"I don't know whether Appius Claudius was a greater affront to religion or his country, seeing that he neglected the time honoured practices of the former, and lost a fine fleet of the latter."
- Valerius Maximus, De Viris Illustribus 8.1.16

Roman general of the Claudii family who died in 265 B.C., and the first in the family to be given the cognomen Pulcher, which translates to handsome. He commanded (handsomely, I am sure) the Roman fleet in the First Punic War, but was defeated by the Carthaginians at the Battle of Drepana.

When the Roman fleet went off to war, they often brought sacred chickens with them. These were no ordinary chickens; their feeding habits were said to conceal divine messages. Basically, the Romans would pull Henrietta out of her cage, throw down a seed cake, and watch intently to see just how she went about pecking at it. Anyway, it's the morning of the battle, and Pulcher is going through the motions but the chickens aren't eating. This, as it happens, is the worst omen in the book. Things for Pulcher were already looking grim and he isn't too thrilled to tell his men even the Gods think the situation is well beyond the definition of fucked, so he comes up with another solution. With a hearty Bibant, quoniam esse nolunt! (If they don't want to eat, let them drink!), he heaves the chickens overboard. Of course, he lost the battle, and was even exiled from Rome for sacrilege upon his return. He probably would have lost anyway, but these days he's almost exclusively remembered as the guy who got his ass kicked because he fucked with the sacred chickens.

It's not entirely clear how he died, though it's considered to probably have been a suicide.

Suetonius, Valerius Maximus and Cicero all relate the anecdote about the chickens, and he gets a brief (but amusing) mention in the first chapter of I, Claudius as one of the eponymous narrator's ancestors.

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