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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [m8r p191]

Antiquissima quaeque com-
mentitia.

The oldest things are all invented

VII.

Pellenaee senex, cui forma est histrica, Proteu, [1]
Qui modò membra viri fers, modò membra feri.
Dic agè 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.

Notes:

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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    Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [I8r f72r]

    PRUDENS MAGIS QUAM
    loquax.

    Wise head, close mouth.

    Emblema. 19.

    Noctua Cecropiis[1] insignia praestat Athenis,
    Inter aves sani noctua consilii,
    Armiferae merito obsequiis sacrata Minervae,
    Garrula quo cornix cesserat ante loco.[2]

    The owl provides the symbol for Athens, Cecrops’ city, for among the birds the owl is known for wise counsel. Deservedly was it dedicated to the service of weapon-bearing Minerva, in the place vacated by the chattering crow.

    Notes:

    1.  Cecrops was a legendary wise early king of Athens, a city renowned as a place of learning. See above, Emblem 5 ([A15a005]), line 7.

    2.  garrula quo cornix cesserat, ‘vacated by the chattering crow’. The crow was dismissed from Athena’s service for telling tales, and was replaced by the owl. See Ovid, Metamorphoses, 2.562-5. This story is represented in Aneau, ‘Periculum in terra, periculum in mari’ ([FANa029]).


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