Throughout human history, humour has always been our trusty companion. From ancient Greece to the pharaohs of Egypt, people have shared jokes, proving that being a smarta** is a part of being human.
The oldest jokes in human history have been collected and cataloged by the University of Wolverhampton and they’ve revealed the top 10. Let’s take a look at history’s oldest gags.
10) 300 – 400 AD: Ancient Greek Barbers
Our adventure begins in the fourth century with a jest from the ‘Philogelos,’ the world’s oldest surviving joke book.
Picture this: the king visiting his court barber. When asked how he wants his hair cut, the king retorts, “In silence.” A humorous twist on royal expectations!
9) 300 – 400 AD: Greek Donkey
The same book offers a peek into the Ancient Greeks’ penchant for poking fun at the dimwitted. An overly intellectual man endeavours to teach his donkey not to eat by withholding food.
When the donkey succumbs to hunger, the pedant laments, “I’ve had a great loss! Just when he had learned not to eat, he died.” Talk about misplaced priorities!
8) 63 BC-14 AD: Ancient Roman ‘Your’ Mum Joke
Did you know even the ancient Romans indulged in the classic ‘Yo Mamma’ humour? Imagine the Emperor Augustus noticing a man who looked remarkably like him in the crowd.
When asked if his mother had been in service at the Palace, the man cleverly responds, “No, your Highness, but my father was.” Ouch, that’s a burn fit for an emperor!
7) 30 BC: Dirty Egyptian Gags
Around the time of Marc Anthony and Cleopatra, this joke emerged. “Man is even more eager to copulate than a donkey. His purse is what restrains him.” An ancient quip that resonates even in modern times, fitting for a cheeky tweet!
6) 429 BC: Greek Brain Teaser
A more cerebral jest from the playwright Sophocles, who posed a riddle in his play ‘Oedipus Tyrannus.’ “What animal walks on four feet in the morning, two at noon, and three at evening?” The answer is a profound reflection on the stages of human life, showcasing the Greeks’ fondness for clever wordplay.
5) 800 BC: Pun-tastic
In Homer’s ‘The Odyssey,’ Odysseus outwits a Cyclops with a pun. He claims his name is “Nobody,” and when the Cyclops cries for help, he says, “Nobody is attacking me!” A simple yet effective way to escape a perilous situation!
4) 1100 BC: Marriage Material
This ancient observation on marriage humorously highlights the eccentricities of married life. A man discovers his wife is blind in one eye after 20 years of marriage, leading to a clever exchange about newfound knowledge. A jest that shows marriage quibbles are nothing new!
3) 1200 BC: Sumeria Head-Scratcher
This ancient conundrum from Sumeria challenges traditional joke structure. Three ox drivers encounter a predicament involving ownership, illustrating how humour can be as much about wit as it is about laughter.
“Three ox drivers from Adab were thirsty: one owned the ox, the other owned the cow and the other owned the wagon’s load,” it continues.
“The owner of the ox refused to get water because he feared his ox would be eaten by a lion; the owner of the cow refused because he thought his cow might wander off into the desert; the owner of the wagon refused because he feared his load would be stolen.
“So they all went. In their absence, the ox made love to the cow which gave birth to a calf, which ate the wagon’s load.
“Problem: Who owns the calf?”
2) 1800-1600 BC: First Sex Joke Ever
In a stunning revelation, the world’s second-oldest joke hails from Ancient Egypt. It suggests entertaining a bored pharaoh by sending women in fishing nets down the Nile and encouraging him to catch a fish.
“How do you entertain a bored pharaoh?
You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish.”
A clever use of innuendo, even by today’s standards!
1) 1900 BC: The Oldest Joke In The World
Topping our list is the world’s oldest recorded joke, a Sumerian proverb dating back over 4,000 years. It humorously touches on the timeless topic of flatulence, proving that comedy, no matter how ancient, continues to tickle our funny bones.
“Something which has never occurred since time immemorial. A young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.”
Humanity has somewhat changed over the last few thousands years, but it seems we still love a good laugh.