No Laughing Matter? What the Romans Found Funny

Read the Story

Show Top Comments

Really nice article. The only disappointing bit is when the author gives in to looking at the past through the tinted glasses of modern sense: > The plays received funding and production opportunities from the male, political elite, so it is no surprise that they sometimes represent with levity and normalise many things which we now condemn: male dominance, objectification of women, crude racial stereotyping, etc. The statement that such topics were normalised because the mocking was mandated by a certain ruling elite is dubious at best. It might just as well be that at the time those topics were not as hurtful as in today’s western (for lack of better label) world because what was expected from society was way different. Aggression is when a line is crossed: back in that antiquity the lines were likely different. Let’s not forget that the idea of a society that cherishes and pursues equality (or tries to) is a brave experiment of very few countries nowadays, and in the last couple of generations at most. There is zero assurance that it will remain a historical absolute in the future. So, without comprising our legitimate political hopes, wishes and efforts, let’s have a more honest scientific view, at least when looking back a couple of millenia!


I did a whole module on exactly this at University. Mostly sex jokes and political satire. Sometimes both at once. I recommend Catullus.


Great article. Thanks for sharing.


*Plautus and Terrence in the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC* Terrance and Phillip in Not Without My Toga confirmed.


There’s an inscription on a wall iirc in Pompeii that is a breakdown of an argument between an employee and employeer. In the end of the argument the employee rips a fart and walks away leaving the employeer in his stink. So we know they enjoyed a good fart joke.