Mathematicians. Although in Cicero and in Seneca mathematicus means a mathematician, in later Latin it always signifies an astrologer, a diviner, a wizard. The Mathematici were condemned by the Roman law as exponents of black magic. Their art is indeed forbidden in severest terms by Diocletian (A.D. 284-305): Artem geometriae discere atque exervere oublice interest, ars autem mathematica damnabilis interdicta est omnino. The world mathematician was used in English sometimes to denote an astrologer, a fortune-teller. So in Shirley's comedy The Sisters, III, licensed April 1642, when the bandist disguised as diviners visit the castle, Giovanni enters crying out: Master Steward, yonder are the rarest fellows! In such fantastical habits, too; they call themselves mathematicians. What do they come for? the steward asks. To offer their service to my Lady, and tell fortunes, is the reply. When Antonio sees them he grumbles:
Her house is open for these mountebanks,
Cheaters, and tumblers, that can foist and flatter
My Lady Gewgaw. . .
What are you, sir?
Strozzo. One of the mathematicians, noble signior.
Antonio. Mathematicians! mongrel,
How durst thou take that learned name upon thee?
Your are one of those knaves that stroll the country,
And live by picking worms out of fools' fingers.