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Submovendam ignorantiam.

Ignorance must be done away with

Quod monstrum id? Sphinx[1] est. Cur candida virginis ora,
Et volucrum pennas, crura leonis habet?
Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [O3v f94v]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 Delphica littera[2] possit:
Praecipitis monstri guttura dira secant.
Namque vir ipsa, 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.


Unwissenheit sol man hinweg thun.

Was ist das für ein seltzam Bild
Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [O4r f95r] Es ist das Sphinx greuwlich und wild
Warumb hat es ein Jungfrauw gstalt
Vogels Federn und Löwen Füß alt?
Ein solch gstalt nimpt die unwissenheit
Und unverstandt mit solchem bscheid
Dieweil sein ursach und herkomm
Ist dreyerley in einer summ
Dann etlich seind voll unverstand
Auß ires hertzen leichten thand
Etlich aber auß wollust zart
Etlich auß irs Hertzen hoffart
Aber denen so ist bekannt
Die Delphisch geschrifft an der wandt
Die kundten diesem Thiere graß
Den Halß brechen on alle maß
Dann der Mensch ist dasselbig Thier
So auff zweyn, dreyn, viern Füssn geht für
Das ist der weißheit höchste Kron
Daß sich selbs erkenn jedermann.


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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  • fabulous beings with wings [31A458] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Self-knowledge (+ emblematical representation of concept) [52A53(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Ignorance; 'Ignoranza', 'Ignoranza di tutte le cose', 'Ignoranza in un ricco senza lettere' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [52AA5(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Pleasure, Enjoyment, Joy; 'Allegrezza', 'Allegrezza da le medaglie', 'Allegrezza, letitia e giubilo', 'Diletto', 'Piacere', 'Piacere honesto' (Ripa) [56B1] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Licentiousness, Lasciviousness; 'Lascivia', 'Licenza' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [57AA51(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Pride, Loftiness; 'Alterezza in persona nata povera civile' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [57AA64(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Frivolity (+ emblematical representation of concept) [57AA66(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Delphic oracle [92B3721] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Oedipus and the sphinx; he solves the riddle [94T33] Search | Browse Iconclass

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