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SUBMOVENDAM
ignorantiam.

Ignorance must be done away with

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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 Delphici litera[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.

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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Semper presto esse infor-
tunia.

Misfortune is always at hand

XLVII.

Ludebant parili tres olim aetate puellae
Sortibus, ad Stygias quae prior iret aquas.
Ast cui iactato malè cesserat alea talo,
Ridebat sortis caeca puella suae:
Cùm subitò icta caput labente est mortua tecto,
Solvit & audacis debita fata ioci.
Rebus in adversis mala sors non fallitur: ast in
Faustis, nec precibus, nec locus est manui.[1]

Once three girls of the same age were amusing themselves, casting lots to see which of them would be the first to go to the waters of the Styx. When the dice were cast, the throw fell out unluckily for one of them, but she laughed with blind contempt at the fate predicted for her. Then suddenly she died, struck on the head as the roof fell in, and so paid the fated penalty for her bold mockery. In misfortune, a bad omen cannot be eluded, but even in prosperity neither prayers nor action have any place.

COMMENTARIA.

Tres olim eiusdem aetatis puellae, talis, seu
sorte ludebant, quaenam illarum prior more-
Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [f2v p84]retur, quarum una cui tristis atque iniqua sors
ceciderat, ridens haec tanquàm vana & frivo-
la flocci pendebat, subitò vero tegula ex tecto
desuper in caput eius cadens, occidit eam, sic
illa temerarii nimisque audacis ioci debita
solvit fata: quoniam in rebus adversis sini-
stra sors vix unquam fallitur, in prosperis ve-
rò, nec precibus, nec fortitudini locus est.
Crabrones igitur non irritandi & secundum
Pythagoricum illud symbolum, Ignem gla-
dio non fodiendum, hoc est, per se mala non
provocanda, nec tumentem indignationem
commovendam, plerunque enim & facilius
de fumo ad flammas quàm è contra deveniri
videmus. Excerptum videtur hoc Emblema
ex quodam Luciani dialogo ubi introduci-
tur iuvenis qui cuiusdam senis haereditatem
captabat, multa propterea iactabundus te-
merè dilapidans, sperans subitam decrepiti
mortem. Accidit autem ipsemet tegula tecti
tactus atque interemptus fuit. Cui denique
apud Charontem multum conquerenti re-
sponsum fuit, quare stultus alienae hae-
reditati insidiatus fuisset, igno-
rans fortunae incer-
tos & ludicros
eventus.

Notes:

1.  This is a translation of Anthologia graeca 9.158.


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  • Weakness, Powerlessness, Helplessness; 'Infermit�' (Ripa) [54AA7] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Luck, Fortune, Lot; 'Fato', 'Fortuna', 'Fortuna aurea', 'Fortuna buona', 'Fortuna pacifica overo clemente', 'Sorte' (Ripa) [54F12] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Turn of Fate, Wheel of Fortune (+ emblematical representation of concept) [54F121(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Adversity, Misfortune, Bad Luck; 'Fortuna infelice', 'Infortunio' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [54FF11(+4):51A4(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Mortality, Extinction of Life [58BB1] Search | Browse Iconclass

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