© Keith Waddington 1988

The Rise and Fall of the Roman Umpire

The Roman Umpire was the man whose job it was to see that fair play was maintained between two apposing armies. His rise in importance followed closely that of the Roman Community, which spread all over the world like a herd of locusts.

During the early years Roman soldiers were not quite sure with whom they were supposed to fight, and so, in order to feel they were at least doing something, they set about killing one another. They were really a very strange lot:

1st Roman Soldier: What's wrong with you, Jack?

2nd Roman Soldier: I don't know. I've got a headache, my nose is blocked, and I keep sneezing. I think I could have a cold.

1st Roman Soldier: Well if you ask me it sounds like a broken leg.

2nd Roman soldier: Really? How does a broken leg sound?

1st Roman Soldier: Like this, (and he promptly snapped Jack's left shin).

As you can see, they were a violent bunch. In fact the only time they were not violent was when they were dead, which turned out to be quite often.

The armies of the Empire were a well disciplined if slightly unorthodox group. One reason for their success was the policy of invading by night, when the enemy slept. For lengthy invasion a few select soldiers would sneak into the prospective country, under the cover of darkness, and darkness, and reset all the alarm clocks, thereby giving the Romans several extra hours to complete their manoeuvres. This was known as the "Tick Tock, Dickery Dock" plan.

A Mr. Hocus Poculus, named after his father, Strikus Nottus, was the very last of the Roman Umpires, and the apex of his career came with the invasion of England. It was the ultimate test of his abilities to maintain law, order, and good sportsmanship on the battlefield. Keeping the fighting clean proved almost impossible though, since the terrain in England was extremely muddy at that time.

The savage-like barbarians of England refused all requests to be conquered quietly. During one week Hocus suffered four nervous break-downs, and repair jobs were very very expensive.

"Shall we ever overcome these damnable islanders?" He asked himself one day, and the peculiar thing is, he got a reply.

"No, never," it said.

The encampment was just outside the hamlet of Dover, and apart from the Sealink ferries crossing back and fifth over the channel, all was quite. It was a dark overcast day, even the white cliffs were grey. The sky threatened rain, and soon it began to spit down from the clouds. The noise of it beating upon Hocus' tent was like that of a dozen snare drums playing out of time. Then, suddenly, the General Markus Correctus came through the entrance playing a dozen snare drums out of time.

"This damn country. Will the rain never stop?"

"I think not," Hocus replied. "I was to umpire an extremely important battle this very

afternoon, but I fear rain will stop play."

"We should abandon the whole campaign, if you ask me."

"I'm not."


"Tell me, Markus: Were you drowned at birth or do you just look like that?"


"Yes what?"

"Yes sir."

"Excellent. Now be a good fellow and commit suicide."

"But I don't know how."

"Then I'll show you," and taking a sword he stabbed Markus through the lung." With his last breath Markus said, "But that wasn't suicide, that was murder."

"Oh, so it was," the Umpire murmured. "I do feel such a fool." Meanwhile, Markus Correctus was dead.

The pressure became too much for Hocus, and he began to think he was a well bred Alsation dog. Many of the troops agreed, and complimented him on the glossiness of his coat. The decline of the Roman Umpire had begun. Many a day he could be seen playing with the soldiers: they would throw sticks and he would retrieve them. They began to teach him tricks: "Sit," they would say, and he would promptly chase his tail. "Chase your tail," they would say, and he would sit. Most of the men considered the training a mild success. Meanwhile:

Meanwhile, back in Rome, the decline there had also begun:

Knock knock.

"There's someone at the door, darling."

"Yes I'll go see, darling," and he went.

"Who are you?" A strange man with pipes was what he found.

"I'm the plumber. Who are you?"

"I'm Odoacer the Last, son of one of Attiler's ministersthough which one I am unsureand Emperor of Rome."


"Howdy-doody. Come on in." In they went. "This is my wife, Cleopatra."


"Howdy-doody." At that moment another member of the female persuasion entered.

"And this is my mistress, Milidia."


"Howdy-doody." At that moment another person of the fairer sex entered.

"And this is my mistress' mistress, Easy-Lil."



"Now what does a plumber want in the home of the Emperor of Rome?"

"I've come to plumb."

"Then go ahead."

"I'm shy. Can you all turn away?"


"Thank you."

"Don't mention it." The plumber began to do his stuff, tut-tutting as he worked.

"I don't know, the plumbing in this town is going from bad to worse. Every day I'm called out, and every day I see the same old problem."

"What is it?" The Emperor asked.

"The system is being completely over loaded. It can't take the strain. There is just too much shit in this town."

"My sentiments exactly."

"Emperor, things are more serious than you think. Why, between you and me, I believe disaster is just around the corner. The breakdown of the sewage system could cause the ultimate downfall of our great empire."

Those fateful words echoed through the halls of the Emperor's palace, and within one week the plumber's prophesy was realised. As excrement began to pour into the streets, like a wave of destructive larva, the emperor knew the end was imminent.

"I think it's time to abdicate," he was heard to say.

It has previously been believed that the Roman Empire came to an end in 476, but as this small detail would ruin the format of this book, we have decided to accord with the theory professed by the cleaning lady of the world-renowned Historian Inma Opinion, which states simply: The Roman Empire ended a long time ago.

Meanwhile, back in England, the Roman Umpire began biting everyone that came near him. He was an Alsation gone to the dogs. With regret the commanding officer had no choice but to order that he be put down.