So much attention is now being paid to tracing our lineages through DNA. Ancestry.com even offers deals on DNA testing. In the spirit of this new trend in extending our extended families, I would like to offer some glimpses into my family tree. The rest of my family might not agree with any of this, but I’m the one who is a writer and I get to write what I want.
Did I ever tell you how my ancestor Ikh the Ignoble of Lower Mesopotamia invented the wheel? Back then everyone pulled carts and other vehicles on triangle-shaped pieces of rock. This was great for keeping vehicles from rolling, but a pain in the ass when you wanted to actually move. Ikh was sitting out on his front rock one day watching his neighbors harness themselves along with their donkey and pull and grunt and fall down and curse the gods, etc. And this was just to go to the corner for beer! When he saw them on their way back, pulling and grunting and falling down and cursing the gods some more, this time with a load of beer in their cart, he yelled, “Hey, you assholes! Why don’t you turn those big triangles into circles, cut spokes into them, put them on poles and THEN attach them to the bottom of that cart, you shit for brains! And give me a beer!” Ikh was almost 7 feet tall and he worked out, so nobody was going to try to beat him up because of his big mouth. Instead, they stole his idea, marketed it and became rich. The rest is prehistory.
My distant cousin Caecilia Pectoris was either one of the prostitutes painted on the walls of the brothels of Pompeii or just an exhibitionist, but I don’t know which.* The family doesn’t talk about that puttana.
Caecilia’s brother Caecilius was a famous gladiator. (The Romans recycled names a lot.) Caecilius was the only gladiator in Roman history who never won a fight but never got killed. That was because he would tell jokes during his fights. He would save one punch line for the inevitable moment when he was about to be skewered. The audience would let him live because if he was killed they would never hear the end of the joke. He retired from the arena and became a standup comedian under the name Caeci the Gladiator Guy.
Warning: This is just a start. My head … er, family history has been full of colorful characters. Stay tuned.
*”Habere experientia mirabilia, Caecilia visitabo” (tr. “For a great time, see Caecilia”) was found scribbled on bathhouse walls all over Pompeii, Naples and a few other towns. Caecilia got around.