Caligula’s Poetry Slam

Despite all the froth that’s oft times whisked into them, poetry slams are nothing new. The Greek playwright Aristophanes has one in his play The Frogs that was first performed in 405BC. Euripides and Aeschylus compete to see who is the best tragic poet, with Dionysis as the judge.
The Roman Emperor Gaius Caligula was also fond of poetry. In The Twelve Caesars the historian Suetonius (born 69AD) relates this incident (translated by Robert Graves) from the life of Caligula:

20. Caligula gave several shows abroad – Athenian Games at Syracuse, and miscellaneous games at Lyons, where he also held a competition in Greek and Latin oratory. The loser, it appears, had to present the winners with prizes and make speeches praising them; while those who failed miserably were forced to erase their entries with either sponges or their own tongues – at the threat of being thrashed and flung into the Rhône.

Bring on George The Poet.



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