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Io, Saturnalia!

December 17, 2013

‘Tis now the season, so in search of something appropriate to share, I turned to Macrobius’s “Saturnalia. ” This is not as jolly as the name might suggest, being largely a discussion on Roman culture, but there is a section of “witticisms”. Below is the best I could find. Please don’t build your hopes up.

Caninius Rebilius was consul (supposedly a year-long post) for a single day. “We have a watchful consult in Caninius,” observed Cicero. “He didn’t see a moment’s sleep during his term.”

Augustus, on noting that one Vettius had ploughed under his father’s memorial stone: “Now that’s what I call cultivating your father’s memory.” (Unusually, this is a pun that works in translation)

By way of excuse, I should point out that Husband owns a book called “Freud on Jokes” and that is not funny either.

You may be relieved to know that Mary Beard is currently working on a book about Roman humour.  It doesn’t seem to be out yet but it promises to be a lot more entertaining than Macrobius. There’s a taster here.

(Quotes are based on Robert Kaster's translation for the Loeb edition of Macrobius: tweaks and errors are mine.)
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One comment

  1. Io, Saturnalia! The Augustus one isn’t too bad. Cicero was more acerbic than laugh-out-loud funny, though. I think he invented snark. — Laurie



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