1. Elagabalus was a real jokester. His guests often died laughing. This licentious emperor loved his wild animals. He kept big cats...lions and leopards...and had them rendered "harmless" by some poor unfortunate trainer. To entertain his guests, "Elgie" would let the cats loose during the after-dinner courses at his infamous parties. They'd cozy up to guests sitting on the couches causing either delight or terror. New guests were unaware that the animals were tame and would begin screaming. To take his practical joke a step further, Elagabalus would let the big cats roam around his palace at night where they would often wander into his guests' room after they were passed out from all the wine. His friends would suddenly "come to" and be totally freaked out. A few even died! Not nice, "Elgie"!
2. Mark Antony was a kind of frat (fraternity) boy. So it's not surprising that he himself got "pranked" a few times. One such incident occurred while Antony was on a date with Cleopatra. Roman education for the elite didn't include fishing so Antony was clueless on the subject. He hadn't caught anything and was suffering embarrassment in front of Cleo. So what did he do? He ordered one of his fishermen to dive down and secretly put a previously-caught fish on his line. Antony was then able to reel in a big one to impress his lady love. Cleopatra wasn't fooled by this and decided to pull one over one her lover. She pretended to admire his skill as a fisherman and invited friends to watch Antony fish the next day. Cleo got the upper hand and ordered one of her fishermen to put a piece of salted herring on Antony's hook. When the Roman reeled in his catch, he got very excited to see the fish. But the guests all knew what Cleo had done and began laughing, upon which Cleo is reported to have said, "Imperator, hand over thy fishing-rod to the fishermen of Pharos and Canopus; thy sport is the hunting of cities, realms, and continents." Good one, Cleo!
3. If you've read the book, "I, Claudius" by Robert Graves, you may think of Claudius as a "doddering old fool." It appears from historical records that Julian-Claudian (a.k.a. Claudius) own relatives tortured him. Emperors Tiberius (an uncle) and Gaius (a.k.a. Caligula..the nephew) made poor Claudius' life a living nightmare. When Claudius arrived late to dinner, he was made to walk all the way around the banquet room rather than simply being able to sneak quietly into his seat. And when he fell asleep after dinner, 'he was pelted with the stones of olives and dates' or "attacked by jesters with whips or canes." But these insulting jesters weren't enough for the court's bad boys...oh, no. They would put slippers on Claudius' face while he lay snoring, blissfully unaware of his relatives antics. When he suddenly woke up, he might accidentally rub his face with their course soles. Perhaps they were mocking him for wearing women's shoes. We'll never know for certain. But either way, it was still mean. Shame on you Tiberius and Caligula! Take that, Allen Funt and Ashton Kutcher! You guys weren't the first to come up with practical jokes played on your friends. Doing silly and sometimes cruel things to other for your own amusement has been around a really long time.
Have a great week, dear reader, and I hope you'll join me again tomorrow when I'll be taking a look at even more history.
Silver, Carly. "5 Wonderfully Weird Practical Jokes from Ancient Rome." ThoughtCo, Jan. 23, 2018, thoughtco.com/weird-practical-jokes-from-ancient-rome-4018759.