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Section: VINDICTA (Retribution). View all emblems in this section.

Link to an image of this pageLink to an image of this page †[M7r p189]

Insani gladius.

The madman’s sword

Setigeri medius stabat gregis ensifer Aiax,[1]
Caede suum, credens caedere Tantalidas.[2]
Hostia sic tanquam sus succedanea[3] poenas
Pro LaŽrtiade,[4] pro caveaque dabat.
Nescit obesse suis furor hostibus, errat ab ictu,
Consiliique impos in sua damna ruit.

Ajax was standing sword in hand in the midst of the bristled herd, thinking that in killing the pigs he was killing the descendants of Tantalus. The victim, like the substitute pig, was paying the penalty for the son of Laertes and for the assembled crowd. Madness does not know how to disadvantage its real foes; it misdirects its blows, and, lacking judgement, rushes headlong to its own destruction.

Notes:

1.See Emblem 28 ([A51a028]) for Ajax’ madness and suicide. In his madness, he slaughtered a herd of sheep, thinking them to be the Greeks. The two largest rams he took to be Agamemnon and Menelaus. See Zenobius, Proverbs, 1.43; Horace, Satires, 2.3.197-8; Erasmus, Adagia, 646 (Aiacis risus) - Erasmus makes the animals pigs, which Alciato here follows.

2.Tantalidas, ‘the descendants of Tantalus’ i.e. Agamemnon and Menelaus, whom Ajax blamed for his humiliation.

3.A substitute animal was sacrificed when the first offering was rejected by the gods or, as here, in place of the proper victim. See Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 4.6.5.

4.pro LaŽrtiade, ‘for the son of LaŽrtes’, i.e. Odysseus, to whom the Greek assembly awarded the splendid armour of the dead Achilles, not to Ajax.


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Section: PAX (Peace). View all emblems in this section.

Link to an image of this pageLink to an image of this page †[M8v p192]

Ex pace ubertas.

Prosperity as the result of peace

Grandibus ex spicis tenues contexe corollas,
Quas circum alterno palmite vitis eat.
His comptae Halcionet[1] tranquilli in marmoris unda
Nidificant, pullos involucresque fovent.
Laetus erit Cereri, Baccho quoque[2] fertilis annus,
Aequorei si rex alitis instar[3] erit.

From fat ears of corn weave supple garlands, and let the vine encircle them with alternating stems. Decked out with these the halcyon birds build their nests on the wave of the glassy sea, and cherish their unfledged chicks. - The year will be rich for Ceres and fertile for Bacchus too, if the king is the image of the bird of the sea.

Notes:

1.‘halcyon birds’. For these see Aelian, De natura animalium 1.36; 9.17; Pliny, Natural History. 10.47.89-91; and for the legend of their transformation, Ovid, Metamorphoses 11, 410ff, esp. 728ff. Halcyons were supposed to build a nest and launch it on the sea at a time of calm peaceful weather provided for them about the time of the winter solstice. See Erasmus, Adagia 1552, Halcedonia sunt apud forum.

2.‘for Ceres...and for Bacchus too’, i.e. rich with crops of corn and wine.

3.‘is the image of the bird of the sea’, i.e. diffusing peace, love and concord. Before their metamorphosis into seabirds, Alcyone and her husband were a deeply loving royal couple ruling a peaceful country. This love persisted after the change, symbolised by the calm weather associated with their nesting.


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