[ Issue 5 ]

Emily Bronto is definitely one of Macrobius’ many fans

Let Bikwil introduce you to Macrobius


Along with Frank Muir, Fizzgig wonders whether Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius — a fifth century African-born Roman writer and philosopher — was the first person to record a joke in any European language.
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From the Back Verandah — Fizzgig


Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius was an early fifth century African-born Roman author and philosopher, remembered (by those few scholars who have heard of him) for his dialogues entitled Saturnaliorum Conviviorum Libri Septem, among other works.

One 20th century scholar who is aware of him is Frank Muir (of Take It from Here and My Word fame), who credits him with what may be the oldest recorded joke in a European language — and a subtle one at that. Muir includes it in his Oxford Book of Humorous Prose (1990), along with over 200 other funny extracts spanning 500 years and several continents from such varied humorists as Robert Benchley, Jerome K. Jerome, Lennie Lower, Spike Milligan, Tom Sharpe, Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain and P.G. Wodehouse.

Macrobius’ joke runs:

“Dic mihi, adulescens, fuit aliquando mater tua Romae?”

Negavit ille nec contentus adjecit: “Sed pater meus saepe.”

Muir quotes it in English from The Schoolemaster or Teacher of Table Philosophie of 1583 thus:

There came unto Rome a certain gentleman very like Augustus. The emperor noticed him and demanded of him if his mother had sometimes been to Rome.

“No,” said the gentleman. “But my father hath often been.”

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