Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Pasquino (Two Tales)



'NO, I can't say I remember any pasquinades, not to repeat; but I know what happened once when they tried to stop them.

               'There had been so many one time that the Government put a guard all round about Pasquino to watch and see who did it, but for a long time they saw no one.

               'One night, at last, a clownish countryman came by with a bundle of hay on his back, drivelling and half silly. "Let me sit here a bit to rest; I'm so weary with carrying this load I can't go any farther; but I won't do any harm."

               'The guards laughed at the poor idiot's simplicity in fancying they could expect such as he to be the author of the witty, pungent sort of wares they were on the search for, and said with contemptuous pity, "Yes, yes; you may sit there!" And the stupid old countryman sat down at the foot of the statue.

               '"Heaven reward you for your kindness!" he said, when he got up after half-an-hour's rest.

               '"Don't mention it; go in peace!" returned the guards, and the man passed out of sight.

               'Next morning, high over head of Pasquino floated a gay paper balloon.

               '"The balloon! the balloon!" screamed the street urchins.

               '"The balloon! the balloon!" shouted a number of men, assembled by preconcerted arrangement, though seemingly passers-by attracted by the noise.

               'The clumsy clodhopper of overnight was an adroit fellow disguised, and he had attached the string of the balloon to the statue.

               'To seize the string, pull down the balloon, and burst it was quick work; but out of it floated three hundred and sixty-six stinging pasquinades, which were eagerly gathered up.'


'MANY a time a simple exterior is a useful weapon; but when a man who is really simple pretends to be clever he is soon found out. For another time there had been a pasquinade which so vexed the Government that the Pope declared whoever would acknowledge himself the author of it should have his life spared and five hundred scudi reward.

               'One day a simple-looking rustic came to the Vatican, and said he was come to own himself the author of the pasquinade. As such he was shown in to the Pope.

               '"So you are the author of this pasquinade, are you, good man?"

               '"Yes, Your Holiness, I wrote it," answered the fellow.

               '"You are quite sure you wrote it?"

               '"Oh, yes, Your Holiness, quite sure."

               '"Take him and give him the five hundred scudi," said the Pope.

               'An acute Monsignore, who felt convinced the man could not be the author of the clever satire, could not refrain from interposing officially when he found the Pope really seemed to be taken in.

               '"They have their orders," said the Pope, who was no less discerning than he.

               'A chamberlain took the man into a room where five hundred scudi lay counted on the table, and at the same time put on a pair of handcuffs.

               '"Halloa now! What is this? It was announced that the man who owned himself the author of the Pasquinade should have his life free and five hundred scudi."

               '"All right; no one is going to touch your life, and there are the five hundred scudi. But you couldn't imagine that the man who wrote that satire would be allowed to go free about Rome. That was self-evident--there was no need to say it."

               '"Oh, but I never wrote a word of it, upon my honour," exclaimed the countryman.

               '"I thought not," said the Pope, who had come in to amuse himself with the fellow's confusion. "Now go, and another time don't pretend to any worse sins than your own."'


The 'Pasquino' statue was not only the receptacle of the invectives of the vulgar, it often served also to mark the triumphs of the great. The first time it was put to this use was in 1571, on occasion of the triumph of M. A. Colonna, when the parts wanting were restored, and it was clad in shining armour. On various occasions, as a new pope went in procession from the Vatican to perform the ceremony called 'taking possession' of St. John Lateran, it was similarly risanato del suo stroppio ordinario (healed of the usual lameness of its members), and made to bear a sword, a balance, a cornucopia, and other emblematical devices, which are given at great length by Cancellieri.

               The opinions of Winkelman, and others, concerning the great artistic merits both of this statue and that called 'Marforio,' do not belong to our present aspect of it. Sprenger, 'Roma nuova,' says that besides these two there was another statue which used to take part in this satirical converse, namely, that of the Water-seller, with his barrel (commemorative of a well-known, though humble character), opposite the Church of S. Marcello, in the Corso, which the present rulers, ignorant of Roman traditions, removed. The Romans, however, clamoured against its destruction, and it is now replaced round the corner, up the Via Lata.


[1] The statue called by this name was not originally found in its present situation. The shop of the tailor Pasquino was in the Via in Parione, a turning out of the Via del Governo Vecchio, some little distance off, nor was it discovered at all till after Pasquino's death. At his time it was buried unperceived in the pavement of the street, and the inequalities of its outline afforded stepping-stones by means of which passengers picked their way through the puddles! Cancellieri (Mercato, appendix, N. iii.)] quotes a passage from a certain Tibaldeo di Ferrara, quoted in a book, his dissertation concerning the author of which is too long to quote. This Tibaldeo, however, says, 'as the street was being repaired, and I had the shop that was Pasquino's made level, the trunk of a statue, probably of a gladiator, was found, and the people immediately gave it his name.' He, however, quotes from other writers mention of other sites for its discovery mostly somewhat nearer to the present situation. The site of the present Palazzo Braschi was then occupied by the so-called Torre Orsini, a building of a very different ground-plan. Cancellieri quotes from more than one MS. diary that at the time the Marquis de Créquy came to Rome as ambassador of Louis XIII. in 1633, the Palazzo de' Orsini, where he was lodged, was designated as 'sopra Pasquino.' And again from another MS. diary, that in 1728, when the palace was bought by the Duca di Bracciano-Odoscalchi, the same designation remained in use. In the Diary of Cracas, under date March 19, 1791, is an entry detailing the care with which the Pasquino statue was removed to a pedestal prepared for it in front of Palazzo Pamfili during the completion of the contiguous portion of the Palazzo Braschi, and its restoration is duly entered on the 14th March of the same year. (There is clearly a typographical error about one of these dates, which could doubtless be corrected by reference to 'Notizie delle due famose statue di un fiume e di Patroclo dette volgarmente di Marforio e di Pasquino,' by the same author, Rome, 1789, which I have not been able to see. Moroni, vi. 99, gives 1791 as the year in which it was bought by Duke Braschi, the nephew of Pius VI. while the Pope was in exile in France, and the completion by the rebuilding must, therefore, have been some years later.

               The date of its discovery is told in the following inscription by the cardinal inhabiting Torre Orsini at the time, and who saved it from destruction:--

Oliverii Caraffa         
Beneficio hic sum         
Anno Salvati Mundi--MDI.)

               It was Adrian VI. (not Alexander VI. as Murray has it), who proposed to throw it into the Tiber. Adrian VI. was a victim of pasquinades for two reasons,--the first, because born at Utrecht and tutor of Charles V., and afterwards viceroy in Spain, during all Charles' absence in Germany Rome feared at his election that he would set up the Papal See in Spain; and it is not altogether impossible that the popular satires may have had some influence in deciding him on the contrary to repair immediately to Rome,--the second, because he was an energetic and unsparing reformer; and those who were touched by his measures were just those who could afford to pay the hire of the tongues of popular wags.

               Nor was it only during his life that he was the subject of such criticisms. When his rigorous reign was suddenly brought to a close after he had worn the tiara but twenty months, on the door of his physician was posted this satire, 'Liberatori Patriæ S.P.Q.R.' (Giovio; Vit. Hadr. VI.); and his tomb in St. Peter's, between that of Pius II. and Pius III., was disgraced with this epitaph: 'Hic jacet impius inter Pios,' till some years later, when his body was removed to a worthier monument in S. Maria del Anima.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Pasquino (Two Tales)
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Book Title: Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Publisher: Estes and Lauriat
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1877
Country of Origin: Italy
Classification: unclassified

Next Tale

Back to Top