Availing ourselves of Sir George Head's excellent translation, we extract from the c Golden Ass' of Apuleius a story which, to our conceptions, is unsurpassed for its horror by any of the dreariest legends of Pagan or Medieval sorcery.
" My master, the baker, was a well-behaved, tolerably good man, but his wife, of all the women in the world, was the most wicked creature in existence, and continually rendered his home such a painful scene of tribulation to him, that, by Hercules, many is the time and oft that I have silently deplored his fate. The heart of that most detestable woman was like a common cess-pool, where all the evil dispositions of our nature were collected together. She was cruel, treacherous, malevolent, obstinate, penurious^ yet profuse in expenses of dissipation, faithless to her husband, a cheat and a drunkard. One day I heard it said that the baker had procured a bill of divorce against his execrable helpmate, and this intelligence turned out in due time to be true. She, exasperated by the proceedings instituted against her, communicated with a certain woman who had the reputation of being a witch, and whose spells and incantations were of power unlimited. Having conciliated this woman by gifts and urgent supplications, she besought of her one of two things-either to soften the heart of her husband, so that he might be reconciled to her ; or if unable to do that, to send a ghost or some evil spirit to put him to a violent death. In the first endeavour the sorceress totally failed, whereupon she set about contriving the death of my unfortunate master. To effect her purpose, she raised from the grave the shade of a woman who had been murdered. So one day, about noon, there entered the bakehouse a bare-footed woman half-clad, wearing a mourning mantle thrown across her shoulders, her pale sallow features marked by a lowering expression of guilt, her grisly dishevelled hair sprinkled with ashes, and her front locks streaming over her face. Unexpectedly approaching the baker, and taking him gently by the hand, she drew him aside, and led him into an adjoining chamber, as if she had private intelligence to communicate. After the baker had departed, and a considerable period had elapsed without his returning, the servants went to his chamber-door and knocked very loudly, and, after continued silence, called several times, and thumped still harder than before. They then perceived that the door was carefully locked and bolted; upon which, at once concluding that some serious catastrophe had happened, they pushed against it with their utmost strength, and by a violent effort, either breaking the hinge or driving it out of its socket, they effected an entrance bv force. The moment they were within the chamber, they saw the baker hanging quite dead from one of the beams of the ceiling, but the woman who had accompanied him had disappeared, and was nowhere to be seen".
This evoking of the dead to destroy the living, this warring of a corpse with a living soul, and then the sudden dismissal, when its foul and fatal errand had been accomplished, of the ghost to its grave, presents to the mind a climax of terrors, for which we do not know where, in history or in fiction, to find a counterpart.
The Lex Majestatis, or law of High Treason, was one of the most effectual and terrible weapons which the imperial constitution of Rome placed in the hands of its military despots. Against one offence this double-handled and sure-smiting engine was frequently levelled, viz. against the crime or the charge of inquiring into the probable duration of the Emperor's life. This was done in various ways,-by fire applied to waxen images, by consulting the stars, by casting nativities, by employing prophets, by casual omens, but especially by certain permutations and combinations of numbers, " numéros Babylonios," or the letters of the alphabet. The following extract from Ammianus Marcellinus affords an example of this treasonable sacrilege, the practice or suspicion of which, on so many occasions, led to the expulsion of the " mathematicians" from Italy. The Romans indeed, profoundly ignorant of science, or contemning it as the art of Greek adventurers or Egyptian priests, neither of whom were in good odour with the government at any period, gave to the current impostors of those days an appellation which Cambridge wranglers now account equal to a patent of nobility.