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

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Univ of California Press, Jun 25, 2014 - History - 319 pages
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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?

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User Review  - barlow304 - LibraryThing

This book is an expansion of Mary Beard’s Sather Lectures at Berkeley in 2008. The first section of the book discusses the knowability and comprehensibility of modern people understanding ancient ... Read full review


Questions of Laughter Ancient and Modern
The History of Laughter
Roman Laughter in Latin and Greek
The Orator
From Emperor to Jester
Between Human and AnimalEspecially Monkeys
The Laughter Lover
Texts and Abbreviations
List of Illustrations and Credits

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About the author (2014)

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

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