Excerpts from Philogelos, "The Lover of Laughter," a 4th-cent. C.E. collection of 265 jokes:


No. 187: An ill-tempered astrologer cast the horoscope of a sick boy, promised his mother that he would live for a long time, then demanded his fee. "Come back tomorrow and Iíll give it to you then." "But what happens to my fee if he dies in the night?"


No. 201: On returning from a trip, someone asked a charlatan prophet how his family was. "They are all well, especially your father." "But my fatherís been dead for ten years!" "Ah, clearly you do not know your real father."


No. 202: Having cast a boyís horoscope, a charlatan prophet predicted that he would be first a lawyer, then a city prefect, and finally a provincial governor. But the boy died. His mother came back and remonstrated, "My son has died, the one you said would be a lawyer and prefect and governor." "I swear by his memory," responded the prophet, "he would have been all of those things had he lived!"


No. 203: Someone went to a charlatan prophet and inquired if his rival would come back from a voyage. The prophet promised that he could not. But the man found out a few days later that he had come back. "Well," said the prophet, "how shameless can you get?"


No. 204: A charlatan prophet cast a clientís horoscope and told him he could never have children. "But Iíve already got seven!" "Then youíd better take good care of them!"


No. 205: A charlatan prophet was captured by the enemy, and confessed his trade. Now it so happened that they were about to fight a battle. "Youíll win it," he promised them, "as long as the enemy donít see the hairs on the back of your heads." (trans. B. Baldwin)