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Link to an image of this pageLink to an image of this page †[n2v p196]

Insani gladius.

The madman’s sword

XXIII.

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 38 ([A56a038]) 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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    Link to an image of this pageLink to an image of this page †[O5r p217]

    Insignia PoŽtarum.

    Insignia of poets

    EMBLEMA CLXXXIII.

    Gentiles clypeos sunt qui in Iovis alite gestant,
    Sunt quibus aut serpens, aut leo, signa ferunt:
    Dira sed haec vatum fugiant animalia ceras,
    Doctaque sustineat stemmata pulcher Olor.
    Hic Phoebo sacer[1], & nostrae regionis alumnus:
    Rex olim[2], veteres servat adhuc titulos.

    Some have a family crest distinguished by the bird of Jove, for others the serpent or the lion provides the sign. But let these dread beasts flee from poets’ images; let the lovely swan support their learned clan. This bird is sacred to Phoebus and is a nursling of my homeland. A king once, it still preserves its ancient titles.

    Notes:

    1.‘sacred to Phoebus’, i.e. to the god of music and poetry (Apollo).

    2.‘a king once’. See Ovid, Metamorphoses 2.367ff. for the story of Cycnus, king of Liguria, turned into a swan and inhabiting the marshes and lakes of the plain of the Po (Alciato’s homeland).


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