This week’s Friday funny, brought to you by author and journalist Eugene Byrne, concerns a joke that stems from ancient Greece in around the 4th or 5th centuries that was originally published in a book called Philogelos, meaning addict or laughter lover
OK, that’s us trying to make jokes from Greece in the fourth (maybe fifth) century AD sound slightly more accessible. They all come from a book called Philogelos which translates as the laughter lover or addict. It was compiled by two men named Hierocles and Philagrios, of whom little is known, and it’s the western world’s oldest surviving collection of jokes.
Only a few of the 260-ish jokes in the collection strike the modern reader as especially funny, but most are on themes which any age would recognise – dim-witted individuals, stupid ethnic minorities (Kyme was an Aeolian Greek city in Asia Minor; Strabo, writing a long time before Philogelos was compiled, noted the Kymeans’ reputation for stupidity), sex, marital discord and bodily functions. Then again, there are also lots of gags about gluttons and even more about dumb students which don’t quite fit any modern stereotypes.
You can read more of Eugene’s historical jokes at www.historyextra.com