Jimbob's Journal
by Jim Harris

Generals are the celebrities of war, with their trusty trademarks, pithy quotes and colorful anecdotes, and as such, they deserve to be chronicled by serious historians like me. I begin in ancient Rome, a city that loved war so much, it made war blush.

The Romans loved to have a good time. Orgies, carnivals and executions dotted their busy social calendar. Since they were always at war with some ragtag enemy or another, war was a popular topic for cocktail party chat. "Did we spank the Celts or what?" "Hey, they'll be setting a bunch of them on fire at the Colosseum tonight. Bacchus is emceeing. Want to go?"

Their culture was all about being strong and merciless. Their art was cold and unoriginal - mostly busts of men with no eyeballs. They weren't very intellectual, either. Their number system was limited, and used mainly to distinguish one gory Colosseum show from another (e.g., "BLOOD BOWL XII - We've got Celts!"). The Roman generals kept the Coliseum supplied with a steady flow of hapless captured schmucks and terrified animals brought back from conquered lands.

The most famous of these generals was "Plarnuvius the Befuddler," so named because of his imposing appearance and deviously deceptive battle strategies. He stood fully four feet tall (in those days, the average height was only three feet,) and wore live badgers as epaulets. In battle, he wore his helmet backwards, which he found confused his opponents, many of whom became so disoriented that they mistakenly attacked themselves. As the victories began to accumulate, he took to wearing a glove on his groin, and his shoes on the wrong feet. This caused whole regiments of enemies to run off of cliffs in utter disarray .

In the midst of battle, he would shout, "Whoa! Hold on, I lost my wallet," and when his stunned adversaries would stop for just a second, he would lop off their heads as quick as you please. Plarnuvius was idolized by the people of Rome because his win-at-any-cost philosophy typified the Roman spirit.

In spite of his popularity with the public, however, he was hated by his troops, who believed that he worked them too hard. He would often send them on marches of hundreds of miles to pick up his laundry, and during the long layovers between battles, he refused to let them learn any of the popular line dances of the day, stating that dancing was only for women and "The followers of Sisyphus."

On his thirty-seventh birthday, his men rolled out a huge cake for him, but when he cut it open, a cadre of soldiers with spears jumped out, prompting him to utter the now famous phrase, "Come on feet, don't fail me now," but before he could even work up to a good trot, he was full of more holes than a wool suit at a moth convention.

Just to make sure he was dead, the entire army then line-danced back and forth over him until there was nothing left but a tuft of hair. In accordance with Roman tradition, the tuft was buried with full military honors on the site of the rest stop that would later bear his name on the Apian Way.

Decadence, jealousy, and corruption finally destroyed the Roman juggernaut from within. That, and of course, the Vandals, who were, ironically, too dumb to fall for the wallet trick. They swept through Rome like a bad case of Montezuma's revenge, without leaving so much as a thank-you card in their wake.

Since then, a number of empires have come and gone, making America, I believe, Super Power XVII. We like to believe that we are smarter than all of those who went before us, and of course, we are. So are the Vandals.

The TV set is the new Colosseum, war is still a commonplace occurrence, and young people who wish to appear tough still wear their hats backwards in an unwitting tribute to the greatest general of the golden age of Rome. Hail Plarnuvius! Which way did he go?

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