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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [N5r f88r]


Insani gladius.

The madman’s sword

Setigeri medius stabat gregis ensifer Aiax,[1]
Caede suum, credens caedere Tantalidas,[2]
Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [N5v f88v]Hostia sic tamquam sus succedanea[3] poenas
Pro Laërtiade,[4] pro caveaque dabat.
Nescit obesse suis furor hostibus, errat ab ictu,
Consiliisque impos in sua damna ruit.

Ajax was standing sword in hand in the midst of the bristled herd, thinking that in killing the pigs he was killing the descendants of Tantalus. The victim, like the substitute pig, was paying the penalty for the son of Laertes and for the assembled crowd. Madness does not know how to disadvantage its real foes; it misdirects its blows, and, lacking judgement, rushes headlong to its own destruction.


Eines unsinnigen Waffen.

Damitten underm hauffen Schwein
Stund der Held Ajax biß und grein
Das börstig Vich zerheuwt, zerstuckt
Meint wer ob Tantalis Nefen ruck
Also ward für Laerts Son hafft
Und die gantz Griechisch Ritterschafft
Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [N6r f89r] Gleich als ein versön Opffer frey
Geschlachtet die wolgmeste Seuw
Das grimm wüten weng schaden bringt
Dem Feind, sonder dem der da ringt
Hader und schlagen unbedacht
Hat manchen in groß unglück bracht.


1.  See Emblem 66 ([A67a066]) for Ajax’ madness and suicide. In his madness, he slaughtered a herd of sheep, thinking them to be the Greeks. The two largest rams he took to be Agamemnon and Menelaus. See Zenobius, Proverbs, 1.43; Horace, Satires, 2.3.197-8; Erasmus, Adagia, 646 (Aiacis risus) - Erasmus makes the animals pigs, which Alciato here follows.

2.  Tantalidas, ‘the descendants of Tantalus’ i.e. Agamemnon and Menelaus, whom Ajax blamed for his humiliation.

3.  A substitute animal was sacrificed when the first offering was rejected by the gods or, as here, in place of the proper victim. See Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 4.6.5.

4.  pro Laërtiade, ‘for the son of Laërtes’, i.e. Odysseus, to whom the Greek assembly awarded the splendid armour of the dead Achilles, not to Ajax.

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