The Roman galley was approaching its home port after a successful deployment. The captain could see the crowds on the jetty waiting to welcome the ship home and he decided to show off a little and ordered maximum speed. The beat of the timing drum gradually increased tempo and the oars picked up speed.

Suddenly there was the sound of oars striking each other and the ship slewed to starboard and came to a stop. The slave master went through the rowing decks until he came to a slave slumped dead over his oar.

Two deck hands came below, unchained the dead slave, carried the body up on deck and threw it over the side.

The slave master then went through the rowing decks again lashing every slave across the back. When he returned to his position at the timing drum he shouted ‘You know what to do!”

As one man, all the galley slaves leant back and urinated into the air.

Once the ship was under way again one of the slaves asked the man he shared an oar with, ‘What was that all about?

‘Oh, it’s a tradition in the Roman Navy, every time someone leaves the ship, we have a whip round and a piss-up.”

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