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Emblemas de Alciato.

The emblems of Alciato.

AD MAXIMILIANUM DU-
cem Mediolanensem
.

To Maximilian, Duke of Milan.

Emblema Prima.

Exiliens infans sinuosi faucibus anguis
Est gentilitiis nobile stemma tuis[1].
Talia Pellaeum gessisse nomismata regem[2]
Vidimus, hisque suum concelebrasse genus.
Dum se Ammone satum[3], matrem anguis imagine lusam,
Divini & sobolem seminis esse docet.
Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [A6r f6r]Ore exit, tradunt sic quosdam enitier angues[4].
An quia sic Pallas de capite orta Iovis[5]?

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?

Notes:

1. 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.

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

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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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Mediolanum.

Milan

Bituricis vervex, Heduis dat Sucula signum.
His populis patriae debita origo meae est,[1]
Quam Mediolanum sacram dixre puellae
Terram: nam vetus hoc Gallica lingua sonat.
Culta Minerva fuit, nunc est, ubi numine Tecla
Mutato matris virginis ante domum.[2]
Laniger huic signum sus est,[3] animalque biforme,
Acribus hinc setis, lanitio inde levi.

A ram provides the symbol for the Bituriges, a pig for the Aedui. My home country owes its origin to these peoples, a land sacred to the maiden, which they called Milan, for the ancient Gallic tongue names it so. Minerva was worshipped where now, with a change in presiding deity, Thecla is found before the house of the Virgin Mother. The city’s symbol is a woolly boar, an animal of double form, with sharp bristles at one end, smooth wool at the other.

Notes:

1. patriae meae, ‘my home country’. Alciato was born near Milan, and wrote a history of the city and the surrounding area. His populis...debita origo...est, ‘owes its origin to these peoples’. In the classical period Northern Italy was occupied by Celtic tribes from Gaul. The Bituriges and Aedui were two Gallic peoples, whose language would be a form of continental Celtic. See Alciato, Historia Mediolanensis, col.1ff. Biturgia is the Latin name for the modern Bourges; Aeduorum civitas or Hedua were two of the Latin names used for modern Autun.

2. The name of Minerva, the Roman virgin goddess, was transferred to a local Celtic divinity with some similarities. For the particular devotion of the early inhabitants to the worship of Minerva see Alciato, Historia Mediolanensis, col. 10. Tecla or Thecla was a Christian virgin martyr, supposedly a follower of St. Paul.

3. Laniger huic signum sus est, ‘The city’s symbol is a woolly boar’. This is based on a supposed etymology of the Celtic name Mediolanum (Milan), as if from medio- ‘middle’ and lana ‘wool’, .i.e. ‘half-covered in wool’. (This is found in Claudian, Epithalamium, 180ff; Sidonius Apollinaris, Epistulae 7.17.2; Isidore, Etymologiae, 15.1.) The name probably means ‘in the middle of the plain’.


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