Tough Gig – 91 BC

The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, writes in his Bibliotheca historica (Book 37) about this incident, close to the outbreak of the Social War:

One day, when public games were being celebrated, and the theatre was filled with Roman spectators, they slew a comedian who expressed annoyance on the stage, on the pretext that he had not properly fulfilled his role. The whole theatre was filled with disorder and terror, when fortune brought onto the scene a satirical character appropriate to the circumstances. His name was Saunio, and he was of Latin origin. He was a very clever clown, who excited laughter not only by his words, but even when he was silent by the different poses of his body; there was something appealing about him, so that he enjoyed a high reputation in the theatres of Rome. The Picentes, wishing to deprive the Romans of the entertainment given by this humorous actor, determined to kill him. Saunio, informed of the fate that awaited him, stepped onto the stage where the comedian had just been murdered, and, addressing the audience, he said : “My spectators, the omens are favourable! May this evil turn into good fortune! I’m not a Roman, and I’m subject to the fasces just like you. I travel throughout Italy, searching for favours by making people laugh and giving pleasure. So spare the swallow, which the gods allow to nest safely in all your houses, for it is not fair to do anything that would make you upset.” The jester continued to speak with many other humorous remarks that amused them, and so by appeasing the crowd he freed himself from danger.



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