Laughter in Ancient Rome
On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up
By Mary Beard
(University of California Press, Hardcover, 9780520277168, 319pp.)
Publication Date: June 2014
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"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 humor 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?