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Cavendum meretricibus.

Beware of whores

Sole satae Circes tam magna potentia fertur,
Verterit ut multos in nova monstra viros.
Testis equus domitor Picus,[1] tum Scylla biformis,[2]
Atque Ithaci postquam vina bibere sues.[3]
Indicat illustri meretricem nomine Circe, [4]
Et rationem animi perdere, quisquis amat.

So great, we are told, was the power of Circe, daughter of the Sun, that she turned many persons into new monstrous shapes. A witness to this is Picus, tamer of horses, and Scylla with her double form, and the Ithacans who became pigs after drinking the wine. Circe with her famous name indicates a whore and shows that any man who loves such a one loses his reason.

Notes:

1. Picus, an Italian king, a breeder of horses, turned into a woodpecker by Circe. See Ovid, Metamorphoses, 14.320ff.

2. Scylla was transformed into a figure that was half girl, half barking dogs. See Ovid, Metamorphoses, 14.51ff.

3. Ithacans: See Homer, Odyssey, 10.229ff. for the story of Ulysses’ sailors (from the island of Ithaca), who were turned into pigs by Circe with a magic potion of wine.

4. Indicat...meretricem: ‘indicates a whore’. See Anthologia Graeca, 10.50 for this rationalisation of the Circe story.


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  • enchantment ~ potion or herbs [13D4] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • mis-shapen animals; monsters [25F9] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • monsters of mixed human and animal shape; 'Mostri' (Ripa) [31A45] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • whore, prostitute [33C520] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • courtesan, hetaera [33C521] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Reason versus Amorous Lust; 'Combattimento della ragione con l'appetito' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [52B513(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Danger; 'Pericolo' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [54DD51(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Ulysses' companions are changed into all kinds of animals (+ variant) [97C81(+0)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Picus changed into a woodpecker: Circe changes Picus into a woodpecker because, faithful to his wife Canens, he spurns the love of the goddess (Ovid, Metamorphoses XIV 386) (+ variant) [97D28(+0)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Scylla changed into a sea-monster: Circe, to whom Glaucus has applied for aid in his love suit, changes Scylla the sea-nymph into a sea-monster (Ovid, Metamorphoses XIV 59) (+ variant) [97EE3(+0)] Search | Browse Iconclass

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Cuculi.

Cuckoos

Ruricolas agreste genus plerique cuculos
Cur vocitent, quaenam prodita causa fuit?[1]
Vere novo cantat Coccyx, quo tempore vites
Qui non absolvit iure notatur iners.
Fert ova in nidos alienos, qualiter ille
Cui thalamum prodit uxor adulterio.

Whatever explanation has been given for the custom of calling country-dwellers, that rustic race, ‘cuckoos’? - When spring is new, the cuckoo calls, and anyone who has not pruned his vines by this time is rightly blamed for being idle. The cuckoo desposits its eggs in other birds’ nests, like the man on whose account a wife betrays her marriage bed in adultery.

Notes:

1. See Pliny, Natural History, 18.66.249, and Horace, Satires, 1.7.31, for the use of the word ‘cuckoo’ as term of mockery for the idle man who has failed to finish pruning his vines before the cuckoo is heard calling.


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