Have Rope, Will Travel?

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There's no point having a death penalty if you don't have an executioner. But in a country as small as the Southern African kingdom of Swaziland, there's not enough work to justify a full-time hangman, so the government has advertised for a freelancer. The response has been impressive -- at least 200 applicants, from as far afield as Canada and Japan. The most interest, though, has been in South Africa, where the abolition of the death penalty in 1994 left a number of hangmen twiddling their thumbs. While the want ad's stipulation that the successful candidate must be strong and brave may be pretty common in the profession, a third requirement could help narrow down the field -- Swaziland insists that its part-time executioner must be in possession of a "classical education." A little Homer always raises the tone of a hanging.