Funeral for a Fly
You’ve undoubtedly heard that some people have funerals for their pets. These are usually animals that have been true and loyal companions. Still, you might be surprised to hear that the brilliant Roman poet Virgil, who lived from 70 to 19 B.C., had a funeral for his pet fly.
When the triumvirate came into power in Rome, in 43 B.C., the three leaders – Augustus, Marc Antony and Lepidus – enacted a law which transferred portions of land from the rich to the poor war veterans. There were only a few exceptions. Among those parcels of land excused from the decree were cemeteries and tombs.
Virgil, on hearing that his own villa might be selected for confiscation as well, devised a plan to save his property. He arranged a funeral and burial for a fly, pretending it was a much loved pet. The burial took place as part of a lavish ceremony. The ceremony featured speeches by a number of prominent Romans, including Virgil himself, mourning the loss of the fly. The cost of this elaborate affair came to over $150,000 in today’s currency.
As a result of the ploy, after the ceremony, Virgil’s house was considered a tomb and was exempted from the provisions of the law.
Passage from: Pauk, Walter. Six-Way Paragraphs. Illinois: Jamestown Publishers, 1983.