MARK CHRISTOPHER MASH: Humor and Ethnography in Herodotus’
(Under the direction of Emily Baragwanath)This dissertation examines the role of humor in Herodotus’
. I arguethat Herodotus’ humor is best understood in the context of his ethnography, and basemy analyses on the thoughts of ancient and modern writers on humor. In particular, Iincorporate anthropological perspectives on humor, and most notably ethnic humor.In chapter one, I establish the groundwork for later discussions by situating mywork in the context of previous ancient and modern analyses of humor. In chaptertwo, I examine derision and witty retorts, starting first with Herodotus’ own ridicule of mapmakers in 4.36.2. In chapter three, I discuss the role of humorous deception in the
. In this interplay of humor and deception, I examine three main types: tricksthat are reveled in by the instigator, tricks that are uncovered, and tricks that turndeadly. In chapter four, I take up the relationship between didacticism and humor, andshow how it appears as an oblique tool by which wise advisors are able to challenge therigidity of their recipient’s thinking. What is more, didactic humor sometimes appearsby negative example, as when Cambyses laughs at Egyptian religious
(3.29.1-2) orwhen Xerxes laughs at Spartan
(7.101-105). Finally, in chapter five, I discussmemorializing humor, which I find in particular relation to monuments, battles andpolitical disputes.