5 Complaints About Modern Life (That Are Secretly Total BS)
Our ancestors were more or less the same people we are, just with slightly fewer iPhones and slightly more plagues. That's why societies throughout history have wrestled with problems that seem surprisingly modern to our eyes, but have apparently been around forever. For example ...
Bullshit Celebrity Diets Go All The Way Back To Lord Byron
Every celebrity worth their open-sourced non-iodized bay salt follows some crazy-ass diet plan in a futile attempt to stave off the ravages of age and gravity. But that's not an exclusively Hollywood trend. Lord Byron indulged the fad diet as we know it all the way back in the 19th century. As a rich, handsome, and angsty romantic poet, Byron was the closest thing to a rock star in his era.
Here he is, striking his most Bieber-esque pose.
Deathly concerned about keeping up that thin, pale, tuberculosis-lookin' Victorian figure, he came up with a diet all his own. And it was no less insane than the ancient grains paleo crap Angelina Jolie abides by. Byron started off living on biscuits, soda water, and vinegar-drenched potatoes, with the occasional cheat binge washed down with copious amounts of magnesia. By 1816, he was subsisting solely on thin slices of bread, tiny amounts of vegetables, seltzer water, tea, and magnesium supplements. To calm the hunger pangs, he smoked cigars.
Then, to beat the nicotine cravings, he'd snort a little cyanide.
This diet worked great, in that it gave him that authentic "maybe he's born with it, maybe it's a malady" look. He dropped from 194 lbs in university to a sickly 125 lbs in the span of five years. That he was only 36 when he died was probably a coincidence.
Ancient Athenians Sued At The Slightest Provocation
Everybody makes fun of the USA for being so lawsuit-happy -- "Those guys will sue if the coffee is too hot!" But we didn't start this fire; ancient Athenians were similarly infamous all around Greece for their tendency to phone (or ... falcon, we guess?) their lawyers at the slightest provocation.
"People walking around with no pants? Falcon us!
People forcing you to wear pants? Falcon us! We'll fight for YOU!"
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 litigates if you look at them funny. Like in the US today, they were widely mocked in popular culture, and people would often publicly accuse their opponents in court of being sycophants in order to sway the juries. Technically, Athenians could even sue someone for being a sycophant, though to our knowledge, no one ever did, possibly because the condensed irony would have formed a black hole and devoured them all.
The tide of ludicrous lawsuits was partially due to Athens not having any designated public prosecutors. As a result, any citizen could sue someone on behalf of the city. Luckily, Athenian juries probably didn't mind all this rampant legal douchebaggery too much. After all, they were paid for each case they voted on.
Pandering Beer Advertisements Are Almost As Old As Writing
We've already told you that Roman gladiators were a bunch of corporate spokesmen cheerily peddling the era's version of Air Jordans. But even that far removed and ancient time isn't where advertising started. Consider your humble beer slogan. 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. It reads: "Drink Elba, the beer with the heart of a lion."
It led to 6,000 years of misguided drunken lion poaching.
Naturally, the tablet also depicts a headless woman with gigantic boobs holding two jugs of beer, because sex has always sold, even back when people thought "STD" stood for "Sexually Transmitted Demon." Moving forward in the annals of history, a wine jar found in the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamun bears the slogan: "Life, Prosperity, Health"
Tutankhamun, who died at 18.
It's no "the champagne of beers," but it's pretty catchy.
Crazy City Traffic Was An Issue In Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome's traffic was all the insanity of modern day Moscow, only with fewer dashboard cameras and more Spartacus. It was a 24/7 free-for-all of thuggery and mortal dread, all on narrow streets that barely fit a wagon. If a wealthy Roman needed to get somewhere and you happened to be maneuvering the same streets, then all bets were off. The rich would hire servants to carry their wagons through the street and shove others out of the way, or to simply block all traffic until they got wherever they were going.
Sure, there were rules and regulations, but they were extremely lax, and didn't really apply to folks with money. Also, during the nights, basically all traffic regulations were lifted, so those walking the streets after dark may as well have been playing chicken with a wagon full of marble.
"Chariot accident? Falcon us!"
And then there was the noise. Forget highway traffic; in ancient Rome, the never-ending, awful commotion of countless carriages and carts navigating the narrow, winding streets (their stressed-out animals bellowing, the drivers screaming and cursing at each other) was near-maddening. It was so bad that the wealthiest Romans moved right out of the city rather than deal with the traffic and stress. And thus, the invention of the suburb.
And the cul-de-sac.
All The Annoyances Of Modern Finance Existed 5,000 Years Ago
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. They had to create their whole system from scratch. The first problem they faced was that they had no way to put down their contracts for basic money lending, so they started by inventing writing. That's not even "starting from the ground up" -- that's having to invent the ground first.
The next issue was to figure out accounting, which they did with a system of thick clay picture disks representing the commodities in question. (Aw man, we could have had a Pog-based economy? Way to botch it, guys who invented paper money.) The disks were sealed inside clay containers called bullae, on which the accountants scribbled their number and type. Over time, the bullae became official financial contracts -- predecessors to things like government bonds and stocks.
And some other bullaeshit, too.
Eventually, the system became even more sophisticated, and early bankers started creating mutual funds in which big capitalists, governments, and ordinary citizens alike could all invest. The financial district started to expand, and settled down into a moneylenders' street not entirely unlike modern Wall Street.
Also not entirely unlike Wall Street, it all went to hell on a regular basis. The government tried to regulate these markets, but seems to have been largely unsuccessful, due to the bankers' vastly superior knowledge of economics. When the government imposed a maximum interest rate of 20 percent, they forgot to specify a time period, so the financiers invented an early form of payday loans, gleefully forcing loan-takers into a vicious cycle.
"Ur bunch of assholes."
Nobody was immune from debt; even the king of Ur owed the bankers money. This proved to be an oversight on their part. In 1788 BC, the king finally thought, "Waaait a minute ... I can do whatever I want!" and decreed that all loans in the city were null and void. Ur's once-thriving financial sector was all but wiped out, and millennia later, one list-based comedy site finally saw the potential upside to a monarchy. Come back, England! These student loans are killing us.
Turns out we're all just a bunch of unoriginal jerks. For more evidence, just check out 30 'Modern' Things That Are Way Older Than You Think and 20 Annoying 'Modern' Trends That Are Older Than You Think.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out 5 Bizarrely Specific Sexist Stereotypes In Modern Ads, and watch other videos you won't see on the site!
Also, follow us on Facebook. Or don't. It's whatevsies.