What the ancients did better than us

You may well be familiar with the term, “They did it better in our day.” This is something usually uttered by our parents at the dinner table, and generally in response to a personal annoyance about modern society. We so often greet this familiar phrase with a rolling of the eyes and a shaking of the head. What if our parents actually have a point, and were there things that were done better long ago?

It is easy to fall into that trap of believing that modern automatically equals better. It’s like the falsehood that buying something newer or more expensive is obviously buying something better. And while this is usually the case, it’s not always. Indeed, there are things that the ancients actually did much better than us, and here are a few of them.


We all know that steel has been an essential metal for centuries; it was once used in the forging of weapons. Two thousand years ago, the Levant people made steel so advanced and impressive that it would take blacksmiths millennia to replicate. Known as Damascus steel, it was first introduced to the world around 300 BC, and was popular in the Middle East between 1100 AD and 1700 AD. They say it was so sharp and strong it could actually slice through other metals like a hot knife through butter!

Clean water

Clean water is something that all humans should have access to, but this is far from the case now. In many areas, the ancients actually mastered getting clean water better than we are able to today. Did you know that the Peruvian government is looking at technology that is over 1,500 years old in a bid to solve water problems in the capital, Lima? The plan is to make use of ancient stone aqueducts and canals that date back to 500 AD, to help ensure that the water is cleaner and safer to drink.

Photo: Getty Images

Road building

This one probably won’t come as much of a surprise to any of us, considering the state of many of our roads. These days it often feels like local governments struggle to fix even small problems like cracked pavements or potholes. Back in ancient times, people understood the importance of roads for travel and trade, and they built them quickly and efficiently. The Romans were famously the masters of roads, and their road networks covered a stunning 1.7 million miles!

Photo: Getty Images

As you can see, there are quite a few things that were around in ancient times that still exist today, and many of these things were actually better back then. Of course, better is a relative term, but you need to understand that a lot of these things were more effective and had fewer issues back in ancient times. These are just a handful of the things we reckon could be classed as being better way back when, but you’ll have to make up your own mind.