De sacerdote, qui pro illusione nocturna psalmum in confessione iniunctum negligens, in locis genitalibus punitus est.

Sacerdos quidam in domo nostra, sicut ab eius ore audivi, die quadam confessionem fecit de illusione nocturna. iniunctus est ei psalmus unus pro satisfactione. quem cum per oblivionem negligeret, eadem die, circa loca genitalia tantum coepit pruritum et ardorem sentire, ac si carni eius ardentes urticae essent appositae. qui cum territus tactu exploraret quid esset, et nihil ibidem inveniret, recordatus est psalmi iniuncti et neglecti. imputansque immissam poenam eidem transgressioni, psalmum dixit, et dolor conquievit. confitens fugere debet oblivionem.

(Caesarius of Heisterbach, Dialogus Miraculorum 3.4)

Of a priest, who neglected the penance assigned him in confession for a nocturnal emission, and was punished in the genital area.

A priest, who was a monk in our house, and told me the story, confessed one day to a nocturnal emission, and a single psalm was assigned to him as a penance. He forgot to perform this small duty, and on the same day began to feel so great an irritation and burning in the genital area, as if glowing nettles were being applied to his skin, that he was somewhat alarmed. Unable to discover any outward cause for this, he suddenly remembered the psalm he had forgotten to say; and inferring that this had been sent as a punishment for his forgetfulness, he recited the psalm, and found the pain gone. The penitent ought to be very watchful against forgetfulness. (tr. G.G. Coulton & Eileen Power, debowdlerized by David Bauwens)



Οὕτω δὲ ἰσχυρά ἐστιν*, ὥσθ’ ὁπόταν τι δάκνῃ, τιτρώσκει οὐκ ἀνθρώπου δέρμα μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ βοὸς καὶ ἵππου, καὶ ἐλέφαντα λυπεῖ ἐς τὰς ῥυτίδας αὐτοῦ παρεισδυομένη καὶ τῇ αὑτῆς προνομαίᾳ κατὰ λόγον τοῦ μεγέθους ἀμύσσουσα. μίξεως δὲ καὶ ἀφροδισίων καὶ γάμων πολλὴ αὐταῖς ἡ ἐλευθερία, καὶ ὁ ἄρρην οὐ κατὰ τοὺς ἀλεκτρυόνας ἐπιβὰς εὐθὺς ἀπεπήδησεν, ἀλλ’ ἐποχεῖται τῇ θηλείᾳ ἐπὶ πολύ, κἀκείνη φέρει τὸν νυμφίον, καὶ συμπέτονται τὴν ἐναέριον ἐκείνην μῖξιν τῇ πτήσει μὴ διαφθείρουσαι. ἀποτμηθεῖσα δὲ τὴν κεφαλὴν μυῖα ἐπὶ πολὺ ζῇ τῷ σώματι καὶ ἔμπνους ἐστίν.

* sc. ἡ μυῖα

(Lucian, Muias Enkōmion 6)

So strong is the fly that when she bites she wounds the skin of the ox and the horse as well as that of man. She even torments the elephant by entering his wrinkles and lancing him with her proboscis as far as its length allows. In mating, love, and marriage they are very free and easy. The male is not on and off again in a moment, like the cock; he covers the female a long time. She carries her spouse, and they take wing together, mating uninterruptedly in the air, as everyone knows. A fly with her head cut off keeps alive a long time with the rest of her body, and still retains the breath of life. (tr. Austin Morris Harmon)


Charles Meynier, Hélène et Pâris

κἈλένας ἐν στήθ[ε]σιν [ἐ]πτ[όαισε
θῦμον Ἀργείας, Τροΐω δ’ ὐ]π’ ἄν[δρος
ἐκμάνεισα ξ[εν]ναπάτα ‘πὶ π[όντον
ἔσπετο νᾶι,

παῖδά τ’ ἐν δόμ[ο]ισι λίποισ’ [ἐρήμαν
κἄνδρος εὔστρωτον [λ]έχος ὤ[ς Ϝ’ ὐπείκην
πεῖθ’ ἔρωι θῦμο[ς διὰ τὰν Διώνας
παῖ]δα Δ[ίο]ς τε

]πιε . . μανι[
κ]ασιγνήτων πόλεας μ[έλαινα
γα]ῖ ἔχει Τρώων πεδίωι δά[μεντας
ἔν]νεκα κήνας,

πόλ]λα δ’ ἄρματ’ ἐν κονίαισι[
ἤρι]πεν, πό[λ]λοι δ’ ἐλίκωπε[ς ἄνδρες
ὔπτι]οι ‘στείβοντο. φόνωι δ’ [ἔχαιρε
δῖος Ἀ]χί[λλ]ευς.

(Alcaeus fr. 283)

…and fluttered the heart of Argive Helen in her breast; driven mad by the man from Troy, who betrayed his host, she followed in a ship over the sea, leaving her child desolate at home, and her husband’s richly decked bed, since her heart persuaded her to yield to love because of the son of Dione and Zeus. . . . Many of his brothers the dark earth holds, laid low on the Trojan plain for her sake, and many chariots fell in the dust . . . and many dark-eyed men were trampled as they lay on their backs, and god-like Achilles delighted in the slaughter. (tr. Cecil Maurice Bowra)


Syphax, king of the Masaesyli of western Numidia

Verum ubi mox iuncto sociarant aggere vires
Massylus Tyriusque duces, accitaque regno
lenierat pubes infaustae vulnera noctis,
ira pudorque dabant et coniunx, tertius ignis,
immanes animos; afflataque barbarus ora
castrorum flammis et se velamine nullo
vix inter trepidas ereptum ex hoste catervas
frendebat minitans; sed enim non luce Syphacem
nec claro potuisse die nec sole tuente
a quoquam vinci. iactarat talia vecors,
sed iam claudebat flatus nec plura sinebat
Atropos et tumidae properabat stamina linguae.
(Silius Italicus, Punica 17.109-120)

But presently, when the Massylian and Carthaginian generals had united their forces behind a common rampart, and fresh troops summoned from all the kingdom had mitigated the disaster of the night, anger and shame and love for his bride – a third incentive – filled the king’s heart with inordinate passion: he breathed out savage threats and ground his teeth, to think that his face had been scorched by the fire in the camp, and that he had with difficulty been rescued from the foe, a naked man in the midst of his discomfited soldiers. No man on earth, he declared, could ever have conquered Syphax in bright daylight or in the face of the sun. Such was his mad boasting; but Atropos was already putting an end to his insolence and suffered him to say no more; and the thread of that proud talker was nearly spun. (tr. James Duff Duff)



Fabula Domini Francisci Philelphi

Erat sermo inter socios, quae poena esset statuenda in uxores impudicas. Bonifacius Salutatus eam, qua Tolentinas amicus suus minatus est se uxorem suam affecturum, existimabat. sciscitantibus nobis poenam: “Franciscus Philelphus” inquit “vir haud magno aestimandus, habet uxorem satis liberalem, et mihi quandoque obsequentem. cum accessissem domum aliquando noctu, foris stans, audivi eos acriter collitigantes: increpabat enim vir uxorem, accusans impudicitiam eius. illa, ut moris est talium, negando se tuebatur. tum vir inter clamandum: ‘Iohanna, Iohanna’ ait ‘ego te neque verberabo, neque percutiam, sed in tantum te futuam, quoad plenam domum filiis reddam, atque ita solam te cum natis relinquam postmodum, et abibo.'” risimus omnes genus supplicii adeo exquisitum, quo stultus ille ulturum se uxoris flagitia putavit.
(Poggio Bracciolini, Confabulationes 49)

The Story of Francesco Filelfo

We were among friends, and it came up for discussion what punishment should be inflicted upon unfaithful wives. Boniface Salutati said the best punishment of all, according to him, was that with which a friend of his from Tolentino had once threatened his wife. And when we asked him what this might be, he said: “Franciscus Philelphus, not a very honorable man, has a wife of a generous nature, and she was even once or twice very forthcoming to me. One night I came to his house, when, listening outside, I heard the two of them engaged in a terrible quarrel. The husband was insulting his wife, accusing her of infidelity, while the woman defended herself, as women usually do on these occasions, by denying everything. Then, between shouts, the husband cried out ‘Giovanna! Giovanna*! I shall not beat you, I shall not strike you, but I shall fuck you so much that the house will be filled with children. Then I will leave you alone with them, and go away.'” We all laughed at this wonderful kind of punishment by means of which the stupid fellow thought to avenge himself for his wife’s infidelities. (tr. based on Edward Storer’s, adapted and debowdlerized by David Bauwens)

* Note: the real Francesco Filelfo (1398-1481), one of the preeminent humanists of his time, was widowed twice and married three times, but never to a Giovanna.


Et quamquam ut bestiarii obiceremur intractabilibus feris, perpendentes tamen hoc bonum habere tristia accidentia, quod in locum suum secunda substituunt, mirabamur illam sententiam Tullianam, ex internis veritatis ipsius promulgatam, quae est talis: “et quamquam optatissimum est perpetuo fortunam quam florentissimam permanere, illa tamen aequalitas vitae non tantum habet sensum, quantum cum ex miseria et perditis rebus ad meliorem statum fortuna revocatur.”
(Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 15.5.23)

But although we were, like gladiators, cast before ravening wild beasts, yet reflecting that melancholy events after all have this good sequel, that they give way to good fortune, we admired that saying of Tully’s*, delivered even from the inmost depths of truth itself, which runs as follows: “And although it is most desirable that our fortune always remain wholly favourable, yet that evenness of life does not give so great a sense of satisfaction as when, after wretchedness and disaster, fortune is recalled to a better estate.”

* i.e. Cicero’s

(tr. John C. Rolfe)


Ἄστηθι, δούλη Ψύλλα· μέχρι τέο κείσῃ
ρέγχουσα; τὴν δὲ χοῖρον αὐονὴ δρύπτει·
ἢ προσμένεις σὺ μέχρις εὖ ἤλιος θάλψῃ
τὸ]ν̣ κ̣ῦσον ἐσδύς; κῶς δ’, ἄτρυτε, κοὐ κάμνεις
τὰ πλ]ευρὰ κνώσσουσ’; αἰ δὲ νύκτες ἐννέωροι.
ἄστη]θ̣ι, φημί, καὶ ἄψον, εἰ θέλεις, λύχνον,
καὶ τ]ὴν ἄναυλον χοῖρον ἐς νομὴν πέμψ[ο]ν̣.
τ]ό̣ν̣θρυζε καὶ κνῶ, μέχρις εὖ παραστά[ς σοι
τὸ] βρέγμα τῷ σκίπωνι μαλθακὸν θῶμα[ι.
(Herodas, Mim. 8.1-9)

Get up, slave Psylla: how long are you going to lie snoring? Drought is rending the sow. Or are you waiting till the sun crawls into [your] bum and warms it? Unwearied one, how have you avoided tiring [your] ribs with sleeping? The night is nine hours gone. [Get up], I say, and light the lamp, please, [and] send the unmelodious sow to the pasture. Mutter and scratch yourself until I stand beside [you] and make [your] head soft with my stick. (tr. I.C. Cunningham)