What made the Romans laugh? Was ancient Rome a carnival, filled with practical jokes and hearty chuckles? Or was it a carefully regulated culture in which the uncontrollable excess of laughter was a force to fear—a world of wit, irony, and knowing smiles? How did Romans make sense of laughter? What role did it play in the world of the law courts, the imperial palace, or the spectacles of the arena? Laughter in Ancient Rome explores one of the most intriguing, but also trickiest, of historical subjects. Drawing on a wide range of Roman writing—from essays on rhetoric to a surviving Roman joke book—Mary Beard tracks down the giggles, smirks, and guffaws of the ancient Romans themselves. From ancient “monkey business” to the role of a chuckle in a culture of tyranny, she explores Roman humor from the hilarious, to the momentous, to the surprising. But she also reflects on even bigger historical questions. What kind of history of laughter can we possibly tell? Can we ever really “get” the Romans’ jokes?
Laughter, Literature, Violence, 1840-1930 investigates the strange, complex, even paradoxical relationship between laughter, on the one hand, and violence, war, horror, death, on the other. It does so in relation to philosophy, politics, and key nineteenth- and twentieth-century literary texts, by Edgar Allan Poe, Edmund Gosse, Wyndham Lewis and Katherine Mansfield – texts which explore the far reaches of Schadenfreude, and so-called ‘superiority theories’ of laughter, pushing these theories to breaking point. In these literary texts, the violent superiority often ascribed to laughter is seen as radically unstable, co-existing with its opposite: an anarchic sense of equality. Laughter, humour and comedy are slippery, duplicitous, ambivalent, self-contradictory hybrids, fusing apparently discordant elements. Now and then, though, literary and philosophical texts also dream of a different kind of laughter, one which reaches beyond its alloys – a transcendent, ‘perfect’ laughter which exists only in and for itself.
Although numerous scholars have studied Late Republican humor, this is the first book to examine its social and political context. Anthony Corbeill maintains that political abuse exercised real powers of persuasion over Roman audiences and he demonstrates how public humor both creates and enforces a society's norms. Previous scholarship has offered two explanations for why abusive language proliferated in Roman oratory. The first asserts that public rhetoric, filled with extravagant lies, was unconstrained by strictures of propriety. The second contends that invective represents an artifice borrowed from the Greeks. After a fresh reading of all extant literary works from the period, Corbeill concludes that the topics exploited in political invective arise from biases already present in Roman society. The author assesses evidence outside political discourse—from prayer ritual to philosophical speculation to physiognomic texts—in order to locate independently the biases in Roman society that enabled an orator's jokes to persuade. Within each instance of abusive humor—a name pun, for example, or the mockery of a physical deformity—resided values and preconceptions that were essential to the way a Roman citizen of the Late Republic defined himself in relation to his community. Originally published in 1996. The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.
Bodily gesture. A Roman worshipper spins in a circle in front of a temple. Faced with death, a Roman woman tears her hair and beats her breasts. Enthusiastic spectators at a gladiatorial event gesticulate with thumbs. Examining the tantalizing glimpses of ancient bodies offered by surviving Roman sculptures, paintings, and literary texts, Anthony Corbeill analyzes the role of gesture in medical and religious ritual, in the gladiatorial arena, in mourning practice, in aristocratic competition of the late Republic, and in the court of the emperor Tiberius. Adopting approaches from anthropology, gender studies, and ecological theory, Nature Embodied offers both a series of case studies and an overarching narrative of the role and meanings of gesture in ancient Rome. Arguing that bodily movement grew out of the relationship between Romans and their natural, social, and spiritual environment, the book explores the ways in which an originally harmonious relationship between nature and the body was manipulated as Rome became socially and politically complex. By the time that Tacitus was writing about the reign of Tiberius, the emergence of a new political order had prompted an increasingly inscrutable equation between truth and the body--and something vital in the once harmonizing relationship between bodies and the world beyond them had been lost. Nature Embodied makes an important contribution to an expanding field of research by offering a new theoretical model for the study of gesture in classical times.
This volume presents a wide range of contributions that analyse the cultural, sociological and communicative significance of tears and crying in Graeco-Roman antiquity. The papers cover the time from the eighth century BCE until late antiquity and take into account a broad variety of literary genres such as epic, tragedy, historiography, elegy, philosophical texts, epigram and the novel. The collection also contains two papers from modern socio-psychology.
Visual Representation and Non-Elite Viewers in Italy, 100 B.C.-A.D. 315
Author: John R. Clarke
Publisher: Univ of California Press
"Art in the Lives of Ordinary Romans is superbly out of the ordinary. John Clarke's significant and intriguing book takes stock of a half-century of lively discourse on the art and culture of Rome's non-elite patrons and viewers. Its compelling case studies on religion, work, spectacle, humor, and burial in the monuments of Pompeii and Ostia, which attempt to revise the theory of trickle-down Roman art, effectively refine our understanding of Rome's pluralistic society. Ordinary Romans-whether defined in imperialistic monuments or narrating their own stories through art in houses, shops, and tombs-come to life in this stimulating work."—Diana E. E. Kleiner, author of Roman Sculpture "John R. Clarke again addresses the neglected underside of Roman art in this original, perceptive analysis of ordinary people as spectators, consumers, and patrons of art in the public and private spheres of their lives. Clarke expands the boundaries of Roman art, stressing the defining power of context in establishing Roman ways of seeing art. And by challenging the dominance of the Roman elite in image-making, he demonstrates the constitutive importance of the ordinary viewing public in shaping Roman visual imagery as an instrument of self-realization."—Richard Brilliant, author of Commentaries on Roman Art, Visual Narratives, and Gesture and Rank in Roman Art "John Clarke reveals compelling details of the tastes, beliefs, and biases that shaped ordinary Romans' encounters with works of art-both public monuments and private art they themselves produced or commissioned. The author discusses an impressively wide range of material as he uses issues of patronage and archaeological context to reconstruct how workers, women, and slaves would have experienced works as diverse as the Ara Pacis of Augustus, funerary decoration, and tavern paintings at Pompeii. Clarke's new perspective yields countless valuable insights about even the most familiar material."—Anthony Corbeill, author of Nature Embodied: Gesture in Ancient Rome "How did ordinary Romans view official paintings glorifying emperors? What did they intend to convey about themselves when they commissioned art? And how did they use imagery in their own tombstones and houses? These are among the questions John R. Clarke answers in his fascinating new book. Charting a new approach to people's art, Clarke investigates individual images for their functional connections and contexts, broadening our understanding of the images themselves and of the life and culture of ordinary Romans. This original and vital book will appeal to everyone who is interested in the visual arts; moreover, specialists will find in it a wealth of stimulating ideas for further study."—Paul Zanker, author of The Mask of Socrates: The Image of the Intellectual in Antiquity
The mass of the Roman people constituted well over 90% of the population. Much ancient history, however, has focused on the lives, politics and culture of the minority elite. This book helps redress the balance by focusing on the non-elite in the Roman world. It builds a vivid account of the everyday lives of the masses, including their social and family life, health, leisure and religious beliefs, and the ways in which their popular culture resisted the domination of the ruling elite. The book highlights previously under-considered aspects of popular culture of the period to give a fuller picture. It is the first book to take fully into account the level of mental health: given the physical and social environment that most people faced, their overall mental health mirrored their poor physical health. It also reveals fascinating details about the ways in which people solved problems, turning frequently to oracles for advice and guidance when confronted by difficulties. Our understanding of the non-elite world is further enriched through the depiction of sensory dimensions: Toner illustrates how attitudes to smell, touch, and noise all varied with social status and created conflict, and how the emperors tried to resolve these disputes as part of their regeneration of urban life. Popular Culture in Ancient Rome offers a rich and accessible introduction to the usefulness of the notion of popular culture in studying the ancient world and will be enjoyed by students and general readers alike.