Mithridanes and Mita


Mithridanes is an alternate form of Mithridates, the Greek form of the Ancient Persian name Mithradatha, which means “gift of Mithra.” This out of place name isn’t the only anomaly in the third story of the tenth day of The Decameron, whose theme is magnanimity of character. The story is set far from Italy, all the way in Cathay (i.e., China), and the other main character is named Nathan, a primarily Jewish name in the Middle Ages.

Nathan, a man of noble lineage, is very wealthy, and lives along a much-travelled road. He acquires a reputation for good deeds and generosity, and eventually builds one of the most beautiful, sumptuous palaces ever. His fame is known not only all over the East, but also in the West.

When Nathan is getting old but not yet retired, his reputation reaches a young man named Mithridanes, who lives nearby. Mithridanes becomes extremely jealous, and decides to either destroy or eclipse Nathan’s reputation for generosity. To this end, he builds a similar palace and quickly becomes very famous. Mithridanes resolves to murder Nathan after he’s taken to task by a repeat beggar, who says Nathan never lets on he recognises her when she comes to beg.

In the vicinity of Nathan’s palace, Mithridanes runs across Nathan, dressed very simply and taking a walk alone. Not recognising him, Mithridanes asks if he knows where Nathan lives. They have a nice conversation all the way to the palace, and Nathan orders his servants to not let on his true identity. Nathan pretends he’s a servant himself. Nathan is very disturbed to learn why Mithridanes came there, but gives him advice on how to carry out this jealousy-inspired murder. Mithridanes is mortified to recognise Nathan when he’s following his advice, and begs his forgiveness. They then become even better friends.

Mita is Italian for “myth,” and one of only a few female M names appearing in The Decameron. She appears in the tenth story of the seventh day, which concerns a love triangle.

In Siena’s Porta Salaia section live two lower-class friends, Tingoccio Mini and Meuccio di Tura. They’re such dear friends, they promise the first one to leave this world will return to tell the other what really happens in the afterlife. Shortly after this, Tingoccio becomes godfather to the son of Ambruogio Anselmini of Camporeggi, and his wife, Monna Mita. Both friends are frequent visitors to their house, and both fall in love with Mita.

Neither says anything about it to the other at first, particularly not Tingoccio, since it was considered spiritual incest to have a relationship with the mother of one’s godchild. However, Tingoccio finally cracks and reveals his intentions to Mita, and they start an affair. Sadly, Tingoccio wears himself out from too much sex too quickly, and soon dies of this strength-sapping illness. As promised, he returns to tell Meuccio about the afterlife, and says his supposed sin isn’t considered a big deal after all.


3 thoughts on “Mithridanes and Mita

  1. I’m thoroughly enjoying your series for the A to Z Challenge. You’re writing about names I’ve never heard of. This is a good resource for character naming.

  2. Pingback: A to Z Reflections | Onomastics Outside the Box

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