Nothing in Comparison to Parmenon’s Pig

Erasmus’ Adagia 10

 Nothing in Comparison to Parmenon’s Pig

Said about imitation which in great degree falls short of what it imitates.  Plutarch in his Symposiacs, in the second problem of the fifth decade, explains how this adage came about:  There was a certain Parmenon, a man of that sort who even in our time imitate and recreate animal sounds and human voices so skillfully that – though only to listeners, not to those watching – the voices seem real and not imitations.  There is no lack of people whom this skill delights to the greatest degree.  Accordingly, Parmenon is thought to have been most agreeable and famous among the common people because of this skill.  When others tried to imitate him everyone would immediately say, “Εὖ μέν, ἀλλ᾽ οὐδὲν πρὸς τὴν Παρμένοντος ὗν” or “Good certainly, but nothing compared to Parmenon’s pig.”

[But then] someone came forward carrying a genuine pig under his arms.  When the people heard the pig’s voice they believed it an imitation and, as they always did, they at once shouted, “Τί οὖν αὕτη πρὸς τὴν Παρμένοντος – Well, what is that compared to Parmenon’s?”  When the genuine pig was brought out and shown about openly, it refuted their judgment, inasmuch as it was formed not in accord with the true situation but through their imagination.  [Plutarch] likewise mentions Parmenon and his counterfeit pig in his commentary On Listening to the Poets.

Not inopportune is the use of this adage whenever someone, deceived in his opinion about a thing, judges it incorrectly.  Like if someone admires an unrefined and new-fashioned epigram persuaded that is is ancient.   Or again if someone condemns as modern something ancient and refined.  So strong is this type of imagination that it burdens even the most learned men in their judgment.


Οὐδὲν πρὸς τήν Παρμένοντος ὗν, id est Nihil ad Parmenonis suem. De aemula-
tione dictum, quae longo interuallo abesset ab eo quod imitaretur. Plutarchus
in Symposiacis, quintae decadis secundo problemate, quo pacto natum sit
adagium narrat ad hanc ferme sententiam: Parmeno quispiam fuit ex homi-
num eorum genere, qui nostris etiam temporibus varias animantium et
hominum voces ita scite imitantur ac repraesentant, vt audientibus tantum,
non etiam videntibus verae, non imitatae voces videantur. Neque desunt quos
hoc artificium maiorem in modum delectet. Parmenon igitur hac arte vulgo vt
iucundissimus 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. Huius 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, vtpote non ex vero
sed ex imaginatione profectum. Meminit idem Parmenonis ac suis
adumbratae in commentariis De audiendis poetis. Nec intempestiuiter
vtemur hoc adagio, quoties aliquis opinione deceptus de re perperam iudicat.
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, vt
eruditissimis etiam viris in iudicando imponat.

I continue to find Erasmus’ Latin very brusque next to classical.

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