Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Of the Triple State of the World

Gesta Romanorum

A certain knight had three sons, and on his deathbed he bequeathed the inheritance to his firstborn; to the second, his treasury; and to the third, a very valuable ring, of more worth indeed than all he had left to the others.

But the two former had also rings, and they were all apparently the same.

After their father's death the first son said, "I possess that precious ring of my father."

The second said, "You have it not -- I have."

To this the third son answered, "That is not true. The elder of us has the estate, the second the treasure, and therefore it is but meet that I should have the most valuable ring."

The first son answered, "Let us prove, then, whose claims to it have the preeminence."

They agreed, and several sick men were made to resort to them for the purpose. The two first rings had no effect, but the last cured all their infirmities.


My beloved, the knight is Christ. The three sons are the Jews, Saracens [Muslims], and Christians. The most valuable ring is faith, which is the property of the younger, that is, of the Christians

  • Source: Gesta Romanorum.

  • I have used the following edition: Gesta Romanorum; or, Entertaining Moral Stories, translated from the Latin by Charles Swan (London: George Bell and Sons, 1877), tale 89, pp. 161-162. Translation slightly revised.

  • The Gesta Romanorum or Deeds of the Romans was compiled in Latin in the early fourteenth century by an English cleric. It was first published about 1473. Its title notwithstanding, only a few of the work's some 283 stories deal with the Romans. Instead, the work presents a mixture of anecdotes, legends, and fables, gleaned from many sources and presented in a context appropriate for incorporation into Christian sermons.

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