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Correct portraits of individuals were formerly transmitted to future ages by painting; but this has now completely fallen into desuetude. Brazen shields are now set up, and silver faces, with only some obscure traces of the countenance:1 the very heads, too, of statues are changed,2 a thing that has given rise before now to many a current sarcastic line; so true it is that people prefer showing off the valuable material, to having a faithful likeness. And yet, at the same time, we tapestry the walls of our galleries with old pictures, and we prize the portraits of strangers; while as to those made in honour of ourselves, we esteem them only for the value of the material, for some heir to break up and melt, and so forestall the noose and slip-knot of the thief.3 Thus it is that we possess the portraits of no living individuals, and leave behind us the pictures of our wealth, not of our persons.

And yet the very same persons adorn the palæstra and the anointing-room4 with portraits of athletes, and both hang up in their chamber and carry about them a likeness of Epicurus.5 On the twentieth day of each moon they celebrate his birthday6 by a sacrifice, and keep his festival. known as the "Icas,"7 every month: and these too, people who wish to live without being known!8 So it is, most assuredly, our indolence has lost sight of the arts, and since our minds are destitute of any characteristic features, those of our bodies are neglected also.

But on the contrary, in the days of our ancestors, it was these that were to be seen in their halls, and not statues made by foreign artists, or works in bronze or marble: portraits modelled in wax9 were arranged, each in its separate niche, to be always in readiness to accompany the funeral processions of the family;10 occasions on which every member of the family that had ever existed was always present. The pedigree, too, of the individual was traced in lines upon each of these coloured portraits. Their muniment-rooms,11 too, were filled with archives and memoirs, stating what each had done when holding the magistracy. On the outside, again, of their houses, and around the thresholds of their doors, were placed other statues of those mighty spirits, in the spoils of the enemy there affixed, memorials which a purchaser even was not allowed to displace; so that the very house continued to triumph even after it had changed its master. A powerful stimulus to emulation this, when the walls each day reproached an unwarlike owner for having thus intruded upon the triumphs of another! There is still extant an address by the orator Messala, full of indignation, in which he forbids that there should be inserted among the images of his family any of those of the stranger race of the Lævini.12 It was the same feeling, too, that extorted from old Messala those compilations of his "On the Families of Rome;" when, upon passing through the hall of Scipio Pomponianus,13 he observed that, in consequence of a testamentary adoption, the Salvittos14 —for that had been their surname—to the disgrace of the Africani, had surreptitiously contrived to assume the name of the Scipios. But the Messalas must pardon me if I remark, that to lay a claim, though an untruthful one, to the statues of illustrious men, shows some love for their virtues, and is much more honourable than to have such a character as to merit that no one should wish to claim them.

There is a new invention too, which we must not omit to notice. Not only do we consecrate in our libraries, in gold or silver, or at all events, in bronze, those whose immortal spirits hold converse with us in those places, but we even go so far as to reproduce the ideal of features, all remembrance of which has ceased to exist; and our regrets give existence to likenesses that have not been transmitted to us, as in the case of Homer, for example.15 And indeed, it is my opinion, that nothing can be a greater proof of having achieved success in life, than a lasting desire on the part of one's fellow-men, to know what one's features were. This practice of grouping portraits was first introduced at Rome by Asinius Pollio, who was also the first to establish a public library, and so make the works of genius the property of the public. Whether the kings of Alexandria and of Pergamus, who had so energetically rivalled each other in forming libraries, had previously introduced this practice, I cannot so easily say.

That a strong passion for portraits formerly existed, is attested both by Atticus, the friend of Cicero, who wrote a work on this subject,16 and by M. Varro, who conceived the very liberal idea of inserting, by some means17 or other, in his numerous volumes, the portraits of seven hundred individuals; as he could not bear the idea that all traces of their features should be lost, or that the lapse of centuries should get the better of mankind. Thus was he the inventor of a benefit to his fellow-men, that might have been envied by the gods themselves; for not only did he confer upon them immortality, but he transmitted them, too, to all parts of the earth; so that everywhere it might be possible for them to be present, and for each to occupy his niche. This service, too, Varro conferred upon persons who were no members of his own family.

1 "Surdo figurarum discrimine."

2 We are informed by Suetonius, that this practice existed in the time of Tiberius.—B. See also Note 18, p. 196.

3 Which he is ready to employ in carrying away his plunder.

4 "Ceromata;" this is properly a Greek term, signifying an ointment used by athletes, composed of oil and wax.—B.

5 This practice is referred to by Cicero, De Finib. B. v.—B.

6 In reality, his birth-day was not on the twentieth day of any month; but, for some reason which is not known, he fixed upon this day.—B. He was born on the seventh day of the month Gamelion.

7 From the Greek εὶκὰς, the "twentieth" day of the month.

8 In obedience to the maxim of Epicurus, λάθε βιῶσας—"Live in obscurity."

9 See B. xxi. c. 49, and Note 4, p. 346.

10 This appears to have been the usual practice at the funerals of distinguished personages among the Romans: it is referred to by Tacitus, Ann. B. ii. c. 73, in his account of the funeral of Germanicus.—B.

11 "Tabulina." Rooms situate near the atrium.

12 A cognomen of the Gens Valeria at Rome, from which the family of the Messalæ had also originally sprung.

13 So called from his father-in-law Pomponius, a man celebrated for his wealth, and by whom he was adopted. It would appear that Scipio Pomponianus adopted Scipio Salvitto, so called from his remarkable resemblance to an actor of mimes. See B. vii. c. 10.

14 They were probably, like the Scipios, a branch of the Gens Cornelia. Suetonius speaks in very derogatory terms of a member of this family, who accompanied Julius Cæsar in his Spanish campaign against the Pompeian party.

15 In the Greek Anthology, B. v., we have the imaginary portrait of Homer described at considerable length.—B.

16 Hardouin supposes that this work was written by Cicero, and that he named it after his friend Atticus; but, as Delafosse remarks, it is clear from the context that it was the work of Atticus.—B.

17 M. Deville is of opinion that these portraits were made in relief upon plates of metal, perhaps bronze, and coloured with minium, a red tint much esteemed by the Romans.

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