• Classic Gags Discovered in Ancient Roman Joke Book

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    may admire the satires of Horace and Lucilius, but the ancient Romans
    haven’t hitherto been thought of as masters of the one-liner. This
    could be about to change, however, after the discovery of a classical
    joke book.

    classics professor Mary Beard has brought to light a volume more
    than 1,600 years old, which she says shows the Romans not to be
    the "pompous, bridge-building toga wearers" they’re often
    seen as, but rather a race ready to laugh at themselves.

    Written in
    Greek, Philogelos, or The Laughter Lover, dates to
    the third or fourth century AD, and contains some 260 jokes which
    Beard said are "very similar" to the jokes we have today,
    although peopled with different stereotypes – the "egghead",
    or absent-minded professor, is a particular figure of fun, along
    with the eunuch, and people with hernias or bad breath.

    also poking fun at certain types of foreigners – people from
    Abdera, a city in Thrace, were very, very stupid, almost as stupid
    as [they thought] eggheads [were]," said Beard.

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    14, 2009

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