inventions of greece and rome

Ancient Greek technology developed at an unprecedented speed during the 5th century BC, continuing up to and including the Roman period, and beyond. Inventions that are credited to the ancient Greeks such as the gear, screw, rotary mills, screw press, bronze casting techniques, water clock, water organ, torsion catapult and the use of steam to operate some experimental machines and toys and a chart to find prime numbers. Many of these inventions occurred late in the Greek period, often inspired by the need to improve weapons and tactics in war. However, peaceful uses are shown by their early development of the watermill, a device which pointed to further exploitation on a large scale under the Romans. They developed surveying and mathematics to an advanced state, and many of their technical advances were published by philosophers like Archimedes and Hero.

Water technology

One of the foundations for many modern technological achievements would include water resources. Some fields that were encompassed in the area of water resources (mainly for urban use), would include such areas as groundwater exploitation, construction of aqueducts for water supply, storm water and wastewater sewerage systems, flood protection and drainage, construction and use of fountains, baths and other sanitary and purgatory facilities, and even recreational uses of water.[6]


The Greeks developed extensive silver mines at Laurium, the profits from which helped to support the growth of Athens as a city-state. It involved mining the ore in underground galleries, washing the ores and smelting it to produce the metal. Elaborate washing tables still exist at the site using rain water held in cisternscoinage. and collected during the winter months. Mining also helped to create currency by conversion of the metal into


The failure of the Greeks to develop their technology has sometimes been attributed to the low status of people providing labor. Manual labor was despised, and anyone attempting to apply science to it was likely to lose status in society, removing much of the incentive to seek technological innovation. A sophisticated tunnel built for an aqueduct in the 6th century BCE by the engineer Eupalinos at Samos has led to some reevaluation of the skills of the Greeks.

 Ancient Greek technology

Technology Date Comment
Streets ca. 400 BC Example: The Porta Rosa (4th-3rd century BC) was the main street of Elea (Italy). It connects the northern quarter with the southern quarter. The street is 5 meters wide and has an incline of 18% in the steepest part. It is paved with limestone blocks, griders cut in square blocks, and on one side a small gutter for the drainage of rain water. The building is dated during the time of the reorganization of the city during Hellenistic age.(4th to 3rd centuries BC) Greek street - III century BC - Porta Rosa - Velia - Italy.JPG
Cartography ca. 600 BC First widespread amalgamation of geographical maps developed by Anaximander.
Rutway ca. 600 BC The 6 to 8.5 km long Diolkosrailway.[7] represented a rudimentary form of Diolkos1.jpg
Caliper 6th c. BC Earliest example found in the Giglio wreck near the Italian[8][9] coast. The wooden piece already featured one fixed and a movable jaw.
Truss roof 550 BC[10] See List of Greco-Roman roofs
Crane ca. 515 BC Labor-saving device which allowed the employment of small and efficient work teams on construction sites. Later winches were added for heavy weights. Trispastos scheme.svg
Escapement 3rd century BC Described by the Greek engineer Philo of Byzantium (3rd century BC) in his technical treatise Pneumatics (chapter 31) as part of a washstand automaton for guests washing their hands. Philon's comment that "its construction is similar to that of clocks" indicates that such escapements mechanism were already integrated in ancient water clocks.[11] Washstand automaton
Tumbler lock ca. 5th c. BC The tumbler lock, as well as other varieties, was introduced to Greece in the 5th century BC.
Gears ca. 5th c. BC Developed further than in prehistoric times for a variety of practical purposes.
Plumbing ca. 5th c. BC Excavations at Olympus as well as Athens have revealed extensive plumbing systems for baths and fountains as well as for personal use.
Spiral staircase 480-470 BC The earliest spiral staircases appear in Temple A in Selinunte, Sicily, to both sides of the cella. The temple was constructed around 480-470 BC.[12] Plan of ground floor of Temple A at Selinunte (ca. 480 BC). The remains of the two spiral stairs between the pronao and the cella are the oldest known to date.
Urban planning ca. 5th c. BC Miletus is one of the first known towns in the world to have a grid like plan for residential and public areas. It accomplished this feat through a variety of related innovations in areas such as surveying.
Crossbow ca. 5th c. BC The Greeks made use of a handheld crossbow called the gastraphetes. Modern reconstruction of a gastraphetes
Winch 5th c. BC The earliest literary reference to a winch can be found in the account of Herodotus of Halicarnassus on the Persian Wars (Histories 7.36), where he describes how wooden winches were used to tighten the cables for a pontoon bridge across the Hellespont in 480 B.C. Winches may have been employed even earlier in Assyria, though. By the 4th century BC, winch and pulley hoists were regarded by Aristotle as common for architectural use (Mech. 18; 853b10-13).[13]
Wheelbarrow 5th c. BC Two building material inventories for 408/407 and 407/406 B.C. from the temple of Eleusis list, among other machines and tools, a one-wheeler (hyperteria monokyklou).[14]
Showers 4th c. BC A shower room for female athletes with plumbed-in water is depicted on an Athenian vase. A whole complex of shower-baths was also found in a 2nd century BC gymnasium at Pergamum.[15]
Central heating ca. 350 BC Great Temple of Ephesus was warmed by heated air that was circulated through flues laid in the floor.
Lead sheathing ca. 350 BC To protect a ships hull from boring creatures. see Kyrenia ship
Astrolabe ca. 300 BC First used around 200 B.C. by astronomers in Greece. Used to determine the altitude of objects in the sky.
Canal lock early 3rd c. BC Built into Ancient Suez CanalPtolemy II (283–246 BC)[16][17][18] under
Ancient Suez Canal early 3rd c. BC Opened by Greek engineersPtolemy II (283–246 BC), following earlier, probably only partly successful attempts[19] under
Lighthouse ca. 3rd c. BC The Lighthouse of AlexandriaSostratus of Cnidus. was designed and constructed by PHAROS2006.jpg
Water wheel 3rd c. BC First described by Philo of Byzantium (ca. 280–220 BC)[20]
Alarm clock 3rd c. BC The Hellenistic engineer and inventor Ctesibius (fl. 285–222 BC) fitted his clepsydras with dial and pointer for indicating the time, and added elaborate "alarm systems, which could be made to drop pebbles on a gong, or blow trumpets (by forcing bell-jars down into water and taking the compressed air through a beating reed) at pre-set times" (Vitruv 11.11).[21]
Odometer ca. 3rd c. BC Odometer, a device used in the late Hellenistic time and by Romans for indicating distance traveled by a vehicle was invented sometime in the 3rd century BC. Some historians attribute it to Archimedes, others to Hero of Alexandria. It helped revolutionize the building of roads and travelling by them by accurately measuring distance and being able to illustrate this with a milestone.
Chain drive 3rd c. BC First described by Philo of Byzantium. The device powered a repeating crossbow, the first known of its kind.[22]
Cannon ca. 3rd c. BC Ctesibius of Alexandria invented a primitive form of the cannon, operated by compressed air.
Double-action principle 3rd c. BC Universal mechanical principle which was discovered and applied first by the engineer Ctesibius in his double action piston pump which later was developed further by Heron to a fire hose (see below).[23]
Levers ca. 260 BC First described about 260 BC by the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes. Although used in prehistoric times, they were first put to practical use for more developed technologies in Ancient Greece.
Water mill ca. 250 BC The use of water power was pioneered by the Greeks: The earliest mention of a water mill in history occurs in Philo'sPneumatics, previously been regarded as a later Arabic interpolation, but according to recent research to be of authentic Greek origin.[24][25]
Three-masted ship (mizzen) c. 240 BC: First recorded for Syracusia as well as other SyracusanHiero II of Syracuse[26] (merchant) ships under
Gimbal 3rd c. BC The inventor Philo of Byzantiumink pot with an opening on each side, which can be turned so that any face is on top, dip in a pen and ink it-yet the ink never runs out through the holes of the side. This was done by the suspension of the inkwell at the center, which was mounted on a series of concentric metal rings which remained stationary no matter which way the pot turns itself.[27] (280-220 BC) described an eight-sided Rotating gimbal-xyz.gif
Dry dock ca. 200 BC Invented in Ptolemaic EgyptPtolemy IV Philopator (reigned 221-204 BC) as recorded by Athenaeus of Naucratis. some time after the death of
Fore-and-aft rig (spritsail) 2nd c. BC Spritsails, the earliest fore-and-aft rigs, appeared in the 2nd c. BC in the Aegean Sea[28] on small Greek craft. Here a spritsail used on a Roman merchant ship (3rd c. AD).
Air and water pumps ca. 2nd c. BC Ctesibius and various other Greeks of Alexandria of the period developed and put to practical use various air and water pumps which served a variety of purposes, such as a water organ.
Sakia gear 2nd c. BC First appeared in 2nd BC Hellenistic Egypt where pictorial evidence already showed it fully developed[29]
Surveying tools ca. 2nd c. BC Various records relating to mentions of surveying tools have been discovered, mostly in Alexandrian sources, these greatly helped the development of the precision of Roman Aqueducts.
Analog computers ca. 150 BC See Antikythera mechanism NAMA Machine d'Anticythère 1.jpg
Fire hose 1st c. BC Invented by Hero in the basis of Ctesibius' double action piston pump.[23] Allowed for more efficient fire fighting.
Vending machine 1st c. BC The first vending machine was described by Hero of Alexandria. His machine accepted a coin and then dispensed a fixed amount of holy water. When the coin was deposited, it fell upon a pan attached to a lever. The lever opened up a valve which let some water flow out. The pan continued to tilt with the weight of the coin until it fell off, at which point a counter-weight would snap the lever back up and turn off the valve.[23]
Wind vane 50 BC The Tower of the Winds on the Roman agora in Athens featured atop a wind vane in the form of a bronze Triton holding a rod in his outstretched hand rotating to the wind blowing. Below, its frieze was adorned with the eight wind deities. The 8 m high structure also featured sundialswater clock inside dates from around 50 BC.[30] and a
Clock tower 50 BC See Clock Tower.[31]

Automatic doors uca. 1st c. AD

The Pont du Gard in France is a Roman aqueduct built in ca. 19 BC.

Mercury gilded statue - Marcus Aurelius
Roman technology is the engineering practice which supported Roman civilization and made the expansion of Roman commerce and Roman military possible over nearly a thousand years.
The Roman Empire had the most advanced set of technologies of its time, some of which was lost during the turbulent eras of Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. Gradually, some of the technological feats of the Romans were rediscovered and/or improved upon, while others went ahead of what the Romans had done during the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Modern Era. Several Roman technological feats in different areas like civil engineering, construction materials, transport technology, and some inventions such as the mechanical reaper, were surprising achievements until the 19th century, and some, such as the arch, have remained untouched to this day.



[edit] Innovation and progress

Small scale innovation was common as devices were gradually made more efficient, such as the improvement of the overshot water wheel and the improvements in wagon construction. Technology could and did evolve. The scale of the Empire encouraged the geographical spread of innovations. The ideal Roman citizen was an articulate veteran soldier who could wisely govern a large family household, which was supported by slave labor. Innovators did have some prestige; Pliny, for example, often records their names, or has some story to account for the innovation. Romans also knew enough history to be aware that technological change had occurred in the past and brought benefits. Military innovation was always valued. One text, De Rebus Bellicis, devoted to a number of innovations in military machinery, has survived.
The apparent period in which technological progress was fastest and greatest was during the 2nd century and 1st century BC, which was the period in which Roman power greatly increased. Innovation continued until the fall of the Empire, and it would take hundreds of years for all of its technological advancements to be rediscovered by other civilizations. Our understanding of Roman technology is provided by Pliny's Naturalis Historia, the De Architectura of Vitruvius and the De aquaeductu of Frontinus, all reliable works which give good information, and many inventions they mention have been confirmed by modern archaeology. By the beginning of the 1st century, most of what is considered today as typical Roman technology was already invented and refined, such as concrete, plumbingcranes, wagon technology, mechanized harvesting machines, domes, the arch in building practice, wine and oil presses, and glass blowing. facilities,

[edit] The energy constraint

The sixteen overshot wheels at Barbegal are considered the biggest ancient mill complex. Their capacity was sufficient to feed the whole nearby city of Arles.[1]

Scheme of the Roman Hierapolis sawmill, the earliest known machine to incorporate a crank and connecting rod[2] mechanism.
All technology uses energy to transform the material into a desirable object or uses some form of mechanics combined with another form to make something better. The cheaper energy is, the wider the class of technologies that are considered economic. This is why technological history can be seen as a succession of ages defined by energy type i.e. human, animal, water, peat, coal, and oil.[3] The Romans used water power, and watermills were common throughout the Empire, especially to the end of the first century AD. They were used for corn milling, sawing timber and crushing ore. They exploited wood and coal for heating. There were huge reserves of wood, peat and coal in the Roman Empire, but they were all in the wrong place. Wood could be floated down rivers to the major urban centres but otherwise it was a very poor fuel, being heavy for its calorific value. If this was improved by being processed into charcoal, it was bulky. Nor was wood ever available in any concentration. Diocletian's Price Edicthypocausts did allow them to exploit any poor-quality smoky fuels like straw, vine prunings and small wood locally available. Hypocausts also allowed them to generate a humid heat for their baths. can give us a glimpse of the economics of transporting wood. The maximum price of a wagon load of 1,200 lbs of wood was 150 d.(denari). The maximum freight charge per mile for the same wagon load was 20 d. per mile. Room heating was normally better done by charcoal braziers than hypocausts. But
The Romans worked almost all the coalfields of England that outcropped on the surface, by the end of the 2nd century (Smith 1997; 323). But there is no evidence that this exploitation was on any scale. After c.200 AD the commercial heart of the Empire was in Africa and the East where the climate severely limited timber growth. There was no large coalfield on the edge of the Mediterranean.
Nevertheless, the Romans were the first culture to assemble all essential components of the much later steam engine:
With the crank and connecting rod system, all elements for constructing a steam engine (invented in 1712) — Hero's aeolipilecylinder and piston (in metal force pumps), non-return valves (in water pumps), gearing (in water mills and clocks) — were known in Roman times.[4] (generating steam power), the
However, the aeolipile was a reaction engine, inefficient as a stationary engine. The first useful steam engine did not use steam pressure at all, but followed up a scientific advance in understanding air pressure.

[edit] Craft basis

Roman Cage Cup from the 4th century AD. Hypothesised as a floating wick oil lamp to give magical downwards lighting effects.
Roman technology was largely based on a system of crafts, although the term engineering is used today to describe the technical feats of the Romans. The Greek words used were mechanic or machine-maker or even mathematician which had a much wider meaning than now. There were a large number of engineers employed by the army. The most famous engineer of this period was Apollodorus of Damascus. Normally each trade, each group of artisans—stonemasons, glass blowers, surveyors, etc.—within a project had its own practice of masters and apprentices, and many tried to keep their trade secrets, passing them on solely by word of mouth, a system still in use today by those who do not want to patent their inventions. Writers such as Vitruvius, Pliny the Elder and Frontinus published widely on many different technologies, and there was a corpus of manuals on basic mathematics and science such as the many books by Archimedes, Ctesibius, Heron (a.k.a. Hero of Alexandria), Euclid and so on. Not all of the manuals which were available to the Romans have survived, as lost works illustrate.
Much of what is known of Roman technology comes indirectly from archaeology and from the third-hand accounts of Latin texts copied from Arabic texts, which were in turn copied from the Greek texts of scholars such as Hero of Alexandria or contemporary travelers who had observed Roman technologies in action. Writers like Pliny the Elder and Strabo had enough intellectual curiosity to make note of the inventions they saw during their travels, although their typically brief descriptions often arouse discussion as to their precise meaning. On the other hand, Pliny is perfectly clear when describing gold mining, his text in book XXXIII having been confirmed by archaeology and field-work at such sites as Las Medulas and Dolaucothi.

[edit] Engineering and construction

The Romans made great use of aqueducts, dams, bridges, and amphitheaters. They were also responsible for many innovations to roads, sanitation, and construction in general. Roman architecture in general was greatly influenced by the Etruscans. Most of the columns and arches seen in famous Roman architecture were adopted from the Etruscan civilization.
In the Roman Empire, cements made from pozzolanic ash/pozzolana and an aggregate made from pumice were used to make a concrete very similar to modern Portland cement concrete. In 20s BC the architect Vitruviusinsulated glazing (or "double glazing") improved greatly on keeping buildings warm, and this technique was used in the construction of public baths. described a low-water-content method for mixing concrete. The Romans found out that
Another truly original process which was born in the empire was the practice of glassblowing, which started in Syria and spread in about one generation in the empire.

[edit] Machines

Reconstruction of a 10.4-metre-high Roman construction crane at Bonn, Germany
There were many types of presses to press olives. In the 1st century, Pliny the Elder reported the invention and subsequent general use of the new and more compact screw presses. However, the screw press was almost certainly not a Roman invention. It was first described by Hero of Alexandria, but may have already been in use when he mentioned it in his Mechanica III.
Cranes were used for construction work and possibly to load and unload ships at their ports, although for the latter use there is according to the “present state of knowledge” still no evidence.[5] Most cranes were capable of lifting about 6-7 tons of cargo, and according to a relief shown on Trajan's column were worked by treadwheel.

[edit] Roads

Via Appia, a road connecting the city of Rome to the Southern parts of Italy remains usable even today.
The Romans primarily built roads for their military. Their economic importance was probably also significant, although wagon traffic was often banned from the roads to preserve their military value.At its largest extent the total length of the Roman road network was 85,000 kilometres (53,000 mi).
Way stations providing refreshments were maintained by the government at regular intervals along the roads. A separate system of changing stations for official and private couriers was also maintained. This allowed a dispatch to travel a maximum of 800 kilometres (500 mi) in 24 hours by using a relay of horses.
The roads were constructed by digging a pit along the length of the intended course, often to bedrock. The pit was first filled with rocks, gravel or sand and then a layer of concrete. Finally they were paved with polygonal rock slabs. Roman roads are considered the most advanced roads built until the early 19th century. Bridges were constructed over waterways. The roads were resistant to floods and other environmental hazards. After the fall of the Roman empire the roads were still usable and used for more than 1000 years.

[edit] Aqueducts

The Romans constructed numerous aqueducts to supply water. The city of Rome itself was supplied by eleven aqueducts made of limestone that provided the city with over 1 million cubic metres of water each day, sufficient for 3.5 million people even in modern day times,[2] and with a combined length of 350 kilometres (220 mi).[3] Water inside the aqueducts depended entirely on gravity. The raised stone channels in which the water travelled were slightly slanted. The water was carried directly from mountain springs. After it had gone through the aqueduct, the water was collected in tanks and fed through pipes to fountains, toilets, etc. [6] The main aqueducts in Ancient Rome were the Aqua Claudia and the Aqua Marcia. [7][4] The longest Roman aqueduct, 178 kilometres (111 mi) in length, was traditionally assumed to be that which supplied the city of Carthage. The complex system built to supply Constantinople had its most distant supply drawn from over 120 km away along a sinuous route of more than 336 km.[8] Most aqueducts were constructed below the surface with only small portions above ground supported by arches.
Roman aqueducts were built to remarkably fine tolerances, and to a technological standard that was not to be equaled until modern times. Powered entirely by gravity, they transported very large amounts of water very efficiently. Sometimes, where depressions deeper than 50 metres had to be crossed, inverted siphons were used to force water uphill.[2] An aqueduct also supplied water for the overshot wheels at Barbegal in Roman Gaul, a complex of water mills hailed as "the greatest known concentration of mechanical power in the ancient world".[1]

[edit] Bridges

Roman bridges were among the first large and lasting bridges built. They were built with stone and had the archPons Aemilius, later named Ponte RottoTrajan's bridge over the lower Danube, constructed by Apollodorus of Damascus, which remained for over a millennium the longest bridge to have been built both in terms of overall and span length. They were most of the time at least 60 feet above the body of water. as its basic structure. Most utilized concrete as well. Built in 142 BC, the (broken bridge) is the oldest Roman stone bridge in Rome, Italy. The biggest Roman bridge was
An example of temporary military bridge construction are the two Caesar's Rhine bridges.

[edit] Dams

They also built many dams for water collection, such as the Subiaco Dams, two of which fed Anio Novus, one of the largest aqueducts of Rome. They built 72 dams in just one country, Spain and many more are known across the Empire, some of which are still in use. At one site, Montefurado in Galicia, they appear to have built a dam across the river Sil to expose alluvial gold deposits in the bed of the river. The site is near the spectacular Roman gold mine of Las Medulas. Several earthen dams are known from Britain, including a well-preserved example from Roman Lanchester, Longovicium, where it may have been used in industrial-scale smithing or smelting, judging by the piles of slag found at this site in northern England. Tanks for holding water are also common along aqueduct systems, and numerous examples are known from just one site, the gold mines at Dolaucothi in west Wales. Masonry dams were common in North Africa for providing a reliable water supply from the wadis behind many settlements.

[edit] Mining

Development of Dolaucothi mine
The Romans also made great use of aqueducts in their extensive mining operations across the empire, some sites such as Las Medulas in north-west Spain having at least 7 major channels entering the minehead. Other sites such as Dolaucothi in south Wales was fed by at least 5 leats, all leading to reservoirs and tanks or cisterns high above the present opencast. The water was used for hydraulic mining, where streams or waves of water are released onto the hillside, first to reveal any gold-bearing ore, and then to work the ore itself. Rock debris could be sluiced away by hushing, and the water also used to douse fires created to break down the hard rock and veins, a method known as fire-setting.
Alluvial gold deposits could be worked and the gold extracted without needing to crush the ore. Washing tables were fitted below the tanks to collect the gold-dust and any nuggets present. Vein gold needed crushing, and they probably used crushing or stamp mills worked by water-wheels to comminute the hard ore before washing. Large quantities of water were also needed in deep mining to remove waste debris and power primitive machines, as well as for washing the crushed ore. Pliny the Elder provides a detailed description of gold mining in book xxxiii of his Naturalis Historia, most of which has been confirmed by archaeology. That they used water mills on a large scale elsewhere is attested by the flour mills at BarbegalFrance, and on the Janiculum in Rome. in southern

[edit] Sanitation

Roman public baths in Bath, England. The loss of the original roof has encouraged green algae growth.
The Romans were one of the first known civilizations to invent indoor plumbing.[citation needed] The Roman public baths, or thermae served hygienic, social and cultural functions. The baths contained three main facilities for bathing. After undressing in the apodyterium or changing room, Romans would proceed to the tepidarium or warm room. In the moderate dry heat of the tepidarium, some performed warm-up exercises and stretched while others oiled themselves or had slaves oil them. The tepidarium’s main purpose was to promote sweating to prepare for the next room, the caldarium or hot room. The caldarium, unlike the tepidarium, was extremely humid and hot. Temperatures in the caldarium could reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Many contained steam baths and a cold-water fountain known as the labrum. The last room was the frigidarium or cold room, which offered a cold bath for cooling off after the caldarium. The Romans also had flush toilets.

[edit] Roman military technology

A Roman Ballista
The Roman military technology ranged from personal equipment and armament to deadly siege engines. They inherited almost all ancient weapons.
While heavy, intricate armour was not uncommon (cataphracts), the Romans perfected a relatively light, full torso armour made of segmented plates (lorica segmentata). This segmented armour provided good protection for vital areas, but did not cover as much of the body as lorica hamata or chainmail. The lorica segmentata provided better protection, but the plate bands were expensive and difficult to produce and difficult to repair in the field. Overall, chainmail was cheaper, easier to produce, cheaper and simpler to maintain, was one-size fits all, and was more comfortable to wear - thus, it remained the primary form of armor even when lorica segmentata was in use.
The Roman cavalry saddle had four horns [5] and was believed to have been copied from Celtic peoples.
Roman siege engines such as ballistas, scorpions and onagers were not unique. But the Romans were probably the first people to put ballistas on carts for better mobility on campaigns. On the battlefield, it is thought that they were used to pick off enemy leaders. We have one account of the use of artillery in battle from Tacitus, Histories III,23:
On engaging they drove back the enemy, only to be driven back themselves, for the Vitellians had concentrated their artillery on the raised road that they might have free and open ground from which to fire; their earlier shots had been scattered and had struck the trees without injuring the enemy. A ballista of enormous size belonging to the Fifteenth legion began to do great harm to the Flavians' line with the huge stones that it hurled; and it would have caused wide destruction if it had not been for the splendid bravery of two soldiers, who, taking some shields from the dead and so disguising themselves, cut the ropes and springs of the machine.

[edit] Technologies invented or developed by the Romans

Roman Pentaspastos ("Five-pulley-crane"), a medium-sized variant (ca. 450 kg load)

The unfinished Roman Corinth Canal, 1st century AD

Ship with spritsail, the earliest fore-and-aft rig, 3rd century AD

Pointable fire engine nozzle

Late Roman paddle-wheel boat, 4th century AD (medieval copy)

Donkey mills at Pompeii

Oil press of Early (pre?) Roman type

Modern oil screw press following Roman conceptual innovation

stern mounted rudder

Roman turbine mill at Chemtou, Tunisia

Roman harvesting machine: overview

Roman harvesting machine: detail

Roman surgery tools

Glassware from Pompeii

Roman crank handle from Augusta Raurica, dating to no later than ca. 250 AD[9]
Technology Comment
Abacus, Roman Portable.
Alum The production of alum (KAl(SO4)2.12H2O) from alunite (KAl3(SO4)2.(OH)6) is archaeologically attested on the island Lesbos[10]. This site was abandoned in the 7th century but dates back at least to the 2nd century AD.
Amphitheatre See e.g. Colosseum.
Aqueduct, true arch Pont du Gard, Segovia etc.
Arch, monumental
Bath, monumental public (Thermae) See e.g. Baths of Diocletian
Book (Codex) First mentioned by Martial in the 1st C. AD. Held many advantages over the scroll.
Brass The Romans had enough understanding of zinc to produce a brass denomination coinage; see sestertius.
Bridge, true arch See e.g. Roman bridge in Chaves or the Severan Bridge.
Bridge, segmental arch More than a dozen Roman bridges are known to feature segmental (=flat) arches. A prominent example was Trajan's bridge over the Danube, a lesser known the extant Limyra Bridge in Lycia
Bridge, pointed arch Possibly the earliest known bridge featuring a pointed arch is the 5-6th century AD Karamagara Bridge[11]
Camel harness The harnessing of camels to ploughs is attested in North Africa by the 3rd century AD[12]
Cameos Probably a Hellenistic innovation e.g. Cup of the Ptolemies but taken up by the Emperors e.g. Gemma Augustea, Gemma Claudia etc.
Cast Iron Recently archaeologically detected in the Val Gabbia in northern Lombardy from the 5th and 6th centuries AD.[13] This technically interesting innovation appears to have had little economic impact. But archaeologists may have failed to recognize the distinctive slag, so the date and location of this innovation may be revised.
CementConcrete Pozzolana variety
Crank handle A Roman iron crank handle was excavated in Augusta Raurica, Switzerland. The 82.5 cm long piece with a 15 cm long handle is of yet unknown purpose and dates to no later than ca. 250 AD.[9]
Crank and connecting rod Found in several water-powered saw mills dating from the late 3rd (Hierapolis sawmill) to 6th century AD (at Ephesus respectively Gerasa).[2]
Crane, treadwheel
Dam, Arch[14] Currently best attested for the dam at Glanum, France dated ca. 20 BC.[15] The structure has entirely disappeared. Its existence attested from the cuts into the rock on either side to key in the dam wall, which was 14.7 metres high, 3.9m thick at base narrowing to 2.96m at the top. Earliest description of arch action in such types of dam by ProcopiusDara Dam[16] around 560 AD, the
Dam, Arch-gravity Examples include curved dams at Orükaya[17], Çavdarhisar, both Turkey (and 2nd c.)[17]Kasserine Dam[18], and Puy Foradado Dam in Spain (2nd–3rd c.)[19] in Tunisia
Dam, Bridge The Band-i-Kaisar, constructed by Roman prisoners of war in Shustar, Persia, in the 3rd c. AD,[20] featured a weir combined with an arch bridge, a multifunctional hydraulic structure which subsequently spread throughout Iran.[21]
Dam, Buttress Attested in a number of Roman dams in Spain[19], like the 600 m long Consuegra Dam
Dam, Multiple Arch Buttress Esparragalejo Dam, Spain (1st c. AD) earliest known[22]
Dome, monumental See e.g. Pantheon.
Foot-powered loom Before 298 AD, with a hint the invention arose at Tarsus[23]
Flos Salis A product of salt evaporation ponds Dunaliella salina[24]Nat. Hist. 31,90) used in the perfume industry (Pliny
Force pump used in fire engine See image of pointable nozzle
Glass blowing This led to a number of innovations in the use of glass. Window glass is attested at Pompeii in AD 79. In the 2nd century AD [25] hanging glass oil lamps were introduced. These used floating wicks and by reducing self shading gave more lumens in a downwards direction. Cage cups (see photograph) are hypothesised as oil lamps.

Dichroic glass as in the Lycurgus Cup. [6] Note, this material attests otherwise unknown chemistry (or other way?) to generate nano-scale gold-silver particles.

Glass mirrors (Pliny the Elder Naturalis Historia 33,130)
Greenhouse cold frames (Pliny the ElderNaturalis HistoriaColumella on Ag. 11.3.52) 19.64;
Hydraulis A water organ. Later also the pneumatic organ.
Hushing Described by Pliny the Elder and confirmed at Dolaucothi and Las Médulas
Hydraulic mining Described by Pliny the Elder and confirmed at Dolaucothi and Las Médulas
Hydrometer Mentioned in a letter of Synesius
Hypocaust A floor and also wall heating system. Described by Vitruvius
Knife, multifunctional [7]
Lighthouses The best surviving examples are those at Dover castle and the Tower of Hercules at La Coruna
Leather, Tanned The preservation of skins with vegetable tannins was a pre-Roman invention but not of the antiquity once supposed. (Tawing was far more ancient.) The Romans were responsible for spreading this technology into areas where it was previously unknown such as Britain and Qasr Ibrim on the Nile. In both places this technology was lost when the Romans withdrew.[26]
Mills M.J.T.Lewis presents good evidence that water powered vertical pounding machines came in by the middle of the 1st c. AD for fulling, grain hulling (Pliny Nat. Hist. 18,97) and ore crushing (archaeological evidence at Dolaucothi Gold Mines and Spain).

Grainmill, rotary. According to Moritz (p57) rotary grainmills were not known to the ancient Greeks but date from before 160 BC. Unlike reciprocating mills, rotary mills could be easily adapted to animal or water power. Lewis (1997) argues that the rotary grainmill dates to the 5th century BC in the western Mediterranean. Animal and water powered rotary mills came in the 3rd century BC.

Sawmill, water powered. Recorded by 370 AD. Attested in Ausonius's poem Mosella. Translated [8]"the Ruwer sends mill-stones swiftly round to grind the corn, And drives shrill saw-blades through smooth marble blocks". Recent archaeological evidence from Phrygia, Anatolia, now pushes back the date to the 3rd century AD and confirms the use of a crank in the sawmill.[27]

Shipmill, (Though small, the conventional term is "shipmill" not boat mill, probably because there was always a deck, and usually an enclosed superstructure, to keep the flour away from the damp.) where water wheels were attached to boats, was first recorded at Rome in 547 AD in Procopius of Caesarea's Gothic Wars (1.19.8-29) when Belisaurius was besieged there.
Steam engine, essentials of By the late 3rd century AD, all essential elements for constructing a steam engine were known by Roman engineers: steam power (in Hero's aeolipile), the crank and connecting rod mechanism (in the Hierapolis sawmill), the cylinder and piston (in metal force pumps), non-return valves (in water pumps) and gearing (in water mills and clocks)[4]

Watermill. Improvements upon earlier models. For the largest mill complex known see Barbegal
Mercury Gilding as in the Horses of San Marco
Newspaper, rudimentary See Acta Diurna.
Paddle wheel boats In de Rebus Bellicis (possibly only a paper invention).
Pewter Mentioned by Pliny the Elder (Naturalis Historia34,160-1). Surviving examples are mainly Romano-British of the 3rd and 4th centuries e.g.[9][10]. Roman pewter had a wide range of proportions of tin but proportions of 50%, 75% and 95% predominate (Beagrie 1989). and
Pleasure lake An artificial reservoir, highly unusual in that it was meant for recreational rather than utilitarian purposes was created at Subiaco, Italy, for emperor Nero (54–68 AD). The dam remained the highest in the Roman Empire[28] and in the world until its destruction in 1305.[29] (50 m),

iron-bladed (A much older innovation (e.g. Bible; I Samuel 13,20-1) that became much more common in the Roman period)

wheeled (Pliny the Elder Naturalis Historia 18.171-3) (More important for the Middle Ages, than this era.)
Pottery, glossed i.e. Samian ware
Reaper An early harvesting machine: vallus (Pliny the Elder Naturalis Historia 18,296, Palladius 7.2.2-4 [11])
Sails, fore-and-aft rig Introduction of fore-and-aft rigs 1) the Lateen sail 2) the Spritsail, this last already attested in 2nd century BC in the northern Aegean Sea[30] Note: there is no evidence of any combination of fore and aft rigs with square sails on the same Roman ship.
Sails, Lateen Representations show lateen sails in the Mediterranean as early as the 2nd century AD. Both the quadrilateral and the triangular type were employed.[31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40]
Roller Bearings Archaeologically attested in the Lake Nemi ships[41]
Rudder, stern-mounted See image for something very close to being a sternpost rudder
Sausage, fermented dry (probably) See salami.
Screw press An innovation of about the mid 1st century AD[42]
Sewers See for example Cloaca Maxima
Soap, hard (sodium) First mentioned by Galen (earlier, potassium, soap being Celtic).
Spiral staircase Though first attested as early as the 5th century BC in Greek Selinunte, spiral staircases only become more widespread after their adoption in Trajan's column and the Column of Marcus Aurelius.
Stenography, a system of See Tironian notes.
Street map, early See Forma Urbis Romae (Severan Marble Plan), a carved marble ground plan of every architectural feature in ancient Rome.[43]
Sundial, portable See Theodosius of Bithynia
Surgical instruments, various
Tooth implants, iron See [12]
Towpath e.g. beside the Danube, see the "road" in Trajan's bridge
Tunnels Excavated from both ends simultaneously. The longest known is the 5.6-kilometre (3.5 mi) drain of the Fucine lake
Vehicles, one wheeled Solely attested by a Latin word in 4th C. AD Scriptores Historiae Augustae Heliogabalus 29. As this is fiction, the evidence dates to its time of writing.
Wood veneer Pliny Nat. Hist. 16.231-2

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