Gesta Romanorum Vol. I (1871)/Of spiritual Medicine

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



Saint Augustine relates, that an ancient custom formerly prevailed, in compliance with which, emperors, after death, were laid upon a funeral pile and burnt; and their ashes deposited in an urn. But it happened that one of them died, whose heart resisted the impression of fire. This circumstance created the utmost astonishment, and all the rhetoricians, and other wise men of every province, were summoned to one place. The question was then proposed to them, and they thus answered: "The Emperor died intoxicated, and through the influence of a latent poison, his heart cannot be consumed." When this was understood, they drew the heart from the fire, and covered it with theriaque (22) and immediately the poison was expelled. The heart, being returned to the flames, was soon reduced to ashes.


My beloved, men are thus in a spiritual sense. The heart is impoisoned, and then the fire of the Holy Ghost will not touch it. The theriaque is repentance, which removes all transgressions.

Note 22.Page 110.

"Covered it with theriaque."

Theriaque is an antidote. "Tyriacum antidotum, pro theriacum, quod vulgo theriaque dicimus."—Ducange. "Certaine trochisks[1] there be made of a viper, called by the Greeks theriaci: for which purpose they cut away at both ends as toward the head as the taile, the breadth of foure fingers, they rip her bellie also, and take out the garbage within: but especially they rid away the blue string or veine that sticketh close to the ridge-bone. Which done, the rest of the bodie they seeth in a pan with water and dill seed, until such time as all the flesh is gone from the chine: which being taken away, and all the prickie bones thereto belonging, the flesh remaining they incorporate with fine flower, and reduce into troches, which being dried in the shade, are reserved for diverse uses, and enter into many soveraigne antidots and confections. But here it is to bee noted, that although these troches bee called theriaci[2], yet are they made of viper's flesh onely. Some there be, who after a viper is cleansed, as is above said take out the fat, and seeth it with a sextar of oile untill the one halfe bee consumed: which serveth to drive away all venomous beasts, if three drops of this ointment be put into oile, and therewith the bodie be anointed all over." Pliny's Nat. Hist. b. 29. c. iv. trans, by Philemon Holland. Ed. 1601.

  1. A trochisk [Latin Trociscus] is a kind of medicinal pill or pastille.
  2. Derived from θηρ or θηριον, a wild beast.