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Link to an image of this pageLink to an image of this page †[O7v p222]

Dicta septem sapientum.[1]

Sayings of the Seven Sages

EMBLEMA CLXXXVI.

Haec habeas, septem sapientum effingere dicta,
Atque ea picturis qui celebrare velis,
Optimus in rebus modus est, Cleobulus ut inquit:
Hoc trutinae examen, sive libella docet.
Noscere se Chilon Spartanus quemque iubebat:
Link to an image of this pageLink to an image of this page †[O8r p223]Hoc speculum in manibus, vitraque sumpta dabunt.
Quod Periander ait, frena adde, Corinthius, irae:
Pulegium[2] admotum naribus efficiet.
Pittacus, at ne quid, dixit, nimis. haec eadem aiunt,
Contracto qui gith[3] ore liquefaciunt.
Respexisse Solon finem iubet.[4] ultimus agris
Terminus[5] haud magno cesserit ipse Iovi.
Heu quŗm vera Bias, Est copia magna malorum:
Musimoni insideat effice Sardus eques.[6]
Ne praes esto,[7] Thales dixit; sic illita visco
In laqueos sociam parra, meropsque trahit.

If you wish to represent the sayings of the Seven Sages and celebrate them in picture, you may have the following suggestions. - ‘Moderation is best’, as Cleobulus said. This the balance teaches or the plumbline. - Chilon of Sparta bade each man know himself. A mirror or glass taken in the hand will represent this. - The saying of Periander of Corinth, ‘Rein in your wrath’, pennyroyal held to the nostrils will show. - Pittacus said, ‘Nothing in excess’. The same thing is said by those who suck cassia with wry mouth. - Solon bids us look to the end. Set at the field end is Terminus, who would not yield to mighty Jove. - How truly did Bias say, ‘There is great store of evil men’. Make a Sardinian rider sit upon a wild sheep. - ‘Do not stand surety’, said Thales. Even so, smeared with bird-lime, the lapwing or bee-eater draws its fellow-bird into the snare.

Notes:

1.The list of the Seven Sages of the ancient Greek world was not fixed: various selections were made from up to seventeen names (though this one is the most common). Their utterances were variously reported and attributed now to one, now to the other. See Diogenes Laertius, De Clarorum philosophorum vitis, 1.40-42. The list here is derived from Anthologia Graeca, 9.366.

2.pulegium, ‘pennyroyal’. See Emblem 16, line 4 ([A91a016]).

3.gith, ‘cassia’ or ‘senna’. See Pliny, Natural History, 20.71.182ff. for its medicinal and culinary uses. It is so bitter that a little goes a long way.

4.Respexisse finem, ‘look to the end’, i.e.only when his life is over can a man be judged to have been happy. See the story of Solon and Croesus in Plutarch, Solon, 27-8.

5.Terminus, see Emblem 157 ([A91a157]).

6.Musmoni insideat effice Sardus eques, ‘make a Sardinian rider sit upon a wild sheep’, i.e. a worthless rider on a worthless beast. Cf. Erasmus, Adagia, 505 (Sardi venales, ‘Sardinians for sale’).

7.Ne praes esto, ‘Do not stand surety’. See Erasmus, Adagia, 597 (Sponde, noxa praesto est, ‘Stand surety and disaster is at hand’).


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Link to an image of this pageLink to an image of this page †[O6v p220]

Littera occÓdit, spiritus vivificat.[1]

The letter kills but the spirit gives life

EMBLEMA CLXXXV.

Vipereos Cadmus dentes ut credidit arvis,
Sevit & Aonio semina dira solo:
TerrigenŻm clypeata cohors exorta virorum est,
Hostili inter se qui cecidere manu.
Evasere quibus monitu Tritonidos armis
Link to an image of this pageLink to an image of this page †[O7r p221]Abiectis data pax, dextraque iuncta fuit.[2]
Primus Agenorides[3] elementa, notasque magistris
Tradidit, iis suavem iunxit & harmoniam.[4]
Quorum discipulos contraria plurima vexant,
Non nisi Palladia quae dirimuntur ope.

When Cadmus entrusted the dragon’s teeth to the furrows and sowed the dread seed in Aonian [Theban] soil, there sprang up a shield-bearing band of earth-born men, who fell by fighting among themselves. Those escaped who at Tritonia’s [Athena’s] command threw down their arms, granted peace and joined right hands. Agenor’s son first gave to teachers letters and symbols and also put together for them sweet musical concord. Many adversities assail those who follow these disciplines, adversities which are resolved only by Pallas Athena’s aid.

Notes:

1.II Corinthians 3:6.

2.For the story of Cadmus, founder of Thebes (in Aonia, or less correctly in the French, in Thessaly), and the dragon’s teeth, see Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.99ff. Athena, goddess of wisdom - here called Tritonia, from the place of her birth in North Africa - brought the internecine struggle between the earth-born warriors to an end.

3.Agenorides, ‘Agenor’s son’, i.e. Cadmus, who supposedly introduced writing to Greece. The scattering of the dragon’s teeth was interpreted as the invention of the alphabet.

4.harmoniam, ‘musical concord’. Cadmus’ wife was called Harmonia.


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