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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 modō membra viri fers, modō membra feri.
Dic agč 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  [m7v p190]

    In pudoris statuam.

    A statue of Modesty

    III.

    Penelope desponsa sequi cupiebat Ulyssem,
    Ni secum Icarius mallet habere pater.[1]
    Ille Ithacam, hic offert Spartem manet anxia virgo,
    Hinc pater, inde viri mutuus urget amor.
    Ergo sedens velat vultus, obnubit ocellos:
    Ista verecundi signa pudoris erant.
    Queis sibi praelatum Icarius cognovit Ulyssem,
    Hocque pudori aram schemate constituit.[2]

    When Penelope was betrothed, she wished to go with Ulysses, except that her father Icarius would have preferred to keep her with him. Ulysses offers Ithaca, her father Sparta. The girl is distressed: on opposite sides her father and the mutual love between her and her man make their claims on her. So she sits and covers her face, veils her eyes - those were the signs of seemly modesty. By them Icarius knew that Ulysses was preferred to himself, and he set up an altar to Modesty in this form.

    Notes:

    1.  Some editions give a variant reading, Ni secus Icarius ..., ‘except that ... Icarius would have preferred to have it otherwise’.

    2.  See Pausanias, Periegesis, 3.20.10, for this statue and the story behind it.


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