Gesta Romanorum Vol. I (1871)/Of Hanging

Gesta Romanorum Vol. I  (1871) 
Anonymous, translated by Charles Swan
Of Hanging



Valerius tells us, that a man named Paletinus one day burst into a flood of tears; and calling his son and his neighbours around him, said, "Alas! alas! I have now growing in my garden a fatal tree, on which my first poor wife hung herself, then my second, and after that my third. Have I not therefore cause for the wretchedness I exhibit?" "Truly," said one who was called Arrius, "I marvel that you should weep at such an unusual instance of good fortune! Give me, I pray you, two or three sprigs of that gentle tree, which I will divide with my neighbours, and thereby afford every man an opportunity of indulging the laudable wishes of his spouse." Paletinus complied with his friend's request; and ever after found this remarkable tree the most productive part of his estate. (29)


My beloved, the tree is the cross of Christ. The man's three wives are, pride, lusts of the heart, and lusts of the eyes, which ought to be thus suspended and destroyed. He who solicited a part of the tree is any good Christian.

Note 29.Page 133.

This curious anecdote is recorded by Cicero, in his second book, "De Oratore," from whom, probably, Valerius Maximus copied it, if it be in his work. I cannot find it.

"Salsa sunt etiam, quæ habent suspicionem ridiculi absconditam; quo in genere est illud Siculi, cum familiaris quidam quereretur, quod diceret, uxorem suam suspendisse se de ficu. Amabo te inquit, da mihi ex istâ arbore, quos seram, surculos."—Lib. ii. 278. [1]

  1. "There are witty sayings also which carry a concealed suspicion of ridicule; of which sort is that of the Sicilian, who, when a friend of his made lamentation to him, saying, that his wife had hanged herself upon a fig-tree, said, I beseech you give me some shoots of that tree, that I may plant them. trans. 1896, J.S. Watson (Wikisource contributor note)