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.

Be sure to support the show at www.patreon.com/deadideaspod to get your portrait drawn!

Custom map of Rome by Adam McKithern. Music by Rachel Westhoff. Maps, pics, references and more at www.deadideas.net.

Become our patron on Patreon at www.patreon.com/deadideaspod

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

2058px-Mediterranean_at_218_BC-en.svg

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Main Sources

Allen, R. C. (2017). The Industrial Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.

Arun. (2018). “10 Major Causes of the Industrial Revolution.” Learnodo-Newtonic.com. Retrieved Nov. 4, 2018, from: https://learnodo-newtonic.com/industrial-revolution-causes

Deakin, M. A. B. (1994, Mar). “Hypatia and Her Mathematics.” The American Mathematical Monthly, 101(3): 234-243.

Dzielska, M. (1995). Hypatia of Alexandria. Lyra, F., Trans. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Greene, M. (2004). “The Birth of Modern Science?” Nature.com. Retrieved Nov. 4, 2018, from: https://www.nature.com/articles/430614a

Hero of Alexandria. (1851). The Pneumatics of Hero of Alexandria. Woodcroft, B., Trans. Himedo.net. Retrieved Nov. 4, 2018, from: http://himedo.net/TheHopkinThomasProject/TimeLine/Wales/Steam/URochesterCollection/Hero/index-2.html

James, P., and Thorpe, N. (1994). Ancient Inventions. New York: Ballantine.

Jones, P. J. (2006). Cleopatra: A Sourcebook. University of Oklahoma Press.

Koyama, M. (2017). “Could Rome Have Had an Industrial Revolution?” Medium.com. Retrieved Nov. 4, 2018, from: https://medium.com/@MarkKoyama/could-rome-have-had-an-industrial-revolution-4126717370a2

Lefkowitz, M. R., and Fant, M. B. (2016). Women’s Life in Greece and Rome: A Source Book in Translation. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Lowe, D. (2016). “Suspending Disbelief: Magnetic Levitation in Antiquity and the Middle Ages.” Classical Antiquity, 35(2): 247-278.

MacLeod, R., Ed. (2000). The Library of Alexandria: Centre of Learning in the Ancient World. New York: I. B. Tauris.

Miles, M. M. (2011). Cleopatra: A Sphinx Revisited. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Montserrat, D. (1996). Sex and Society in Graeco-Roman Egypt. New York: Kegan Paul International.

Mosjov, B. (2010). Alexandria Lost: From the Advent of Christianity to the Arab Conquest. London: Duckworth.

Oleson, J. P., Ed. (2008). The Oxford Handbook of Engineering and Technology in the Classical World. New York: Oxford University Press.

Pollard, J. and Reid, H. (2006). The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern Mind. New York: Viking.

Rowan-Robinson, M. (2004). “Praising Alexandrians to Excess.” PhysicsWorld.com. Retrieved Nov. 4, 2018, from: https://physicsworld.com/a/praising-alexandrians-to-excess/

Rowlandson, J., Ed. (1998). Women & Society in Greek & Roman Egypt: A Sourcebook. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Russo, L. (2004). The Forgotten Revolution: How Science Was Born in 300 BC and Why It Had to Be Reborn. Levy, S., Trans. New York: Springer.

Torchinsky, J. (2012). “The Greeks Had the Technology to Build a Car in 60 A.D.” Jalopnik.com. Retrieved Nov. 4, 2018, from: https://jalopnik.com/5888188/the-greeks-had-the-technology-to-build-a-car-in-60-ad

Watts, E. J. (2010). Riot in Alexandria: Tradition and Group Dynamics in Late Antique Pagan and Christian Communities. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Wyatt, L. T. (2009). The Industrial Revolution: Greenwood Guides to Historic Events, 1500-1900. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

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.

Leave a Reply to Jason Cancel reply