Pity the Fool

On their stroll, Virgil and Dante encounter a giant (in Canto XXXI) who addresses them thusly:

“Raphél maì amèche zabì almi,”
he began screaming from his fierce mouth,
for which no sweeter psalm would be appropriate.

And my guide turned toward him: “Stupid soul,
play instead your horn, and with it vent yourself
when ire or other passions touch you!

Search your neck, and you’ll find a lanyard
to which it’s tied, o confused soul,
and you’ll find it upon to your chest.”

Then he said to me: “He blames himself;
this is Nimrod who through his evil designs
one language is now not used in the world. […]”

That’s Virgil explaining to Dante how God confounded humanity by giving it languages to prevent the Tower of Babel from being built. In the process, God also scattered people all over the world.

The part of the story that didn’t make it into the Bible is this. Right after God confounded humanity, he felt bad and took pity upon humans scattered every which way. In order to unite them again, but in such a way so that they would still be unable to complete the tower, God gave them STUPIDITY.
(That’s why Virgil calls Nimrod “stupid soul.”)
Stupidity is a sign of God’s mercy and love for humanity. Back when people used to believe in God, they knew this. Like around 1590, when this World Map in a Fool’s Head was produced.

In The Image of the World: 20 Centuries of World Maps, Peter Whitfield writes (via the Retronaut):
Its central visual metaphor is the universality of human folly and various mottoes around the map reinforce that theme. The panel of the left says: “Democritus laughed at it, Heraclitus wept over it, Epichtonius Cosmopolites portrayed it.” Although Epichtonius Cosmopolites appears to be the author’s or artist’s name, it translates roughly as “Everyman,” leaving the mapmaker’s true identity hidden.”


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