Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up

Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up

by Mary Beard

Paperback(First Edition)

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What made the Romans laugh? Was ancient Rome a carnival, filled with practical jokes and hearty chuckles? Or was it a carefully regulated culture in which the uncontrollable excess of laughter was a force to fear—a world of wit, irony, and knowing smiles? How did Romans make sense of laughter? What role did it play in the world of the law courts, the imperial palace, or the spectacles of the arena?

Laughter in Ancient Rome explores one of the most intriguing, but also trickiest, of historical subjects. Drawing on a wide range of Roman writing—from essays on rhetoric to a surviving Roman joke book—Mary Beard tracks down the giggles, smirks, and guffaws of the ancient Romans themselves. From ancient “monkey business” to the role of a chuckle in a culture of tyranny, she explores Roman humor from the hilarious, to the momentous, to the surprising.  But she also reflects on even bigger historical questions. What kind of history of laughter can we possibly tell? Can we ever really “get” the Romans’ jokes?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520287587
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 09/15/2015
Series: Sather Classical Lectures , #71
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 762,728
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Mary Beard is Professor of Classics at Cambridge University. Her many books include The Roman Triumph and The Fires of Vesuvius.

Table of Contents


Introducing Roman Laughter: Dio’s “Giggle” and Gnatho’s Two Laughs


2. Questions of Laughter, Ancient and Modern

3. The History of Laughter

4. Roman Laughter in Latin and Greek


5. The Orator

6. From Emperor to Jester

7. Between Human and Animal—Especially Monkeys and Asses

8. The Laughter Lover



Texts and Abbreviations



List of Illustrations and Credits


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Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
oldmanPB More than 1 year ago
have gotten thru 60 pages. wrote mary beard told her no laughter yet. she says i should have more carefully read the reviews. this is a book only a mother could love. this is a book for the very few and i did not fit in! p. bloomberg old man glendale, caliofornia