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B. Magic Figurines and Statues

B. Magic Figurines and Statues

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Lucanum video ducem bellancium,

formantem ereas muscas Virgilium,

pascentem fabulis turbas Ovidium,

nudantem satyros dicaces Persium.



I see Lucan, leader of the warmakers; Virgil, shaping flies of brass; Ovid,

feeding the throngs with fantasies; Persius, stripping naked the quick-tongued

satyrs. (JZ)



2. Cino da Pistoia

(circa 1270–1336 or 1337)

Cino, who was born and died in Pistoia, was famed as both a jurist and a poet.

He was a friend of Dante (see above, I.C.53, II.C.15, III.E.9, V.A.9), who

cites him in the De vulgari eloquentia (On Eloquence in the Vernacular, 1303–

5) as one of the two poets of the dolce stil novo (sweet new style) who had

helped to restore Italian language and literature to a standing comparable with

that of Occitan and French. Later he was also a friend of Petrarch (see above,

I.C.54, II.C.17, III.E.10), who cited his poetry and wrote a sonnet (Canzoniere, no. 92) on his death.

The satirical poem that contains a mention of Virgil (Rime 36, lines 13–24)

was composed in 1330–31 in Naples, when—at the invitation of King Robert

the Wise (1309–43)—Cino lectured on the Justinian Code at the University of

Naples; detailed lecture notes taken by Boccaccio (see above, II.C.19, III.E.11,

V.A.11) still survive. The poem alludes to the marvel of the fly-repellent brass fly

(mentioned by John of Salisbury [see above, V.A.2], the Apocalypsis Goliae [see

above, V.B.1], Conrad of Querfurt [see above, V.A.4], Gervase of Tilbury [see

above, V.A.5], and numerous others) in a diatribe against the Neapolitans. It is

the first evidence in Italian of the Neapolitan legends about Virgil. (Discussion:

[bibliography] VMA 346–47, with additions in VMA [Pasquali], 2:133 n. 2;

VN 332; G. Brugnoli, ‘‘Lo ioco de Carbonara,’’ Italianistica 18 [1989], 341–45,

especially 344 n. 10) (Text: G. Contini, ed., Poeti del Duecento, vol. 2: Dolce stil

novo [Milan, 1960], 674–75) (JZ)

O highest bard, how great a wrong you committed (you didn’t lay yourself

down to die at Pietola, where you were born?) when you put the fly, to drive

off the others, in such a place where all the wasps ought to come to sting

those who stand on high in porticoes, like apes enthroned, without a tongue

that can define any good or quality. Look at each one: you see all of them

accomplices, worthy heirs of the men of old. (JZ)



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3. ‘‘On the Perfection of Life’’ (Gesta Romanorum)

The Gesta Romanorum (Deeds of the Romans)—also known as the Romanorum historia (History of the Romans)—is a collection of tales, drawn mainly

from history and especially from legends about Rome, and intended for use in

preaching. The collection probably took shape at the end of the thirteenth

century in England or Germany. Emperors play the leading role in many of the

exempla (short didactic tales used to point a moral), which are presented as

‘‘chapters.’’ Because Virgil was a preeminent figure from Roman antiquity, it

was almost inevitable that he should appear in exempla in the Gesta Romanorum, but what is striking is that both of his two main appearances are connected with magic statues. In this exemplum, from chapter 57 [49], ‘‘De

perfectione vite’’ (On the Perfection of Life), a smith named Focus violates an

imperial decree by working on the birthday of the emperor’s son, threatens to

break the head of a magic statue constructed by Virgil to detect violators, and

convinces the emperor not to punish him. In the moralization Virgil is interpreted as being the Holy Spirit. (For more than two dozen other versions of

this exemplum and for discussions, see IE 169, no. 2105.) (Text: Gesta Romanorum, ed. H. Oesterley [Berlin, 1872], 357–59) (JZ)

Titus in civitate Romana regnavit, qui statuit pro lege, quod dies primogeniti sui ab omnibus sanctificaretur, et quicumque diem nativitatis filii

sui per opus servile violaret, morte moreretur. Promulgata lege vocavit magistrum Virgilium et ait: ‘‘Carissime, talem legem edidi; verumtamen sepe

in occulto poterunt [peccata] committi, ad quorum noticiam pervenire non

potero. Rogamus ergo te, ut secundum industriam tuam aliquam artem invenias, per quam potero experiri quales sint illi, qui contra legem delinquunt.’’ Ait ille: ‘‘Domine, fiat voluntas vestra.’’ Statim Virgilius arte magica

statuam in medio civitatis fieri fecit. Statua illa omnia peccata occulta in illo

die commissa imperatori dicere solebat, et sic per accusacionem statue quasi

infiniti homines erant condempnati.

Erat tunc quidam faber in civitate nomine Focus, qui in illo die sicut in

ceteris operatus est. Cum autem semel in stratu suo jacuisset, intime cogitavit, quomodo per accusacionem statue multi moriebantur. Mane surrexit et

ad statuam perrexit et ait: ‘‘O statua, statua, per tuam accusacionem multi

sunt positi ad mortem. Voveo Deo meo, si me accusaveris, caput tuum frangam.’’ Hiis dictis domum perrexit.

Hora prima imperator sicut solitus erat nuncios suos ad statuam destinavit, ut ab ea quererent, si aliquis contra legem commisisset. Cum autem ad

statuam venissent et voluntatem imperatoris dixissent, ait statua: ‘‘Carissimi, levate oculos vestros et videte, que scripta sunt in fronte mea.’’ Illi vero

cum oculos levassent, tria in fronte ejus clare viderunt, scilicet ‘‘ ‘Tempora

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mutantur, homines deteriorantur’ [proverbial hexameter]: qui voluerit veritatem dicere caput fractum habebit.’’ ‘‘Ite domino vestro nunciate, que vidistis et legistis.’’

Nuncii perrexerunt et omnia domino suo retulerunt. Imperator cum hoc

audisset, precepit militibus suis, ut se armarent et ad statuam pergerent, et si

aliquis contra statuam aliquid faceret, eum ligatis manibus et pedibus ad

eum ducerent. Milites ad statuam perrexerunt, dicentes: ‘‘Placet imperatori,

ut ostendatis illos, qui contra legem commiserunt, et quales erant illi, qui

minas fecerunt.’’ Ait statua: ‘‘Focum fabrum accipite! Ille est qui in singulis

diebus legem violat et michi minas facit.’’ Illum comprehenderunt et coram

imperatore duxerunt.

Ait imperator: ‘‘Carissime, quid est, quod audio de te? Quare legem editam violas?’’ Ait ille: ‘‘Domine, legem illam servare non possum, quia omni

die octo denarios oportet me habere, et illos sine labore non potero acquirere.’’ Ait imperator: ‘‘Et quare octo denarios?’’ Qui ait: ‘‘Omni die per

annum duos denarios teneor dare, quos mutuavi in juventute, duos accommodo, duos perdo, duos expendo.’’ Ait imperator: ‘‘De istis manifestius

debes michi dicere.’’

Cui ait faber: ‘‘Domine mi, advertite me! Duos denarios omni die teneor

patri meo, quia cum essem puer parvulus, pater meus duos denarios super

me singulis diebus expendit. Jam pater meus in egestate est positus, unde

racio dictat, quod ei subveniam in sua paupertate, et ideo omni die duos

denarios ei trado. Duos alios denarios filio meo accommodo, qui jam ad

studium pergit, ut si contingat me ad egestatem pervenire, michi illos duos

denarios reddat, sicut ego jam patri meo facio. Duos alios denarios omni die

perdo super uxorem meam, quia semper est michi contraria, aut proprie

voluntatis aut callide complectionis, et propter ista tria quicquid ei dedero,

hoc perdo. Duos alios denarios super meipsum in cibis et potibus expendo.

Levius bono modo transire non potero et istos denarios non possum obtinere sine continuo labore. Jam audistis racionem. Detis ergo iudicium

rectum!’’

Ait imperator: ‘‘Carissime, recte respondisti, vade et fideliter ammodo

labora!’’ Post hoc cito imperator defunctus est, et Focus faber propter suam

prudenciam in imperatorem eligitur ab omnibus, qui imperium satis prudenter regebat. Ipso mortuo inter alios imperatores imago ejus depingitur et

ultra caput suum octo denarii.

Carissimi, iste imperator est pater celestis, qui statuit pro lege, quod qui

diem primogeniti sui violaret, morte morietur. Dies ista est dies dominica,

sive dies festivalis ab ecclesia ordinata, unde in veteri lege ac nova dicitur:

‘‘Memento, ut diem sabbati sanctifices!’’ [Exodus 20.8] Sed heu proh dolor,

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plures illis diebus peccata majora committunt, quam ceteris diebus! Tales

poterunt assimilari cuidam pisci in mari; tamdiu bene est sibi, quamdiu est

in mari, sed si contingat a casu, quod saltat supra tempore pluvie, et pluvia

eum tangat, incipit mori, nec per multos dies statum ejus poterit recuperare,

quousque fuerit de aqua maris saciatus. Eodem modo aliqui, quamdiu sunt

per totam septimanam in mari hujus mundi laborantes, tamdiu bene videtur

eis; sed si contingat eos diebus festivis ad ecclesiam pergere, et aliquem

dulcem sermonem vel missam audire, eis videtur, quod sint in magna angustia, quousque sunt in operibus mundanis refocillati.

Virgilius certe, qui statuam fecerat, est spiritus sanctus, qui predicatorem

ordinaverat, ut annunciet virtutes et vicia, penam et gloriam. Sed heu et

proh dolor, jam poterit dicere predicator, sicut statua dixerat: ‘‘Tempora mutantur’’ [proverbial hexameter opening]. Hoc satis manifeste videmus in

primitiva ecclesia, in statu omni, tempora erant meliora quam nunc, oraciones et preces quam modo. Terra dabat fructum suum magis habunde et

omnia elementa, que sua erant, omnia sunt mutata propter peccata hominum, hoc apparebat in diluvio Noe. Secundo: ‘‘Homines deteriorantur’’

[proverbial hexameter close, with preceding]. Sicut clare videmus, in antiquo tempore erant homines magis devoti, elemosinarii, caritativi, quam

modo sunt. Et quare? Quia totus mundus in maligno positus est. Tercio:

‘‘Qui voluerit veritatem dicere’’ etc. Modo, si predicator peccata potentum

predicet, statim minas ac murmuraciones habebit. Unde Ysaias: ‘‘Loquimini

verba placencia!’’ [Isaiah 30.10] Et ideo apostolus: ‘‘Erit enim tempus cum

sanam doctrinam non sustinebunt’’ [2 Timothy 4.3].

Focus est quilibet bonus Christianus, qui fideliter sicut miles Christi

laborat. Unde quilibet bonus Christianus tenetur singulis diebus patri suo

celesti reddere duos denarios, scilicet amorem et honorem; amorem, quia

nos tantum diligit, quod pro nostro amore unicum filium suum de celis

descendere permisit et morte turpissima condempnari; honorem, quia omnia ab ipso procedunt et sine eo nullum bonum agere poterimus.

Item duos denarios filio accomodamus. Cujusmodi filius est? Certe ille,

de quo Ysaias: ‘‘Parvulus enim natus est nobis’’ [Isaiah 9.6] etc. scilicet filius

Dei. Et quales denarios debemus ei accomodare? Certe duos omni die, scilicet bonam voluntatem et bonum actum, quamdiu sumus in hoc mortali

corpore, et quando nos egeni sumus facti in die judicii, quando nudi apparebimus, tunc ipse nobis reddet illos denarios in vita eterna, sicut scriptum

est: ‘‘Centuplum accipietis et vitam eternam possidebitis’’ [Matthew 12.29].

Item duos denarios perdimus super uxorem. Uxor ista est caro misera,

que semper contrariatur spiritui. Denarii, quos expendimus super eam, sunt

mala voluptas et actus malus, que continue operantur ex obliqua voluntate.

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Istos duos denarios perdimus, quia graviter propter hoc hic vel alibi puniemur. Item duos denarios omni die expendimus super nosipsos, si boni

Christiani sumus, scilicet dilectionem Dei in toto corde, et diligere proximum sicut teipsum. Carissimi, si istos octo denarios expendere volueritis,

ad gaudium eternum pervenire possitis.



When Titus reigned in the city of Rome, he established as law that the

birthday of his firstborn son should be held sacred by everyone and that

whoever desecrated the day of his son’s birth by base labor should die. After

this law had been proclaimed, he called Master Virgil and said: ‘‘Dearest one, I

have decreed a law of this sort; but it will often be possible for o√enses to be

committed at the discovery of which I will be unable to arrive. Therefore I ask

you to find by your diligence some craft by which I will be able to find out who

are the people who o√end against the law.’’ In reply he said: ‘‘Lord, your will be

done.’’ Immediately Virgil had made a statue by magical craft in the middle of

the city. The statue was accustomed to tell the emperor all the hidden o√enses

that had been committed on that day, and thus an almost infinite number of

people were condemned by the accusation of the statue.

There was at that time in the city a certain smith named Focus, who worked

on that day just as on the rest. However, when he had laid in his bedding once,

he thought inwardly about how by the accusation of the statue many were

dying. In the morning he arose, went to the statue, and said: ‘‘O statue, statue,

by your accusation many have been put to death. I swear to my God that if you

accuse me, I will break your head.’’ Having said this, he went home.

At the first hour the emperor, as he was accustomed to do, dispatched his

messengers to the statue, to ask it if anyone had committed an act against the

law. However, when they had come to the statue and had declared the emperor’s will, the statue said: ‘‘Dearest ones, raise your eyes and see what has

been written on my forehead.’’ When in fact they had raised their eyes, they

saw clearly on his forehead three sentences, namely, ‘‘Times are changing;

people grow worse; he who wishes to speak the truth will have his head

broken.’’ ‘‘Go and announce to your lord what you have seen and read.’’

The messengers went and related everything to their lord. When the emperor had heard this, he ordered his soldiers to take up arms, to go to the statue,

and if anyone should do anything against the statue, to lead him bound hand

and foot to the emperor. The soldiers went to the statue, saying: ‘‘It pleases the

emperor for you to point out the people who have committed acts against the

law and who have made threats.’’ The statue said: ‘‘Seize the smith Focus! He is

the one who violates the law every single day and makes threats against me.’’

They apprehended him and led him into the presence of the emperor.

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865



The emperor said: ‘‘Dearest one, what is this that I hear about you? Why do

you violate the law that has been proclaimed?’’ Focus said: ‘‘Lord, I cannot

preserve the law, because I am required every day to have eight denarii, and I

cannot obtain them without working.’’ The emperor said: ‘‘And why eight

denarii?’’ Focus said: ‘‘Every day throughout the year I am bound to give two

denarii, which I borrowed in youth, two I lend, two I lose, and two I spend.’’

The emperor said: ‘‘You must tell me more openly about these matters.’’

The smith said to him: ‘‘My lord, listen to me! I am bound to give two

denarii every day to my father, because when I was a little boy, my father spent

two denarii on me every single day. Now that my father has been reduced to

poverty, reason dictates that I should help him in his indigence and therefore I

hand over to him two denarii every day. Two other denarii I lend my son, who

is now pursuing his studies, so that if it should befall me to slip into poverty, he

would pay back to me those two denarii, just as I now do to my father. Two

other denarii I lose every day on my wife, because she is always contrary to me,

or she has her own will, or she is of a cunning disposition. On account of these

three, I lose whatever I give her. Two other denarii I spend on myself in food

and drink. I cannot get by decently with any lighter expenses, and I cannot

obtain these denarii without incessant toil. Now you have heard the explanation. May you therefore render a righteous judgment!’’

The emperor said: ‘‘Dearest one, you have replied rightly; go o√ and work

faithfully from now on.’’ Soon after this the emperor died, and the smith Focus

was elected emperor by all on account of his wisdom and ruled the empire

quite wisely. When he died, his likeness was painted among the other emperors with eight denarii behind his head.

Dearest ones, this emperor is the heavenly Father, who established as law

that who should desecrate the day of his firstborn should die. This day is

Sunday—or a feastday set by the Church, for which reason it is said in the Old

Law and in the New Law: ‘‘Remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day.’’

But alas and for woe, many commit greater sins on those days than on the rest!

Such people can be likened to a certain fish in the sea; it goes well with it so

long as it is in the sea, but if it should happen by chance that the fish leaps up in

a time of rain and the rain should touch it, it begins to die, and it will not be

able to regain its earlier state for many days until it has been sated with ocean

water. In this same way some people, as long as they are toiling in the sea of

this world throughout the week, find things good; but if it chances that they

go to church on feastdays and hear some sweet sermon or mass, it seems to

them that they are in great anguish, until they have been refreshed by secular

works.

Surely Virgil, who made the statue, is the Holy Spirit, which ordained the

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preacher to announce virtues and vices, punishment and glory. But alas and for

woe, the preacher will be able to say now as the statue said: ‘‘Times are

changing.’’ We see this plainly enough in the early Church, in every status:

times were better than now, orations and prayers were better than now. The

earth produced its fruit more abundantly, and all the elements, which were

hers, have been changed entirely on account of the sins of human beings; this

was apparent in Noah’s flood. Secondly, ‘‘people grow worse.’’ Just as we see

clearly, in ancient times people were more devout, more generous in alms,

more charitable than they are now. And why? Because the whole world has

been put in an ungenerous way. Thirdly, ‘‘he who wishes to speak the truth’’

and so forth. Now, if a preacher preaches on the sins of the powerful, at once

he has threats and murmurings. For this reason Isaiah said: ‘‘Speak unto us

pleasant things.’’ On this account the apostle [Paul] said: ‘‘For there shall be a

time, when they will not endure sound doctrine.’’

Focus is any good Christian, who toils faithfully as a Christian soldier. For

this reason any good Christian is bound every single day to render his heavenly

Father two denarii, which is to say, love and honor; love, since he loves us so

much that for love of us he allowed his only son to descend from heaven and to

be condemned to the vilest of deaths; and honor, since all things emanate from

him and we cannot do any good deed without him.

Likewise, we lend two denarii to a son. Of what type is the son? Surely it is

that one, of whom Isaiah said: ‘‘For a child is born to us,’’ and so forth, which is

to say, the Son of God. And what sort of denarii must we lend him? Surely two

every day, namely, good disposition and good deed, so long as we are in this

mortal body; and when we have become needy on the day of Judgment, when

we will appear naked, then he will return to us those denarii in everlasting life,

as has been written: You ‘‘shall receive a hundredfold, and shall possess life

everlasting.’’

Likewise, we lose two denarii on our wife. This wife is the wretched flesh,

which is ever opposed to the spirit. The denarii that we spend on her are evil

pleasure and evil deed, which work incessantly on the basis of devious will. We

lose these two denarii, since on account of this we will be punished harshly

either here on earth or thereafter. Likewise, we spend two denarii every day on

ourselves, if we are good Christians, which is to say, the wholehearted love of

God, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Dearest ones, if you wish

to spend these eight denarii, you may be able to arrive at everlasting joy. (JZ)



4. ‘‘Salvation of Rome’’ (Gesta Romanorum)

Of the many magical statues associated with Virgil, the most important was

probably the so-called Salvation of Rome. According to this legend, Virgil

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constructed a wondrous palace that contained statues representing each area of

the world under Roman rule. Whenever any of these regions considered revolting, its statue would ring a bell, and a bronze warrior atop the palace

would brandish his lance toward the region.

The story is related in writings on the seven wonders of the world as well as

in guides to the antiquities of Rome. An influential account is found in Alexander Neckam (see above, V.A.6), from which is drawn the following exemplum associated with Gesta Romanorum (Appendix 186, germ. 18). Legends

about the construction of such complicated automata have been shown recently to have fascinating parallels in Arabic texts, mainly of the tenth century

c.e. (For other versions, see IE 385, no. 5095.) (Discussion of motif: VN 117–

35; N. Cilento, ‘‘Sulla tradizione della Salvatio Romae,’’ in Roma anno 1300:

Atti della IV Settimana di studi di Storia dell’arte medievale dell’Università di

Roma [Rome, 1983], 695–703; and U. Sezgin, ‘‘Pharaonische Wunderwerke

bei Ibn Wasif as-Sabi’ und al-Mas’udi: Einige Reminiszenzen an Ägyptens

vergangene Grösse und an Meisterwerke der alexandrinischen Gelehrten in

arabischen Texten des 10. Jahrhunderts n. Chr. Teil IV, ’’ Zeitschrift für

Geschichte der arabisch-islamischen Wissenschaften 15 [2002–2003], 300–311)

(Text: Gesta Romanorum, ed. H. Oesterley [Berlin, 1872], 590–91) (JZ)

Reffert Allexander philosophus de naturis rerum, quod Virgilius in civitate Romana nobile construxit pallacium, in cujus medio pallacii stetit

ymago, que dea Romana vocabatur. Tenebat enim pomum aureum in manu

sua. Per circulum pallacii erant ymagines cujuslibet regionis, que subjecte

erant Romano imperio, et quelibet ymago campanam ligneam in manu sua

habebat. Cum vero aliqua regio nitebatur Romanis insidias aliquas imponere, statim ymago ejusdem regionis campanam suam pulsavit et miles

exivit in equo eneo in summitate predicti pallacii, hastam vibravit et predictam regionem inspexit. Et ab instanti Romani hoc videntes se armaverunt et predictam regionem expugnaverunt.

Mistice. Ista civitas est corpus humanum, quod quinque portas sive exitus

habet, id est, quinque sensus; in hac civitate construitur nobile pallacium, id

est, anima racionalis, in cujus medio stat quelibet ymago, aureum pomum

habens in manu sua. Ista est similitudo, quam anima habet cum Deo, ergo

bene aurea dicitur. Tria enim regna sunt, que nituntur pallacium destruere,

id est, corpus et animam ad infernum trahere, quia semper impugnant illud.

Et sunt tria regna tres inimici hominis, scilicet caro, mundus et dyabolus. Et

iste regiones tres sunt ymagines; ymago mundi est cupiditas, ymago carnis

est voluptas, ymago dyaboli est superbia. De quibus dicitur: ‘‘Omne quod

est in mundo [1 John 2.16], per illo [sic] dampnatur.’’ Cum ergo homo considerat, quod isti tres inimici corpus et animam volunt perdere, et sic ymago,

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id est, racio debet campanam pulsare et viriliter contra eos pugnare, ne

fraudulenter se subjiciat suggestionibus.



The philosopher Alexander [Neckam] related in his On the Natures of

Things that Virgil constructed in the city Rome a noble palace, in the middle of

which stood an image called the goddess of Rome. It held in its hand a golden

apple. Along the circle of the palace were images of each of those regions that

were subject to the Roman empire, and each image had a wooden bell in its

hand. When in fact a given region endeavored to mount a plot against the

Romans, the image of that very region at once struck its bell, and a soldier

went out on a brass horse at the peak of the aforementioned palace, brandished

a spear, and gazed at the region in question. Immediately the Romans who

saw this took up arms and stormed the given region.

Figurative interpretation. This city is the human body, which has five portals

or exits, that is, the five senses. In this city a noble palace is constructed,

namely, the rational soul, in the middle of which stands an image, holding a

golden apple in its hand. This is the likeness that the soul has with God;

therefore it is aptly called ‘‘golden.’’ There are three realms, which endeavor to

destroy the palace, that is, the body, and to drag the soul to hell, inasmuch as

they always besiege it. These three realms are the three enemies of man, to wit,

the flesh, the world, and the devil. These three regions are images. The image

of the world is covetousness, the image of the flesh is bodily pleasure, the

image of the devil is pride. It is said of them: ‘‘Everything that is in the world is

damned by it.’’ Therefore, when a man considers that these three enemies wish

to destroy the body and the soul, in this very way the image, which is reason,

ought to beat the bell and fight manfully against them, so that he may not

subject himself deceitfully to their notions. (JZ)



5. Huguccio of Pisa

(died 1210)

Huguccio was born in Pisa, but his birthdate is unknown. He studied in

Bologna and later became bishop of Ferrara for two decades (1190–1210)

before his death. There has been dispute over whether the Huguccio to whom

works of canon law have been credited is identical with the one who wrote

grammatical works. Among the latter works, the Derivationes (also known as

the Magnae derivationes [Great Book of Etymologies] and the Liber derivationum [Book of Etymologies]) was the most influential; it is extant in more

than two hundred manuscripts. It assembles etymological and lexicographic

lore from antiquity and earlier in the Middle Ages within a framework in

which words are organized according to principles of word derivation (hence

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its title). (Discussion: W. Suerbaum, ANRW 2/31.2 [1981], 1234–35) (Text:

Uguccione da Pisa, Derivationes, ed. E. Cecchini and G. Arbizzoni, 2 vols.,

Edizione nazionale dei testi mediolatini 11, serie 1, 6 [Tavarnuzze, 2004], 248,

1285) (JZ)

a. Colosseum

Huguccio deals with Virgilian lore in two entries. First is the entry on the

Colosseum, which makes no mention of Virgil himself, but it is relevant since

it includes a description of the ‘‘Salvation of Rome’’ (see above, V.B.4) (without, however, identifying it by that name). (JZ)

Unde hoc Colosseum, quidam locus Rome ubi olim erant ymagines omnium

provinciarum, et in medio erat ymago Rome tenens pomum aureum in

manu utpote regina et domina omnium; et erant disposite arte nigromantica

quod quando aliqua provincia volebat insurgere contra Romanos statim

ymago Rome obvertebat dorsum illius provincie ymagini vel, ut dicunt,

ymago illius provincie insurgebat contra ymaginem Rome, et tunc Romani

ex improviso mittebant illuc exercitum et provinciam illam subiugabant.

Tali arte Romani totum mundum subiugavere.



From this [colossus, which Huguccio derives from ‘‘colens ossa’’] derives the

Colosseum, a certain place in Rome where once there were images of all the

provinces, and in the middle was the image of Rome, holding a golden apple

in her hand, inasmuch as she was queen and mistress of them all. They were

arranged there by magic craft so that when some province wished to rise up

against the Romans, immediately the image of Rome turned its back to the

image of that province or, as people say, the image of that province rose up

against the image of Rome. Then the Romans without warning would send

the army there and subdue the province. By such craft the Romans subjugated

the whole world. (JZ)

b. Virgil

Item a virgula dictus est Virgilius, quia mater eius somniavit quod pariebat

quandam virgulam, que usque ad celum pertingeret, quod nil aliud fuit nisi

quod Virgilium pareret, qui sua sapientia, loquendo de astris, celum tangeret; unde virgilianus –a –um.



Likewise from virgula (little shoot) Virgil was named, inasmuch as his mother

dreamed that she was giving birth to a certain shoot, which reached up to

heaven; that was nothing else if not that she would give birth to Virgil, who

would touch heaven by his wisdom, in speaking of the stars; whence [the

adjective] Virgilianus, -a, -um. (JZ)

870



V. V I R G I L I A N L E G E N D S



6. ‘‘About a Statue at Rome’’

In the legends about Virgil the conduct of women is often presented misogynistically. One legend reports that Virgil created a device, conventionally

designated in modern scholarship as the bocca della verità (mouth of truth; see

above, V, introduction), which was designed to bite o√ the fingers of adulteresses when they placed them in it and swore falsely. (A round stone associated

with the legend is located today against the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome.) The device is reputed to have functioned as Virgil intended

until a Roman empress swore an equivocal oath. Her stratagem was to have

her lover disguise himself as a fool or madman and embrace her, seemingly

inadvertently, before she took the oath. Thereupon she would be able to swear

that only the emperor and the madman had been near her intimately.

The legend may have originated in the fourteenth century. It is documented

in Germany at the latest around 1425, although a couple of the relevant texts

could be fourteenth century. The anonymous thirteen-strophe Middle High

German poem that is translated here (the full title of which is ‘‘About a Statue

at Rome That Bites O√ the Fingers of Unfaithful Women’’) could have been

composed in the first half of the fourteenth century—but it could also be

dated to the fifteenth century. The song is extant uniquely in Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, cgm 5198 (sometimes designated the Wiltener Manuscript), folios 96r–98r (see also below, V.Q).

A very similar story was part of the legend of Tristan and Isolt, which antedates this tale. Jean d’Outremeuse (see below, V.P) included an account of a

head made of copper that performed successfully as a lie detector for identifying

adulteresses. Accounts similar to both the German poem and Jean’s version survive from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The popularity of the motif was

greatest in German, where the story was retold as number 206 in the collection

of comic stories compiled by Johannes Pauli (circa 1450–circa 1533) under the

title Schimpf und Ernst (1522), and as ‘‘Die kaiserin mit dem leben pild’’ (The

Empress with the Animate Statue, 1563), by Hans Sachs (1494–1576); but it

was also included in the Fleur des histoires (Flower of Histories), by Jean Mansel

(sometimes further specified as d’Hesdin) (1400/1–1473/74). (Text: E. Du

Méril, Mélanges archéologiques [Paris, 1850], 444–45) (Discussion: R. Hexter,

Equivocal Oaths and Ordeals in Medieval Literature [Cambridge, Mass., 1975],

13–14) The tale was also incorporated into the Life of Virgil (see below, V.U),

which survives in French, Dutch, English, and Icelandic. The latest version in

this anthology is an ‘‘Olde Deceyte of Vergilius’’ (see below, V.V). (Discussion:

VN 207–27; F. Schanze, ‘‘Virgils Zauberbild,’’ in Verfasserlexikon 10:381–84)

(Text: K. Batsch, ed., ‘‘Gedicht auf dem Zauberer Virgilius,’’ Germania 4

[1859], 237–40, as emended by VMA [Pasquali], 2:212–16) (JZ)

B. MAGIC FIGURINES AND STATUES



871



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