Ok, the last few years haven't been the best. Whether it's COVID-19 and the resulting lockdowns, or the war taking place in Europe, or any of the resulting economic problems raging across the world, it's fair to say that the 2020s so far haven't been as roaring as we were hoping for.
But is there a better time to live in? People on Twitter are discussing that at the moment, after the HistoryInMemes account asked the following question:
Surprisingly, people have answers that date back to times before things like antibiotics, pain relief, and Shrek 2 made life tolerable and longer. As you'd expect, this may be because people picture themselves as hanging out with Socrates rather than dying of epidemic typhus as a peasant.
Ancient Greece was a popular choice among responders, with others saying they too would like to hang out with Socrates and Aristotle. While the Ancient Greeks made incredible contributions to the fields of math, astronomy, philosophy, and medicine, and built astonishing buildings which would look so pretty years later in the British Museum, for the majority in Ancient Greece life was pretty tough.
Most lived in the countryside or villages, working the scarce farmland.
"Greek society’s view of the poor was often critical and excluded them: the poor were considered to have low morality and the degradation of insecurity and impiety," historians Estelle Galbois and Sylvie Rougier-Blanc wrote for Brewminate. "They looted altars and stole offerings made to the gods, lied and would do anything to get enough to survive."
Despite this, you might fare better here socially than at other points in history.
"In cities, the poor occupied open spaces (public porches and the porches and thresholds of homes), but there is no literary or epigraphic evidence indicating legislation to drive them out. The poorest could even maintain a semblance of sociability, by often attending public baths or their systematic presence near temples. Figures of the polis, they were in a way partially integrated."
Ancient Egypt and Ancient Rome were also popular answers.
As with all other civilizations, how much it would suck to live during those times depends on your position. It's obviously fine to be pharaoh Pepi II, rather than the slaves Pepi liked to smother in honey to keep flies away from his food.
If your purpose for choosing Egypt is to help out with building the pyramids, your life might be tough but not as bad as you'd expect. Contrary to popular misconception, they weren't built by slaves. The current consensus is that they were built by paid laborers, after a worker's village and cemetery on the Khafre and Menkaure pyramids was uncovered in the 1990s.
The manner of burial of the workers – in mud-brick tombs, with beer and bread to take with them to the afterlife – and proximity to the pyramids suggests that the builders were paid workers. Examination of their remains showed that they had a protein-rich diet, which was unheard of at the time. There was evidence that broken bones had been reset, and one person was even found to have had his leg amputated before living for a further 14 years, suggesting they were given medical care.
One person went further back to a time before language, as if life was a lot better when you had to screech to let a fellow human know they were at risk of an animal attack, rather than (for example) ask someone to pass the olives, or what civilization they'd like to be from on the Internet.