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Deum odisse impudentiam.

That God hates impudence.

Pernix accipiter, piscis, Nili incola dirus
Equus, quid ordine haerent?
Symbolon hoc loquitur Phariae tria verbula genti,
Deus odit impudentes.[1]

The swift hawk, the fish, the dread horse that dwells in the Nile [hippopotamus] - Why do they stand in line? This hieroglyph speaks three words to the Egyptian people: God hates the impudent.

Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [I4v p136]

Hexametrum, cui subiungitur Iambicum dimetrum

Apud Sain inferioris Aegypti regionis me-
tropolin, in vestibulo fani Minervae sacrati, hiero
glyphicum symbolum exsculptum fuisse hoc ordi-
ne commemorat Plutarchus in libro de Iside: ni-
mirum Infans, Senex, Accipiter, Piscis, Hippo-
potamus ordine sequebantur: quo admonebantur
primis vitae initiis ad extremum usque eius ter
minum, animis hominum insidere debere, qud
Deo nihil sit magis invisum atque exosum, qum
impudentia. Accipiter autem Dei significatio-
nem habet, quoniam ea avis ceteras antecellit &
acie obtutus, & volatus pernicitate. Piscis ver
odii latentem significationem praefert, propter ma
re elementum humanae naturae inimicum. Hip-
popotamus denique impudentiam notat, ut qui
genitori quoque suo non parcat, eoque necato vi
matrem ineat. Est autem Hippopotamus sive
Equus fluvialis, soli Nilo cognitum animal, corio
& pilis vestitum; ut vitulus marinus, quaternis
pedibus, ungulis bifidis quales bubus, dorso equi
& iuba, rostro resimo,[2] cauda tortuosa & brevi,
dentibus aprorum aduncis, animal prae ceteris
Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [I5r p137]sagacisissimum, ut quod in arundinetis succisis cu-
bile ponit, tramitesque pabulatione aversis ve-
stigiis varios distinguit: & ex voracitate nimia
pigrescere se sentiens, arundini praeacutae crure im
presso, sanguinis profluvium elicit, eaque inanitio-
ne sibi medetur. Haec ferme de Hippopotamo ex
Ammiano, Plinio, Solino.[3]

A hexameter, to which is added an iambic dimeter catalectic.
At Sas the capital of Lower Egypt, in the entrance-hall of the temple sacred to Minerva, there was a hieroglyphic symbol carved in this sequence, as Plutarch records in his book On Isis: the sequence went Infant, Old Man, Bird of Prey, Fish, Hippopotamus. This was meant as a warning that from the very beginning of our life until its end, that it should be established in men’s hearts and minds that nothing is more hateful to and loathed by God than impudence. Now the bird of prey signifies God, because that bird outstrips the others both in the keenness of its sight and in the speed of its flight. The fish carries the meaning of hatred, because the sea is an element hostile to humankind. Finally the Hippopotamus denotes impudence, as it does not spare the life of its own father, but having fought and killed him, it mates with its mother. The Hippopotamus, or River-Horse, is an animal found only in the Nile, covered in hide and hair; like a sea-calf [seal], it has four feet, with cloven hooves like oxen have, the back and mane of a horse, a curved snout, a twisted, short tail, and hooked tusks like those of wild boar; it is the smartest of animals, [p.137] as it makes its nest in a bed of cut reeds, and can distinguish various paths with its tracks turned away from its place of foraging: and when it feels itself grow sluggish from excessive hunger, it stabs itself in the leg with a very sharp reed, and draws forth a flow of blood, and cures itself of starvation. Exactly these facts about the Hippopotamus can be found in Ammianus, Pliny and Solinus.


1. The prose says that the other two figures of a child and an old man are added to make a longer hieroglyph.

2. For the rostrum resimum hippopotami, see Pliny, Natural History, Resimus means ‘turned back on itself, bent back’.

3. Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae, 22.15.21-23; Pliny, Natural History, 8.95; Solinus, De Mirabilibus mundi, 33.

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