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Antiquissima quaeque commentitia.

The oldest things are all invented


An argument in support of this view.

Pallenaee Senex, cui forma est histrica proteu,[1]
Qui modō membra viri fers, modō membra feri [=ferae] .
Dic age quae species ratio te vertit in omnes
Nulla sit ut vario certa figura tibi?
Signa vetustatis, primaevi & praefero secli:[2]
De quo quisque suo somniat arbitrio.

Proteus, old man of Pallene, whose outward appearance changes like an actor’s, assuming sometimes the body of a man, sometimes that of a beast, come, tell me, what is your reason for turning into all kinds of shapes, so that you have no permanent form as you constantly alter? I offer symbols of antiquity and the very first times, concerning which everyone dreams up what he will.


Das aller eltst ist gemeiniglich erticht.

O alter Proteuw von Pallen
Der du verkehrst deinr gstalt ansehn
Jtzt hastu eins Manns gestalt
Dann in eins Thiers verwandelt bald.
Lieber sag auß was ursach doch
Dich in so vil form verkärst noch?
Das du dich bey keinr bstendig findst
Sonder von einr zur andern windst?
Ich bilde für die gar alt zeit
Und die vil alte jar bedeut
Von denen jeder nach seim won
Mag im fürbildn und reden davon.


1.  Proteus was ‘the Old Man of the Sea’, who evaded capture by constantly changing his shape. See e.g. Homer, Odyssey, 4.400ff.; Vergil, Georgics, 4. 405-10, 440-2; Erasmus, Adagia, 1174 (Proteo mutabilior). Vergil (Georgics, 4.391) describes him living near the headland of Pallene (on the Macedonian coast). The idea of Proteus as a gifted actor or mime-artist is taken from Lucian, Saltatio, 19.

2.  signa vetustatis primaevi et...secli, ‘symbols of antiquity and the very first times’. Pallene (see n.1.) suggested a connection with the Greek word παλαιός ‘ancient’, as the name Proteus was supposedly connected with πρώτιστος, ‘the very first’.

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