Have you read Natalie Haynes’s book Ancient Guide to Modern Life? I recommend it. It (and her talk at the Heffers Classics Festival) inspired me to imagine what some of my favourite individuals from antiquity might be doing now if they’d never died, and all ended up living and working in modern Britain.
1. Aristophanes – now working for Private Eye. Makes the occasional appearance on Have I Got News for You, alongside Paul Merton. Steals the show. Avoids getting sued for libel by celebrities owing to the fact that what he writes isn’t provably untrue. Also writing for sketch show lampooning politicians. His skit on Boris Johnson ensured that Boris has no future politically.
2. Boudica – just released from a Russian jail following Greenpeace activities. No longer doing interviews with the press, because she’s fed up with their focus on her hair, clothes, make-up etc. Writes regular column for the Guardian.
3. Cicero – outspoken former Foreign Secretary, causing problems for the Prime Minister of the day from the back benches. Wrote a sensational autobiography. Pops up regularly on the Today programme to outsmart John Humphrys.
4. Domitian – suspicions abound that he is still alive. Last seen in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot. Sketchy reports in the newspapers claimed that he got on an aeroplane bound for South America. Guy who works in the newsagent reckons he lives down at number 22.
5. Euripides – now a major screenwriter. Recent Hollywood blockbuster has made him a millionaire, although he is accused of selling out. For many years he wrote the scripts for Doctor Who and Eastenders. Massive following on Twitter.
6. Florus – still has a name beginning with F, unlike most other Classical figures… Not doing much, though. Turns out he wasn’t very good.
7. Galen – was awarded the Nobel prize for medicine for his work on eliminating rabbit pox. Shortly afterwards, gave up his medical career to become a stand-up comedian. Now appearing regularly on QI and turned down offer from Blair to be the Wellness Czar.
8. Herodotus – after stints as the Astronomer General and British Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea, he did a long-running radio programme looking at the history and geography of Suriname. Now in charge of Herodotus Travels, the popular alternative to the Rough Guide and Lonely Planet.
9. Imhotep – received plaudits and prizes for design of the tallest building in the world, the Oitsbig tower in Cairo.
10. Julius Caesar – became the only Field Marshal of the British Army to write a best-seller about his exploits in Iraq and Afghanistan, entitled “The immortal deeds of the mighty Julius Caesar and his glorious exploits in some foreign place or other.”
11. Kuros the Great – presided over the ultimately unsuccessful Middle East Talks, after acting as British Envoy to Jerusalem for many years.
12. Lucretius – presents a popular BBC2 programme with Brian Cox entitled “ATOMIC” in which both compose and perform poetry about how amazing the universe is.
13. Martial – after spells in prison following unguarded tweets and a protracted libel case, he is writing a popular comic book, which is banned in fifty countries and half of the United States.
14. Nero – now London Chief Fire Officer, after much-vaunted TV appearances on Gladiators, Celebrity Come Dine With Me, Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes (as Pavarotti), Celebrity Dressage Challenge and Strictly.
15. Ovid – after resigning as editor of the Sunday Sport, he wrote extensively for Loaded and Nuts magazines, before becoming a talk radio presenter and finally Lib Dem councillor for Basildon.
16. Plato – Wrote a series of programmes for BBC4, before denouncing all television as an ultimately imperfect instantiation, and as being “at third remove from the truth”. Now living in a cave.
17. Quintilian – became a sports psychologist, and now trains the England football team in how to deal with the media.
18. Romulus – serving life in prison following conviction for murder of his nephew after founding the city of Milton Keynes. Wrote his memoirs, “Living with Wolves”.
19. Suetonius – chief headline writer for The Sun.
20. Tacitus – chief headline writer for The Times.
21. Vergil – wrote a sprawling epic poem about David Cameron’s rise to power, entitled “The Coalition”, in which it is suggested that Cameron is directly descended from Odysseus.
22. Xenophon – also wrote some influential programmes for BBC4, before writing the history of the Cod War.
23. Zeno of Citium – after announcing that a rational society would have no need for laws, he became a High Court Judge.