Steampunk Rome V: A Pyrrhic Victory: The Death of Ancient Science – RPG, Pt 3 – Egyptian, Greek, and Roman History

Success is at hand for Andre’s character Pyrrho. But it is a Pyrrhic victory, for after that we recount the history of the backward slide of science from the Roman conquest into the Middle Ages, until its final rebirth in the Renaissance and Enlightenment.

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Time/place: The Hellenistic World, 201 BCE

Dead Idea: Ancient Steam Technology

Co-host: Andre Sólo

Andre’s character has one final challenge to solve. You can try your hand at solving it too. Post your solution to our Facebook page at @deadideaspod!

Challenge #3: Invent the World’s Most Accurate Water Clock

The ancient water clock known as the clepsydra measures time by the draining of water from one jar to another. However, it suffers from the problem of diminishing flow: as water drains out, water pressure decreases. This causes the water to flow more slowly, making time read slower. Your task is to come up with a new design that overcomes this problem of diminishing flow. For the Hellenistic solution, listen to the episode.

Water Clock problem


The Hellenistic World, end of 3rd cen. BCE

Custom-generated map of alternate history Rome by Adam McKithern

The Roman Empire at its greatest extent, 117 CE

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2 thoughts on “Steampunk Rome V: A Pyrrhic Victory: The Death of Ancient Science – RPG, Pt 3 – Egyptian, Greek, and Roman History

  1. How come you left out the Arabs? The Caliphates were responsible for inheriting, preserving, rediscovering, and expanding on the works of the Hellenistic scholars. Euclid was basically unknown in much of the west but in the Muslim kingdoms his work was preserved and expanded on. After all it’s where we get the term “Algebra” from the Arabic word الجبر (Al-jabr reuniting broken parts) or Algorithm which is the corrupted form of Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi’s name. Yes, the Christian west was studying Hellenistic texts, they monks doing so mainly did it as Greek practice so that they could then read the New Testament. It wasn’t until after the Crusades, when western solders brought back these materials including the Arabic expansions did the material become available to European Christian scholars. Not only did Euclid head west but so did algebra and our current numbering system which the Arabs had imported from India.

    1. Fair point, yes. That is a glaring hole. I guess in my haste to wrap things up, I failed to give due to them. Thanks for pointing that out.

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