10 Things People Did in Ancient Times that Were Surprising
Are you one of the thinkers who wonders whether we have progressed with time or regressed? Were our ancestors more intelligent and able than us or are we more able than them? Although it is difficult to answer that question, reading about these things that people did in the ancient times might help you determine. One of the surprising things about the old ages was the duration of an hour in Rome. As people used sundials, the duration of an hour would vary from season to season. In winters, the hour would be 45 minutes. and in summer. the hour would be 75 minutes. Here are more such surprising facts!
1 Ancient Greeks made it illegal for a person to die or give birth on the island of Delos. They wanted to keep the island “pure” and sacred for worship.
Famous for being the birthplace of Apollo, Delos is an island near Mykonos, Greece. After being a holy sanctuary for a million years, Delos underwent a lot of “purifications” at the hands of the Athenians from the sixth century BCE. They wanted to make the island pure for worship.
One of the first such attempts was by Pisistratus who ordered all the graves to be moved to a nearby island. After a hundred years, under similar instructions from the Delphic Oracle, all graves were removed once again and instructions were given that nobody could die to give birth on the island.
This was to make sure that Delos remained “pure” and also to ensure that no one could claim ownership of the island through inheritance thereby maintaining its neutrality in commerce.
Today, this tiny island with an area of 1.32 square miles, has only 14 inhabitants and finds a mention on the UNESCO World Heritage List. (source)
2 The Finnish in the old days used squirrel pelts as currency while the Chinese used cowrie shells. Salt, whale teeth, and snails were also used as “money” before coins were invented.
Before coinage was invented and made popular, a large number of things were used as money. This was referred to as “shell money” or “commodity money.” In Finland, red squirrel pelts were used as currency, while beaver pelts were used in Canada.
Salt was used as money in ancient Rome, while snails were used by the indigenous people of California, the Andes, and Mexico. China has been to known to have attached a high value to cowry shells, but other parts of the world also used cowry shells as currency. In Africa, shell money was legal tender until the 19th century.
Some tribes of North America also accepted shells as payment. In the Solomon Islands, the cowry shells are still in use in certain parts as currency. In the pre-Hispanic times, cocoa beans were money. Eventually, with the minting of metals and once the value of those metals rose, coins were invented and accepted as money. (1, 2, 3)
3 In ancient Rome, commoners had a form of revolt known as “Secessions of the Plebians” in which they would evacuate an entire city and leave the rich to fend for themselves.
An ancient form of a strike, Secessio plebs, was a movement where the free, common citizens of Rome (plebeians) would abandon the city in huge numbers. Imagine that! The entire city abandoned overnight! This would mean that all workers would stop work, shops would be shut, and all kinds of commercial transactions would not take place.
The elite would struggle to fend for themselves as it was the common folk who produced the food and resources. From 494 BCE to 287 BCE, there were at least five such secessions of the common people of Rome.
This show of power was meant to make the upper class learn a lesson, and often the demands of the “plebeians” would be met. For instance, in 494 BCE when the citizens vacated the city to strike, many of them were freed from their debts and for the very first time, and a government position was awarded to them by setting up the Tribune of the Plebs. (source)
4 Egyptians during the ancient times tried to domesticate cheetahs as house pets. They also tamed them for hunting in the 15th century.
Ancient Egyptians would keep cheetahs as pets and were also buried with them to keep them company after death. They also believed that a cheetah would bring a person’s spirit faster into the afterlife.
In the middle of the 15th century, people saw profit in keeping cheetahs alive rather than killing them and would tame them to take along hunting as it was a natural predator. This was a fun activity the wealthy people practiced with the wild cat.
Because of this, many cheetah trappers, tamers, and dealers earned hefty sums of money from working with the animals. For the same reason, the cheetah was strangely referred to as the “hunting leopard.” (source)
5 In Hawaii, women were forbidden to eat along with men and were also not allowed to touch certain food. The practice continued until 1819 when King Kamehameha II had a dinner party with women.
In ancient Hawaii, foods that were not common or served only during special occasions were banned to everyone in the society except the men. Women dined separately as a religious tradition. King Kamehameha II in 1819 removed all such religious acts and took part in a symbolic feast by eating with women. This marked an end to all the religious taboos in Hawaii and the beginning of the famous Luau feast.
“Luau” was the name of the food that was served during the first feast—chicken combined with tender leaves of the taro plant, baked in coconut milk.
The Luau feast, which is a tradition that has been carried forward until today, has a large variety of foods served like poi, Kalua pig, Lomi salmon, opihi, etc., along with beer. People were also entertained through music and hula which is a dance accompanied by chanting or singing. (source)
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