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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [B4r p23]


Coërcenda & exstirpanda impietas.

Impiety should be held in check and rooted out.

Ad D. Iacobum Susium virum doctissimum.[1]

Hostis colubris ales insidet sceptro,
Substrata quod Niloi equi premit terga.
Domat superbos, impiosque proculcat
Sceptrum aequitatis, noxiosque consumit.

This bird, the enemy of snakes, stands on a sceptre, which presses down on the back of the hippopotamus beneath it. The sceptre of righteousness masters the proud and tramples on the impious, and destroys the guilty.

Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [F7v p94]

Hippopotami impietatem immanem
esse, monumentis litterarum proditum est à vete
ribus; adeò ut ne patri quidem, per quem vitae u
suram accepit, parcat: qua de re etiam alibi scri-
psi. At ciconiam serpentium certissimum esse exi
tium nemo infitias iverit, qui eam longis colu-
bris invisam dici Virgilio didicerit: qua de caus-
sa necasse ciconiam capitalis noxia fuit apud Thes
, quòd eorum regio proventum serpentium abun
daret, si Plinio credimus. Sceptrum verò gesta-
men Regum, qui priscis saeculis iudices erant caus
sarum; ac proinde etiam iustitiae dicatum fuit.
Quo symbolo indicatur impietatem (quae vitio-
rum omnium fundamentum est, & qua flagitia
ac scelera omnia continentur) coërcendam esse
& vindice gladio castigandam, atque è medio
tollendam, non secùs quam à ciconiis solet serpen-
tium genus. Res per se clara est. Equo fluviatili[2]
in dorso erigatur sceptrum, cui ciconia insistat.

It is related by the ancients in their literary monuments that the impiousness of the hippopotamus is vast: to the extent that it will not even spare the life of its father, from whom it got the benefit of life; and I have written about this elsewhere. But that the stork is most deadly to snakes, no-one will deny, who has learnt that they are said by Vergil to be detested by the long serpents. For this reason it was a capital offence among the Thessalians to kill a stork, in that their part of the world abounds in a multitude of snakes, if we are to believe Pliny. The sceptre to be sure is symbolic of Kings, who in early antiquity were judges of legal disputes; and accordingly it became justice. The meaning of this emblem is that impiousness (which is at the bottom of all vices, and on which all sins and wickednesses are founded) must be kept under control and punished with the sword of vengeance, and should utterly done away with, just as the race of serpents is customarily wiped out by the storks. The picture is self-explanatory. The sceptre, on which the stork stands, should be depicted set up on the back of the hippopotamus.


1.  Susius: Jacob Suys or Jacques de Suys, Heer van Nederveen, Tolsende & Greysoord (d. 1591). Here described as ‘learned man’.

2.  Equus fluviatilis being a literal translation of the Greek ‘hippopotamus’, river horse, used by Pliny, Natural History,

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