Incantamenta

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Hans Baldung Grien, Die Hexen (1510)

Per id omne tempus Palladius ille, coagulum omnium aerumnarum, quem captum a Fortunatiano docuimus primum, ipsa sortis infimitate ad omnia praeceps, clades alias super alias cumulando lacrimis universa perfuderat luctuosis. nanctus enim copiam nominandi sine fortunarum distantia quos voluisset ut artibus interdictis imbutos, ita ut ferarum occulta vestigia doctus observare venator, multos intra casses lugubres includebat, quosdam veneficiorum notitia pollutos, alios ut adpetitoribus inminuendae conscios maiestatis. et ne vel coniugibus maritorum vacaret miserias flere, inmittebantur confestim qui signatis domibus inter scrutinia suppellectilis poenis addicti, incantamenta quaedam anilia vel ludibriosa subderent amatoria, ad insontium perniciem concinnata: quibus in iudicio recitatis, ubi non lex, non religio, non aequitas veritatem a mendaciis dirimebat, indefensi bonis ablatis, nullo contacti delicto, promiscue iuvenes aliique membris omnibus capti ad supplicia sellis gestatoriis ducebantur. inde factum est per orientales provincias ut omnes metu similium exurerent libraria omnia: tantus universos invaserat terror. Namque ut pressius loquar, omnes ea tempestate velut in Cimmeriis tenebris reptabamus, paria convivis Siculi Dionysii pavitantes, qui cum epulis omni tristioribus fame saginarentur, ex summis domorum laqueariis, in quibus discumbebant, setis nexos equinis et occipitiis incumbentes gladios perhorrebant.
(Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 29.1.44.1-4)

During all this time, the notorious Palladius, the fomenter of all these troubles, who, as we said at first, was taken in custody by Fortunatianus, being by the very lowness of his condition ready to plunge into anything, by heaping disaster on disaster, had drenched the whole empire with grief and tears. For having gained leave to name all whom he desired, without distinction of fortune, as dabbling in forbidden practices, like a hunter skilled in observing the secret tracks of wild beasts, he entangled many persons in his lamentable nets, some of them on the ground of having stained themselves with the knowledge of magic, others as accomplices of those who were aiming at treason. And in order that even wives should have no time to weep over the misfortunes of their husbands, men were immediately sent to put the seal* on the houses, and during the examination of the furniture of the householder who had been condemned, to introduce privily old-wives’ incantations or unbecoming love-potions, contrived for the ruin of innocent people. And when these were in a court where there was no law or scruple or justice to distinguish truth from falsehood, without opportunity for defence young and old without discrimination were robbed of their goods and, although they were found stained by no fault, after being maimed in all their limbs were carried off in litters to execution. As a result, throughout the oriental provinces owners of books, through fear of a like fate, burned their entire libraries; so great was the terror that had seized upon all. Indeed, to speak briefly, at that time we all crept about as if in Cimmerian darkness, feeling the same fears as the guests of the Sicilian Dionysius, who, while filled to repletion with banquets more terrible than any possible hunger, saw with a shudder the swords hanging over their heads from the ceilings of the rooms in which they reclined and held only by single horsehairs.

* Until the owner should be acquitted or condemned; in the latter case his house and property went to the fiscus.

(tr. John C. Rolfe, with his note)

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