History begins with a Roman gander

Try as I might, I just can’t help myself to begin by writing about anything other than ancient Rome. I mean, there are countless juicy escapades from over a thousand years to choose from; there is the Crossing of the Alps or the Crossing of the Rubicon or the cross-dressing of Emperors, all of which is truly beautiful stuff. To ease into things however, I thought: hey, people like animals, and I’m pretty sure geese are one of the most popular animals out today, so let’s cash in on that sweet goose-cred and start by writing about the scared geese of Juno and how, I think it is no understatement to say, they pretty much saved Rome and therefore all of history.

Now, in the early centuries of the Roman Republic at around 386 BCE, Rome found itself pretty much surrounded and under siege from a tribe of Gauls (the various barbaric and uncivilised French), after the Romans had, trying to remain neutral arbitrators in a negotiation over land rights, killed a Gallic chieftain. Anyway, the city of Rome itself was then overrun and the remaining Roman soldiers holed themselves up on one of Rome’s seven famous hills, the Capitoline Hill. After several unsuccessful months of sieging, the Gauls finally decided on a sneaky little night-time assault and silently climbed the cliff of the Capitoline to at last seize the final remains of that sweet Roman booty. Silently scrambling past watchdogs and soldiers, the Gauls began climbing over the last rampart when they ran into a pack of irate sacred geese. These sacred geese live in the temple of Juno and were already pretty angry because they hadn’t been fed in a while, what with all the sieging that was going on, did not like these Gauls on their sacred turf. These brave geese charged honking and yelling, and take it from someone who has once been cornered by a goose, it is harrowing stuff. All the goose-activity woke up Roman soldier Marcus Manlius and his garrison, who were able to drive off the Gauls, with the assistance of the valiant counter attack by Juno’s hero-geese.

While the Gallic sack of Rome may have resulted in the destruction of most of the city, its priceless documents and artefacts, and ended only when Rome finally paid gold for the Gauls leave them alone, we did get a battalion of B. A. geese who took a stand taking no shit from no one.

If you gain anything from this incident, apart from why geese are an apex predator, take that even the humblest person or animal, from a human baby to some sort of manatee I’m sure, can make a difference and change the course of (Roman) history.

You go, geese!


Livy, History of Rome, translated Rev. Canon Roberts, Acheron Press.

Plutarch, Roman Questions, Loeb Classical Library edition 1936.

Plutarch, Life of Camillus, Loeb Classical Library edition 1914.


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