That’s Nothing Compared to Parmenon’s Pig!

Erasmus, Adagia 1.1.10

Nothing to the Pig of Parmenon

Οὐδὲν πρὸς τὴν Παρμένοντος ὗν, that is, Nothing to the Pig of Parmenon. This was said of emulation which falls far short of the original which it imitates. Plutarch, in his Symposiacs, in the second problem of the fifth decade, gives roughly this explanation concerning the origin of this adage: There once was a certain Parmenon of that type of people who even in our times imitate and represent the various sounds of animals and humans so skillfully that they appear to listeners (not to those who see them) to be real and not imitation sounds. There are also those whom this art delights beyond reasonable measure. Therefore, on account of this art, Parmenon is reputed to have been most pleasing to and celebrated by the common people. Some other people tried to imitate him, straightaway everyone was saying, Εὖ μέν, ἀλλ᾿ οὐδὲν πρὸς τὴν Παρμένοντος ὗν, that is, Very good, but that is nothing compared to Parmenon’s pig, when someone came forth carrying a real pig beneath his arms. Since the people thought that its sound was an imitation, they shouted back (as they are used to), Τί οὖν αὕτη πρὸς τὴν Παρμένοντος, that is, What is that to Parmenon’s pig? When the true pig was brought forth, it immediately discredited their judgment, which was derived from their imagination rather than the true state of affairs. Plutarch also mentions this in his commentary On Listening to the Poets. We do not use this saying unseasonably whenever someone, deceived in his opinion about some matter, judges it incorrectly, as when someone admires an unpolished epigram written in the modern style because he is persuaded that it is actually ancient; alternatively, as when one reads an ancient and polished work and condemns it as modern. This flight of the imagination has such power that it even imposes itself upon the judgments of the most learned.

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 Nihil ad Parmenonis suem. x

Οὐδὲν πρὸς τὴν Παρμένοντος ὗν, id est Nihil ad Parmenonis suem. De aemulatione dictum, quae longo intervallo abesset ab eo quod imitaretur. Plutarchus in Symposiacis, quintae decadis secundo problemate, quo pacto natum sit adagium narrat ad hanc ferme sententiam : Parmenon quispiam fuit ex hominum eorum genere, qui nostris etiam temporibus varias animantium et hominum voces ita scite imitantur ac repraesentant, ut audientibus tantum, non etiam videntibus verae, non imitatae voces videantur. Neque desunt quos hoc artificium majorem in modum delectet. Parmenon igitur hac arte vulgo ut jucundissimus ita etiam celeberrimus fuisse perhibetur; quem cum reliqui conarentur aemulari ac protinus ab omnibus diceretur illud : Εὖ μέν, ἀλλ᾿ οὐδὲν πρὸς τὴν Παρμένοντος ὗν, hoc est Recte quidem, verum nihil ad Parmenonis suem, quidam prodiit veram suculam sub alis occultatam gestans. Hujus vocem cum populus imitaticiam esse crederet statimque, sicut solent, reclamarent : Τί οὖν αὕτη πρὸς τὴν Παρμένοντος; id est Quid haec ad Parmenonis suem ? vera sue deprompta ac propalam ostensa refellit illorum iudicium, utpote non ex vero sed ex imaginatione profectum. Meminit idem Parmenonis ac suis adumbratae in commentariis De audiendis poetis. Nec intempestiviter utemur hoc adagio, quoties aliquis opinione deceptus de re perperam judicat. Veluti si quis epigramma parum eruditum ac neotericum supra modum admiraretur persuasus antiquum esse. Rursum, si quod antiquum esset et eruditum, ceu nuperum damnaret. Tantum enim valet haec imaginatio, ut eruditissimis etiam viris in judicando imponat.

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