The one thing people often complain about the town I live in is the lack of public art and the vandalism that take place in the few works of art that ornament an otherwise empty and dull – artistically speaking, town. One of the greatest projects undertaken over the last fifty years was the building of a statue commemorating Octavian’s victory over Antony’s and Cleopatra’s joint fleet, an event which marked the beginning of a great settlement that finally gave its place after many centuries to the little town we call home.
Reknown artist Glaucus Acacius Floruber was the person that undertook the task of offering the city a statue worthy of its glorious past. Floruber’s art is controversial and the artist has often been accused of lacking ability or being provocative just for acquiring a few crumbs of temporary fame. Of course others consider him the greatest artist ever lived and often this debate ends in bloody conflicts as in the 1992 Waga Waga massacre, when the artist’s supporters attacked a group of innocent by-standers as they thought they had heard some awful remarks about the master.
This time his artwork is a sculpture representing the city’s founding myth. Legend has it that Octavian, the first actual emperor of the Roman empire was in a very very bad place. Egyptian and rebel Roman forces were winning the sea battle of Action and the Roman wannabe emperor was already thinking of alternative plans to world domination, as stated on his memoirs, I Augustus – Ravings of an Emperor. But let’s hear it from the Emperor’s own mouth, in his much preferred third person writing:
“As he saw his cause lost, Octavian, the Emperor to be, quickly prayed silently and modestly to Neptune. All he asked was a swift death. But, if he managed to survive he would gladly offer sacrifice to the sea-god a couple of oxen. Then he thought that oxen are expensive during such hard times and a smaller offering would be a greater and more adequate gift. So he thought of sheep. Then again. Naahh! Dogs. But why kill dogs? They are cute. Mice! No, wait it’s a sea god. I Know! Tuna, no wait, that’s it! Sardines! Two sardines! Nah! Let’s splurhe! Three as heavy as the larger I will ever see, offered to you, oh marine father”
Even in the face of fatal adversity the tight-fisted Roman would not break his strict economic discipline that once made every southern European so great. Alas, we that inhabit these lands now spend everything in booze and women, as a wise man said. The bad thing about spending money on drinks and girls (or even men) is that your offspring might become (God forbid!) a Dutch minister of finance and Eurogroup president.
However, Neptune as the story goes was at first angered by Octavian’s stringiness. He even burst into tears and swore to every other god that he would sink the Roman fleet as deep as Atlantis. On the other hand, if the Egyptians prevailed Osiris, Isis and all these eastern circus would take advantage of the situation and everyone would offer sacrifices to them. It was then that Athena, whispered Neptune the solution out of this one. The sea-god, smiled, threw his wavy hair back and as Octavian was drowning, fighting for his life and a coin that fell off his pocket into the sea depths, three enormous sardines emerged from the dark green waters and lifted him on their backs. Then they started attacking the enemy fleet, sinking lots of ships and devouring every sailor unlucky enough to be on their way.
Thus, Octavian became emperor and the divine sardines were always honored in the city, even to this day, as every summer the sardine celebration takes place to commemorate the beginning of an empire. Octavian kept his promise and even included Sardinerus among his names, being called Imperator Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Octavianus Sardinerus. Of course the part of the story regarding the huge sardines isn’t true and simply represents the emperor’s political adversaries intention to reprimand his stringiness.
The artist however sculpted a marble statue representing Augustus riding two sardines as he decided to marry the third one in a religious ceremony, with his wife acting as a priest. Last month he married himself to a squirrel and animal rights organizations are currently holding an investigation about the incident after the artist’s estranged daughter revealed that Fluffy the squirrel was eaten on the same day. Faultfinders, accuse the artist of lack of originality, as Tracey Emin is already married to a rock in a ceremony that took place in a French garden. The artist’s supporters complain that she didn’t wear such a beautiful wedding gown as their beloved sculptor.
Still, the townspeople paid him for three sardine statues and the mayor demands a refund. A religious conflict is on the verge of breaking up though as the Sheikh abbot of Los Sardineros, a newly sprung religious zealots movement has demanded the artists head for blasphemy against the holy sardine.