Mary Beard, the controversial Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, informs us in this Guardian article that ancient Romans had (gasp!) a sense of humor, after all.
She discovered this fact after reading Philogelos, or The Laughter Lover, a Greek book written sometime during the third or fourth century AD. The 260 odd jokes in the book made fun of doctors, foreigners, eggheads, bad breath, baldness and slavery. Hmmm. Not really that different from us.
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."
Yeah, right. Everyone knows how much those ancient Romans obsessed over young boys.