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well, they were a big hit at Plato's Laugh Shack
July 10, 2004 9:45 PM   Subscribe

A man, just back from a trip abroad, went to an incompetent fortune-teller. He asked about his family, and the fortune-teller replied: "Everyone is fine, especially your father." When the man objected that his father had been dead for ten years, the reply came: "You have no clue who your real father is."--that's one of the jokes from The Laughter Lover (Philogelos), an ancient Greek joke book published in the 4th or 5th century AD. The New Yorker commented on it, and other old jokes here, stating about one of the possible authors: ... there is some scholarly speculation that the Hierocles in question was a fifth-century Alexandrian philosopher of that name who was once publicly flogged in Constantinople for paganism, which, as one classicist has observed, “might have given him a taste for mordant wit.”
posted by amberglow (12 comments total)

 
[this is good]
posted by dg at 11:25 PM on July 10, 2004


That is one joke that can stand the test of time.
posted by Keyser Soze at 1:32 AM on July 11, 2004


A philosopher, a temple prostitute, and a Delphic oracle walk into a bar...
posted by ChrisTN at 6:26 AM on July 11, 2004


these were pretty cool...reminds me of a couple of neat things a classicist friend of mine told me. he said that he's visited places in italy where there's still ancient graffiti on the walls, and it's like "i fucked herodotus's mother" and "clavius likes to lie with pigs". he's also mentioned a book of dirty poetry he used to read in the original latin.

oh, those silly romans.
posted by taumeson at 6:58 AM on July 11, 2004


Considering these were probably common even centuries before they were written down you have to wonder exactly how old they are. Were there jokes before there were langauges? Play is common among mammals (especially primates), after all, but jokes have a meme aspect that makes them different.
posted by tommasz at 7:11 AM on July 11, 2004


An Intellectual made what he thought was a great FPP post on Metafilter and waited for the reply. He was thrilled to see that his post was so good others thought it was worth double.
posted by srboisvert at 7:16 AM on July 11, 2004


the link came from a real intellectual--i swiped it : >
posted by amberglow at 8:31 AM on July 11, 2004


It's true about the ancient graffiti. I live close by several ancient Greek ruins, and just the other day I saw this:

There once was a God from Olympus
whose sceptre, it is said, was stupendous.
Both satyrs and nymphs
upon catching a glimpse
cried, "Now, by Zeus, there's a bolt to upend us"!
posted by taz at 9:44 AM on July 11, 2004


Taumeson: was that book by Catullus, by any chance?
posted by kenko at 9:49 AM on July 11, 2004


Those were great, thanks amber.
posted by dhoyt at 10:03 AM on July 11, 2004


Funny, thanks!
posted by carter at 10:25 AM on July 11, 2004


Very cool. Never really thought about "ancient" humor -- interesting to get some sort of impression about how it worked.

(trying to think of a Henny Youngman-ish type one-liner appropriate for this thread...)
posted by davidmsc at 10:53 AM on July 11, 2004


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