Humour in Late Antiquity

1 January 2019 until 31 December 2025
Project member(s)
Dr Dijkstra, R. (Roald)
Project type

Laughter, humour and early Christianity are not often mentioned together. Indeed, several famous authors from the early Christian period, such as Ambrose and John Chrysostom, fiercely attacked jokes and laughter, and even denied that Christ had ever laughed. At the same time, Christianity was part of the broader culture of Late Antiquity, which was heavily indebted to customs and traditions from the classical period, including humorous elements. The comical author Terence, e.g., was read in schools and the theater (mostly comic) was extremely popular (also among Christians). Unsurprisingly, therefore, but too often neglected in scholarship and rather unknown to a broader public, humour abounded in late antique society. In this project, the role of humour in late antiquity is investigated with a keen eye on the difference between dogmatic objections and everyday practice.


  • Humour in the Beginning: Religion, humour and laughter in formative stages of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism. 2022. Topics in Humor Research 10. Roald Dijkstra & Paul van der Velde (eds.). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Includes two contributions: “Converting comedians. The role of humour and laughter in the early Christian mime reports” (pp. 117-135) and “Humour in religion: a Protean phenomenon” (pp. 273-300).
  • Humor in de oudheid (special issue of Lampas). 2019. Roald Dijkstra & Stephan Mols (eds.). Two contributions: “Tijd om te lachen? Op zoek naar humor in de vroegchristelijke wereld” (pp. 214-227) & “Humor in de oudheid” (with S.T.A.M. Mols; pp. 121-125). Lampas 52(2).

Contact information