Note on the e-text: this Renascence Editions text was provided by Ben R. Schneider, Lawrence University, Wisconsin. It is in the public domain. "Florio's Translation of Montaigne's Essays was first published in 1603. In 'The World's Classics' the first volume was published in 1904, and reprinted in 1910 and 1924." Content unique to this presentation is copyright © 1998 The University of Oregon. For nonprofit and educational uses only.
ACITUS reporteth that amongst certaine barbarous kings, for the confirmation of an inviolable bonde or covenant, their manner was to joyne their right hands close and hard together with enterlacing their thumbs: and when by hard wringing them the blood appeared at their ends, they pricked them with some sharp point, and then mutually entersuckt each one the others. Phisicians say thumbes are the master fingers of the hand, and that their Latine etymologie is derived of Pollere. The Græcians call it αντιχειρ, as a man would say, another hand. And it seemeth the Latines likewise, take them sometimes in this sense, id est, for the whole hand:Sed nec vocibus excitata blandis,In Rome it was heretofore a signe of favour to wring and kisse the thumbs:
Molli pollice nec rogata surgit.-- MART. 1. xii. Epig. xcix. 8.
It wil not rise, though with sweet words excited,
Nor with the touch of softest thumb invited.Fautor utroque tuum laudabit pollice ludum -- HOR. 1. i. Epist. xviii. 66.and of disfavor or disgrace to lift them up and turne them outward.
He that applaudes will praise,
With both his thumbs, thy plaies:converso pollice vulgi Quemlibet occidunt populariter. -- JUVEN. Sat. iii. 36Such as were hurt or maymed in their thumbs were by the Romanes dispensed from going to warre, as they who had lost their weapons hold-fast. Augustus did confiscate all the goods of a Roman knight, who through malice had cut off the thumbes of two young children of his, thereby to excuse them from going to warre and before him the Senate in the time of the Italian warres had condemned Caius Vatienus to perpetuall prison, and confiscated all his goods, forsomuch as he had willingly cut off the thumb of his left hand, so to exempt himselfe from the voyage. Some one, whose name I remember not, having gained a great victory by sea, caused all the enemies whom he had vanquished and taken prisoners to have their thumbs cut off, thinking thereby to deprive them of all meanes of fighting, or rowing, or handling their oares. The Athenians likewise caused them to be cut off from them of Ægina, to take from them the preeminence in the art of navigation. In Lacedæmon masters punished their schollers by byting their thumbs.
When people turne their thumbs away,
They popularly any slay.