§374 Jesus Mocks a Gladiator

Jesus Mocks a Gladiator

(0374) Text: Edictum M(arci) Ati Primi | Si qui(s) Muria(m) | bonam volet | Petat a L(ucio) Asicio | […]bus mus[…] | Scito muriola es | Jesus

Translation: Notice from Marcus Atius Primus: If anyone needs good brine ask Lucius Asicius. Jesus.

Provenience: Pompeii, Italia 70-79 CE

Commentary: Though not explicit, it is widely recognized that there is a play on words here: Luscius Asicius is a murmillo-style gladiator, though Jesus deems him a mere fish (muriam); many have noted that fish often appeared on the helmets of murmillo gladiators. Likewise, Curtis notes that this seems to evoke the Latin chant of the retiarius – a common opponent of the murmillo: retiario pugnanti adversus mirmillonem, cantatur: non te peto. piscem peto; quid me fugis, Galle? (Festus De verb. sign. 285M). Jesus, likely a lower-class Jewish man who arrived in Pompeii after the destruction of Jerusalem, mocks him. While not strictly military, the inscription is interesting for the casual participation in state violence of another type.

Bibliography: CIL 4.4287; Robert I. Curtis, “A Slur on Lucius Asicius, the Pompeian Gladiator,” Transactions of the American Philological Association 110 (1980) 51-61; Samuel Rocca, “A Jewish Gladiator in Pompeii,”  Materia giudaica 11 (2006) 296-297*.