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Emperor Augustus and talking ravens

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)


When Augustus returned to Rome after the victory over Antony at Actium (31 BCE), a man with a raven was among those people who were greeting him. The bird greeted Octavian with the words: “Hail Caesar, the victorious commander”. August bought a bird for twenty thousand sesterces. Then the acquaintance of this man, caused by envy, reported that he had another bird.

When the second raven was brought, he exclaimed: “Hello Antony, the victorious commander”. Augustus bought this bird as well. The whole thing prompted a shoemaker to teach Caesar’s greeting to the bird. Lessons went hard, and the shoemaker repeated: “Nothing to show for the trouble and expense”.

When the raven finally began to deliver the learned sentence, the shoemaker stood before August, but he said: “I get enough of such greetings at home”. Then the raven screeched: “Nothing to show for the trouble and expense”. Amused Augustus paid more for the bird than for all previous ones.

The story can be real. We know that the ancient Romans successfully taught the parrot to pronounce the words: “Praise Caesar!”.

  • Macrobius, Saturnalia II, 4 29-30

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