Did Romans piss into aqueducts as a joke?

Did Romans piss into aqueducts as a joke?

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Are there any historical references to this being done? Either for fun, as revenge of some kind or for any other reason?

If this was common practice; did anyone try to prevent it from happening or was it accepted as another facet of daily life?

Thanks in advance!

I doubt that very much. Pecunia non olet, remember? Money doesn't stink, said Vespasian to Titus, when the latter complained about his father for raising tax on urine.

Urine was a valuable ingredient for making leather and as an ingredient for cleaning. Urine was collected wherever possible. Shopkeepers kept jars ready for passers-by and customers relieve themselves in, then to sell the contents to leather makers. That's why Vespasian taxed it.

Apart from that, have you seen how high viaducts are? It's a pretty steep climb for a prank. Roman justice was harsh. I have absolutely no idea what a pissing prankster would get, but 20 hrs community service had to be invented yet. The very least one could expect was a severe lashing. Probably a lot more.

Certainly by the population who would not be amused if someone pissed into their drinking water. Rome didn't have a formal police force. There were the vigiles, a corps of firefighters and night watchmen formed out of slaves and ex slaves (that should give you an idea how low this public service rated into society). Even a formal office for prosecution did not exist.

Justice was handled much more handled by individuals themselves. Being arrested by the vigiles would be the least of your worries. If the crowd caught you in the act, you could expect some real hard justice. More than enough to stop most modern pranksters.

Caligula, the Infamous Roman Emperor Who Made His Horse a Senator

In 37 AD, the people of Rome rejoiced when they finally gained a new emperor. The dour, Emperor Tiberius was dead, and it was good riddance as far as the populace was concerned. For Tiberius had instigated a wave of treason trials and executions that had disrupted society. Worse still, he had murdered members of his own family. The new emperor was one of the survivors of this purge. Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus was just 24 years old. A great-grandson of Augustus, he was also the son of the war hero Germanicus. In the people&rsquos minds, the emperor Gaius as he was known could only mean a return to the good old days.

They were wrong. For within four short years, their &ldquosavior&rsquo was dead, murdered by his own guards after a morning at the games. History would remember the emperor Gaius as one of Rome&rsquos worst rulers. It would also remember him by his hated childhood nickname. For Gaius Caesar became &ldquoLittle Boots&rdquo or Caligula. A bloodthirsty megalomaniac, Caligula was guilty of blasphemy, incest, and state-sanctioned murder, torture, and robbery. However, interspersing the cruelty and sadism were moments of breath-taking ridiculousness- such as the occasion he made his favorite horse a consul. Such actions led the emperor&rsquos contemporaries to question his sanity. So was Caligula bad- or just plain mad?

Emperor Tiberius. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

Did Romans piss into aqueducts as a joke? - History

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Searching for the source of one of the city's greatest engineering achievements

Archaeologist Katherine Rinne stands beside a large ancient Roman springhouse that may belong to the lost "Carestia" spring, one of the possible sources of the Aqua Traiana.
(Courtesy Rabun Taylor)

Few monuments that survive from antiquity better represent Roman pragmatism, ingenuity, and the desire to impress than the aqueducts built to fulfill the Romans' seemingly unslakable need for water. Around the turn of the second century A.D., the emperor Trajan began construction on a new aqueduct for the city of Rome. At the time, demands on the city's water supply were enormous. In addition to satisfying the utilitarian needs of Rome's one million inhabitants, as well as that of wealthy residents in their rural and suburban villas, water fed impressive public baths and monumental fountains throughout the city. Although the system was already sufficient, the desire to build aqueducts was often more a matter of ideology than absolute need.

Whether responding to genuine necessity or not, a new aqueduct itself was a statement of a city's power, grandeur, and influence in an age when such things mattered greatly. Its creation also glorified its sponsor. Trajan&mdashprovoked, in part, by the unfinished projects of his grandiose predecessor, Domitian&mdashseized the opportunity to build his own monumental legacy in the capital: the Aqua Traiana ("Aqueduct of Trajan" in Latin). The aqueduct further burnished the emperor's image by bringing a huge volume of water to two of his other massive projects&mdashthe Baths of Trajan, overlooking the Colosseum, and the Naumachia of Trajan, a vast open basin in the Vatican plain surrounded by spectator seating for staged naval battles.

Upon its completion, the Aqua Traiana was one of the 11 aqueducts that, by the end of the emperor's reign, carried hundreds of millions of gallons of water a day. It was also one of the largest of the aqueducts that sustained the ancient city between 312 B.C., when Rome received its first one, and A.D. 537, when the Goths besieged the city and reportedly cut every conduit outside the city walls. At the time of its dedication in A.D. 109, the Aqua Traiana ran for more than 25 miles, beginning at a cluster of springs on the northwestern side of Lake Bracciano before heading southeast to Rome. However, for all the aqueduct's importance to the city, its sources and the architecture that marked them have eluded archaeologists despite centuries of searching. Now, thanks to an unusual set of circumstances that preserved them, the Aqua Traiana's sources are being brought to light at last. And for the first time, a well-preserved, monumentalized aqueduct source associated with a Roman aqueduct
has been identified.

In 2008, documentary filmmakers Ted and Mike O'Neill began a project to reinvestigate Rome's aqueducts. The O'Neills started to review the existing scholarship on the aqueducts and their sources. To these self-described "archive rats," the results weren't at all satisfying. Scholars had repeatedly ignored or misinterpreted valuable evidence from descriptive documents dating from the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries&mdash for example, Carlo Fea's History of the Waters of Rome of 1832. Soon, the Aqua Traiana became the focus of their research, since they knew it had enjoyed an extensive revival centuries after its construction. During the Middle Ages, the aqueduct had fallen into ruin. In the early 1600s, Pope Paul V&mdashan ambitious builder much like Trajan some 1,500 years before him&mdashundertook construction of a massive new aqueduct. At that time, some standing remains of the Aqua Traiana were probably still visible here and there in the countryside. Many of the original springs were still flowing. And it may have been possible to locate buried sections of the aqueduct by following its path underground.

A team, including (from left to right), filmmakers Ted and Mike O'Neill, and archaeologists Rabun Taylor and Katherine Rinne, is trying to pinpoint the Aqua Traiana's source.
(Ted O'Neill)

The emperor Trajan issued a bronze sestertius with his likeness (obverse) to celebrate the aqueduct's completion. The reclining god (reverse) represents the aqueduct, and the arch suggests the grottos at its sources.
(© The Trustees of the British Museum)

A project map shows a portion of the aqueduct's infrastructure and path.
(Courtesy Michael McCullough)

An arch leading to the right-hand chamber at the Santa Fiora springhouse has been walled in, leaving only a small entrance near the crown.
(Courtesy Rabun Taylor)

The right-hand chamber of the Aqua Traiana's main springhouse is located at Santa Fiora. One corner where the conduit of the Aqua Traiana exits the springhouse is rounded to assist water flow.
(Courtesy Rabun Taylor)

The Santa Fiora tunnel shows the variety of brickwork and waterproof cement used by Roman engineers.
(Courtesy Ted O'Neill)

A 1718 map of the Santa Fiora church and its surroundings indicates several remains of the aqueduct's hydraulic system.
(Courtesy of the State Archive, Rome)

Little remains of a collapsed bridge of the Aqua Traiana in the ravine called the "Fosso della Calandrina."
(Courtesy Rabun Taylor)

A hybrid sector of the Aqua Traiana has a 17th-century vault and an ancient Roman floor and walls.
(Courtesy Rabun Taylor)

The channel atop a bridge of the aqueduct has fallen into a creek, revealing its opus signinum interior.
(Courtesy Rabun Taylor)

The pope tasked his engineers with locating the still-flowing springs, buying the land on which they were located, and connecting them to the planned aqueduct. Once again, waters were brought to Rome from the slopes above Lake Bracciano, this time under the name Acqua Paola ("Paul's Waters" in Italian). Despite the pope's public assertion that he had relied on the sources and remains of an ancient aqueduct to build the Acqua Paola, nobody had ever been able to verify this claim, much less associate the remains of the Renaissance aqueduct with those of any ancient aqueduct.

Several above- and belowground sections of the Aqua Traiana are known today, but few of them were directly incorporated into the pope's aqueduct. These ancient remains were built in a style characteristic of the second century A.D., with concrete walls faced with either brickwork or opus reticulatum&mdashstone squares set in a precise diagonal grid. Both above- and belowground, the water channel was vaulted with plain concrete and lined below the vault with opus signinum, a cement that the Romans had used for centuries to waterproof floors, cisterns, and aqueducts. By contrast, the parts of the Acqua Paola still flowing today show no evidence of ancient masonry. In fact, a coating of modern cement entirely obscures what may lie in the walls underneath. The best evidence for the marriage of old and new is in the "dead" sectors of the Acqua Paola, remote branches that no longer contain water and have been mostly ignored by scholars looking for evidence of the Aqua Traiana's sources. In the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, the landscape around Lake Bracciano consisted of more open pasturage than today's dense thickets that cover fiercely guarded private lands on the lake's slopes. But even then, sustained searches yielded few traces of the older aqueduct. As recently as the 1970s, archaeologists from the British School at Rome conducted an intensive survey of the area. They were able to document previously unknown fragments of the aqueduct, yet they found no structures that could be identified as marking a source.

After months of searching through archives, the O'Neills realized that scholars had been missing important clues that could lead to sources of the Aqua Traiana and perhaps even to some ancient Roman architecture signaling their presence. Although the post-Roman names of three springs&mdashMatrice, Carestia, and Fiora, near the town of Manziana, on the west side of Lake Bracciano&mdashappear in reports written by the Acqua Paola's engineers, it was always thought that none of these springs had ever contributed to that aqueduct. The Santa Fiora spring had been in constant use for decades by the Orsini family, the dominant local landowners, to power their profitable lakeside mills. But the O'Neills wondered if any of the three had also supplied the Aqua Traiana almost 1,500 years earlier. A few antiquarians in the 1700s and 1800s had claimed as much, but they had said little to help later scholars identify the sources.

While a spring named "Matrice" exists today, it has clearly been in use since pre- Roman times. The spring emerges from an Etruscan irrigation tunnel called a cuniculus, which dates to the sixth or fifth century B.C., but it bears no visible evidence of Roman remains. Because the name "Carestia" is unknown in the region today, the O'Neills focused on the Fiora as the possible source of the Aqua Traiana. They knew that Pope Paul's engineers, Luigi Bernini and Carlo Fontana, had measured the flow of the Fiora's water in the seventeenth century, and it had been the most copious of all the springs in the region at that time. After a quick glance at some maps, including the most recent ones, they noticed a spot labeled "Santa Fiora." To the O'Neills' surprise, however, they could not initally find any detailed description of this place anywhere, whether in modern or older documents, so they resolved to find it for themselves.

Late in 2008, with the assistance of local officials, the O'Neills gained entrance to the site called Santa Fiora, which lies on a small farm at Manziana. What they saw, hidden within a dense stand of trees, astonished them. Under a huge overhanging fig tree, an almost perfectly preserved artificial grotto peered out from the hillside. Just up the hill, they saw traces of a structure that had once stood directly over it. Subsequent visits to the archives would reveal that this was a thirteenth-century church called Santa Fiora, dedicated to the Madonna of the Flower. Although the church had a long, well-documented history, it is almost unknown to scholars. Church records appear in the archives of the Orsini family, the local bishopric, and the hospital of Santo Spirito in Saxia at Rome, which controlled the property from as early as 1238. These documents contain a wealth of information about the church&mdashthat it was a hermitage, for example, and that it possessed a miracle-working portrait of the Virgin Mary. To judge from ledges for lamps hacked into the walls, it would seem that the hermits actually lived in the grotto itself.

Although only the central chamber opens to the exterior, the grotto is divided into three side-by-side chambers of different sizes and shapes, each having its own vault and light shaft. Originally, broad archways pierced the walls dividing the chambers. With the exception of a neatly preserved stone arch across the front of the grotto, almost the entire structure was made of ancient Roman concrete, brick, and mortar. Traces of the original sky-blue fresco also remained on the vaults. A niche centered in the back wall of the middle chamber would have once held a standing statue. It was the focal point of the entire original space and was clearly intended to inspire reverence in the visitor. Although the identity of the statue, which does not survive, is unknown, the likeliest candidates are either Trajan or the resident nymph representing the local waters.

On the wall directly above the niche is a Renaissance-era stucco frame bearing the Orsini family symbol, a five-petaled flower. The correspondence to the name Santa Fiora may be coincidental because the church predates the presence of the Orsini in this area, but the family would have made the most of it. In fact, this frame probably enclosed a frescoed image of the Madonna della Fiora, the wonder-working portrait of the Virgin mentioned in parish records. These records report that the fresco was gradually destroyed
by humidity.

A surprise also lay in the third right-hand chamber, which can be entered through a small rectangular door just below the crown of the right arch. On the other side of the door, the floor falls away to its original level, revealing a pristine Roman springhouse. The room's concrete vault also preserves traces of the original blue fresco, along with a cylindrical light shaft at the center, creating an impressive space that could have been seen from the central chamber. Some distance along the downhill tunnel, the brickwork changes to opus reticulatum, the Aqua Traiana's signature diagonal grid pattern of masonry. At this point, the thick waterproof opus signinum lining also begins. At the juncture of these two points, a large vertical manhole shaft, now blocked far above, penetrates the tunnel's barrel vault. According to the landowners, this sector of ancient aqueduct was still serving Manziana until 1984&mdashyet it has remained effectively unknown
to archaeologists.

A 1718 map in the state archives at Rome represents Santa Fiora as a modest church with cropland, an orchard, a courtyard, a well with a water-lifting device in an adjacent tree, and a tiny hut near the access road. But not everything is quite as it may seem on the map. The well, which is labeled "well of running water," must be the large manhole that penetrated the aqueduct tunnel, with its water source being the aqueduct itself. Today, the sturdy masonry hut, whose label reads "hatch for water going to Bracciano," is still in place near the road fronting the property. Inside the hut, a stairway leads down to the junction of the Aqua Traiana and a modern conduit, perhaps dating to the eighteenth century, that was built for the town of Bracciano. This conduit originates at another nearby spring. For all his power, the pope could not convince the Orisini family to hand over the Fiora.

In the summer of 2010, the team focused on identifying the lost source called "Carestia," said to be near the church of Santa Maria della Fiora. A 1716 map from the Orsini Archives at the University of California, Los Angeles, had provided an essential clue to its location&mdashan isolated aqueduct section, drawn northeast of the church, labeled "channel that captured the lost waters called the Carestia, and that conducted them to the Fiora." Now knowing to search in the dense forestland to the northeast, the team soon identified another artificial Roman grotto that is nearly the Santa Fiora's equal in size and architectural conception. Here, the vaulted ceiling has split, its cylindrical light shaft neatly sheared in half. The top of a central statue niche peeks out above the forest floor.

Most recently, the team's objective has shifted to the "dead" branches of the Acqua Paola&mdashthose that have fallen into disrepair because they are too remote to maintain. Since these dead sections are dry and sometimes even broken, they can reveal more about their construction history than the living branches, as they can be examined in cross-section. The team can even crawl along the channels to look for ancient masonry. It has become clear that little of the Acqua Paola's conduit in these areas was built from scratch. Instead, the aqueduct was a hybrid that sat directly on the remains of the Aqua Traiana wherever possible. In the southernmost branch of the Acqua Paola, on a farmstead at Pisciarelli (the colorful appellation for regions that "piss forth" water), the team found indisputable evidence that the Aqua Traiana had already been there 15 centuries earlier. The lower sections of the conduit, and the manhole shaft piercing it, are built in precise alternating bands of Roman brickwork and opus reticulatum. Across a remote ravine to the north, the team also encountered two aqueduct bridges. One, in the characteristic style of the Acqua Paola, was intact but dry. Yet just downstream, a massive riven chunk of the Aqua Traiana's bridge lay on its side, exposing its opus signinum floor. Part of a Roman arch teetered over the bank above. Violent floods must have washed this bridge out long before the pope's engineers arrived, forcing them to build a stronger bridge just upstream. About a hundred feet of undamaged conduit along the bank revealed the same hybrid construction as the Pisciarelli sector&mdashthe floor, walls, and opus signinum lining of the Aqua Traiana were reused wherever possible, and new vaulting was applied where it was needed.

Despite the presence of the sources in the heart of Italy, it is remarkable that they, and indeed many of the remains of one of Rome's greatest aqueducts, had eluded archaeologists' best efforts to find them. Yet the surprising discoveries from the past few years are beginning to uncover a piece of Roman history that has been ignored, misunderstood, and even completely unknown since the Middle Ages . One part of this history arose from a pope's desire to elevate his stature and emulate one of antiquity's great builders, even reusing some of Trajan's earlier aqueduct in the process. Another is the small church of Santa Fiora, which reflects the desire to preserve the holiness of the spring that once fed the Aqua Traiana. As the O'Neills' search continues, there is no doubt even more of this history will be revealed.

Rabun Taylor is associate professor of classics at the University of Texas at Austin.


Brian Cohen is born in a stable next door to the one in which Jesus is born, which initially confuses the three wise men who come to praise the future King of the Jews. Brian later grows up into an idealistic young man who resents the continuing Roman occupation of Judea. While listening to Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, Brian becomes infatuated with an attractive young rebel, Judith. His desire for her and hatred of the Romans, further exaggerated by his mother revealing Brian himself is half-Roman, inspire him to join the "People's Front of Judea" (PFJ), one of many fractious and bickering independence movements which spend more time fighting each other instead of the Romans.

Brian participates in an abortive attempt by the PFJ to kidnap the wife of Roman governor Pontius Pilate but is captured by the palace guards. Escaping when the guards suffer paroxysms of laughter over Pilate's speech impediment, Brian winds up trying to blend in among prophets preaching in a busy plaza, repeating fragments of Jesus' sermons. He stops his sermon mid-sentence when some Roman soldiers depart, leaving his small but intrigued audience demanding to know more. Brian grows frantic when people start following him and declare him to be the messiah. After spending a night in bed with Judith, Brian discovers an enormous crowd assembled outside his mother's house. Her attempts at dispersing the crowd are rebuffed, so she consents to Brian addressing them. He urges them to think for themselves, but they parrot his words as doctrine.

The PFJ seeks to exploit Brian's celebrity status by having him minister to a thronging crowd of followers demanding miracle cures. Brian sneaks out the back, only to be captured by the Romans and is sentenced to crucifixion. In celebration of Passover, a crowd has assembled outside the palace of Pilate, who offers to pardon a prisoner of their choice. The crowd shouts out names containing the letter "r", mocking Pilate's rhotacistic speech impediment. Eventually, Judith appears in the crowd and calls for the release of Brian, which the crowd echoes, and Pilate agrees to "welease Bwian". [10]

His order is eventually relayed to the guards, but in a scene that parodies the climax of the film Spartacus, various crucified people all claim to be "Brian" so they can be freed and the wrong man is released. Other opportunities for a reprieve for Brian are denied as the PFJ and then Judith praise his martyrdom, while his mother expresses regret for having raised him. Hope is renewed when a crack suicide squad from the "Judean People's Front" charges and prompts the Roman soldiers to flee however, the squad commits mass suicide as a form of political protest. Condemned to a slow and painful death, Brian finds his spirits lifted by his fellow sufferers, who cheerfully sing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." [11]

    as Brian Cohen (of Nazareth), Biggus Dickus (who has a lisp), 2nd wise man as Reg, High priest, Centurion of the Yard, Deadly Dirk, Arthur, 1st wise man as Another person further forward (at Mount – "Do you hear that? 'Blessed are the Greek'!"), Revolutionary, Blood and Thunder prophet, Geoffrey, Gaoler, Audience Member, Frank, Crucifee as Mr. Cheeky, Stan/Loretta, Harry the Haggler, Culprit woman who casts first stone, Warris, Intensely dull youth, Otto, Gaoler's assistant, Mr. Frisbee III as Mandy Cohen (Brian's mother), Colin, Simon the Holy Man, Bob Hoskins, Saintly passer-by, Alarmed Crucifixion Assistant as Mr. Big-Nose, Francis, Mrs. A, Culprit woman who casts second stone, Ex-leper, Announcer, Ben, Pontius Pilate, Boring Prophet, Eddie, Shoe Follower, Nisus Wettus, 3rd wise man as Mr. Gregory, 2nd Centurion, Dennis as Mrs. Gregory, Woman #1, Elsie as False Prophet, Blind Man, Giggling Guard, Stig, Man #1 as Jesus as A Weedy Samaritan as Matthias as Mrs. Big-Nose, Woman with ill donkey, Female heckler as Judith Iscariot as Alfonso, Giggling Guard as Another Official Stoners Helper, Giggling Guard as Parvus, Official Stoners Helper, Giggling Guard, Sergeant
  • Randy Feelgood as Man, Woman as Mr. Papadopoulis as Passer-by (uncredited)

Several characters remained unnamed during the film but do have names that are used in the soundtrack album track listing and elsewhere. There is no mention in the film that Eric Idle's ever-cheerful joker is called "Mr. Cheeky", or that the Roman guard played by Michael Palin is named "Nisus Wettus".

Spike Milligan plays a prophet, ignored because his acolytes are chasing after Brian. By coincidence Milligan was visiting his old World War II battlefields in Tunisia where the film was being made. The Pythons were alerted to this one morning and he was promptly included in the scene being filmed. He disappeared in the afternoon before he could be included in any of the close-up or publicity shots for the film. [12]

Pre-production Edit

There are various stories about the origins of Life of Brian. Shortly after the release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Eric Idle flippantly suggested that the title of the Pythons' forthcoming feature would be Jesus Christ: Lust for Glory (a play on the UK title for the 1970 American film Patton). [13] This was after he had become frustrated at repeatedly being asked what it would be called, despite the troupe not having given the matter of a third film any consideration. However, they shared a distrust of organised religion, and, after witnessing the critically acclaimed Holy Grail ' s enormous financial turnover, confirming an appetite among the fans for more cinematic endeavours, they began to seriously consider a film lampooning the New Testament era in the same way that Holy Grail had lampooned Arthurian legend. All they needed was an idea for a plot. Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam, while promoting Holy Grail in Amsterdam, had come up with a sketch in which Jesus' cross is falling apart because of the idiotic carpenters who built it and he angrily tells them how to do it correctly. However, after an early brainstorming stage, and despite being non-believers, they agreed that Jesus was "definitely a good guy" and found nothing to mock in his actual teachings: "He's not particularly funny, what he's saying isn't mockable, it's very decent stuff", said Idle later. [14] After settling on the name Brian for their new protagonist, one idea considered was that of "the 13th disciple". [13] The focus eventually shifted to a separate individual born at a similar time and location who would be mistaken for the Messiah, but had no desire to be followed as such. [15]

Writing Edit

—Dialogue from The Inalienable Rights scene, with Stan (Idle), Reg (Cleese) and Judith (Jones-Davies). [16]

The first draft of the screenplay, provisionally titled The Gospel According to St. Brian, was ready by Christmas 1976. [17] The final pre-production draft was ready in January 1978, following "a concentrated two-week writing and water-skiing period in Barbados". [18] The film would not have been made without Python fan former Beatle George Harrison, who set up HandMade Films to help fund it at a cost of £3 million. [19] Harrison put up the money for it as he "wanted to see the movie"—later described by Terry Jones as the "world's most expensive cinema ticket." [20]

The original backers—EMI Films and, particularly, Bernard Delfont—had been scared off at the last minute by the subject matter. [13] [19] The very last words in the film are: "I said to him, 'Bernie, they'll never make their money back on this one'", teasing Delfont for his lack of faith in the project. Terry Gilliam later said, "They pulled out on the Thursday. The crew was supposed to be leaving on the Saturday. Disastrous. It was because they read the script . finally." [21] As a reward for his help, Harrison appears in a cameo appearance as Mr. Papadopoulos, "owner of the Mount", who briefly shakes hands with Brian in a crowd scene (at 1:09 in the film). His one word of dialogue (a cheery but out of place Scouse "'ullo") had to be dubbed in later by Michael Palin. [22]

Filming Edit

Terry Jones was solely responsible for directing, having amicably agreed with Gilliam (who co-directed Holy Grail) to do so, with Gilliam concentrating on the look of the film. [23] Holy Grail ' s production had often been stilted by their differences behind the camera. Gilliam again contributed two animated sequences (one being the opening credits) and took charge of set design. However, this did not put an absolute end to their feuding. On the DVD commentary, Gilliam expresses pride in one set in particular, the main hall of Pilate's fortress, which had been designed so that it looked like an ancient synagogue that the Romans had converted by dumping their structural artefacts (such as marble floors and columns) on top. He reveals his consternation at Jones for not paying enough attention to it in the cinematography. Gilliam also worked on the matte paintings, useful in particular for the very first shot of the three wise men against a star-scape and in giving the illusion of the whole of the outside of the fortress being covered in graffiti. Perhaps the most significant contribution from Gilliam was the scene in which Brian accidentally leaps off a high building and lands inside a starship about to engage in an interstellar war. This was done "in camera" using a hand-built model starship and miniature pyrotechnics, likely influenced by the recently released Star Wars. Afterwards, George Lucas met Terry Gilliam in San Francisco and praised him for his work.

The film was shot on location in Monastir, Tunisia, which allowed the production to reuse sets from Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth (1977). [24] The Tunisian shoot was documented by Iain Johnstone for his BBC film The Pythons. Many locals were employed as extras on Life of Brian. Director Jones noted, "They were all very knowing because they'd all worked for Franco Zeffirelli on Jesus of Nazareth, so I had these elderly Tunisians telling me, 'Well, Mr Zeffirelli wouldn't have done it like that, you know.'" [21] Further location shooting also took place in Tunisia, at Sousse (Jerusalem outer walls and gateway), Carthage (Roman theatre) and Matmata (Sermon on the Mount and Crucifixion). [25]

Graham Chapman, suffering from alcoholism, was so determined to play the lead role – at one point coveted by Cleese – that he dried out in time for filming, so much so that he also acted as the on-set doctor. [12]

Rough cut and pre-screenings Edit

Following shooting between 16 September and 12 November 1978, [18] a two-hour rough cut of the film was put together for its first private showing in January 1979. Over the next few months Life of Brian was re-edited and re-screened a number of times for different preview audiences, losing a number of entire filmed sequences. [13]

Editing Edit

A number of scenes were cut during the editing process. Five deleted scenes, a total of 13 minutes, including the controversial "Otto", were first made available in 1997 on the Criterion Collection Laserdisc. [26] An unknown amount of raw footage was destroyed in 1998 by the company that bought Handmade Films. However, a number of them (of varying quality) were shown the following year on the Paramount Comedy Channel in the UK. The scenes shown included three shepherds discussing sheep and completely missing the arrival of the angel heralding Jesus's birth, which would have been at the very start of the film a segment showing the attempted kidnap of Pilate's wife (a large woman played by John Case) whose escape results in a fistfight a scene introducing hardline Zionist Otto, leader of the Judean People's Front (played by Eric Idle) and his men who practise a suicide run in the courtyard and a brief scene in which Judith releases some birds into the air in an attempt to summon help. The shepherds' scene has badly distorted sound, and the kidnap scene has poor colour quality. [27] The same scenes that were on the Criterion laserdisc can now be found on the Criterion Collection DVD.

The most controversial cuts were the scenes involving Otto, initially a recurring character, who had a thin Adolf Hitler moustache and spoke with a German accent, shouting accusations of "racial impurity" at Judeans who were conceived (as Brian was) when their mothers were raped by Roman centurions, as well as other Nazi phrases. The logo of the Judean People's Front, designed by Terry Gilliam, [28] was a Star of David with a small line added to each point so it resembled a swastika, most familiar in the West as the symbol of the anti-Semitic Nazi movement. The rest of this faction also all had the same thin moustaches, and wore a spike on their helmets, similar to those on Imperial German helmets. The official reason for the cutting was that Otto's dialogue slowed down the narrative. However, Gilliam, writing in The Pythons Autobiography by The Pythons, said he thought it should have stayed, saying "Listen, we've alienated the Christians, let's get the Jews now." Idle himself was said to have been uncomfortable with the character "It's essentially a pretty savage attack on rabid Zionism, suggesting it's rather akin to Nazism, which is a bit strong to take, but certainly a point of view." [14] Michael Palin's personal journal entries from the period when various edits of Brian were being test-screened consistently reference the Pythons' and filmmakers' concerns that the Otto scenes were slowing the story down and thus were top of the list to be chopped from the final cut of the film. [25] However, Oxford Brookes University historian David Nash says the removal of the scene represented "a form of self-censorship" and the Otto sequence "which involved a character representative of extreme forms of Zionism" was cut "in the interests of smoothing the way for the film's distribution in America." [29]

The only scene with Otto that remains in the film is during the crucifixion sequence. Otto arrives with his "crack suicide squad", sending the Roman soldiers fleeing in terror. Instead of doing anything useful, they "attack" by committing mass suicide in front of the cross ("Zat showed 'em, huh?" says the dying Otto, to which Brian despondently replies "You silly sods!"), ending Brian's hope of rescue (they do however show some signs of life during the famous rendition of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" when they are seen waving their toes in unison in time to the music). Terry Jones once mentioned that the only reason this excerpt was not cut too was due to continuity reasons, as their dead bodies were very prominently placed throughout the rest of the scene. He acknowledged that some of the humour of this sole remaining contribution was lost through the earlier edits, but felt they were necessary to the overall pacing.

Otto's scenes, and those with Pilate's wife, were cut from the film after the script had gone to the publishers, and so they can be found in the published version of the script. Also present is a scene where, after Brian has led the Fifth Legion to the headquarters of the People's Front of Judea, Reg (John Cleese) says "You cunt!! You stupid, bird-brained, flat-headed. " [30] The profanity was overdubbed to "you klutz" before the film was released. Cleese approved of this editing as he felt the reaction to the four-letter word would "get in the way of the comedy." [14]

An early listing of the sequence of sketches reprinted in Monty Python: The Case Against by Robert Hewison reveals that the film was to have begun with a set of sketches at an English public school. Much of this material was first printed in the Monty Python's The Life of Brian / Monty Python Scrapbook that accompanied the original script publication of The Life of Brian and then subsequently reused. The song "All Things Dull and Ugly" and the parody scripture reading "Martyrdom of St. Victor" were performed on Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album (1980). The idea of a violent rugby match between school masters and small boys was filmed in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983). A sketch about a boy who dies at school appeared on the unreleased The Hastily Cobbled Together for a Fast Buck Album (1981).

An album was also released by Monty Python in 1979 in conjunction with the film. In addition to the "Brian Song" and "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", it contains scenes from the film with brief linking sections performed by Eric Idle and Graham Chapman. The album opens with a brief rendition of "Hava Nagila" on Scottish bagpipes. A CD version was released in 1997.

An album of the songs sung in Monty Python's Life of Brian was released on the Disky label. "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" was later re-released with great success, after being sung by British football fans. Its popularity became truly evident in 1982 during the Falklands War when sailors aboard the destroyer HMS Sheffield, severely damaged in an Argentinean Exocet missile attack on 4 May, started singing it while awaiting rescue. [31] [32] Many people have come to see the song as a life-affirming ode to optimism. One of its more famous renditions was by the dignitaries of Manchester's bid to host the 2000 Olympic Games, just after they were awarded to Sydney. Idle later performed the song as part of the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony. [33] "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" is also featured in Eric Idle's Spamalot, a Broadway musical based upon Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and was sung by the rest of the Monty Python group at Graham Chapman's memorial service and at the Monty Python Live At Aspen special. The song is a staple at Iron Maiden concerts, where the recording is played after the final encore. [34]

For the original British and Australian releases, a spoof travelogue narrated by John Cleese, Away From It All, was shown before the film itself. It consisted mostly of stock travelogue footage and featured arch comments from Cleese. For instance, a shot of Bulgarian girls in ceremonial dresses was accompanied by the comment "Hard to believe, isn't it, that these simple happy folk are dedicated to the destruction of Western Civilisation as we know it!", Communist Bulgaria being a member of the Warsaw Pact at the time. Not only was this a spoof of travelogues per se, it was a protest against the then common practice in Britain of showing cheaply made banal short features before a main feature.

Life of Brian opened on 17 August 1979 in five North American theatres and grossed US$140,034 ($28,007 per screen) in its opening weekend. Its total gross was $19,398,164. It was the highest grossing British film in North America that year. Released on 8 November 1979 in the UK, [35] the film was the fourth highest-grossing film in Britain in 1979. In London, it opened at the Plaza cinema and grossed £40,470 in its opening week. [36]

On 30 April 2004, Life of Brian was re-released on five North American screens to "cash in" (as Terry Jones put it) [37] on the box office success of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. It grossed $26,376 ($5,275 per screen) in its opening weekend. It ran until October 2004, playing at 28 screens at its widest point, eventually grossing $646,124 during its re-release. By comparison, a re-release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail had earned $1.8 million three years earlier. A DVD of the film was also released that year.

Reviews from critics were mostly positive on the film's release. Movie historian Leonard Maltin reported that "This will probably offend every creed and denomination equally, but it shouldn't. The funniest and most sustained feature from Britain's bad boys." [38] Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film "the foulest-spoken biblical epic ever made, as well as the best-humored—a nonstop orgy of assaults, not on anyone's virtue, but on the funny bone. It makes no difference that some of the routines fall flat because there are always others coming along immediately after that succeed." [39] Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, writing, "What's endearing about the Pythons is their good cheer, their irreverence, their willingness to allow comic situations to develop through a gradual accumulation of small insanities." [40] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three and a half stars, calling it "a gentle but very funny parody of the life of Jesus, as well as of biblical movies." [41] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times declared, "Even those of us who find Monty Python too hit-and-miss and gory must admit that its latest effort has numerous moments of hilarity." [42] Clyde Jeavons of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote that the script was "occasionally over-raucous and crude," but found the second half of the film "cumulatively hilarious," with "a splendidly tasteless finale, which even Mel Brooks might envy." [43] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post had a negative opinion of the film, writing that it was "a cruel fiction to foster the delusion that 'Brian' is bristling with blasphemous nifties and throbbing with impious wit. If only it were! One might find it easier to keep from nodding off." [44]

—Channel 4 entry for Life of Brian which ranked first on their list of the 50 Greatest Comedy Films. [9]

Over time, Life of Brian has regularly been cited as a significant contender for the title "greatest comedy film of all time", and has been named as such in polls conducted by Total Film magazine in 2000, [45] the British TV network Channel 4 where it topped the poll in the 50 Greatest Comedy Films, [46] and The Guardian in 2007. [47] Rotten Tomatoes lists it as one of the best reviewed comedies, with a 95% approval rating from 61 published reviews. A 2011 poll by Time Out magazine ranked it as the third greatest comedy film ever made, behind Airplane! and This is Spinal Tap. [48]

The BFI declared Life of Brian to be the 28th best British film of all time, in their equivalent of the original AFI's 100 Years. 100 Movies list. It was the seventh highest ranking comedy on this list (four of the better placed efforts were classic Ealing Films). [49] Another Channel 4 poll in 2001 named it the 23rd greatest film of all time (the only comedy that came higher was Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot, which was ranked 5th). [50] In 2016, Empire magazine ranked Life of Brian 2nd in their list of the 100 best British films, with only David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia ranking higher. [51]

Various polls have voted the line, "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!" (spoken by Brian's mother Mandy to the crowd assembled outside her house), to be the funniest in film history. [52] [53] Other famous lines from the film have featured in polls, such as, "What have the Romans ever done for us?" and "I'm Brian and so's my wife". [52]

Initial criticism Edit

Richard Webster comments in A Brief History of Blasphemy (1990) that "internalised censorship played a significant role in the handling" of Monty Python's Life of Brian. In his view, "As a satire on religion, this film might well be considered a rather slight production. As blasphemy it was, even in its original version, extremely mild. Yet the film was surrounded from its inception by intense anxiety, in some quarters of the Establishment, about the offence it might cause. As a result it gained a certificate for general release only after some cuts had been made. Perhaps more importantly still, the film was shunned by the BBC and ITV, who declined to show it for fear of offending Christians in the UK. Once again a blasphemy was restrained – or its circulation effectively curtailed – not by the force of law but by the internalisation of this law." [54] On its initial release in the UK, the film was banned by several town councils – some of which had no cinemas within their boundaries, or had not even seen the film. A member of Harrogate council, one of those that banned the film, revealed during a television interview that the council had not seen the film, and had based their opinion on what they had been told by the Nationwide Festival of Light, a grouping with an evangelical Christian base, of which they knew nothing. [12]

In New York (the film's release in the US preceded British distribution), screenings were picketed by both rabbis and nuns ("Nuns with banners!" observed Michael Palin). [14] It was also banned for eight years in Ireland and for a year in Norway (it was marketed in Sweden as "The film so funny that it was banned in Norway"). [37] During the film's theatrical run in Finland, a text explaining that the film was a parody of Hollywood historical epics was added to the opening credits. [55]

In the UK, Mary Whitehouse, and other traditionalist Christians, pamphleteered and picketed locations where the local cinema was screening the film, a campaign that was felt to have boosted publicity. [56] Leaflets arguing against the film's representation of the New Testament (for example, suggesting that the Wise Men would not have approached the wrong stable as they do in the opening of the film) were documented in Robert Hewison's book Monty Python: The Case Against.

Crucifixion issue Edit

One of the most controversial scenes was the film's ending: Brian's crucifixion. Many Christian protesters said that it was mocking Jesus' suffering by turning it into a "Jolly Boys Outing" (such as when Mr Cheeky turns to Brian and says: "See, not so bad once you're up!"), capped by Brian's fellow sufferers suddenly bursting into song. This is reinforced by the fact that several characters throughout the film claim crucifixion is not as bad as it seems. For example, when Brian asks his cellmate in prison what will happen to him, he replies: "Oh, you'll probably get away with crucifixion". In another example, Matthias, an old man who works with the People's Front of Judea, dismisses crucifixion as "a doddle" and says being stabbed would be worse.

The director, Terry Jones, issued the following riposte to this criticism: "Any religion that makes a form of torture into an icon that they worship seems to me a pretty sick sort of religion quite honestly." [12] The Pythons also pointed out that crucifixion was a standard form of execution in ancient times and not just one especially reserved for Jesus. [57]

Responses from the cast Edit

Shortly after the film was released, Cleese and Palin engaged in a debate on the BBC2 discussion programme Friday Night, Saturday Morning with Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood, the Bishop of Southwark, who put forward arguments against the film. Muggeridge and Stockwood, it was later claimed, had arrived 15 minutes late to see a screening of the picture prior to the debate, missing the establishing scenes demonstrating that Brian and Jesus were two different characters, and hence contended that it was a send-up of Christ himself. [14] Both Pythons later felt that there had been a strange role reversal in the manner of the debate, with two young upstart comedians attempting to make serious, well-researched points, while the Establishment figures engaged in cheap jibes and point scoring. They also expressed disappointment in Muggeridge, whom all in Python had previously respected as a satirist (he had recently converted to Christianity after meeting Mother Teresa and experiencing what he described as a miracle). Cleese stated that his reputation had "plummeted" in his eyes, while Palin commented, "He was just being Muggeridge, preferring to have a very strong contrary opinion as opposed to none at all." [14] Muggeridge's verdict on the film was that it was "Such a tenth-rate film that it couldn't possibly destroy anyone's genuine faith." In a 2013 interview on BBC Radio 4, Cleese stated that having recently watched the discussion again he "was astonished, first of all, at how stupid [the two members of the Church] were, and how boring the debate became". He added: "I think the sad thing was that there was absolutely no attempt at a proper discussion – no attempt to find any common ground." [58]

—Terry Jones speaking in 2011. [15]

The Pythons unanimously deny that they were ever out to destroy people's faith. On the DVD audio commentary, they contend that the film is heretical because it lampoons the practices of modern organised religion, but that it does not blasphemously lampoon the God that Christians and Jews worship. When Jesus does appear in the film (on the Mount, speaking the Beatitudes), he is played straight (by actor Kenneth Colley) and portrayed with respect. The music and lighting make it clear that there is a genuine aura around him. The comedy begins when members of the crowd mishear his statements of peace, love and tolerance ("I think he said, 'blessed are the cheese makers'"). [59] Importantly, he is distinct from the character of Brian, which is also evident in the scene where an annoying and ungrateful ex-leper pesters Brian for money, while moaning that since Jesus cured him, he has lost his source of income in the begging trade (referring to Jesus as a "bloody do-gooder").

James Crossley, however, has argued that the film makes the distinction between Jesus and the character of Brian to make a contrast between the traditional Christ of both faith and cinema and the historical figure of Jesus in critical scholarship and how critical scholars have argued that ideas later got attributed to Jesus by his followers. Crossley points out that the film uses the character of Brian to address a number of potentially controversial scholarly theories about Jesus, such as the Messianic Secret, the Jewishness of Jesus, Jesus the revolutionary, and having a single mother. [60]

Not all the Pythons agree on the definition of the movie's tone. There was a brief exchange that occurred when the surviving members reunited in Aspen, Colorado, in 1998. [61] In the section where Life of Brian is discussed, Terry Jones says, "I think the film is heretical, but it's not blasphemous." Eric Idle can be heard to concur, adding, "It's a heresy." However, John Cleese, disagreeing, counters, "I don’t think it's a heresy. It's making fun of the way that people misunderstand the teaching." Jones responds, "Of course it's a heresy, John! It's attacking the Church! And that has to be heretical." Cleese replies, "No, it's not attacking the Church, necessarily. It's about people who cannot agree with each other." [61]

In a later interview, Jones said the film "isn't blasphemous because it doesn’t touch on belief at all. It is heretical, because it touches on dogma and the interpretation of belief, rather than belief itself." [62]

21st century Edit

The film continues to cause controversy in February 2007, the Church of St Thomas the Martyr in Newcastle upon Tyne held a public screening in the church itself, with song-sheets, organ accompaniment, stewards in costume and false beards for female members of the audience (alluding to an early scene where a group of women disguise themselves as men so that they are able to take part in a stoning). Although the screening was a sell-out, some Christian groups, notably the conservative Christian Voice, were highly critical of the decision to allow the screening to go ahead. Stephen Green, the head of Christian Voice, insisted that "You don't promote Christ to the community by taking the mick out of him." The Reverend Jonathan Adams, one of the church's clergy, defended his taste in comedy, saying that it did not mock Jesus, and that it raised important issues about the hypocrisy and stupidity that can affect religion. [63] Again on the film's DVD commentary, Cleese also spoke up for religious people who have come forward and congratulated him and his colleagues on the film's highlighting of double standards among purported followers of their own faith. [14]

Some bans continued into the 21st century. In 2008, Torbay Council finally permitted the film to be shown after it won an online vote for the English Riviera International Comedy Film Festival. [64] In 2009, it was announced that a thirty-year-old ban of the film in the Welsh town of Aberystwyth had finally been lifted, and the subsequent showing was attended by Terry Jones and Michael Palin alongside mayor Sue Jones-Davies (who portrayed Judith Iscariot in the film). [65] [66] However, before the showing, an Aberystwyth University student discovered that a ban had only been discussed by the council and in fact that it had been shown (or scheduled to be shown) at a cinema in the town in 1981. [67] [68] In 2013, a German official in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia considered the film to be possibly offensive to Christians and hence subject to a local regulation prohibiting its public screening on Good Friday, despite protests by local atheists. [69] [70]

The film pokes fun at revolutionary groups and 1970s British left-wing politics. According to Roger Wilmut, "What the film does do is place modern stereotypes in a historical setting, which enables it to indulge in a number of sharp digs, particularly at trade unionists and guerilla organisations". [71] The groups in the film all oppose the Roman occupation of Judea, but fall into the familiar pattern of intense competition among factions that appears, to an outsider, to be over ideological distinctions so small as to be invisible, thus portraying the phenomenon of the narcissism of small differences. [72] Such disunity indeed fatally beleaguered real-life Judean resistance against Roman rule. [73] Michael Palin says that the various separatist movements were modelled on "modern resistance groups, all with obscure acronyms which they can never remember and their conflicting agendas". [74]

The People's Front of Judea, composed of the Pythons' characters, harangue their "rivals" with cries of "splitters" and stand vehemently opposed to the Judean People's Front, the Campaign for a Free Galilee, and the Judean Popular Front (the last composed of a single old man, [75] mocking the size of real revolutionary Trotskyist factions). The infighting among revolutionary organisations is demonstrated most dramatically when the PFJ attempts to kidnap Pontius Pilate's wife, but encounters agents of the Campaign for a Free Galilee, and the two factions begin a violent brawl over which of them conceived of the plan first. When Brian exhorts them to cease their fighting to struggle "against the common enemy," the revolutionaries stop and cry in unison, "the Judean People's Front!" However, they soon resume their fighting and, with two Roman legionaries watching bemusedly, continue until Brian is left the only survivor, at which point he is captured.

Other scenes have the freedom fighters wasting time in debate, with one of the debated items being that they should not waste their time debating so much. There is also a famous scene in which Reg gives a revolutionary speech asking, "What have the Romans ever done for us?" at which point the listeners outline all forms of positive aspects of the Roman occupation such as sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, public health and peace, followed by "what have the Romans ever done for us except sanitation, medicine, education. ". Python biographer George Perry notes, "The People's Liberation Front of Judea conducts its meetings as though they have been convened by a group of shop stewards". [76] This joke is the reverse of a similar conversation recorded in the Babylonian Talmud [77] some authors have even suggested the joke is based on the Talmudic text. [78]

Themes and motifs Edit

Bible Edit

The depictions of Jesus in two short scenes at the start of the film are strongly based on Christian iconography. The resistance fighters leave the Sermon on the Mount, which was a literal recital, angry because Jesus was too pacifistic for them. ("Well, blessed is just about everyone with a vested interest in the status quo…") [79] In addition to the respectful depiction of Jesus, the film does not suggest that there is no God or that Jesus is not the son of God, according to most viewers. The appearance of a leper, who says he was healed by Jesus, affirms the Gospels and their reports about Jesus performing miracles. [80]

Any direct reference to Jesus disappears after the introductory scenes, yet his life story partially acts as a framework and subtext for the story of Brian. Brian being a bastard of a Roman centurion could refer to the polemic legend that Jesus was the son of the Roman soldier Panthera. Disguised as a prophet, Brian himself talks about "the lilies on the field" and states more clearly, "Don't pass judgment on other people or else you might get judged yourself": Brian incoherently repeats statements he heard from Jesus. [81]

Another significant figure in the film who is directly named in the Gospels is Pontius Pilate, who is humorously given rhotacism. Although there is a hint to Barabbas prior to the crucifixion, no character in Life of Brian bears any resemblances to Judas or Caiaphas. An anti-Semitic interpretation of the story is therefore excluded, according to scholars. [82] The crucifixion scene, a central part of Christian iconography, is viewed from a historical context within the narrative style of the film. It depicts historically accurate enactment of a routinely done mass crucifixion. [83]

Belief and dogmatism Edit

The intended subject of the satire was not Jesus and his teachings but religious dogmatism, according to the concurrent observations made by film theorists and statements from Monty Python. [84] [85] This is made clear in the beginning of the film during the Sermon on the Mount. Not only do the poor acoustics make it more difficult to hear what Jesus says, but the audience fails to interpret what was said correctly and sensibly. When Jesus said, "blessed are the peacemakers", the audience understands the phonetically similar word "Cheesemakers" and in turn interpret it as a metaphor and beatification of those who produce dairy products. [86]

Life of Brian satirises, in the words of David Hume, the "strong propensity of mankind to [believe in] the extraordinary and the marvellous". [87] When Brian cuts his sermon short and turns away from the crowd, they mistake his behaviour as not wanting to share the secret to eternal life and follow him everywhere. [84] In their need to submit to an authority, the crowd declares him first a prophet and eventually a messiah. The faithful gather beneath Brian's window en masse to receive God's blessing. This is when Brian utters the main message of the film "you don't need to follow anybody! You've got to think for yourselves!" Monty Python saw this central message of the satire confirmed with the protests of practicing Christians after the film was released. [88] [89]

According to Terry Jones, Life of Brian "is not blasphemy but heresy", [90] because Brian contested the authority of the Church whereas the belief in God remained untouched. He goes on to mention that "Christ [is] saying all of these wonderful things about people living together in peace and love, and then for the next two thousand years people are putting each other to death in His name because they can't agree on how He said it, or in what order He said it." [88] The dispute among the followers about the correct interpretation of a sandal, which Brian lost, is in the words of Terry Jones the "history of the Church in three minutes." [88] Kevin Shilbrack shares the view that you can enjoy the movie and still be religious. [84]

For the most part, lost in the religious controversy was the film's mockery of factional dogmatism among left-wing parties. According to John Cleese, an almost unmanageable number of left-wing organisations and parties was formed back then in the United Kingdom. He said that it had been so important to each of them to have one pure doctrine that they would rather fight each other than their political opponent. [91] In the film, rather than presenting a common front as their organisational names should imply, the leader of the People's Front of Judea makes it clear that their hate for the Judean Peoples's Front is greater than their hate for the Romans. They are so caught up in constant debates that the "rather looney bunch of revolutionaries" [92] indirectly accept the occupying forces as well as their execution methods as a fate they all have to endure. So, in the end, even though they have ample opportunity to rescue Brian, they instead leave Brian on the cross, thanking him for his sacrifice. [93]

Hardly mentioned in the discussion was the sideswipe at the women's movement, which started to draw a lot of attention in the 1970s. In accordance with the language of political activists, resistance fighter Stan wants to exercise "his right as a man" to be a woman. The group accepts him from that moment on as Loretta, because the right to give birth was not theirs to take. Also as a result from that, the term sibling replaces the terms brother or sister. [94]

Individuality and meaninglessness Edit

One of the most commented-upon scenes in the film is when Brian tells his followers that they are all individuals and don’t need to follow anybody. [95] According to Edward Slowik, this is a rare moment in which Monty Python puts a philosophical concept into words so openly and directly. [96] Life of Brian accurately depicts the existentialist view that everybody needs to give meaning to their own life. [97]

Brian can thus be called an existentialist following the tradition of Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Paul Sartre. He is honest to himself and others and lives an authentic life as best as he can. However, Brian is too naïve to be called a hero based on the ideas of Albert Camus. For Camus, the search for the meaning of one's own life takes place in a deeply meaningless and abstruse world. The "absurd hero" rebels against this meaninglessness and at the same time holds on to their goals, although they know their fight leaves no impact in the long run. Contrary to that, Brian isn’t able to recognize the meaninglessness of his own situation and therefore can’t triumph over it. [98]

In Monty Python and Philosophy, Kevin Shilbrack states that the fundamental view of the film is that the world is absurd, and every life needs to be lived without a greater meaning. He points out that the second-last verse of the song the film finishes on, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", expresses this message clearly:

For life is quite absurd
And death’s the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow.
Forget about your sin – give the audience a grin
Enjoy it, it's your last chance anyhow.

Shilbrack concludes that the finale shows that the executions had no purpose since the deaths were meaningless and no better world was waiting for them. [99] On this note, some people would claim that the film presents a nihilistic world view which contradicts any basis of religion. [98] However, Life of Brian offers humour to counterbalance the nihilism, Shilbrack states in his text. He comments that "religion and humour are compatible with each other and you should laugh about the absurdity since you can't fight it." [100]

Literature Edit

Spin-offs include a script-book The Life of Brian of Nazareth, which was printed back-to-back with MONTYPYTHONSCRAPBOOK as a single book. The printing of this book also caused problems, due to rarely used laws in the United Kingdom against blasphemy, dictating what can and cannot be written about religion. The publisher refused to print both halves of the book, and original prints were by two companies. [101]

Julian Doyle, the film's editor, wrote The Life of Brian/Jesus, a book which not only describes the filmmaking and editing process but argues that it is the most accurate Biblical film ever made. In October 2008, a memoir by Kim "Howard" Johnson titled Monty Python's Tunisian Holiday: My Life with Brian was released. Johnson became friendly with the Pythons during the filming of Life of Brian and his notes and memories of the behind-the-scenes filming and make-up. [102]

Music Edit

With the success of Eric Idle's musical retelling of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, called Spamalot, Idle announced that he would be giving Life of Brian a similar treatment. The oratorio, called Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy), was commissioned to be part of the festival called Luminato in Toronto in June 2007, and was written/scored by Idle and John Du Prez, who also worked with Idle on Spamalot. Not the Messiah is a spoof of Handel's Messiah. It runs approximately 50 minutes, and was conducted at its world premiere by Toronto Symphony Orchestra music director Peter Oundjian, who is Idle's cousin. [103] Not the Messiah received its US premiere at the Caramoor International Music Festival in Katonah, New York. Oundjian and Idle joined forces once again for a double performance of the oratorio in July 2007. [104]

Other media Edit

In October 2011, BBC Four premiered the made-for-television comedy film Holy Flying Circus, written by Tony Roche and directed by Owen Harris. The "Pythonesque" film explores the events surrounding the 1979 television debate on talk show Friday Night, Saturday Morning between John Cleese and Michael Palin and Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood, then Bishop of Southwark. [105]

In a Not the Nine O'Clock News sketch, a bishop who has directed a scandalous film called The Life of Christ is hauled over the coals by a representative of the "Church of Python", claiming that the film is an attack on "Our Lord, John Cleese" and on the members of Python, who, in the sketch, are the objects of Britain's true religious faith. This was a parody of the infamous Friday Night, Saturday Morning programme, broadcast a week previously. The bishop (played by Rowan Atkinson) claims that the reaction to the film has surprised him, as he "didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition." [10]

Radio host John Williams of Chicago's WGN 720 AM has used "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" in a segment of his Friday shows. The segment is used to highlight good events from the past week in listeners' lives and what has made them smile. [106] In the 1997 film As Good as It Gets, the misanthropic character played by Jack Nicholson sings "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" as evidence of the character's change in attitude. [107]

A BBC history series What the Romans Did for Us, written and presented by Adam Hart-Davis and broadcast in 2000, takes its title from Cleese's rhetorical question "What have the Romans ever done for us?" in one of the film's scenes. (Cleese himself parodied this line in a 1986 BBC advert defending the Television Licence Fee: "What has the BBC ever given us?"). [108]

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in his Prime Minister's Questions of 3 May 2006 made a shorthand reference to the types of political groups, "Judean People's Front" or "People's Front of Judea", lampooned in Life of Brian. [109] [110] This was in response to a question from the Labour MP David Clelland, asking "What has the Labour government ever done for us?" – itself a parody of John Cleese's "What have the Romans ever done for us?"

On New Year's Day 2007, and again on New Year's Eve, UK television station Channel 4 dedicated an entire evening to the Monty Python phenomenon, during which an hour-long documentary was broadcast called The Secret Life of Brian about the making of The Life of Brian and the controversy that was caused by its release. The Pythons featured in the documentary and reflected upon the events that surrounded the film. This was followed by a screening of the film itself. [12] The documentary (in a slightly extended form) was one of the special features on the 2007 DVD re-release – the "Immaculate Edition", also the first Python release on Blu-ray.

Most recently, in June 2014 King's College London hosted an academic conference on the film, in which internationally renowned Biblical scholars and historians discussed the film and its reception, looking both at how the Pythons had made use of scholarship and texts, and how the film can be used creatively within modern scholarship on the Historical Jesus. [111] In a panel discussion, including Terry Jones and theologian Richard Burridge, John Cleese described the event as "the most interesting thing to come out of Monty Python". [112] The papers from the conference have gone on to prompt the publication of a book, edited by Joan E. Taylor, the conference organiser, Jesus and Brian: Exploring the Historical Jesus and His Times via Monty Python's Life of Brian, published by Bloomsbury in 2015. [113]

However, most of Caligula&rsquos post-illness behavior was anything but funny. He gained a reputation for immorality, violence- and extreme cruelty. The least of his crimes was incest with all three of his sisters. When his favorite, Drusilla died, Caligula was reputedly inconsolable. He was so crazed with grief that after her death, he made it a capital offense to laugh, bath or publicly dine while the mourning period lasted. He even declared Drusilla a goddess- an unprecedented honor for a woman and had her name added to imperial oaths.

Whether or not this incest was consensual or a matter of survival is unknown. However, Caligula was undoubtedly a sexual predator. It became a favorite custom of his to have female dinner guests paraded before him so that he could choose a sexual companion for later in the evening. When he was a guest at the wedding of Gaius Piso and Livia Orestila, he took a fancy to the bride. &ldquoHands off my wife,&rdquo Caligula suddenly declared in the middle of the wedding feast. He forced Orestila to accompany him home and ‘married&rsquo her- only to divorce her two days later.

When he was not forcing noble women to sleep with him, Caligula was forcing them to sell themselves to other men. As the imperial coffers rapidly drained due to his lavish spending, Caligula had to find new ways of raising funds. One idea was to open the palace as a brothel. All the married noblewomen of Rome- and quite a few young boys were required to serve in this imperial whorehouse. The customers were citizens that Caligula had rounded up off Rome&rsquos streets.

Dying Gladiator by Fedor Bronnikov. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

The nobles put up with this indignity and abuse because far worse awaited anyone who displeased the emperor. For Caligula would have men tortured and executed on the merest whim. His first murders occurred in the immediate aftermath of his illness when in May 38AD he had the praetorian prefect, Macro and his young cousin, Gemellus executed on trumped-up charges. Macro had reputedly helped Caligula in his rise to power by murdering Tiberius. Gemellus, although only a boy was a potential threat to Caligula as he was Tiberius&rsquos grandson and had been Caligula&rsquos co-heir.

The deaths of Gemellus and Macro suggest Caligula suffered from a certain amount of paranoia. However, he instigated plenty of other deaths from sheer cruelty. Caligula had revived the treason trials of Tiberius&rsquos reign as another way of raising much-needed cash. Those found guilty had their estates confiscated. However, if they did not kill themselves or die in prison, they could look forward to public execution. For Caligula was fond of fighting the condemned as gladiators.

Caligula added to his enjoyment of these spectacles by forcing the condemned&rsquos families to watch. The emperor even sent a litter to convey one ailing father to his son&rsquos execution. Another, who asked permission to close his eyes rather than watch, died with his son. Caligula even invited the father of one of his victim&rsquos to dinner- on the day of his son&rsquos execution. The bereaved parent was forced to sit and laugh at the emperor&rsquos jokes for the whole evening &ndash or die himself.

40 Hilarious Beer Jokes For The Hoppiest Happy Hour Ever


There really is nothing quite like kicking back with some friends and a cold bottle of beer, is there? In fact, in 2018, the U.S. beer industry sold 202.2 million barrels of beer — that’s the equivalent of 2.8 billion cases! The millennia-old libation has inspired famous beer quotes from literary giants, and countless jokes to tell while drinking. So whether you’re looking for your next happy hour Instagram caption or just a way to lighten the mood, we’ve got you covered with the funniest beer jokes and puns to make happy hour a little hoppier.

It’s five o’clock somewhere, so enjoy a cold one as you browse them below.

1. A Roman walks into a bar. He holds up two fingers and says “give me five beers.”

2. A skeleton walks into a bar. Orders a beer and a mop.

3. I fear my last words will be ‘‘hold my beer and watch this.’’

4. Why do they never serve beer at a math party? – Because you can’t drink and derive.

5. A neutron walks into a bar and asks, “how much for a beer?” The bartender replies, “for you? No charge!”

6. Trust me, you can dance. – Beer

7. What did the bottle write on the postcard? Wish you were beer!

8. IPA a lot when I drink beer.

9. Never look at your beer as half empty. Look at it as halfway to your next beer.

10. What is the definition of a balanced diet? A beer in each hand.

11. What’s the difference between Bud Light and having sex in a Kayak? They’re both f*cking close to water!

12. How does a man show that he is planning for the future? He buys two cases of beer.

13. What do you never say to a policeman? “Sure let me grab my license. Can you hold my beer?”

15. What did the beer sing on the beach? “Don’t worry. Be hoppy.”

16. Beer…because you can’t drink bacon.

17. “Friends bring happiness into your life. Best friends bring beer.”

18. One beer, two beer, three beer, four. Then I hit the floor.

19. Roses are red, violets are blue. Poems are hard. Beer!

20. They say you can’t find happiness at the bottom of a beer. No kidding, who’s happy when their beer is over?

21. When my friend fell asleep at the bar I poured ale at him. It was a brewed awakening.

22. Hey bartender, I need a beer. I’ve got way too much blood in my alcohol system.

23. Guy walks into a bar, orders a beer. As the bartender hands it to him, the guy realizes he really has to take a leak urgently. However, the bar is crowded, and he doesn’t want to leave his full beer on the bar because he’s afraid someone will drink it. After a sudden burst of inspiration, he pulls out a small pad of paper and writes on it: “I spit in this beer.” Putting the note on the beer, he heads off to the bathroom. When he returns, he’s delighted to see his full beer still sitting there with the note. Upon closer examination, though, he sees that someone has written on the note: “So did I.”

24. How do you know if someone likes craft beer? Don’t worry they’ll tell you.

25. Stop trying to make everyone happy. You’re not beer.

26. In heaven there is no beer, which is why we drink it here.

27. If God had intended us to drink beer he would have given us stomachs.

28. Beer. Because you can’t drink bacon.

29. Beer is made from hops. Hops is a plant. Beer=salad.

30. Spilling a beer is the adult equivalent of losing a balloon.

31. To beer or not to beer, that is the question.

32. You can’t find happiness at the bottom of a beer. Obviously, who is happy when their beer runs out?

33. Life and beer are very similar. Chill for best results.

34. Beer doesn’t have much vitamins, that’s why you have to drink lots of it.


Ancient fountains Edit

Ancient civilizations built stone basins to capture and hold precious drinking water. A carved stone basin, dating to around 2000 BC, was discovered in the ruins of the ancient Sumerian city of Lagash in modern Iraq. The ancient Assyrians constructed a series of basins in the gorge of the Comel River, carved in solid rock, connected by small channels, descending to a stream. The lowest basin was decorated with carved reliefs of two lions. [3] The ancient Egyptians had ingenious systems for hoisting water up from the Nile for drinking and irrigation, but without a higher source of water it was not possible to make water flow by gravity, and no Egyptian fountains or pictures of fountains have been found.

The ancient Greeks used aqueducts and gravity-powered fountains to distribute water. According to ancient historians, fountains existed in Athens, Corinth, and other ancient Greek cities in the 6th century BC as the terminating points of aqueducts which brought water from springs and rivers into the cities. In the 6th century BC, the Athenian ruler Peisistratos built the main fountain of Athens, the Enneacrounos, in the Agora, or main square. It had nine large cannons, or spouts, which supplied drinking water to local residents. [4]

Greek fountains were made of stone or marble, with water flowing through bronze pipes and emerging from the mouth of a sculpted mask that represented the head of a lion or the muzzle of an animal. Most Greek fountains flowed by simple gravity, but they also discovered how to use principle of a siphon to make water spout, as seen in pictures on Greek vases. [5]

Ancient Roman fountains Edit

The Ancient Romans built an extensive system of aqueducts from mountain rivers and lakes to provide water for the fountains and baths of Rome. The Roman engineers used lead pipes instead of bronze to distribute the water throughout the city. The excavations at Pompeii, which revealed the city as it was when it was destroyed by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, uncovered free-standing fountains and basins placed at intervals along city streets, fed by siphoning water upwards from lead pipes under the street. The excavations of Pompeii also showed that the homes of wealthy Romans often had a small fountain in the atrium, or interior courtyard, with water coming from the city water supply and spouting into a small bowl or basin.

Ancient Rome was a city of fountains. According to Sextus Julius Frontinus, the Roman consul who was named curator aquarum or guardian of the water of Rome in 98 AD, Rome had nine aqueducts which fed 39 monumental fountains and 591 public basins, not counting the water supplied to the Imperial household, baths and owners of private villas. Each of the major fountains was connected to two different aqueducts, in case one was shut down for service. [6]

The Romans were able to make fountains jet water into the air, by using the pressure of water flowing from a distant and higher source of water to create hydraulic head, or force. Illustrations of fountains in gardens spouting water are found on wall paintings in Rome from the 1st century BC, and in the villas of Pompeii. [7] The Villa of Hadrian in Tivoli featured a large swimming basin with jets of water. Pliny the Younger described the banquet room of a Roman villa where a fountain began to jet water when visitors sat on a marble seat. The water flowed into a basin, where the courses of a banquet were served in floating dishes shaped like boats. [8]

Roman engineers built aqueducts and fountains throughout the Roman Empire. Examples can be found today in the ruins of Roman towns in Vaison-la-Romaine and Glanum in France, in Augst, Switzerland, and other sites.

Medieval fountains Edit

In Nepal there were public drinking fountains at least as early as 550 AD. They are called dhunge dharas or hitis. They consist of intricately carved stone spouts through which water flows uninterrupted from underground water sources. They are found extensively in Nepal and some of them are still operational. Construction of water conduits like hitis and dug wells are considered as pious acts in Nepal. [9]

During the Middle Ages, Roman aqueducts were wrecked or fell into decay, and many fountains throughout Europe stopped working, so fountains existed mainly in art and literature, or in secluded monasteries or palace gardens. Fountains in the Middle Ages were associated with the source of life, purity, wisdom, innocence, and the Garden of Eden. [10] In illuminated manuscripts like the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1411–1416), the Garden of Eden was shown with a graceful gothic fountain in the center (see illustration). The Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck, finished in 1432, also shows a fountain as a feature of the adoration of the mystic lamb, a scene apparently set in Paradise.

The cloister of a monastery was supposed to be a replica of the Garden of Eden, protected from the outside world. Simple fountains, called lavabos, were placed inside Medieval monasteries such as Le Thoronet Abbey in Provence and were used for ritual washing before religious services. [11]

Fountains were also found in the enclosed medieval jardins d'amour, "gardens of courtly love" – ornamental gardens used for courtship and relaxation. The medieval romance The Roman de la Rose describes a fountain in the center of an enclosed garden, feeding small streams bordered by flowers and fresh herbs.

Some Medieval fountains, like the cathedrals of their time, illustrated biblical stories, local history and the virtues of their time. The Fontana Maggiore in Perugia, dedicated in 1278, is decorated with stone carvings representing prophets and saints, allegories of the arts, labors of the months, the signs of the zodiac, and scenes from Genesis and Roman history. [12]

Medieval fountains could also provide amusement. The gardens of the Counts of Artois at the Château de Hesdin, built in 1295, contained famous fountains, called Les Merveilles de Hesdin ("The Wonders of Hesdin") which could be triggered to drench surprised visitors. [13]

Fountains of the Islamic World Edit

Shortly after the spread of Islam, the Arabs incorporated into their city planning the Persian designs of the famous Islamic gardens. Islamic gardens after the 7th century were traditionally enclosed by walls and were designed to represent paradise. The paradise gardens, were laid out in the form of a cross, with four channels representing the rivers of paradise, dividing the four parts of the world. [14] Water sometimes spouted from a fountain in the center of the cross, representing the spring or fountain, Salsabil, described in the Qur'an as the source of the rivers of Paradise. [15]

In the 9th century, the Banū Mūsā brothers, a trio of Persian Inventors, were commissioned by the Caliph of Baghdad to summarize the engineering knowledge of the ancient Greek and Roman world. They wrote a book entitled the Book of Ingenious Devices, describing the works of the 1st century Greek Engineer Hero of Alexandria and other engineers, plus many of their own inventions. They described fountains which formed water into different shapes and a wind-powered water pump, [16] but it is not known if any of their fountains were ever actually built. [17]

The Persian rulers of the Middle Ages had elaborate water distribution systems and fountains in their palaces and gardens. Water was carried by a pipe into the palace from a source at a higher elevation. Once inside the palace or garden it came up through a small hole in a marble or stone ornament and poured into a basin or garden channels. The gardens of Pasargades had a system of canals which flowed from basin to basin, both watering the garden and making a pleasant sound. The Persian engineers also used the principle of the syphon (called shotor-gelu in Persian, literally 'neck of the camel) to create fountains which spouted water or made it resemble a bubbling spring. The garden of Fin, near Kashan, used 171 spouts connected to pipes to create a fountain called the Howz-e jush, or "boiling basin". [18]

The 11th century Persian poet Azraqi described a Persian fountain:

From a marvelous faucet of gold pours a wave whose clarity is more pure than a soul The turquoise and silver form ribbons in the basin coming from this faucet of gold . [19]

Reciprocating motion was first described in 1206 by Iraqi engineer and inventor al-Jazari when the kings of the Artuqid dynasty in Turkey commissioned him to manufacture a machine to raise water for their palaces. The finest result was a machine called the double-acting reciprocating piston pump, which translated rotary motion to reciprocating motion via the crankshaft-connecting rod mechanism. [20]

The palaces of Moorish Spain, particularly the Alhambra in Granada, had famous fountains. The patio of the Sultan in the gardens of Generalife in Granada (1319) featured spouts of water pouring into a basin, with channels which irrigated orange and myrtle trees. The garden was modified over the centuries – the jets of water which cross the canal today were added in the 19th century. [21] The fountain in the Court of the Lions of the Alhambra, built from 1362 to 1391, is a large vasque mounted on twelve stone statues of lions. Water spouts upward in the vasque and pours from the mouths of the lions, filling four channels dividing the courtyard into quadrants. [22] The basin dates to the 14th century, but the lions spouting water are believed to be older, dating to the 11th century. [23]

The design of the Islamic garden spread throughout the Islamic world, from Moorish Spain to the Mughal Empire in the Indian subcontinent. The Shalimar Gardens built by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1641, were said to be ornamented with 410 fountains, which fed into a large basin, canal and marble pools.

In the Ottoman Empire, rulers often built fountains next to mosques so worshippers could do their ritual washing. Examples include the Fountain of Qasim Pasha (1527), Temple Mount, Jerusalem, an ablution and drinking fountain built during the Ottoman reign of Suleiman the Magnificent the Fountain of Ahmed III (1728) at the Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, another Fountain of Ahmed III in Üsküdar (1729) and Tophane Fountain (1732). Palaces themselves often had small decorated fountains, which provided drinking water, cooled the air, and made a pleasant splashing sound. One surviving example is the Fountain of Tears (1764) at the Bakhchisarai Palace, in Crimea which was made famous by a poem of Alexander Pushkin. The sebil was a decorated fountain that was often the only source of water for the surrounding neighborhood. It was often commissioned as an act of Islamic piety by a rich person.

Renaissance fountains (15th–17th centuries) Edit

In the 14th century, Italian humanist scholars began to rediscover and translate forgotten Roman texts on architecture by Vitruvius, on hydraulics by Hero of Alexandria, and descriptions of Roman gardens and fountains by Pliny the Younger, Pliny the Elder, and Varro. The treatise on architecture, De re aedificatoria, by Leon Battista Alberti, which described in detail Roman villas, gardens and fountains, became the guidebook for Renaissance builders. [24]

In Rome, Pope Nicholas V (1397–1455), himself a scholar who commissioned hundreds of translations of ancient Greek classics into Latin, decided to embellish the city and make it a worthy capital of the Christian world. In 1453, he began to rebuild the Acqua Vergine, the ruined Roman aqueduct which had brought clean drinking water to the city from eight miles (13 km) away. He also decided to revive the Roman custom of marking the arrival point of an aqueduct with a mostra, a grand commemorative fountain. He commissioned the architect Leon Battista Alberti to build a wall fountain where the Trevi Fountain is now located. The aqueduct he restored, with modifications and extensions, eventually supplied water to the Trevi Fountain and the famous baroque fountains in the Piazza del Popolo and Piazza Navona. [25]

One of the first new fountains to be built in Rome during the Renaissance was the fountain in the piazza in front of the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere (1472), which was placed on the site of an earlier Roman fountain. Its design, based on an earlier Roman model, with a circular vasque on a pedestal pouring water into a basin below, became the model for many other fountains in Rome, and eventually for fountains in other cities, from Paris to London. [26]

In 1503, Pope Julius II decided to recreate a classical pleasure garden in the same place. The new garden, called the Cortile del Belvedere, was designed by Donato Bramante. The garden was decorated with the Pope's famous collection of classical statues, and with fountains. The Venetian Ambassador wrote in 1523, ". On one side of the garden is a most beautiful loggia, at one end of which is a lovely fountain that irrigates the orange trees and the rest of the garden by a little canal in the center of the loggia . [27] The original garden was split in two by the construction of the Vatican Library in the 16th century, but a new fountain by Carlo Maderno was built in the Cortile del Belvedere, with a jet of water shooting up from a circular stone bowl on an octagonal pedestal in a large basin. [28]

In 1537, in Florence, Cosimo I de' Medici, who had become ruler of the city at the age of only 17, also decided to launch a program of aqueduct and fountain building. The city had previously gotten all its drinking water from wells and reservoirs of rain water, which meant that there was little water or water pressure to run fountains. Cosimo built an aqueduct large enough for the first continually-running fountain in Florence, the Fountain of Neptune in the Piazza della Signoria (1560–1567). This fountain featured an enormous white marble statue of Neptune, resembling Cosimo, by sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati. [29]

Under the Medicis, fountains were not just sources of water, but advertisements of the power and benevolence of the city's rulers. They became central elements not only of city squares, but of the new Italian Renaissance garden. The great Medici Villa at Castello, built for Cosimo by Benedetto Varchi, featured two monumental fountains on its central axis one showing with two bronze figures representing Hercules slaying Antaeus, symbolizing the victory of Cosimo over his enemies and a second fountain, in the middle of a circular labyrinth of cypresses, laurel, myrtle and roses, had a bronze statue by Giambologna which showed the goddess Venus wringing her hair. The planet Venus was governed by Capricorn, which was the emblem of Cosimo the fountain symbolized that he was the absolute master of Florence. [30]

By the middle Renaissance, fountains had become a form of theater, with cascades and jets of water coming from marble statues of animals and mythological figures. The most famous fountains of this kind were found in the Villa d'Este (1550–1572), at Tivoli near Rome, which featured a hillside of basins, fountains and jets of water, as well as a fountain which produced music by pouring water into a chamber, forcing air into a series of flute-like pipes. The gardens also featured giochi d'acqua, water jokes, hidden fountains which suddenly soaked visitors. [31] Between 1546 and 1549, the merchants of Paris built the first Renaissance-style fountain in Paris, the Fontaine des Innocents, to commemorate the ceremonial entry of the King into the city. The fountain, which originally stood against the wall of the church of the Holy Innocents, as rebuilt several times and now stands in a square near Les Halles. It is the oldest fountain in Paris. [32]

Henry constructed an Italian-style garden with a fountain shooting a vertical jet of water for his favorite mistress, Diane de Poitiers, next to the Château de Chenonceau (1556–1559). At the royal Château de Fontainebleau, he built another fountain with a bronze statue of Diane, goddess of the hunt, modeled after Diane de Poitiers. [33]

Later, after the death of Henry II, his widow, Catherine de Medici, expelled Diane de Poitiers from Chenonceau and built her own fountain and garden there.

King Henry IV of France made an important contribution to French fountains by inviting an Italian hydraulic engineer, Tommaso Francini, who had worked on the fountains of the villa at Pratalino, to make fountains in France. Francini became a French citizen in 1600, built the Medici Fountain, and during the rule of the young King Louis XIII, he was raised to the position of Intendant général des Eaux et Fontaines of the king, a position which was hereditary. His descendants became the royal fountain designers for Louis XIII and for Louis XIV at Versailles. [34]

In 1630, another Medici, Marie de Medici, the widow of Henry IV, built her own monumental fountain in Paris, the Medici Fountain, in the garden of the Palais du Luxembourg. That fountain still exists today, with a long basin of water and statues added in 1866. [35]

Baroque fountains (17th–18th century) Edit

Baroque Fountains of Rome Edit

The 17th and 18th centuries were a golden age for fountains in Rome, which began with the reconstruction of ruined Roman aqueducts and the construction by the Popes of mostra, or display fountains, to mark their termini. The new fountains were expressions of the new Baroque art, which was officially promoted by the Catholic Church as a way to win popular support against the Protestant Reformation the Council of Trent had declared in the 16th century that the Church should counter austere Protestantism with art that was lavish, animated and emotional. The fountains of Rome, like the paintings of Rubens, were examples of the principles of Baroque art. They were crowded with allegorical figures, and filled with emotion and movement. In these fountains, sculpture became the principal element, and the water was used simply to animate and decorate the sculptures. They, like baroque gardens, were "a visual representation of confidence and power." [31]

The first of the Fountains of St. Peter's Square, by Carlo Maderno, (1614) was one of the earliest Baroque fountains in Rome, made to complement the lavish Baroque façade he designed for St. Peter's Basilica behind it. It was fed by water from the Paola aqueduct, restored in 1612, whose source was 266 feet (81 m) above sea level, which meant it could shoot water twenty feet up from the fountain. Its form, with a large circular vasque on a pedestal pouring water into a basin and an inverted vasque above it spouting water, was imitated two centuries later in the Fountains of the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

The Triton Fountain in the Piazza Barberini (1642), by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, is a masterpiece of Baroque sculpture, representing Triton, half-man and half-fish, blowing his horn to calm the waters, following a text by the Roman poet Ovid in the Metamorphoses. The Triton fountain benefited from its location in a valley, and the fact that it was fed by the Aqua Felice aqueduct, restored in 1587, which arrived in Rome at an elevation of 194 feet (59 m) above sea level (fasl), a difference of 130 feet (40 m) in elevation between the source and the fountain, which meant that the water from this fountain jetted sixteen feet straight up into the air from the conch shell of the triton. [36]

The Piazza Navona became a grand theater of water, with three fountains, built in a line on the site of the Stadium of Domitian. The fountains at either end are by Giacomo della Porta the Neptune fountain to the north, (1572) shows the God of the Sea spearing an octopus, surrounded by tritons, sea horses and mermaids. At the southern end is Il Moro, possibly also a figure of Neptune riding a fish in a conch shell. In the center is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, (The Fountain of the Four Rivers) (1648–51), a highly theatrical fountain by Bernini, with statues representing rivers from the four continents the Nile, Danube, Plate River and Ganges. Over the whole structure is a 54-foot (16 m) Egyptian obelisk, crowned by a cross with the emblem of the Pamphili family, representing Pope Innocent X, whose family palace was on the piazza. The theme of a fountain with statues symbolizing great rivers was later used in the Place de la Concorde (1836–40) and in the Fountain of Neptune in the Alexanderplatz in Berlin (1891). The fountains of Piazza Navona had one drawback - their water came from the Acqua Vergine, which had only a 23-foot (7.0 m) drop from the source to the fountains, which meant the water could only fall or trickle downwards, not jet very high upwards. [37]

The Trevi Fountain is the largest and most spectacular of Rome's fountains, designed to glorify the three different Popes who created it. It was built beginning in 1730 at the terminus of the reconstructed Acqua Vergine aqueduct, on the site of Renaissance fountain by Leon Battista Alberti. It was the work of architect Nicola Salvi and the successive project of Pope Clement XII, Pope Benedict XIV and Pope Clement XIII, whose emblems and inscriptions are carried on the attic story, entablature and central niche. The central figure is Oceanus, the personification of all the seas and oceans, in an oyster-shell chariot, surrounded by Tritons and Sea Nymphs.

In fact, the fountain had very little water pressure, because the source of water was, like the source for the Piazza Navona fountains, the Acqua Vergine, with a 23-foot (7.0 m) drop. Salvi compensated for this problem by sinking the fountain down into the ground, and by carefully designing the cascade so that the water churned and tumbled, to add movement and drama. [38] Wrote historians Maria Ann Conelli and Marilyn Symmes, "On many levels the Trevi altered the appearance, function and intent of fountains and was a watershed for future designs." [39]

Monday Ground Up: Why was the Roman Empire so long-lived?

In a five hundred year span, the Roman Empire managed to rise and fall in tandem, yet with the advent of highly credentialed political leaders and a vision to see the straighter path, the empire grew larger, and the people with it. Never had the western world been more organized and more united. In 100 A.D. you could travel on paved roads from Egypt to France using one currency and only a passport and by 200 A.D. there were over 50,000 miles of roads constructed by the Romans [6]. The vast Roman Empire mustered up the largest army the world had ever seen and its political exploits lay the platform for our founding fathers.

In my opinion, Rome’s geographic location and the success of its military encouraged a concentration of politics in the capital, and many experts agree. The “practical engineering skill of the Romans furnished the Empire with the necessary arteries, the famous Roman roads, all radiating from the heart, carrying Roman civilization and life to the farthest limits of Europe” [8]. A combination of law and engineering, military force, and social legislation to combat political fragmentation along with exceptional leaders, allowed the long lived Roman Empire to become one of the greatest superpowers the world has ever seen.

Augustus was the Roman Empires’ first emperor and was the grandnephew of Julius Caesar and adopted son. Augustus went by the name “Octavian” and he brought an end to civil war and appeared to be restoring the republic, but in actuality, he ruled as an autocrat [3]. He was credited as heralding the start of the Roman Empire which would last for over four centuries. Augustus transformed Rome stating “he found a city of bricks and left it a city of marble” [3]. During his rule, we saw the creation of massive architecture and engineering feats, made possible by the discovery of cement to make concrete, and the laws of the land.

Roman law brought about the systematic principle for justification applicable to all people, including the immediately recognizable “innocent until proven guilty” [6]. Citizens could now defend themselves before a judge and the judge was expected to weigh evidence carefully before arriving at a decision. This principle of innocent until proven guilty has lived on in Western civilization. At this same time, Emperor Caracalla extended citizenship to every free person in the Empire in 212 A.D., making Roman law an even more significant factor in binding the empire together [6]. Roman accomplishments in law and engineering have inspired many other cultures. Although their achievements were improvements on older ideas, like the Mesoamerican cobble roads often lined with stones, they were more unique and inventive.

Roman roads were sometimes one foot thick and layered, constructed to fit the needs of the Roman army [7]. If there was an obstacle, they would engineer a solution to the issue. The public roads were accurately divided by mile-stones, and ran in a direct line from one city to another, without respect for the obstacles either of nature or private property” [2]. This highway system therefore linked the provinces, making resources accessible and convenient for marching armies. “It was easy to travel a hundred miles in a day on Roman roads” [2].

Aqueducts were constructed to keep the population supplied with water. Consequently, their firm foundations deterred any issues of transport for trade or army regiments. Aqueducts like the Pont du Gard carried water via a channel on top. Nimes received water from this aqueduct which was located thirty miles away, made possible by the aqueducts’ “gradual decline”, allowing gravity to transport the water from one source to its final destination. In Trier, “an aqueduct was built measuring 12 kilometers long, running down the Ruwer valley in the hills behind the city to serve its fountains and sewers” [4]. Citizens for miles had water flowing into every facet of their city, a variable system of arteries, bringing the lifeblood to the Roman Empire.

Nowhere in the world can the intimidating organization and ruthlessness of the Roman world be better seen in its army. Julius Caesar oversaw the Roman Empire’s army which Augustus maintained, with a stable number of legions to make up the army that would safeguard the empire [3]. Even during the crusades, seven hundred years after the tyrannical reign of Caesar, men still felt the centralizing influence of Rome [8]. The army needed to be a long-service unit and be capable of being deployed at any moment. The command of the Roman army was an executive political office therefore its undertaking could be risky business for unscrupulous generals.

Six months after the tyrannical Caesar was murdered, Augustus sought friendly relations with his generals and friends. After a great naval victory against Marc Antony and forces in 31 B.C., Augustus looked to reshape the Republican institutions of Rome [1]. In 27 B.C., the senate gave him the imperial title “Augustus” and he used this position to reform the army. Military campaigns were utilized to consolidate natural boundaries of the Roman Empire and increase revenues, thus leading to the increased size of the Roman Empire overall [1].

The Roman army was used to protect the Roman frontiers. In 14 A.D., it numbered twenty five legions but had increased to thirty by the time of Trajan [6]. Trajan was a capable leader, acceptable to the army. He established a fund to assist poor parents in raising and educating their children. Trajan “believed that such assistance would materially aid in creating a larger pool of young men in Italy eligible for military service” [6]. At the same time, however, the young men were granted an education in exchange for their duty. The Latin language and Roman institutions, ways of thought and conduct, were all provided in the army’s curriculum.

The five good emperors prior to Commodus, son of Marcus, had competently chosen successors to continue growing the Roman Empire. Nerva was chosen by the senate after the assassination of Domitian. His feeble age and mild disposition was respected, however he could never invoke terror or rule with authority, so he chose to adopt Trajan. Trajan had already commanded a powerful army in Germany so the senate immediately recognized him as a successor to the Roman Empire [2]. At the start of the second century, Trajan launched a series of campaigns which added the whole of Transylvanian Dacia to the Empire [4]. Consequently, Trajan built the highly recognizable forum in Rome to celebrate his victories. Hadrian, Trajan’s second cousin, succeeded Trajan and spent years inspecting the provinces and restoring the military forces to good order. He constructed public works throughout the provinces and in Rome including aqueducts, roads, bridges, and harbor facilities [6]. Hadrian adopted Antoninus Pius, who stayed in Rome and made greater use of the senate. Pius adopted Marcus Aurelius who acted in place of a “philosopher king” Plato envisioned) and Aurelius wrote “Meditations”, reflecting the ideal of stoic duty as a religious concept.

These “Five Good Emperors” as I’ve come to understand them, treated the classes with humility and veneration, collaborated with the senate on every accord, maintained peace in the Roman Empire, and supported domestic policies beneficial to the long lived Roman Empire. They were diplomatic and kind, widely praised for their extensive social and economic programs. They expanded the scope of imperial rule to areas untouched by imperial politics and made humaneness and generosity the themes of their reigns [5].

The Roman Empire was long-lived for many reasons, some of which being new laws and engineering, military potency, and social legislation to combat political fragmentation along with exceptional leaders. The Age of Augustus saw the beginnings of the Roman Empire along with grand feats of architecture and a systematic principle for justification applicable to all people and their rights as citizens. The army of Rome was a fighting machine, marching across the provinces on well paved, one foot thick roads, and all the while drawing the lines of new provinces and towns along the way. The army continued to evolve in the Roman Empire as new emperors with effective leadership and organizational skills adopted new reforms, key to the success of the army and the empire. The Five Good Emperors sustained a peaceful rule, treating citizens and the armament with civility and giving back to the Roman Empire. Their social organization led to the de-fragmenting of politics and their extensive building programs allowed Rome to live on for five hundred years.

Did mother/son sexual relationships really exist back in Ancient Greek/ Rome times?

Given the time of history your teacher talked about, and the specific civilizations he mentioned, we have an enormous volume of written historical records. Not to mention multiple instances of different genres of written information that is preserved. We have an extremely well documented level of information concerning both Greek and Roman cultures.

Did incest happen between mothers and sons? Yep. I can promise you it's happened all throughout history, and in EVERY culture that ever existed. However, if it was as common as your teacher is leading your class to believe, he's deluded and totally wrong. If it was a typical rite of manhood as he says, there would be record after record after record of this happening, in multiple instances, across the entire culture (s). Nothing could be further from the truth!

If this is a college class, my guess is your teacher is attempting to insert HIS personal liberal viewpoint on the class to foster a possible bent he has toward incest, rather than present complete fact and truth.

15 Jokes Only Ancient Greeks Could Tell

Laughter is universal and the healing power of a good chuckle has been recognized since antiquity. Proof of this is the Philogelos – translated as ‘the joker’ or ‘the one who loves laughter’ – considered the world’s oldest surviving collection of jokes written in ancient Greek and compiled by Hierocles and Philagrius around the 4 th or 5th century AD. Now translated by William Berg, a retired American classics professor, the collection includes jests relevant to today and, on occasion, highlights the stupidity of the so-called scholars of the time. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we all still laugh at the same jokes – despite the millenia that have passed. Discover for yourself with this list of 15 jokes from the collection.

1. A student dunce wants to teach his ass not to eat too much, so he withholds food from it. When the ass dies of starvation, he grumbles ‘Just my luck! The moment he really learns not to eat, he ups and dies!

2. A student dunce buys a house, then peeks out of the window and asks passersby if the house suits him.

3. A man goes to a student dunce and says, ‘The slave you sold me died.’ ‘By the gods’, counters the dunce, ‘when he was with me, he never did any such thing’

4. A drunk acquires a vineyard through an inheritance. But the poor guy dies exactly at harvest time.

5. A hothead trips and falls down the stairs. When the landlord calls out, ‘Who fell down out there?’ the hothead answers ‘I did. In my rent payment. What’s it to you?’

6. A fellow says to a butcher from Sydon, ‘Lend me a knife as far as Smyrna.’ ‘I don’t have a knife that reaches that far,’ answers the butcher.

7. When the garrulous barber asks him, ‘How should I cut your hair?’, a quick wit answers ‘Silently’.

8. A Kymean* is selling a house. He carries around one of its building blocks to show what it’s like.

9. Shopping for windows, a Kymean* asks if there are any that look South.

10. An Abderite* is dreaming that he is selling a pig and he is asking 100 denarii for it. Someone is offering 50 but he won’t take it. At that point, he wakes up. Then keeping his eyes shut, he holds out his hands and says ‘Oh well, OK, give me the 50’.

11. A guy goes to the cloth-fuller’s shop to sell his urine. When he can’t piss like the others, he dies of envy.

12. A miser writes his will and names himself as his heir.

13. A husband with bad breath asks his wife, ‘My dear why do you hate?’ She gives him an answer: ‘Because you kiss me.’

14. A cook with halitosis is frying a sausage. But he breathes on it so much that he transforms it into a turd.

15. A wife-hater is attending the burial of his wife, who has just died. When someone asks ‘Who is it that rests in peace here?’ he answers ‘Me, now that I am rid of her!’

*The citizens of Abdera, Sidon, and Kyme in the eastern Mediterranean area, were the main target of ethnic jokes and often considered as stupid or crazy.


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