Roman Humor >({|;-)

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Mistakes happen

Postby Formosus Viriustus on Sat Feb 28, 2009 12:57 am


The following appeared on

Quote from Cicero of Ancient Rome about Balancing the Budget, Reducing Public Debt, and Curtailing Foreign Assistance-Truth! & Fiction!

Summary of the eRumor:
A forwarded email with a quote dating back to 55 B.C. from Cicero of Ancient Rome about balancing the budget, reducing public debt, and curtailing foreign assistance.

The Truth:
This alleged quote from Marcus Tullius Cicero that began circulating on the Internet in October, 2008, is based on a true statement from the great Roman orator, but someone added a lot to it to make it match some of what the United States was facing economically.

The actual quote is: "The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and assistance to foreign hands
(sic) should be curtailed, lest Rome fall."

updated 10/08/08

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:
“The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.” -- Cicero , 55 B.C.

I am pretty sure that that ' h ' must be an ' l ' (lands). But then, I'm not a Cicero-expert. You see how these things start ? Someone mistypes one letter or one decimal point and you're off. You all know the 'iron-in-spinach-story' of cause.

And it's unavoidable : a few days ago, in a piece on the Roman calendar, I wrote about Quintilius and Sextilius. Of cause that should be either Quintilis or Quintilus and either Sextilis or Sextilus. Not what I wrote. And me pretending to know a bit about calendars.

So I have cleaned that bit up. Yes, that's how I am. Wouldn't want it on my conscience that some kid fails his exam because he not only misquotes Cicero, but also got the Roman months wrong due to my carelessness.
The Interweb is merciless. You have to check every word at least three times.

Formosus Viriustus

Re: Roman Humor >({|;-)

Postby Valerius Claudius Iohanes on Sat Feb 28, 2009 3:18 am

Every word? Three times? Okay; here I go ....

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Re: New Roman Calendar

Postby Formosus Viriustus on Sat Feb 28, 2009 4:09 pm


How about this for a New Roman Calendar ?


Januarius 31
Februarius 30
Martius 31
Aprilis 30
Maius 31
Iunius 30
Iulius 31
Augustus 30
Septembris 31
Octobris 30
Novembris 30
Decembris 30

In leap years one day is added to Novembris, in stead of Februarius.
So all even numbered months always have an even number of days. The uneven numbered months have an uneven number of days. Except Novembris when it's not a leap year.

Easy as pie, I would say. It doesn't defer all too much from the present calendar, yet it has a lot more sense to it. Think about rents and wages and such stuff. (*)
But maybe I am again, as usual, too far ahead of my time and are our flexible minds not quite ready yet for such a radical change.

(*) Why had they so much trouble getting the Gregorian Calendar accepted ? Among many other more important reasons also because : did you have to pay a full month's rent for a 20-day month ? And what about wages ?
Of cause, they had to introduce a new Calendar because the Julian one wasn't exact enough. But why drop 10 days – ( or 11 ? Even finding out exactly which it is, is quite a job.) There was no need for that really ? Instead of on or about the 20th of March, the Spring Equinox would happen around the 10th. But is that so important ?

Formosus Viriustus

Idibus Martiis

Postby Aldus Marius on Sat Mar 14, 2009 6:05 am

Salvete Romani!

I have been deluged with maybe three pages' worth(less) of Ides of March jokes. Most of them are only awful, as opposed to gods-awful ("tides of starch"?)... I present to you the only one that made the cut. It might still be a groaner, but considering the company it kept, I'll forgive it.

Caesar sends Brutus to bring him 12 apples. Brutus returns with the
apples and Caesar counts them but finds only 10 apples. He turns to
Brutus and angrily says: "Ate two, Brutus?"

*makes his escape, hopefully staying well in front of any tossed produce* >({|8-)
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*Ancient* Roman Humor! >({|;-)

Postby Aldus Marius on Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:40 am

Salvete, amici Romani!

Who says Romans can't laugh at themselves? --Nobody 'round here, of course, or we'd be short material for this thread. And nobody who's read the 'gift tags' of Martial; or who knows that some of the earliest complete works of Roman literature are Plautus' comedies; or who's aware of how much those same comedies have influenced what we find funny today. But this item might just qualify as a Discovery:

Classic gags discovered in ancient Roman joke book

by Alison Flood, Friday 13 March 2009 11.42 GMT

We may admire the satires of Horace and Lucilius, but the ancient Romans haven't hitherto been thought of as masters of the one-liner. This could be about to change, however, after the discovery of a classical joke book.

Celebrated classics professor Mary Beard has brought to light a volume more than 1,600 years old, which she says shows the Romans not to be the "pompous, bridge-building toga wearers" they're often seen as, but rather a race ready to laugh at themselves.

Written in Greek, Philogelos, or The Laughter Lover, dates to the third or fourth century AD, and contains some 260 jokes which Beard said are "very similar" to the jokes we have today, although peopled with different stereotypes – the "egghead", or absent-minded professor, is a particular figure of fun, along with the eunuch, and people with hernias or bad breath.

"They're also poking fun at certain types of foreigners – people from Abdera, a city in Thrace, were very, very stupid, almost as stupid as [they thought] eggheads [were]," said Beard.

An ancient version of Monty Python's dead parrot sketch sees a man buy a slave, who dies shortly afterwards. When he complains to the seller, he is told: "He didn't die when I owned him."

Beard's favourite joke is a version of the Englishman, Irishman, Scotsman variety, with a barber, a bald man and an absent-minded professor taking a journey together. They have to camp overnight, so decide to take turns watching the luggage. When it's the barber's turn, he gets bored, so amuses himself by shaving the head of the professor. When the professor is woken up for his shift, he feels his head, and says "How stupid is that barber? He's woken up the bald man instead of me."

"It's one of the better ones," said Beard. "It has a nice identity resonance ... A lot of the jokes play on the obviously quite problematic idea in Roman times of knowing who you are." Another "identity" joke sees a man meet an acquaintance and say "it's funny, I was told you were dead". He says "well, you can see I'm still alive." But the first man disputes this on the grounds that "the man who told me you were dead is much more reliable than you".

"Interestingly they are quite understandable to us, whereas reading Punch from the 19th century is completely baffling to me," said Beard.

But she queried whether we are finding the same things funny as the Romans would have done. Telling a joke to one of her graduate classes, in which an absent-minded professor is asked by a friend to bring back two 15-year-old slave boys from his trip abroad, and replies "fine, and if I can't find two 15-year-olds I will bring you one 30-year-old," she found they "chortled no end".

"They thought it was a sex joke, equivalent to someone being asked for two 30-year-old women, and being told okay, I'll bring you one 60-year-old. But I suspect it's a joke about numbers – are numbers real? If so two 15-year-olds should be like one 30-year-old – it's about the strange unnaturalness of the number system."

Beard, who discovered the title while carrying out research for a new book she's working on about humour in the ancient world, pointed out that when we're told a joke, we make a huge effort to make it funny for ourselves, or it's an admission of failure. "Are we doing that to these Roman jokes? Were they actually laughing at something quite different?"

In amicitia et fide,
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The Funeral

Postby Formosus Viriustus on Tue Mar 17, 2009 12:41 am

'Say, Formosus, did you hear that Sextus has died ?'
'Yes, yes, I heard.'
'Are you going to his funeral ?'
'Why not ?'
'Well, he is not coming to mine, is he ?'
Formosus Viriustus

Frequency Hopping

Postby Formosus Viriustus on Tue Mar 17, 2009 3:49 am

Avete omnes,

Alas, 't is not true, Marius, we Romans did not invent everything. We may have invented the internet ( or 'binary information transmission over a wide-area network' , as you call it ) and all that other stuff but 'spread spectrum communications technology' ( 'frequency hopping' ) was invented by a Philistine woman. Here she is, about to cut off Samson's locks.

::bows down:: ::bows down::


::bows down:: ::bows down::

Valete bene,
Formosus Viriustus

Re: Roman Humor >({|;-)

Postby Aldus Marius on Tue Mar 17, 2009 6:21 am

Salvete amici!

Two Romans met and one said to the other, "Have you seen Marius lately, Quint?" Quintus said, "Well, I have and I haven't." His friend asked, "Well what do you mean by that?" Quintus replied, "It's like this, y'see... I saw a chap who I thought was Marius, and he saw a chap that he thought was me. And when we got up to one another... it was neither of us."

(I never said we invented everything...just everything worthwhile!) >({|;-)
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Romans, Persians, Spartans, ...

Postby Formosus Viriustus on Tue Mar 17, 2009 7:14 am

Six year old Quintus is talking to his Persian playmate Pharnaces :
'We Romans have democracy'
'We Persians have an empire'
'Ooh, we'll have an empire too, some day'
'Maybe, but then you will have no democracy anymore, will you ?'

A Spartan, an Athenian and a Beotian have been condemned to death.
First it's the Spartan's turn. The physician prepares a draught of hemlock for him. The Spartan laconically says : 'To your health, gentlemen !' and empties the cup. But nothing happens, he does not die and so he gets pardoned.
Next it's the Athenian's turn. The physician again prefares a draught for him. This one holds an hour long speech praising the glory of Athens and the blessings of democracy and then gulps down the cup. But again nothing happens, he doesn't die either and he also gets pardoned.
Now it's the Beotian's turn. He has been following the proceedings carefully and when the physician wants to start preparing a draught for him he says : 'Hold it there, I think I know what's going wrong : that hemlock you're using is off. Here, take this, this is some excellent fresh one I have here with me.'
Formosus Viriustus

A Day in the Life of a Roman Legionary

Postby Formosus Viriustus on Sun Mar 29, 2009 9:40 pm

The day started early for the Roman Legionary :
III AM : Wake up call. '' Come on boys, hurry up, get those tents down ! No time for breakfast, we've got a 30 mile march ahead of us !'' The Roman Legionary, of course, always marched in full armour and carried either two bags of grain of 60 pounds each or other provisions or equipment to the same amount. The Roman Legionaries were not called Marius' Mules for nothing.
XI AM : Destination is reached. No time for lunch. First a camp must be build : ditches dug, trees felled and pallisades erected.
III PM : The fortified bivouac is finished. Time for a light snack. A small bowl of gruel.
IV PM : Time to relax ! It's decimation time : one in ten Legionaries is picked by lot and his head is chopped off in front of his fellow soldiers. Of course, the loosers get plenty of stick from the more fortunate ones. A good time is had by all, however.
V PM : Drill time. This is the high-light of the day. For the Legionaries, but mostly for the Centurio's, Optio's and Tribunes. They get to beat up every ordinary Legionary that in their opinion isn't giving his full measure, or just anyone they feel like beating up : '' It'll only make you a better soldier, boy ! You'll thank me for it one day !'' Casualties are heavy though. In an average training session a Roman Legion usually looses about 10 percent of it's men. ( 'Their battles are like training sessions and their training sessions look like battles.')
IX PM : Dinner time : a whole bowl of delicious porridge with fish sauce.
XI PM : Time for the obligatory night attack by hostile barbarians.
II AM : The barbarians call it a night, and so do our Legionaries. It's early day again tomorrow. It's not winky eyes for everyone though. Someone has to man those watchtowers.

(inspired by : 'It all started with the Spartans' by Richard Armour )
Formosus Viriustus

Re: Roman Humor ???

Postby Formosus Viriustus on Wed Apr 01, 2009 2:58 pm

Salvete Omnes !

I found this on wikipedia :

Evelyn Waugh admired Gibbon's style but not his secular viewpoint. In Waugh's 1950 novel Helena the early Christian author Lactantius worried about the possibility of " '...a false historian, with the mind of Cicero or Tacitus and the soul of an animal,' and he nodded towards the gibbon who fretted his golden chain and chattered for fruit."

Now that is what I'd call a crude joke.

I've made a few jokes about The Immortal Gibbon myself, not too long ago. It figures somebody else had already thought up something along the same lines before. Not very surprising that. Maybe my jokes seemed a bit crude too. They certainly weren't very funny either, I'll admit that. But there is a difference between my jokes and this one, I think.

The difference is that I do admire Gibbon equally for his style, for the depth of his reseach and not least for his enlightened spirit that is completely untainted by religious or ideological preconceptions. A rare quality. He is a true Giant and he fully deserves the honorific The Immortal. So my jokes about him were entirely good natured. Let there be no mistakes about that.

Valete optime !
Formosus Viriustus


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