Buongiorno, ragazzi.

My friends and family have been fantastic during my midlife adventure thus far. They've been supportive and loving, and they've turned out in droves to visit. Which is a great thing.

Having said that, I did relish my freedom this morning, when I awoke to a quiet flat and a free day stretching before me like an endless horizon. I made some coffee, frothed the milk, read the New York Times online and then opened my e-mail.

And there it was. The DREADED.

To: From: Subject: Good Friend of X

Now, I'm going to keep X's name a secret, out of deference to my friend who did NOT, I am quite certain, suggest that Construct114 contact me.

I took a deep breath and prepared my ready made Sorry, I have a small flat and there's no room, but I can recommend a good hotel...(I learned this lesson the hard way, when I let someone from British Airways stay in my flat for three nights and she brought a strange man back for an evening of fun and frivolity while I lay awake in my room waiting for the guy to morph into a serial killer)

Turns out Construct114 did NOT want to stay with me. Instead, she wondered how I would feel about giving some free tours to her and her two friends when they visit Rome next month. "I hear you're a great guide!" she gushed. "And we're really interested in the history of Rome!"

I admit it. It was those exclamation marks that did it. I simply cannot and will not spend an entire day with someone who uses exclamation marks. Too chirpy for me. However, I felt bad about letting them down, especially since Construct114 and her gal pals were obviously interested in a subject about which I care greatly.

So, what to do....I thought for a while. And then I came up with it: The History of Rome in 37 Verses. A kind of Dr. Seuss for the historically curious. I could simply hand this document to visitors and say, Okay, here it is, now get your ass over to the Colosseum.

To that end, I submit the first 300 Years' worth of Rhyming Rome. Gets us through Romulus, the straight-nosed Etruscan stud kings and the bad guys of 600 B.C. Please note there will be more such exercises (The Emperors, Constantine, the Christians, etc.).



Ah Rome! ŒTis a story of a glorious past, And a tale full of wonder and wit; Yet it starts with daub huts and some Iron Age farms, Tons of sheep and fields knee-deep in shit.

Forget about Gucci, forget Prada, too; In fact, forget Rome as a city at all. Conjur instead a pastoral scene: No retail, no grocery, no mall.* *pronounced the American way; i.e., MAWL

In those days men farmed, and defended their huts, While the womenfolk cooked and cleaned. The options were few for the fairer sex then; In general, we were pretty demeaned.

Still, there was ONE profession open to gals: To those judged bellissima enough; We could be Vestal Virgins and tend the village flame, But we mustn't find ourselves up the duff.* * British slang for pregnant

What a swell job THAT was, with lots o' great perks: Great hair, great jewels, great swag. Only two items on the performance appraisal: Keep the flame and don't ever shag.* * British slang for having sex (Italian is trombare)

So that brings us to Rhea (or Silvia as she's known), Daughter of Numitor, descendant propitious. She attended the flame in Sacra by Versace, And it's said she was most booty-licious.

Now what should happen to poor Silvia of yore But she should attract the god Mars' advances; Mars said she had it coming, that her dress was risqué, And he swore she returned his advances.

„Si, si, said Mars, „Sil was shaking her thang, And turning me on for a lark; At one point she lowered her toga and flashed, And grabbed at me in the dark.

The gods were consulted, the King held a trial; (She said rape, he claimed consenting adult;) Sadly the union bore fruit nine months later, With a pair of doomed twins the result.

Thus it was so and so it was thus That young Sil found herself in a jam. The two babes were duly sentenced to die, And Silvia sent out on the lam.

For Mars it was settled in a hush-hush way, With little more than a slap on the wrist; He acted contrite and gave some sort of donation, Then went out with his mates and got pissed.* * British slang for drunk

As for Sil, well, who the hell knows? For at this point she exits stage left. She gave birth to two boys about whom we'll speak And retired to Boca, most bereft.

Is anyone surprised by this course of events? I mean, it's sad and also quite dour; The chick's branded a ho and sent out of town While the guy's hailed as the Cazzo* Du Jour. * Italian for cock

The babes were then taken to the reeds by Tiber, And left there to wither --- or worse. ŒTil along came a wolf with a great set of boobs, Who said, „Follow me, boys, I can nurse.

A wolf's really cool but a mom she ain't, And the boys craved a more normal life; So they wailed and they wailed, their voices were heard They were rescued by a young shepherd's wife.

The boys grew tall and ambitious, as well, And before you knew it there was trouble. Remus went left, Romulus right, Each planning war from his own hill of rubble.

„We beseech you, O Gods, said Remus from his hill. And from his, Romulus said the same. „Which one of us should rule, which one of us is worthy? Please send a sign, an omen, a name.

From the Aventine Hill, Remus saw birds: A flock of vultures, he said, with delight; But he only saw six and Romulus saw twelve, And the latter ended up winning the fight.

Romulus killed his brother or so it is said, Then declared himself king of all loot. „This place I call Rome, he declared to his kin, „We'll have palaces and the Armani suit.

Thus Rome was founded and it was glorious, it's true; The celebrations lasted into nights late. Yet right away Romulus perceived a snafu: No women with whom to procreate.

So he sent out some envoys to the neighboring hills With instructions to woo their chicks. „Are you kidding? Are you mad? was the reply they received. „You guys are barbarian hicks.

Now this put Romulus in a difficult spot, For he'd really only just become king; So he sat and he thought, then he thought a bit more, Then said, „Aha, I've just the thing.

„We'll celebrate Consualia in honour of Neptune, And throw a party that will really rock; We'll invite the Sabines, pour Œem booze by the litre Get Œem pissed by eleven o'clock.

„Then, when they're shit-faced and passing right out, Hugging us and calling us „nabes, We'll attack the men and drive them from our land, Then lay claim to the Sabe Super Babes.

So that's how it happened that Rome did grow, For the Sabine women did Œem proud; Til one day in a storm by the Palatine Hill Romulus disappeared into a cloud.

It's thought the gods took him and made him their own, His career path was truly meteoric; Others say Romulus was killed by a bird For past behaviours crude and sophomoric.

A successor was appointed, Numa was his name, Domestic matters were his great passion. He appointed priests, built a temple to Janus, And brought tunics to the height of fashion.

After Numa came Tullus, then Ancus of yore, And after him, a Tuscan most clever. His name was Lucius but he called himself Tarq, (He used his full name rarely, if ever.)

Alas, Tarq was murdered by Ancus' own son, A cretin most boorish and criminal. But fancy footwork on the part of Mrs. Tarq Gave us Servius, who extended the Viminal.* *one of Rome's seven hills

Yes, Servius was marvelous, and quite civic minded; He increased the boundaries of home --- Taking in hills, including the Quirinal, Building a rampart Œround the city of Rome.

There were other accomplishments, too plentiful to list; His was a most progressive political plank. Servius arranged for the very first census, And organized Romans according to rank.

But all good things gotta come to an end, To quote Jackson Browne, if allowed. Servius was murdered by his own son-in-law, The successor, Mr. Tarquin the Proud.

(The story is grisly and details horrific, For Servius' own daughter was complicit. She rode her chariot over her father's dead body Claiming it was impossible to miss it&Mac183;.)

Thus began the reign of terror and evil; The people felt suffering and pain. Tarquin the Proud was a monster at heart, An ancient-day Saddam Hussein.

Of course, I digress for a moment or two To steer in the contemporary direction. What the Romans needed was a version of Bush To kill Tarquin and rig the election&Mac183;

At long last Tarquin was driven from town The Kingdom abolished in 507 B.C. From this point forward we've got a republic That is, Œtil the arrival of Big Julie C.

We'll do the Emperors next time, I swear For the story is complex and sublime. But it's nearly four and a wine bar beckons And I've had it with this fucking rhyme.


xx A.


© Copyright Amy Selwyn 2004