5 Things That Didn’t Last As Long As You Think

Turns out you’d have to tune that time machine pretty precisely
5 Things That Didn’t Last As Long As You Think

Usually, when Im thinking about history, Im thinking about eons and eras. Long rules and civilizations rising and falling as the years whiz by. Im not sure why, but thinking about some great historical event coming and going over the span of two years just feels wrong. Two years? As in, the same kind of years we have now? Less time than it takes to make an Avatar

In my head, everyone had Methuselah-level lifespans and sat and watched as sandy winds wore down the tips of the Great Pyramids. But that’s not always the case. In fact, here are five things that went by a lot quicker than youd assume…

The Black Death

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With the population more aware of pandemic timelines than anyone would predict, its interesting to look back at the big poppa Black Death and its timeline. In my head, its a generous slice of the late Middle Ages. I mean, it must have taken at least a couple years for those bird masks to catch on, right?

It also seems like something that would span at least a decade, given that it wiped out somewhere between one- and two-thirds of the European population. Youve gotta factor in times for all those boils and all that bed rest before they finally cough out the last of the diseased rat hair and succumb. So it rockets up the “yikes” rankings when you realize that the first ride of the Black Death occurred over the course of only four years, from 1347 to 1351. The time of a single American presidential term.

Reign of Tutankhamen

Kenneth C. Zirkel

Its an unfortunate bit of confusion that, thanks to the prominence of his gold-lacquered death mask, most recipients of an American education probably think Tutankhamun was the most important pharaoh of all time. Asked to parse out different pharaohs reigns, wed probably mark off a large section of it to King Tut, and then maybe throw one of the Rameses on at the end. In reality, both the life and the time on top for Tut were remarkably short, especially in the scale of, you know, everything.

First up is the fact that Tutankhamun died at the age of 19, which puts a pretty definitive ceiling on his throne occupancy. Even though he began his time as pharaoh at a remarkably young age, around 8 or 9, he still only had about a single decade before he succumbed to his many, many health problems. And so, “Which lasted longer: the reign of Tutankhamun or the TV show Blue Bloods?” is a much better trivia question than youd think.

Reign of Caesar

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Even shorter is the actual time Julius Caesar spent at the head of the Roman Republic. You, like most people, probably imagine a long and prosperous time for those toga-wrapped citizens, even if it ended in a less than ideal manner. Its gotta take at least a decade or two to get that many people mad enough to stab you, right? Not so. Julius Caesar became emperor in the year 46 B.C. He was thoroughly ventilated in the year 44 B.C.

Thats right, the reign of the mighty Caesar was only two years long. Thats not enough time to get a single piece of legislation through Congress these days. Sure, hed been in power in other places before that, but everybody associates him with Rome, not “Julius Caesar, leader of the Northern Territory of Gaul.” Youd think the guy whos responsible for the modern way we measure time would have been given a little more of it.

All of Human History

Emoke Denes

Time to go from piqued curiosity into full-on existentialism! If youre thinking that the historical periods above seem surprisingly brief, lets take a massive zoom out into the timeline of the entire planet, and realize just how little of that time has had us little pink monkeys fucking around on it. From the very first second something scientists would consider human spat out a mouthful of embryonic fluid and started stretching its little opposable thumbs to now is a period of only 200,000 years. Which is, yes, a long time, but the more you chop it up and place it next to things on greater scales, it starts to look like nothing more than a sneeze.

For example, consider the modern average human lifespan of 71 years. If you stacked lives back-to-back all the way to the beginning of our occupancy on Earth, it would take less than 3,000 human lives before you got there. We look at dinosaurs as some lizards that had a pretty good run until extinction, but we should probably put a whole lot more respect on their name, considering weve had our run of the planet for only about 0.1 percent of the time they spent on top. But yeah, were King Monkey! Woo!


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Okay, lets try to cut that spiral short with another fun fact. Even though, especially thanks to movies, we might view earthquakes as extended periods of shaking and shifting for protagonists to run down hallways and streets away from rubble during, theyre extremely quick in reality. Most earthquakes only last a few seconds, with even serious earthquakes at a magnitude of five or six topping out around 30 seconds long. It’s certainly far from painless, but you can’t say it isn’t quick. 

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