Gesta Romanorum Vol. II (1871)/Of free Will




There was formerly a king, in whose reign a law was enacted, that the elder brother should divide the inheritance; and then, that the younger should have the choice. The reason of which was, that they considered it a greater proof of discretion, to apportion than to select; and the elder ought to be the wiser. There was also another law, which permitted the son of a slave to receive an estate, as well as the son of a freeman. Now there were two brothers, the one born of a handmaid, and the other of a free-woman, between whom an estate was to be divided. The elder, therefore, divided it in this manner. On one side he placed the whole inheritance, and on the other, his brother's mother. The latter reflected that he ought to love his parent beyond all else; and consequently chose her, trusting to the kindness and liberality of his brother. But here he was deceived; for he would supply him with nothing. Upon which he hastened to the judge, and complained that his brother had excluded him from his inheritance. The brother made answer, that the matter rested not with him; since he who chose, not he who divides, is secure of his portion.


My beloved, the two sons are Christ and man; the elder, that is Christ, divided the inheritance; the mother is the earth, which the younger chose, and thereby lost heaven.