Potions and Spells: Crimes and their Legal Names

Quintilian, 7.3.10

“A different kind of question arises when the argument depends on a word which comes from a written text. This does not happen in courtrooms unless the words shape the legal outcome: is killing oneself a homicide? Is the one who compels a tyrant to kill himself a tyrannicide? Are magical spells like poisoning?

The matter is clear. Suicide is not understood as being the same as killing another person; it is not the same thing to kill a tyrant and compel him to die. Spells are not the same thing as mortal poison. The issue is whether they should be referred to with the same legal name.”

Diversum est genus cum controversia consistit in nomine quod pendet ex scripto, nec versatur in iudiciis nisi propter verba quae litem faciunt: an qui se interficit homicida sit, an qui tyrannum in mortem compulit tyrannicida, an carmina magorum veneficium. Res enim manifesta est sciturque non idem esse occidere se quod alium, non idem occidere tyrannum quod compellere ad mortem, non idem carmina ac mortiferam potionem, quaeritur tamen an eodem nomine appellanda sint.

20120224-Magical_book_Kircherian_Terme.jpg
Spell book?

2 thoughts on “Potions and Spells: Crimes and their Legal Names

  1. James T

    Dang this is a good translation—I particularly like the way you rendered “lis.” “Moral poison” should be “mortal poison,” right?

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