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His wife, however, was getting old and worn out and gave up the whole household to dishonour. But there was a daughter who, at her mother's instigation, was exhibited to all the wealthy young men, but in vain. To some of the suitors she was even given to try. Had she not come across so easy a victim as Pontianus, she would perhaps still have been sitting at home a widow who had never been a bride. Pontianus, in spite of urgent attempts on our part to dissuade him, gave her the right -- false and illusory though it was -- to be called a bride. He did this knowing that, but a short time before he married her, she had been deserted by a young man of good family to whom she had been previously betrothed, after he had had enough of her.
And so his new bride came to him, not as other brides come, but unabashed and undismayed, her virtue lost, her modesty gone, her bridal-veil a mockery. Cast off by her previous lover, she brought to her wedding the name without the purity of a maid. She rode in a litter carried by eight slaves. You who were present saw how impudently she made eyes at all the young and how immodestly she flaunted her charms. Who did not recognize her mother's pupil, when they saw her dyed lips, her rouged cheeks, and her lascivious eyes? Her dowry was borrowed, every penny of it, on the eve of her wedding, and was indeed greater than could be expected of so large and impoverished a family.
But though Rufinus' fortune is small, his hopes are boundless. With avarice rivalled only by his need he had already devoured Pudentilla's 4,000,000 in vain anticipation. With this in view he decided that I must be got out of the way, in order that he might find fewer obstacles in his attempt to hoodwink the weak Pontianus and the lonely Pudentilla. He began, therefore, to upbraid his son-in-law for having betrothed his mother to me. He urged him to draw back without delay from so perilous a path, while there was yet time; to keep his mother's fortune himself rather than deliberately transfer it to the keeping of a stranger. He threatened that, if he refused, he would take away his daughter, the device of an old hand to influence a young man in love.
To be brief, he so wrought upon the simple-minded young man, who was, moreover, a slave to the charms of his new bride, as to mould him to his will and move him from his purpose. Pontianus went to his mother and told her what Rufinus had said to him. But he made no impression on her steadfast character. On the contrary, she rebuked him for his fickleness and inconstancy, and it was no pleasant news he took back to his father-in-law. His mother had shown a firmness of purpose not to be expected of one of her placid disposition, and to make matters worse, his expostulations had made her angry, which was likely seriously to increase her obstinacy; in fact, she had finally replied, that it was no secret to her that his expostulations were instigated by Rufinus, a fact which made the support and assistance of a husband against his desperate greed all the more necessary to her.
When he heard this, the ruffian was stung to fury and burst into such wild and ungovernable rage that in the presence of her own son he heaped insults, such as he might have used to his own wife, on the purest and most modest of women. In the presence of many witnesses, whom, if you desire it, I will name, he loudly denounced her as a wanton and myself as a sorcerer and poisoner, threatening to murder me with his own hands. I can hardly restrain my anger, such fierce indignation fills my soul. That you, the most effeminate of men, should threaten any man with death at your hand! What hand? The hand of Philomela or Medea or Clytemnestra? Why, when you dance in those characters you show such contemptible timidity, you are so frightened at the sight of steel, that you will not even carry a property sword.
But I am digressing. Pudentilla, seeing to her astonishment that her son had fallen lower than she could have deemed possible, went into the country and by way of rebuke wrote him the notorious letter, in which, according to my accusers, she confessed that my magical practices had made her lose her reason and fall in love with me. And yet, Maximus, the day before yesterday at your command I took a copy of the letter in the presence of witnesses and of Pontianus' secretary. Aemilianus also was there and countersigned the copy. What is the result? In contradiction to my accusers' assertion everything is found to tell in my favour.
And yet, even if she had spoken somewhat strongly and had called me a magician, it would be a reasonable explanation that she had, in defending her conduct to her son, preferred to allege compulsion on my part rather than her own inclination. Is Phaedra the only woman whom love has driven to write a lying letter? Is it not rather a device common to all women that, when they have begun to feel strong desire for anything of this kind, they should prefer to make themselves out the victims of compulsion? But even supposing she had genuinely regarded me as a magician, would the mere fact of Pudentilla's writing to that effect be a reason for actually regarding me as a magician? You, with all your arguments and your witnesses and your diffuse eloquence, have failed to prove me a magician. Could she prove it with one word? A formal indictment, written and signed before a judge, is a far more weighty document than what is written in a private letter! Why do not you prove me a magician by my own deeds instead of having recourse to the mere words of another?
If your principle be followed, and whatever any one may have written in a letter under the influence of love or hatred be admitted as proof, many a man will be indicted on the wildest charges. `Pudentilla called you a magician in her letter; therefore you are a magician!' If she had called me a consul, would that make me one? What if she had called me a painter, a doctor, or even an innocent man? Would you accept any of these statements, simply because she had made them? You would accept none of them. Yet it is a gross injustice to believe a person when he speaks evil of another and to refuse to believe him when he speaks well. It is a gross injustice that a letter should have power to destroy and not to save. - `But,' says my accuser, `she was out of her wits, she loved you distractedly.' I will grant it for the moment. But are all persons, who are the objects of love, magicians, just because the person in love with them chances to say so in a letter? If, indeed, Pudentilla wrote in a letter to another person what would clearly be prejudicial to myself, I think she could hardly have been in love with me at the moment in question.
Tell me now, what is your contention: was she mad or sane when she wrote? Sane, do you say? Then she was not the victim of magic. Insane? In that case she did not know what she was writing and must not be believed. Nay, even supposing her to have been insane, she would not have been aware of the fact. For just as to say `I am silent' is to make a fool of oneself, since these very words actually break silence, and the act of speaking impugns the substance of one's speech, so it is even more absurd to say `I am mad'. It cannot be true unless the speaker knows what he says, and he who knows what madness is, is ipso facto sane. For madness cannot know itself any more than blindness can see itself. Therefore Pudentilla was in possession of her senses, if she thought she was out of them. I could say more on this point, but enough of dialectic!
I will read out the letter which gives crying witness to a very different state of things and might indeed have been specially prepared to suit this particular trial. Take it and read it out until I interrupt.
Stop a moment before you go on to what follows. We have come to the crucial point. So far, Maximus, as far at any rate as I have noticed, the lady has made no mention of magic, but has merely repeated in the same order the statements which I quoted a short time ago about her long widowhood, the proposed remedy for her ill health, her desire to marry, the good report she had heard of me from Pontianus, his own advice that she should marry me in preference to others.
So much for what has been read. There remains a portion of the letter which, although like the first part it was written in my defence, also turns against me. For although it was specially written to rebut the charge of magic brought against me, a remarkable piece of ingenuity on the part of Rufinus has altered its meaning and brought me into discredit with certain citizens of Oea as being a proved sorcerer.
Maximus, you have heard much from the lips of others, you have learned yet more by reading, and your own personal experience has taught you not a little. But you will say that never yet have you come across such insidious cunning or such marvellous dexterity in crime. What Palamedes, what Sisyphus, what Eurybates or Phrynondas could ever have devised such guile? All those whom I have mentioned, together with all the notorious deceivers of history, would seem mere clowns and pantaloons, were they to attempt to match this one single instince of Rufinus' craftiness. O miracle of lies! O subtlety worthy of the prison and the stocks! Who could imagine that what was written as a defence could without the alteration of a single letter be transformed into an accusation! Good God! it is incredible. But I will make clear to you how the incredible came to pass.
The mother was rebuking her son because, after extolling me to her as a model of all the virtues, he now, at Rufinus' instigation, asserted that I was a magician. The actual words were as follows:
Apuleius is a magician and has bewitched me to love him! Come to me, then, while I am still in my senses.
These words, which I have quoted in Greek, have been selected by Rufinus and separated from their context. He has taken them round as a confession on the part of Pudentilla, and, with Pontianus at his side all dissolved in tears, has shown them through all the market-place, allowing men only to read that portion which I have just cited and suppressing all that comes before and after. His excuse was that the rest of the letter was too disgusting to be shown; it was sufficient that publicity should be given to Pudentilla's confession as to my sorcery.
What was the result? Everyone thought it probable enough. That very letter, which was written to clear my character, excited the most violent hatred against me amongst those who did not know the facts. This foul villain went rushing about in the midst of the market-place like any bacchanal; he kept opening the letter and proclaiming, `Apuleius is a sorcerer! She herself describes her feelings and her sufferings! What more do you demand?' There was no one to take my part and reply, `Give us the whole letter, please! Let me see it all, let me read it from beginning to end. There are many things which, produced apart from their context, may seem open to a slanderous inter-pretation. Any speech may be attacked, if a passage depending for its sense on what has preceded be robbed of its commencement, or if phrases be expunged at will from the place they logically occupy, or if what is written ironically be read out in such a tone as to make it seem a defamatory statement.'
With what justice this protest or words to that effect might have been uttered the actual order of the letter will show.
Now, Aemilianus, try to remember whether the following were not the words of which, together with myself, you took a copy in the presence of witnesses.
For since I desired to marry for the reasons of which I told you, you persuaded me to choose Apuleius in preference to all others, since you had a great admiration for him and were eager through me to become yet more intimate with him. But now that certain ill-natured persons have brought accusations against us and attempt to dissuade you, Apuleius has suddenly become a magician and has bewitched me to love him! Come to me, then, while I am still in my senses.
I ask you, Maximus, if letters -- some of which are actually called vocal -- could find a voice, if words, as poets say, could take them wings and fly, would they not, when Rufinus first made disingenuous excerpts from that letter, read but a few lines and deliberately said nothing of much that bore a more favourable meaning, would not the remaining letters have cried out that they were unjustly kept out of sight? Would not the words suppressed by Rufinus have flown from his hands and filled the whole market-place with tumult: `they too had been sent by Pudentilla, they too had been entrusted with something to say; men should not give ear to a dishonest villain attempting to prove a lie by means of another's letter, but rather listen to them; Pudentilla never accused Apuleius of magic, while Rufinus' accusation was tantamount to an acquittal.' All these things were not said then, but now, when they are of more effectual service to me, their truth appears clearer than day. Rufinus, your cunning stands revealed, your fraud stares us in the face, your lies are laid bare; truth dethroned for a while rises once more and transcends slander as if from a bottomless pit.
You challenged me with Pudentilla's letter: with that letter I win the day. If you like to hear the conclusion, I will not grudge it you. Tell me, what were the words with which she ended the letter, that poor bewitched, lunatic, insane, infatuated lady?
I am not bewitched, I am not in love; it is my destiny.
Would you have anything more? Pudentilla throws your words in your teeth and publicly vindicates her sanity against your slanderous aspersions. The motive or necessity of her marriage, whichever it was, she now ascribes to fate, and between fate and magic there is a great gulf, indeed they have absolutely nothing in common. For if it be true that the destiny of each created thing is like a fierce torrent that may neither be stayed nor diverted, what power is left for magic drugs or incantations? Pudentilla, therefore, not only denied that I was a magician, but denied the very existence of magic. It is a good thing that Pontianus, following his usual custom, kept his mother's letter safe in its entirety: it is a good thing that the speed with which this case has been hurried on left you no opportunity for adding to that letter at your leisure. For this I have to thank you and your foresight, Maximus. You saw through their slanders from the beginning and hurried on the case that they might not gather strength as the days went by; you gave them no breathing space and wrecked their designs.
Suppose now that the mother, after her wont, had made confession of her passion for me in some private letter to her son. Was it just, Rufinus, was it consistent, I will not say with filial piety but with common humanity, that these letters should be circulated and, above all, published and proclaimed abroad by her own son? But perhaps I am no better than a fool to ask you to have regard for another's sense of decency when you have so long lost your own.
Why should I only complain of what is past? The present is equally distressing. To think that this unhappy boy should have been so corrupted by you as to read aloud in the proconsular court, before a man of such lofty character as Claudius Maximus, a letter from his mother, which he chooses to regard as amatory, and in the presence of the statues of the emperor Pius to accuse his mother of yielding to a shameful passion and reproach her with her amours? Who is there of such gentle temper, but that this would wake him to fury? Vilest of creatures, do you pry into your mother's heart in such matters, do you watch her glances, count her sighs, sound her affections, intercept her letters, and accuse her of being in love? Do you seek to discover what she does in the privacy of her own chamber, do you demand -- I will not say that she should be above love affairs -- but that she should cease to be a woman? Cannot you conceive the possibility that she should show any affection save the affection of a mother for her son? Ah! Pudentilla, you are unhappy in your offspring! Far better have been barren than have borne such children! Ill-omened were the long months through which you bore them in your womb and thankless your fourteen years of widowhood! The viper, I am told, reaches the light of day only by gnawing through its mother's womb; its parent must die before it is born. But your son is fullgrown and the wounds he deals are far bitterer, for they are inflicted on you while you yet live and see the light of day. He insults your reserve, he arraigns your modesty, he wounds you to the heart and outrages your dearest affections.
Is this the gratitude with which a dutiful son like yourself repays his mother for the life she gave him, for the inheritance she won him for her long fourteen years of seclusion? Is the result of your uncle's teaching this, that, if you were sure your sons would be like yourself, you should be afraid to take a wife? There is a well-known line
I hate the boy that's wise before his time.
Yes, and who would not loathe and detest a boy that is `wicked before his time,' when he sees you, like some frightful portent, old in sin but young in years, with the bodily powers of a boy, yet deep in guilt, with the bright face of a child, but with wickedness such as might match grey hairs? Nay, the most offensive thing about him is that his pernicious deeds go scot free; he is too young to punish, yet old enough to do injury. Injury, did I say? No! crime, unfilial, black, monstrous, intolerable crime!
The Athenians, when they captured the correspondence of their enemy, Philip of Macedon, and the letters were being read in public one by one, out of reverence for the common rights of humanity forbade one letter to be read aloud, a letter addressed by Philip to his wife Olympias. They spared the enemy that they might not intrude on the privacy of husband and wife; they placed the law that is common to all mankind above the claims of private vengeance. So enemy dealt with enemy! And how have you dealt as son with his mother? You see how close is my parallel. Yet you read out aloud lettcrs written by your mother which, according to your assertion, concern her love affairs, and you do so before this gathering here assembled, a gathering before which you would not dare to read the verses of some obscene poet, even if bidden to do so, but you would be restrained by some sense of shame. Nay, you would never have touched your mother's letters, had you ever been in touch with letters.
But you have also dared to submit a letter of your own to be read, a letter written about your mother in outrageously disrespectful, abwive, and unseemly language, written too at a time when you were still being brought up under her loving care. This letter you sent secretly to Pontianus, and you have now produced it to avoid the reproach of having sinned only once and to make sure that he could catch a glance of your good deed! Poor fool, do you not realize that your uncle permitted you to do this, that he might clear himself in public estimation by using your letter as proof that even before you migrated to his house, even at the time when you caressed your mother with false words of love, you were already as cunning as any fox and devoid of all filial affection?
But I cannot bring myself to believe Aemilianus such a fool as to think that the letter of a mere boy, who is also one of my accusers, could seriously tell against me.
There is also that forged letter by which they attempted to prove that I beguiled Pudentilla with flattery. I never wrote it and the forgery is not even plausible. What need did I have of flattery, if I put my trust in magic? And how did they secure possession of that letter which must, as is usual in such affairs, have been sent to Pudentilla by some confidential servant? Why, again, should I write in such faulty words, such barbarous language, I whom my accusers admit to be quite at home in Greek? And why should I seek to seduce her by flattery so absurd and coarse? They themselves admit that I write amatory verse with sufficient sprightliness and skill. The explanation is obvious to everyone; it is this: he who could not read the letter which Pudentilla wrote in Greek altogether too refined for his comprehension, found it easier to read this letter and set it off to greater advantage because it was his own.
One more point and I shall have said enough about the letters. Pudentilla, after writing in jest and irony those words `Come then, while I am yet in my senses,' sent for her sons and her daughter-in-law and lived with them for about two months. I beg this most dutiful of sons to tell us whether he then noticed his mother's alleged madness to have affected for the worse either her words or her deeds. Let him deny that she showed the utmost shrewdness in her examination of the accounts of the bailiffs, grooms, and shepherds, that she earnestly warned his brother Pontianus to be on his guard against the designs of Rufinus, that she rebuked him severely for having freely published the letter she had sent him without having read it honestly as it was written! Let him deny that, after what I have just related to you, his mother married me in her country house, as had been agreed some time previously!
The reason for our decision to be married by preference at her country house not far from Oea was to avoid a fresh concourse of citizens demanding largesse. It was but a short time before that Pudentilla had distributed 50,000 sesterces to the people on the occasion of Pontianus' marriage and this boy's assumption of the garb of manhood. We also wished to avoid the frequent and wearisome dinner-parties which custom generally imposes on newly-married couples. This is the whole reason, Aemilianus, why our marriage contract was signed not in the town but at a country house in the neighbourhood -- to avoid squandering another 50,000 sesterces and to escape dining in your company or at your house. Is that sufficient?
I must say that I am surprised that you object so strongly to the country house, considering that you spend most of your time in the country. The Julian marriage-law nowhere contains a clause such as `no man shall wed in a country house.' Indeed, if you would know the truth, it is of far better omen for the expectation of offspring that one should marry one's wife in a country house in preference to the town, on rich soil in preference to barren ground, on the greensward of the meadow rather than the pavement of the market-place. She that would be a mother should marry in the very bosom of her mother, among the standing crops, on the fruitful ploughland, or she should lie beneath the elm that weds the vine, on the very lap of mother earth, among the springing herbage, the trailing vine-shoots and the budding trees. I may add that the metaphor in the line so well known in comedy
that in the furrow children true be sown
bears out this view most strongly. The ancient Romans also, such as Quintius, Serranus and many others, were offered not only wives but consulships and dictatorships in the open field. On such an abundant topic, I will restrain myself for fear of gratifying you by my praise of country life.
As to Pudentilla's age, concerning which you lied so boldly as to assert that she had married at the age of sixty, I will reply in a few words. It is not necessary to speak at length in discussing a matter where the truth is so obvious.
Her father acknowledged her for his daughter in the usual fashion; the documents in which he did so are preserved partly in the public record office, partly in his house. Here they are before your very eyes. Please hand the documents to Aemilianus. Let him examine the linen strip that bears the seal; let him recognize the seal stamped upon it, let him read the names of the consuls for the year, let him count up the years. He gave her sixty years. Let him bring out the total at fifty-five, admitting that he lied and gave her five too many. Nay, that is hardly enough. I will deal yet more liberally with him. He gave Pudentilla such a number of years that I will reward him by returning ten. Mezentius has been wandering with Ulysses; let him at least prove that she is fifty.
To cut the matter short, as I am dealing with an accuser who is used to multiplying by four, I will multiply five years by four and subtract twenty years at one fell swoop. I beg you, Maximus, to order the number of consuls since her birth to be reckoned. If I am not mistaken, you will find that Pudentilla has barely passed her fortieth year. The insolent audacity of this falsehood! Twenty years' exile would be a worthy punishment for such mendacity! Your fiction has added a good half to the sum, your fabrication is one and a half times the size of the original. Had you said thirty years when you ought to have said ten, it might have been supposed that you had made a slip in the gesture used for your calculation, that you had placed your fore-finger against the middle joint of your thumb, when you should have made them form a circle. But whereas the gesture indicating forty is the simplest of all such gestures, for you have merely to hold out the palm of your hand -- you have increased the number by half as much again. There is no room for an erroneous gesture; the only possible hypothesis is that, believing Pudentilla to be thirty, you got your total by adding up the number of consuls, two to each year.
I have done with this. I come now to the very heart of the accusation, to the actual motive for the use of magic. I ask Rufinus and Aemilianus to answer me and tell me -- even assuming that I am the most consummate magician -- what I had to gain by persuading Pudentilla to marry me by means of my love philtres and my incantations.
I am well aware that many persons, when accused of some crime or other, even if it has been shown that there was some real motive for the offence, have amply cleared themselves of guilt by this one line of defence, that the whole record of their lives renders the suspicion of such a crime incredible and that even though there may have been strong temptation to sin, the mere fact of the existence of the temptation should not be counted against them. We have no right to assume that everything that might have been done actually has been done. Circumstances may alter; the one true guide is a man's character; the one sure indication that a charge should be rejected or believed is the fact that through all his life the accused has set his face towards vice or virtue as the case may be.
I might with the utmost justice put in such a plea for myself, but I waive my right in your favour, and shall think that I have made out but a poor case for myself, if I merely clear myself of all your charges, if I merely show that there exists not the slightest ground for suspecting me of sorcery. Consider what confidence in my innocence and what contempt of you is implied by my conduct. If you can discover one trivial reason that might have led me to woo Pudentilla for the sake of some personal advantage, if you can prove that I have made the very slightest profit out of my marriage, I am ready to be any magician you please -- the great Carmendas himself or Damigeron or Moses, or Jannes or Apollobex or Dardanus himself or any sorcerer of note from the time of Zoroaster and Ostanes till now.
See, Maximus, what a disturbance they have raised, merely because I have mentioned a few magicians by name. What am I to do with men so stupid and uncivilized? Shall I proceed to prove to you that I have come across these names and many more in the course of my study of distinguished authors in the public libraries? Or shall I argue that the knowledge of the names of sorcerers is one thing, participation in their art another, and that it is not tantamount to confessing a crime to have one's brain well stored with learning and a memory retentive of its erudition? Or shall I take what is far the best course and, relying on your learning, Maximus, and your perfect erudition, disdain to reply to the accusations of these stupid and uncultivated fellows? Yes, that is what I will do. I will not care a straw for what they may think. I will go on with the argument on which I had entered and will show that I had no motive for seducing Pudentilla into marriage by the use of love philtres. My accusers have gone out of their way to make disparaging remarks both about her age and her appearance; they have denounced me for desiring such a wife from motives of greed and robbing her of her vast and magnificent dowry at the very outset of our wedded life.
I do not intend to weary you Maximus, with a long reply on these points. There is no need for words from me, our deeds of settlement will speak more eloquently than I can do. From them you will see that both in my provision for the future and in my action at the time my conduct was precisely the opposite of that which they have attributed to me, inferring my rapacity from their own. You will see that Pudentilla's dowry was small, considering her wealth, and was made over to me as a trust, not as a gift, and moreover that the marriage only took place on this condition that if my wife should die without leaving me any children, the dowry should go to her sons Pontianus and Pudens, while if at her death she should leave me one son or daughter, half of the dowry was to go to the offspring of the second marriage, the remainder to the sons of the first.
This, as I say, I will prove from the actual deed of settlement. It may be that Aemilianus will still refuse to believe that the total sum recorded is only 30,000 sesterces, and that the reveNion of this sum is given by the settlement to Pudentilla's sons. Take the deeds into your own hands, give them to Rufinus who incited you to this accusation. Let him read them, let him blush for his arrogant temper and his pretentious beggary. He is poor and ill-clad and borrowed 400,000 sesterces to dower his daughter, while Pudentilla, a woman of fortune, was content with 300,000, and her husband, who has often refused the hand of the richest heiresses, is also content with this trifling dowry, a mere nominal sum. He cares for nothing save his wife and counts harmony with his spouse and great love as his sole treasure, his only wealth.
Who that had the least experience of life, would dare to pass any censure if a widow of inconsiderable beauty and considerable age, being desirous of marriage, had by the offer of a large dowry and easy conditions invited a young man, who, whether as regards appearance, character or wealth, was no despicable match, to become her husband? A beautiful maiden, even though she is poor, is amply dowered. For she brings to her husband a fresh untainted spirit, the charm of her beauty, the unblemished glory of her prime. The very fact that she is a maiden is rightly and deservedly regarded by all husbands as the strongest recommendation. For whatever else you receive as your wife's dowry you can, when it pleases you and if you desire to feel yourself under no further obligation, repay in full just as you received it; you can count back the money, restore the slaves, leave the howe, abandon the estates. Virginity only, once it has been given, can never be repaid; it is the one portion of the dowry that remains irrevocably with the husband.
A widow on the other hand, if divorced, leaves you as she came. She brings you nothing that she cannot ask back, she has been another's and is certainly far from tractable to your wishes; she looks suspiciously on her new home, while you regard her with suspicion because she has already been parted from one husband: if it was by death she lost her husband, the evil omen of her ill-starred union minimizes her attractions, while, if she left him by divorce, she possesses one of two faults: either she was so intolerable that she was divorced by her husband, or so insolent as to divorce him. It is for reasons of this kind among others that widows offer a larger dowry to attract suitors for their hands. Pudentilla would have done the same had she not found a philosopher indifferent to her dowry.
Consider. If I had desired her from motives of avarice, what could have been more profitable to me in my attempt to make myself master in her house than the dissemination of strife between mother and sons, the alienation of her children from her affections, so that I might have unfettered and supreme control over her loneliness? Such would have been, would it not, the action of the brigand you pretend me to be.
But as a matter of fact I did all I could to promote, to restore and foster quiet and harmony and family affection, and not only abstained from sowing fresh feuds, but utterly extinguished those already in existence. I urged my wife -- whose whole fortune according to my accusers I had by this time devoured -- I urged her and finally persuaded her, when her sons demanded back the money of which I spoke above, to pay over the whole sum at once in the shape of farms, at a low valuation and at the price suggested by themselves, and further to surrender from her own private property certain exceedingly fertile lands, a large house richly decorated, a great quantity of wheat, barley, wine and oil, and other fruits of the earth, together with not less than four hundred slaves and a large number of valuable cattle. Finally I persuaded her to abandon all claims on the portion she had given them and to give them good hopes of one day coming into the rest of the property. All these concessions I extorted from Pudentilla with difficulty and against her will -- I have her leave to tell the whole story as it happened -- I wrung them from her by my urgent entreaty, though she was angry and reluctant. I reconciled the mother with her sons, and began my career as a step-father by enriching my step-sons with a large sum of money.
All Oea was aware of this. Every one execrated Rufinus and extolled mg conduct.
Pontianus together with his very inferior brother had come to visit us, before his mother had completed her donation. He fell at our feet and implored us to forgive and forget all his past offences; he wept, kissed our hands and expressed his penitence for listening to Rufinus and others like him. He also most humbly begged me to make his excuses to the most honourable Lollianus Avitus to whom I had recommended him not long before when he was beginning the study of oratory. He had discovered that I had written to Avitus a few days previously a full account of all that had happened. I granted him this request also and gave him a letter with which he set off to Carthage, where Lollianus Avitus, the term of his proconsulate having neariy expired, was awaiting your arrival, Maximus. After reading my letters he congratulated Pontianus with the exquisite courtesy which always characterizes him for having so soon rectified his error and entrusted him with a reply. Ah! what learning! what wit! what grace and charm dwelt in that reply! Only a `good man and an orator' could have written it.
I know, Maximus, that you will readily give a hearing to this letter. Indeed, if it is to be read, I will recite it myself. Give me Avitus' letter. That I should have received it has always flattered me. Today it shall do more than flatter, it shall save me! You may let the water-clock continue, for I would gladly read and re-read the letter of that excellent man to the third and fourth time at the cost of any amount of the time allowed me.
I know that after reading this letter I should bring my speech to a close. For what ampler commendation, what purer testimony could I produce in my support, what more eloquent advocacy? I have in the course of my life listened with rapt attention to many eloquent Romans, but never have I admired any so much as Avitus. There is in my opinion no one living of any attainments or promise in oratory who would not far sooner be Avitus, if he compares him with himself impartially and without envy. For practically all the different excellencies of oratory are united in him. Whatever speech Avitus composes will be found so absolutely perfect and complete in all respects that it would satisfy Cato by its dignity, Laelius with its smoothness, Gracchus with its energy, Caesar with its warmth, Hortensius with its arrangement, Calvus with its point, Sallust with its economy and Cicero with its wealth of rhetoric. In fact, not to go through all his merits, if you were to hear Avitus, you would wish nothing added, withdrawn or altered of anything that he says.
I see, Maximus, with what pleasure you listen to the recital of the virtues which you recognize your friend Avitus to possess. Your courtesy invited me to say a few words about him. But I will not trespass on your kindness so far as to permit myself to commence a discourse on his extraordinary virtues at this period of the case. It is wearing to its end and my powers are almost exhausted. I will rather reserve the praise of Avitus' virtues for some day when my time is free and my powers unimpaired.
Now, I grieve to say, it is my duty to turn from the description of so great a man to discuss these pestilent fellows here. Do you dare then, Aemilianus, to match yourself against Avitus? Will you attack with accusations of magic and the black art him whom Avitus describes as a good man, and whose disposition he praises so warmly in his letter? Or do you have greater reason to be vexed at my forcing my way into Pudentilla's house and pillaging her goods than Pontianus would have had, Pontianus, who not only in my presence but even before Avitus in my absence, made amends for the strife of a few days that had sprung up between us at your instigation, and expressed his gratitude to me in the presence of so great a man?
Suppose I had read a report of what took place in Avitus' presence instead of reading merely his letter. What is there in the whole affair that could give you or anyone else a handle for accusing me? Pontianus himself considered himself in my debt for the money given him by his mother; Pontianus rejoiced with the utmost sincerity in his good fortune in having me for his step-father. Ah! would that he had returned from Carthage safe and sound! Or since it was not fated that that should be, would that you, Rufinus, had not poisoned his judgement at the last! What gratitude he would have expressed to me either personally or in his will! However, as things are, I beg you, Maximus, -- it will not take long -- to allow the reading of these letters full of expressions of respect and affection for myself, which he sent me, some of them from Carthage, some as he drew near on his homeward journey, some written while he still enjoyed his health, and some when the sickness was already upon him. Thus his brother, my accuser, will realize how in everything he is running a Minerva's course with his brother, a man of blessed memory.
Did you hear the phrases which your brother Pontianus used in speaking of me? He called me his father, his master, his instructor not only on various occasions in his lifetime but actually on his deathbed. I might follow this by producing similar letters from you, if I thought that the delay thus caused would be worth while. But I should prefer to produce your brother's recent will, unfinished though it may be, in which he made most dutiful and respectful mention of myself. But Rufinus never allowed this will to be drawn up or completed owing to his chagrin at the loss of the inheritance which he had regarded in the light of a rich payment for his daughter's embraces during the few months in which he was Pontianus' father-in-law. He had further consulted certain Chaldean soothsayers as to what profit his daughter, whom he regarded in the light of an investment, would bring him in. They, I am told, prophesied truly -- would they had not -- that her first husband would die in a few months. The rest of the prophecy dealing with the inheritance was as usual fabricated to suit the debires of their client.
But Rufinus gaped for his prey in vain like a wild beast that has gone blind. For Pontianus not only did not leave Rufinus' daughter as his heir -- he had discovered her evil character -- but he did not even make her a respectable legacy. He left her by way of insult linen to the value of 200 denarii, to show that he had not forgotten or ignored her, but that he set this value on her as an expression of his resentment. As his heirs -- in this just as in the former will which has been read aloud -- he appointed his mother and his brother, against whom, mere boy as he is, Rufinus is, as you see, bringing his old artillery into play: I refer to his daughter. He thrusts her upon his embraces although she is considerably his elder and but a brief while ago was his brother's wife.
Pudens was so captivated and possessed by the charms of that harlot and by the beguiling words of the pander, her father, that the moment his brother had breathed his last, he left his mother and migrated to his uncle's house. The design was to facilitate the carrying out of the schemes already afoot by removing him from our influence. For Aemilianus is backing Rufinus and desires his success. Ah! Thank you! You rightly remind me that this excellent uncle has hopes of his own mixed up in this affair, for he knows that if this boy dies intestate he will be his heir-at-law, whatever he may be in point of equity. I wish I had not let this slip. I am a man of great self-control and it is not my way to blurt out openly the silent suspicions that must have occurred to every one. You did wrong in suggesting this point to me!
But to be frank, if you will have the truth, many have been wondering at the sudden affection which you, Aemilianus, have begun to show for this boy since the death of his brother Pontianus, whereas formerly you were such a stranger to him that frequently, even when you met him, you failed to recognize the face of your brother's son. But now you show yourself so patient towards him, you so spoil him by your indulgence and grant his every whim to such an extent that your conduct makes the more suspicious think their suspicions well grounded. You took him from us a mere boy and straightway gave him the garb of manhood. While he was under our guardianship, he used to go to school: now he has bidden a long farewell to study and betaken himself to the delights of the tavern. He despises serious friends, and, boy as he is, spends his tender years in revelling with the most abandoned youths among harlots and wine-cups. He rules your house, orders your slaves, directs your banquets. He is frequently seen in</
I> the gladiatorial school and there -- as a boy of position should! -- he learns from the keeper of the school the names of the gladiators, the fights they have fought, the wounds they have received. He never speaks any language save Punic, and though he may occasionally use a Greek word picked up from his mother, he neither will nor can speak Latin. You heard, Maximus, a little while ago, you heard my step-son -- oh! the shame of it! -- the brother of that eloquent young fellow Pontianus, hardly able to stammer out single syllables, when you asked him whether his mother had given himself and his brother the gifts which, as I told you just now, she actually gave them with my hearty support.
I call you, therefore, Claudius Maximus, and you, gentlemen, his assessors, and you that with me stand before this tribunal, to bear witness that this boy's disgraceful falling away in morals is due to his uncle here and that candidate for the privilege of becoming his father-in-law, and that I shall henceforth count it a blessing that such a step-son has lifted the burden of superintending him from my shoulders, and that from this day forth I will never intercede for him with his mother.
For recently -- I had almost forgotten to mention it -- when Pudentilla, who had fallen ill after the death of her son Pontianus, was writing her will, I had a prolonged struggle to prevent her disinheriting this boy on account of the outrageous insult and injury he had inflicted on her. I prayed her with the utmost earnestness to erase that most important clause, which, I can assure you, she had already written, every word of it! Finally, I even threatened to leave her, if she refused to accede to my request, and begged her to grant me this boon, to conquer her wicked son by kindness, and to save me from all the ill feeling which her action would create. I did not desist till she complied.
I regret that I should have taken away this point of concern from Aemilianus and showed him such an unexpected thing. Look, Maximus, see how confused he is at hearing this, see how he casts his eyes upon the ground. He had not unnaturally expected something very different. He knew that my wife was angry with her son on account of his insolent behaviour and that she returned my devotion. He had reason also for fear in regard to myself; for anyone else, even if like myself he had been above coveting the inheritance, would gladly have seen so undutiful a step-son punished. It was this anxiety above all others that spurred them on to accuse me. Their own avarice led them falsely to conjecture that the whole inheritance had been left to me. As far as the past is concerned, I will dispel your fears on that point. I was proof against the temptation both of enriching myself and of revenging myself. I -- a step-father, mind you -- contended for my wicked step-son with his mother, as a father might contend against a stepmother in the interests of a virtuous son; nor did I rest satisfied till, with a perfectly extravagant sense of fairness, I had restrained my good wife's lavish generosity towards myself.
Give me the will which was made in the interests of so unfilial a son by his mother. Each word of it was preceded by an entreaty from myself, whom my accusers speak of as a mere robber. Order the tablets to be broken open, Maximus. You will find that her son is the heir, that I get nothing save some trifling complimentary legacy inserted to avoid the non-appearance of my name, the husband's name, mark you, in my wife's will, supposing she succumbed to any of the ills to which this flesh is heir. Take up your mother's will. You are right, in one respect it is undutiful. She excludes her devoted husband from the inheritance in favour of her most unfilial son? Nay, it is not her son to whom she leaves her fortune; she leaves it rather to the greedy Aemilianus and the matchmaking Rufinus and that drunken gang, that hang about you and prey upon you.
Take it, o best of sons! Lay aside your mother's love-letters for a while and read her will instead. If she ever wrote anything while not in her right mind, you will find it here, nor will you have to go far to find it. `Let Sicinius Pudens, my son, be my heir.' I admit it! he who reads this, will think it insanity. Is this same son your heir, who at his own brother's funeral attempted with the help of a gang of the most abandoned youths to shut you out of the house which you yourself had given him, who is so deeply and bitterly incensed to find that his brother left you co-heir with himself, who hastened to desert you when you were plunged in grief and mourning, and fled from your bosom to Aemilianus and Rufinus, who afterwards uttered many insults against you to your face, and manufactured others with the help of his uncle, who has dragged your name through the law-courts, has attempted by using your own letters publicly to besmirch your fair fame, and has accused upon a capital charge the husband of your choice, with whom, as Pudens himself objected, you were madly in love!
Open the will, my good boy, open it, I beg you. You will find it easier then to prove your mother's insanity. Why do you draw back? Why do you refuse to look at it, now that you are free from all anxiety about the inheritance of your mother's fortune?
He may do as he likes, Maximus, but for my part I cast these tablets at your feet and call you to witness that henceforth I shall show greater indifference as to what Pudentilla may write in her will. He may approach his mother himself for the future; he has made it impossible for me to plead for him again. He is now a man and his own master; henceforth let him himself dictate to his mother the terms of an unpalatable will, himself smooth away her anger. He who can plead in court, will be able to plead with his mother.
I am more than satisfied not only to have refuted the miscellaneous accusations brought against myself, but also to have utterly swept away the hateful charge on which the whole trial is based, the charge of having attempted to secure the inheritance for myself.
I will bring one final proof to show the falsity of that last charge before I bring my speech to a close. I wish to pass nothing over in silence. You asserted that I bought a most excellent farm in my own name, but with a large sum of money which belonged to my wife. I say that a tiny property was bought for 60,000 sesterces, and bought not by me but by Pudentilla in her own name, that Pudentilla's name is in the deed of sale, and that the taxes paid on the land are paid in the name of Pudentilla. The honourable Coninus Celer, the state treasurer to whom the tax is paid, is here in court. Cassius Longinus also is present, my wife's guardian and trustee, a man of the loftiest and most irreproachable character. I cannot speak of him save with the deepest respect. Ask him, Maximus, what was the purchase which he authorized, and what was the trifling sum for which this wealthy lady bought her little estate.
Is it as I said? Is my name ever mentioned in the deed of sale? Is the price paid for this trifling property such as should excite any prejudice against me, or did my wife give me even so much as this small gift?
What is there left, Aemilianus, that in your opinion I have failed to refute? What had I to gain by my magic that should lead me to attempt to win Pudentilla by love-philtres? What had I to gain from her? A small dowry instead of a large one? Truly my incantations were miraculous. That she should refund her dowry to her sons rather than leave it in my possession? What magic can surpass this? That she should at my exhortation present the bulk of her property to her sons and leave me nothing, although before her marriage with myself she had shown them no special generosity? What a criminal we of love-philtres! Or perhaps I had better call it a generous action which has not received its deserts! By her will, which she drew up in a fit of violent irritation against her son, she leaves as her heir that same son with whom she had quarrelled, rather than myself to whom she was devoted! For all my incantations it was only with difficulty that I persuaded her to this.
Suppose that you were pleading your case, not before Claudius Maximus, a man of the utmost fairness and unswerving justice, but before a judge of depraved morals and of ferocious temper, one in fact who naturally inclined to the side of the accuser and was only too ready to condemn the accused! Give him some hint to follow! Give him even the slightest reasonable opportunity for declaring in your favour! At least invent something, devise some suitable reply to questions such as have been put to you.
Nay, since every action must necessarily have some motive, answer me this, you who say that Apuleius tried to influence Pudentilla's heart by magical charms, answer me this! What did he seek to get from her by so doing? Was he in love with her beauty? You say not! Did he covet her wealth? The evidence of the marriage settlement denies it, the evidence of the deed of gift denies it, the evidence of the will denies it! It shows not only that I did not court the generosity of my wife, but that I even repulsed it with some severity. What other motive can you allege? Why are you struck dumb? Why this silence? What has become of that ferocious utterance with which you opened the indictment, couched in the name of my step-son? `This is the man, most excellent Maximus, whom I have resolved to indict before you.'
Why did you not add `He whom I indict is my teacher, my step-father, my mediator'? But how did you proceed? `He is guilty of the most palpable and numerous sorceries.' Produce one of these many sorceries or at least some doubtful instance from those which you style so palpable.
Nay, see whether I cannot reply to your various charges with two words to each. `You clean your teeth.' Excusable cleanliness. `You look into mirrors.' Philosophers should. `You write verse.' 'Tis permitted. `You examine fish.' Following Aristotle. `You worship a piece of wood.' So Plato. `You marry a wife.' Obeying law. `She is older than you.' Nothing commoner. `You married for money.' Take the marriage-settlement, remember the deed of gift, read the will!
If I have rebutted all their charges, word by word, if I have refuted all their slanders, if I am beyond reproach, not only as regards their accusations but also as regards their vulgar abuse, if I have done nothing to impair the honour of philosophy, which is dearer to me than my own safety, but on the contrary have smitten my adversary hip and thigh and vanquished him at all points, if all my contentions are true, I can await your estimate of my character with the same confidence with which I await the exercise of your power; for I regard it as less serious and less terrible to be condemned by the proconsul than to incur the disapproval of so good and so perfect a man.THE END