Wednesday, 28 September 2011

What was the happiest civilization in history?

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The answer depends on how the question is interpreted.

My interpretation is that society is happiest which would not swap their situation for any other.

A society that is not nostalgic for a better past nor anticipating a better future, nor jealous of any other society elsewhere.

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This answer excludes pre-civilization hunter-gatherers - who were probably the happiest people ever to have lived (no matter where they happened to be).

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My answer is: Constantinople through much of the Byzantine Empire (most periods from the foundation to 1204).

The reason these people can objectively be defined as the happiest in history is that they are probably the only significant mass of population (not just a particular class) over a significant timescale of several generations who would not have swapped their situation for anywhere else in the world, past, present, or elsewhere.

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The Byzantines believed they were living in the City of God, in a replica heaven-on-earth: not the real heaven, of course - not perfect by any means - but a model and a preparation for the real heaven.

Whoever the Emperor was, they were ruled by the thirteenth Apostle, Christ's Vicegerent - chosen by God for their own benefit and salvation: and whatever their own positions in the earthly hierarchy, this was a divinely-ordained hierarchy.

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Not coincidentally, this was the most devoutly Christian society of any size and duration; every life was permeated with prayer, worship and ritual; with passion, beauty, sublimity.

For the Byzantines, there was nowhere that the grass was greener than Constantinople.

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