Monday, March 19, 2012


Magic Spells

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 18.8.41-43 (tr. H. Rackham):
C. Furius Chresimus, a liberated slave, was extremely unpopular because he got much larger returns from a rather small farm than the neighbourhood obtained from very large estates, and he was supposed to be using magic spells to entice away other people's crops. He was consequently indicted by the curule aedile Spurius Albinus; and as he was afraid he would be found guilty, when the time came for the tribes to vote their verdict, he brought all his agricultural implements into court and produced his farm servants, sturdy people and also according to Piso's description well looked after and well clad, his iron tools of excellent make, heavy mattocks, ponderous ploughshares, and well-fed oxen. Then he said: 'These are my magic spells, citizens, and I am not able to exhibit to you or to produce in court my midnight labours and early risings and my sweat and toil.' This procured his acquittal by an unanimous verdict.

C. Furius Chresimus e servitute liberatus, cum in parvo admodum agello largiores multo fructus perciperet quam ex amplissimis vicinitas, in invidia erat magna, ceu fruges alienas perliceret veneficiis. quamobrem ab Spurio Albino curuli aedile die dicta metuens damnationem, cum in suffragium tribus oporteret ire, instrumentum rusticum omne in forum attulit et adduxit familiam suam validam atque, ut ait Piso, bene curatam ac vestitam, ferramenta egregie facta, graves ligones, vomeres ponderosos, boves saturos. postea dixit: 'Venefica mea, Quirites, haec sunt, nec possum vobis ostendere aut in forum adducere lucubrationes meas vigiliasque et sudores.' omnium sententiis absolutus itaque est.
C. Furius Chresimus was accused of violating the law (in the eighth of the Twelve Tables) against conjuring away a neighbor's crops. See Seneca, Natural Questions 4.7.2: et apud nos in XII tabulis: cavetur ne quis alienos fructus excantassit (also Tibullus 1.8.19; Pliny, Natural History 28.4.17-18; Servius on Vergil, Eclogues 8.99; Augustine, City of God 8.19).

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