In a way we as species invented 'happiness'. The oldest definition on what a 'happy' life is, is the Homeric (3rd century BCE) definition of 'happiness' as 'luck'. More
We do not know how our pre-historic ancestors defined happiness. Why not? Because they did not write down what they thought. How about other groups of our ancient ancestors who used written words, sentences, letters and books for nailing down what they thought important: record inventories, raising taxes or changing information with others? Did the ancient Egyptians have a word (or words) for 'happiness'? How did they define 'happiness'? After all they invented an alphabet (the oldest?) around 2700 BCE. That's more than 2,400 years before Homer!
This year I invested time to find out what ancient Egypt's definition (or definitions?) of 'happiness'. I wrote a couple of e-mails to Egyptologists - never got a serious answer. Searching on the internet. Read three books for background information: Toby Wilkinson/ The rise and fall of ancient Egypt (2010), J. Vergote/ De godsdienst van het Oude Egypte (1987) and John Romer/ Ancient lives: the Story of the Pharaoh's Tombmakers (1991).
The 'Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae' gives only one hit on 'happiness' or 'happy': pxA-jb. I checked out the three short references. Most interesting is Wilson, A Ptolemaic Lexikon (1997), page 364:
Here 'pxA-jb' is translated as 'open of heart', a heart that is 'happy' or 'cheerful'. The earliest example of 'pxA-jb' is used by Thutmosis I (footnote). His reign dated from 1506 to 1493 BCE. He was a pharaoh - 18th dynasty - from the Ancient Egyptian's New Kingdom.
Intermediate. Ancient Egyptian's definition of 'happiness'?
- Old Kingdom. No written word for 'happiness'
- Middle Kingdom. No written word for 'happiness'
- New Kingdom. 'pxA-jb' = Open of heart. A heart that is happy, cheerful, joyful, without sadness, all faculties sharpened. Perhaps brought by drinking wine or beer. A state where someone has all faculties sharpened, before he loses control.
Wilson's addition (better: translation or interpretation) of "without sadness" fits with the ancient Egyptian concept of paradise. For them 'paradise' were the 'eternal reed fields' (Aaru). Fields very much like those of the earthly Nile. Ideal hunting and fishing ground. A place where the deceased was entertained by beautiful and perfect women, sailing trips, music and merriment with friends. And the 'sadness'? Work was done by serfs!
Hypothesis. Ancient Egypt's definition of 'happiness' = Open of Heart. All senses sharp. Stripped of all the Unsavory Aspects.
Question: Do you have better information on ancient Egypt's definition of happiness? Or is it just another stupid question?
Footnote. 'Urk IV 267,7' = Book IV, page 267, line 7 from 'Urkunden des ägyptischen Altertums'. Source