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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [f1r p81]

Submovendam ignorantiam.

Ignorance must be done away with

XLVI.

Quod monstrum id? Sphinx[1] est. cur candida virginis ora,
Et volucrum pennas, crura leonis habet?
Hanc faciem assumpsit rerum ignorantia: tanti
Scilicet est triplex causa & origo mali.
Sunt quos ingenium leve, sunt quos blanda voluptas.
Sunt & quos faciunt corda superba rudes.
At quibus est notum quid delphica littera[2] possit.
Praecipitis monstri guttura dira secant.
Namque vir ipse, bipesque, tripesque & quadrupes idem est,
Primaque prudentis laurea, nosse virum.

What monster is that? - It is the Sphinx. - Why has it the bright face of a maiden, the wings of birds, the legs of a lion? - Ignorance has assumed this form, because the cause and origin of this great evil is threefold. There are some whom frivolity makes ignorant, others the blandishments of pleasure, still others arrogance. But those who are aware of the force of the Delphic letter, these cut the dread throat of the lowering monster. For man himself is two-legged, three-legged, four-legged, one and the same, and the first victory of the wise is to know the man.

COMMENTARIA.

Depingit Sphingem monstrum, faciem vir-
ginis, pennas avium, pedes verò leonis habens,
denotans forman rerum ignorantiae, subiungens
Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [f1v p82]hanc triplici etiam causa oriri, nonnullos enim
ingenii levitas inscios efficit, alios blanda vo
luptas rudes facit, tertios verò nimia arrogan
tia ignorantes reddit. Circa haec plurima di-
cenda essent quae brevitatis causa omittun-
tur. Fingitur autem Sphinx monstrum horren
dum, uti iam descriptum, quod quondam ad
Thebas veniens, hoc aenigma prope viam trans-
euntibus proposuit, quale animal esset bipes,
idemque tripes, atque etiam quadrupes, & omnes
hoc aenigma dissolvere vel interpretari ne-
scientes, Sphinx protinus interficiebat, donec
Oedipus filius Regis Thebanorum, propositum
problema hoc modo solvit, dicens, hominem
id animal esse, qui in infantia manibus & pe-
dibus quadrupes reperet, mox iuvenis ere-
ctus bipes incederet. Verùm in senectute ba-
culo nitens, tripes fieret, & ideo Sphinx semet
ex monte praecipitavit. Quibus igitur nota est
Delphica litera, hoc est Apollineae artes, hi ve
rè ignorantiae monstrum iugulant. Apollo
autem à Delphi oppido, in quo templum &
oraculum toto orbe clarissimum & celeberrimum
habuit, Delphicus dictus est: isque Deus habi-
tus fuit sapientiae, vaticinii, carminum, & me-
dicinae, ut plura Macrobius Innuit etiam pri-
mum hoc oportere, idque sapientiae princi-
pium esse, scire quid sit homo & seipsum co-
gnoscere.

Notes:

1.  The Sphinx was a monster which lay in wait on the road to Thebes and killed all travellers who could not answer its riddle: What goes on four legs in the morning, two at mid-day, three at evening? Oedipus destroyed the monster by giving the correct answer, ‘Man’ (i.e the baby crawls on all fours , the youth walks upright on his two legs, the old man requires a stick). See below, 1.9 (Namque vir ipse...). See also Erasmus, Adagia 1209, Boeotica aenigmata.

2.  ‘the Delphic letter’, i.e. the letter E. See Plutarch, De E apud Delphos, an essay which discusses various explanations put forward for the ‘E’, a letter cast in bronze. At the end of the essay (392ff.), the letter is brought into connection with the inscription Gnothi sauton, ‘Know thyself’ (cf. 1.10), which greeted those who came to consult the oracle of Apollo at Delphi. See also Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.6.6.


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  • Delphic oracle [92B3721] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • fabulous beings with wings [31A458] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Frivolity (+ emblematical representation of concept) [57AA66(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Ignorance; 'Ignoranza', 'Ignoranza di tutte le cose', 'Ignoranza in un ricco senza lettere' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [52AA5(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Licentiousness, Lasciviousness; 'Lascivia', 'Licenza' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [57AA51(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Oedipus and the sphinx; he solves the riddle [94T33] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Pleasure, Enjoyment, Joy; 'Allegrezza', 'Allegrezza da le medaglie', 'Allegrezza, letitia e giubilo', 'Diletto', 'Piacere', 'Piacere honesto' (Ripa) [56B1] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Pride, Loftiness; 'Alterezza in persona nata povera civile' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [57AA64(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Self-knowledge (+ emblematical representation of concept) [52A53(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass

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