The Strange Stage Rivalry of Pylades and Hylas

Macrobius, Saturnalia 2.7:

“Because I have begun talking about the stage, I should not forget to mention the actor Pylades, who was renowned for his craft in the age of Augustus, and carried his disciple Hylas forth all the way to equal contention with himself. The public was of two opinions, and when Hylas was performing a dance for a certain song which ended with ‘great Agamemnon,’ Hylas affected to measure out a lofty and grand step. Pylades did not bear this, and said, ‘You’re making Agamemnon big, not great!’ Then the audience made Pylades attempt the same dance; and when he came to the spot where he had faulted Hylas, he pretended to be lost in thought, thinking that nothing suited a great leader more than to think of everyone. Hylas was dancing Oedipus, and Pylades chastised his carelessness by saying, ‘You’re peeking!’ When he played the part of the mad Hercules and it seemed to some that he didn’t preserve the type of step necessary to an actor, he broke character and said, ‘You imbeciles, I’m pretending to be mad!’ In this very same play, he shot arrows into the audience. When he performed the same act at a dinner under Augustus’ order, he aimed his bow and shot some arrows. Augustus did not think it unseemly to find himself in the same place respecting Pylades as the Roman people had been. He, because he was said to have altered the old and uncultured mode of dancing, which enjoyed favor among the ancients, and because he had introduced a charming novelty to the stage, was asked by Augustus what he had brought to the art of dancing, he responded,

‘The sound of flutes and pipes, and the clamor of men.’


Sed quia semel ingressus sum scenam loquendo, non Pylades histrio nobis omittendus est, qui clarus in opere suo fuit temporibus Augusti et Hylam discipulum usque ad aequalitatis contentionem eruditione provexit. 13 Populus deinde inter utriusque suffragia divisus est, et cum canticum quoddam saltaret Hylas cuius clausula erat: Τὸν μέγαν Ἀγαμέμνονα, sublimem ingentemque Hylas velut metiebatur. Non tulit Pylades, et exclamavit e cavea: Σὺ μακρὸν οὐ μέγαν ποιεῖς. 14 Tunc eum populus coegit idem saltare canticum: cumque ad locum venisset quem reprehenderat, expressit cogitantem, nihil magis ratus magno duci convenire quam pro omnibus cogitare. 15 Saltabat Hylas Oedipodem, et Pylades hac voce securitatem saltantis castigavit: Σὺ βλέπεις. 16 Cum in Herculem furentem prodisset et nonnullis incessum histrioni convenientem non servare videretur, deposita persona ridentes increpuit: Μωροὶ, μαινόμενον ὀρχοῦμαι. 17 Hac fabula et sagittas iecit in populum. Eandem personam cum iussu Augusti in triclinio ageret, et intendit arcum et spicula inmisit. Nec indignatus est Caesar eodem se loco Pyladi quo populum Romanum fuisse. 18 Hic, quia ferebatur mutasse rudis illius saltationis ritum, quae apud maiores viguit, et venustam induxisse novitatem, interrogatus ab Augusto, quae saltationi contulisset, respondit:
Αὐλῶν συρίγγων τ’ ἑνοπὴν, ὁμαδόν τ’ ἀνθρώπων.

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