Harry Mount

What made Romans LOL?

A review of Laughter in Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard. Roman humour may not have aged well but it’s still fascinating knowing what made them laugh

[Photo by Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Getty Images]

At the beginning of The Art of Poetry, Horace tells a story that, he promises, will make anyone laugh: ‘If a painter wanted to put a horse’s head on a human neck, would you be able to keep your laughter in?’ Would you? I certainly would.

That’s the thing about Roman jokes: they’re not really very funny now.

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