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Commentary on Emblem 5

Based on Greek Anthology 16.115, about Chiron the centaur. Here the approach is modified, and Cecrops, another biform figure, becomes the subject. In myth, Cecrops was the first king of Athens (Apollodorus 3.177ff), and was often described as he is here, as earth-born - half serpent, half man (see Oxford Classical Dictionary 2nd ed, sv). In Alciato's Christian interpretation, Cecrops is a figure of natural religion. He is a learned ruler (he is said to have devised monogamy, burial of the dead, writing), but ultimately he is unable to escape the claims of the physical.

The emblem first appeared in the 1546 edition, and the illustration was on folio 16r.

Last modified 29 August 1996