At the weekend, Reuter’s wrote (good PR!) about the Yudo version of the fourth century, Philogelos or Laughter Lover, the oldest surviving Joke compilation. Their tag line pointed out that Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch had been told long before.
A man goes up to a student dunce and says, “The slave you sold me died.” “By the gods,” answers the slave’s seller, “when he was with me, he never did any such thing!”
Compilations were popular in the ancient world - set speeches, essentials of law, wisdom of Homer, nature’s ways, jokes. They are popular now too, though I think they condensed because of the cost of books and hand copying, while we are culturally skimmers and twitterers, building blogs on blogs.
Or was the fourth century, like our era, just a lighter age? Ammianus bemoans Rome’s love for nothing but breezy satire then …
Some of them hate learning like poison, but read Juvenal and Marius Maximus with avidity. These are the only volumes that they turn over in their idle moments
Oh this superficial age! Oh to live in a golden age!