Gesta Romanorum Vol. I (1871)/Of Offence and Judgment

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Gesta Romanorum Vol. I (1871)
Anonymous, translated by Charles Swan
Of Offence and Judgment
Anonymous2268291Gesta Romanorum Vol. I — Of Offence and Judgment1871Charles Swan



A certain king determined on the occasion of some victory to appoint three especial honours, and an equal number of disagreeable accompaniments. The first of the honors was, that the people should meet the conqueror with acclamations and every other testimony of pleasure. The second, that all the captives, bound hand and foot, should attend the victor's chariot. The third honour was, that, enwrapped in the mantle of Jupiter, he should sit upon a triumphal car, drawn by four white horses, and be thus brought to the capitol. But lest these exalted rewards should swell the heart, and make the favourite of fortune forget his birth and mortal character, three grievances were attached to them. First, a slave sat on his right hand in the chariot—which served to hint, that poverty and unmerited degradation were no bars to the subsequent attainment of the highest dignities. The second grievance was, that the slave should inflict upon him several severe blows, to abate the haughtiness which the applause of his countrymen might tend to excite—at the same time saying to him in Greek, "Γνωθε σεουτον," that is, know thyself, and permit not thy exaltation to render thee proud. Look behind thee, and remember that thou art mortal. The third grievance was this, that free licence was given, upon that day of triumph, to utter the most galling reproaches, and the most cutting sarcasms. (27)


My beloved, the emperor is our heavenly Father, and the conqueror, our Lord Jesus Christ, who has obtained a glorious victory over sin. The first honor typifies his entry into Jerusalem, when the people shouted "Hosanna to the Son of David." The second, those enslaved by sin. The third, Christ's divinity. The four white horses are the four Evangelists. The slave, is the worst of the two robbers crucified with our Lord. The second grievance is the blows he received; and the third, the indignities with which he was overwhelmed.

Note 27.Page 128.

"Licence was given, upon that day of triumph, to utter tke most galling reproaches, and the most cutting sarcasms."

Privileges of this kind were permitted to the Roman slaves, on the celebration of their Saturnalia. In the seventh satire of the second book, Horace gives us an example.

"Age, libertate Decembri,
(Quando ita majores voluerunt) utere: narra."[1]

Davus spares not his master; and in all probability, many a long treasured grudge would, on these occasions, be vented in the bitterest sarcasms.

  1. "Come, then, since our ancestors so decided, take the licence that December gives, speak on." trans. 1870, R.M. Millington (Wikisource contributor note)