When were jokes and riddles first told?

Riddles have been asked since very ancient times. Today, we consider rid­dles as a form of amusement, but long-ago people took riddles very seriously. Ancient oracles often answered questions and gave advice in the form of riddles. Kings used riddles to send each other secret messages. These serious riddles were also called enigmas.

Greeks and Romans held riddle contests at their feasts and gave prizes to the winners. According to some legends, a man's life sometimes depended on his giving the correct answer to a riddle.

Riddles even appear in the Bible. At Samson's wedding feast, a riddle contest was held and the Queen of Sheba asked King Solomon a number of riddles.

Jokes are as old as the spoken word. In every country in the world and every age in history, people have told funny stories to make one another laugh.

In the Middle Ages in Europe the court jesters, or fools, amused the king and his court with jokes and tricks. At first, court jesters sang of brave deeds or gestures. But as time went by they became tellers of jokes and funny stories.

Jokes told by jesters began to appear in collections or jestbooks. One of the best-known English jestbooks was “Tarlton's Jests,” which appeared about 1611. So you see how long ago people were collecting jokes. The most famous joke-teller in history is Joe Miller, an English actor who lived from 1684 to 1738.