Is ours the most exhausting age ever? Many sociologists, psychologists and cultural critics argue that the rapid spread of exhaustion syndromes such as depression, stress and burnout are consequences of modernity and its challenges. But those who imagine that life in the past was simpler, slower and better are wrong. The experience of exhaustion, and anxieties about exhaustion epidemics in the wider population, are not bound to a particular time and place. On the contrary: exhaustion and its effects have preoccupied thinkers since classical antiquity. By Anna Katharina Schaffner.