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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 †[O6v p220]

    Littera occÓdit, spiritus vivificat.[1]

    The letter kills but the spirit gives life

    EMBLEMA CLXXXV.

    Vipereos Cadmus dentes ut credidit arvis,
    Sevit & Aonio semina dira solo:
    TerrigenŻm clypeata cohors exorta virorum est,
    Hostili inter se qui cecidere manu.
    Evasere quibus monitu Tritonidos armis
    Link to an image of this pageLink to an image of this page †[O7r p221]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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