jester's cap
Holiday Pranks of Senex Caecilius

The celebration of the Saturnalia includes the selection of a princeps Saturnalicius by casting lots or other form of sortition. His command is law, whether to dance naked, to sing, to suffer a dunking in icy water, or to lift up a flute girl. Any member of the familia might be chosen, so the holiday could be ruled by a female, a freedman, a child, or a slave.

The Lord of Misrule is likely the medieval heir of the office held by the princeps Saturnalicius during Roman times. He was appointed to be in charge of Christmas revelries, called the Feast of Fools (festum fatuorum), which often included drunkenness and wild partying, in the pagan tradition of Saturnalia.

Some traditions that appear in the celebration of Epiphany (January 6) may be a holdover of choosing the Lord of Misrule. For example, baking a trinket inside the king cake occurs in various countries. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket has various privileges and obligations.

Here are a few innocent activities for you to choose.

  • Try a tongue twister in Latin.
  • Kiss a pig on the snout.
  • Sing a song in karaoke style.
  • Play a game of "Master, May I?"
  • Flirt with a flautist of your desire.
  • Tell a joke of the "Knock, Knock" variety.
  • Practice a prank as the princeps.
  • Recite a poem of your choice.
  • Strike a pose of your preference.
  • Croon a tune with lyrics by Senex.
  • Stage a skit with your own plot.
  • Pull my finger if you dare!
  • Rhyme a riddle of your invention.
  • Make a toast to someone's health.
  • Write a couplet for an Amoebaean contest.
  • Rank a prank from ancient Rome
  • Risk the boca della verità of ancient Rome.
  • Here are a few sites about jokes and pranks in ancient Rome.

  • A collection of tongue twisters in Latin contains some written by classical authors as well as more contemporary ones.
  • An article about Roman jokes in Wikipedia provides a few from classical authors.
  • A website about daily life in the time of the emperor Hadrian contains some puns and other jokes.
  • An entry in a blog by Mary Beard entitled What Made the Romans Laugh? cites examples from classical authors.
  • An archive of PDF files provides extensive examples of Ioci Antiqvi compiled by Michael Hendry.
  • An article by Carly Silver describes five practical jokes played in ancient Rome.

  • [ return to the Saturnalia ]