What I mean is that in the movie Life of Brian by Monty Python, the Romans would release all the criminals/terrorists from the prison and get them into the massive amphitheatre. They would then get the prisoners to pick up a big white cross (the one that Jesus supposedly was crucified on) and then formed up in three files of who know how many people. After this the Romans got the prisoners to march forward (as each prisoner had a white crucifixion cross on their shoulder) out of Jerusalem and out in the desert.

If a prisoner staggered or gasped for help, an innocent person tried to help the prisoner to carry them but the prisoner ran off leaving an innocent to the ranks. These innocents were then growled at the Romans to keep moving despite being an innocent and trying to explain what happened but forced on.

This practice I find barbaric but the movie I find hilarious. Can someone provide me a reason for this?

  • The practice certainly is in line with the reasoning behind the practice of decimation in the Roman Army.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 3:14
  • 10
    It's a comedy, not a documentary.
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 9:17
  • 2
    And satirical farce, at that. Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 14:20

3 Answers 3


The innocent man takes the cross from the prisoner, who then escapes. The roman soldier has no way of knowing that the innocent man isn't the prisoner. To his mind, he is instructing the prisoner to continue walking.

If you saw a man running down the street in a prisoner's uniform, would you not expect him to be an (escaped) prisoner? If you're standing next to other recruits in a military boot camp wearing the same attire, would people not expect you to be a recruit too?

It's a comedy movie. The joke here is that an innocent man unintentionally ends up taking the place for a prisoner, because he chose to take pity on him and help carry his load (crucifix).


This is a multi-tiered scene. The first and most obvious level is the overt joke that the Roman guard is too indifferent or stupid to realize what happened. This is the humor in the scene.

The deeper significance is related to the underlying theme of the movie that is generally making fun of religion and more specifically Christianity. Christians believe that Jesus was a man without fault or sin who was crucified by the Romans. They also believe that Jesus was sent to Earth to help mankind. If you look at that scene you see an innocent man try to help someone who is mistaken for a criminal and subsequently crucified. As you can see this is one more reference to Jesus in an oblique way. Another interpretation would be the "Substitution theory" held by some, including some Muslims that someone else died on the cross for Jesus. As such this substitution you see in the movie is a reflection of that. Either way the Symbology in the scene is about Jesus.


Because this movie is very silly and humourous. The innocent trying to help is (not) obvious (not) reference to story of JC (John Cleese) our saviour. It was Simon from Cyrene that helped JC (John Cleese) to carry the cross.

The joke is in the fact that the only way to identify a criminal was that he was carrying a cross. So a criminal use first opportunity to not be crucified. And it's expects form a person to save his life.

Thus making a fun of JC (John Cleese) as being not very bright to not use this opportunity.

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