I will always say this: our ancestors were not much different than we are. Sure, they took less selfies and thought that “duck face” is a term that refers to, well… ducks, but societies throughout history have struggled with issues that seem surprisingly modern to our eyes. Either we’re that thorough that we still hanging in there pondering the same old issues which have been discussed by humanity for millennia, or that our ancestors are much more modern than we thought. On the downside, maybe George Bernard Shaw was right: we never learn from history and would always repeat it like suckers.
In most countries these days, marking or painting property without the property owner’s consent is considered vandalism, which is a punishable crime. However, certain areas of the world has managed to get with the program and accept it as a genre of artistic expression. Graffiti has existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to both Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. Some of the best examples of ancient Roman graffiti can be seen at the Coliseum and public bathhouses in Pompeii and Herculaneum. The subject varies starting from the groupie-sounding of suspirium puellarum celadus thraex ( “Celadus, the Thracian, makes the girls sigh.” – a Thracian is a sort of gladiator, by the way) or the food critic’s scathing review of in pecuniis autem magistratus neronis principis hoc dicit cibus est veneum (“The finances officer of the emperor Nero says this food is poison.”)
In Roman Alexandria one was bound to come upon a group of noisy and disrupting Cynics abusing everyone Cynisim is known today chiefly as an attitude of pessimism towards everything. The ancient cynics were more committed. They disregarded social conventions and appearance. If anything, they would deliberately disregard common courtesies just get a reaction. Sounds familiar, no? To make it relevant in today’s context: Things that a ‘cynic’ would say on Twitter would embarrass people in a day to day interaction as it would sound rude/racist/sexist/dumb/sleazy, but it would not bother them because they’re just saying it to get attention. According to stories, one day, while Diogenes (a famous cynic) was sunning, Alexander, the king and therefore the celebrity of the time, invited Diogenes to ask of anything of him, to which Diogenes, who really should know better, replied that Alexander was standing on the way of the sun. Have fun imagining how that conversation played out. Alexander squashing Diogenes like a bug was a likely scenario.
8. Celebrity Diet
Every celebrity worth their salt follows some loopy diet plan in their futile attempts to stave off age and gravity. Lord Byron did the fad diet thing as we know it all the way back in the 19th century (Hah. Suck on that Gwyneth Paltrow!) Scrawny and gorgeously depressed, Byron was the closest thing to early years Adam Levine in his era. Being the celeb that he was, he of course had to maintain his figure to achieve the desirable sickly look, so he came up with his own diet. By 1816, he existed solely on thin slices of bread, tiny amounts of vegetables, magnesium supplements, and cigars. This diet worked. The fact that he was only 36 when he died may or may not have something to do with lack of nutrition.
7. Legal Actions
We hear new legal actions being made every day out of some of the most ridiculous reasons, but ancient Athenians took the cake for their tendency to sue at the slightest provocation. The Athenians were so inundated with lawsuits that they had a special term, sukophantai (the origin of the English word “sycophant”), for the sort of person who sues you if you look at them funny. The tide of ludicrous lawsuits was mostly due to Athens not having any designated public prosecutors, so the act of suing someone on behalf of the city could be done by anyone who had the time. The Athenian juries were paid for each case they voted on, so they didn’t mind.
6. Sexist Beer Ads
According to anthropologist Alan D. Eames, a man gloriously nicknamed “the Indiana Jones of beer” the world’s oldest beer advertisement hails from a Mesopotamian tablet from 4000 BC that reads: “Drink Elba, the beer with the heart of a lion.” Of course, the tablet also depicts a headless, big breasted woman holding two jugs of beer, because evidently fascinations for boobs also has existed since the ancient times.
5. City Traffic
Ancient Rome’s traffic had all the insanity of modern day Jakarta with fewer suicidal maniacs on scooters. Sure, there were rules and regulations, but they were extremely lax, and didn’t really apply to rich people. Also, during the nights, traffic regulations didn’t apply and all bets were off, so those walking the streets after dark may as well just get their funeral arrangements over and done with before stepping out of the house. Mind you, daytime wasn’t much better, the rich would hire servants to carry their wagons through the street and shove others out of the way, or if they were really in a hurry, block all traffic until they got wherever they were going.
4. Asylum Seekers
In 55 BC, Cicero said,” The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt.” Fast forward to 2015, The Spectator said “Yes, the rich world has a moral duty to help people fleeing for their lives, but that duty requires tough action – as well as targeted help – to prevent a genuine flow of refugees developing into an uncontrolled flood of migrants.” If Cicero were alive, he should trademark that quote before some unscrupulous politician steals it.
3. Financial Crisis
Back in 3000 BC, Mesopotamians in the city of Ur developed very sophisticated financial markets, comparable to those of today, using grams of silver as denominations. Their accounting was done with a system of thick clay picture disks representing the commodities in question. The disks were sealed inside clay containers called bullae, on which the accountants scribbled their number and type. Eventually, early bankers started creating mutual funds in which big capitalists, governments, and ordinary citizens could all invest. In 1788 BC, the king finally decreed that all loans in the city were null and void, including his loans, because he could. Ur’s financial sector was all but wiped out after that.
2. Homosexual Marriages
Although homosexual marriages have been allowed by developed countries, there are still bans of sorts on things to do with homosexuality to this day as well as numerous allowances and disallowances or hate crimes and theories associated with it as if this is a new thing. But, it has existed for thousands of years, and hasn’t always been controversial. With the possible exception of the Egyptians and the Hebrews, none of the archaic civilizations prohibited homosexuality per se. None of the early legal codes of Mesopotamia even mentioned homosexuality. The only possible reference to homosexuality is a provision in the Hammurabi Code concerning sons adopted by palace eunuchs, who may or may not be gay – loss of body part does not turn one gay. There was no religious prohibition against homosexuality from the text of an Almanac of Incantations, which contains prayers favoring, on an equal basis, “the love of a man for a woman, a woman for a man, and a man for a man.”
As hard it is for us to believe, the religions we hold today are not the beginning of everything. There were people before these religions exists who would also believe in deities, or gods, or religions although they call it by other names. And, as with everything, with belief comes disbelief. In the fourth century BC, Plato imagined a believer chastising an atheist: “You and your friends are not the first to have held this view about the gods! There are always those who suffer from this illness, in greater or lesser numbers.” Carneades, head of the Platonic academy in the second century BC, argued that “belief in gods is illogical” to the Epicureans. The diversity of ancient Greece’s polytheistic societies meant there was no such thing as religious orthodoxy and no clergy telling people how to live. So, while atheism could be viewed as mistaken, it was usually tolerated – although not in the case of Socrates, who was executed in Athens for “not recognizing the gods of the city”.