View Full Version : Jokes from Ancient Times

27 Jan 06,, 08:41
:redface: :) :biggrin: :eek: :eek:

Philogelos (The Laughter Lover) is a collection of some 265 jokes[1], likely made in the fourth or fifth century CE. Some manuscripts give the names of the compilers as the otherwise-unknown Hierocles and Philagrios. Other manuscripts drop the name of one or other or both.

Although The Laugher Lover is the oldest surviving example, joke-books already had a long pedigree. According to Athenaeus 614d-e, Philip the Great of Macedon had paid handsomely for a social club in Athens to write down its members' witticisms. At the dawn of the second century BCE, Plautus twice has a character refer to joke-books (Persa 392; Stichus 400).

Modern scholars such as Rapp and Baldwin have noted how women are infrequent targets of the humor - earning, in fact, attack under only one category of their own, "Horny Women", a category containing just two jokes. Yet one may wonder, for instance, whether the jokes under "Misogynistic Men" have as their primary target the female sex rather than the men who hate them. Baldwin also remarks on the virtual absence of homosexual themes in the collection.

I have included in this selection all jokes in which women are mentioned or appear as characters. Also included are jokes that seemed particularly relevant for gender studies. I follow the Greek text edited by R.D. Dawe (Bibliotheca Teubneriana, 2000). All the headings, except the last one ("Miscellaneous"), have some manuscript warrant. I decided to translate the alternate versions of the same joke to underscore the fact that these jokes represent primarily an oral rather than a written tradition; the humor lies in the conceit and not in a canonical text.

#27. An intellectual, falling sick, had promised to pay the doctor if he recovered. When his wife nagged at him for drinking wine while he had a fever, he said: "Do you want me to get healthy and be forced to pay the doctor?"

#43. When an intellectual was told by someone, "Your beard is now coming in," he went to the rear-entrance and waited for it. Another intellectual asked what he was doing. Once he heard the whole story, he said: "I'm not surprised that people say we lack common sense. How do you know that it's not coming in by the other gate?"[2]

#45. An intellectual during the night ravished his grandmother and for this got a beating from his father. He complained: "You've been mounting my mother for a long time, without suffering any consequences from me. And now you're mad that you found me screwing your mother for the first time ever!"

#51A. An intellectual caught sight of a deep well on his country-estate, and asked if the water was any good. The farmhands assured him that it was good, and that his own parents used to drink from that well. The intellectual expressed his amazement: "How long were their necks, if they could drink from something so deep!"
#51B. An intellectual visiting his country-estate asked if the water in a well there was good to drink. He was told that it was good, and that his own parents used to drink from the well. The intellectual was amazed: "How long were their necks, that they could drink from something so deep!"

#53. An intellectual was eating dinner with his father. On the table was a large lettuce with many succulent shoots. The intellectual suggested: "Father, you eat the children; I'll take mother."[3]

#57. An intellectual got a slave pregnant. At the birth, his father suggested that the child be killed. The intellectual replied: "First murder your own children and then tell me to kill mine."[4]

#64. An intellectual bought a pair of pants. But he could hardly put them on because they were too tight. So he got rid of the hair around his legs.[5]

#69. An intellectual checked in on the parents of a dead classmate. The father was wailing: "O son, you have left me a cripple!" The mother was crying: "O son, you have taken the light from my eyes!" Later, the intellectual suggested to his friends: "If he were guilty of all that, he should have been cremated while still alive."

#70. An intellectual came to check in on a friend who was seriously ill. When the man's wife said that he had 'departed', the intellectual replied: "When he arrives back, will you tell him that I stopped by?"

#72. An intellectual had been at a wedding-reception. As he was leaving, he said: "I pray that you two keep getting married so well."

#73. The same intellectual said that the tomb of Scribonia was handsome and lavish, but that it had been built on an unhealthy site.[6]

#97. Upon the death of his wife, an intellectual was out shopping for a coffin and got into a big fight over the price. When the salesman swore that he couldn't sell it for less than fifty thousand, the intellectual said: "Since you're under an oath, here's the fifty thousand. But throw in for free a small casket, in case I need it for my son."

#98. A friend met an intellectual, and said: "Congratulations! You've got a baby boy!" The intellectual replied: "Thanks to buddies like you!"[7]

Men on the Make
#106. A professional beggar had been letting his girlfriend think that he was rich and of noble birth. Once, when he was getting a handout at the neighbor's house, he suddenly saw her. He turned around and said: "Have my dinner-clothes sent here."

#107. There was another man, just like the last one - a big talker, but in fact impoverished. By chance he got sick, and his girlfriend, coming into his place without warning, found him lying on a humble mat made of reeds. Turning over, he claimed that the doctors were responsible: "The best and most famous doctors in the city ordered me to sleep on a mat like this."

27 Jan 06,, 08:45
:eek: Horny Women
#244A. A young man said to his libido-driven wife: "What should we do, darling? Eat or have sex?" And she replied: "You can choose. But there's not a crumb in the house."

245B. A young man was hosting frisky old women. He said to his slaves: "Mix a drink for the one that wants it and have sex with the one who wants that." And the women said: "I'm not thirsty."

Misogynistic Men
#246. A misogynist stood in the marketplace and announced: "I'm putting my wife up for sale, tax-free!" When people asked him why, he said: "So the authorities will impound her."[22]

#247A. A misogynist paid his last respects at the tomb of his dead wife. When someone asked him, "Who has gone to rest?," he replied: "Me, now that I'm alone."

#248A. A misogynist was sick, at death's door. When his wife said to him, "If anything bad happens to you, I'll hang myself," he looked up at her and said: "Do me the favor while I'm still alive."

#251. The lady of a house had a simple-minded slave. But when she got a peek at just how thick his other head was also, she lusted after him. She put a mask over her face so that he wouldn't recognize her, and played around with him. Joining her game, he had sex with her. Then, grinning as he usually did, he reported to his master: "Sir, sir, I ****ed the dancer and the mistress was inside!"[24]

Looking at the above joke, I take it there was no Gloria Steinem, Naomi Wolfe or anyother feminist joy killers in Grecee or Rome