Monday, November 18, 2019


Pigs in the Streets

Petrarch (1304-1374), "How a Ruler Ought to Govern His State," tr. Benjamin G. Kohl in Florentine Political Writings from Petrarch to Machiavelli, edd. Mark Jurdjevic et al. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), pp. 17-18:
This city, I say, so outstanding in its many glories, is being transformed—with you looking on and not stopping it, as you easily could—into a horrid and ugly pasture by rampaging herds of pigs! Everywhere one turns one can hear their ugly grunts and see them digging with their snouts. A filthy spectacle, a sad noise! These are evils that we have already borne for a long time, and those who came to Padua are amazed and scandalized by them. This state of affairs is repulsive to all who meet it and even worse for those who come on horseback, for whom the free-roaming pigs are always a nuisance and sometimes even a danger because an encounter with these stinking and intractable animals will frighten a horse and even throw its rider. Now I recall that the last time I spoke with you concerning this matter you said that there was an ancient statute that carried with it a heavy penalty that anyone could seize the pigs found roaming freely in the streets. But who does not know that, just as men grow old, so do all human creations? Even the Roman laws fell into disuse and, if it were not for the fact that they have been studied assiduously in the schools, they would now be quite forgotten. So what do you think is the fate of municipal statutes? So that this old law may be applied again, let us have it drawn up again and announced publicly by the town crier with the same, or even a heavier, fine attached to it. Then send out some officials who will remove the wandering pigs so that these urban herders will discover at their own expense that they cannot flout what the law forbids anyone to do. Let those who own pigs keep them on a farm and those who don't have a farm keep their pigs shut up inside their houses. Those who don't even own a house should still not be allowed to spoil the homes of other citizens and the beauty of Padua. Nor should these pig owners think that at will, without hindrance from law, they can convert the famous city of Padua into a pigsty? Now some might think this is a frivolous matter, but I don't think it is either frivolous or unimportant. On the contrary, the task of restoring Padua to its former noble majesty consists not so much in large projects as in small details.

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