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Andreae Alciati Em-
blematum liber
primus.

Ad illustrem[1] Maximilianum ducem Mediolanensem.

To the illustrious Maximilian, Duke of Milan.

Emblema I.

Exiliens infans sinuosi faucibus anguis,
Est gentilitiis nobile stemma tuis.[2]
Talia Pelleum[3] gessisse numismata regem,
Vidimus, hisque suum concelebrasse genus.
Dum se Ammone satum,[4] matrem anguis imagine lusam,
Divini & sobolem seminis esse docet.
Ore exit, tradunt sic quosdam enitier angues,[5]
An quia sic Pallas de capite orta Iovis?[6]

An infant bursting from the maw of a coiling serpent marks the noble lineage of your clan. We have observed that the Pellaean king had coinage with such a device and by it celebrated his own descent, proclaiming that he was begotten of Ammon, that his mother was beguiled by the form of a snake and the child was the offspring of divine seed. The infant emerges from the mouth. They say that some snakes come to birth that way. Or is it because Pallas sprang like this from the head of Jove?

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COMMENTARIA.

Describuntur hc insignia sive arma fami-
liae ducis Mediolani (est autem Mediolanum
civitas metropolis illius Ducatus Insubriae, in
Italia non procul ab Alpibus) quae ut hc de-
picta sunt Infans seu puerulus prosiliens ex
ore serpentis. Laudantur autem ab antiquitate
& celebritate primi inventoris: quia Pellaeus
(id est, Alexander Magnus sic dictus Pella
urbe in qua natus, unde Iuvenalis, Unus Pel-
laeo iuveni non sufficit orbis) olim talia nu-
mismata cussit, & ex simili figura, originem &
stirpem suam celebrem iactavit, dicens se di-
vinitus ortum. Mater nanque eius Olympias
confessa erat palm, Alexandrum se non ex
Philippo marito suo, sed ex serpente ingentis
magnitudinis concepisse &c. ut pulchr Iu-
stinus
lib. 11. & Quintus Curtius passim. Ammon
ver alis Hammon Iupiter dicitur, in specie
Arietis in quem transformatus fuit, ut canit
Ovidius lib. 5. Metamorphoseon Bacchus enim cm
iam tota debellata Asia, in Lybia per deser-
tum exercitum duceret & in sicca arena ma-
xima omnes siti premerentur. Ille patris sui
(Iupiter autem fuit, ut infr dicetur) praesidio
implorato, confestim Arietis ductu, amoenis-
simum invenit fontem. Illum autem Iovem
fuisse existimans, ideoque in illa Arena vasti-
Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [a5r p9]giosissimum Templum ei extruxit, in eoque si-
mulacrum Arietis posuit & Ammonem voca-
vit, id est, Arenarium, Graecis enim ἄμμος
arena dicitur, sed de his plura Suidas. Egredi-
tur autem puer ex ore serpentis, vel ideo quia
quosdam angues sic parere aiunt, vel quia
Pallas, id est, Minerva sapientiae dea, similiter
ex capite Iovis nata fingitur. Ut omnia haec
pulchr per ipsum autorem Alciatum in li-
bro suo quem scripsit de singulari certami-
ne. cap. 43.

Notes:

1. Other editions expand this to illustrissimum

2. The Sforza family had ruled Milan since 1450, having assumed power through marriage (some said fraudulently) to a Visconti heiress, and taken their symbol as their own. They were chased out in 1499 by the French, but restored several times.

3. Pellaeum...regem: ‘the Pellaean king’, i.e. Alexander the Great, born at Pella in Macedonia

4. For the superhuman birth of Alexander, see e.g. Plutarch, Life of Alexander, 3 and 27: Jupiter in the form of a serpent mated with Olympias, wife of Philip of Macedon, and begat Alexander. Ammon, a north African deity, was identified with Zeus/Jupiter. When Alexander visited Ammon’s sanctuary, he was hailed as the son of the god.

5. According to e.g.Pliny, Natural History 10.170, Aelian, De natura animalium 1.24, the viper, alone among snakes, produces not eggs but live young. See also Isidore, Etymologiae 12.4.10.

6. The story of Pallas Athene springing complete and armed from the head of Jove is found in many sources; see e.g. Homer, Hymns 3.308ff; Hesiod, Theogony 923ff.


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  • (story of) Alexander the Great representations to which the NAME of a person from classical history may be attached [98B(ALEXANDER THE GREAT)3] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • birth of Minerva; she emerges fully armed from Jupiter's head [92C211] Search | Browse Iconclass
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