Pompeii could have been saved from the magma waves if the authorities had done more to protect its buildings than stack piles of surplus slaves up in front of the doors, local residents claimed yesterday.
“I’ve been on at the council for years to do something about that bloody volcano,” said Quintus Stainsensis as he stared at the charred remains of his house – Volcano View Villa, Volcano Avenue, you know, the road cut in to the slopes of the Volcano, first on the left next to where gas has poured out of the hillside continuously for years. “All they did was mumble about eruptions being acts of the gods. Gods, my arse, they’re just too tight-fisted to use the two denarii I paid them in tax last year to fund the biggest civil engineering project the world has ever seen, redirecting all future superheated lava far away from my house forever using pipes made of gold. Bastards.”
“We acknowledge that the previous emperor delivered a chronic under-investment in lava defence infrastructure,” said a spokesman for the emperor. ”We can, however, confirm that this emperor will personally guarantee your protection against future seismic activity of the proto-basaltic kind, provided you are rich, have a nice house, and promise to vote for him – whatever vote means.”
Residents of Herculaneum were equally appalled at the failure of the state to morph from parasitic redistributor of wealth to the feckless poor from the deserving rich, to an agency possessing supra-natural powers over wind, waves and molten rock at no extra cost.
“It was like something out of a disaster pageant you see at the Circus Maximus,” said Candida Vota Toriensis. “Sure, I know thousands have died in the hypercaustic blast and everything, but how am I going to get the ash out of my triclinium?”
“Romans can be assured we are investing heavily in long term disaster forecasting,” said an imperial soothsayer, “and to that end have procured several thousand animals for entrails examinations. The bull’s testicles I’ve just cut up show something odd – let me see – a man called Pickles heading to Berkshire on his knees with a giant drinking straw? Where’s that? What’s a drinking straw? Bloody offal must be faulty.”