The Perils Of Defeat

Quintili Vare, legiones redde!

The news that the All Whites have drawn a “relatively easy” pool in next year’s World Cup will be a great relief to their coach Ricki Herbert.

His relief must be similar to the relief felt by Roman proconsul Marcus Licinius Crassus in 53 BC as his legions faced the Parthian armies at Carrhae. “At least we’re not up against the Germans,” he probably thought, just before his army was cut to pieces.

Although an upset is always possible. We play the Italians in our pool. They’re the current champions. But they were also top dogs in 9 AD. That would have been little comfort to the Roman general Publius Quinctilius Varus at the battle of Teutoberg Forest, as hordes of Germanic warriors overwhelmed his legions.

Don’t lose your head

Let’s not expect too much from our coach and his players.

According to Cassius Dio, Crassus, famous for being the richest man in Rome, had molten gold poured down his throat. His head was later presented to the Parthian king.

Varus killed himself after his defeat, and his head was also presented to a king – the king of the Marcomanni, a Germanic tribe.

Around these parts we only demand heads roll when All Black coaches lose tests.

Here endeth the lesson.