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Link to an image of this pageLink to an image of this page †[K1r p145]

Fortuna virtutem superans.

Fortune triumphant over virtue

EMBLEMA CXIX.

Caesareo postquŗm superatus milite, vidit
Civili undantem sanguine Pharsaliam;
Iam iam stricturus moribunda in pectora ferrum,
Audaci hos Brutus protulit ore sonos:
Infelix Virtus; & solis provida verbis,
Fortunam in rebus cur sequeris dominam?[1]

Brutus, defeated by the Caesarean troops, saw Pharsalia flowing with citizen blood. As he was about to plunge the sword into his dying heart, he spoke these words with undaunted voice: ‘Unhappy virtue, prudent only in word - why do you in reality submit to dominating fortune?’

Notes:

1.After the assassination of Julius Caesar, Brutus and Cassius became the leaders of the Republican cause. The Caesarean troops, led by Mark Antony and Octavian, Caesar’s heir, defeated them in 42 BC in two battles at Philippi in Macedonia. (Pharsalus in Thessaly was the site of the battle in 48 BC in which Julius Caesar had defeated Pompey in a previous round of the Civil Wars. Pharsalia is here loosely used, as in the Roman poets, to refer to both sites of similar civil conflict.) For Brutus’ suicide after the defeat, see the end of Plutarch’s Life of Brutus.


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  • Luck, Fortune, Lot; 'Fato', 'Fortuna', 'Fortuna aurea', 'Fortuna buona', 'Fortuna pacifica overo clemente', 'Sorte' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [54F12(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Virtuousness; 'Amor di Virtý', 'Attione virtuosa', 'Guida sicura de' veri honori', 'Virtý', 'Virtý insuperabile' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [57A6(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • geographical names of countries, regions, mountains, rivers, etc. (names of cities and villages excepted) (with NAME) [61D(PHARSALIA)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • (story of) Marcus Junius Brutus death of person from classical history [98B(BRUTUS, M.J.)68] Search | Browse Iconclass

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Link to an image of this pageLink to an image of this page †[b7v p30]

In occasionem.

Opportunity.

XVI.

Lysippi[1] hoc opus est, Sycion[2] cui patria: tu quis?[3]
Cuncta domans capti temporis articulus.
Link to an image of this pageLink to an image of this page †[b8r p31]Cur pinnis[4] stas? usque rotor. talaria plantis
Cur retines? passim me levis aura rapit.
In dextra est tenuis dic unde novacula? acutum
Omni acie hoc signum me magis esse docet.
Cur in fronte coma? occurrens ut prendar. at heus tu
Dic cur pars calva est posterior capitis?
Me semel alipedem si quis permittat abire,
Ne possim apprenso postmodÚ crine capi.
Tali opifex nos arte, tui causa, edidit hospes,
Utque omnes moneam, pergula aperta tenet.

This image is the work of Lysippus, whose home was Sicyon. - Who are you? - I am the moment of seized opportunity that governs all. - Why do you stand on points? - I am always whirling about. - Why do you have winged sandals on your feet? - The fickle breeze bears me in all directions. - Tell us, what is the reason for the sharp razor in your right hand? - This sign indicates that I am keener than any cutting edge. - Why is there a lock of hair on your brow? - So that I may be seized as I run towards you. - But come, tell us now, why ever is the back of your head bald? - So that if any person once lets me depart on my winged feet, I may not thereafter be caught by having my hair seized. It was for your sake, stranger, that the craftsman produced me with such art, and, so that I should warn all, it is an open portico that holds me.

COMMENTARIA.

Lysippus cuius meminit Martialis, nobilis
& insignis sculptor, (eius patria Sycion urbs
in Laconia erat, cuius egregia opera Plinius va-
riis in locis commendat) hanc statuam fabri-
cavit, quae Occasio dicitur, id est, opportuni-
tas temporis rectŤ observata omnia regens &
gubernans, teste Plutarcho in vita Niciae. Stat
autem pinnis, id est, calamis durioribus ro-
tundis: semper enim labitur nec unquam fir-
ma permanet, in pedibus talaria, id est, cal-
ceos alatos (ut etiam Mercurius) gerit, per
aŽrem etenim ad omnia loca volitat. Dextra
novaculam tenet, significans illam quavis re
acutissima magis acutam, in fronte solým ca-
pillata, ut occurrens statim apprehendatur,
retro verÚ calva est, quippe semel amissa, post
terga capi amplius nequit , ita etiam Cato ille
Link to an image of this pageLink to an image of this page †[b8v p32]gravissimus eam describit, inquiens. Fronte
capillata post haec Occasio calva. Stat autem
pergula, hoc est alto eminentique loco ut faci-
lŤ videri possit & omnes admoneat.

Notes:

1.Greek sculptor, 4th century BC.

2.A town west of Corinth.

3.This is a translation of Anthologia graeca 16.275. See also Erasmus, Adagia 670, Nosce tempus, where Erasmus too gives a verse translation of the Greek epigram.

4.‘on points’. Alciato here agrees with Erasmus, who similarly translates the phrase ep’ akra, ‘on tiptoe’, in the Greek original. Thomas More translates more obviously with summis digitis. See Selecta epigrammata (Cornarius, ed.) p. 372ff.


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