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EMBLEMA I.

Ad illustrissimum Maximilianum Mediolanensem
ducem, super insigni ducatus Me-
diolanensis.

To the illustrious Maximilian, Duke of Milan.

Exiliens infans sinuosi è faucibus anguis
Est gentilitiis nobile stemma tuis.[1]
Talia Pellaeum[2] gessisse nomismata Regem
Vidimus, hisque suum concelebrasse genus.
Dum se Ammone satum,[3] matrem anguis imagine Lusam,
Divini & sobolem seminis esse docet.
Ore exit, tradunt, sic quosdam enitier angues,[4]
An quia sic Pallas de capite orta Iovis?[5]

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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Das erst Emblema.

Grabmal deß Durchleuchtigen, Hochge-
bornen Fürsten und Herren, Herrn Maximilian
Hertzogen zu Meyland.

Ein schönes Kind so auß dem mundt
Der krummen Schlangen springen kundt
Ist deines Geschlechts und Adel alt
Herkommen Wappen und gestalt
Dergleichen auff den Müntzen stat
Die der groß Alexander hat
Gebrecht, damit zu zeigen an
Sein Geschlecht als ich gesehen han
Dweil er sich Göttlichs samen nennt
Von Gott Hammon geborn erkennt
Der sein Mutter under der gstalt
Betrogen hab einer Schlangen alt
Mann schreibt auch das etlich Schlangen
An die Welt durch den mund gangen
Also auch die Göttin Pallas
Auß Jovis Haupt geboren was.

Notes:

1.  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.

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

3.  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.

4.  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.

5.  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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