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World’s oldest joke book

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March 31, 2013 by Royal and Doodall

Oldest joke book

A Cambridge academic has uncovered what is believed to be the world’s oldest joke book.

The third century book of gags from the Roman Empire is written in Greek and entitled Philogelos, which translates as Laughter Lover. Professor Mary Beard says it debunks the popular myth that the Romans were ‘pompous, toga-wearing bridge builders’.

“A lot of the books written during the Roman Empire were written in Greek and although they might not be side-splittingly funny, they do give us a fascinating insight,” she told the Daily Telegraph.

Prof Beard, who came across it while researching ancient humour for a book, said the jokes were categorized into themes including ‘the absentminded professor’ and ‘the charlatan prophet’.

“One of my favourite jokes from the book, and probably one of the longest, is about a barber, a professor and a bald man,” she added.

Another dating back to 248 AD when Rome held what was billed as the ‘Millennium Games’ – tells the story of a distraught athlete: “Never mind,” says a spectator. “You can always try again at the next Millennium Games.”

There is also an ancient version of the Monty Python dead parrot sketch.

It reads: “A man buys a slave, who dies soon after. When he complains, the slave seller replies, “Well, he didn’t die when I owned him”.”


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