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Poggio Bracciolini and the Perugians at Florence 07/03/2011

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Poggio Bracciolini 124: Pleasantry at the expense of an envoy from Perugia.

At the time when the Florentines were at war with Pope Gregory, the people of Perugia, who had deserted the party of the sovereign pontiff for those of Florence, sent to that city certain ambassadors to demand aid. One of them, who was a Doctor, began a long discourse, and at the start, as an introduction to the matter in hand, pronounced these words: ‘Date vobis de oleo vestro’. ‘Another of the party, a humorous fellow, who detested such circumlocutions, interrupted him: What is this about oil?’ he cried. ‘You ask for oil when it is soldiers that we are in need of. Have you forgotten that we have come here to ask for arms, and not oil?’ ‘But these are the very words of the Scripture,’ replied the Doctor. ‘A fine reason for their use,’ ‘ retorted the other. ‘We are the enemies of the Church, and you call the Holy Scriptures to our aid!’ The humor of this man caused the whole company to laugh; the flow of useless words which the Doctor had prepared was cut short, and they came at once to the point of the negotiation.