Jeopardy! category: MAMMALS (29-10-2012)
Clue: Ancient Romans knew this animal featured in their circuses as a hippotigris
The gist: Sorry, no donkey FJ! clues except ones we’ve already talked about, so here’s the next best thing(?).
The zebra was quite logically named by the Romans after two other animals they knew – the horse (“hippus” based on the Greek word for them) and the tiger (“tigris”), obviously because they looked like horses but were striped liked tigers. The Romans were very fond of the exotic animals they found in the markets of North Africa, and would include them in spectacles like circuses and gladiatorial fights. Many African animals made there way to Rome, including ostriches, giraffes, elephants, Atlas bears, and more. At least two types of animals, the North African elephant and the Atlas bear, went extinct largely due to Roman hunger for exotic animals to kill in more more and more elaborate spectacles. The more ferocious of the animals, like lions, panthers, and hunting dogs, were also used in the practice of damnatio ad bestias, a form of capital punishment in which the condemned was either to be eaten alive by the animals or was given a weapon and expected to fight for his life – this practice is perhaps most famous for having been used against early Christians by Nero after they were blamed for the Fire of Rome in 64 CE. But the Roman people didn’t always revel in the deaths of these animals. Commodus, the last Emperor of the Antonine dynasty and the one portrayed (in a fictionalized manner) by Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator, fancied himself a mighty gladiator (as he does in the film), behaviour thought more than beneath a Roman aristocrat. He killed a huge number of animals in battle, including a giraffe – which was thought to be a particularly gentle and graceful beast, and the sight of its was reportedly quite horrifying to the spectators. Of course, they couldn’t tell the Emperor that.
The clue: The easiest way to arrive at the correct response for this one is, of course, to recognize “hippo” as horse and “tigris” as tiger, then put the two animals together in your head and come up with something that looks like a zebra. If that doesn’t work (and only one contestant got it that game), hopefully you can figure out one of them, and then you need to come up with a list of animals the ancient Romans might have known about – that is, animals from Europe, Africa, or western to central Asia. The writers probably wouldn’t be asking about Europe, since that wouldn’t be so remarkable where the Romans are concerned, so: think of as many African and Asian animals you can, and see what fits. Hopefully it clicks before time runs out!
In Jeopardy!: Our striped, equine friends appear in 74 regular clues just this one FJ! clue. Obviously, their stripes are a common theme, coming up in 30 clues. Their native continent of Africa shows up in 14. As well, three other animals with “zebra” in their names show up: the zebra butterfly (4), the zebra mussel (3), and just one about the zebra-tailed lizard. Aside from those, if it’s a clue about the end of the alphabet – obviously, keep these guys in mind.