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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [C8v p48]


Deum & ama & time.

Both love and fear God.

Mysteriis addicta Memphis aede pro sacra
Sphingem biformem dedicavit, symbolum Dei.
Amato numen ceu piis mite, ac placabile:
Rursus time, ut vindex inexorabile impiis.

Memphis, devoted to the Mysteries, set up a statue of the hybrid Sphinx in front of the sacred temple, as a symbol of God. Love God as being mild and slow to anger with the holy; But just as much fear Him, as being inexorable as an avenger on the unholy.

Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [I2r p131]

Aristophanium Iambicum tetrametrum brachycata-
lecticum monocolon.

In describenda Sphinge dissentiunt inter se
auctores. siquidem eam triformem fuisse belluam
fabulatur Palaephatus[1] corpore canino, facie puel-
lari, alis volucris, voce humana. Zezes Lycophro-
interpres leonina specie antrorsum, posteriore
humana, unguibus gryphinis, aquilae alis eam de-
pingit. Ausonius quoque triformem describit illis
versibus in grypho ternario:
Terruit Aöniam volucris, leo, virgo, triformis
Sphinx, volucris pennis, pedibus fera, fronte
Psellus[2] in allegoriis biformem facit, umbilico te-
nus elegante forma puellam, cetera hispidam, cau
da oblonga, & ferinis pedibus, lingua Atticissan-
te & Pythagoraea, hoc est, diserta & sapiente:
Aelianus etiam lib. 12. de animalibus cap. 7 διφυῆ καὶ
δίμορφον biformem & duplici constantem natu-
ra, ab Aegyptiis effingi sculpique commemorat, mi
stura leonini & virginalis corporis in unum con-
flata: idque Euripidis testimonio confirmat. Suffra-
gantur illi Origen li. 1. contra Celsum dimidia sui parte
virginis formam prae se tulisse scribens, & Clemens.
Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [I2v p132]Iam verò Diodorus Siculus, & cum Solino Pli-
in Simiarum genere enumerant Sphingas,
comis villosas, prominulis mammis, & dociles:
quae nihil ad nostrum institutum, nisi quòd fabu-
lae biformis monstri attestantur. Quid dicam
quòd Dion Chrysostomus Sphingem allegoricè
inscitiam exponit: at Psellus pro homine è dissimi
libus constante, siquidem pars nostri rationalem
facultatem obtinet, pars brutam naturam sortita
est. Nunc ad symbolum veniamus, quod ex Cle-
mentis Alexandrini sententia adscribam. Sphinx
inquit lib. 5. stromatum,[3] pro delubris statueba-
tur apud Aegyptios, vel quia altis involucris o-
perta sit omnis de Deo ratio, & mortalium sen-
sibus obscura atque impervia: vel quia amare pa
riter & timere Deum teneamur, ac diligere qui-
dem ut piis mitem & benignum: metuere verò, ut
inexorabilem meritoque iustum vindicem scele-
rum erga impios, siquidem Sphinx humanam
pariter & belluinam speciem repraesentat: ut ni-
mirum ferina forma, terribilem eius duritiam &
asperitatem in exigenda ab impiis vindicta in-
sinuet, humana, facilem atque obviam erga pios
clementiam. Hanc in symbolo interpretationem
Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [I3r p133]secutus sum, tametsi aliter exponat Synesius Pto-
Episcopus longè doctissimus in libro De
regno,[4] et repetit in libris de Providentia, in hanc
ferè sententiam. Sphingem Aegyptia gens ante
delubra consecravit, ut sacrum symbolum coniun
ctionis virtutum, fortitudinis & prudentiae, dum
ferina species robur repraesentat; humana pruden
tiam: robur namque prudentia duce destitutum,
temerè citraque consilium & iudicium rapitur,
miscens atque confundens omnia: rursus inge-
nium & industria aut prudentia, quantumvis
magna, nisi manus habeat administras, inutilis
est atque evanida. Sed hoc eius interpretamen-
tum ideo respui, quòd aliud huius rei symbolum
eadem gens dederit; de quo diximus embl. XIII.

An Aristophanean iambic tetrameter brachycatalectic monocolon.
When it comes to describing the Sphinx, the authorities disagree amongst themselves. Palaephatus tells that she was a triple-formed monster, with the body of a dog, the face of a girl and the wings of a bird; and her voice was human. Tzetzes the commentator on Lycophron portrays her as having the appearance of a lion from the front, with a human back, talons of a griffin, and the wings of an eagle. Ausonius, too, describes a triple-formed beast in these lines on the tri-form griffin:
‘A triple-formed Sphinx terrorised Aonia, bird, lion, maiden,
With the wings of a bird, the feet of a wild beast, but a girl in front.’
Psellus talks in his allegories of a two-formed monster, with the appearance of a beautiful girl down to the navel, and the rest shaggy, with a rather long tail, and the feet of a wild beast; and its tongue being ‘very Attic and Pythagorean’, that is to say, eloquent and wise. Aelian, too, in bk. 12 of On Animals, ch. 7, records that it was carved and sculpted by the Egyptians as diphue kai dimorphon, that is two-formed and consisting of a double nature, a mixture of a lion’s and a girl’s body conflated together; and he confirms this on the authority of Euripides. Supporting this version are Origen, Against Celsus, bk. 1 - who writes that she has the form of a maid in front, this being one half of her - and Clement. [p.132] Now Diodorus Siculus and Pliny (supported by Solinus) count Sphinxes among the race of Monkeys, as having shaggy hair and rather prominent breasts, and being docile; which is nothing to our purpose, except in that the tales of a two-formed monster confirm it. I could mention that Dio Chrysostom explains the Sphinx as an allegory of ignorance; whereas Psellus sees it as standing for man that is made up of contradictory parts, since one part of us has the faculty of reason, but the other part is endowed with a brute nature. We now come to the emblem, which I give from a passage of Clement of Alexandria. The Sphinx (he says in bk. 5 of the Stromata), was set up as a statue by in Egypt in front of temples; either because the whole subject of theology is wrapped deep in mystery, and is dark and impenetrable to human thought; or because we are bound to love and fear God in equal measure - that is, to love him as being merciful and benevolent to the righteous, and to fear him, as he inexorably metes out their just deserts to the wicked for their wrongdoings. In the same way that the Sphinx has both a human and a bestial appearance in equal measure: so that, to be sure, her bestial appearance suggests a fearful harshness and severity in exacting their punishments from the wicked, while her human side implies an easy-going and easily-found clemency towards the righteous. In the emblem, I have followed this interpretation, [p.133] although Synesius, bishop of Ptolemais, a man of great learning, gives an alternative explanation in his book On the Kingdom, and he repeats it in his books On Providence, somewhat to this effect: that the Egyptian people consecrated a statue of a Sphinx in front of their temples, so as to represent a sacred symbol of the united virtues of strength and wisdom, since the appearance of a wild beast stands for strength, and that of a human girl for wisdom: for strength devoid of wisdom to guide it, takes decisions and jumps to judgments too rashly and speedily, throwing everything into chaos and confusion; but likewise intelligence and industriousness and prudence, however great, if they have not hands to serve them, are useless and frail. But I reject this interpretation for the reason that the same people [the Egyptians] had another emblem for this, which I have discussed in emblem XIII ([FJUb013]).


1.  Greek mythographer, one of several mentioned by Suidas.

2.  Probably Michael Psellus, the 11th-century poet and historian.

3.  See emblem XLI ([FJUb041]).

4.  Synesius, Bishop of Ptolemais (capital of Cyrenaica), neo-Platonist, wrote about good government (d. c. 414).

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