If you think modern court cases can get weird, hold onto your hat!
Back in 1508, in the quaint village of Autun, France, there was a trial that sounds like something straight out of a storybook. Picture this, rats on trial for theft and destruction. And no, this isn’t a rodent-themed fairy tale; it’s a true historical event!
The rats were apparently caught red-handed, or red-pawed, munching on crops that were vital for the villagers’ survival through the winter. Understandably, this left the townsfolk in a bit of a pickle, facing potential starvation because of the ravenous rodents.
These rats were given a fair shot at defending themselves. How? Well, they had their own lawyer. Enter Bartholomew, the legal representation for the accused rats. Now, you might be thinking, “Rats can’t exactly hire lawyers or attend court sessions, can they?” And you’d be right. These defendants were a no-show, being rats and all, but their legal counsel came to the rescue.
Bartholomew made a clever argument, pointing out that summoning all the rats was impossible since, you know, they’re not known for their punctuality. With no way to notify every rat about the trial, he demanded that a second hearing be scheduled. Surprise, surprise, the rats missed that one too. But fear not, Bartholomew had another ace up his sleeve.
This time, he spun a tale about the dangers the rats would face if they were to attend—risking their lives due to the ever-looming threats of cats, humans, and dogs. This argument won over the magistrates, who decided to set yet another date for the trial. And then, the historical records cut off. We’re left hanging, wondering what went down in the third and final hearing. Did the rats finally show up, or did their clever lawyer spin another yarn to delay proceedings? We’ll never know!
It’s a quirky tale that gives us a glimpse into the legal oddities of medieval times. Sure, we might chuckle at the idea of rats standing trial, but this peculiar event was not as uncommon as you might think. Trials involving pets and pests were somewhat of a norm back in those days, though the rats of Autun might just take the cake for the most unusual defendants.
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