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Unable to flatter

Scire cupis toties dominos cur insubris ora[1],
Mutet ut & regi serviat utque duci?[2]
Nescit adulari, cuiquamve obtrudere palpum[3]
Regia quae [=Regiaque] morem principis omnis habet,
Sed velut ingenuus sonipes dorso excutit omnem.
Qui moderandi nesciat Hippocomum[4].[5]

Do you want to know why the land of the Insubres changes its overlords so often, how it serves its king and leader? - It does not know how to flatter, or how to stroke anyone the right way, the behaviour every prince’s court displays. Like a noble stallion, it throws from its back every horseman who does not know how to control it.


1. Insubris ora, ‘land of the Insubres’, i.e. the plain of Milan, Alciato’s home area. Various Gallic tribes, including the Insubres, inhabited this region in the Classical period. Cf. [A50a002], and see Alciato, Historia Mediolanensis col.6.

2. This rather puzzling line is rewritten in later editions.

3. ‘stroke...the right way’. See Erasmus, Adagia 2527, Obtrudere palpum.

4. ‘horseman, groom’. See Plato, Politicus 261d for the image of the ruler as supervisor of a stud of horses.

5. Two further lines in later editions.

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    Relating to the text:

    • virtues of the ruler [44B10] Search | Browse Iconclass
    • family of a ruler, and court [44B15] Search | Browse Iconclass
    • riding a horse, ass, or mule; rider, horseman [46C131] Search | Browse Iconclass
    • Strength, Power; 'Fortezza', 'Fortezza d'Animo e di corpo', 'Fortezza del corpo congiunta con la generosità dell'animo', 'Fortezza & valore del corpo congiunto con la prudenza & virtù del animo', 'Forza' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [54A7(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
    • Sincerity; 'Purità et Sincerità d'animo', 'Sincerità' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [57A612(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
    • Flattery; 'Adulatione' (Ripa) [57AA6121] Search | Browse Iconclass
    • Revenge, Requital, Retaliation; 'Vendetta' (Ripa) [57AA741] Search | Browse Iconclass
    • Praise, Approbation, Approval; 'Lode' (Ripa) [57B1] Search | Browse Iconclass
    • geographical names of countries, regions, mountains, rivers, etc. (names of cities and villages excepted) (with NAME) [61D(THESSALY)] Search | Browse Iconclass

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