Humor for ancient Greeks

cartoon runner with Olympic torch

An ancient Greek professor goes to a ­tailor to get his trousers mended. The tailor asks: “Euripides?” The professor replies: “Yes. Eumenides?”

This is worthy of a Christmas cracker joke as long as you are up on ancient Greece. Euripides (480 – 406BC), pronounced like “You-rip-a-these”, was a great Athenian playwright and The Eumenides, “You-mend-a-these”, is the third part of a tragedy by Aeschylus.


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Ancient Greek comedy was one of the final three principal dramatic forms in the theatre of classical Greece (the others being tragedy and the satyr play.

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Greece is the only country that lost its marbles and wants everyone to know it.

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Endeavors in philosophy and mythology immortalized the ancient Greeks, but what you won’t find in the history books is their serious love of the funny. The same forefathers who imparted the Socratic Method and the Parthenon also passed on a wealth of filthy quips and goofy wisecracks. Some of these jokes still hit the mark, while others will have you groaning with laughter, even if it is because they’re so bad, they’re good.


“Asked by the court barber how he wanted his hair cut, the king replied: “In silence”.”

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Oh would some god, with sudden stroke,
Convert me to a cloud of smoke!
Like politicians’ words I’d rise
In gaseous vapour to the skies.

( Act One, Scene One, The Wasps by Aristophanes)

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The Philosophy of Humor

Are you ready to get serious about laughter? Plato certainly was.

“Plato famously thought that comedy was bad, vicious even, and that most, if not all, laughter came at somebody else’s expense. He viewed laughter as a “passion,” and considered being taken by it as a loss of self-control, as did many philosophers before him. In “Republic,” he proposes that in his utopian city certain important people should never laugh and that strict censorship should keep objectionable, presumably hilarious works away from people.”

“Aristotle, the most famous student of Plato, continued his policy of disagreeing with this teacher by deciding that comedy could be okay. He argued that living a good life requires that you enjoy yourself from time to time and that humor is a part of that. He further maintained that being witty is a virtue.”

These are two excerpts from a longer article, What can we laugh at and why? The philosophy of humor.

My personal view can be found in the philosophical post I wrote: Hedonism is Healthy 🙂

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A Pythagorean cup (also known as a Pythagoras cup, a Greedy Cup or a Tantalus cup) is a form of drinking cup which forces its user to imbibe only in moderation. Credited to Pythagoras of Samos, it allows the user to fill the cup with wine up to a certain level. If the user fills the cup only up to that level he may enjoy his drink in peace. If he exhibits gluttony, however, the cup spills its contents out the bottom (the intention being: onto the lap of the immodest drinker).

Thus it can be used for practical jokes as well.

Physagorian Pythagoras Greedy Tantalus cup 05

A : Empty cup B: Optimally filled cup. Below siphon level C: Overfilled cup. Siphoning of drink starts. D: Siphoning continues until the cup is almost empty.

You might think this some modern gimmick using the ancient Greek theme but here is a photo of an apparently old cup. The photo is from Wikipedia where you also can learn more about how the cup works. Also shown are modern ones that you can find on Crete and Samos.

Pythagorian cup

Published by Michael

Publish travel web sites based on living and working in Ireland, Greece and Czechia

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