse. Nor do you approve of the poet who spoke of rosy-fingered.2 For if any one were to dip his fingers in rosy-coloured paint he would make his hands like those of a purple-dyer, and not of a pretty woman.' And when they all laughed at this, the Eretrian was checked by the reproof; and Sophocles again turned to pursue the conversation with the boy; for he asked him, as he was brushing away the straws from the cup with his little finger, whether he saw any straws: and when he said that he did, he said, 'Blow them away, then, that you may not dirty your fingers.' And when he brought his face near the cup he held the cup nearer to his own mouth, so as to bring his own head nearer to the head of the boy. And when he was very near he took him by the hand and kissed him. And when all clapped their hands, laughing and shouting out, to see how well he had taken the boy in, he said, ' I, my friends, am meditating on the art of generalship, since Pericles has said that I know how to compose poetry, but not how to be a general; now has not this stratagem of mine succeeded perfectly?' And he both said and did many things of this kind in a witty manner, drinking and giving himself up to mirth: but as to political affairs he was not able nor energetic in them, but behaved as any other virtuous Athenian might have done. [p. 965]
The maid pour'd forth a gentle voice
From out her purple mouth.Pindar, Ol. vi. 71.