Tuesday, March 10, 2009


There are lots of posters up hereabouts advertising the impending opening of a new sports shop. "G&H Sports (or whatever the fuck it's called) will be opened next Saturday by Wolf, from the Gladiators," says the legend. This is accompanied by a picture of said Wolf - obviously from his demeanour, a friend of many members of the Cabinet - attempting to look dead hard while simultaneously rippling his muscles.

I suppose this practice dates back to Roman times. In those days, fledgling Roman sports shops would no doubt try to drum up business by painting hundreds of murals and assembling mosaics throughout town, announcing, "Next Wednesday, Quintus Julius Varo's Sports and Leisure Toga Emporium will be opened by Marcus Quirinius, from the gladiators."

Unfortunately for the Ancient Romans, such advertising was, financially speaking, a somewhat riskier business than today's. This is because, unlike Wolf, who will most probably survive until next week, there was every possibility that, betwixt the posting of the advertising and the opening, Marcus Quirinius would get killed in the arena. In which case it would then be necessary to repaint all the murals and reassemble all the mosaics with the name of new, replacement gladiator. Which would take quite some time, and probably delay the opening of the shop. And, of course, if the replacement gladiator then went and got himself killed, they had to start all over again.

The situation must have been even worse for larger organizations. For example, if a company were to embark on an Empire-wide, multi-million denarii advertising campaign for, say, its new range of chariots, endorsed by a gladiator who managed to get himself hacked to death before even the first chariot had rolled off the production line, it would most likely bankrupt the company.

I suppose this is the reason why - whereas when you wander through London today you see lots of shops declaring "Established 1868" or "Founded in 1792" - you never see any that say, "Founded during the Consulship of Marcus Crassus." The advertising spend simply wiped them out.


Anonymous said...

I recall one funny one over a porn shop. "Purveyors of fine smut since 1998".

Joe Slavko said...

What sort of smut did they purvey before 1998?