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The rich man’s legacy

Emblema 157.

Patroclum falsis rapiunt hinc Troes in armis,
Hinc socii, atque omnis turba Pelasga vetat.
Obtinet exuvias Hector, Graecique cadaver.[1]
Haec fabella agitur, cum vir opimus obit.
Maxima rixa oritur, tandem sed transigit haeres,
Et corvis aliquid, vulturibusque sinit.[2]

On that side the Trojans are carrying off Patroclus in his deceptive armour, on this, his co-fighters and all the Greek host try to stop them. Hector obtains the spoils, the Greeks the body. This story is played out when a rich man dies. A great quarrelling arises, but eventually the heir brings the argument to an end and leaves something for crows and vultures.


1.  For the death of Patroclus, see Homer, Iliad, 16.784ff. He borrowed Achilles’ armour to fight the Trojans when Achilles refused, and was killed by Hector, who took the armour.

2.  ‘Vulture’ was a term used to refer to people who hang round rich persons, hoping for a legacy See Erasmus, Adagia, 614 (Si vultur es, cadaver exspecta).

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