Bibant, quoniam esse nolunt

“Let them drink, since they don’t wish to eat”

In the thick of the First Punic War, in 249 BC to be exact, Publius Claudius Pulcher (aka handsome hunk- pulcher meant handsome)- the then senior consul of the Roman republic was planning an attack on the harbour of Drepana to attack Carthaginian ships. In accordance with Roman custom, Pulcher went about inspecting the auspicious omens before the battle. Custom prescribed that the sacred chickens (carried in a cage on the ship) were fed and the behaviour of the chickens when feeding informed the judgement on whether the omens were good or not. That is, if the chickens ate the food you gave them- the Gods would be on your side. If they didn’t – the Gods were throwing you to the lions.

In Pulcher’s case the chickens had one look at the crap that was offered to them and turned their haughty faces away. After all they were the sacred chickens and if they didn’t eat- the alarmed crew and soldiers would go groveling on their knees in fear. What would happen to them? They hadn’t been acquainted with dear old Claudius Pulcher of course who promply threw them overboard giving an alternative interpretation of the omen that the chickens only wanted to drink and not eat before the battle. Poor chickens!

Anyway this is the part where we all start laughing.
Fuddy duddy romans and their silly omens with their augurs, auspices and sacrifices. How irrational and stupid to have to base your judgements on how birds flew or how the entrails of a sacrificed bull looked like. What could such a dumb society do? Quite a lot actually- from straight roads to a strong republic and then empire with unparalleled historical figures to mosaics and aqueducts to name very little. No one ever doubts that this society shaped the way the world would be in a further day.

Unfortunate for us that…

In this scientific, rational and post modern age when logic and cold reasoning counts for everything we still find ourselves (or a majority of us find ourselves) glued to a screen trying to find which box a cephalopod (Paul the Octopus, in case you were wondering- don’t you dare say Paul who- I am officially the most football reclusive person in this world and I am writing this) eats from. And many are those now who want to do a la Claudius Pulcher (but how do you throw an octopus overboard? D’ah barbecue him you know or use him for Sushi etc etc and Claudius himself was only trying to be do an a la Marie Antoinette ‘let them eat cake’- which I believe she never said by the way but how was Claudius to know).

The chickens could not be rescued from the wrath of Pulcher. I hope the aquarium staff are more careful about Paul. After all he can’t be more guarded than priceless artworks in galleries can he? And if they can be stolen….

Paul THE Octopus

I hope for the sake of Paul that he is people can go back to letting him be what he is- an octopus in an aquarium rather than some kind of clairvoyant celebrity. What will he be used for next I wonder- predicting election results?? (Then aren’t we really going the way of the Romans who didn’t know modern science. One wonders or ok I wonder what they would have been like if they had-maybe no different, they would have been feeding the chickens to find out which gladiator to bet on.)

And oh by the way, if you were wondering what really happened to Claudius Pulcher….he lost…majorly!

Always listen to the chickens and the octopus.

Disclaimer: The author knows nothing of football, very little of chickens and octopus and slightly more about Roman consuls.


12 Comments Add yours

  1. Mrs.Ramanujan says:

    yes , I hope the poor octopus is spared of all these threats. Good you thought of writing about it. I like the way you have written this

  2. Lav says:

    its a self fulfilling prophecy. no matter which team Paul picks..the other team is demoralised with all this hype…
    ps: he is sitting on one and reaching for the other.. does thie mean he thinks there is a draw? lol

  3. sr256 says:

    It worked with the chickens as well Lav. The crew were also demoralised- remember?

  4. brad says:

    Au contraire – you seem to be an expert on octopusses ( or should that be octopi?). In addition to being knowledgeable football pundits, octopusses are enthusiastic gardeners but not very good at repaying their debts ( I once lent one 3 pounds, followed byu another 3 ponds – now it owes me six squid! Sorry!)

  5. sr256 says:

    Brad I believe you are safer off with octopuses or octopodes. Your bad you didn’t check on its credit history 😛

  6. Rob says:

    I’m confused: does this mean Spain will win, or is it finally the turn of the Dutch?

    1. sr256 says:

      Rob, I know nothing of football remember? But thanks for reading my blog 🙂

  7. Rob says:

    I enjoyed it.

    Oh, and Brad got his gag wrong (as usual!). The original gag involves a killer whale who befriends an unwell cephalopod and gives it to his mate saying “here’s that sick squid I owe you”. ba-doom, tiss!

    1. sr256 says:


  8. Mrs.Ramanujan says:

    yOUR prediction about using octopus for election has come true.!Today’s Hindu paper shows an octopus selecting the Australian Prime minister!!

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