What Were The Best Times In History To Be Alive?

List Rules
Vote up the historical locations you would most want to live in.

If you weren't living in the 21st century, when and where would you live? There are many advantages to living in the 21st century, but there are also forgotten eras of history full of peace, rapid cultural building, and prosperity. Some people choose their favorite historical era based on their personality - but what was really the best time to be alive? And could the perks of a bygone era convince you to hop into a time machine? 

It is important to note that while an era might have brought amazing experiences to some people, those opportunities often came with pain and persecution for others. Still, there are surprising times and places where certain groups, like women, may have had even more rights than they do in Western society today.

So, what was the best time in history to live in?

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  • Postwar United States
    Photo: Leave It To Beaver / NBCUniversal Television Distribution
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    1,228 VOTES

    Postwar United States

    What Made This Era So Great

    In the years following WWII, the United States experienced unprecedented economic growth. Suddenly, blue-collar Americans could afford luxuries once considered “high-class.” Factory workers bought televisions, cars, and their own homes. Americans had higher salaries, more leisure time, and expendable income. The 40-hour work week became the norm. Most Americans also enjoyed paid vacations. At the beginning of WWII, there were eight large suburban shopping centers in the United States, but by 1960, there were 3,840

    What Made This Era Not So Great 

    Not everyone benefited from America’s rise to become the world’s leading economic superpower. African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and other minorities fought against racial prejudice, disenfranchisement, and discriminatory laws. Women who were allowed to work during the war years were expected to return to their traditional roles in households.

    There were also existential threats hanging overhead. Rising tensions between the USA and Russia due to the Cold War left many Americans in fear of impending atomic annihilation. 

    1,228 votes
  • Fifth-Century BC Athens
    Photo: Leo von Klenze / Wikimedia Commons / Publlic Domain
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    696 VOTES

    Fifth-Century BC Athens

    What Made This Era So Great

    In Athens, all male citizens had equal rights and freedoms, regardless of their wealth, education level, or class. Wealth was relatively well distributed throughout the population.

    As a male citizen of Athens, you might find yourself taking a public bath between the father of medicine and the father of philosophy, with the father of history in queue to take your place when you are finished. Athens' freedom and peace attracted a community of scholars, including Aristotle, Plato, and Hippocrates, whose ideas became the cornerstones of Western civilization.

    Theater, literature, architecture, and the arts thrived within the city. The food wasn’t bad either - a regular diet included fruit, cheese, and bread dipped in wine. Athenians drank wine with all their meals; it was the second most common beverage after water. 

    What Made This Era Not So Great 

    Slaves were common in Athens. Although valued slaves might have worked as tutors and officials, they had no legal rights.

    Athens was a patriarchal society, so while some women were allowed to receive an education, they were expected to use their knowledge to stay home, care for children, and entertain their husbands. 

    696 votes
  • 3
    728 VOTES

    1100 BC Dynastic Egypt

    What Made This Era So Great

    Ancient Egypt was way ahead of its time in science, technology, architecture, and medicine. Archaeologists and historians believe that even ordinary people had access to education, medical care, sports, and other leisure activities. They also had access to technologies that might sound familiar to us, such as pens, medicines for depression and other mental health ailments, breath mints, toothpaste, board games, and makeup.

    Egypt was also a great place to be a woman, since women and men were seen as equals. Women pursued careers as priests, scribes, and doctors.

    Life could not have been too bad, since the Egyptian idea of the afterlife was simply a continuation of regular day-to-day life. 

    What Made This Era Not So Great 

    The lavish Egyptian lifestyle was made possible through slave labor. Egyptian slaves were usually either criminals or people captured in battle. They received little mercy from Egyptians, who believed social class was predestined. 

    728 votes
  • Renaissance Italy
    Photo: Bernardo Bellotto / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
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    569 VOTES

    Renaissance Italy

    What Made This Era So Great

    One of the best times in history to be alive was born from tragedy. After the Black Death wiped out over a third of Europe’s population, Italy experienced an economic, cultural, and artistic "rebirth" known as "the Renaissance."

    Because so many people perished from the plague, workers could demand fairer treatment and higher wages. The economy rebounded, allowing arts and culture to thrive. Wealthy bankers and merchants in Italian city-states became patrons for artists, writers, architects, and scientists. For example, the Medici family of Florence sponsored Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, and Galileo, allowing them to focus on scientific discovery and artistic innovation full-time.

    What Made This Era Not So Great 

    Even though conditions improved slightly, the average person in Renaissance Italy was still a peasant, barely scraping by. Political power stayed concentrated among wealthy merchants and trade guilds. The luxurious lifestyle of the ruling class and the grand architectural achievements of the era were made possible through slave labor. Women remained subject to men with no political rights. 

    569 votes
  • 5
    635 VOTES

    Neolithic Europe

    What Made This Era So Great

    Anthropologists sometimes ponder the idea that modernity (with all its technologies, scientific discoveries, and material goods) has had a net negative impact on the quality of human life. Back in the hunter-gatherer days, humans lived in small egalitarian communities. Friends had to rely on each other for survival and developed strong bonds

    Life was simpler without the constant pressure to work and consume. A recent study found that life expectancy was much higher than previously thought. Stone monuments and cave paintings indicate that people still had time to pursue art and religion. Also, war, racism, misogyny, and class structure had not been invented yet

    What Made This Era Not So Great 

    While a world without rigid social structures might sound great at first, it also means that there can be no specialization. With each family spending the majority of their energy on collecting food, there was little time left over for developing specialized skills and crafts, exploring science and technology, or mastering music and other pleasures. 

    635 votes
  • Pax Romana
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    6
    489 VOTES

    Pax Romana

    What Made This Era So Great

    By the first century AD, the Romans had conquered so much of the Western world that it seemed there was nobody left to fight with. This led to a period of peace known as the Pax Romana

    The Roman armies kept the peace, even clearing the seas of pirates. Local rulers maintained some political autonomy, although they had to pay taxes and swear loyalty to the emperor. 

    Through the great peace, the empire was able to build a grand road network through its entire territory, which sparked extensive trade, travel, and innovation.

    This point of view has never been more eloquently expressed than by the historian Edward Gibbon, who wrote in his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:

    If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent of the Roman empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom. The armies were restrained by the firm but gentle hand of four successive emperors, whose characters and authority commanded involuntary respect. The forms of the civil administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines, who delighted in the image of liberty, and were pleased with considering themselves as the accountable ministers of the laws.

    What Made This Era Not So Great  

    Under Roman law, slaves were treated as property, not as human beings. Sometimes slaves were forced to participate in gladiatorial games, where they might be mauled by a wild animal while crowds cheered from the stands.

    According to ancient accounts, Rome was a densely populated city and an incredibly stinky place to live, with animal carcasses in markets and amphitheaters, open altars for religious festivals, and sewer water flowing out of the main buildings. 

    489 votes