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

by Mary Beard University of California Press
Pub Date:
09/2015
ISBN:
9780520287587
Format:
Pbk 336 pages
Price:
AU$34.99 NZ$37.38
Product Status: In Stock Now
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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 humour 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?

Preface

1. Introducing Roman Laughter: Dio's "Giggle" and Gnatho's Two Laughs

PART ONE
2. Questions of Laughter, Ancient and Modern
3. The History of Laughter
4. Roman Laughter in Latin and Greek

PART TWO
5. The Orator
6. From Emperor to Jester
7. Between Human and Animal—Especially Monkeys and Asses
8. The Laughter Lover

Afterword
Acknowledgments
Texts and Abbreviations
Notes
References
List of Illustrations and Credits
Index

"Laughter in Ancient Rome is a book that is filled with good sense and sound scholarship. It is a worthy successor to the previous published volumes of the Sather lectures."
Mary Beard is Professor of Classics at Cambridge University. Her many books include The Roman Triumph and The Fires of Vesuvius.