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Link to an image of this pageLink to an image of this page †[O8v p224]

Submovendam ignorantiam.

Ignorance must be done away with

EMBLEMA CLXXXVII.

Quod monstrum id? Sphinx[1] est. Cur candida virginis ora,
Et volucrum pennas, crura leonis habet?
Hanc faciem assumpsit rerum ignorantia: tanti
Scilicet est triplex caussa & origo mali.
Link to an image of this pageLink to an image of this page †[P1r p225]Sunt quos ingenium leve, sunt quos blanda voluptas,
Sunt & quos faciunt corda superba rudes.
At quibus est notum, quid Delphica littera[2] possit,
Praecipitis monstri guttura dira secant.
Namque vir ipse bipesque tripesque & quadrupes idem est,
Primaque prudentis laurea, nosse virum.

What monster is that? - It is the Sphinx. - Why has it the bright face of a maiden, the wings of birds, the legs of a lion? - Ignorance has assumed this form, because the cause and origin of this great evil is threefold. There are some whom frivolity makes ignorant, others the blandishments of pleasure, still others arrogance. But those who are aware of the force of the Delphic letter, these cut the dread throat of the lowering monster. For man himself is two-legged, three-legged, four-legged, one and the same, and the first victory of the wise is to know the man.

Notes:

1.The Sphinx was a monster which lay in wait on the road to Thebes and killed all travellers who could not answer its riddle: What goes on four legs in the morning, two at mid-day, three at evening? Oedipus destroyed the monster by giving the correct answer, ‘Man’ (i.e the baby crawls on all fours , the youth walks upright on his two legs, the old man requires a stick). See below, 1.9 (Namque vir ipse...). See also Erasmus, Adagia 1209, Boeotica aenigmata.

2.‘the Delphic letter’, i.e. the letter E. See Plutarch, De E apud Delphos, an essay which discusses various explanations put forward for the ‘E’, a letter cast in bronze. At the end of the essay (392ff.), the letter is brought into connection with the inscription Gnothi sauton, ‘Know thyself’ (cf. 1.10), which greeted those who came to consult the oracle of Apollo at Delphi. See also Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.6.6.


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  • Self-knowledge (+ emblematical representation of concept) [52A53(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Ignorance; 'Ignoranza', 'Ignoranza di tutte le cose', 'Ignoranza in un ricco senza lettere' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [52AA5(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Pleasure, Enjoyment, Joy; 'Allegrezza', 'Allegrezza da le medaglie', 'Allegrezza, letitia e giubilo', 'Diletto', 'Piacere', 'Piacere honesto' (Ripa) [56B1] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Licentiousness, Lasciviousness; 'Lascivia', 'Licenza' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [57AA51(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Pride, Loftiness; 'Alterezza in persona nata povera civile' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [57AA64(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Frivolity (+ emblematical representation of concept) [57AA66(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Delphic oracle [92B3721] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Oedipus and the sphinx; he solves the riddle [94T33] Search | Browse Iconclass

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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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