Ancient History & Civilisation

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

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

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?

Chapter 1. Introducing Roman Laughter: Dio’s “Giggle” and Gnatho’s Two Laughs

PART ONE

Chapter 2. Questions of Laughter, Ancient and Modern

Chapter 3. The History of Laughter

Chapter 4. Roman Laughter in Latin and Greek

PART TWO

Chapter 5. The Orator

Chapter 6. From Emperor to Jester

Chapter 7. Between Human and Animal—Especially Monkeys and Asses

Chapter 8. The Laughter Lover

Afterword

Texts and Abbreviations - Notes

References