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Roman Holiday

So I’m reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At The Earth’s Core, a lost world adventure first published in 1914, and one of the urtexts for Marvel’s Ant-Man And The Wasp Quantumania superhero movie.

It uses the phrase, Roman holiday, which I’d never encountered outside of Audrey Hepburn‘s the 1953 classic romcom movie, about a European Princess risking scandal by going on a spree in Rome with Gregory Peck‘s US reporter.

So I googled the phrase and there we are, though the protagonists of the novel are more concerned with the first definition not the second.

The phrase is credited to the poet, Byron, and in his 1818 work, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Canto the Fourth, and refers to the violent gladiatorial spectacles held by the ancient Romans on holidays.

I see before me the Gladiator lie:
He leans upon his hand—his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony,
And his drooped head sinks gradually low—
And through his side the last drops, ebbing slow
From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one,
Like the first of a thunder-shower; […]
He reck’d 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,
Butcher’d to make a Roman holiday.


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