Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hominem te memento!

Over the weekend I was reading an interview with Bono where he said something about how The Edge is always whispering in his ear, reminding him not to get too big for his boots. It reminded me of the Roman Triumph (which Bono may well have had in mind).
While he has been mocked as St. Bono, he strives not to be too single-minded. He says 'Edge is always whispering in my ear: "You're an artist. That's how you're getting away with this. If you start to behave in a correct fashion and very serious and doing a serious job, it's awful." '

When a Roman general had won a great military victory he would celebrate with a triumph- kind of like a big tickertape parade. The army would march through the city displaying all the plunder and prisoners of war they had brought back while the people lined the streets to cheer them on. The general himself would ride along in a magnificent chariot pulled by white horses. Apparently the whole spectacle was so magnificent and so overwhelming that a slave would stand behind the general, on his chariot, and whisper into his ear to remind him that he was just a human, not a god.


Here's how Tertullian describes it:


Hominem se esse etiam triumphans in illo sublimissimo curru admonetur. suggeritur enim ei a tergo, 'Respice post te! Hominem te memento!' Et utique hoc magis gaudet tanta se gloria coruscare, ut illi admonitio condicionis suae sit necessaria.

Even as he celebrates his triumph in that most exalted chariot, he is warned that he is, after all, human. For from behind him a voice whispers, 'Look behind you! Remember you are human!' And he delights all the more in this fact, that he shines with such great glory, that he needs a warning in regards to his condition.


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3 comments:

Mike Salter said...

I always thought the term was "memento mori"? Maybe the customs had changed by Tertullian's time (especially given the curtailing of triumphs for non-members of the imperial family under the empire).

And as Cicero would ask, cui Bono? ;-)

jm said...

i don't really know much about it, but i think there's a bit of uncertainty over whether it actually happened at all, let alone what was actually said. it might be just one of those stories...

and you should feel ashamed of yourself for such a terrible pun.

Sarah S said...

When we learned about this, Julia said that he would be saying 'tu es homo', which we thought was really funny.