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Litera occidit, spiritus vivificat.[1]

The letter kills but the spirit gives life

Vipereos Cadmus dentes ut credidit arvis,
Sevit & Aonio semina dira solo,
Terrigenum clypeata cohors extorta virorum est,
Hostili inter se qui cecidere manu.
Evasere quibus monitu Tritonidos armis
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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Respublica liberata.

The republic restored to freedom

Caesaris exitio ceu libertate recepta,
Haec ducibus Brutis cusa moneta fuit,
Ensiculi in primis, queis pileus insuper adstat,
Qualem missa manu servitia accipiunt.[1]

When Caesar had been destroyed, as a sign of liberty regained, this coin was struck by the leaders, Brutus and his brother. In chief are daggers, beside which there also stands a cap, such as slaves receive when set free.

Notes:

1.  Julius Caesar, who had become in effect the sole ruler of Rome, was assassinated on the Ides of March in 44 BC by Marcus and Decimus Brutus, Cassius and other conspirators. Alciato describes the well-known coin-type celebrating the restoration of republican government issued by Brutus after the murder. This bears the legend EID.MAR. (The Ides of March) across the lower section; above this, occupying the upper two thirds of the coin face, are two upright daggers with a cap of liberty between. Alciato had presumably seen or owned such a coin. He wrote a short treatise on ancient coins.


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