You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Not Justinian and
Theodora me and to most of us these two persons never seemed to be human beings, but rather as a pair of blood-thirsty demons... For they plotted together to find the easiest means of destroying all races of men and all their works, and, assuming human form, became man-demons, and in this way convulsed the whole world.

It is said that Justinian's own mother told some of her close friends that he was not the son of her husband Sabbatius or any man at all. For when she was about to conceive him she was visited by a demon, who was invisible but who gave her the distinct impression that he was really there as a man giving a woman her fill. Then he vanished as in a dream. And some of those who were with the Emperor late at night... men of the highest character--thought that they saw a strange demonic form in his place. One of them declared that he more than once rose suddenly from the imperial throne and walked round and round the room, for he was not in the habit of remaining seated long. And Justinian's head would momentarily disappear while the rest of his body seemed to continue making these long circuits... Later the head returned to the body... Another man said that he stood by the Emperor's side as he sat and saw his face suddenly transformed to a shapeless lump of flesh: neither eyebrows nor eyes were in their normal position, and it showed no other distinguishing shape. I did not myself witness the events I am describing, but I heard about them from men who insist that they saw them at the time.

Procopius, The Secret History
Penguin edition translated by G.A. Williamson and Peter Sarris

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