Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Roman Holiday"

Fleming gives an interesting definition of "Roman Holiday": "To this day, the highest praise that can be given an elaborate public festival is to call it a Roman holiday"  (101).  I'm not totally sure whether that was meant ironically; here is the definition from Merriam-Webster: "1 : A time of debauchery or sadistic enjoyment;  2 :  A destructive or tumultuous disturbance: RIOT".   A lot of people have commented on how the Romans seemed to enjoy blood sports, and that is where the phrase comes from.  It is derived from Canto 4, stanza 141 of Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, describing a gladiatorial fight:

He heard it, but he heeded not—his eyes
Were with his heart, and that was far away; 
He recked not of the life he lost nor prize, 
But where his rude hut by the Danube lay, 
THERE were his young barbarians all at play, 
THERE was their Dacian mother—he, their sire, 
Butchered to make a Roman holiday
 All this rushed with his blood—Shall he expire, 
And unavenged?—Arise! ye Goths, and glut your ire!

I don't really know where Fleming was coming from here, but that does not seem like high praise to me.

1 comment:

Brooke M. Hathaway said...

When I read the title your blog post I just had a total fan-girl moment. I thought of one of my all time favorite movies, "Roman Holiday" with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn circa 1953. Essentially, Audrey Hepburn plays a princess who becomes frustrated with her overly stressful and overly publicized life. Personally, I still want to be a princess, but she wants to escape from it. So anyway, she manages to run away while in Rome and is found by an American reporter (aka Gregory Peck). So he ends up showing the princess Rome and they go on this wonderful, but short-lived adventure.

All this time I thought it was titled "Roman Holiday" because she literally gets a holiday from her life while in Rome. NOW I KNOW IT'S TOTALLY A DOUBLE MEANING. Yes, they are actually in Rome, but like you said it also means "a time of debauchery or sadistic enjoyment." THIS DEFINITION ABSOLUTELY FITS THE PLOT OF THE MOVIE. This double meaning may be common knowledge, but it is absolutely news to me!