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  • Il Novellino

    XXXVIII
    Of an astrologer called Melisus, who was reprimanded by a woman

    There was one named Melisus1 who was exceedingly learned in many sciences and especially in astrology, as can be read in the sixth book of De Civitate Dei2.

    And it is said that this wise man once passed the night in the house of a poor woman.

    When he went to his rest in the evening, he said to the woman: look you, woman, leave the house door open to-night, for I am accustomed to get up and stndy the stars.

    The woman left the door open.

    That night it rained, and before the house there was a ditch filled with water.

    When the wise man rose, he fell into it. He began to cry for help. The woman asked: what is the matter? He answered: I have fallen into a ditch. Oh you poor fellow, said the woman, you gaze up at the sky and cannot mind your feet.

    The woman got up and helped him, for he was perishing in a little ditch of water from absentmindedness.3

    1 It would appear that the compiler of the Novellino is referring to Thales of Miletus, one of the seven wise men of Greece, who lived 639-564 B.C.
    2 St Auguitine speaks of Thales in Book VIII, not Book VI.
    3 The original version of this anecdote is to be found in Diogenes Laertius, Book I. See also Æsop's fable of the Astronomer.

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    Storer, Edward, trans. Il Novellino: The Hundred Old Tales. London: G. Routledge & Sons Ltd.; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., [1925]. 106-107

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