L'adulterio dell'aquila. Storie di ordalia nella cultura greco-romana (con una postilla su Boccaccio)

Mario Lentano


Among the ancients there does not seem to be an analogous term to the idea of "ordeal". However, a great number of stories, given in historiographic as well as literary sources, portray actual physical torments through which those believed guilty of a certain crime were put, especially women whose virginity or conjugal fidelity were questionable. A declamation belonging to Seneca the Elder's collection is of particular interest in this respect: here, a priestess of Vesta, suspected of incest, is thrown down the Tarpeian rock and yet remains uninjured after beseeching divine protection. In the Middle Ages, this story was traced to the so-called Gesta Romanorum, and the declamation served as an indirect model for novella 6, 7, of Boccaccio's Decameron, concerning Madonna Filippa, to which the last part of this article is dedicated.

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