Friday, December 16, 2005

The History Carnival #22

Rough day yesterday. I didn't have time to write anything. However, fortunately, Jonathan Dresner has posted the latest edition of the History Carnival over at Frog in a Well, and there's plenty of interesting stuff over there.

A couple of pieces there caught my eye. First up is a series of translations of ancient jokes. An example:
An intellectual was on a sea voyage when a big storm blew up, causing his slaves to weep in terror. ‘Don’t cry,’ he consoled them, ‘I have freed you all in my will’” (no. 25).

OK, so it isn't exactly George Carlin.

The other piece that I noticed was an article containing translations of ancient Roman graffiti from Pompeii. Some things never change, at least as far as the topics and themes of graffiti go, although in general ancient Roman graffiti seems far more literate than is the norm today. Maybe it's just because it sounds better translated from Latin.

2 example(s) of insolence returned:

At 12/16/2005 11:18 AM, Blogger Kapitano said...

I know an ancient Athenian joke, from teenage years studying 'classical civilisation'. It goes like this:

"A philosopher, a barber and a bald man were traveling. They set up camp for the night, agreeing that the barber should keep watch till midnight, then the philosopher should take over.

When the others were asleep, the barber decided it would be funny to shave the sleeping philosopher's head, so he carefully did so. When midnight came, he woke him.

The philosopher felt his newly bare pate and said, "You idiot, barber. You're supposed to wake me, not the bald man."


You don't need to go back that far to see the cultural nature of humour. In the first pages of 'The Eighteenth Brumiare of Louis Bonaparte' in 1852, Karl Marx writes:

"Hegel remarks somewhere that history tends to repeat itself. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."

Obviously it's a joke. But I've read serious intellectuals who wrote that Marx believed history was cyclic, based on that one quote.

I suppose that's another joke about muddled philosophers.


At 12/16/2005 4:16 PM, Anonymous Jonathan Dresner said...

I knew leading with the humor stuff was a good idea...

Thanks, Orac!


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