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Do you hear, you who so rashly accuse the art of magic? It is an art acceptable to the immortal gods, full of all knowledge of worship and of prayer, full of piety and wisdom in things divine, full of honour and glory since the day when Zoroaster and Oromazes established it, high-priestess of the powers of heaven. Nay, it is one of the first elements of princely instruction, nor do they lightly admit any chance person to be a magician, any more than they would admit him to be a king. Plato -- if I may quote him again -- in another passage dealing with a certain Zalmoxis, a Thracian and also a master of this art has written that magical charms are merely beautiful words. If that is so, why should I be forbidden to learn the fair words of Zalmoxis or the priestly lore. of Zoroaster?
But if these accusers of mine, after the fashion of the common herd, define a magician as one who by communion of speech with the immortal gods has power to do all the marvels that he will, through a strange power of incantation, I really wonder that they are not afraid to attack one whom they acknowledge to be so powerful. For it is impossible to guard against such a mysterious and divine power. Against other dangers we may take adequate precautions. He who summons a murderer before the judge comes into court with an escort of friends; he who denounces a poisoner is unusually careful as to what he eats; he who accuses a thief sets a guard over his possessions. But for the man who exposes a magician, credited with such awful powers, to the danger of a capital sentence, how can escort or precaution or watchmen save him from unforeseen and inevitable disaster? Nothing can save him, and therefore the man who believes in the truth of such a charge as this is certainly the last person in the world who should bring such an accusation.
But it is a common and general error of the uninitiated to bring the following accusations against philosophers. Some of them think that those who explore the origins and elements of material things are irreligious, and assert that they deny the existence of the gods. Take, for instance, the cases of Anaxagoras, Leucippus, Democritus, and Epicurus, and other natural philosophers. Others call those magicians who bestow unusual care on the investigation of the workings of providence and unusual devotion on their worship of the gods, as though, forsooth, they knew how to perform everything that they know actually to be performed. So Epimenides, Orpheus, Pythagoras, and Ostanes were regarded as magicians, while a similar suspicion attached to the `purifications' of Empedocles, the `demon' of Socrates and the `good' of Plato. I congratulate myself therefore on being admitted to such distinguished company.
I fear, however, Maximus, that you may regard the empty, ridiculous and childish fictions which my opponents have advanced in support of their case as serious charges merely because they have been put forward. `Why,' says my accuser, `have you sought out particular kinds of fish?' Why should not a philosopher be permitted to do for the satisfaction of his desire for knowledge what the gourmand is permitted to do for the satisfaction of his gluttony? `What,' he asks, `induced a free woman to marry you after thirteen years of widowhood?' As if it were not more remarkable that she should have remained a widow so long. `Why, before she married you, did she express certain opinions in a letter?' As if anyone should give the reasons for another person's private opinions. `But,' he goes on, `although she was your senior in years, she did not despise your youth.' Surely this simply serves to show that there was no need of magic to induce a woman to marry a man, or a widow to wed a bachelor some years her junior. There are more charges equally frivolous. `Apuleius,' he persists, `keeps a mysterious object in his house which he worships with veneration.' As if it were not a worse offence to have nothing to worship at all. `A boy fell to the ground in Apuleius' presence.' What if a young man or even an old man had fallen in my presence through a sudden stroke of disease or merely owing to the slipperiness of the ground? Do you really think to prove your charge of magic by such arguments as these: the fall of a wretched boy, my marriage to my wife, my purchases of fish?
I should run but small risk if I were to content myself with what I have already said and begin my peroration. But since as a result of the length at which my accusers spoke, the water-clock still allows me plenty of time, let us, if there is no objection, consider the charges in detail. I will deny none of them, be they true or false. I will assume their truth, that this great crowd, which has gathered from all directions to hear this case, may clearly understand not only that no true incrimination can be brought against philosophers, but that not even any false charge can be fabricated against them, which -- such is their confidence in their innocence -- they will not be prepared to admit and to defend, even though it be in their power to deny it.
I will therefore begin by refuting their arguments, and will prove that they have nothing to do with magic. Next I will show that even on the assumption of my being the most consummate magician, I have never given cause or occasion for conviction of any evil practice. I will also deal with the lies with which they have endeavoured to arouse hostility against me, with their misquotation and misinterpretation of my wife's letters, and with my marriage with Pudentilla, whom, as I will proceed to prove, I married for love and not for money. This marriage of ours caused frightful annoyance and distress to Aemilianus. Hence springs all the anger, frenzy, and raving madness that he has shown in the conduct of this accusation.
If I succeed in making all these points abundantly clear and obvious, I shall then appeal to you, Claudius Maximus, and to all here present to bear me out, that the boy Sicinius Pudens, my step-son, through whom and with whose consent his uncle now accuses me, was quite recently stolen from my charge after the death of Pontianus his brother, who was as much his superior in character as in years, and that he was fiercely embittered against myself and his mother through no fault of mine: that he abandoned his study of the liberal arts and cast off all restraint, and -- thanks to the education afforded him by this villanous accusation -- is more likely to resemble his uncle Aemilianus than his brother Pontianus.
I will now, as I promised, take Aemilianus' ravings one by one, beginning with that charge which you must have noticed was given the place of honour in the accuser's speech, as his most effective method of exciting suspicion against me as a sorcerer, the charge that I had sought to purchase certain kinds of fish from some fishermen. Which of these two points is of the slightest value as affording suspicion of sorcery? That fishermen sought to procure me the fish ? Would you have me entrust such a task to gold-embroiderers or carpenters, and, to avoid your calumnies, make them change their trades so that the carpenter would net me the fish, and the fisherman take his place and hew his timber? Or did you infer that the fish were wanted for evil purposes because I paid to get them? I presume, if I had wanted them for a dinner-party, I should have got them for nothing. Why do not you go farther and accuse me on many similar grounds ? I have often bought wine and vegetables, fruit and bread. The principles laid down by you would involve the starvation of all purveyors of dainties. Who will ever venture to purchase food from them, if it be decided that all provisions for which money is given are wanted not for food but for sorcery?
But if there is nothing in all this that can give rise to suspicion, neither the payment of the fishermen to ply their usual trade, to wit, the capture of fish -- I may point out that the prosecution never produced any of these fishermen, who are, as a matter of fact, wholly creatures of their imagination -- nor the purchase of a common article of sale -- the prosecution have never stated the amount paid, for fear that if they mentioned a small sum, it would be regarded as trivial, or if they mentioned a large sum it would fail to win belief, -- if, I say, there is no cause for suspicion on any of these grounds, I would ask Aemilianus to tell me what, failing these, induced them to accuse me of magic.
`You seek to purchase fish,' he says. I will not deny it. But, I ask you, is any one who does that a magician? No more, in my opinion, than if I should seek to purchase hares or boar's flesh or fatted capons. Or is there something mysterious in fish and fish alone, hidden from all save sorcerers only? If you know what it is, clearly you are a magician. If you do not know, you must confess that you are bringing an accusation of the nature of which you are entirely ignorant. To think that you should be so ignorant not only of all literature, but even of popular tales, that you cannot even invent charges that will have some show of plausibility! For of what use for the kindling of love is an unfeeling chilly creature like a fish, or indeed anything else drawn from the sea, unless indeed you propose to bring forward in support of your lie the legend that Venus was born from the sea?
I beg you to listen to me, Tannonius Pudens, that you may learn the extent of the ignorance which you have shown by accepting the possession of a fish as a proof of sorcery. If you had read your Vergil, you would certainly have known that very different things are sought for this purpose. He, as far as I recollect, mentions soft garlands and rich herbs and male incense and threads of diverse hues, and, in addition to these, brittle laurel, clay to be hardened, and wax to be melted in the fire. There are also the objects mentioned by him in a more serious poem.
Rank herbs are sought, with milky venom dark
by brazen sickles under moonlight mown;
sought also is that wondrous talisman,
torn from the forehead of the foal at birth
ere yet its dam could snatch it.
But you who take such exception to fish attribute far different instruments to magicians, charms not to be torn from new-born foreheads, but to be cut from scaly backs; not to be plucked from the fields of earth, but to be drawn up from the deep fields of ocean; not to be mowed with sickles, but to be caught on hooks. Finally, when he is speaking of the black art, Vergil mentions poison, you produce an entree; he mentions herbs and young shoots, you talk of scales and bones; he crops the meadow, you search the waves.
I would also have quoted for your benefit similar passages from Theocritus with many others from Homer and Orpheus, from the comic and tragic poets and from the historians, had I not noticed ere now that you were unable to read Pudentilla's letter which was written in Greek. I will, therefore, do no more than cite one Latin poet. Those who have read Laevius will recognize the lines.
Love-charms the warlocks seek through all the world:
The `lover's knot' they try, the magic wheel,
ribbons and nails and roots and herbs and shoots,
the two-tailed lizard that draws on to love,
and eke the charm tbat gods the whinnying mare.
You would have made out a far more plausible case by pretending that I made use of such things instead of fish, if only you had possessed the slightest erudition. For the belief in the use of these things is so widespread that you might have been believed. But of what use are fish save to be cooked and eaten at meals? In magic they seem to me to be absolutely useless. I will tell you why I think so.
Many hold Pythagoras to have been a pupil of Zoroaster, and, like him, to have been skilled in magic. And yet it is recorded that once near Metapontum, on the shores of Italy, his home, which his influence had converted into a second Greece, he noticed certain fishermen draw up their net. He offered to buy whatever it might contain, and after depositing the price ordered all the fish caught in meshes of the net to be relea~ed and thrown back into the sea. He would assuredly never have allowed them to slip from his possession had he known them to possess any valuable magical properties. For being a man of abnormal learning, and a great admirer of the men of old, he remembered that Homer, a poet of manifold or, rather I should say, absolute knowledge of all that may be known, spoke of the power of all the drugs that earth produces, but made no mention of the sea, when speasing of a certain witch, he wrote the line:
All drugs, that wide earth nourishes, she knew.
Similarly in another passage he says:
Earth the grain-giver
yields up to her its store of drugs, whereo
many be healing, mingled in the cup,
and many baneful.
But never in the works of Homer did Proteus anoint his face nor Ulysses his magic trench, nor Aeolus his windbags, nor Helen her mixing bowl, nor Circe her cup, nor Venus her girdle, with any charm drawn from the sea or its inhabitants. You alone within the memory of man have been found to sweep as it were by some convulsion of nature all the powers of herbs and roots and young shoots and small pebbles from their hilltops into the sea, and there confine them in the entrails of fish. And so whereas sorcerers at their rites used to call on Mercury the giver of oracles, Venus that lures the soul, the moon that knows the mystery of the night, and Trivia the mistress of the shades, you will transfer Neptune, with Salacia and Portumnus and all the company of Nereids from the cold tides of the sea to the burning tides of love.
I have given my reasons for refusing to believe that magicians and fish have anything to do with one another. But now, if it please you, we will assume with Aemilianus that fish are useful for making magical charms as well as for their usual purposes. But does that prove that whoever acquires fish is ipso facto a magician? On those lines it might be urged that whoever acquires a sloop is a pirate, whoever acquires a crowbar a burglar, whoever acquires a sword an assassin. You will say that there is nothing in the world, however harmless, that may not be put to some bad use, nothing so cheerful that it may not be given a gloomy meaning. And yet we do not on that account put a bad interpretation on everything, though, for instance, you should hold that incense, cassia, myrrh, and similar other scents are purchased solely for the purpose of funerals; whereas they are also used for sacrifice and medicine.
But on the lines of your argument you must believe that even the comrades of Menelaus were magicians; for they, according to the great poet, averted starvation at the isle of Pharos by their use of curved fish-hooks. Nay, you will class in the same category of sorcerers seamews, dolphins, and the lobster; gourmands also, who sink whole fortunes in the sums they pay to fishermen; and fishermen themselves, who by their art capture all manner of fish.
`But what do you want fish for?' you insist. I feel myself under no necessity to tell you, and refuse to do so. But I challenge you to prove unsupported that I bought them for the purpose you assert; as though I had bought hellebore or hemlock or opium or any other of those drugs, the moderate use of which is salutary, although they are deadly when given with other substances or in too large quantities. Who would endure it if you made this a ground for accusing me of being a poisoner, merely because those drugs are capable of killing a man?
However, let us see what these fish were, fish so necessary for my possession and so hard to find, that they were well worth the price I paid for their acquisition. They have mentioned no more than three. To one they gave a false name; as regards the other two they lied. The name was false, for they asserted that the fish was a sea-hare, whereas it was quite another fish, which Themison, my servant, who knows something of medicine as you heard from his own lips, bought of his own suggestion for me to inspect. For, as a matter of fact, he has not as yet ever come across a sea-hare. But I admit that I search for other kinds of fish as well, and have commissioned not only fishermen but private friends to search for all the rarest kinds of fish, begging them either to describe the appearance of the fish or to send it me, if possible, alive, or, failing that, dead. Why I do so I will soon make clear.
My accusers lied -- and very cunning they thought themselves -- when they closed their false accusation by pretending that I had sought for two sea-beasts known by gross names. That fellow Tannonius wished to indicate the nature of the obscenity, but failed, matchless pleader that he is, owing to his inability to speak. After long hesitation he indicated the name of one of them by means of some clumsy and disgusting circumlocution. The other he found impossible to describe with decency, and evaded the difficulty by turning to my works and quoting a certain passage from them in which I described the attitude of a statue of Venus.
He also with that lofty puritanism which characterizes him, reproached me for not being ashamed to describe foul things in noble language. I might justly retort on him that, though he openly professes the study of eloquence, that stammering voice of his often gives utterance to noble things so basely as to defile them, and that frequently, when what he has to say presents not the slightest difficulty, he begins to stutter or even becomes utterly tongue-tied. Come now! Suppose I had said nothing about the statue of Venus, nor used the phrase which was of such service to you, what words would you have found to frame a charge, which is as suited to your stupidity as to your powers of speech? I ask you, is there anything more idiotic than the inference that, because the names of two things resemble each other, the things themselves are identical?
Or did you think it a particularly clever invention on your part to pretend that I had sought out these two fish for the purpose of using them as magical charms? Remember that it is as absurd an argument to say that these sea-creatures with gross names were sought for gross purposes, as to say that the sea-comb is sought for the adornment of the hair, the fish named sea-hawk to catch birds, the fish named the little boar for the hunting of boars, or the sea-skull to raise the dead. My reply to these lying fabrications, which are as stupid as they are absurd, is that I have never attempted to acquire these playthings of the sea, these tiny trifles of the shore, either gratis or for money.
Further, I reply that you were quite ignorant of the nature of the objects which you pretended that I sought to acquire. For these worthless fish you mention can be found on any shore in heaps and multitudes, and are cast up on dry land by the merest ripple without any need for human agency. Why do you not say that at the same time I commissioned large numbers of fishermen to secure for me at a price striped sea-shells, rough shells, smooth pebbles, crabs' claws, sea-urchins' husks, the tentacles of cuttlefish, shingle, straws, cordage, not to mention worm-eaten oyster-shells, moss, and seaweed, and all the flotsam of the sea that the winds drive, or the salt wave casts up, or the storm sweeps back, or the calm leaves high and dry all along our shores? For their names are no less suitable than those I mentioned above for the purpose of awakening suspicions.
You have said that certain objects drawn from the sea have a certain value for gross purposes on account of the similarity of their names. On this analogy why should not a stone be good for diseases of the bladder, a shell for the making of a will, a crab for a cancer, seaweed for an ague? Really, Claudius Maximus, in listening to these appallingly long-winded accusations to their very close you have shown a patience that is excessive and a kindness which is too long-suffering. For my part when they uttered these charges of theirs, as though they were serious and cogent, while I laughed at their stupidity, I marvelled at your patience.
However, since he takes so much interest in my affairs, I will now tell Aemilianus why I have examined so many fishes already and why I am unwilling to remain in ignorance of some I have not yet seen. Although he is in the decline of life and suffering from senile decay, let him, if he will, acquire ome learning even at the eleventh hour. Let him read the words of the philosophers of old, that now at any rate he may learn that I am not the first ichthyologist, but follow in the steps of authors, centuries my seniors, such as Aristotle, Theophrastus, Eudemus, Lycon, and the other successors of Plato, who have left many books on the generation, life, parts and differences of animals.
It is a good thing, Maximus, that this case is being tried before a scholar like yourself, who have read Aristotle's numerous volumes `on the generation, the anatomy, the history of animals', together with his numberless `Problems' and works by others of his school, treating of various subjects of this kind. If it is an honour and glory to them that they should have put on record the results of their careful researches, why should it be disgraceful to me to attempt the like task, especially since I shall attempt to write on those subjects both in Greek and Latin and in a more concise and systematic manner, and shall strive either to make good omissions or remedy mistakes in all these authors?
I beg of you, if you think it worth while, to permit the reading of extracts from my `magic' works, that Aemilianus may learn that my sedulous researches and inquiries have a wider range than he thinks. Bring a volume of my Greek works -- some of my friends who are interested in questions of natural history may perhaps have them with them in court -- take by preference one of those dealing with problems of natural philosophy, and from among those that volume in particular which treats of the race of fish. While he is looking for the book, I will tell you a story which has some relevance to this case.
The poet Sophocles, the rival and survivor of Euripides--for he lived to extreme old age -- on being accused by his own son of insanity on the ground that the advance of age had destroyed his wits, is said to have produced that matchless tragedy, his Oedipus Coloneus, on which he happened to be engaged at the time, and to have read it aloud to the jury without adding another word in his defence, except that he bade them without hesitation to condemn him as insane if an old man's poetry displeased them. At that point -- so I have read -- the jury rose to their feet as one man to show their admiration of so great a poet, and praised him marvellously both for the shrewdness of his argument and for the eloquence of his tragic verse. And indeed they were not far off unanimously condemning the accuser as the madman instead.
Have you found the book? Thank you. Let us try now whether what I write may serve me in good stead in a law-court. Read a few lines at the beginning, then some details concerning the fish. And do you while he reads stop the water-clock.
You hear, Maximus. You have doubtless frequently read the like in the wor}s of ancient philosophers. Remember too that these volumes of mine describe fishes only, distinguishing those that spring from the union of the sexes from those which are spontaneously generated from the mud, discussing how often and at what periods of the year the males and females of each species come together, setting forth the distinction established by nature between those of them who are viviparous and those who are oviparous -- for thus I translate the Greek phrases zôiotoka and ôiotoka -- together with the causes of this distinction and the organic differences by which it is characterized, in a word -- for I would not weary you by discussing all the different methods of generation in animals -- treating of the distinguishing marks of species, their various manners of life, the difference of their members and ages, with many other points necessary for the man of science but out of place in a law-court.
I will ask that a few of my Latin writings dealing with the same science may be read, in which you will notice some rare pieces of knowledge and names but little known to the Romans; indeed they have never been produced before today, but yet thanks to my toil and study they have been so translated from the Greek, that in spite of their strangeness they are none the less of Latin mintage. Do you deny this, Aemilianus? If so, let your advocates tell me in what Latin author they have ever before read such words as those which I will cause to be recited to you. I will mention only aquatic animals, nor will I make any reference to other animals save in connexion with the characteristics which distinguish them from aquatic creatures. Listen then to what I say. You will cry out at me saying that I am giving you a list of magic names such as are used in Egyptian or Babylonian rites. Selacheia, malacheia, malakostraka, chondrakantha, ostrakoderma, karcharodonta, amphibia, lepidôta, pholidôta, dermoptera, steganopoda, monèrè, sunagelastika -- I might continue the list, but it is not worth wasting time over such trifles, and I need time to deal with other charges. Meanwhile read out my translation into Latin of the few names I have just given you.
What do you think? Is it disgraceful for a philosopher who is no rude and unlearned person of the reckless Cynic type, but who remembers that he is a disciple of Plato, is it disgraceful for such an one to know and care for such learning or to be ignorant and indifferent? To know how far such things reveal the workings of providence, or to swallow all the tales his father and mother told him of the immortal gods?
Quintus Ennius wrote a poem on dainties: he there enumerates countless species of fish, which of course he had carefully studied. I remember a few lines and will recite them:
Clipea's sea-weasels are of all the best,
for `mice' the place is Aenus; oysters rough
in greatest plenty from Abydos come.
The sea-comb's found at Mitylene and
Ambracian Charadrus, and I praise
Brundisian sargus: take him, if he's big.
Know that Tarentum's small sea-boar is prime;
the sword-fish at Surrentum thou shouldst buy;
Blue fish at Cumae. What! Have I passed by
Scarus? The brain of Jove is not less sweet.
You catch them large and good off Nestor's home.
Have I passed by the black-tail and the `thrush',
the sea-merle and the shadow of the sea?
Best to Corcyra go for cuttle-fish,
for the acarne and the fat sea-skull
the purple-fish, the little murex too,
mice of the sea and the sea-urchin sweet.
He glorified many fish in other verses, stating where each was to be found and whether they were best fried or stewed, and yet he is not blamed for it by the learned. Spare then to blame me, who describe things known to few under elegant and appropriate names both in Greek and Latin.
Enough of this! I call your attention to another point. What if I take such interest and possess such skill in medicine as to search for certain remedies in fish? For assuredly as nature with impartial munificence has distributed and implanted many remedies throughout all other created things, so also similar remedies are to be found in fish. Now, do you think it more the business of a magician than of a doctor, or indeed of a philosopher, to know and seek out remedies? For the philosopher will use them not to win money for his purse, but to give assistance to his fellow men. The doctors of old indeed knew how to cure wounds by magic song, as Homer, the most reliable of all the writers of antiquity, tells us, making the blood of Ulysses to be stayed by a chant as it gushed forth from a wound. Now nothing that is done to save life can be matter for accusation.
`But,' says my adversary, `for what purpose save evil did you dissect the fish brought you by your servant Themison?' As if I had not told you just now that I write treatises on the organs of all kind of animals, describing the place, number and purpose of their various parts, diligently investigating Aristotle's works on anatomy and adding to them where necessary. I am, therefore, greatly surprised that you are only aware of my having inspected one small fish, although I have actually inspected a very large number under all circumstances wherever I might find them, and have, moreover, made no secret of my researches, but conducted them openly before all the world, so that the merest stranger may, if it please him, stand by and observe me. In this I follow the instruction of my masters, who assert that a free man of free spirit should as far as possible wear his thoughts upon his face. Indeed I actually showed this small fish, which you call a sea-hare, to many who stood by.
I do not yet know what name to call it without closer research, since in spite of its rarity and most remarkable characteristics I do not find it described by any of the ancient philosophers. This fish is, as far as my knowledge extends, unique in one respect, for it contains twelve bones resembling the knuckle-bones of a sucking-pig, linked together like a chain in its belly. Apart from this it is boneless. Had Aristotle known this, Aristotle who records as a most remarkable phenomenon the fact that the fish known as the small sea-ass alone of all fishes has its diminutive heart placed in its stomach, he would assuredly have mentioned the fact.
`You dissected a fish,' he says. Who can call this a crime in a philosopher which would be no crime in a butcher or cook? `You dissected a fish.' Perhaps you object to the fact that it was raw. You would not regard it as criminal if I had explored its stomach and cut up its delicate liver after it was cooked, as you teach the boy Sicinius Pudens to do with his own fish at meals. And yet it is a greater crime for a philosopher to eat fish than to inspect them. Are augurs to be allowed to explore the livers of victims and may not a philosopher look at them too, a philosopher who knows that he can draw omens from every animal, that he is the high-priest of every god? Do you bring that as a reproach against me which is one of the reasons for the admiration with which Maximus and myself regard Aristotle? Unless you drive his works from the libraries and snatch them from the hands of students you cannot accuse me. But enough! I have said almost more on this subject than I ought.
See, too, how they contradict themselves. They say that I sought my wife in marriage with the help of the black art and charms drawn from the sea at the very time when they acknowledge me to have been in the midmost mountains of Gaetulia, where, I suppose, Deucalion's deluge has made it possible to find fish! I am, however, glad that they do not know that I have read Theophrastus' `On beasts that bite and sting' and Nicander `On the bites of wild animals'; otherwise they would have accused me of poisoning as well! As a matter of fact I have acquired a knowledge of these subjects thanks to my reading of Aristotle and my desire to emulate him. I owe something also to the advice of my master Plato, who rays that those who make such investigations as these `pursue a delightful form of amusement which they will never regret.'
Since I have sufficiently cleared up this business of the fish, listen to another of their inventions equally stupid, but much more extravagant and far more wicked. They themselves knew that their argument about the fish was futile and bound to fail. They realized, moreover, its strange absurdity (for who ever heard of fish being scaled and boned for dark purposes of magic?), they realized that it would be better for their fictions to deal with things of more common report, which have ere now been believed. And so they devised the following fiction which does at least fall within the limits of popular credence and rumour. They asserted that I had taken a boy apart to a secret place with a small altar and a lantern and only a few accomplices as witnesses, and there so bewitched him with a magical incantation that he fell in the very spot where I pronounced the charm, and on being awakened was found to be out of his wits. They did not dare to go any further with the lie. To complete their story they should have added that the boy uttered many prophecies.
For this we know is the prize of magical incantations, namely divination and prophecy. And this miracle in the case of boys is confirmed not only by vulgar opinion but by the authority of learned men. I remember reading various relations of the kind in the philosopher Varro, a writer of the highest learning and erudition, but there was the following story in particular. Inquiry was being made at Tralles by means of magic into the probable issue of the Mithridatic war, and a boy who was gazing at an image of Mercury reflected in a bowl of water foretold the future in a hundred and sixty lines of verse. He records also that Fabius, having lost five hundred denarii, came to consult Nigidius; the latter by means of incantations inspired certain boys so that they were able to indicate to him where a pot containing a certain portion of the money had been hidden in the ground, and how the remainder had been dispersed, one denarius having found its way into the possession of Marcus Cato the philosopher. This coin Cato acknowledged he had received from a certain lackey as a contribution to the treasury of Apollo.
I have read this and the like concerning boys and art-magic in several authors, but I am in doubt whether to admit the truth of such stories or no, although I believe Plato when he asserts that there are certain divine powers holding a position and possessing a character midway between gods and men, and that all divination and the miracles of magicians are controlled by them. Moreover it is my own personal opinion that the human soul, especially when it is young and unsophisticated, may by the allurement of music or the soothing influence of sweet smells be lulled into slumber and banished into oblivion of its surroundings so that, as all consciousness of the body fades from the memory, it returns and is reduced to its primal nature, which is in truth immortal and divine; and thus, as it were in a kind of slumber, it may predict the future.
But howsoever these things may be, if any faith is to be put in them, the prophetic boy must, as far as I can understand, be fair and unblemished in body, shrewd of wit and ready of speech, so that a worthy and fair shrine may be provided for the divine indwelling power (if indeed such a power does enter into the boy's body) or that the boy's mind when wakened may quickly apply itself to its inherent powers of divination, find them ready to its use and reproduce their promptings undulled and unimpaired by any loss of memory. For, as Pythagoras said, not every kind of wood is fit to be carved into the likeness of Mercury.
If that be so, tell me who was that healthy, unblemished, intelligent, handsome boy whom I deemed worthy of initiation into such mysteries by the power of my spells. As a matter of fact, Thallus, whom you nentioned, needs a doctor rather than a magician. For the poor wretch is such a victim to epilepsy that he frequently has fits twice or thrice in one day without the need for any incantations, and exhausts all his limbs with his convulsions. His face is ulcerous, his head bruised in front and behind, his eyes are dull, his nostrils distended, his feet stumbling. He may claim to be the greatest of magicians in whose presence Thallus has remained for any considerable time upon his feet. For he is continually lying down, either a seizure or mere weariness causing him to collapse.
Yet you say that it is my incantations that have overwhelmed him, simply because he has once chanced to have a fit in my presence. Many of his fellow servants, whose appearance as witnesses you have demanded, are present in court. They all can tell you why it is they spit upon Thallus, and why no one ventures to eat from the same dish with him or to drink from the same cup. But why do I speak of these slaves? You yourselves have eyes. Deny then, if you dare, that Thallus used to have fits of epilepsy long before I came to Oea, or that has frequently been shown to doctors. Do his fellow slaves, who are at your service, deny this?
I will confess myself guilty of everything, if he has not long since been sent away into the country, far from the sight of all of them, to a distant farm, for fear he should infect the rest of the household. They cannot deny this to be the fact. For the same reason it is impossible for us to produce him here today. The whole of this accusation has been reckless and sudden, and it was only the day before yesterday that Aemilianus demanded that we should produce fifteen slaves before you. The fourteen living in the town are present today. Thallus only is absent owing to the fact that he has been banished to a place some hundred miles distant. However, we have sent a man to bring him here in a carriage.
I ask you, Maximus, to question these fourteen slaves whom we have produced as to where the boy Thallus is and what is the state of his health; I ask you to question my accuser's slaves. They will not deny that this boy is of revolting appearance, that his body is rotten through and through with disease, that he is liable to fits, and is a barbarian and a clodhopper. This is indeed a handsome boy whom you have selected as one who might fairly be produced at the offering of sacrifice, whom one might touch upon the head and clothe in a fair white cloak in expectation of some prophetic reply from his lips! I only wish he were present. I would have entrusted him to your tender mercies, Aemilianus, and would be ready to hold him myself that you might question him. Here in open court before the judges he would have rolled his wild eyes upon you, he would have foamed at the mouth, spat in your face, drawn in his hands convulsively, shaken his head and fallen at last in a fit into your arms.
Here are fourteen slaves whom you bade me produce in court. Why do you refuse to question them? You want one epileptic boy who, you know as well as I, has long been absent from Oea. What clearer evidence of the falseness of your accusations could be desired? Fourteen slaves are present, as you required; you ignore them. One young boy is absent: you concentrate your attack on him. What is it that you want? Suppose Thallus were present. Do you want to prove that he had a fit in my presence? Why, I myself admit it. You say that this was the result of incantation. I answer that the boy knows nothing about it, and that I can prove that it was not so. Even you will not deny that Thallus was epileptic. Why then attribute his fall to magic rather than disease? Was there anything improbable in his suffering that fate in my presence, which he has often suffered on other occasions in the presence of a number of persons?
Nay, even supposing I had thought it a great achievement to cast an epileptic into a fit, why should I use charms when, as I am told by writers on natural history, the burning of the stone named gagates is an equally sure and easy proof of the disease? For its scent is commonly used as a test of the soundness or infirmity of slaves even in the slave-market. Again, the spinning of a potter's wheel will easily infect a man suffering from this disease with its own giddiness. For the sight of its rotations weakens his already feeble mind, and the potter is far more effective than the magician for casting epileptics into convulsions.
You had no reason for demanding that I should produce these slaves; I have good reason for asking you to name those who witnessed that guilty ritual when I cast the moribund Thallus into one of his fits. The only witness you mention is that worthless boy, Sicinius Pudens, in whose name you accuse me. He says that he was present. His extreme youth is no reason why we should reject his sworn evidence, but the fact that he is one of my accusers does detract from his credibility. It would have been easier for you, Aemilianus, and your evidence would have carried much more weight, had you said that you were present at the rite and had been mad ever since, instead of entrusting the whole business to the evidence of boys as though it were a mere joke. A boy had a fit, a boy saw him. Was it also some boy that bewitched him?
At this point Tannonius Pudens, like the old hand he is, saw that this lie also was falling flat and was doomed to failure by the frowns and murmurs of the audience, and so, in order to check the suspicions of some of them by kindling fresh expectations, he said that he would produce other boys as well whom I had similarly bewitched. He thus passed to another line of accusation.
I might ignore it, but I will go out of my way to challenge it as I have done with all the rest. I want those boys to be produced. I hear they have been bribed by the promise of their liberty to perjure themselves. But I say no more. Only produce them. I demand and insist, Tannonius Pudens, that you should fulfil your promise. Bring forward those boys in whose evidence you put your trust; produce them, name them. You may use the time allotted to my speech for the purpose. Speak, I say, Tannonius. Why are you silent? Why do you hesitate? Why look round? If he does not remember what he has said, or has forgotten his witnesses' names, do you at any rate, Aemilianus, come forward and tell us what instructions you gave your advocate, and produce those boys. Why do you turn pale? Why are you silent? Is this the way to bring an accusation? Is this the way to indict a man on so serious a charge? Is it not rather an insult to so distinguished a citizen as Claudius Maximus, and a false and slanderous persecution of myself?
However, if your representative has made a slip in his speech, and there are no such boys to produce, at any rate make some use of the fourteen whom I have brought into court. If you refuse, why did you demand the appearance of such a housefull?
You have demanded fifteen slaves to support an accusation of magic; how many would you be demanding if it were a charge of violence? The inference is that fifteen slaves know something, and that something is still a mystery. Or is it nothing mysterious and yet something connected with magic? You must admit one of these two alternatives: either the proceeding to which I admitted so many witnesses had nothing improper about it, or, if it had, it should not have been witnessed by so many. Now this magic of which you accuse me is, I am told, a crime in the eyes of the law, and was forbidden in remote antiquity by the Twelve Tables because in some incredible manner crops had been charmed away from one field to another. It is then as mysterious an art as it is loathly and horrible; it needs as a rule night-watches and concealing darkness, solitude absolute and murmured incantations, to hear which few free men are admitted, not to speak of slaves. And yet you will have it that there were fifteen slaves present on this occasion. Was it a marriage? Or any other crowded ceremony? Or a seasonable banquet? Fifteen slaves take part in a magic rite as though they had been created quindecimvirs for the performance of sacrifice! Is it likely that I should have permitted so large a number to be present on such an occasion, if they were too many to be accomplices? Fifteen free men form a borough, fifteen slaves a household, fifteen fettered serfs a chain-gang. Did I need such a crowd to help me by holding the lustral victims during the lengthy rite? No! the only victims you mentioned were hens! Were they to count the grains of incense? Or to knock Thallus down?
You assert also that by promising to heal her I inveigled to my house a free woman who suffered from the same disease as Thallus; that she, too, fell senseless as a result of my incantations. It appears to me that you are accusing a wrestler, not a magician, since you say that all who visited me had a fall. And yet Themison, who is a physician and who brought the woman for my inspection, denied, when you asked him, Maximus, that I had done anything to the woman other than ask her whether she heard noises in her ears, and if so, which ear suffered most. He added that she departed immediately after telling me that her right ear was most troubled in that way.
At this point, Maximus, although I have for the present been careful to abstain from praising you, lest I should seem to have flattered you with an eye to winning my case, yet I cannot help praising you for the astuteness of your questions. After they had spent much time in discussing these points and asserting that I had bewitched the woman, and after the doctor who was present on that occasion had denied that I had done so, you, with shrewdness more than human, asked them what profit I derived from my incantations They replied, `The woman had a fit.' `What then?' you asked, `Did she die?' `No,' they said. `What is your point then? How did the fact of her having a fit profit Apuleius?'
That third question showed brilliant penetration and persistence. You knew that it was necessary to submit all facts to stringent examination of their causes, that often facts are admitted while motives remain to seek, and that the representatives of litigants are called pleaders of causes, because they set forth the causes of each particular act. To deny a fact is easy and needs no advocate, but it is far more arduous and difficult a task to demonstrate the rightness or wrongness of a given action. It is waste of time, therefore, to inquire whether a thing was done, when, even if it were done, no evil motive can be alleged. Under such circumstances, if no criminal motive is forthcoming, a good judge releases the accused from all further vexatious inquiry.
So now, since they have not proved that I either bewitched the woman or caused her to have a fit, I for my part will not deny that I examined her at the request of a physician; and I will tell you, Maximus, why I asked her if she had noises in her ears. I will do this not so much to clear myself of the charge which you, Maximus, have already decided to involve neither blame nor guilt, as to impart to you something worthy of your hearing and interesting to one of your erudition. I will tell you in as few words as possible. I have only to call your attention to certain facts. To instruct you would be presumption.
The philosopher Plato, in his glorious work, the Timaeus, sets forth with more than mortal eloquence the constitution of the whole universe. After discoursing with great insight on the three powers that make up man's soul, and showing with the utmost clearness the divine purpose that shaped our various members, he treats of the causes of all diseases under three heads. The first cause lies in the elements of the body, when the actual qualities of those elements, moisture and cold and their two opposites, fail to harmonize. That comes to pass when one of these clements assumes undue proportions or moves from its proper place. The second cause of disease lies in the vitiation of those components of the body which, though formed out of the simple elements, have coalesced in such a manner as to have a specific character of their own, such as blood, entrails, bone, marrow, and the various substances made from the blending of each of these. Thirdly, the concretion in the body of various juices, turbid vapours, and dense humours is the last provocative of sickness.
Of these causes that which contributes most to epilepsy, the disease of which I set out to speak, is a condition when the flesh is so melted by the noxious influence of fire as to form a thick and foaming humour. This generates a vapour, and the heat of the air thus compressed within the body causes a white and eruptive ferment. If this ferment succeeds in escaping from the body, it is dispersed in a manner that is repulsive rather than dangerous. For it causes an eczema to break out upon the surface of the skin of the breast and mottles it with all kinds of blotches. But the person to whom this happens is never again attacked with epilepsy, and so he rids himself of a most sore disease of the spirit at the price of a slight disfigurement of the body.
But if, on the other hand, this dangerous corruption be contained within the body and mingle with the black bile, and so run fiercely through every vein, and then working its way upwards to the head flood the brain with its destructive stream, it straightway weakens that royal part of man's spirit which is endowed with the power of reason and is enthroned in the head of man, that is its citadel and palace. For it overwhelms and throws into confusion those channels of divinity and paths of wisdom. During sleep it makes less havoc, but when men are full of meat and wine it makes its presence somewhat unpleasantly felt by a choking sensation, the herald of epilepsy. But if it reaches such strength as to attack the heads of men when they are wide awake, then their minds grow dull with a sudden cloud of stupefaction and they fall to the ground, their bodies swooning as in death, their spirit fainting within them. Men of our race have styled it not only the `Great sickness ' and the `Comitial sickness', but also the `Divine sickness', in this resembling the Greeks, who call it hiera nosos, the holy sickness. The name is just; for this sickness does outrage to the rational part of the soul, which is by far the most holy.