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Lost techniques

PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2007 10:56 pm
by Tiberius Dionysius Draco
Salvete omnes,

in a discussion concerning so called "lost techniques" such as the building of the Pyramids, the Nazca lines, forging of certain steels and other arts, there was mention of something that piqued my interest.

There was mention of a primitive "steam machine" that was developed in Carthage but was destroyed (or buried) by order of the Roman Senate. They ordered this because it would have severely damaged slave trade.

Now I'm wondering how much of this is true and, if false, it could have been technically possible. The internet has been unhelpful so far and thus I turn to the SVR. If any of you know more about it, feel free to reply and enlighten me.


Age of Empires, Age of Steam?

PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2007 4:21 am
by Aldus Marius
Ave, mi Draco!

"Age of Empires, Age of Steam"...a delightful concept; I shall have to talk someone into writing a retro-SF novel by that name!

As far as your question itself, I know very little, but here it is...

The Greek mathematician Archimedes did a lot of engineering work for Carthage's defenses. He's said to have invented a whole host of machines, powered by various means, to make life for the Roman navy just a little more difficult than it was already. One of these machines was supposed to be able to lift an entire ship right out of the sea and dash it against the city's walls, or else drop it back down onto a rock. I think Archimedes was also the fellow who came up with the method of estimating an object's weight by how much water it displaced. That being the case, the ship-breaker might have involved a bit of early hydraulics.

If Rome ever got their hands on such a thing and ordered it destroyed, it was probably not as a threat to the slave trade (which was only just about to really warm up), but as a threat to national security. Nobody sane keeps a captured nuke as a souvenir!

Anyway, I'd begin a study of such things with Archimedes, and see where the link-farms took me from there. >({|:-)

(The Romans themselves were no strangers to steam either; remember the hypocaust.)

In amicitia et fide,

Re: Lost techniques

PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 5:52 pm
by Gaius Iulius Tabernarius
Tiberius Dionysius Draco wrote:Salvete omnes,
There was mention of a primitive "steam machine" that was developed in Carthage but was destroyed (or buried) by order of the Roman Senate. They ordered this because it would have severely damaged slave trade..

hmm that sounds familiar, "we can't invest in alternative energy because it will ruin the oil industry!"

I guess ancient Rome and America never cease to have parallels, I am always amassed at just how similar the two are. Probably why I am such a patriotic soul, and a cynic.

Chem Warfare

PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 6:52 am
by Aldus Marius
Salvete commilitones!

On another front, the Romans of Dura-Europos may have been the first troops to be on the receiving-end of a chemical attack [ ... -reve.html ]:

Roman ruin reveals first known case of chemical warfare
By Dan Vergano
Posted at 05:51 PM/ET, January 14, 2009

Besieged Romans suffered deadly poison gas attacks, suggest archaeologists excavating an ancient Syrian city. Abandoned after the 254CE siege, the Roman fortress of Dura-Europos fell to Persia's Sassanian Empire -- a battle now revealed as the earliest documented use of chemical warfare, reports Simon James of England's University of Leicester. Speaking at the American Institute of Archaeology meeting in Philadelphia, James presented evidence that invading Sassanians set fire to bitumen and sulfur inside siege tunnels to choke Roman "sappers" digging counter-tunnels during the siege.

The invaders likely heard the Romans tunneling, “and prepared a nasty surprise for them," James says, in a statement. The remains and weapons of about 20 Roman soldiers remained piled inside the tunnels, alongside the body of one Sassanian, likely the sapper who started the chemical fire.

"The total abandonment of the town by its civilian population, probably deported by the invaders, explains why the material traces of the siege remained in place — no one tried to repair or dismantle the fortifications, destroy the powerful assault ramp, or fill the saps and counter saps," reports France's Pierre Leriche of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, from the meeting.

In fide (et memoriam),

Re: Lost techniques

PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 7:42 pm
by M Sempronia Pulla
Here's more on the subject:

University of Leicester archaeologist uncovers evidence of ancient chemical warfare

Dura-Europos on the Euphrates was conquered by the Romans who installed a large garrison. Around AD 256, the city was subjected to a ferocious siege by an army from the powerful new Sasanian Persian empire. The dramatic story is told entirely from archaeological remains; no ancient text describes it. Excavations during the 1920s-30s, renewed in recent years, have resulted in spectacular and gruesome discoveries.

Re: Lost techniques

PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 11:49 pm
by Valerius Claudius Iohanes
So the seige of Dura-Europos was 'hushed up' in Roman historiography or - ? Too depressing a setback in an age of setbacks? Only a few years later the emperor Valerian was captured and slain by the Sassanians.
- V.Claud.Ioh.