Philogelos 2: Σχολαστικὸς κολυμβᾶν βουλόμενος παρὰ μικρὸν ἐπνίγνη· ὤμοσεν οὖν μὴ ἅψασθαι ὕδατος, ἐὰν μὴ πρῶτον μάθηι κολυμβᾶν.
A learned simpleton wanting to go for a swim almost drowned; so he swore not to touch the water until he had first learned how to swim.
I remember that joke from a book I did German from in the sixth form, but it appears to be somewhat older than that, having possibly been written down about the time of the Emperor Constantine–see #2 here or here.
Philogelos 14: Σχολαστικὸς οἰκίαν πριάμενος εἶτα διὰ τῆς θυρίδος παρακύψας ἠρώτα τοὺς παρερχομένους εἰ πρέπει αὐτῶι.A learned simpleton bought a house and then peered out of the window and asked passers-by whether he looked good in it.
That’s recognisable as a joke, but ‘learned simpleton’ will hardly do here. ‘New Russian’ or ‘Christ Church man’ would be distinctly anachronistic–‘recreational student’, perhaps…
Meanwhile, Philogelos 56 has a philosophical tinge to it:
Σχολαστικὸς καὶ φαλακρὸς καὶ κουρεύς συνοδεύοντες καὶ ἔν τινι ἐρημίαι μείναντες συνέθεντο πρὸς τέσσαρας ὥρας ἀγρυπνῆσαι καὶ τὰ σκεύη ἕκαστος τηρῆσαι. ὣς δὲ ἔλαχε τῶι κουρεῖ πρώτωι φυλάξαι, μετεωρισθῆναι θέλων τὸν σχολαστικὸν καθεύδοντα ἔξυρεν καὶ τῶν ὡρῶν πληρωθεισῶν διύπνισεν. ὁ δὲ σχολαστικὸς ψήχων ὡς ἀπὸ ὕπνου τὴν κεφαλὴν καὶ εὑρὼν ἑαυτὸν ψιλόν· μέγα κάθαρμα, φησίν, ὁ κουρεύς πλανηθεὶς γὰρ ἀντ᾽ ἐμοῦ τὸν φαλακρὸν ἐξύπνισεν.
A skholastikos [?pseudo-intellectual] and a bald man and a barber were travelling together and, having made a halt in a deserted spot, they agreed each to keep watch for four hours and guard their things. The barber got the first watch and, wishing to keep himself awake, he shaved the skholastikos and, when the time was up, woke him. Upon waking, the skholastikos rubbed his head and finding it bare he said: ‘That barber scum, he’s got it wrong and woken the bald man instead of me’.
Philogelos 57 reminds us of at least two good reasons not to mourn the passing of classical antiquity: Σχολαστικῶι ἐκ δούλης τεκνώσαντι ὁ πατὴρ συνεβούλευε τὸ παίδιον ἀποκτεῖναι. ὁ δε Πρῶτον, ἒφη, σὺ τὰ τέκνα σου κατόρυξον, καὶ οὕτως ἐμοὶ συμβούλευε τὸν ἐμὸν ἀνελεῖν.
A skholastikos [~ ‘student idler’] fathered a child by a slave-girl and his father advised him to kill it. ‘First of all’, he said, ‘you bury your children, and then you can tell me to kill mine.’
Philogelos 93:Σχολαστικὸς μαθῶν περὶ κλίμακος τινος ὅτι ἀναβαίνοντων ἔχει βαθμοὺς εἴκοσιν ἐπύθετο εἰ καὶ καταβαίνοντων τοσοῦτοι εἰσιν.
A skholastikos, learning that a certain staircase had twenty steps going up, asked whether it was the same number going down.
To show life imitating art, I did manage to fall *up* some steps at work that I’d previously managed to fall down. A passing skholastikos suggested that only my pride was hurt. I hit him hard in the gut and watched impassive as he choked on this own blood. Wishful thinking…
Philogelos 151 could be construed as racist, which would be unusual for classical antiquity:
Εὐτράπελος ἰδῶν πορνοβοσκὸν μισθοῦντα μέλαιναν ἑταιρίδα εἶπε · Πόσου τὴν νύκτα μισθοῖς;
A smart fellow caught sight of a pimp hiring out a black prostitute and said, ‘How much do you charge for the night?’
Philogelos 192 is actually very funny if you ignore the joke:
Δυσκόλωι τις ναυκλήρωι ἀπαντήσας εἶπε· Τὸν ἐπίπλουν σου εἶδον ἐν Ῥόδωι, κἀκεῖνος ἀπεκρίνατο· Κἀγώ σου εἶδον τὸ ἧπαρ ἐν Σικελίαι.
Someone met an ill-natured ship’s captain and said, ‘I saw the membrane covering your intestines in Rhodes’. And he replied, ‘I saw your liver in Sicily’.
Philogelos 244 is (by ancient standards) verging on the feminist:
Νεανίσκος πρὸς τὴν γυναὶκα αὐτοῦ ὰσελγῆ οὖσαν εἶπεν· Κυρία, τί ποιοῦμεν; ἀριστοῦμεν ἢ ἀφροδισιάζομεν; Kἀκείνη ἔφη· Ὡς θέλεις· ψωμὴν οὐκ ἔνι.
A young man said to his wife (who was lascivious) ‘Wife, what shall we do? Have lunch or have sex?’ ‘As you like,’ she said, ‘only there isn’t any bread.’
There’s a very harsh asyndeton here, while for all the crudity of the joke, 151 goes in for some quite elaborate variatio to avoid πορνοβοσκὸν…πορνὴν [literally: prostitute-pasturer…prostitute].
So how is the skholastikos to be translated? At the simplest this term would just seem to be a place-holder for general idiocy, but that idea is far too simple!