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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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Nobiles & generosi.

High born and noble

Aurea Cecropias[1] nectebat fibula vestes,
Cui coniuncta tenax dente cicada fuit:
Calceus Arcadico suberat cui lunula ritu, [2]
Gestatur patribus mullea Romulidis.[3]
Indigenas qud se adsererent haec signa tulerunt
Antiqua illustres nobilitate viri.

A golden brooch knitted together the robes of Cecrops’ descendants, a brooch which had attached to it a cicada, gripping with a tooth. A shoe called a mullea with a little crescent-shaped ornament below in Arcadian fashion was worn by Romulus’ patrician clans. Because they proclaimed themselves descendants of the earliest inhabitants, men distinguished by ancient noble lineage wore these symbols.

Notes:

1. Cecropias, ‘of Cecrops’ descendants’, i.e. Athenians claiming descent from Cecrops, the autochthonous first king of Athens. See Emblem 27, n.4 ([A46a027]).

2. Arcadico...ritu, ‘in Arcadian fashion’. The Arcadians wore crescent-shaped ornaments because they believed themselves to be the first men on earth and older than the moon. See Ovid, Fastii, 2.290. Evander, who came from Arcadia, was the founder of the primitive settlement on the Palatine hill which preceded Romulus’ Rome. See Vergil, Aeneid, 8.; Plutarch, Quaestiones Romanae, 76.

3. patribus...Romulidis, ‘Romulus’ patrician clans’, i.e. members of the inner circle of noble Roman families claiming descent from the first senators (patres), one hundred in number, appointed by Romulus, founder and first ruler of Rome. These patrician families wore a distinctive black boot with a crescent-shaped ornament. Those members who achieved high political office wore similar red boots, calcei mullei, so called because their colour was like that of a mullet (according to Isidore, Etymologiae (Origines), 19.34.4 and 10).


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