Praesumptio

Alexander_the_great

Altius ingenio raptus quam corpore, mundos
innumeros potuit animo numerasse suosque
Pythagoras superos. stupidus narrante dolebat
Magnus Anaxarcho; nec aperto lingua dolori
defuit, et morbum gemitu testatus anhelo:
‘ha miser!’ exclamat ‘vacuos rectoris inermes
tot video mundos, mihi nondum serviat unus;
nec mea dignatur casa mundus sceptra, nec unum
exaequasse Iovem Pellaeis glorior armis.’
o nimis excurrens praesumptio! nescia votis
ambitio praeferre modum, quae sola iubendi
anxia, diis solis regnantibus invidet orbem.
fixum non habuit successum gloria: Magnum
parvula, qui mundos sitiebat, sorbuit urna.
(Johannes de Hauvilla, Architrenius 6.15)

Borne aloft more in understanding than in body, the mind of Pythagoras was capable of enumerating innumerable worlds, each with its gods. Stupefied by Anaxarchus’s account, great Alexander grieved; speech was not lacking to express his grief openly, and he revealed his suffering in a pitiful groan: “Wretch that I am!” he cries, “for I behold so many worlds, lacking rulers and defenseless, but as yet not a single world owes service to me; not even the world where I dwell acknowledges my scepter, nor may I glory in having made myself the equal of even a single Jove by force of Pellaean arms.” O too unrestrained Presumption! Ambition that knows no limit to its hopes, tormented by the desire to command, looks jealously on a world ruled only by its gods. But the pursuit of glory attains no lasting success: a little urn swallowed the great Alexander, who had thirsted for entire worlds. (tr. Winthrop Wetherbee)

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