A Daily Mail photographer gets reverse-papped on Jesus Green in 2017Caitlin Smith

Picture the scene: Caesarian Sunday, May 5th, 2001. The Girton Green Monsters and Jesus Caesarians prepare for war. The Monsters’ upper hand must have seemed insurmountable, with their “superior numbers and pincer movement tactics”. But heroes such as “Michael ‘I drink my own cum’ Phillips” proved that battles are not won on paper. Jesus’s “raw spirit” was of Spartan inspiration, ending the bout as a dead-draw before a “reconciling Pimm’s session”.

After the first-years were made to swim in the Cam, Hugh Collins described his experience in the river as “fucking cold”, but still thoroughly enjoyed his day. In all honesty, going through the Varsity archives after the C-Sunday of 2023 made me feel a bit jealous: our modern incarnations are more musicless Reading Festival than Thermopylae.

The Daily Mail had prepared me for countless stories of hedonism”

Caesarian Sunday has become stuff of Cambridge legend, held each year by arcane computus on the Sunday before the first Monday of May. The tradition is said to have begun over 80 years ago, and the battle with the Girton Green Monsters lasted until it was eventually banned in 2014.

While its exact date of inception is lost, Varsity reported in 2009 that the brawl began because the Green Monsters stole a bottle of Pimms from the Caesarians and promptly lobbed it at them. No mention is made of the fact that an all-male drinking society seems somewhat anachronistic in 1930s Girton College. Nevertheless, the event was obviously more-than-reasonable grounds for decades of hand-to-hand combat.

By 2016 this combat was two-years-gone, but the battle scars of previous Sundays seem inconsequential in comparison to those of the fresher who was “accidentally set on fire” that year. It was the result of an initiation ceremony for a drinking society where a first-year from Sidney Sussex dressed up as a sheep. The unfortunate consequence of this admirable commitment to sheep-chic, however, was an embarrassing trip to Addenbrooke’s when his outfit set ablaze.

He was not the only casualty, as Varsity tells us that “two other students were also injured when they attempted to pull the cotton wool off him”. More heroes to add to the C-Sunday legacy.

“The unanimous conclusion was that it doesn’t really live up to the tabloid hype”

The Daily Mail had prepared me for countless stories of hedonism, but articles are much more likely to meditate on this kind of reporting itself. In 2013 Varsity commented that “annual coverage of Caesarian Sunday is laughably similar every year”, and, with cameramen stalking around Jesus Green like vultures once again this past weekend, it seems like little has changed.

Most of the pieces I did find were these kinds of commentaries on the concept of the large scale drinking event, and the most unanimous and enthusiastic conclusion was that it doesn’t really live up to the tabloid hype. What was most interesting to me of the stories we did have, however, wasn’t the military history, arson, or tales of vice, but the way in which reporters wrote about their exploits.

The 2001 edition of Varsity that I used for the opening is very aware that the events of the day really amounted to seeing “60 people dress in togas, gather on Jesus Green and roll around for ten minutes”, yet it cannot resist staging a battle of epic proportions. Pride flows through the closing sentence, which reports that: “The final score stood at one police warning, two hospitalisations, eight vomitings, 14 passing outs and many hangovers.”

“Ultimately, Caesarian Sunday will continue to be merely an excuse to day drink”

What was most amusing to me though about this particular story was something that sat quite innocently outside the main body of writing. I paid special attention to Michael “I drink my own cum” Phillips in my opening paragraph because of his silly name, but I slightly lowered my estimation of his battle-induced fame when I discovered that one of the compilers of the story was Michael himself.

While I would be hesitant to admit that I ingest my own seminal fluid before the readers of Varsity, I can also understand why you’d choose to broadcast your own nickname. It turns yourself from a regular student like Michael Phillips into a part of Caesarian Sunday legacy. While his particular name does make him sound a bit like an auto-erotic darts player, having a personal, unique nickname means that you are recognised by your community, and therefore that you belong.


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The same mechanism pervades Cambridge’s process of naming. While I roll my eyes at Cambridge’s strange terms for “bops”, “blues” and “butteries” as I tell friends from home about what Cambridge is like, there is a repressed sense of pride that I’m a part of the eccentric customs. It’s difficult to resist the allure of being in the know, privy to the special names of things that others simply aren’t.

Ultimately, Caesarian Sunday will continue to be merely an excuse to day drink, act recklessly, and colour Jesus Green with your own particular shade of puke-yellow. But it is the way we invent these legends and nicknames, report on the events, and tell each other stories of what happened that transforms a frankly unremarkable day into the memorable tradition which it has become.