Alexander: When will you finish Campaspe?
Apelles: Never finish: for always in absolute beauty there is somewhat above art.
One of the great (no pun intended) things about Alexander is that he is so much part of our cultural memory that one never knows where he might crop up next.
Case in point: I love fairy tales and over the last few weeks have been reading Phantastes by George MacDonald. If you like fantasy novels, especially those of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, MacDonald this book is very well worth checking out. MacDonald was a huge influence on Tolkien and Lewis, and I am sure many others.
A couple of days ago, I came to Chapter 15. Each one begins with a quotation and the one you read above appeared here.
According to the legend – for Campaspe does not appear in any of the five major sources of Alexander’s life – Alexander hired Apelles to paint his mistress Campaspe. He did so, but she was so beautiful, Apelles fell in love with her. Seeing this, and realising that Apelles loved Campaspe more than he did, Alexander gave her to him.
For more information about Campaspe and her story, see Wikipedia here or Pothos here.
Credit Where It’s Due
Apelles painting Campaspe: J. Paul Getty Museum