Archaeology people, how long has sarcasm and general smartass-ery been a part of society?


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  • Kind of archology person here :) (Well, I study classics, so I study ancient Greece and ancient Rome, so maybe I can help out on this question a little bit, though maybe not how you want).

    Well, we know that sarcasm was around 1st or 2nd century, because Juvenal's 16 satires are well known for being incredibly sarcastic and showing him to be a huge smart-ass. In satire 6, he talks about how women want to become men and how soon there'll be rings full of women wrestlers - but, of course, they'd never say that they're male because men never get any fun, so why would they ever want to be like a man? He then proceeds to describe how women are all just whores - even the wife of an emperor, who he says becomes a prostitute at night and 'takes the thrust of all comers' (and yeah, 'comers' is supposed to be an innuendo :P ) Because these are satires, he's mocking the common beliefs of those around him at the time.

    There's also the Thesmophoriazusae written by Aristophanes which is pretty sarcastic, and that was written around 445 BC. There was a female only festival around this time and men were really not allowed to know what the women did there. Obviously, this made quite a few of the men suspicious. Aristophanes writes a play mocking these men and their ridiculous thoughts, and all the women in the play turn out to be trying to murder a well-known sexist playwright Euripides, kinda to show them how stupid the idea of women being up to anything too suspicious is.

    There was also a lot of dramatic irony - which I'm not sure if it counts as sarcastic, but it's definitely smart-assery. It's Sophocles' Oedipus Rex that comes to mind here. There's lots of jokes about Oedipus' incest before he finds out about it, such as him coming out in the prologue and saying 'My name is known far and wide' - which the audience finds entertaining because well, yeah it is, but not because of how great a king he is - and another time later on where he says 'I curse the murderer of Laius - and I curse myself too!' without him knowing that he actually is the murderer of Laius, and he also says 'No one is as sick as I' - which, again, the audience thinks is hilarious because people do think he's sick, but not because he's suffering for his people, because he shagged his mom. This was around 429 BC.

    These are just the first instances of sarcasm that I remember, I'm pretty sure there's some in the Iliad too, and if I can find my copyagain, I'll have a look through it for you :P


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  • You can find it in the Old Testament of the Bible so it is apparently pretty old. God spends a lot of time in Psalms and Proverbs mocking atheists and non-believers.

  • Since humans could talk. Monkeys have the ability to be sarcastic.

  • Read about some of the "graffiti" in Pompeii. 😋

    • Seriously, it's like reading the walls in a bathroom stall in a 2000-year-old bar. Some things never change.