First known joke?

Oct 2015
944
Norway
I suddenly started wondering where and when the first known joke turned up?
I think we need to define "joke". Let's exclude any exagerated or silly illustration, perhaps?
I would also exclude longer stories such as Aesops Fables. Let's limit it to short (les than ten lines of text or so? ) with a punchline at the end. I know this is a narrow definition of a joke, but I fear giving an answer to the question will be impossible if we don't.
 
Mar 2019
1,850
Kansas
I suddenly started wondering where and when the first known joke turned up?
I think we need to define "joke". Let's exclude any exagerated or silly illustration, perhaps?
I would also exclude longer stories such as Aesops Fables. Let's limit it to short (les than ten lines of text or so? ) with a punchline at the end. I know this is a narrow definition of a joke, but I fear giving an answer to the question will be impossible if we don't.
World's oldest joke traced back to 1900 BC - Reuters
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,210
Welsh Marches
There is a surviving ancient Greek joke book called the Philogelos or 'Laughter-lover' (much later of course than the joke just mentioned); most of the jokes aren't very funny. Samples here, in a rather poor translation:

Diotima

The Greeks told jokes about Abderites in particular, who were supposed to be exceptionally stupid. One day, for instance, an Abderite was out swimming and it began to rain, so he dived under the water to avoid getting wet.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,763
Australia
Here are some ancent Greek jokes. They aren't the world's oldest but they are funny.

"The slave you sold me died."
"He never did anything like that when I had him."

"Lend me a knife as far as Smyrna"
"I don't have one that reaches that far."

Talkative barber: "How should I cut your hair?"
Annoyed customer: "Silently."

A Kymean is shopping for windows for his new house and asks the vendor if he has any that face south.

A miser writes his will and names himself as his heir.

A man's despised wife recently died. At the funeral a passerby asks him, "who rests in peace here? He replies, "me, now that I'm rid of her."

A bald man swore at Diogenes. The great philosopher replied, "I won’t respond to your abuse, but I would like to say 'congratulations' to your hair for freeing themselves from such a mean head!"

A father asked Aristippos to teach his son. The philosopher said he would for a fee of 500 drachmas. The outraged father replied, "I could buy an animal with so much money!" Aristippos said, "go ahead, then you'll have two!"

The Philogelos is the oldest extant collection of Greek jokes.
Philogelos - Wikipedia

Fart jokes were popular; Greeks and Romans both used "whoopee cushions".
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,630
While not the oldest, it is ancient, and one of my favorites. Scratched onto the wall of the basilica in Pompeii...

"O walls, you have held up so much tedious graffiti that I am amazed you have not already collapsed in ruin"

Apparently trolling is nothing modern. ;)
 
  • Like
Reactions: Nostromo

Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,625
Westmorland
A Greek playwright goes into a tailor's shop holding a pair of torn trousers.

"Euripides?" asks the tailor.

"Yes", replies the playwright. "Eumenides"
 
  • Like
Reactions: Nostromo

Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,625
Westmorland
The oldest known joke from Post Roman Britain:-

What did St Patrick say as he drove the snakes out of Ireland?

"Are you lads alright in the back there?"
 
Aug 2012
1,554
I remember hearing of an old Greek joke, I can't remember exactly how it went, but it was something like:
"In the ideal world, there will be no money. None shall work. There shall be peace and plenty for all."
"But who will reap the fields?"
"The slaves."