Laugh as the Romans Laughed

Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor of the New Yorker, regularly posts a newsletter online. This week, his dispatch highlights the world’s oldest joke book: the Philogelos, or “Laughter-lover” which was written in Greek. Mary Beard, one of the most famous and prolific Classicists alive, agreed to discuss some of the jokes for his newsletter, starting with one delivered recently by a British stand-up comic:

“A few years ago, the English standup comic Jim Bowen presented a show with jokes that were based entirely on the one surviving ancient joke book, the Philogelos. It’s a collection of some two hundred and sixty short gags, written in Greek; it probably dates, in the form we have it, to the fifth century A.D., but some of the jokes go back centuries earlier. I particularly like the one about the thuggish, philistine Roman who destroyed Corinth in 146 B.C. When he was overseeing the transport of the precious antiques that he had looted from the city, he said to the ships’ captains: ‘Don’t break anything, or you’ll have to replace it.'”

Read on, at the

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *