A Syriac Bishop’s Dirty Jokes, in Latin


Mâr Gregory Bar Hebraeus Abul Faraj ( ܓܪܝܓܘܪܝܘܣ ܒܪ ܥܒܪܝܐ‎, 1226 – 1286) was a Maphrian (regional primate) of the Syriac Orthodox Church in what is now Turkey from 1264 to 1286. He wrote a number of books in Syriac and Arabic which are mostly on religious topics (though one remains an important source for the history of the Persian Mongols). His book The Laughable Stories was intended for popular consumption and is made up primarily of wise sayings from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Persian, and Indian traditions, but also includes a number of what we would call jokes:

CCCCLXXVI. Another man went to a tooth-drawer to extract for him a tooth which was diseased, and the tooth-drawer asked him for a zûzâ; and the man said, “I will not give a whole zûzâ, but only a half.”Then the handicraftsman said to him, “Less than a zûzâ I will not take, but if thou wishest it, and on account of thine honourable position, I will pull out another tooth also, and I will not charge thee any more than
the zûzâ.”

As you can see, while the maphrian’s jokes were not exactly sophisticated, they might still function as jokes today. However, while E. A. Wallis Budge was a great scholar who translated not only from Syriac but also from hieroglyphic Egyptian, Assyrian, and Ge’ez (the classical language of Ethiopia), he was not the right person to translate a jokebook. Not only that, he worked at the end of the Victorian age and felt obliged to translate all of the dirty jokes into Latin (just as van Gulick did with the racy passages in his book on sex in traditional China). The dirty jokes are below, and hopefully a learned friend will translate them in the comments.

XXVI. Dixit philosophus alius quidam, “Quatuor sunt genera corporalium voluptatum: quorum primum momento temporis durat ut coitu frueris; alterum per diem ut masculinâ prole gaudes usque dum nimium flere coepit; tertium per mensem ut novâ nuptâ usque dum ventrem fert; quartum tamen omnem per aevum ut divitiarum abundantiâ.”

XXXVII. Alius quidam in foro Venerem palam exercebat: qui interrogatus, “Nonne tui pudet? Quid facis?” Respondit, “Cur mei pudere decet: virum enim condo, si adolescere valet.

CCCXXXVI. Medicus olim quidam roganti, “Cathartica sumenti cur corpus sollicitatur?” respondit, “Quia et in conclavi verrendo crescit pulvis.”

CCCLIV. Dixit quidam scurrae urbano, “Matris meae gula assidue aliquid colligit: flagratque et constricta est.” Respondit autem scurra, “Si venter uxoris tuae ad matris gulam similitudine accederet, multum proficeres.”

CCCCVII. Dixit alius quidam somniorum interpreti, “Dormienti mihi duo panes in manibus visi sunt quorum de utroque sumebam.” Responsum est “Tu quidem cum duabus unâ matre natis coire soles.”

CCCCVIII. Dixit mercator quidam somniorum interpreti, “Dormienti mihi canis rufus commensalis epulari visus est.” Responsum est, “Scythicum servum habes qui uxori tuae haud secus quam tu, inire solet.” Quod, rem percontatus, verum esse intellexit.

CCCCIX. Dixit alius quidam somniorum interpreti, “Dormiens favum edere ad focum visus sum et postea mel quod e favo effluxerat.” Cui responsum est, “Deorum igitur iram pertimesce et coire desine cum istâ quae te lactavit.”

CCCCXI. Dixit alius quidam somniorum interpreti, “Dormienti mihi vestes sanguine perfundi visi sunt quem cum in puteal expresseram, iterum perfundebantur.” Cui responsum est, “Nefasto cum quadam coitu diu fruitus es at nondum tui poenituit.

CCCCXXXVII. Avarus alius quidam aegrotans oleum, medicis jubentibus, hausit: ubi alvum autem pergâsset, servis, “Ite,” clamat, “oleum e stercore meo colligite quo ad lucernas incendendo uti possimus.”

DXX. Mimus alius interrogatus quot eduxisset liberos, regessit, “Deos obtestor uxorem meam saepius peperisse quam cum illâ concubuerim.”

DXXXVII. Stultus alius quidam qui cum matre suâ pisces conditos edebat, “Epulare” ait, “mî mater: Cibum enim habemus ad coeundum praestantissimum.”

DXLV. Stultus alius quidam quum cum virgine quam duxerat concubuisset virginis patrem mane salutatum ivit dixitque, “Filia tua me noctu sanguine perfudit—quod credo te fraude finxisse ne quid de istius castitate dubitarem.

DLXIII. Stultus alius quidam interrogatus, “Cur nondum uxorem duxisti?” respondit, “Frater meus uxorem duxit quae, en! ambobus et illi et mihi sufficit.” Conclamabant omnes, “Vae misero tibi! quo modo una duum uxor fieri potest?” Respondit autem, “Abram respice qui pater erat gentium: quomodo evenit ut duas uxores duxisset, ipse tamen unus ambabus suffecit.”

DLXX. Stultus quidam qui catharticum sibi adhibuerat in aedificium dirutum se contulit ventrem evacuatum; cum autem subligacula solvere voluit, tunicae ligamina recinxit ut ubi consederat ventrem in chlamydem exonerare

DLXXIV. Stultus alius quidam interrogatus, “Quot annos natam filiam in matrimonium tradidisti? Nescio hercle respondit, hoc tamen scio me istam spopondisse verendis cum maxime istius lanugine tectis. Computate ergo quot annos natae verenda lanugo tegat.”

DLXXXI. Stulto cuidam meienti, stultus alius, “Quam ingentem penem habes!” ait, “quo modo, quaeso, istum portare vales?” Regisset alter, “I istud domi meae dictum: ibi enim assidue maledicor quia tam parvus sit.”

DCXXXV. Dixit alius quidam a daemone obsessus, “Proximâ nocte somnium mihi obvenit partim verum, partim falsum.” Quaestum est de eo, “Quid vis dicere?” et regessit, “Dormiens cum pulcherrimâ puellâ coire visus sum: experrectus autem intellexi me coiisse non tamen cum puellâ.

. Another demoniac was very skilful in interpreting dreams in his madness, and one day a certain nobleman said to him, “I saw in my dream as if a great number of sparrows were fastened up the skirts of my garments, and I made them to fly off one after the other, but when the last one came to escape I caught hold of it.” And the demoniac interpreted the dream thus:—”If thou didst in truth see what thou sayest thou must have made thy supper upon lentiles.—Cum autem dormitares pedere coepisti: ventrem postremus exonerare expetentem to ipsum cohibuisti.” Cui nobilis subridens, “Di te accusent! Mihi enim evenit quemadmodum narras.”

DCXLVI. Two lunatics were engaged in a severe fight with each other when the guards captured them and hauled them before the governor. The governor said to one of them, “Why didst thou strike this man?” and he replied, “Manu testes meas exporrectâ captabat ut prehensum alterutrum resecaret.” Judex ergo quaesivit, “Quare manu testes illius captabas?” Respondit, “Crede mihi tot habet uxores et pellices ut tale facinus patrare nunquam ausus essem.

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