Studia Palmyreńskie — 12.2013

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https://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/studia_palmyrenskie2013/0321
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COEPIMUS ET LAPIDE PINGERE:
MARBLE DECORATION FROM THE SO-CALLED

Baths OF Diocletian IN Palmyra

Dagmara Wielgosz

In the 35th book of his Naturalis Historia Pliny wrote:

(...) nunc vero in totum marmońbus pulsa, iam cjuidam et auro, nec tantum ut parietes toti operiantur,
verum et interraso marmore vermiculatisque ad effigies rerum et animalium crustis. Non placent
iam abaci nec spatia montes in cubiculo dilatantia: coepimus et lapide pingere (NH, XXXV, 2-3)

"(...) but at the present day, it (painting) is completely banished in favour of marble, and
even gold. For not only are whole walls now covered with marble, but the marble itself is
carved out or else marąueted so as to represent objects and animals of yarious kinds. No
longer now are we satisfied with formal compartitions of marble, or with slabs extended
like so many mountains in our chambers, but we must begin to paint the very stone itself!"

The classical translation by John Bostock cited here can and should be modified significantly
in the last part of the ąuoted fragment. Pliny says coepimus et lapide pingere, which should be trans-
lated as "we begin to paint even with the stone".1 The translator changed Pliny's text, unable to

1 See however a French translation in the "Belles Lettres" collection, where the author, Jean-Michel Croisille, understood
the text correctly: "nous nous sommes mis a peindre meme avec la pierre". The issue is even morę complicated by the fact
that Pliny's text in this place has two readings: lapidem pingere in two codices, and lapide pingere in the remaining ones.

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Studia Palmyreńskie XII
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