Augustus Knew How to Take a Joke (Macrobius, Saturnalia II.4.19-20)

I often wonder in surprise more at the jokes Augustus tolerated than the ones he made (since tolerance is a quality worthier of praise than wit). Especially remarkable are the jests he accepted with ease which were a bit biting. A sharp retort from a certain soldier became well known. A man came to Rome and caused everyone to turn their heads because he was so very similar to Caesar. Augustus order that the man be introduced to him and when he saw him he asked this: “Tell me, young man, was your mother ever in Rome?” He denied that she was, but still not content he added “But my father was often!”

19 Soleo in Augusto magis mirari quos pertulit iocos quam ipse quos protulit, qui maior est patientiae quam facundiae laus, maxime cum aequanimiter aliqua etiam iocis mordaciora pertulerit. 20 Cuiusdam provincialis iocus asper innotuit. Intraverat Romam simillimus Caesari et in se omnium ora converterat. Augustus perduci ad se hominem iussit, visumque hoc modo interrogavit: Dic mihi, adolescens, fuit aliquando mater tua Romae? Negavit ille, nec contentus adiecit: Sed pater meus saepe.

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