At a briefing for journalists about to accompany some mercenaries into the field during one of Africa’s many bloody small wars of the Cold War era, a young reporter nervously asked, “Is there any danger of getting shot?”
“Only if your name is on the bullet” replied the briefing officer.
At that, a more seasoned reporter added loudly from the back of the room, “What worries me is the bullet that says ‘To whom it may concern’.”
"Rome has Perished!"
Coming to the imperium at the age of about 11, the Roman Emperor Honorius (r. AD 395-423) proved a remarkably dim bulb, more interested in his many pets than in running the Empire.
Honorius was particularly fond of chickens, and had one special favorite, whom he named “Roma”, after the Eternal City itself, by then no longer the capital of the Empire but still holding great prestige.
Now while Honorius was tending his chickens at Ravenna, the new capital, the Empire in the west was falling to pieces. And on Aug. 24, 410, the Visigoths under Alaric entered Rome, and commenced a surprisingly polite and orderly three-day “sack”, carting off considerable loot, but otherwise not molesting the citizenry overmuch by committing too many of the customary atrocities. Naturally, as news spread that Rome had been violated by barbarians, there were intense reactions.
St. Jerome, then in far off Bethlehem working on his translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into Latin, learned of the disaster in a letter from Principia. This good woman had written him with the news of the sack, and also brought news that their mutual friend Marcella, a pious and cultured Christian leader at Rome who was later venerated as a saint, had died of shock as a result. Jerome wrote back, "The City which had taken the whole world was itself taken."
What has this to do with Honorius and his chickens?
Well, a messenger carrying word of the city’s fate was brought into his presence at Ravenna and announced, “Rome has perished!”, whereupon the dull-witted Emperor replied, “But I was feeding her an hour ago!”
That the empire managed to survive his reign, albeit barely, was due partially to some able ministers and generals, but mostly to luck.