Did you hear the one about the emperor? If you lived in Augustus’ Rome, chances are you heard several of them. The Imperial Roman people had a healthy sense of humor, and the big guy seems to have known how to take a joke. “The tolerance of the Emperor Augustus in the face of quips and banter of all sorts,” Mary Beard tells us, “was still being celebrated four centuries after his death.”
You think you know the story of David and Goliath, but think again. Sure, when the Israelite shepherd boy squared off against that Philistine warrior giant 3,000 years ago in the Valley of Elah, one appeared to be a doomed underdog and the other a clear favorite. But as Malcolm Gladwell points out in his provocative new book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” it was the favorite who walked away with a victory. And Goliath’s head.