And You Thought Byzantines Weren't Funny?


34 Responses to “And You Thought Byzantines Weren't Funny?”

  1. Steve Schnier says:

    “I’ll take the mother!” — Those SICK BASTARDS!

    Glad to see that nothing’s changed in 1600 years!

  2. Patrick Dodds says:

    “Brit comedic legend Jim Bowen”?

    That’s one way of putting it I suppose…

  3. EricT says:

    That explains why Peter Rabbit fell asleep after eating the lettuce in Mr. McGregors garden.

  4. 2k says:

    Bully would be proud.

  5. Anonymous says:

    A man goes to the Doctor with a piece of lettuce hanging out of his ear.

    “That looks nasty,” says the doctor.

    “Nasty?!?” replies the man, “this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

  6. Karl Jones says:

    For an un-funny but tremendously interesting (and frightening, and salacious) account of life at the Byzantine court, read Anekdota by Procopius.

    … A Senator … not only lost his property but was thrown into a dungeon, where he was fastened to a manger by a rope around his neck so short that the noose was always tight and could not be slackened. Consequently the poor man had to stand at the manger all the time, whether he ate or sought sleep or performed the other needs of the body. The only difference between him and an ass, was that he could not bray. The time the man passed in this condition was not less than four months; after which, overcome by melancholy, he went mad, and as such they set him free to die.

  7. EH says:

    The eunuch joke up there is pretty good. Those Abderites, such morons!

  8. freshacconci says:

    Better than Leno…

  9. Anonymous says:

    Here (…?rss) is a reference about the meaning of lettuce for them.

    “A couple of jokes about lettuce, for example, might have struck a Roman audience as hilarious given their belief that lettuce leaves, variously, promoted or impeded sexual function.”

  10. Oskar says:

    A son says to his father, “Base man! Don’t you see how you have wronged me? If you had never been born and stood in the way I should have come into all my grandfather’s money.”

    Makes you think, this joke does!

  11. Brainspore says:

    I know the setting was a few centuries earlier but I’m reminded of Mel Brooks’ “stand up philosopher” character from History of the World part I.

    “Have you heard about this new cult, the Christians? They’re so poor they have only ONE god!!!”

  12. Rich Keller says:

    In Abdere, lettuce makes BLT out of YOU!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps Hierocles and Philagrius were the Statler and Waldorf of their day.

  14. Daedalus says:

    Not only the aphrodisiac thing, but lettuce looks a little like certain part of female anatomy, what with all those folds.

  15. slida says:

    I thought this was really interesting. The web page in question is a massive fail, however. Don’t get clever and cutesy, just deliver the content, sheesh.

  16. MrJM says:

    Philogelos vs

    (Cat and Girl is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.)

  17. Anonymous says:

    The lettuce jokes might be puns, as the latin name is based on the milky juice of the plant. The latin name of the plant is Lactuca sativa, and “lac” is the root word for milk.

    So perhaps they are “tit puns”

    • dodongo says:

      Clever idea, but wouldn’t Byzantines be rockin’ Greek rather than Latin? Is the Greek word similar?

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        Byzantium was a Greek town, but the Byzantine Empire is the late Roman Empire.

        • Anonymous says:

          Even so, with the loss of the west the language switched back to Greek. You can see it right in the post: Philogelos and scholastikos are both Greek words, not Latin.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            Although Greek and Latin were both spoken by most educated people as far back as the late Republic, Latin was the official language until the 7th century CE. But, yes, this book is in Greek.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just as a warning, scientific names may be Latin but aren’t necessarily the Latin names. “Lactuca sativa” means “planted lettuce”.
      More importantly, though, Byzantines spoke Greek. I don’t know enough to suggest a pun on “thridax”, but it sure doesn’t sound like milk.

  18. Anonymous says:

    why was the lettuce fancy? cos.

  19. troutfishinginamerica says:

    TIRESIAS TO OEDIPUS: You kiss your mother with that mouth?

    Thank you! I’ll be here all week!

  20. Moriarty says:

    Not saying that these jokes are especially funny, but they probably suffer a lot from awkward translation. Nobody says “base man,” so translating it as such makes it seem awkward and stodgy, when the original is presumably a common natural expression, like saying jackass or something. Precise translation is important for dissecting meaning, but dissecting meaning is exactly what kills jokes, and you lose the natural flow of the language.

  21. kfunque says:


  22. mayhap says:

    Lettuce had a bit of a reputation among the ancient Egyptians, possibly even deserved, as an aphrodisiac.

  23. Anonymous says:

    A Byzantine walks into a bar, and the bartender says, “why did you have to make this so complicated?”

  24. hawkins says:

    Heh, heh… He said lettuce.

  25. VoiceUXGuy says:

    “Well, it’s not Oswald Patton…”
    Perhaps you meant “it’s not Patton Oswalt?”

    • scifijazznik says:

      No, I’m pretty sure he just left out the dash and is referring to the famous Byzantine comedy duo of Lee Harvey Oswald and Gen. George Patton. Those guys were a couple of cut-ups.

  26. Mark Dow says:

    Mmmmm…, lettuce.

  27. TEKNA2007 says:

    Marcus Licinius Crassus: Do you eat oysters?
    Antoninus: When I have them, master.
    Marcus Licinius Crassus: Do you eat snails?
    Antoninus: No, master. I think of myself as more of a lettuce man.

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