I collect comments on and perceptions of time. This one is striking and I am as guilty of it as anybody. While we allow significant differences between recent centuries (the 18th century being Very Different from the 20th) we readily assume that the world of 100 AD was the same as that of 600AD (or BC), that if you go far back enough, 500 or 1000 years would still allow people to be classed as contemporaries.
‘When we read the history of the world, centuries look cheap to us and we find that we had doubted if the hundred years preceding the life of Herodotus seemed as great antiquity to him as a hundred years does to us. We are inclined to think of all Romans who lived within five hundred years B.C. as contemporaries to each other.’ 8 December 1859
Source: Henry David Thoreau, The Journal 1837-1861, Damion Searls (ed.), preface by John R. Stilgoe (New York: New York Review Books, 2009), p. 587
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