The ancients had public death matches for fun and these other pastimes | Trending Viral hub

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Believe it or not, long before movie theaters and bowling alleys, before Settlers of Catan and Xbox, our ancestors found enjoyable ways to spend their leisure hours. Then, as now, obligations occupied only a part of the day; the rest was theirs to do with as they pleased.

Leisure time has always been part of the human experience, but its role has changed over time, differing between cultures and hierarchical classes. From songs to sports to board games, not to mention the occasional public deathmatch, let’s take a tour of the things our ancestors did for fun throughout the centuries.

Free time in the prehistoric era

Early humans probably didn’t draw a clear line between work and play, as Daniel McLean and Amy Hurd explain in Recreation and leisure in modern society. In less technologically advanced societies, they write, “work tends to be varied and creative, rather than being a narrow, specialized task requiring clearly defined skill, as in modern industry.” What’s more, it is often imbued with ritual aspects that make it feel less onerous.


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That said, little is known about the amusements of prehistoric people, as evidence is scarce. (Several 42,000-year-old bone flutes discovered in Germany in 2012 are a notable exception). Still, extrapolating from the activities of hunter-gatherers in the modern era, we can make some educated guesses.

Writing in the late 1970s, Australian anthropologist WEH Stanner described how Aboriginal people’s modest material needs allowed them to devote much time “to all the things for which life could be lived when basic needs were met: pleasures of leisure, rest, singing.” , dance, companionship, commerce, stylized fights and the performance of religious rituals.”

In other words, thousands of years ago people probably did many of the same things we do today, transferred to their pre-industrial context. Stanner’s list includes, among other things, the primary equivalents of karaoke, clubbing, coffee with friends, shopping at the mall, and pickup basketball. Some things never change.

What was athletics like in ancient times?

Sports have played an important role in virtually every recorded culture. Ironically, these recreational activities often had a deep connection to war. McClean and Hurd write that ancient people not only played sports for pleasure, but also to “keep the body strong and the spirit brave,” maintaining physical and mental fitness for future combat.

By contrast, in other cases, sports were explicitly used to avoid war. For example, many Native Americans played stickballa game similar to lacrosse in which players throw a ball across a field to resolve disputes between tribes without resorting to violence.


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The tension between the fun and the fatal may have peaked with the ritual ball game known as tlachtli, performed by pre-Columbian cultures throughout Mesoamerica such as the Mayans and Aztecs. Like racquetball, this game could be played informally by anyone, but some formal competitions apparently ended with the ritual sacrifice of the losers. (Today is not exactly your typical idea of ​​a relaxing Saturday.)

The rise of inequality in entertainment

For decades, anthropologists have hypothesized that the agricultural revolution came with a big trade-off: more food security in exchange for more labor. Recent research on Agtaa group of hunter-gatherers from the Philippines, confirms that these individuals have adopted an agricultural lifestyle and, as a result, have had less free time.

However, as civilization advanced, people managed to entertain themselves – at least as best they could afford it. As settlements grew and work became more specialized, the resulting social structure allowed an elite minority (chiefs, warriors, priests and their families) to live off the surplus created by others. Thus was born the leisure class, with its extravagant notions of recreation.


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What were the Assyrian nobles like? launching lions from their chariots For the sake of excitement, for example, ordinary people were left to develop their own everyday amusements. Board games appear to have been just as popular many millennia ago, with the oldest game pieces dating back to around 3000 BC. C. in Türkiye. Almost at the same time, chaturanga (the precursor to chess) emerged in India, while the Egyptians invented senet, in which players competed against each other to the end of the board, similar to cribbage.

Fun in Classical Antiquity

In the last millennium BC. C., the ancient Greeks took fun to a new level of sophistication. Their elaborate theatrical productions, with professional actors and even a crane to lift gods and heroes above the stage, were “an indispensable element of every urban center,” according to UNESCO. and with a slave population With 20 to 50 percent to take care of all the work, citizens were not short of time to attend plays, festivals, and other events.

By Roman times, if not before, the modern distinction between work and play was firmly established. The Latin words for leisure and business are, respectively, leisureand business For the ancient Romans, business was literally defined as a lack of leisure, suggesting that work ties restrict the freedom to spend one’s time as one chooses.

Still, the idea of ​​”fun” in ancient Rome may seem barbaric by modern standards. For 100 straight days after the Colosseum opened in 80 AD, tens of thousands of citizens packed the amphitheater to watch staged hunts and gladiatorial combats, or, to put it bluntly, the systematic slaughter of animals and men. It was, as John Pearson writes in Arena: The history of the Colosseum“the longest, most disgusting, organized mass drunkenness in history.”

Of course, they were neither the first nor the last to indulge in cruel and vulgar spectacles.20,000 people showed up for the last public execution in the United States in 1936). And the Romans had other, less objectionable occupations. Like the Greeks, they frequented theaters, stadiums, parks, gardens, and baths.

So maybe we can overlook their obnoxious tendencies: after all, they gave us hot tubs, and what’s more fun than a hot tub party?


Read more: The history of bad words: where is the &%@! They’re coming from?


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