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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [n3r p197]

XII. certamina Herculis[1]

The twelve labours of Hercules

ἀλληγορικῶς.

An allegorical treatment.

XXV.

Roboris invicti superat facundia laudes:
Dicta Sophistarum laqueosque resolvit inanes.
Non furor, aut rabies virtute potentior ulla est:
Continuum ob cursum sapienti opulentia cedit:
Spernit avaritiam, nec rapto aut foenore gaudet:
Vincit, foemineos spoliatque insignibus astus:
Expurgat sordes, & cultum mentibus addit:
Illicitos odit coitus, abigitque nocentes:
Barbaries feritasque dat impia denique poenam:
Unius virtus collectos dissipat hostes:
Invehit in patriam externis bona plurima ab oris:
Docta per ora virūm volat[2] et non interit unquam.

Eloquence surpasses the fame of untamed strength and unravels the sayings of sophists and their vain tricky problems. No rage nor madness of any sort has more power than virtue. Because of his continual exertion, wealth comes the way of the wise. Virtue scorns avarice and takes no pleasure in theft or usury. It overcomes the wiles of women and robs them of their triumph. It cleans out filth and brings culture to the mind. It hates illicit unions and repels them, with all their harm. Barbaric acts and godless savagery in the end pay the penalty. The virtue of one man scatters massed enemies. Virtue brings many good things from abroad to its own country. It passes from one man’ learned lips to another’s and does not perish ever.

Notes:

1.  Hercules was accredited with many victories over men and monsters, but eventually a list of twelve major ones was compiled. See e.g. Anthologia Graeca, 16.92. These ‘Labours’ he carried out at the behest of Eurystheus, incited by Hera (see next emblem, note 2). Alciato’s epigram follows this order: i. the Nemean lion; ii. the Hydra; iii. the Erymanthean boar; iv. the golden-antlered Arcadian stag; v. the birds of the Stymphalian Marsh; vi. the belt of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons; vii. the Augean stables; viii. the Cretan bull; ix. the mares of Diomedes; x. the cattle of the three-bodied giant Geryones (see Emblem 218 [A56a218]); xi. the golden apples of the Hesperides; and xii. the three-headed watchdog Cerberus. The Labours were given various allegorical interpretations both in antiquity and later, and Hercules himself becomes a wise man and philosopher, overcoming folly and sin. See Emblem 093 ([A56a093]).

2.  docta per ora virum volat, ‘It passes from one man’s learned lips to another’s’. Cf. the epitaph of the poet Ennius (Epigrams, Loeb edition, p. 402): ‘volito vivus per ora virum’ (still living, from one man’s mouth to another I fly).


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    Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [O6v p220]

    Littera occīdit, spiritus vivificat.[1]

    The letter kills but the spirit gives life

    EMBLEMA CLXXXV.

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