1452 | Rome

Grace and Favor

Poggio Bracciolini brings the law jokes.

A man who had been appointed arbitrator between two litigants received a jug of oil of one of the parties, who by that means hoped to secure a sentence on his behalf.

The fact came to the ears of the other party, who hastened to send a fat pig, requesting favor in his own interest. The arbitrator pronounced himself for the pig. He who had given the oil came to him and complained of the result, reminding him of the present and of the promise made. “Well,” said the arbitrator, “a certain pig entered my house and, finding your oil in the way, broke the jug and spilled the contents on the floor, so that I forgot you.” A most appropriate reply in the mouth of a venal judge.

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Poggio Bracciolini

From The Facetiae. According to a biographer, Bracciolini—a Florentine humanist who claimed to have delivered a eulogy at Lorenzo de’ Medici’s funeral in 1440—composed this book of jests to practice his Latin. “As many tradesmen imagine that they can make no profit without telling falsehoods in commendation of their commodities,” he wrote of the study of law, “so the generality of men learned in the law think they shall never prosper in the world if they scruple to subvert justice by perjury, and equity by sophisms.”