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Mock the Politician

Over on BloggusClassicus (, I started a Classical Thought for the Day and the first entry was about the universality of humour. And I should like to give you a fine example of this today. We love satire! We always have in the UK, and so do Germany, France, and the US. Spitting Image has been resurrected with some modern characters, and the original is available on BritBox. Some of us still chuckle at Sir Humphrey Appleby’s smooth-talking frustration with Jim Hacker. Or we watch Have I Got News For You, Mock the Week, and some of us fondly remember Bremner, Bird, and Fortune and Not the Nine o’ Clock News.

Well, the ancients loved it, too, political satire that is. The Athenians were forever mocking their statesman. So I am going to share a real favourite from Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazusae:

‘Under every stone lurks a politician’.

If I had said this came from any of the above modern shows, you probably would have believed me. It just goes to show that the ancients were just like us in our concerns, our preoccupations, and our laughter.

I commend to you Aristophanes, a satirical genius. I wonder what he would have made of some of today’s stories? And, moreover, what can we learn from a comparative study of ancient and modern political satire?

I suggest that the results would be rather alarming in the similarities that we would find.

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