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Funny Ancient History Jokes

Will and Guy's Ancient Humour

Will and Guy are convinced that humour, laughter and jokes have been with us since the beginning of human life on earth, and we would like to share some jokes with you that have an historical background.

Funny Ancient History Jokes

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Humour in Antiquity

It's easy to imagine that joke books are a modern phenomenon. Not so!

Philogelos, or 'The Laughter Lover', a book of wisecracks, was probably compiled in the fourth or fifth century AD. Written in Greek, it contains around 260 short jokes. Nobody knows who originally put it together or why.  A Roman stand-up's aide memoire? Or maybe a Roman Will and Guy?

Roman Jokes from The Laughter Lover

Slaves!
A wealthy man buys a slave, who dies shortly afterwards, so he complains to the slave's former owner, "Hey! That slave you sold me. He died."
"Goodness me," he replies. "He never did that when I owned him."

Credibility
A man meets an acquaintance and says, "It's funny. I was told you were dead." The acquaintance replies, "Well, you can see I'm still alive." But the first man argues, "You must be dead because the chap who told me you were dead is much more reliable than you."

Tell Your Fortune?
A man who had just returned from travelling abroad consulted an incompetent astrologer about his family. "How are they?" he asked.
"They're all fine," the astrologer replied, "especially your father.
"But he's been dead for 10 years!" exclaimed the man.
"You obviously don't know who your father is then," retorted the astrologer.

The Perfect Guest
A boffin was invited to a dinner party but wouldn't eat anything.
"Why aren't you eating?" asked a fellow guest.
"I didn't want anyone thinking I'd only come for the food."

Funny History Jokes

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Six Further Examples from The Laughter Lover - [Philgelos]

  • An intellectual, falling sick, had promised to pay the doctor if he recovered. When his wife nagged at him for drinking wine while he had a fever, he said, 'Do you want me to get healthy and be forced to pay the doctor?'
  • An intellectual caught sight of a deep well on his country-estate, and asked if the water was any good. The farmhands assured him that it was good, and that his own parents used to drink from that well. The intellectual expressed his amazement: 'How long were their necks, if they could drink from something so deep!'
  • An intellectual came to check in on a friend who was seriously ill. When the man's wife said that he had "departed", the intellectual replied: 'When he arrives back, will you tell him that I stopped by?'
  • A glutton betrothed his daughter to another glutton. Asked what he was giving her as a dowry, he replied: 'A house whose windows face the bakery.' Funny History Jokes
  • While a misogynist was paying his last respects to his wife, someone asked him: 'Who has gone to rest? He replied: 'Me, now that I'm alone.'
  • A barber, an absent minded professor and a bald man go on a long journey together and have to camp out overnight so they decide to take it in turns to watch the luggage. The barber volunteers for the first watch while the other two sleep but soon gets bored so he decides to pass the time by shaving the professor's head. When his shift is up he wakes the professor who pats his head and exclaims, 'God, that barber is a real idiot, he's woken up baldy instead of me.'   See more barber jokes.

Ancient Humour Durability

Not all the Laughter-lover jokes stand the test of time, some involve a scholastikos (absent-minded professor or boffin) who uses his great intellect to reach the wrong conclusion, eg a boffin went for a dip and almost drowned. He swore he'd never go near water again until he'd learned to swim.

Others mock different nationalities, rather like 'Irish ' gags, eg, A farmer from Kyme was in the market, selling honey. The customer, after tasting it, complimented him on how good it was. "Damn right it's good,' replied the farmer. 'I wouldn't be selling it if that mouse hadn't gone and died in it!"

Our Top Ten Hilarious, Funny, Witty and Short Jokes from History

The Philgelos or "Laughter-lover" is probably the oldest compilation of jokes in existence; it contains some 265 jokes. It is said that the famous Monty Python Parrot sketch has its origins in a joke told in the Philogelos.

  1. Why were the early days of history called the dark ages?  Because there were so many knights.
  2. It appears that shortest war on record was between Zanzibar and Britain in 1896.  Zanzibar [now part of Tanzania] surrendered after 38 minutes.
  3. What kind of lighting did Noah use for the ark?  Floodlights and Ark lights
  4. Which English King invented the fireplace?  Alfred the Grate.
  5. How was the Roman Empire cut in half?  With a pair of Caesars.
  6. I'm desperately trying to establish why kamikaze pilots wore helmets.
  7. Last words from a general in the American Civil War, 'Nonsense.
    They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist...............'
  8. Asked by the court barber how he wanted his hair cut, the king replied, 'In silence.' [From the Philogelos]
  9. What's the difference between Joan of Arc and a canoe?  One is Maid of Orleans and the other is made of wood. [The Victorians enjoyed jokes like this one]
  10. Wishing to teach his donkey not to eat, a pedant did not offer him any food. When the donkey died of hunger, he said, 'I've had a great loss. Just when he had learned not to eat, he died.' - Dated to the *Philogelos 4th Century CE]

One that almost got away:
Why did Henry VIII have so many wives? He liked to chop and change.

See more history jokes.

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