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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 mod membra viri fers, mod membra feri.
Dic ag 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 [B1v p18]

    Ad illustrem[1] Maximilianum ducem Mediolanensem.

    To the illustrious Maximilian, Duke of Milan.

    Emblema I.

    EXiliens infans sinuosi faucibus anguis,
    Est gentilitiis nobile stemma tuis.[2]
    Talia Pellaeum[3] gessisse nomismata regem,
    Vidimus, hisque suum concelebrasse genus.
    Dum se Ammone satum,[4] matrem anguis imagine lusam,
    Divini & sobolem seminis esse docet.
    Ore exit, tradunt sic quosdam enitier angues,[5]
    An quia sic Pallas de capite orta Iovis?[6]

    An infant bursting from the maw of a coiling serpent marks the noble lineage of your clan. We have observed that the Pellaean king had coinage with such a device and by it celebrated his own descent, proclaiming that he was begotten of Ammon, that his mother was beguiled by the form of a snake and the child was the offspring of divine seed. The infant emerges from the mouth. They say that some snakes come to birth that way. Or is it because Pallas sprang like this from the head of Jove?

    Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [B2r p19]

    An den durleuchtigen, etc. Maximilian
    Hertzogen
    zu Mayland.

    I.

    Ein kind au einer krummen schlang
    Entspringend, Hertzog ist dein schilt:
    Alexander fuert auch vorlang
    Zu sonder zeugnu sollich bild,
    Wie selbs der got Jupiter mild
    Sein vater wer, und solcher art
    Ir junge bringt die nater wild,
    Auch Pallas also gporen ward.

    Notes:

    1. Other editions expand this to ‘illustrissimum’.

    2. The Sforza family had ruled Milan since 1450, having assumed power through marriage (some said fraudulently) to a Visconti heiress, and taken their symbol as their own. They were chased out in 1499 by the French, but restored several times.

    3. Pellaeum...regem: ‘the Pellaean king’, i.e. Alexander the Great, born at Pella in Macedonia

    4. For the superhuman birth of Alexander, see e.g. Plutarch, Life of Alexander, 3 and 27: Jupiter in the form of a serpent mated with Olympias, wife of Philip of Macedon, and begat Alexander. Ammon, a north African deity, was identified with Zeus/Jupiter. When Alexander visited Ammon’s sanctuary, he was hailed as the son of the god.

    5. According to e.g.Pliny, Natural History 10.170, Aelian, De natura animalium 1.24, the viper, alone among snakes, produces not eggs but live young. See also Isidore, Etymologiae 12.4.10.

    6. The story of Pallas Athene springing complete and armed from the head of Jove is found in many sources; see e.g. Homer, Hymns 3.308ff; Hesiod, Theogony 923ff.


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