Derry is by no means the only city in the world that ever got the "City of Culture" gong.
A lost book by ancient historian Josephus could set the world alight if it is released to the public. Archaeologists came across the script in a cave near the Dead Sea and believe it to be genuine. It describes in detail what exactly happened to Jesus Christ.
According to Josephus, Jerusalem had been granted the accolade of Roman Empire City of Culture (36 AD)... Jerusalem, the only walled city in the Middle East, marketed to tourists as part of the Empire signature plan for bringing tourists into the area.
Council Scribes, worried about ticket sales to the various events, summoned Herod Antipas to Jerusalem where it was decided that a big-gate execution would not only please the Romans but delight the Jewish mobs many of whom were tourists still hanging around after the Passover. They had money to spend and nothing to spend it on.
What was needed was a special event as the football match between the Roman Garrison and the Scribes had long since gone. The Tiberians had thrashed the Samsonians seven nil and the entire Jewish forward line had been stoned to death as a result. Something dramatic was called for to top that. Perhaps, something more than a mere execution.
Fidelis Barabbas was currently on death row and was the clear choice for the committee. His death, it was agreed, would go far towards cementing the ongoing political appeasement between the Sanhedrin and Rome. Not only would it ensure Herod's re-election as Governor of Judea but put him in line for hefty funding for continued restoration of Solomon's temple that contractors hoped would never get finished. The Turnipus Prize to be held later on in the city would serve Herod well as the platform from which to announce the wonderful success the festival had been, even though every leper in the street knew it had been a complete disaster with camel-loads of shekels gone missing. Local artists Pictori Bogsides Celebri could be prevailed upon to paint a mural in commemoration of the Turnipus once they were released from prison where they were serving three months for insulting Pharisees down at the local council.
Several Cultural Committee board members had friends and relatives in the building trade and were anxious that Herod be re-elected for that reason. On the other hand, it was argued that Barabbas was too popular with many; and his public execution would not sell as many tickets as they imagined. Grabbus Cisterces, chairman of the Cultural Committee Board, happened to be a good friend of Judas Iscariot, follower of the troublemaker Jesus Christ. Josephus takes up the story.
"Verily that same night Grabbus maketh haste to the house of Judas Isacriot. He knew how things had not gone well with Judas of late as he was married to his sister Frigida Insomnia and knew that Judas was much in debt and owed three goats and a camel to Malachai Barclay. Judas had nine children and his wife was again with child and their house had but two rooms. Grabbus explained to his brother-in-law that if they couldst get hold of Jesus with his help he would ask Herod to giveth him 300 shekels for an extension to his house and a lakeside holiday in Galilee for himself and his family. The favour would also put himself in such esteem with Herod that he had every chance of getting elected mayor of Jerusalem the following year and, in that event, he wouldst see to it that Judas was given a post in the Economic Development Department down at the council where all the big city contracts were forged.
Judas tooketh long to reply as he was with hangover from what he called the "last supper" the night before with Jesus and the other eleven. After much persuasion he giveth in and agreed to hand over his master Jesus to the Roman soldiers provided he was given a fast horse so that he could hide out in the hills until it all "blew over". "Jesus would understand," he told Grabbus. This is what led to the crucifixion of the Messiah."
The committee later met to discuss the pros and cons. Things could be arranged for two others to be crucified with Jesus, a suggestion made by board member Callus who was a crucifix manufacturer by trade. Since the peace accord of several years before the demand for crucifixes had fallen through. "I'll see Mister-Who-Does-He-Think-He-Is gets the best cross around, Lebanese cedar, deluxe model, knot-free, won't be cheap mind." It was also decided that the hill called Golgotha would be the ideal venue as more people could be assembled there with special seating built by Callus (at a reasonable commission fee) for VIPs such as the Scribes and Roman dignitaries. Space around the scene of execution could be rented out to sandwich makers, pizza vendors and wine merchants. "The two others to be crucified with the so-called Messiah are not even from around here," declared Callus. "How is that for shared space? And how pleased will that make the Romans?" Again Josephus recounts what happened:
"It was thus decreed that no time should be wasted in demonizing Jesus in the Jerusalem Journal with no 'right of reply' accorded and through various other media outlets such as the synagogues, wells, baths and brothels. "Wino", "glutton", "phoney magician who learnt all his tricks in Eqypt", "hangs around with hookers", "blasphemer", "bigot", "Roman collaborator", "greedy", "money-mad", "would steal the mites off his dead mother's eyes," "no commitment whatever to the people", and whatever else they couldst think of.
By insisting Jesus be tried as an enemy of Rome he would be taken to be judged by Pontius Pilate the Roman Prefect of Judea. In this way, Herod wouldst be sure of re-election as well as massive funding from Rome and seen by all and sundry as a righteous man for adhering to Roman law in support of a shaky peace accord.
Moreover, by Herod claiming the honour of securing Barabbas' certain release when put to a public referendum, re-election was a "nailed-on cert" and hefty wagers couldst be placed with local bookmakers before the trial even took place. "It was a decision made in heaven", said Grabbus. "The bookies had taken a bundle when top Jewish jock Ben Hur got run over in the sixth at last Wednesday's big Circus Maximus meet," he added. "It was their turn. "An eye for an eye, and a hoof for a hoof", says I.""
On the subject of what Jerusalem might have by way of "legacy" for its year as City of Culture and the millions spent on it, Callus the Pharisee explained:
"There won't be any but who will notice? I mean, who speaks about John The Baptist these days? Bastard bad-mouthed Herod all over the shop and us as well. Hadn't a good word to say about anybody that chap. Got what he deserved. End of story. This will be a torchlight affair and everybody will be so pissed anyway that it will take them a month to recover. The magician will be nailed up like a thousand other Jesuses before him and that will be that. Our legacy will be a good night our for all and our City of Culture year will be the benchmark for all other cities to aim for. It'll all blow over in a week and our boys will be back in power next year and that is all that matters. Just wait and see."