Roman Laughter Week 2: What made the Romans LOL? Laughter appears to stand in need of an echo. Listen to it carefully: it is not an articulate, clear, well-defined sound; it is something which
would fain be prolonged by reverberating from one to another, something beginning with a crash, to continue in successive rumblings, like thunder in a mountain. (p11) J.Henderson.19 99. Writing Down Rome
inepta =silly moo (Ovid, Amores 1.14) verbero = Rapscallion (Plautus, Miles Gloriosus) amens = brain dead (Cicero, In Pisonem) insulsissimus = king of the morons (Catullus 20) faciem durum, Phoebe, cacantis habes = you have the face of a man with severe constipation, Phoebus (Martial Epigrams 3.89) Non tu tibi istam praetruncari linguam largiloquam iubes? = Do me a favour and get that twaddletalking tongue of yours surgically removed from your mouth (Plautus, Miles Gloriosus). pedicabo vos et irrumabo = Ill have my way with you upstairs and downstairs (Catullus 16)
. The language of Roman laughter deridere, to scorn irridere/inridere - to laugh at, jeer at, ridicule adridere to smile upon approvingly, to be pleasing subridere to smile Also renidere - to beam. rudere to bray (cf Ovid Ars Amatoria 3.289-90 ridet/ ut rudet). risus - laughter ridiculus - risible.
rictus open mouth (esp in laughing?); used of animal mouths cachinnare - to laugh out loud cachinnus - loud laugh Did the Romans smile? subridere to ?smile? (Compare French sourire, Italian sorridere) E.g. Virgil Eclogue 4.60: incipe, parve puer, risu cognoscere matrem (begin, dear boy, to recognise your mother with a ?smile?) Ovid Amores 3.1.33 [Roman smizing?]: altera, si memini, limis subrisit ocellis. (The other one, if I recall, smiled with a sideways glance). Virgil Aeneid 1.254-5: olli subridens / vultu quo caelum
tempestatesque serenat (?Smiling? on her with the face he uses to clear the sky and storms) Apuleius, Met.6.13: [Venus] sed contortis superciliis surridens amarum sic inquit (But Venus ?smiled? bitterly with contorted/raised eyebrows, and said) Its the way they told them (+ Quintilian 6.3.17-21)
iocus jest, joke lepos charm, pleasantness urbanitas urbane wit dicta - sayings dicacitas witty repartee, banter cavillatio scoffing, banter, jeering, quibbling ridiculum laughing matter, joke, absurdity sal wit, pungency salsa witty speech satura a dish filled with various kinds of fruits or food composed of various ingredients, satire facetiae brilliant remarks (etymology = fax, firebran) acetum vinegar, pungent wit
ironia irony (Gk eironeia) lusus game, trick, joke amphibolia ambiguity, double meaning, double entendre ludus sport, game, amusement (why) Do we find the ancient Romans funny? Monty Python, The Life of Brian (1979) The Plebs (ITV sitcom), 2013-16 Rome is traditionally imagined as the home of emperors and senators, generals and gladiators, a dignified theatre of
pomp and ceremony. But what about the little guys, the wasters - new to the big city, stuck in office jobs, unable to get the girls? A modern comedy in an ancient setting, Plebs follows three desperate young men from the suburbs as they try to get laid, hold down jobs and climb the social ladder in the big city Penises in Pompeii This House of the Vettii wall painting shows off economic power by dramatizing equivalence
between money, produce and phallic potency. We tend to treat this as funny, naughty, or embarrassing But we can only guess at Roman attitudes impressed, amused, outraged, indifferentall of the above? Was the painting an apotropaic shocker, or a corny status symbol, or? To what extent do ancient categories of the comic, and of the pornographic, correspond to our own? (cf. A.Richlin, The Garden of Priapus)
brainstorm What ideological function does making ancient Romans comic gold have for us? (or, to put it another way, how do we use funny Romans to tell stories about ourselves?) Roman (hi)stories of/about humour Cultural identity Class Gender
Knowledge and power Self-control See (handout): Horace Epist.2.1.139-55, Cicero, Fam 9.15, Tacitus Germania 19, Ovid Ars Amatoria 3.278-91.
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