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Commentary on Emblem 88

In the 1621 commentary there many references to the Egyptian ibis in the ancient historians and natural philosophers: Herodotus 2.76, Cicero De natura deorum 2.49.126, Pliny 8.41.97 ("... the ibis, which makes use of the curve of its beak to purge itself through the part by which it is most conducive to health for the heavy residue of foodstuffs to be excreted" [an unusually laboured translation out of the Loeb edition]), Aristotle On the History of Animals 9.27 (617b28-30) (merely mentioning the white and black ibis of Egypt), On the Generation of Animals 3.6 (rejecting the view that the ibis procreates through the mouth), Aelian History of Animals 2.35, Ammianus Marcellinus 22, Pomponius Mela 3.9, Solinus 45, Plutarch Isis and Osiris in Moralia 381d, and also to the main contemporary scholar of hieroglyphics, Piero Valeriano [Bolzani] (1477-1558?), in his Hieroglyphica 17 ("De ibi", where among other things the ibis is presented as sign of cleaniness for the very practice that is condemned in Alciato as unclean; first published 1556, here from the edition of 1602).

As the poem notes, Ovid "named his enemy" an ibis (in his long satirical poem of that name, attacking an otherwise unnamed enemy). In so doing, Ovid, as he himself indicates in the Ibis 447-8, was imitating the Greek lyric poet Callimachus, who in a now lost poem (ed Pfeiffer, no 382) attacked an enemy named Apollonius and called him an ibis, in reference to the bird's method of purging itself. Callimachus was known in antiquity as "the son of Battus" (there are two explanation for the epithet - the Renaissance commentators claim that Battus was a king of Cyrene, so the epithet merely indicates "an inhabitant of Cyrene" or, the modern explanation, that a man named Battus was the actual father of Callimachus).

The 1621 commentatary also refers the reader to the proverb Osce loqui, "to speak Oscan" (explained in Erasmus, Adagia, IV iv 81, as a reference to people who speak foul language).

This emblem first appeared in Alciato's second collection, the edition of 1546. We give the illustration which first appeared on folio 30r.

Last modified 27 January 1998