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Hate your job? We don’t blame you. Work sucks. In fact, it’s worse than that as employment is just a modern word for slavery. Think about it; if you have to depend on another person for your livelihood, then by implication, you are their slave. And this is a fate made even worse by a bad boss, backstabbing coworkers, or having to work for a company plagued with nepotism and favoritism. But before you go marching into your supervisor’s office and telling him he “can take this slave job and re-fill it!” – you might want to consider just how much worse you could have it. Like, for example, if you had lived just a couple of hundred to a couple thousand years ago. Heck, if you think the jobs we have now are bad, wait until you read what kind of jobs they had back then. Ancient societies had many working jobs that were not just considered slavery, but a form on grinding physical / psychological torture. So check them out, be grateful, and get back to work!
These days we use our smartphones to manage our contacts and their co-ordinates. We can even put labels on them to identify their level of importance in our lives. You know, how we set a different ring tone for our wife or boss so we know to answer it, as opposed to the tone we use for our alcoholic friend who blabs endlessly to you about the “good old days” as he tinkles his booze glass in the background. Well back in ancient times, they didn’t have iPhones. So to keep track of important people at parties, the elites would bring a slave with them, whose sole responsibility was to keep track of everyone and their importance. They called this person a Nomenclator. Now how’s that for a crappy job?
Of course you saw this one coming; your original slave. The poor fellow who built Rome, the Pyramids in Egypt, picked the cotton in Mississippi. The slave spent their whole life working tireless with blood, sweat, and tears just to please his master. And should his master become displeased (or simply be having a bad day), the slave would get a whipping (at the very least). Now I know you’re feeling like a slave at your job, but at least your boss doesn’t whip you. Right?
Back in the medieval days they also had hairdressers. They just called them a Ornatrix. But this wasn’t your typical hairdresser you’d enjoy in some barbershop talk with, as their job was infinitely tougher than your modern day hairdresser’s is. Back then, they didn’t have wigs, hair extensions, peroxide, or other fancy chemicals to dye and perm one’s hair. They had to use stuff like squid ink, cotton leeches, even pigeon poop, to change one’s hair color. In fact, if you wanted to take your client from a brunette to a blonde, you had to actually pee in her hair! So yeah, to all you hairdressers working in a salon right now – it could be much much worse!
Back in the ancient day, you’d likely see a poster on the street with a job description that read: “Teen female virgin wanted for thirty year service. Must be Roman, having all limbs, and not the child of a slave”. Yup, this was a totally legitimate job, and the life of what was called a “Vestal Virgin” – a sexually untouched girl who had to devote her life in service to a Vesta (god of the family). The best part was that if she failed to keep the “spark” alive in the bedroom, she’d be whipped until she bled. And should she be caught lying about her virginity; buried alive she was. So to all you massage parlor (rub n’ tug) attendees … stop complaining!
Today’s Dentist has the highest suicide rate amongst all professionals. When I asked mine why, she said “because no one’s ever happy to see the Dentist. They all complain and hate her.” Fair enough. But back in the day, they didn’t have anesthetics. So should someone come in needing a cavity filled or a root canal – the Dentist would have to yank the offending tooth out, then take a red hot poker to the gaping hole in the gums afterwards to cauterize the blood after. Then, for some reason, he’d take rotten fish and stuff it into the charred hole. So there, take that Dr. Sheryl Lipton!
Today’s wine maker is living the dream – especially if he or she has their own vineyard. But back in ancient Rome, they weren’t aware of the dangers of lead, and would sweeten their wines with sugar of lead. Then, they’d drink their wine in lead cups. So needless to say, wine makers often died of lead poisoning as they had to constantly test and drink the very wine they made and sold.
A Praegustator was a food taster. Not the kind they have working for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – but the kind that would taste the food of a king or queen to make sure no one had poisoned it. Needless to say, many more a Praegustator’s died than kings or queens did. Imagine that, never knowing if you’re going to survive until the end of the work day.
Kayaking and canoeing is a totally fun pastime. You may even wish it to be your job. But back in ancient times, it actually was. A job worked by slaves to row the Greek boats during a war. Now you know that burn you get in your shoulders after a couple of minutes of rowing that would cause you to slow down? Well back then, if you slowed down, you were flogged. If you complained, you were flogged and burned. And should you suffer a shoulder injury, well, then you were flogged, burned, and throw off the boat. Talk about being fired!
You know what a snitch is, right? A rat, a stoolie, a nark, and informant – they’re all the same. Well back in the day, this was someone’s actual job. A Delator was someone who would go around gathering information on people who stole, cheated, didn’t pay their taxes – or broke any other societal rule. So these were the most hated employees of all. And were hated even more when they’d make stuff up when gossip was slow – as they typically did – getting people in trouble for no reason at all.