ΕΥΔΟΞΑ ΑΓΝΩΣΤΑ ΚΑΤΑΓΕΛΑΣΤΑ
Last year twitter friend asked me about the appearance of Helen recently:
This came at a time when many are talking about the ethnicity of Homeric heroes and rightly arguing that so many of our ideas about race, color, and identity have little to do with the ancient world and everything to do with our own. (See also the discussion on Pharos.) Within this debate is the important realization that ancient concepts of hue and range of color-representation may have been altogether different from our own. In addition to Tim Whitmarsh’s essay (cited above) Maria Michel Sassi’s essay does well to explore gaps between how we conceive of color and how the ancients may have.
As @spannycat notes, Greek poetry describes Helen as xanthê and kuanopis. An insensitive and simplistic reading of these facts might claim that she was “blonde” with “blue eyes” (and I am not at all implying that @spannycat is doig this). Not only is the situation far more interesting and complicated than this, but I am pretty sure that even if we accept these two words as applying to Helen they would not be equivalent to the appearance these two terms denote in modern English.
Let’s start with the barest fact. What Helen actually looks like is never stated in Homer. When the Trojans look at her, they say she has the “terrible appearance of goddesses” (αἰνῶς ἀθανάτῃσι θεῇς εἰς ὦπα ἔοικεν). This, of course, is not terribly specific.
Elsewhere, she is “argive Helen, for whom many Achaeans [struggled]” (᾿Αργείην ῾Ελένην, ἧς εἵνεκα πολλοὶ ᾿Αχαιῶν, Il. 2.161) she has “smooth” or “pale/white” arms (῏Ιρις δ’ αὖθ’ ῾Ελένῃ λευκωλένῳ ἄγγελος ἦλθεν, 3.121), but this likely has to do with a typical depiction of women in Archaic Greece (they are lighter in tone than men because they don’t work outside) or because of women’s clothing (arms may have been visible). Beyond that? In the Odyssey, She has “beautiful hair” (῾Ελένης πάρα καλλικόμοιο, 15.58) and a long robe (τανύπεπλος, 4.305).
If anyone is looking for a hint of the ideal of beauty from the legend who launched a thousand ships, they will be sorely disappointed. Why? I think the answer to this partly has to do with the nature of Homeric poetry and with good art in general. Homeric poetry developed over a long duration of time and appealed to many different peoples. To over-determine Helen’s beauty by describing it would necessarily adhere to some standards of beauty while alienating others.
In addition, why describe her beauty at all when the audience members themselves can craft an ideal in their mind. As a student of mine said while I mused over this, Helen “Cannot have descriptors because she is a floating signifier”. She is a blank symbol for desire upon which all audience members (ancient and modern, male and female) project their own (often ambiguous) notions of beauty. To stay with the ancient world, think of that seminal first stanza in Sappho fr. 16:
Some say a force of horsemen, some say infantry
and others say a fleet of ships is the loveliest
thing on the dark earth, but I say it is
[whatever] you love
Οἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον, οἰ δὲ πέσδων,
οἰ δὲ νάων φαῖσ’ ἐπὶ γᾶν μέλαιναν
ἔμμεναι κάλλιστον, ἐγὼ δὲ κῆν’ ὄτ-
τω τις ἔραται
As long as beauty is relative and in the eye of the beholder any time we disambiguate it by saying that it is one thing and not another we depart from an abstract timeless idea and create something more bounded and less open to audience engagement. I think that part of what makes Homeric poetry work so well is that it combines a maximum amount of specificity within a maximized amount of ambiguity.
Outside of Homer, Helen is described with a little more detail, but in each case the significance of the signifier is less than it appears. In Hesiod, she has nice hair again (῾Ελένης ἕνεκ’ ἠυκόμοιο,Works and Days 165; this is repeated a lot in the fragmentary Hesiodic Catalogue). In fr. 9 of the Cypria she is merely a “Wonder for mortals” (θαῦμα βροτοῖσι·). Much later she has “spiraling eyebrows/lashes” (῾Ελένης ἑλικοβλεφάροιο, Quintus Smyrnaeus, 13.470).
If we want to learn more about Helen, she has additional features outside of epic poetry in lyric. I would be bold enough to claim that the more personal and erotic character of the genre is a better explanation for this specificity than anything else.
In lyric (e.g. Mesomedes, κυανῶπι θεά, θύγατερ Δίκας,) Helen is “cyan-eyed”, but if we look at the semantic range of this nominal root—which describes dark stones and eyes of water divinities—I think we can argue fairly that this indicates a dark and shiny, even watery texture (like lapis lazuli). I suspect this is about the sheen of eyes rather than their hue.
Eustathius remarks that the epithet κυανώπιδα is common (κατὰ κοινὸν ἐπίθετον) and is often used for dark sea creatures, describing as well his hair (Ποσειδῶνα κυανοχαίτην, Ad Hom. Il 1.555.23). Indeed, nymphs in general are “dark-eyed” in lyric (καὶ Νύμφαι κυανώπιδες, Anacr. fr. 12.2) and water deities remain so in Homer (κῦμα μέγα ῥοχθεῖ κυανώπιδος ᾿Αμφιτρίτης, Il. 12.60). Outside of Homer marriageable women also receive this epithet, including Helen’s sister Klytemnestra (Hes. Fr. 23a κού[ρην Τυνδαρέοιο Κλυταιμήσ]τρην κυανῶπ[ιν· cf. fr. 23.27 and for Althaia, 25.14, Elektra (169).
From Robert Beekes. Etymological Dictionary of Greek. Leiden: Brill, 2010
So, in lyric, Helen has dark pools for eyes. But what about her hair? At Sappho fr. 23 Helen is described as “xanthai” ([ ] ξάνθαι δ’ ᾿Ελέναι σ’ ἐίσ[κ]ην; cf. Stesichorus Fr. S103: [ξ]α̣νθὰ δ’ ῾Ελένα̣ π̣ρ[ ; Ibycus, fr. 1a.5: ξα]νθᾶς ῾Ελένας περὶ εἴδει ). But it is important to note that in this context there is a first-person narrator speaking (“I liken you to fair Helen…”). Note as well that there is something formulaic in these lyric lines: the epithet seems to begin the phrase each time.
When it comes to Hair color, xanthus is used in Homer to describe heroes, but not Helen (Menelaos is Xanthus, for example). A byzantine etymological dictionary suggests that the core meaning of this root has something to do with fire (Ξανθὴν, πυῤῥοειδῆ) and argues that the hair “symbolizes the heat and irascibility of the hero” (αἰνίττεται, τὸ θερμὸν καὶ ὀργίλον τοῦ ἥρωος, Etym. Gud, s.v.). But outside the Iliad and Odyssey the adjective is applied to goddesses: both Demeter (H. Dem. 302) and Aphrodite (Soph. fr. 255) are called Xanthê. Modern etymology sees this as anywhere from yellow to brown. But this is altogether relative again. “Light hair” in a group of people who are blond is almost white; among black/brown haired people, light hair can merely be a different shade of brown.
Again, from Beekes 2010:
In the second book of Liu Cixin’s “Three Body Problem Trilogy” The Dark Forest, one of the main characters Luo Ji creates an ideal woman to love in his mind and goes so far as to converse with her, leave his actual girlfriend for her, and go on a trip with her. When he consults a psychologist about this, his doctor tells him his is lucky because everyone is in love with an idea–where the rest of the world will inevitably be disillusioned when they realize this, Luo Ji will never suffer this loss.
Trying to make Helen look like an actual person is not only impossible, but it is something which Homeric epic avoids for good reason.
Special thanks to .@spannycat for asking the question. Her own conclusions on the topic are pretty much the same.
Giovanni Boccaccio, Famous Women: Flora (Part II)
(For Part I, please see yesterday’s post, Flora F**ks for Financial Freedom.)
“This Flora, however, (to come to my point) when the end of life was approaching, had no son but a desire of perpetuating her name. Employing, as it seems to me, her feminine cunning, she declared the Roman people to be the heirs of her property for the future glory of her name. In this will, however, a part of her property was set aside so that all of the annual interest would be spent on an anniversary of her birthday with public games. Nor did her opinion deceive her. For, when she had gotten hold of the goodwill of the Roman people through the dispensation of her will, she easily obtained the institution of the annual games in her name. In these games, the people saw among other shameful things (as I think, it was a spectacle calculated to show her profession to posterity) nude prostitutes performing the business of the mimes to the highest delight of the spectators, and exercising themselves in various obscene gestures. From this disgraceful display it was brought about that, whether from the aforementioned interest or from the public treasury, the plebeians (always prone to enjoy sexuality) insisted upon games of this sort, although they were of the most holy character. These games were then called the Floralia after the woman who instituted them.
Yet indeed, after some time the senate, being conscious of the origin of the Floralia, grew embarrassed by the fact that the city which was now the mistress of all the world was being blotted by such an obscene stain, when everyone rushed to sing the praises of a prostitute. When the senate noticed that this stain could not easily be effaced, it imposed upon the initial baseness a detestable and ridiculous error.
The senate fabricated a story for the glorification of Flora, the famous maker of the will, and recited it to the then ignorant public. The story asserted that she had been a native nymph of miraculous beauty, named Clora, who was most ardently beloved and then married by Zephyrus (whom they called Favonius in Latin). This wind, whom she was numbering among the gods due to her own stupidity, gave her either as a gift or as a dowry the status of a deity. To this was added the duty that at the beginning of spring, she would adorn the trees and hills and meadows with flowers and stand forth among them all. Thereupon, her named was gradually changed from Clora to Flora. And since fruits would follow from the blossoms, as – her deity having been satisfied by the games – she would grant them fruits with a certain ample liberty and bring them to fruition, a sacrificial offering and altars and games were granted to Flora by the ancients.
Deceived by this fiction, the Romans numbered along with Juno and the other goddesses this Flora, who while alive had frequented the brothels, laid out before anyone for even a small payment; and they treated her as though Zephyrus carried her into the heavens with his wings. Thus, through her own intelligence and the gift of fortune from ill-gotten money, Flora was converted from a prostitute into a nymph and enriched by the marriage of Zephyrus and the power of divinity, she was celebrated by mortals as sitting in temples with divine honors to such an extent that not only was she changed from Clora to Flora, but she was made famous everywhere though she started off as a remarkable prostitute in her own time.”
Hec autem, ut eo tendam quo cupio, adveniente mortalis vite termino, cum nullus illi filius esset et nominis perpetuandi cupido, ut reor, femineo astu, in futuram sui nominis gloriam, romanum populum substantiarum suarum sibi dixit heredem; in hoc tamen parte divitiarum servata, ut, quod ex ea annuum susciperetur fenus, in anniversarium natalis sui, ludis publice factis, erogaretur omne. Nec eam fefellit opinio. Nam cum gratiam romane plebis ex hereditate suscepta captasset, annuos in memoriam sui nominis fieri ludos obtinuit facile: in quibus, spectante vulgo, ad eius puto questum posteris ostendendum, inter alia turpia, nude meretrices mimorum officium, summa cum inspicientium voluptate, gesticulationibus impudicis et variis exercebant. Qua illecebri ostentatione actum est ut, seu ex fenore suscepto, seu ex ere publico, annis singulis cum instantia ludi huiusmodi, tanquam sanctissimi, a plebe, in libidinem prona, peterentur; et florales ab institutrice etiam dicerentur.
Sane tractu temporis cum senatus, originis eorum conscius, erubesceret, urbem, iam rerum dominam, tam obscena maculari nota, ut in meretricis laudes concurreret omnis, adverteretque illam facile deleri non posse, ad ignominiam subtrahendam, turpitudini detestabilem atque ridiculum superiniunxit errorem.
Finxit quippe in splendorem Flore, inclite testatricis, fabulam, et ignaro iam populo recitavit: illam asserens iam dudum mire pulchritudinis indigenam fuisse nynpham, nomine Cloram, et a zephyro vento, quem latine favonium dicimus, ardentissime amatam et postremo in coniugem sumptam; eique, ab eodem quem, stultitia sua, inter deos nominabant, dotalitio quodam munere, seu propter nuptias, ut fit, deitatem fuisse concessam: hoc cum officio, ut vere primo arbores colles et prata floribus exornaret eisque preesset; et inde ex Clora, Flora etiam diceretur; et quoniam fructus ex floribus sequerentur, ut, deitate eius placata ludis, illos ampla quadam liberalitate concederet et in fructum deduceret, eidem dee sacrum aras ludosque a vetustate fuisse concessos.
Qua seducti fallacia, eam, que vivens fornices coluerat, a quibuscunque etiam pro minima stipe prostrata, quasi suis alis zephyrus illam in celum detulerit, cum Iunone regina deabusque aliis sedere arbitrati sunt. Et sic ingenio suo Flora et fortune munere ex male quesita pecunia, ex meretrice nynpha facta est zephyrique lucrata coniugium et deitatis numen, apud mortales, in templis residens, divinis honoribus celebrata, adeo ut, non solum ex Clora Flora, sed clara ubique locorum, ex insigni sui temporis scorto, facta sit.
Hesiod, Theogony 904-906
“Klôthô, Lakhesis, and Atropos, who grant to mortals
Their share of both evil and good.”
Κλωθώ τε Λάχεσίν τε καὶ ῎Ατροπον, αἵ τε διδοῦσι
θνητοῖς ἀνθρώποισιν ἔχειν ἀγαθόν τε κακόν τε.
Plato, Republic 617a
“There were another three who sat equally apart in a circle, each on her own seat, the Fates, those daughters of necessity, dressed in white clothes with fillets on their heads: Lachesis, Klotho, and Atropos, all joining the hymn with the chorus of Sirens. Lachesis sings what was; Klotho sings what is, and Atropos sings what will be.”
ἄλλας δὲ καθημένας πέριξ δι᾽ ἴσου τρεῖς, ἐν θρόνῳ ἑκάστην, θυγατέρας τῆς ἀνάγκης, Μοίρας, λευχειμονούσας, στέμματα ἐπὶ τῶν κεφαλῶν ἐχούσας, Λάχεσίν τε καὶ Κλωθὼ καὶ Ἄτροπον, ὑμνεῖν πρὸς τὴν τῶν Σειρήνων ἁρμονίαν, Λάχεσιν μὲν τὰ γεγονότα, Κλωθὼ δὲ τὰ ὄντα, Ἄτροπον δὲ τὰ μέλλοντα.
Aristotle assigns the Moirai to different stages
Aristotle, On the Universe, 401b16-23
“There are three Fates—one allotted to different times—and part of the wool of their spindle is already spun, some still needs to be, and some is currently being worked. One of the Moirai is for the past—Atropos—because all things which are behind us cannot be altered (atrepta); the future, then, is Lakhesis, because that which is allotted [lêksis] by nature awaits everything; and the present belongs to Klôthô who decides what is proper for each as she spins (klôthein). That’s how the myth ends and not improperly.”
τρεῖς μὲν γὰρ αἱ Μοῖραι, κατὰ τοὺς χρόνους μεμερισμέναι, νῆμα δὲ ἀτράκτου τὸ μὲν ἐξειργασμένον, τὸ δὲ μέλλον, τὸ δὲ περιστρεφόμενον· τέτακται δὲ κατὰ μὲν τὸ γεγονὸς μία τῶν Μοιρῶν, Ἄτροπος, ἐπεὶ τὰ παρελθόντα πάντα ἄτρεπτά ἐστι, κατὰ δὲ τὸ μέλλον Λάχεσις—[εἰς] πάντα γὰρ ἡ κατὰ φύσιν μένει λῆξις—κατὰ δὲ τὸ ἐνεστὸς Κλωθώ, συμπεραίνουσά τε καὶ κλώθουσα ἑκάστῳ τὰ οἰκεῖα. περαίνεται δὲ καὶ ὁ μῦθος οὐκ ἀτάκτως.
Inspired by this tweet
Tell me of Telemachus, Muse, and the tawdry tales
of his trio of tender-ankled temptresses
Hesiod, Fr. 221 (Eustathius in Hom. (π 117—20) p. 1796. 38)
“Well-belted Polycaste, the youngest daughter of Nestor Neleus’ son, gave birth to Persepolis after having sex with Telemachus Thanks to golden Aphrodite.”
Τηλεμάχωι δ’ ἄρ’ ἔτικτεν ἐύζωνος Πολυκάστη
Νέστορος ὁπλοτάτη κούρη Νηληϊάδαο
Περσέπολιν μιχθεῖσα διὰ χρυσῆν ᾿Αφροδίτην
This resonates with one moment in the Odyssey (3.464-5):
“Then pretty Polycaste, the youngest daughter of Nestor
the son of Neleus, bathed Telemachus”
τόφρα δὲ Τηλέμαχον λοῦσεν καλὴ Πολυκάστη
Νέστορος ὁπλοτάτη θυγάτηρ Νηληϊάδαο.
Dictys, BNJ 49 F10
“And Telemachus took the daughter of Alkinoos as bride, her name was Nausikaa.”
λαμβάνει δὲ Τηλέμαχος γαμετὴν θυγατέρα Ἀλκινόου Ναυσικάαν ὀνόματι.
Proclus (?), Chrestomathia 324-330
“And then Telegonos went sailing in search of his father; once he stopped in Ithaca he was trashing the island. Odysseus shouted out and was killed by his child because of ignorance.
Once Telegonos understood his mistake he returned the body of his father along with Penelope and Telemachus to his own mother. She made them immortal. Then he lived with Penelope and Telemachus lived with Kirke.
κἀν τούτῳ Τηλέγονος ἐπὶ ζήτησιν τοῦ πατρὸς πλέων ἀποβὰς εἰς τὴν ᾿Ιθάκην τέμνει τὴν νῆσον· ἐκβοηθήσας δ’ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς ὑπὸ τοῦ παιδὸς ἀναιρεῖται κατ’ ἄγνοιαν.
Τηλέγονος δ’ ἐπιγνοὺς τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τό τε τοῦ πατρὸς σῶμα
Alexis (fr.386k from his Phaedrus; found at Athenaeus 13.13)
“As I was walking from the Peiraios beset
By troubles and despair, philosophy came over me.
And all the painters now seem to me to be ignorant
About love, and, to put it simply, so is everyone else
Who fashions images of him as a god.
For he is neither female nor male, and again,
He is not a god or mortal; nor is he foolish
Or wise, but he is drawn together from everywhere
And carries many shapes in one form.
For he has a man’s boldness with a woman’s restraint;
he has the senselessness of madness
But the reason of a thinker; he has a beast’s ferocity,
The toil of the unbreakable, and the avarice of a god.
Indeed, by Athena and the gods, I do not understand
What love is, but still it is the type of thing
I have said only without this name.”
πορευομένῳ δ᾽ ἐκ Πειραιῶς ὑπὸ τῶν κακῶν
καὶ τῆς ἀπορίας φιλοσοφεῖν ἐπῆλθέ μοι.
καί μοι δοκοῦσιν ἀγνοεῖν οἱ ζωγράφοι
τὸν Ἔρωτα, συντομώτατον δ᾽ εἰπεῖν, ὅσοι
τοῦ δαίμονος τούτου ποιοῦσιν εἰκόνας.
ἐστὶν γὰρ οὔτε θῆλυς οὔτ᾽ ἄρσην, πάλιν
οὔτε θεὸς οὔτ᾽ ἄνθρωπος, οὔτ᾽ ἀβέλτερος
οὔτ᾽ αὖθις ἔμφρων, ἀλλὰ συνενηνεγμένος
πανταχόθεν ἑνὶ τύπῳ <τε> πόλλ᾽ εἴδη φέρων.
ἡ τόλμα μὲν γὰρ ἀνδρός, ἡ <δὲ> δειλία
γυναικός, ἡ δ᾽ ἄνοια μανίας, ὁ δὲ λόγος
φρονοῦντος, ἡ σφοδρότης δὲ θηρός, ὁ δὲ πόνος
ἀδάμαντος, ἡ φιλοτιμία δὲ δαίμονος.
καὶ ταῦτ᾽ ἐγώ, μὰ τὴν Ἀθηνᾶν καὶ θεούς,
οὐκ οἶδ᾽ ὅ τι ἐστίν, ἀλλ᾽ ὅμως ἔχει γέ τι
τοιοῦτον, ἐγγύς τ᾽ εἰμὶ τοὐνόματος.
Cf. the philosopher Haddaway
And Foreigner’s desperate plea:
Pace the rejoinder from Turner 1984:
This toxic brew is one part myth, one part moral philosophy and at two parts misogyny mixed up with some delightful Xenophontic prose. It is as if Robert Frost wrote about the path less taken but in moralizing prose capitalizing on hateful stereotypes. Ok, so, it is not really like Robert Frost at all. Happy Tuesday!
Xenophon, Memorabilia 2.1.21-29
“Wise Prodikos in his composition on Herakles (which he performs for many people) also expresses similar views about virtue, he says this much, as far as I can remember. For he says:
“Herakles, when he was moving from childhood into adolescence, that time when the young take control of their lives and demonstrate whether they will turn onto the path of virtue or vice, went out to sit down in a quiet place because he was uncertain which road to take.
While he was there, two giant women appeared and approached him. The first was fine to look at and naturally free—her body was dressed in purity, her eyes with shame, her bearing with wisdom, and her clothing was white.
The other woman was fed too much and was thick and soft; her skin was all decorated so that she seemed whiter and pinker than she really was, and her bearing made her look taller than she was naturally. Her eyes were opened-wide; her clothing showed off how everything was especially “in season”; and she was looking over herself all the time, trying to spot if anyone else was looking at her. She often was peeking at her own shadow.
When they approached Herakles, that first woman went in the manner which was mentioned, but the second ran up to Herakles because she was eager to to defeat her. She said. “Herakles, I see that you are unsure what path to follow in your life. If you make me your friend, I will take you on the most pleasing and easy journey. You will not miss out on any of life’s pleasures, and you will live without experience of sufferings.”
Then, after Herakles listened to this, he asked “Woman, what is your name”. And she said, “My friends call me Happiness, the haters call me Vice.”
“Meanwhile, the other woman approached and said, “I have also come to you, Herakles, someone who knows your parents and I have learned your nature as you were educated. This is why I hope that, if you choose the path I am offering, you will become a great doer of noble and solemn acts and that I will seem more honorable and famous for the good things I bring. I will not lie to you with an introduction of pleasures: I will tell you the truth, how the gods have made the world for you.”
 καὶ Πρόδικος δὲ ὁ σοφὸς ἐν τῷ συγγράμματι τῷ περὶ Ἡρακλέους, ὅπερ δὴ καὶ πλείστοις ἐπιδείκνυται, ὡσαύτως περὶ τῆς ἀρετῆς ἀποφαίνεται, ὧδέ πως λέγων, ὅσα ἐγὼ μέμνημαι. φησὶ γὰρ Ἡρακλέα, ἐπεὶ ἐκ παίδων εἰς ἥβην ὡρμᾶτο, ἐν ᾗ οἱ νέοι ἤδη αὐτοκράτορες γιγνόμενοι δηλοῦσιν εἴτε τὴν δι᾽ ἀρετῆς ὁδὸν τρέψονται ἐπὶ τὸν βίον εἴτε τὴν διὰ κακίας, ἐξελθόντα εἰς ἡσυχίαν καθῆσθαι ἀποροῦντα ποτέραν τῶν ὁδῶν τράπηται:
 καὶ φανῆναι αὐτῷ δύο γυναῖκας προσιέναι μεγάλας, τὴν μὲν ἑτέραν εὐπρεπῆ τε ἰδεῖν καὶ ἐλευθέριον φύσει, κεκοσμημένην τὸ μὲν σῶμα καθαρότητι, τὰ δὲ ὄμματα αἰδοῖ, τὸ δὲ σχῆμα σωφροσύνῃ, ἐσθῆτι δὲ λευκῇ, τὴν δ᾽ ἑτέραν τεθραμμένην μὲν εἰς πολυσαρκίαν τε καὶ ἁπαλότητα, κεκαλλωπισμένην δὲ τὸ μὲν χρῶμα ὥστε λευκοτέραν τε καὶ ἐρυθροτέραν τοῦ ὄντος δοκεῖν φαίνεσθαι, τὸ δὲ σχῆμα ὥστε δοκεῖν ὀρθοτέραν τῆς φύσεως εἶναι, τὰ δὲ ὄμματα ἔχειν ἀναπεπταμένα, ἐσθῆτα δὲ ἐξ ἧς ἂν μάλιστα ὥρα διαλάμποι: κατασκοπεῖσθαι δὲ θαμὰ ἑαυτήν, ἐπισκοπεῖν δὲ καὶ εἴ τις ἄλλος αὐτὴν θεᾶται, πολλάκις δὲ καὶ εἰς τὴν ἑαυτῆς σκιὰν ἀποβλέπειν.
 ὡς δ᾽ ἐγένοντο πλησιαίτερον τοῦ Ἡρακλέους, τὴν μὲν πρόσθεν ῥηθεῖσαν ἰέναι τὸν αὐτὸν τρόπον, τὴν δ᾽ ἑτέραν φθάσαι βουλομένην προσδραμεῖν τῷ Ἡρακλεῖ καὶ εἰπεῖν: ὁρῶ σε, ὦ Ἡράκλεις, ἀποροῦντα ποίαν ὁδὸν ἐπὶ τὸν βίον τράπῃ. ἐὰν οὖν ἐμὲ φίλην ποιησάμενος, ἐπὶ τὴν ἡδίστην τε καὶ ῥᾴστην ὁδὸν ἄξω σε, καὶ τῶν μὲν τερπνῶν οὐδενὸς ἄγευστος ἔσει, τῶν δὲ χαλεπῶν ἄπειρος διαβιώσῃ.
καὶ ὁ Ἡρακλῆς ἀκούσας ταῦτα, ὦ γύναι, ἔφη, ὄνομα δέ σοι τί ἐστιν; ἡ δέ, οἱ μὲν ἐμοὶ φίλοι, ἔφη, καλοῦσί με Εὐδαιμονίαν, οἱ δὲ μισοῦντές με ὑποκοριζόμενοι ὀνομάζουσι Κακίαν.
 καὶ ἐν τούτῳ ἡ ἑτέρα γυνὴ προσελθοῦσα εἶπε: καὶ ἐγὼ ἥκω πρὸς σέ, ὦ Ἡράκλεις, εἰδυῖα τοὺς γεννήσαντάς σε καὶ τὴν φύσιν τὴν σὴν ἐν τῇ παιδείᾳ καταμαθοῦσα, ἐξ ὧν ἐλπίζω, εἰ τὴν πρὸς ἐμὲ ὁδὸν τράποιο, σφόδρ᾽ ἄν σε τῶν καλῶν καὶ σεμνῶν ἀγαθὸν ἐργάτην γενέσθαι καὶ ἐμὲ ἔτι πολὺ ἐντιμοτέραν καὶ ἐπ᾽ ἀγαθοῖς διαπρεπεστέραν φανῆναι. οὐκ ἐξαπατήσω δέ σε προοιμίοις ἡδονῆς, ἀλλ᾽ ᾗπερ οἱ θεοὶ διέθεσαν τὰ ὄντα διηγήσομαι μετ᾽ ἀληθείας.
 καὶ ἡ Κακία ὑπολαβοῦσα εἶπεν, ὥς φησι Πρόδικος: ἐννοεῖς, ὦ Ἡράκλεις, ὡς χαλεπὴν καὶ μακρὰν ὁδὸν ἐπὶ τὰς εὐφροσύνας ἡ γυνή σοι αὕτη διηγεῖται; ἐγὼ δὲ ῥᾳδίαν καὶ βραχεῖαν ὁδὸν ἐπὶ τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν ἄξω σε.