The cheesiest chat-up lines in literary history?

Homer’s Odyssey, Book 6, sees Odysseus a desperate man, landing on a beautiful island, and faced by a gorgeous girl. He chooses not to clasp her knees, as this might not be proper, and comes up with a cheesy chat-up line which goes well beyond your usual Saturday night come-on in a dark night-club… Listen to it here from the BGS all-day Odyssey reading, and read it below. Can you think of any cheesier chat-up lines from literature? And also quite a bit creepy by modern standards…! Not to mention the strange digression about falling in love with a tree!

“Princess, I am at your knees. Are you some goddess or a mortal woman? If you are one of the gods who live in the wide heaven, it is of Artemis, the daughter of almighty Zeus, that your beauty, grace and stature most remind me. But if you are one of us mortals who live on earth, then thrice-blessed indeed are your father and your lady mother: thrice-blessed your brothers too! How their hearts must glow with pleasure every time they see their darling join the dance. But he is the most blessed of them all, who with his wedding gifts can win you and take you home as his bride. Never have I set eyes on any man or woman like you. I am overcome with awe as I look at you. Only in Delos have I seen the like – a fresh young palm-tree shooting up by the altar of Apollo when my travels took me there with a fine army at my back that time. Though the expedition was doomed to end so fatally for me. For a long time I stood spell-bound at the sight, for no such sapling ever sprang from the ground; and it is with just the same wonder and veneration that I look at you. My lady, I dare not clasp your knees, though my sufferings are serious enough; only yesterday, after nineteen days, I made my escape from the wine-dark sea. It took all that time for the waves and the tempestuous winds to carry me here from the island of Ogygia, and now some god has flung me on this shore, no doubt to suffer more disasters here. For I have no hope that my troubles will come to an end: the gods have plenty in store for me. Pity me, princess! You are the first person I have met after all I have been through, and I do not know a soul in this city or this land. Do direct me to the town, and give me some rags to put around myself, if only the cloth wrappings you may have brought when you came here; and may the gods grant you your heart’s desire. May they give you a husband and a home, and a blessing of harmony so much to be desired; since there is nothing better or finer than when two people of one heart and mind keep house as a man and wife, a grief to their enemies and a joy to their friends, and their reputation spreads far and wide.”

Aristophanes and Blackadder – types of humour in the Acharnians and TV shows

With some help from my Lower 6th Class Civ set… Here are some clips of TV comedy to accompany quotes from Aristophanes’s Acharnians, sorted by “type of humour”.


  • Satire

The extreme characterisation and satirical treatment of Cleon throughout remind me of this:

  • Parody

The parodic but gentle use of Euripides’s Telephus, and the portrayal of Euripides, remind me of this respectful clip:

  • Impersonations / Stereotyping

The stereotyping of the ambassadors, and Pseudartabas’s Persian language and mangling of Greek, and even the description of Pericles as the Olympian remind me of this:

  • Visual Humour

It’s difficult to be sure of the extent of this, as we only have the words left to us, but the suggestion of a phallus mounted on a pole would have been funny in itself, and the use of a butcher’s block would have provided dark comedy. Perhaps not as wholly visual as this, though:

  • Verbal Humour

Some of Aristophanes’s most brilliant comedy is in the choice and positioning of words and puns. The “hoodwin – king” may not be his best, but there are lots more. This is one of my favourites:

  • Farce

The insistence of leaving the Pnyx when a drop of rain is felt, and the appearance of the one-eyed Pseudartabas aren’t as extreme a farcical situation as this…

  • Topical Allusions

The play abounds in these – from Cleon coughing up his thirty grand to the references to the Megarian Decree. There is no better example in modern TV of up-to-the-minute satire than this:

  • Situation Comedy

Not as easy to spot, but the painfully comic situations later in the play remind me of this:

  • Character-based Humour

Dikaiopolis’s joking and interactions later in the play remind me of this:

  • Surreal Humour / Fantasy

Plenty of this in Aristophanes – from the oven-baked oxen to the costumes! This is a classic of course:

  • Vulgar Humour

Where should I start? Aristophanes without sexual innuendo would be nothing. From the fig-tree-leaves to the references to Aspasia, to many that I won’t mention here, it’s all a bit like this:

  • Scatological Humour

Pooing and farting references abound – from the description of immigrants as “bran” to more obvious descriptions of sitting around farting, to the Golden Hills – similar to this:

In the blazing July heat of Imperial Rome…

…Flavia Albia inspects a decomposing corpse. It has been discovered in lots to be auctioned by her family business, so she’s determined to identify the dead man and learn how he met his gruesome end.

Lindsey Davis’s new book Deadly Election is full of excitement and the atmosphere of ancient Rome.

Come and see her speak about it in person! The event will be held in the Great Hall at Bristol Grammar School on Tuesday 13 October, 6.00 for 6.30pm. Tickets are just £7.00 including live music from fantastic band Lionel Ritchie and The Wardrobe and light refreshments and can be booked below.