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Yora
2011-09-10, 12:05 PM
I often wonder "Did they have that back then?" and "What did they do instead?". There's a thread for such things when it commes to millitary technology, which arguably is the greatest category in which such questions arise, but I think I'd also like a civilian version, so to speak.

Mostly, because I have a quite spefic question:

How did people make windows before they had window glass? In winter, you can't afford to have big holes in your walls, and even in desert environments it gets really cold at night.
What did people do to have light inside during the day, but also keep warm during the night? And what when it was winter and it was cold outside during the day as well.

Let's say we have a viking farmhouse. What solution did they have for this?

Emmerask
2011-09-10, 12:12 PM
A Viking house often consisted of just one room. (Although in a well off family mum and dad might have a separate bedroom). The house was usually made with a wooden frame, which was filled in with timber planks or wattle and daub (wickerwork and plaster). However in areas where wood was scarce (like Greenland) stone was used for building and roofs might be made of turf.

In a Viking house there were no panes of glass so windows had to be small. At night wooden shutters covered them. Viking houses were dark because the windows were small and the only light came from oil lamps carved from soapstone.

In the center of the hut was a hearth where the cooking was done. However there was no chimney and the smoke just escaped through a hole in the roof.

Spiryt
2011-09-10, 12:12 PM
Finely treated leather, especially stuff like some animals bladder or whatever, could give some rather thin membrane.

I think I've seen such reconstructions here (http://www.karpacka-troja.info/1.html).

Other than that simply wooden shutters that could be always tightened with some stuff from cloth to straw.

Then fire, a lot of food and less flimsy, non Floridian metabolism. :smallwink:
Plus solid clothing obviously.

You can always google "Viking" (or Norse for more sense:smallwink:) houses in Google to see some stuff from Scandinavia of that period.

Conners
2011-09-10, 12:16 PM
In what cases did they use greased paper for windows? Greased paper was used at some points, since it could let light in--I'm fairly sure.

Frozen_Feet
2011-09-10, 12:23 PM
Windows: they had wooden shutters that were closed during harsh weather. Heavy curtains, either from cloth or leather, were also used.

Lighting: candles, oil lamps, and burning splinters above a bucket of water, so falling embers are extinquished instead of burning the house down.

Heating: a stone stove, heated by burning wood inside - the hot stones store energy, keeping the house warm even after the fire is extinquished. This is not unlike a sauna. Fireplaces and ovens with chimneys you are likely familiar with.

Tents, lean-tos and other temporary shelters often had simple open fire either inside, at the middle, or just ourside. (More modern tents can have a metal oven with a chimney.) It's notable, though, that a shelter made of thick and heavy material can stay warm with just the bodyheat of those inside it.

In some places, people kept warm by sleeping naked with each other under furs, or sleeping among livestock, notably, dogs. I hear Australian aborginals used to rate coldness of nights based on how many dogs you needed to stay warm.

Emmerask
2011-09-10, 12:23 PM
In what cases did they use greased paper for windows? Greased paper was used at some points, since it could let light in--I'm fairly sure.



Hm I´ve heard it being used in the american pioneer era but not from norse history, as far as I know paper was not that readily available to them that they could use it for windows.

Spiryt
2011-09-10, 12:32 PM
Paper is rather out of question in pre Renaissance Europe - that was expensive stuff that even monk rarely used for books.

Anyway some Picture from Trzcinica -

http://img.interia.pl/wiadomosci/nimg/x/j/Karpacka_Troja_Trzcinicy_5319408.jpg

Here method is obviously tiny weee window. It's representation of ~ 2000 B.C. settlement AFAIR.

jpreem
2011-09-10, 12:37 PM
Paper was used for windows in ancient China (the place it was invented). Paper did not reach Europe until quite late in the middle-ages. So I doubt it was much used for windows in the western world. Those who could affor this exotic thing called paper probably could afford glass anyway.
As for the peasants - usually they just kept the few small windows they had shut most of the cold time. I have heard that some ( probably richer ones) stretched pig-bladders over the window opening. It lets in a little bit of light.
Most of the history a peasants home would be a rather dark place.
Where I come from historically one of the oldest types of house was so called long-house. A big long house that contained and extended family(or even a smaller clan), luxurious ones contained two rooms ( one was for the farm animals), less luxurious ones contained one room ( people lived in the same room with animals or didn't actually have many big animals).
There was no chimney. The light in the room comes from the fireplace and from long thin pieces of wood that are burnt. (Good work for children, give them a log and a knife, and put them cutting lightsources)

Aux-Ash
2011-09-10, 01:49 PM
I was at Birka last month, the viking city in the Stockholm archipelago (or more correctly: the site where a viking city used to be). They had a number of reconstructed houses there. Not long houses, but city houses. Where a long house would be a mansion, these were the equalients of apartments.

And not a single one had windows. They only had three openings. One door and two holes at the top of the roof to let out smoke. The houses as a rule weren't very big, one antechamber with small storages and a tiny workshop and one sleepign chamber with storages, hearth and bed. Nothing more. The floor was stamped mud.
It was really quite dark inside, but despite that it rained like cats and dogs... warm and cozy. Which I believe was the point.

The smithy was a separate building. With loose airy walls you could see through (making it damp and cold since no fire was running, but it was not dark.

Also, to compare. When I was in Vietnam last year, I visited the National Ethnographic Museum. There they had a gallery of the homes of the various ethnicities that lived in Vietnam. The lowlanders frequently had windows high up, but the highlander homes (where snow could be expected in winter) completely lacked them.
In both cases the various workshops were located either on the porch or separate from the main building.

While two types of houses on opposite ends of the world are hardly compelling evidence, it does suggest that in areas were snow is to be expected windows are something you can do without.
This also ties in with things I've read over the years that suggested that the primary limitation of mediveal society was the sun. When the sun set, work ceased. Because no matter where you lived, it'd be too dark to keep working.

Yora
2011-09-10, 01:59 PM
My mother was in Tanzania last month and told the same. Once sun sets, the day is over. When people were watching TV in the evening, it would usually just stop once the solar panels stopped working. Those people who had electricity after sunset told that it was a huge improvement in life quality.
I've also recently read about a man in the Philipines who constructs metal sheets with a round hole through which a water filled plastic bootle is stuck. When built into the roof, the water and plastic spreads the daylight from outside much better through the room than just a small hole in the roof. And people report that it's really a huge improvement to have more lights in the homes and workshops. And the idea is originally from a man in Brazil, who also had a huge success with them.

As it's still such a big thing today, it certainly wasn't any better 1000 years ago.

Conners
2011-09-10, 07:40 PM
Any idea how dirty conditions could get for farmers in Europe and such, in the medieval period? In some movies, everything has a thick layer of grime to let you know the movie is trying to be realistic (but is actually just gritty, most times). Surely this is generally exaggerated?

I'm wondering about disease, you see. If the people rolled around in the mud every day, yet the fatality rates from disease weren't high by comparison--that'd be a sign of some strong anti-bodies, I'd guess.

Chilingsworth
2011-09-10, 08:42 PM
Any idea how dirty conditions could get for farmers in Europe and such, in the medieval period? In some movies, everything has a thick layer of grime to let you know the movie is trying to be realistic (but is actually just gritty, most times). Surely this is generally exaggerated?

I'm wondering about disease, you see. If the people rolled around in the mud every day, yet the fatality rates from disease weren't high by comparison--that'd be a sign of some strong anti-bodies, I'd guess.

I've heard theories that many of our modern health problems (specifically, allergies and auto-immune diseases,) are caused or at least made worse by over-sanitation. I.e. we're so obsessed with keeping things clean, so our immune systems have nothing to do and get hyperactive.

Spiryt
2011-09-11, 12:36 AM
I've heard theories that many of our modern health problems (specifically, allergies and auto-immune diseases,) are caused or at least made worse by over-sanitation. I.e. we're so obsessed with keeping things clean, so our immune systems have nothing to do and get hyperactive.

Pretty much this, mud and dirt are cheap... like dirt, so any animal that is particularly bothered by it doesn't have bright future. And humans are quite adaptive beasts.


Any idea how dirty conditions could get for farmers in Europe and such, in the medieval period?

Farmers didn't really have 'dirty conditions' most of the time - it was the case in growing cities.

Crowded communities, with obviously no good way to deal with waste, often no good sources of clean water. Poor diet was often problem too, with no ready source fresh forest and agrarian fruits and other goods. Rat and parasites were also breeding freely.

The problem was generally getting worse with development of cities up to the XIX century, when knowledge and means of dealing with those things appeared.

At the same time, country was usually the place when people spent most time at air, going just to the groove or whatever if "called".

So generally, any thing like famine or pestilence that could occur was hitting common townfolk much worse than countryfolk.

This is obvious simplification for post needs, but that's how it mostly looked in high medieval.

Knaight
2011-09-11, 01:12 AM
Regarding the original questions on windows, viking stuff (http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/daily_living/text/longhouse.htm) is done quite well by this group. Its not perfect, but it should give you a good idea of the housing, and the site in general has far more than just that.

Jeraa
2011-09-11, 01:19 AM
I've heard theories that many of our modern health problems (specifically, allergies and auto-immune diseases,) are caused or at least made worse by over-sanitation. I.e. we're so obsessed with keeping things clean, so our immune systems have nothing to do and get hyperactive.
Not just things like that. With stuff like hand sanitizers, it only kills 99% of germs at best. That final 1%, the strongest among the germs, live to reproduce making diseases and things more harmful. And some of the most virulent strains of viruses are found in... hospitals. All of the sanitation and chemicals kill the weaker viruses, leaving the strong to reproduce.

Not to mention medication. The other members of my family take medicine everytime they are sick, for any symptom. And still get sick often - their bodies rely on the medicine to cure them, so don't develop an effective defense on their own.

So the stuff we do to try to keep ourselves healthier, could very well actually be making things worse for us. There is such as thing as "too clean".

Aux-Ash
2011-09-11, 02:40 AM
Any idea how dirty conditions could get for farmers in Europe and such, in the medieval period? In some movies, everything has a thick layer of grime to let you know the movie is trying to be realistic (but is actually just gritty, most times). Surely this is generally exaggerated?

I'm wondering about disease, you see. If the people rolled around in the mud every day, yet the fatality rates from disease weren't high by comparison--that'd be a sign of some strong anti-bodies, I'd guess.

It's a myth.

Keeping clean was a virtue during the middle ages. In the "roman"-world (where the roman empire had extended) this was done by a combination of public baths (for -both- genders) if you lived in cities or bathing at home. Outside of it, it was saunas (in the finno-ugric/slavic tradition) or bathing days. There's even tooth brushes from the era, as well as many other grooming tools.
And if nothing else... they probably did the same thing we do on sweaty summer days: Went for a swim (yes, plenty of people could swim).

Even in the cities, despite throwing waste out on the street/into the cesspool... things were pretty clean in prosperous times (now during a famine/siege... that's another matter. But they had more pressing matters on their minds then). Mind... cities were as a rule rather small... probably factored in.

Vikings for instance, were particularly keen on keeping clean. In sweden, the name for Saturday is "Lördag" which is short for "Lögar dagen" or "The washing day". It predates the viking era and it is believed that people took proper baths that day (still cleaned themselves on other days as well mind)

So, yes. It is not only exaggerated, but blatantly untrue. People did keep clean and garden work wasn't much more "splattery" than it is today (so they wouldn't be covered in mud).

That said... washing was rather labour intensive if you did not have access to a public bath. So you didn't perhaps clean up everyday (other than washing off mud from your hand and face) but took one of the days in the week to do so (before church, perhaps?).

Also... fleas and rats were prominent, which today is often seen as "not being clean enough" but back then was unavoidable. So just because there's fleas doesn't mean it's not clean.

And 1 in 2 children did die before their 15th year, 1 in 3 before their first. Again, not a sign of not being clean but rather of lacking antibiotics/neonatal healthcare.

And like it has been mentioned, outside of the modern western world autoimmunities and allergies are pretty rare. The theory that allergies have been developed due to being too clean is plausible and if true then such diseases would have been very rare indeed.

Eldan
2011-09-11, 07:41 AM
On the cleanliness thing: soap has been around for thousands of ages. I faintly remember a Roman description describing the queer, hairy Gauls who smeared themselves with a strange, smelly substances of bones, ash and lye to keep clean.

Conners
2011-09-11, 09:15 AM
Thought it was rubbish, the stuff about farmers being so dirty all the time. Might be a bit different if you lived in a sandy place with stonrg wind--you'd probably get dusty fairly quickly.


Here's an odd question: How did coin forging work back in the old times? You often see people bite gold coins to see if they're genuine. Is this method accurately portrayed? also, how does it work, and why?

My guess is that they cover a cheaper metal in gold/silver, so you need to check the weight or that it's soft (like gold is meant to be).

Yora
2011-09-11, 09:33 AM
One traditional form of coin making I have seen is to put a piece of metal roughly the size of the finished coin and exactly the weight it is supposed to have, and put it between two strong steel blocks engraved with the faces of the coin, just like a mold. Then you give it a really strong beating with a hammer (I've seen a heavy weight being pulled up on a rope and then just letting it drop), and the metal will be pressed into the shape of a coin with both sides having the appropriate faces.
On really old coins, you can often see the engraving in ver good condition, but the rim of the coin is highly irregular. Since the weight of the matal is important, you can't simply shave off what's protruding over the ideal rim.

(Here's one device demonstrated: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ee1699JUf70&feature=related)

Taking a cheap metal piece and covering it with a thin layer of cold would be quite easy to do. However, cold is relatively soft. Hard enough to not bend, but still soft enough that you can dent it with your teeth. That's pretty much a quick test to see if it's solid gold, and not just iron covered in gold.

flumphy
2011-09-11, 09:47 AM
Thought it was rubbish, the stuff about farmers being so dirty all the time. Might be a bit different if you lived in a sandy place with stonrg wind--you'd probably get dusty fairly quickly.


Here's an odd question: How did coin forging work back in the old times? You often see people bite gold coins to see if they're genuine. Is this method accurately portrayed? also, how does it work, and why?

My guess is that they cover a cheaper metal in gold/silver, so you need to check the weight or that it's soft (like gold is meant to be).

As I understand it, using gold-plated lead, or whatever, didn't happen all that much. Plating things is actually kind of complex. They would, however, mix cheaper, harder metals in as an alloy. Assuming the coin was supposed to have a high percentage of gold, biting a coin would be a somewhat effective way to judge the purity of the metal, although just weighing it could accomplish the same thing more reliably without resorting to toothmarks.

Really, because precious metals are so soft and so rare, most governments intentionally mixed in harder metals to allow for a greater quantity to be minted and also to prevent wear. Even the ancient greeks threw some base metals into the electrum they had lying around. Besides, in many cases the everyday guy wouldn't be throwing around gold coins even if the society used them.

Another reason to just weigh the coins was the practice of "clipping", shaving off bits of metal, which you would save up in order to counterfeit more coins. You know how some modern coins have all those indents around the edges? That was originally an old anti-counterfeiting measure meant to make it more noticeable if anything had been shaved off. Now it serves more to help distinguish between different denominations of currency.

Pippa the Pixie
2011-09-11, 10:23 AM
Here's an odd question: How did coin forging work back in the old times? You often see people bite gold coins to see if they're genuine. Is this method accurately portrayed? also, how does it work, and why?

My guess is that they cover a cheaper metal in gold/silver, so you need to check the weight or that it's soft (like gold is meant to be).

If you wanted to make yourself a coin, but had none, you'd follow some simple steps. Find yourself some metal, either from a made tool or such or just some raw ore. It does not really matter too much what kind of metal it is. Then melt that metal down and make some coins that look just like the real thing. Then simply paint your coins gold.

For the bit more advanced trick, you'd coat your iron coin in gold. After all you can make many more 'gold coated coins' then you can 'all gold coins' from any amount of gold.

The biting of the coins comes from this idea. It was common enough for someone to have a lot of metal and a bit of gold and they would make fake gold coins. It was quite common out west around the time of the gold rush.

A real 100% gold coin would be just soft enough that you could bite into it, just a bit. A fake coin, even more so ones many by amateurs with common scrap metals like iron, would be very hard and you could not bite into them.

Chilingsworth
2011-09-11, 11:31 AM
Also on the subject of coinage, the concept became possible with the discovery of minerals that functioned as touchstones (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touchstone_(assaying_tool))

Yora
2011-09-11, 11:35 AM
At what point did the value of a coin become different than the value of its material? Did the issuer of the coin have any other impact than the good name of the sovereign who guaranteed that his coinmakers would put exactly the amount of material into the coins as there is supposed to be?

Eldan
2011-09-11, 12:08 PM
That really depends on where you'd be looking. Letters of credit were around very early, and the Chinese had paper money for ages.

INteresting factoid: if you look at modern coins, there's normally engravings on the rim as well, often stars, or just dents. These were originally introduced (in France, I think) to prevent clipping: if a part was cut off, the engraving would be gone.

Shaving was another practice: coins from softer metals often lost their engraving as they got older. So people would sometimes shave off parts of the engraving, then soften it again with a whetstone or sand, and pretend the coin was old.

Knaight
2011-09-11, 01:08 PM
Vikings for instance, were particularly keen on keeping clean. In sweden, the name for Saturday is "Lördag" which is short for "Lögar dagen" or "The washing day". It predates the viking era and it is believed that people took proper baths that day (still cleaned themselves on other days as well mind).

The Vikings were so particularly keen on keeping clean that it is easy to find derisive names for them related to how often they washed themselves. They aren't even remotely usable as as an average. However, they appear to have cleaned daily, and "The washing day" had a lot more to do with cleaning things other than them. Clothing, houses, so on and so forth, all of which was hard work. The only people who considered them dirty anywhere near Europe were in the Middle East, where washing at least certain body parts five times a day was effectively mandatory.

Aux-Ash
2011-09-11, 01:23 PM
Oh, granted. I was just trying to illustrate cleanliness was not foreign to the vikings either, despite never being part of the roman world.

Yora
2011-09-11, 01:28 PM
Depends on how "roman". Byzantine claimed to be roman, and there was quite some viking activity in the black sea region.

Spiryt
2011-09-11, 01:49 PM
Anyway, Norse (and not only) men who ventured on journeys on the East Baltic and down the rivers to the land of the Gardar, Rus or whatever, were called Varangians, Varegs or whatever we spell this - basically "Eastern Viking". :smallwink:

Frozen_Feet
2011-09-11, 02:02 PM
There are even tales of Varangians being in the bodyguard of the Byzantian emperor.

Spiryt
2011-09-11, 02:09 PM
There are even tales of Varangians being in the bodyguard of the Byzantian emperor.

Those are not really tales, but hard facts - Battle of Dyrrhachium (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Dyrrhachium_(1081)) is AFAIR battle where last Varangian Guards were mostly destroyed in defense of emperor - together with Hastings it can be seen as the date of twilight of the 'viking' era.

Yora
2011-09-11, 02:14 PM
Don't you mean Stamford Bridge? Even though we're getting into the military stuff again here. ^^

Spiryt
2011-09-11, 02:20 PM
Who cares, they're the same fall anyway. :smalltongue: :smallwink:

Shademan
2011-09-11, 02:27 PM
I often wonder "Did they have that back then?" and "What did they do instead?". There's a thread for such things when it commes to millitary technology, which arguably is the greatest category in which such questions arise, but I think I'd also like a civilian version, so to speak.

Mostly, because I have a quite spefic question:

How did people make windows before they had window glass? In winter, you can't afford to have big holes in your walls, and even in desert environments it gets really cold at night.
What did people do to have light inside during the day, but also keep warm during the night? And what when it was winter and it was cold outside during the day as well.

Let's say we have a viking farmhouse. What solution did they have for this?

I've read that they (norse) used some of the...shall we say "leftovers" from cows giving birth. they got some thin(ish) membrane outta it that they placed over windows.
dont have any source for you tho' so take it as you will

Jeraa
2011-09-11, 02:28 PM
There are even tales of Varangians being in the bodyguard of the Byzantian emperor.

As Spiryt said, facts not tales. What I was told was that the emperors couldn't even trust their own countrymen as guards, so relied on the foreign but honorable Varangian.

Tvtyrant
2011-09-11, 04:19 PM
As Spiryt said, facts not tales. What I was told was that the emperors couldn't even trust their own countrymen as guards, so relied on the foreign but honorable Varangian.

This is missing the political reasoning; if you are a Varangian you will be killed if you assassinate the emperor. It was built as a system to prevent the constant palace coups, by eliminating possible kin ties between the guards and other noble families.

thubby
2011-09-11, 06:27 PM
This is missing the political reasoning; if you are a Varangian you will be killed if you assassinate the emperor. It was built as a system to prevent the constant palace coups, by eliminating possible kin ties between the guards and other noble families.

there were similar reasons for fostering. who ever's kid you got could act as a hostage should the need arise.

Altair_the_Vexed
2011-09-12, 05:15 AM
there were similar reasons for fostering. who ever's kid you got could act as a hostage should the need arise.

Fostering also was a symbol of fealty and trust, depending on culture - the friendship and loyalty between foster family is a recurrent theme in the Icelandic Sagas.

Yora
2011-09-12, 05:26 AM
Which is pretty much the same thing. The only difference is if you are currently on good terms or on bad terms. :smallamused:

Kiero
2011-09-12, 05:37 AM
There's a danger in looking at this topic as though medieval is more advanced than ancient - in many instances that simply wasn't the case. With the collapse of the Western Roman empire, and shrinking of the influence of the Eastern, all sorts of infrastructure requiring a powerful centre directing various provinces fell apart. That wasn't just loss of stuff, but loss of knowledge as well when people weren't paid and turned their attention to other things.

As an example of a soft technology, the Roman skill at logistics (particularly moving large bodies of men around and keeping them fed and supplied) wasn't replicated again until the 19th century. It's notable how much smaller medieval armies were than those fielded by the late Republic/early Principate.

Another thing to note are the number of individual inventions created in antiquity, but never actually applied to anything. Greeks were notorious for creating individual novelties without ever thinking about how it could be put to practical use. Largely because the natural philosopher wouldn't sully themselves by engaging with craftsmen.

B!shop
2011-09-12, 05:47 AM
As an example of a soft technology, the Roman skill at logistics (particularly moving large bodies of men around and keeping them fed and supplied) wasn't replicated again until the 19th century. It's notable how much smaller medieval armies were than those fielded by the late Republic/early Principate.

An even better example is Roman Engineering.
Roads, Aqueducts, bridges, buildings from the Roman Empire were seen as vestiges of an enlightened age, the knowledge to build and keep them working lost during the fall of the empire.

Edit:
To answer Yora's first question:
In some cultures windows in pre-glass time (and later, when glass was too expensive) were covered with animal furs to keep the cold outside. In some cases a very thin layer of parchment, "worked" skin was stretched over the windows, it was thin enough to be semi-transparent, letting the daylight enter but keeping wind outside.

Yora
2011-09-12, 05:49 AM
Had the romans discovered the steam engine, we could have skipped 1500 years of human history. :smallamused:

Conners
2011-09-12, 06:38 AM
Here's a semi-weapons and armour question...

Often in games, the town's blacksmith will sell you weapons and armour. But thinking about it... swords and armour aren't simple things--they take a lot of skill to make. I'm guessing that a village's blacksmith won't know how to make much, aside from kitchen-knives and the like.

So how common was it for blacksmiths to know how to make weapons/armour?

Also, was it common for unskilled blacksmiths to make and sell shoddy weapons/armour? Or was selling bad-quality arms taboo?

Spiryt
2011-09-12, 06:51 AM
It's really broad question, depending on period and place in a way that makes "general" responses rather pointless - but generally man skilled in making decent swords, let alone good armors or helmets most certainly wouldn't be sitting in some village hammering out nails for bloody peasants.

Most wonky thing in your standard "medievalish" realm in games would obviously be armorer waiting for you with decent choice of stuff on shelves like in WalMart - his place of residence and usual occupation aside.

Eldan
2011-09-12, 06:51 AM
Had the romans discovered the steam engine, we could have skipped 1500 years of human history. :smallamused:

They did. Or rather, the Greeks and Egyptians did. They saw it as an amusing novelty not worth their time.

Johel
2011-09-12, 07:14 AM
They did. Or rather, the Greeks and Egyptians did. They saw it as an amusing novelty not worth their time.

Also, why the hell would you want an engine to do the work that slaves are perfectly capable of doing ?
True, machines don't try to run away or to murder you.
But they require an upfront investment far higher than a slave.
And for all Romans knew, it has the same risk of breaking than a slave of getting ill or injured.

So why bother paying 10 times the price of a slave for a machine that can do the same work, if they both going to be useless in the next 10-20 years ?
For Rome, this would have been especially true in the period of conquest or civil unrest, where fresh supplies of cheap slaves were in no shortage.

So yeah... Roman slave-based economy didn't see the use for steam engines.
For the same reason that we prefer to delocalize in poor countries rather than find ways to automate production further.

Kiero
2011-09-12, 07:20 AM
Also, why the hell would you want an engine to do the work that slaves are perfectly capable of doing ?
True, machines don't try to run away or to murder you.
But they require an upfront investment far higher than a slave.
And for all Romans knew, it has the same risk of breaking than a slave of getting ill or injured.

So why bother paying 10 times the price of a slave for a machine that can do the same work, if they both going to be useless in the next 10-20 years ?
For Rome, this would have been especially true in the period of conquest or civil unrest, where fresh supplies of cheap slaves were in no shortage.

So yeah... Roman slave-based economy didn't see the use for steam engines.
For the same reason that we prefer to delocalize in poor countries rather than find ways to automate production further.

This was the reason no one took it up, but it wasn't an economic justification at all. It was a social one, you have a society already based on slave labour. The greatest fear of those at the top was civil unrest amongst the lower orders. Idle slaves are those who might start considering why they are even slaves in the first place.

This is the root cause of why there was virtually no technological advancement throughout the Hellenistic era, and even in the Roman era it was limited in applying the various technologies that were already out there. Like steam.

Factor in the tendency of your average inventor to be some idle land-owner who thought artisans and craftsmen were scum, and there's no way invention and application can come together.

Eldan
2011-09-12, 07:30 AM
The Egyptians had some applications of steam power. But from what I remember, focused mostly on impressing those lower classes, not work.

There was a steam-powered temple that was pretty interesting: if you lit a fire on a certain altar, the temple doors would open by themselves. Quite likely accompanied by a lot of rituals.

B!shop
2011-09-12, 07:44 AM
Here's a semi-weapons and armour question...

Often in games, the town's blacksmith will sell you weapons and armour. But thinking about it... swords and armour aren't simple things--they take a lot of skill to make. I'm guessing that a village's blacksmith won't know how to make much, aside from kitchen-knives and the like.

So how common was it for blacksmiths to know how to make weapons/armour?

Also, was it common for unskilled blacksmiths to make and sell shoddy weapons/armour? Or was selling bad-quality arms taboo?

Common blacksmiths should have the knowledge to craft simple blades for swords, axes and similar weapons.
Obviously their works wouldn't be raw and probabily badly balanced.

But yes, they should be able to forge them.

For rigid armours (plated) instead you need a skilled crafter, a lot of time (for every armour was usually crafted custom) and the right tools.
Chain shirts are probably craftable by less skilled smiths.


About the quality, probably you'll get for what you pay. A bad-quality sword costs less than a masterpiece, but when you need a sword, a bad quality sword is better than nothing.

On a side note, most (if not all) of the weapons used by lower class fighters are the military version of everyday's tools. Weapons like spears, hammers, knives or axes are craftable from village smiths, for they are both tools for working and weapons.

Yora
2011-09-12, 07:53 AM
Shaping a piece of steel into the shape of a sword should not be much of a problem for any blacksmith. However, making it well balanced and not prone to shattering on impact is an entirely different thing.

Emmerask
2011-09-12, 08:04 AM
I have nothing to prove it but I would imagine that swords where a bit out of the common villagers blacksmith league.

Axes, knifes, horseshoes, tips for arrows yes but a sword requires quite a bit of craftmanship and experience to produce, seeing that the demand for even one sword would go against zero I just don´t see a village blacksmith having that experience.

/edit
Also the right to even carry or own a sword was very much restricted by the aristocrats (europe middle ages and I think in japan at least) so its not unlikely that crafting swords was equally restricted.

Kiero
2011-09-12, 08:10 AM
The Egyptians had some applications of steam power. But from what I remember, focused mostly on impressing those lower classes, not work.

There was a steam-powered temple that was pretty interesting: if you lit a fire on a certain altar, the temple doors would open by themselves. Quite likely accompanied by a lot of rituals.

In other words: novelties.

Eldan
2011-09-12, 08:20 AM
Yup. They also found a statue that, when placed in the sun, would rise upwards with the entire altar below it.

Spiryt
2011-09-12, 08:47 AM
Shaping a piece of steel into the shape of a sword should not be much of a problem for any blacksmith. However, making it well balanced and not prone to shattering on impact is an entirely different thing.

Making it work well would be tricky in general, shattering is not really the problem.

If some common smith would have to spend sword like amount of precious steel on some cutting weapon, he would go with messer of some kind - smaller relatively simple stuff of pretty much "V" cross section from the spine to the edge.




Also the right to even carry or own a sword was very much restricted by the aristocrats (europe middle ages and I think in japan at least) so its not unlikely that crafting swords was equally restricted.

Carrying the sword the sword in Europe wasn't really by any means restricted in Feudal Europe, usually.

If there were some local regimes limiting arms for common people, they weren't really limited to swords then.


Chain shirts are probably craftable by less skilled smiths.

Depends on "meaning" of the craft - for manual labor it may be true, but tailoring and generally shaping mail is difficult even for modern hobbyist who make relatively useless 'mail' by shutting down the ring with pliers....

Making well shaped mail with all rings properly shut down with rivets can be different story.

Conners
2011-09-12, 08:51 AM
Also the right to even carry or own a sword was very much restricted by the aristocrats (europe middle ages and I think in japan at least) so its not unlikely that crafting swords was equally restricted. Yep. It's not wise to let your serfs collect weapons. I think in Germany, peasants were allowed to carry knives--which lead to the invention of the "messer" I think it was... a very large knife (legally it wasn't a sword).
:: Also, Spiryt has ninja'd me somewhat.

With Japan.... VERY much so. Your class decided how fancy your house can be, what clothes you could wear, what weapons you could carry (there's a reason the katana was a status symbol), what food you could eat, AND: What position you were allowed to sleep in!!

I've heard things could be so bad, they made sure their roads were confusing so commoners would be discouraged from travelling away from their tyrannical daimaou.
Also, anyone who had left Japan and gone to foreign places--when they came back, they were killed so that they couldn't talk about how good it was in other places (this will also relate to the massacre of the Japanese Christians and foreign missionaries--since they were bringing in Western ideals). Although, I've heard they'd spare the person who had returned from foreign lands, if they swore to not tell anyone what they had seen--not sure how often that boon was granted, though.

Johel
2011-09-12, 08:56 AM
This was the reason no one took it up, but it wasn't an economic justification at all. It was a social one, you have a society already based on slave labour. The greatest fear of those at the top was civil unrest amongst the lower orders. Idle slaves are those who might start considering why they are even slaves in the first place.

While this is not a wrong thinking, I'm sure owners could have got around that one.
Either by affecting the slaves to another of their business ventures.
Or simply by selling the slaves to someone who couldn't afford the machines.
Even selling them at low price might have been a good deal if you fear them revolting and need the money for machines.

But then again, that's not what happened.
Mainly because a human slave is that much more adaptable than a machine.
And because, when legions are periodically putting down unrests in the provinces by enslaving populations, slaves ain't that expensive to replace.

Kiero
2011-09-12, 09:14 AM
While this is not a wrong thinking, I'm sure owners could have got around that one.
Either by affecting the slaves to another of their business ventures.
Or simply by selling the slaves to someone who couldn't afford the machines.
Even selling them at low price might have been a good deal if you fear them revolting and need the money for machines.

You're completely misunderstanding the mindset and priorities of the people with money, power and influence throughout antiquity. They were a land-owning aristocracy who weren't interested* in industry, trade or anything that wasn't making rents from their lands. This is the real barrier on technological advancement at the time, even aside from fears of idle slaves.

They didn't have "business ventures", at most they were silent partners in ventures run by other people. Peter Green's The Hellenistic Age has an entire chapter devoted to technology and why, in spite of all the elements of an industrial revolution, one never happened. None of the barriers were technological or economic, they were societal and cultural.

This is what is often underestimated or even ignored by a lot of discussions of technology. The weak link is people.

*More than disinterest, they scorned anything involving manual labour or practical application. Held it in active contempt. Later on in the Roman Senate, being "in trade" was cause for the censors to expel you.


But then again, that's not what happened.
Mainly because a human slave is that much more adaptable than a machine.
And because, when legions are periodically putting down unrests in the provinces by enslaving populations, slaves ain't that expensive to replace.

If this were really the case, the Industrial Revolution would never have happened. Skilled craftsmen are massively more productive than slaves, but even they can't compete with mechanisation.

Conners
2011-09-12, 09:21 AM
Humans are still more adaptive. Doesn't take long to teach a person how to do a task, as long as it isn't terribly complicated. Machines require a lot of study and engineering to get them to do the right thing (of course, if you already know how to make them, it isn't so hard).

Also, a lot of slaves were actually quite skilled. Many slaves who were released by the Romans ran successful businesses. Sometims they were even teachers for children.
At least, from what little I have studied.

Frozen_Feet
2011-09-12, 09:22 AM
Humans are more adaptable than machines. Machines are, however, much more productive. A human might be able to do ten things, while a machine can only do one; but in that one thing, the machine can outmatch tens of people.

Emmerask
2011-09-12, 09:24 AM
I think the main problem would have been that wood is not very energy efficient , and coal while available was not mined enough to actually be used as fuel for these highly ineffective machinery.

ie why should you put 100 woodsman lumberjacks to work to make your machine do the work of 20 man when you could just use 20 man ^^

Johel
2011-09-12, 10:19 AM
How much productive is the machine compared to the human, it is a question of technology and of skills.

Slave against machine :
Machine wins by a large margin but only in its designated task.
It can dig holes faster, longer and deeper than a dozen slaves.
But it cannot also cook food, wash the floor, serve meals, repair clothes, paint the wall, take notes and teach others to do those things.
Also, since slave maintenance barely costs more than the necessary for their survival and surveillance, it won't be much more costly than the machine.
While the initial investment for the machine will be high.

As long as machines remain not very sofisticated, the gain in quality is negligeable.
Only the quantity of work matters.
Quantity that you can get by buying more slaves.
But when machines do become less crude, they can produce large quantity of good quality goods and become much more interesting than slaves.

Only one point remains in favor of slaves :
You reaffect slaves to something else if needed.
They won't perform great at first but they will improve.
While the machine would just be useless if what it produces is suddenly in less demand.

This is still the main reason today why we don't invest massively to get rid of the human element if some industries :
It's just less expensive to hire and fire people.
Rather than to buy machines that will have to be depreciated over 10 years or more.

Slave against craftman :
Really depends of the skill of the slave. Could be a enslaved craftman.
But without the motivation of working for himself, he'll likely perform pourly.
While the craftman will try to produce masterpieces.
Since sometime, quantity just won't do, you need free men around to craft the cool stuff and slaves around to make the necessary stuff.

Craftman against machine :
To begin with, craftsmen actually DID keep pace for a time and still do in some fields.
That is why we still have some today, although they delegate the menial and repetitive jobs to machines (or apprentices...)
But as technology marched on, they had to let go more and more fields, as machine could do both better quantity and quality.

So yep... not saying economy was the only consideration.
But in Rome at least, it was a big deal.
The greeks... well, there's a reason why they were just crushed by the more adaptative and down-to-earth romans.

For the mindset :
Dude, I didn't say you were wrong.
But you gotta admit that they were other place for slaves to be than the lovely villa of a patrician.
Chiefs among them were fields, mines, workshops... whaterver.
As you said, they were run by people who weren't patrician themselves.
These people WERE interested in money because they would likely NOT as well-off than patricians.
So they would have at least a basic understanding of how business work.
Because if they hadn't, the whole thing would collapse and they would be slaves, not supervisors.

If you paid fixed rent to the patrician, then you would likely want to improve productivity as much as possible to reduce the weight of the rent.
It would have been hard for them to find the finances to make researches on useful machines.
And without patents, your invention would either spread to your competitors or die with you.
While you could always easily add more slaves to a business and then either sell them back, kill them or set them free when you didn't need them.

If you had give a proportionate share of the profits, same thing :
To be more productive would mean better standards of living but also being an important contributor to the patrician's wealth.
And boy, did wealth have its importance in politics.
So, indirectly, you would buy your way into the governement by being a major contributor to a patrician's wealth.
So you increase productivity as much as you can, either by adding workforce or by changing small other things, as long as the investment pay off quickly.

Fouredged Sword
2011-09-12, 12:02 PM
The other constraint was metalurgy. This was one area that actualy advanced throughout the dark ages. Sure there was some small loss of tech right at the end of the romans, but iron was rare and not commonly used even twards the end of the empire. Spears and shortswords (less metal) held sway in combat with brigadine metal armor (much less metal than even partial plate).

Yes, they could power things with steam. These things had very low steam pressure though, greatly limiting use, becuse the boilers would explode otherwise.

Really there was a lot of technology that could have hapened, but metal wasn't advanced enough yet.

Spiryt
2011-09-12, 12:18 PM
Spears and shortswords (less metal) held sway in combat with brigadine metal armor (much less metal than even partial plate).


Not sure what you mean - brigandine appeared about ~ 1370 at earliest so it doesn't really have much to do with Romans. It also in fact requires quite a lot metal.



Yes, they could power things with steam. These things had very low steam pressure though, greatly limiting use, becuse the boilers would explode otherwise.

Really there was a lot of technology that could have hapened, but metal wasn't advanced enough yet.

Wouldn't precise mechanics be really greater problem, not worth the fuss here? As ways to transfer engine power to move anything without big losses.

Ravens_cry
2011-09-12, 01:46 PM
Another advance of Medieval times not replicated previously, I believe, was a horse collar that allowed a horse to pull a plough with its full ability without strangling itself. This was a huge advance that made farms quite significantly more productive.

Aux-Ash
2011-09-12, 02:00 PM
The sentiment that the scientific and engineering progress of the world collapsed after the fall of the Roman empire is plain ludicrous. It didn't cease to be just because all of a sudden "rome" was no longer a state.
Not to mention that in one way or another the legacy of Rome continued to 1918. It lived on as first the Romanion (Byzantine empire), then the HRE and Tsarist Russia and finally just as Tsarist Russia.
Yes, none of these was the Ceasarian Rome, but then... that Rome ceased to be with the death of Nero. The Antoine era relived the legacy somewhat... but after that the "idealised", "scientific" Rome was no more. It changed.

But the technology, the engineering and the societal structure remained. Even in the "Dark Ages", the people of southern europe built with Roman arches. The mathematics and the philosophy persisted in the hellenic legacy of the Byzantines, Persia and in India. The medicine of the greeks, that the romans had improved on, kept being the ultimate authority for well over a thousand years (except in the arabic world).
Nothing of this vanished.

What did vanish was the common unity, to be replaced by the factionalism and tribalism of europe (but the societal organisation for this had already been put in place by the romans, since the 3rd century in fact). What did vanish was a common language, making many great works inaccesible because noone could read it. The trade networks warped and changed. The cities could no longer support the dedicated militias that formed the legions (but they hadn't been doing that for well over the century by the fall).

But things kept progressing still. The era between the fall of Rome and the Battle of Hastings is full of innovations, migrations and dynamics. The only reason there were no great engineering works was because noone could pay for. And the only reason noone thinks there were great deeds of philosophy is that they're looking in the wrong place.

We wouldn't have had space ships if the romans had steam engines. Because the romans had access to steam engines (through the greeks and the egyptians) and saw no practical use for it.
Remember, the first practical use of steam engines was to pump up water from flooded pit mines in Britain. That's were the steam engine was innovated and improved upon until it actually became useful for other stuff as well.
Rome did not have mines of that type... so they wouldn't have any use of a glorified, fuel consuming, pump, now would they?

Kiero
2011-09-12, 02:46 PM
The other constraint was metalurgy. This was one area that actualy advanced throughout the dark ages. Sure there was some small loss of tech right at the end of the romans, but iron was rare and not commonly used even twards the end of the empire. Spears and shortswords (less metal) held sway in combat with brigadine metal armor (much less metal than even partial plate).

Uh, the Celts were producing decent quality steel from about 300BC, and the Iberians from at least 200BC. This notion that Romans and others were using iron is nonsensical. Bronze had all but died out in Europe by the Hellenistic era primarily because of the difficulties of getting good sources of tin.

There were veritable cottage industries of armourers churning out mail on an industrial scale in northern Italy towards the end of the Republic. Towards the end of the Empire, standards of equipment for legionaries was worse than that at the beginning of the Empire.

Metallurgy was better in antiquity than the early medieval period, and by a lot. So-called advances in what you term the dark ages were merely a recovery of ancient craft once lost. It certainly wasn't the constraint on technology that you imply.

Shorter swords held sway because of the preponderance of formation combat with staggeringly large armies, and the lack of heavier armour than mail or scale.

Kiero
2011-09-12, 02:53 PM
The sentiment that the scientific and engineering progress of the world collapsed after the fall of the Roman empire is plain ludicrous. It didn't cease to be just because all of a sudden "rome" was no longer a state.
Not to mention that in one way or another the legacy of Rome continued to 1918. It lived on as first the Romanion (Byzantine empire), then the HRE and Tsarist Russia and finally just as Tsarist Russia.
Yes, none of these was the Ceasarian Rome, but then... that Rome ceased to be with the death of Nero. The Antoine era relived the legacy somewhat... but after that the "idealised", "scientific" Rome was no more. It changed.

But the technology, the engineering and the societal structure remained. Even in the "Dark Ages", the people of southern europe built with Roman arches. The mathematics and the philosophy persisted in the hellenic legacy of the Byzantines, Persia and in India. The medicine of the greeks, that the romans had improved on, kept being the ultimate authority for well over a thousand years (except in the arabic world).
Nothing of this vanished.

What did vanish was the common unity, to be replaced by the factionalism and tribalism of europe (but the societal organisation for this had already been put in place by the romans, since the 3rd century in fact). What did vanish was a common language, making many great works inaccesible because noone could read it. The trade networks warped and changed. The cities could no longer support the dedicated militias that formed the legions (but they hadn't been doing that for well over the century by the fall).

But things kept progressing still. The era between the fall of Rome and the Battle of Hastings is full of innovations, migrations and dynamics. The only reason there were no great engineering works was because noone could pay for. And the only reason noone thinks there were great deeds of philosophy is that they're looking in the wrong place.


Sorry, but this is taking the counter-argument too far. You're right that civilisation didn't collapse, but the collapse of the centre managing a vast, distributed empire with huge scale infrastructures meant that those infrastructures could not be maintained.

Money and political will might have been the initial reasons for no more large-scale public works or engineering, but after how long would those skills be lost? 20 years? 30 years? If no one is actually carrying out those projects for a generation or two, then the knowledge of how to do it will be lost. Look at Spain, where no one built major roads after the Romans until the 20th century.

Look at medicine, where it wasn't until the late 19th century that we finally began to supplant the Hippocratic/Galenic models of biology.

There are huge advantages of scale and scope that come about from having a big organisation, and those were lost when the Western Roman Empire fell, and the Eastern necessarily contracted in influence. Continuity is irrelevant, without the entire scale of the original empire to draw upon, technology was diminished.

Fouredged Sword
2011-09-12, 03:10 PM
It was avalable, but not cheep. Cheap iron and steel was a long time comeing.

Even then you ran into problems with quality. you could get good quality steel, but it was very expensive and not common even in the places that had it. Iron was cheap during some periods, but a crapshoot, some of it was good. Othertimes it was very brittle. Thier ability to alloy high heat resistant and water resistant steels was completely not there though. Bronze can take the heat and water, but it is expensive and brittle. Put it under too much pressure and it explodes into shrapnel. You need cheep water and heat resistant metal to get a steam revolution in an economy.

Good cheep steel is a very important key to a lot of technology. That requires refined 02. That wouldn't come about until much later in history and caused the rize of skyscrapers.

Fitting parts can be done very slowly by costom fitting parts.

I think I am refering to the legonair armor by the wrong name. Can someone correct me? Isn't brigadine connected metal plates backed by leather.

If Rome never declined would we be in a higher tech world? Probobly, but the same values that caused them to nopt use the things they invented where the things that caused the downfall. If they developed thier technology to build a merchantile empire rather than a conquest one they would have weathered running out of people worth faceing in battle much better.

bebosteveo
2011-09-12, 03:20 PM
This thread is really inspiring my creativity. Ancient Romans and Egyptians worshiping machine spirits to create locomotives and electricity. Its like 40k but with knowledge progressing forward rather than backward.

Anyway, I have a question: How did people manage "prospecting" back in the day? What I mean is, how did they decide "Yes, this is a good place for a mine, we will dig here."? Did they just pick a spot, dig a hole and see what comes out, or was there more of a process to it?

Spiryt
2011-09-12, 03:20 PM
I think I am refering to the legonair armor by the wrong name. Can someone correct me? Isn't brigadine connected metal plates backed by leather.


I'm not sure what you exactly mean, but brigandine is this:

http://img80.imageshack.us/img80/2548/brigandine15thcentury4013ce.jpg

Nothing really similar was worn by roman legionaires anywhere.

Kiero
2011-09-12, 03:33 PM
It was avalable, but not cheep. Cheap iron and steel was a long time comeing.

Even then you ran into problems with quality. you could get good quality steel, but it was very expensive and not common even in the places that had it. Iron was cheap during some periods, but a crapshoot, some of it was good. Othertimes it was very brittle. Thier ability to alloy high heat resistant and water resistant steels was completely not there though. Bronze can take the heat and water, but it is expensive and brittle. Put it under too much pressure and it explodes into shrapnel. You need cheep water and heat resistant metal to get a steam revolution in an economy.

Good cheep steel is a very important key to a lot of technology. That requires refined 02. That wouldn't come about until much later in history and caused the rize of skyscrapers.

If you can produce enough armour to outfit hundreds of thousands of men (not all or even most Roman panoplies by the late Republic would have been heirlooms handed down through the generations), then you must have cheap sources of iron and coal/charcoal. Economies of scale, again.

Romans had good steel created with skilled techniques copied off those peoples who had demonstrated a facility with it (Celts and Iberians, primarily).

As an aside, well-worked bronze is a lot better than poor quality iron, but the real issue is availability of tin.


Fitting parts can be done very slowly by costom fitting parts.

If you're making mail, as long as you cover the average sort of size, you don't need to custom-fit each one. Mass production is possible, even if done by cottage industries. People seem to forget this, but the dominant armour for the majority of the Roman Republic and Empire was mail (or lorica hamata).


I think I am refering to the legonair armor by the wrong name. Can someone correct me? Isn't brigadine connected metal plates backed by leather.


You're thinking of the iconic, yet barely-used lorica segmentata. It might have been in use for at most a century during the early- to mid-Empire, before giving way once again to mail.

A third, common type of legionary armour, especially amongst officers, was the lorica squamata. Scale-backed leather.

Aux-Ash
2011-09-12, 03:36 PM
Sorry, but this is taking the counter-argument too far. You're right that civilisation didn't collapse, but the collapse of the centre managing a vast, distributed empire with huge scale infrastructures meant that those infrastructures could not be maintained.

In all practicality however, the empire had already been divided under Diocletian and had been governed locally for well over a century.


Money and political will might have been the initial reasons for no more large-scale public works or engineering, but after how long would those skills be lost? 20 years? 30 years? If no one is actually carrying out those projects for a generation or two, then the knowledge of how to do it will be lost. Look at Spain, where no one built major roads after the Romans until the 20th century.
And yet, the great monuments of the renaissance was vastly more advanced technologically than anything the romans built. Sure, they didn't build roads or aqueducts... but then the romans had already built them. There's also the fact that building a proper roman road is a very expensive project with only marginal short term gains.
Alhambra and the city of granada was an extraordinary feat of engineering. Well into, if not beyond, Roman standards.


Look at medicine, where it wasn't until the late 19th century that we finally began to supplant the Hippocratic/Galenic models of biology.
Uh... we began replacing the greek medicine as early as the 15th century, if not earlier. And the arabs were doing it in the 8th. And recent evidence suggests that europe was importing arabic medicine as early as the 10th century.


There are huge advantages of scale and scope that come about from having a big organisation, and those were lost when the Western Roman Empire fell, and the Eastern necessarily contracted in influence. Continuity is irrelevant, without the entire scale of the original empire to draw upon, technology was diminished.

I can agree to the former statement. But technology was never diminished. At most it just moved (eastwards, to Persia and India)

Kiero
2011-09-12, 03:44 PM
Monuments fall under much the same category as novelties. Who cares if you can build a single, wondrous building, if people can't easily get around the country because the roads are so terrible. The first priority of any society that actually cares about its people should be the infrastructures that improve their everyday lives. Not grand masturbatory projects for the benefit of the elites (who gain prestige by building them).

Spiryt
2011-09-12, 03:49 PM
Anyway, I have a question: How did people manage "prospecting" back in the day? What I mean is, how did they decide "Yes, this is a good place for a mine, we will dig here."? Did they just pick a spot, dig a hole and see what comes out, or was there more of a process to it?

AFAIK, very often searching was done near/at exposed fields, with some kind of probing shaft to check if there's more material deep in the ground.

Mentions of such shafts come from at least ~ X century AD. but obviously such methods had to exist way before that time.

EDIT:

16th century De re metallica (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_re_metallica#Book_II:_The_miner_and_a_discourse _on_the_finding_of_veins) - a little later, not medieval anymore, but great source, and there's a lot of stuff even in the Wiki, including the picture from the book describing prospecting itself!

Dienekes
2011-09-12, 04:35 PM
Monuments fall under much the same category as novelties. Who cares if you can build a single, wondrous building, if people can't easily get around the country because the roads are so terrible. The first priority of any society that actually cares about its people should be the infrastructures that improve their everyday lives. Not grand masturbatory projects for the benefit of the elites (who gain prestige by building them).

This is a bit of an exaggeration. In the middle ages people went on pilgrimage a lot, often moving through numerous kingdoms. One of the many accounts shows a rather common widow who traveled just about everywhere over the course of a few years, going twice (I believe) through Germany, Italy, and finding passage to Jerusalem. Merchants as well were known for traveling through many cities so the roads/transportation weren't as terrible as generally believed. They were not as well maintained as they were during Rome's height of course, but even then the outskirts of the Empire were not that heavily maintained, and people still could move about.

JackShandy
2011-09-12, 05:57 PM
I highly recommend L. Sprague de Camp's The Ancient Engineers for anyone interested in engineering and technology in the ancient and medieval periods.

leakingpen
2011-09-13, 11:58 AM
Another kind of prospecting was for "bog ore". thats an interesting read.

Fouredged Sword
2011-09-13, 12:28 PM
The reference to fitting was about makeing steam engines. It can be done without modern measureig tools, it just takes a ton of time and effort to file everything to just the right size by feel. Armor is much more forgiving about fit than steam.

fusilier
2011-09-13, 01:02 PM
Ancient steam engines (as described by Hero of Alexandria), are known as Aeolipiles. My understanding is that it is very difficult to get any useful work out of them.

Tyndmyr
2011-09-13, 01:59 PM
Sure, they didn't build roads or aqueducts... but then the romans had already built them. There's also the fact that building a proper roman road is a very expensive project with only marginal short term gains.

Romans hadn't built them EVERYWHERE they were needed. They did a damned fine job, yes...but people move around. New roads and aqueducts are always needed in a growing civilization. Hell, even just maintaining a civilization. Lack of this IS evidence of regression.

And roads are pretty fundamental. Not marginal or short term. The investment in a solid, long term road fosters stability and trade.

You're looking at some of the strongest arguments FOR the term "dark ages".

Kiero
2011-09-13, 02:11 PM
The reference to fitting was about makeing steam engines. It can be done without modern measureig tools, it just takes a ton of time and effort to file everything to just the right size by feel. Armor is much more forgiving about fit than steam.

Machine tools (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machine_tool) aren't all that modern. Apparently the first one was recorded in 1483.

Rockphed
2011-09-13, 03:12 PM
Also, why the hell would you want an engine to do the work that slaves are perfectly capable of doing ?
True, machines don't try to run away or to murder you.
But they require an upfront investment far higher than a slave.
And for all Romans knew, it has the same risk of breaking than a slave of getting ill or injured.

So why bother paying 10 times the price of a slave for a machine that can do the same work, if they both going to be useless in the next 10-20 years ?
For Rome, this would have been especially true in the period of conquest or civil unrest, where fresh supplies of cheap slaves were in no shortage.

So yeah... Roman slave-based economy didn't see the use for steam engines.
For the same reason that we prefer to delocalize in poor countries rather than find ways to automate production further.

Also, note that most industrialization started in England in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the time, they were a small country, short on labor. They were importing slaves, but I don't think they imported very many. Also, they had lots of easy access to raw materials, both at home and abroad, and lots of trade.


Chain shirts are probably craftable by less skilled smiths.

I think I would peg some sort of scale mail as the easiest to craft. Make smallish metal plates and sew them to a leather hauberk. Of course, leather armor was probably the most common thing on most european battlefields.


Monuments fall under much the same category as novelties. Who cares if you can build a single, wondrous building, if people can't easily get around the country because the roads are so terrible. The first priority of any society that actually cares about its people should be the infrastructures that improve their everyday lives. Not grand masturbatory projects for the benefit of the elites (who gain prestige by building them).

The technology used to build the new domes in Florence was also used to unload ships. Much of the technology used to create bronze sculptures can be used to make cannons. Most of Italy was already crisscrossed with roads and aqueducts, and the places with money were probably trading by ship rather than road.

Aux-Ash
2011-09-13, 03:21 PM
Romans hadn't built them EVERYWHERE they were needed. They did a damned fine job, yes...but people move around. New roads and aqueducts are always needed in a growing civilization. Hell, even just maintaining a civilization. Lack of this IS evidence of regression.

And roads are pretty fundamental. Not marginal or short term. The investment in a solid, long term road fosters stability and trade.

You're looking at some of the strongest arguments FOR the term "dark ages".

They're also prohibitevely expensive projects. And, as you say, even the Romans didn't care to connect every single settlement with roads and aqueducts. Only the important ones that did not already have sufficient infrastrcuture.

Not to mention that a road is actually not that technologically advanced, which I believe is what is argued to have regressed.

If anything the lack of new aqueducts and roads is just a sign that the new states did not afford them (or had more pressing matters), rather than not being abale to build them (especially since many of these successor-states built much more advanced buildings).
The cathedrals and palaces built during the era were just as much communal projects as an aqueduct, a road or a public bath.
Are roads important too? Yes. Very much so. But it is considerably more important to a huge state requiring to move armies from the central homelands and a regular postal service than to a county that's a couple of days wide. To the latter, a decent fortress or a proper church is far more important.

Again, just because the Europe that came after didn't build roads doesn't mean they were less advanced. The world advanced in virtually every field (the invention of the 0 and negative numbers for instance. Algebra. Developments in Astronomy and seafaring. Shipbuilding. Art. Philosophy and much much more)... but it also had to accomodate that the world had changed.
Some things that used to be good and important, were considerably less so after the fall. And thus abandoned. But that doesn't mean they became primitive.

Spiryt
2011-09-13, 03:34 PM
Of course, leather armor was probably the most common thing on most european battlefields.


Actually, we have no real mention anywhere of leather armor anywhere and ever on European pre- 1500 battlefields, save literally one or two pieces of some boiled leather elbow cap.

As far as 'poor folk' armor goes, we know quite a lot of quilted or simply multi layer linen and similar soft garments, but nothing really about leather.

We can guess it wasn't really popular.

Kiero
2011-09-13, 04:00 PM
Actually, we have no real mention anywhere of leather armor anywhere and ever on European pre- 1500 battlefields, save literally one or two pieces of some boiled leather elbow cap.

As far as 'poor folk' armor goes, we know quite a lot of quilted or simply multi layer linen and similar soft garments, but nothing really about leather.

We can guess it wasn't really popular.

What about the spolas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spolas), which might be made of leather as often as linen? Millenia before 1500 as well.

Spiryt
2011-09-13, 04:07 PM
What about the spolas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spolas), which might be made of leather as often as linen? Millenia before 1500 as well.

Interesting. Did they find any?

Because AFAIR linothorax had been found in literally few tiny pieces, making detailed reconstructions challenging.

Anyway, I think there had been found some medieval quilted armors with leather as quilted layers - or similarly textile jacks with outer layers being leather.

Just not the stuff in which leather would be the main protecting factor.

Those 'spolas' might be different, I guess, thanks for the link.

Quick google search suggests that we doesn't really have much about it though....

http://www.ancient-warfare.org/rat.html?func=view&catid=19&id=231412

Eldan
2011-09-13, 04:30 PM
Not to mention that a road is actually not that technologically advanced, which I believe is what is argued to have regressed.


Have you seen Roman overland roads? They are damn impressive, even today. And not as simple as you might think. There's layers and layers of different stuff in there.

Beleriphon
2011-09-13, 04:41 PM
Again, just because the Europe that came after didn't build roads doesn't mean they were less advanced. The world advanced in virtually every field (the invention of the 0 and negative numbers for instance. Algebra. Developments in Astronomy and seafaring. Shipbuilding. Art. Philosophy and much much more)... but it also had to accomodate that the world had changed.


Aren't a good number of these, specifically the 0 place holder and other maths, astronomy and philosophy progressions of the Arabic world, rather than the European one?

Tvtyrant
2011-09-13, 05:04 PM
Roads are so important to both military and economy that the Brandenburg-Prussians considered them their greatest asset for a century (and then it switched to rail-roads). One of the biggest issues medieval armies faced was the inability to transport supplies with them over distances because of the lack of serviceable roads. Sure the troops could move over fields, but supply carts really can't.

Eric Tolle
2011-09-13, 05:16 PM
Have you seen Roman overland roads? They are damn impressive, even today. And not as simple as you might think. There's layers and layers of different stuff in there.

And expensive to make. After all, if the main purpose of a road was to haul crops to the market during summer, then frankly there isn't much of a need to pave it. In fact, if you read the journals of early automobile users, there were a lot of areas in the 20th century that were still unpaved.

Anyway, I think we can all agree that rather than road building, the Romans and medieval descendants should have concentrated on the development of hovercraft. I don't know what they were thinking- were they stupid or something?

Rockphed
2011-09-13, 05:46 PM
Aren't a good number of these, specifically the 0 place holder and other maths, astronomy and philosophy progressions of the Arabic world, rather than the European one?

0 came from india(like arabic numerals), but most of the technological and scientific advancement from that era came out of the arabic world(including the university. I think the first university was founded in Tunis). It helps that they read their classics rather than letting them molder(or burning them).

Emmerask
2011-09-13, 06:39 PM
If we take the university as an institute for higher education I think the first one would be:

Shangyang, "higher school," China, established sometime during the Yu period: 2257-2208 BC

I don´t know though how close this institution resembled todays university models.

Ormur
2011-09-13, 10:04 PM
If we're tracing the roots of the modern institution it's something that developed in 11-12th century Western Europe out of church schools as a kind of guilds for academics, mostly because the church and kings needed educated bureaucrats. There might have been Arabic, Chinese and Hellenic institutions on par with them earlier but today's universities are based on the European model.

Weighing in on the Dark Ages discussion I'd just like to say that there's a huge difference between the 7th and 12th century. After the 9th century Europe started rapidly catching up with the rest of the civilized world and in the high middle ages contributed to the knowledge base of the world, just look at Gothic Cathedrals with their buttresses.

There is one question I'd like to pose. I know that waterways were the most economical way to transport goods in the absence of good roads and railways but how did boats travel upriver before steam power?

Dsurion
2011-09-13, 10:34 PM
There is one question I'd like to pose. I know that waterways were the most economical way to transport goods in the absence of good roads and railways but how did boats travel upriver before steam power?AFAIK, usually by being drawn by beasts of burden. Horses, oxen, mules, etc. would be lashed to a vessel and would pull from the riverbanks.

...I could also be very, very wrong. I'll wait for someone else to come along and tell me so :smallsigh:

Ravens_cry
2011-09-13, 10:50 PM
Poling for reletivly small craft, aforementioned draft animals. Sailing if the wind was right would probably be possible.

Aux-Ash
2011-09-14, 12:13 AM
Have you seen Roman overland roads? They are damn impressive, even today. And not as simple as you might think. There's layers and layers of different stuff in there.

Oh. Very much so. It's certainly a great feat of engineering. So is some of the buildings raised between the 5th and the 10th century too, which is what I am sort of arguing.

Technology didn't regress, not even in europe. The progress slowed down in Europe though, and in some cases was forced to "reroute" due to circumstances changing (which later led to some reinventing the wheel scenarios).


Aren't a good number of these, specifically the 0 place holder and other maths, astronomy and philosophy progressions of the Arabic world, rather than the European one?

Indeed, they're part of the post-roman world too, aren't they? Or does the rich part of the empire not count (into which the arabs spread)?


The roman empire affected a much larger area than it's own borders, it even sent ambassadors and traders to China. There were Hindu and Bactrian (afghan) temples in Rome. While the fall of Rome was noticed in even such far away nations, they didn't suffer much other than on a personal level from it.

Oh, and the church developed a lot of philosophy during the era as well (but for some reason noone looks there). And Europe did go quite some distance in the development of better sailing vessels.

And let alone that the Romanion (byzantines) persisted until the 15th century, 13th if you consider the 4th crusade it's end. Roman glory and splendour lived on there too you know... just like it was in the final century of the western empire.
And if you only count the monument-, road-, aqueduct-building empire with the fancy legions... then Rome ended after it's second dynasty in the 2nd century.

Hence why I am so vehemetly opposed to the notion that the world would be more advanced than today if Rome had remained. Because all that technology was retained and developed on.
Rome was great and marvellous... but it wasn't Atlantis.

Kiero
2011-09-14, 04:43 AM
Oh. Very much so. It's certainly a great feat of engineering. So is some of the buildings raised between the 5th and the 10th century too, which is what I am sort of arguing.

Technology didn't regress, not even in europe. The progress slowed down in Europe though, and in some cases was forced to "reroute" due to circumstances changing (which later led to some reinventing the wheel scenarios).

If there isn't the money, resources or political will to do it, within a generation or two the skills will be lost. There's no getting away from that, there was no major roadbuilding anywhere in Europe for almost a millenia after the Romans because no one knew how to do it any more. That's a regression no matter how you try to paint it.

And again, who cares if someone raised a single wondrous building? That's a trivially simple project compared to laying out a road network or building an acqueduct. If those weren't such complicated projects, we'd have seen actual examples of them being built. Which they weren't. With the loss of a powerful, centralising authority, there was the loss of the ability to engage in projects beyond a rather modest scale.

Eldan
2011-09-14, 04:46 AM
I wouldn't exactly call gothic cathedrals simple, you know. Hellishly complicated, in fact, is more like it. They had to invent entirely new theories of structural analysis for that.

And a beautiful way to model it, by the way, that I've seen in some places.

You'd build a model of the entire cathedral's skeleton from twine, then hang it upside down and attach weights on it, until the twine broke. That would bell you weak points.

Edit:
Here's one of the Sagrada familia. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5750866357/) Not that old, of course.

Kiero
2011-09-14, 04:54 AM
I wouldn't exactly call gothic cathedrals simple, you know. Hellishly complicated, in fact, is more like it. They had to invent entirely new theories of structural analysis for that.

And a beautiful way to model it, by the way, that I've seen in some places.

You'd build a model of the entire cathedral's skeleton from twine, then hang it upside down and attach weights on it, until the twine broke. That would bell you weak points.

Edit:
Here's one of the Sagrada familia. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5750866357/) Not that old, of course.

Complication on a small scale. They're not having to flatten hills, divert water courses, raise valleys or any of those sorts of macro-level things.

Eldan
2011-09-14, 05:37 AM
Not necessarily, no. But they do have to stabilize the ground, in many cases. And build those things for 150+ years.

Tyndmyr
2011-09-14, 07:14 AM
They're also prohibitevely expensive projects. And, as you say, even the Romans didn't care to connect every single settlement with roads and aqueducts. Only the important ones that did not already have sufficient infrastrcuture.

You're using lack of money as if it's not regression. It is. Money is a proxy for capability. As you get more capable in making x, it becomes cheaper and more common.

Computers literally could not be as cheap as they are today without our advances throughout the years. "I can't do that" and "I can't afford to do that" are effectively the same thing. Could they have used more roads of such quality? Obviously, yes. Their failure to so is a sign of regression in this important field.

Also, you are drawing an equality between "not every single settlement was connected" and "only the important ones were connected". These are not the same at all. Rome made a LOT of infrastructure.


Not to mention that a road is actually not that technologically advanced, which I believe is what is argued to have regressed.

Building and maintaining wide scale infrastructure IS fairly advanced. It is a necessary part of advancing civilization. Parts of the roman roads still exist today. That's impressive.


The cathedrals and palaces built during the era were just as much communal projects as an aqueduct, a road or a public bath.

Comparing cathedrals to roads is a bit unfair. You want to compare against things like the Colosseum. Rome also had great architecture.

They also didn't require 150 years to build their great structures, so, they were arguably a lot better at it.


Are roads important too? Yes. Very much so. But it is considerably more important to a huge state requiring to move armies from the central homelands and a regular postal service than to a county that's a couple of days wide. To the latter, a decent fortress or a proper church is far more important.

Oh, fortresses/military might? Come now. Armies and military might drastically shrank after the era of rome.

Also, Rome also had castles. And churches. These are not things that did not exist previously. If anything, roman forts more closely resemble modern military encampments than did later castles. Much more practical in general.


Again, just because the Europe that came after didn't build roads doesn't mean they were less advanced. The world advanced in virtually every field (the invention of the 0 and negative numbers for instance. Algebra.

Hey now, you're conflating "the world" with "Europe". Algebra most certainly didn't come from Europe, and cannot really be used as evidence of European advancements.


Developments in Astronomy and seafaring.

From wikipedia: After the significant contributions of Greek scholars to the development of astronomy, it entered a relatively static era in Western Europe from the Roman era through the Twelfth century.

Note that the only people who challenge this at all are people citing Roman writers.

Navigation? Post roman? Essentially all advancements were from the Arabic cultures. Or oriental. Still not showing any evidence that Europe wasn't in a pretty bad slump.


Shipbuilding.

Again, not until the 12th century. So....no.


Art. Philosophy.

These are arguably not filled with advances either. Certainly not as compared to earlier greco roman culture. I'd get into details, but suffice it to say that in the dark ages in Europe, both of these things existed solely in a religious context, and due to board rules, an extended discussion of this would be inadvisable.

Eldan
2011-09-14, 07:37 AM
I'd actually argue that Charlemagne (and his staff, obviously. Not him personally) made some significant contributions culturally. Things like Carolingian Script (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolingian_script) had a lot of impact.

Ormur
2011-09-14, 01:32 PM
Roman Europe, apart from Italy and the Mediterranean coast was always the economic backwater of the empire. Most of the towns were military encampments financed by taxes, not self supporting by industry or trade. The Roman empire introduced advanced infrastructure in support of it's military in an area that didn't really have the economic foundations to support it, so naturally the infrastructure wasn't maintained when the empire collapsed.

There was a demographic and economic decline before the fall of the empire and a loss of trade relations after it so the fall of the empire itself might not be the only cause for the loss of technology. The Eastern Empire also did not see the same kind of regression because it was rich enough to support more infrastructure.

During the middle ages the economic and political basis for spontaneous urbanization in Western Europe was developed and laid the foundations for more permanent technological and infrastructural advances. I mentioned Gothic Cathedrals, whether they're more impressive than Roman architecture is a matter of taste but they incorporated novel engineering solutions. The economic and financial tools of Renaissance Europe were arguably the most advanced in the world and certainly superior to that of ancient Rome. In the end the areas that maintained Roman civilization didn't usher in the industrialization so there's no reason to believe that we'd be more advanced now if the Roman Empire hadn't fallen.

The fall of the Roman Empire might have represented a loss in technology but probably only of what couldn't have taken root without an external centralizing authority anyway. Except of course in Italy that was devastated even more by wars than the rest of Europe and lost it's central status. Still, it remained the most advanced region of Western Europe.

Dienekes
2011-09-14, 02:36 PM
Comparing cathedrals to roads is a bit unfair. You want to compare against things like the Colosseum. Rome also had great architecture.

They also didn't require 150 years to build their great structures, so, they were arguably a lot better at it.

True, but as far as structural strength goes the gothic architecture was actually superior to the greco-roman styles. They also allowed for far more ornate and greater window structures to add brightness to their buildings.

While true the creation of the cathedrals while not impressive by time scale are monumental feats of architecture because of the inferior systems of gathering massive resources, also the lack of workers. The amount of slaves and cheap workers that Rome brought in during it's height was outstanding. Pity it did peter off during it's reign though, quite dramatically.


Oh, fortresses/military might? Come now. Armies and military might drastically shrank after the era of rome.

Also, Rome also had castles. And churches. These are not things that did not exist previously. If anything, roman forts more closely resemble modern military encampments than did later castles. Much more practical in general.

In terms of structural strength as a defensive structure, no medieval castles far surpassed the Romans. They even make more sense when reviewing how the Roman army worked for the majority of it's time as empire. The legions were placed in defensive concise positions as a means of deterring rebellion and most the army did not go out fighting. This is why we see such a vast placement of the legions in Spain even though there was no one attacking or no places to conquer. From that perspective medieval castles would have made Roman's lives much easier as they would be more effective as a means of holding out Roman influence against a massive uprising until further support could be found.

What makes sense for the armies of present day and other times as far as military goes does not necessarily mean they were right for the time. Our equipment and explosives would rather quickly destroy a high defensive structure like a castle making it impractical in modern day warfare. For the Romans and medieval military such advantages did not exist. Along with slower deployment and movement across the board in how the army works, and when the obvious flaws in leaving an army behind your supply lines castles were a rather brilliant defensive structure forcing invading armies and uprising to spend vast majorities of the campaign seasons locked up while you are free to gather troops.


These are arguably not filled with advances either. Certainly not as compared to earlier greco roman culture. I'd get into details, but suffice it to say that in the dark ages in Europe, both of these things existed solely in a religious context, and due to board rules, an extended discussion of this would be inadvisable.

Ehh, even the Romans thought that the greeks were their superiors in philosophy and medicine and all. I do challenge that philosophy and art is somehow less legitimate just because it was funded and organized by the church as opposed to Roman nobility. Especially when the art and philosophy mostly still had to do with religious themes. Again, Greeks are special in this area.

fusilier
2011-09-14, 02:40 PM
The main effect that the fall of the Roman empire had on European science and technology was a shut down of communications. The ability to transmit new ideas and to communicate old ones was severely curtailed. So the dissemination of scientific knowledge was much worse. I would say that technological progress slowed, but didn't end completely. I would also argue that very little technology was lost, but some may have been abandoned (in certain locations).

Also the "Middle Ages" is a very long period, and, something it shares with terms like "Dark Ages" or "Renaissance", it's boundaries can be blurry and be demarcated differently. So, one scholar might consider "Gothic structure" to be Medieval, but not from the Dark Ages. There was a gradually recovery in communications after the fall of Rome, and some scholars have fixed a date of around AD1000 for when daily life had improved back to the level of the late Roman Empire.

Aux-Ash
2011-09-14, 02:41 PM
If there isn't the money, resources or political will to do it, within a generation or two the skills will be lost. There's no getting away from that, there was no major roadbuilding anywhere in Europe for almost a millenia after the Romans because no one knew how to do it any more. That's a regression no matter how you try to paint it.

As was pointed out earlier... there was also no need for it. In all the great avenues of overland traffic, there were already roman roads. In the others, you didn't need a roman road to bring in the harvest and adding one there was just inviting the king of France to invade (since roman roads are absolutely great for massive armies).

An independent (or semi-independent) county, which is what most of Europe consisted of, would not have directly benefitted from such roads. They're simply too small to need them for internal transportation, often too out of the way to attract any merchants and too weak to be able to defend from the armies that those roads would be useful for.
For those cases you did need fast trade access... you took a boat. Because no matter how good the road is... the boat is faster.


And again, who cares if someone raised a single wondrous building? That's a trivially simple project compared to laying out a road network or building an acqueduct. If those weren't such complicated projects, we'd have seen actual examples of them being built. Which they weren't. With the loss of a powerful, centralising authority, there was the loss of the ability to engage in projects beyond a rather modest scale.

Oh, absolutely. They had the technological means to do so (as virtually all fortresses and cathedrals of the era are built on the same architectural principles and methods) but not the ability. It was simply way too expensive to warrant the cost.


Comparing cathedrals to roads is a bit unfair. You want to compare against things like the Colosseum. Rome also had great architecture.

Well, then the cathedrals win. They are higher and more stabile. Built using more advanced methods. And I'm not even touching the gothic cathedrals yet (but to be fair... I also include mosques, so places of worship might be a better word?)


They also didn't require 150 years to build their great structures, so, they were arguably a lot better at it.

Rome also spent the better part of 700 years on their roads. What is the point here? Rome built faster so they're better? Romans built smaller too you know. It's considerably easier to build the Colosseum fast than one of the massive "places of worship". If only because the former is about 50 m high and the latter could be well over 200.


You're using lack of money as if it's not regression. It is. Money is a proxy for capability. As you get more capable in making x, it becomes cheaper and more common.

Computers literally could not be as cheap as they are today without our advances throughout the years. "I can't do that" and "I can't afford to do that" are effectively the same thing. Could they have used more roads of such quality? Obviously, yes. Their failure to so is a sign of regression in this important field.

Also, you are drawing an equality between "not every single settlement was connected" and "only the important ones were connected". These are not the same at all. Rome made a LOT of infrastructure.

Not money. This isn't a commodity. It's an investment. Those don't get cheaper if you can't afford them. Because it's the scale of it that costs. It's employing manual labour and engineers. It's hauling the food and stonematerials endlessly along the slowly creeping road. It's protecting all this.
Maybe the states could have afforded that, but not afforded it and everything else.

And Rome did indeed make a lot of infrastructure. But they still only connected the important bits of the empire. You could go from anywhere in the empire to Rome, yes. You just had to get to the road first. But going from Rome to anywhere in the empire could be more difficult depending on where.
Mind... what was important changed with time, but the roads remained.


Building and maintaining wide scale infrastructure IS fairly advanced. It is a necessary part of advancing civilization. Parts of the roman roads still exist today. That's impressive.
Absolutely. Though I would add a "great" before civilisation. A advancing city state (which is what western Europe more or less consisted of post-Rome) doesn't have the same need of wide scale infrastructure. 100 miles of roads isn't very useful to a state 10 km wide (Remember, germany consisted of almost 4000 quasi-independent nations. They were not big).


Oh, fortresses/military might? Come now. Armies and military might drastically shrank after the era of rome.

Also, Rome also had castles. And churches. These are not things that did not exist previously. If anything, roman forts more closely resemble modern military encampments than did later castles. Much more practical in general.
Yes, armies shrank. Military might diminshed. Hardly surprising considering the massive population of Rome was now not around to support it. The Legions more or less lived on egyptian grain, kind of difficult to maintain the same thing without egypt.
As a result of the shrinking armies military technology developed. A roman legionary camp is very practical as you say... except against light cavalry hordes or raiders from the seas... which incidentally was just what was moving into Europe at the time.

There a fortified castle is much more practical. Also, incidentally, precisely what people started to build.


Hey now, you're conflating "the world" with "Europe". Algebra most certainly didn't come from Europe, and cannot really be used as evidence of European advancements.

Well... seeing it was in the eastern Roman empire that all the money was generated, all the philosophy thought up, all the math developed then I suppose Rome wasn't very advanced at all.

Egypt, Galilee, Syria, Anatolia, Africa, Mauretania, Armenia, Iberia, Jordan where the economic engine of the Roman empire. Add Persia, Bactria and India to that and suddenly you've just described the Abbasid caliphate.

No, Algebra did not come from Euopre. But the arabs are just as much part of the post-roman world as Europeans are (and so are chinese, and to them the fall of rome wasn't even a speed bump... they were building canals at the time for crying out lud).


After the significant contributions of Greek scholars to the development of astronomy, it entered a relatively static era in Western Europe from the Roman era through the Twelfth century.

Yup, and when it kick started again it used the knowledge the arabs and the persians had spent 8 centuries gathering. Copernicus cited nearly all of his work on arab works.


Navigation? Post roman? Essentially all advancements were from the Arabic cultures. Or oriental. Still not showing any evidence that Europe wasn't in a pretty bad slump.

Again... why does the non-western European cultures not count? Are Europeans incapable of using non-european advancements that we were very much coming into contact with?


Again, not until the 12th century. So....no.
Yes, the most prominent example being Long boats (Yes, the norse were still trapped in the Iron Age when Rome fell). But there were many more boats about. Cogs for instance (which is a predecessor of the galleon).


These are arguably not filled with advances either. Certainly not as compared to earlier greco roman culture. I'd get into details, but suffice it to say that in the dark ages in Europe, both of these things existed solely in a religious context, and due to board rules, an extended discussion of this would be inadvisable.

I wasn't going to go into the subject further either. I'm just saying that if you do want to look into post-roman European art and philosophy, the church is the place to look for them in.

---

Eldan provides some great examples of post-roman Examples as well. And as mentioned... if you broaden the view a bit. You'll find plenty of examples of non-European things built shortly after the fall that greatly surpasses anything rome built. Principles that eventually ended up in Europe as well.

The Han-chinese canals for instance. Built in the same century as Rome fell. It's a 1,776 km long artificial river built solely for trade and communications.

GungHo
2011-09-14, 02:49 PM
Monuments fall under much the same category as novelties. Who cares if you can build a single, wondrous building, if people can't easily get around the country because the roads are so terrible. The first priority of any society that actually cares about its people should be the infrastructures that improve their everyday lives. Not grand masturbatory projects for the benefit of the elites (who gain prestige by building them).
You're a bit early for a Guy Fawkes Day counter-protest.

Eldan
2011-09-14, 02:55 PM
Well, if we are looking (on Wikipedia) at all of Eurasia and Africa at the time Rome fell... (I'm not including the Americas or Australia, since there was barely any connection there at the time)

Let's put the end of the Empire at 476, the last "Roman" Roman Emperor. Or just generally, the fifth century.

In the sixth century, we have:
The first Persian academy.
Byzantium learns how to make silk.
The Anno Domini calendar is introduced.
Buddhist texts are translated into Persian.
Nubia converts to Christianity.
The Chinese invent toilet paper.


I have to admit, that's not a lot of impressive technology, for an entire century.

But in the seventh century, we have Greek Fire, Chinese Paper money, the introduction of the stirrup in China..


Okay, I must admit. That's pretty much all Persian and Chinese.

Beleriphon
2011-09-14, 03:06 PM
No, Algebra did not come from Euopre. But the arabs are just as much part of the post-roman world as Europeans are (and so are chinese, and to them the fall of rome wasn't even a speed bump... they were building canals at the time for crying out lud).

Yup, and when it kick started again it used the knowledge the arabs and the persians had spent 8 centuries gathering. Copernicus cited nearly all of his work on arab works.

Again... why does the non-western European cultures not count? Are Europeans incapable of using non-european advancements that we were very much coming into contact with?

Its not so much that the Europeans couldn't use them, but between the fall of Rome and the Norman invasion of England I'd warrant those 600 years are quite accurately called the Dark Ages.

Europeans weren't the ones developing these processes and techniques, mostly because they'd lost the basis for doing so. Once they (re)gained that knowledge from non-European sources they just took off like nobody's business, but it took rebuilding basic knowledge bases before that could happen.

Aux-Ash
2011-09-14, 03:24 PM
Its not so much that the Europeans couldn't use them, but between the fall of Rome and the Norman invasion of England I'd warrant those 600 years are quite accurately called the Dark Ages.

It's actually not called that by modern historians anymore (except in an attempt to make people understand what time period they're talking about). It's called the Migration Era nowadays, since Dark Ages is actually considered to be an incorrect term.


Europeans weren't the ones developing these processes and techniques, mostly because they'd lost the basis for doing so. Once they (re)gained that knowledge from non-European sources they just took off like nobody's business, but it took rebuilding basic knowledge bases before that could happen.

Nah, there wasn't much rebuilding at all. Once we came into contact with the new things we adopted those as they were.
Technology advanced, sure not by leaps and bounds but it advanced nonetheless.

Beleriphon
2011-09-14, 03:34 PM
Nah, there wasn't much rebuilding at all. Once we came into contact with the new things we adopted those as they were.
Technology advanced, sure not by leaps and bounds but it advanced nonetheless.

Sorry, I wan't clear there. I meant that Europeans weren't building grand canals like the Chinese (its not a stretch to think the Romans would have come up with that eventually, given the aqueducts) because they didn't have the engineering knowledge to do so. Now once European engineers learned about the basic techniques required to build a canal they took them in new and exciting, and ofter larger, directions then their predcessors.

GungHo
2011-09-14, 03:38 PM
Okay, I must admit. That's pretty much all Persian and Chinese.
The Chinese win the Technothon for the toilet paper thing. Who cares about calendars when you no longer gotta worry about skid marks?

Tyndmyr
2011-09-14, 03:51 PM
It's actually not called that by modern historians anymore (except in an attempt to make people understand what time period they're talking about). It's called the Migration Era nowadays, since Dark Ages is actually considered to be an incorrect term.

It is more correctly considered a eurocentric term. It's in lower popularity as a result of that, but it's still quite reasonable when discussing europe. Sure, it doesn't make a great deal of sense applied to the orient, but it's a fairly accurate depiction of the relatively progress poor era following the decline/collapse of the western roman empire in that area.

Ravens_cry
2011-09-14, 05:11 PM
Terms like the Dark Ages and even the Medieval period come from the Renaissance and Enlightenment, when it was fashionable to deride that period. It's also where we get the idea that medieval swords (http://www.thehaca.com/essays/weights.htm) were super heavy and unworldly.

Rockphed
2011-09-14, 07:55 PM
Complication on a small scale. They're not having to flatten hills, divert water courses, raise valleys or any of those sorts of macro-level things.

They are, however, building it out of stone instead of concrete. Even so, they built taller, larger, with less materials.

And you think that taking 150 years to build something isn't an achievement? In Utah they spent 40 years building what amounts to a fancy church, and the design changed a dozen times from start to finish. It would be a very different building on the inside if it had only taken 10 years to build instead of 40. I can only imagine that cathedrals that took even longer to build had more changes in design over their build. One of the cathedrals in Florence spent an incredible amount of time without a dome because they were trying to make it too big.


The Chinese win the Technothon for the toilet paper thing. Who cares about calendars when you no longer gotta worry about skid marks?

The chinese won the technothon for quite a while. Then they went exploring and discovered they were winning. So they declared victory and went home.

Tvtyrant
2011-09-14, 07:59 PM
Also had a war between the conservative scholars and the innovative/ambitious eunuchs which the scholars won. China is a good example of how elites in society can sabotage it with bad decisions.

Rockphed
2011-09-14, 08:27 PM
Also had a war between the conservative scholars and the innovative/ambitious eunuchs which the scholars won. China is a good example of how elites in society can sabotage it with bad decisions.

Come to think of it, aren't Egypt and Rome similar examples?

Tvtyrant
2011-09-14, 08:35 PM
Come to think of it, aren't Egypt and Rome similar examples?
Rome certainly is; one of the roman generals even published a document telling people to stop sending him ideas for new siege weapons since they had reached the height of military technology.

Egypt I don't know; many of their issues stemmed from a lack of iron deposits in the New Kingdom and a lack of trade in the Old Kingdom. The Middle Kingdom was so terrified of further invaders they concentrated on making massive fortresses.

Fiery Diamond
2011-09-14, 11:24 PM
Not much to add, just


I've heard things could be so bad, they made sure their roads were confusing so commoners would be discouraged from travelling away from their tyrannical daimaou.

Great Demon Lord? :smallbiggrin: I believe you meant daimyou.


The chinese won the technothon for quite a while. Then they went exploring and discovered they were winning. So they declared victory and went home.

Yep, that's pretty much what happened.

Eldan
2011-09-15, 04:01 AM
Shame, really. If they had let Zheng He do his thing for a bit longer, and used his knowledge to actually establish trade...

Well, alternate history. Always interesting. But could you imagine Chinese colonies in Africa or Australia?

Tvtyrant
2011-09-15, 04:15 AM
Shame, really. If they had let Zheng He do his thing for a bit longer, and used his knowledge to actually establish trade...

Well, alternate history. Always interesting. But could you imagine Chinese colonies in Africa or Australia?

The real question is what would have happened when the South American silver mines ended up belonging to them instead of Europe; China valued silver over gold as currency and would have likely taken inflation in amazing amounts.

Eldan
2011-09-15, 04:35 AM
Most likely? Collapse of the Empire, establishment of smaller warlord Kingdoms, war for a century or two, and a new Empire with a more stable currency.

Happened often enough in their history, after all.

Tvtyrant
2011-09-15, 04:44 AM
Most likely? Collapse of the Empire, establishment of smaller warlord Kingdoms, war for a century or two, and a new Empire with a more stable currency.

Happened often enough in their history, after all.

Well first they would be wealthy beyond their wildest dreams of course :P

One ramification would be the loss of all of the germanic catholic states to the Ottomans and Lutherans without Spanish silver and troops propping them up. The Ottomans would very likely have crushed Austria and swept into Germany proper. To say nothing of the Ottomans increased ability to support their allies in the Crimea against the Russians.

Autolykos
2011-09-15, 05:24 AM
This actually makes for a great Europa Universalis game (there, the inflation is pretty manageable, since you also have a strong economy by then - don't know how well this depicts reality though). Weaker Spain there usually results in stronger France and Austria (with them gobbling up the HRE). Till 1819 an expansive and progressive China has a hard time not eating up all of Asia and most of America, and continuing the game into Vicky is so easy it isn't fun anymore.

Tvtyrant
2011-09-15, 05:34 AM
The issue with that is Austria held onto a lot of its power by merging with Spain under Phillip II against the three forces of France, the Ottomans and the Lutheran States. It would have been shattered without constant Spanish intervention.

Eldan
2011-09-15, 05:39 AM
Yeah. If the Ottomans had actually taken Vienna later, Europe would look very different today.

Tyndmyr
2011-09-15, 08:39 AM
And you think that taking 150 years to build something isn't an achievement? In Utah they spent 40 years building what amounts to a fancy church, and the design changed a dozen times from start to finish. It would be a very different building on the inside if it had only taken 10 years to build instead of 40. I can only imagine that cathedrals that took even longer to build had more changes in design over their build. One of the cathedrals in Florence spent an incredible amount of time without a dome because they were trying to make it too big.

No, that mostly sounds like a poor building strategy. Design changes and flaws leading to ridiculously long building times? That is a flaw, not a virtue.

leakingpen
2011-09-15, 05:16 PM
Interesting. Did they find any?

Because AFAIR linothorax had been found in literally few tiny pieces, making detailed reconstructions challenging.

Anyway, I think there had been found some medieval quilted armors with leather as quilted layers - or similarly textile jacks with outer layers being leather.

Just not the stuff in which leather would be the main protecting factor.

Those 'spolas' might be different, I guess, thanks for the link.

Quick google search suggests that we doesn't really have much about it though....

http://www.ancient-warfare.org/rat.html?func=view&catid=19&id=231412


personally, I would bet that leather would be used as an overcovering of cloth, mostly because its more waterproof, easier to clean. Having tested with arrows daggers and swords, a quarter inch thick cloth quilting does a better job than quarter inch boiled leather armor at preventing penetration.

Rockphed
2011-09-15, 07:13 PM
No, that mostly sounds like a poor building strategy. Design changes and flaws leading to ridiculously long building times? That is a flaw, not a virtue.

Poor strategy, I'll give you. But seeing 150 years of construction through to the end is pretty impressive.

Maclav
2011-09-16, 08:53 AM
No, that mostly sounds like a poor building strategy. Design changes and flaws leading to ridiculously long building times? That is a flaw, not a virtue.

And considering today with all of our expertise, computers and drafting we STILL have hundreds and thousands of design changes and flaws on any construction project bigger than a house. Blueprints that call for running a heating duct though a structural steel or that completely forget to include the plumbing in a 5 stall washroom...

That they did this, built things like this by hand is an amazing feat by any accounting.

Kiero
2011-09-16, 06:22 PM
Poor strategy, I'll give you. But seeing 150 years of construction through to the end is pretty impressive.

Indeed, there is nothing "impressive" about poor project management.

I don't see anyone impressed with Holyrood running 10 years and millions of pounds over budget.

Aux-Ash
2011-09-17, 03:33 AM
Indeed, there is nothing "impressive" about poor project management.

I don't see anyone impressed with Holyrood running 10 years and millions of pounds over budget.

Indeed, but there's a difference between taking 150 years to build because of poor project management and taking 150 years to build due to being a very complex building built by hand. If you build upwards, then the space to build on contineously decreases while the pressure the building suffers increases by a lot. That's why it's takes a very long time to build a tall building. Can't take shortcuts or prebuild later stages.

Then there's initial and total building time. If the former is the time required until the building can be taken into use and the latter the time until completely finished.

Let's take the colosseum, it's initial building time was 8 years, but it was later expanded over 15 years. Making the total building time 23 years.
It houses 50,000 spectators and is 48 m high, and 189x156 m across (elliptical, not circular).
While it's probably unfair to say it's the height of Roman architecture, it's one of the few remaining examples we do have.
Aqueducts and Roads might be better examples of engineering, but it's difficult to gauge how long they took to build individually and a poor comparison to buildings.

Let's now compare it to a similar project, by a similarily rich (not by a long shot, but the only one available) "dark age" nation: Charlemagne's Empire.
The Palatine chapel.
Building began in 792 and it was consecrated in 805. While difficult to gauge if it was indeed finished then or not, it was at the very least completed enough to hold services in. A building time of 13 years.
The chapel is smaller (though only a singular part of the great Carolingian palace), but unlike the colosseum it's not a amphitheater (who by definition, is virtually always open) but a closed building. The chapel itself is covered by a 16,5 m wide and 31 m high copula (note: this is from the base of the dome. Not the floor), in addition to it's three floors (one nave and 2 tribunes). The interior is octagonal, and the exterior a 16 sided polygon.
Every inch of it covered in elaborate frescos (which is an absolute pain to make).

Both buildings feature arcades, so pointing that out is meaningless. The colosseum has more of them, yes. But relative to the building size they're about the same.

But if I am allowed to call upon another "Dark age" monuments. Allow me to pull my ace from the sleeve: The Hagia Sophia.
The current building is built between 532 and 537, thus well into the fall of western Rome (though admittedly, it's an eastern roman building). A 5 year construction, though the mosaics were completed 30 years later (this seems common in many cathedrals as a whole. The murals and mosaics take forever to make), give or take.
It's interior height is 55,6 meters. It has a 33,5 m diameter dome. The dome itself is supported by 40 arched windows. 82 meters long, 73 meters wide. Filled with arcades, buttresses, archways, massive windows. Columns 20 meters high and 1,5 meter wide.
And it isn't Roman architecture. It's Byzantine. A development. Without which gothic cathedrals would never have been possible to make.

And it took a fifth of the time it took build the colosseum. So it's a much more elaborate building that took considerably less time to build. Same really applies to the palatine chapel above. It took half the time to build as the colosseum and is slightly more advanced (but better suited to german weather).

Xuc Xac
2011-09-18, 12:30 AM
Well, alternate history. Always interesting. But could you imagine Chinese colonies in Africa or Australia?

Don't have to. It's happening now, but instead of "Ni hao and welcome to the Celestial Empire!", it's "we'll pay for that road/hospital/school/etc. because we're your friends... keep that in mind when we need those raw materials you're sitting on..."



Great Demon Lord? :smallbiggrin: I believe you meant daimyou.


You can both be right. Especially if you're talking about Oda Nobunaga...


The amount of slaves and cheap workers that Rome brought in during it's height was outstanding. Pity it did peter off during it's reign though, quite dramatically.


Yeah, it's a real pity they stopped treating people like property. Did you seriously just lament the end of slavery?

SamBurke
2011-09-18, 12:34 AM
I often wonder "Did they have that back then?" and "What did they do instead?". There's a thread for such things when it commes to millitary technology, which arguably is the greatest category in which such questions arise, but I think I'd also like a civilian version, so to speak.

Mostly, because I have a quite spefic question:

How did people make windows before they had window glass? In winter, you can't afford to have big holes in your walls, and even in desert environments it gets really cold at night.
What did people do to have light inside during the day, but also keep warm during the night? And what when it was winter and it was cold outside during the day as well.

Let's say we have a viking farmhouse. What solution did they have for this?

Oilpaper. Sealskin (insert applicable animal). Wood shutters. Fires. Doors. Walking outside.

Things WERE usually pretty dark in there... grungy... dirty... oily... nasty. Use that, if ya want, or make them a little more advanced.

Is this for your PF Barbarian World?

Dienekes
2011-09-18, 02:08 AM
Yeah, it's a real pity they stopped treating people like property. Did you seriously just lament the end of slavery?

The Romans never stopped treating people like property they were the Romans, it's what they did. Most of the great empires were like that really. As for the sentence, heh that wasn't what I intended (though reading it, I can definitely see how I miscommunicated there, wow that was a bad one). I meant that it's a pity that the later empire did not have as impressive architectural achievements. However linked to that is that there simply were fewer slaves and lower-class workers to treat like crap. Rome maintained this working population through conquest, no conquest means that the system more or less falls apart unless it is radically changed. Of course this is a horrendous oversimplification, but it gets a point across.

However, we can have an interesting conversation on the gains and weaknesses a slave based society would bring to a growing empire, though I do believe that would be breaching a forum rule or two.

Autolykos
2011-09-18, 04:30 AM
As long as you keep modern examples (and their political reasons) out of the picture and don't describe in too much detail, I don't see how it could be against the rules.

Dienekes
2011-09-18, 09:55 AM
As long as you keep modern examples (and their political reasons) out of the picture and don't describe in too much detail, I don't see how it could be against the rules.

You'd think that, but nope the rules claim that all political discussion is against the rules. I should know, my first infraction was in a rather heated discussion of the laws of 15th Century England in regards to prostitution.

Yora
2011-09-18, 10:04 AM
By the rules, you're pretty much not allowed to talk about anything. In practice it seems to come down to cases when it turns into ideological fights. Just describing what people did in the past usually is fine.

Eldan
2011-09-18, 10:09 AM
Yes. As long as no one walks around saying "King Polyphraxos the Third of Messiria was a tool for trying to implement reforms!", we should be fine.

endoperez
2011-09-21, 01:06 PM
I've had this idea for a viking who goes adventuring because he has bad teeth. Take a Harald Bluetooth, add a sprinkle of Cohen the Barbarian, and a pirate's grin glimmering with gold teeth.

Except, well, what kind of dentures existed, where, at various times?

I've found references to:

Some false teeth in ancient Egypt and Italy.

False teeth not being available in medieval or later Europe until about 1800s or so, when tooth problems became a huge problem. The new dentists tried everything from using real human teeth (acquired in various ways including grave robbing), to animal teeth (parts of donkey or horse teeth, for example), to elephant/rhino/hippo ivory to porcelain, to gold.

Japanese making full wooden dentures.

Teeth pierced (!) and decorated with gold in the Philippines. The gold decorations weren't for practicality, but instead marked a very brave man.

Gold teeth or gold plating of a tooth was a symbol of various things in Africa. They were sometimes taken e.g. after a muslim has made his pilgrimage.


However, the information is all mixed and I'm not sure which ones refer to full dentures, and which to single tooth replaced by artificial one, and which to gold plating of an existing tooth. If anyone happens to have any information about something that would give a viking a really unexpected grin, it would be appreciated.

Tyndmyr
2011-09-21, 01:18 PM
And it isn't Roman architecture. It's Byzantine. A development. Without which gothic cathedrals would never have been possible to make.

I've got bad news for you. Byzantine Architechture is from the Byzantine Empire. IE, the eastern roman empire.


The current building is built between 532 and 537, thus well into the fall of western Rome (though admittedly, it's an eastern roman building)

So...yes. This does pretty much nothing to disprove that post-roman europe was in a dark age. If anything, it'd be evidence FOR my side.

Knaight
2011-09-21, 01:28 PM
I've got bad news for you. Byzantine Architechture is from the Byzantine Empire. IE, the eastern roman empire.
Moreover, the distinction between Roman and Byzantine is a modern one, the Byzantines would have called themselves Roman.

Anyways, new question. What was the impact of paper on the ancient Chinese command structure?

Aux-Ash
2011-09-21, 03:29 PM
I've got bad news for you. Byzantine Architechture is from the Byzantine Empire. IE, the eastern roman empire.

I am very well aware of that. Which would put the "end of the Roman era" in the 15th century. Well after the Europeans moved on from the gothic style (which definantely are far more advanced than anything the romans built). Which is to say that the Roman art, technology and science never vanished but lived on in the Rhomanion (among other places).
Further expanded by that the greeks (and not just the greeks) made a lot of innovations well after the fall of Rome that the romans had never even seen (such as greek fire, cogs, stirrups and many other technological improvements).

Which is what my argument has been all along. Tehcnology progressed after the fall of Rome. It didn't regress.

This is especially true if we consider eastern Rome as a extention of Rome (and indeed, as you say, we should). Then Rome doesn't fall until about 2 centuries after the renaissance began.


So...yes. This does pretty much nothing to disprove that post-roman europe was in a dark age. If anything, it'd be evidence FOR my side.

So again... when is the post Roman era? Because the Dark Ages are typically described as the 5th to the 11th century... and this massive building was built in the 6th. And the Byzantines kept building structures like this one well into the western European Renaissance (by the time, western europe is historically said to have caught up).

Beleriphon
2011-09-21, 04:12 PM
Moreover, the distinction between Roman and Byzantine is a modern one, the Byzantines would have called themselves Roman.

Anyways, new question. What was the impact of paper on the ancient Chinese command structure?

By all accounts it was a bit of a nightmare at first. People could easily forge documents, until alternate methods of verification came into effect (like unique seals broken in two, one half given to a commander the other to the Beauracracy).

Yora
2011-09-22, 06:12 AM
What would you call this headdress (http://www.gestaltung-neumann.de/bauersfrau.jpg) in english?

Tyndmyr
2011-09-22, 09:56 AM
I am very well aware of that. Which would put the "end of the Roman era" in the 15th century. Well after the Europeans moved on from the gothic style (which definantely are far more advanced than anything the romans built). Which is to say that the Roman art, technology and science never vanished but lived on in the Rhomanion (among other places).

And...you're using an eastern european structure built by the romans in the early 500s as justification for that?

That's a roman building. The fact that it was done fast and well is kudos to the romans. The fact that similar buildings afterwards built in europe by non-romans took forever indicates a loss of competency.


Further expanded by that the greeks (and not just the greeks) made a lot of innovations well after the fall of Rome that the romans had never even seen (such as greek fire, cogs, stirrups and many other technological improvements).

Greek fire? Again, late 400s, early 500s development. Also, the tech for it was...wait for it....lost.


Which is what my argument has been all along. Tehcnology progressed after the fall of Rome. It didn't regress.

European tech pretty much slowed/stopped/moved backward post-rome. Yes, Rome did not fall at one discrete point everywhere. So, as rome lost power in an area, that area started to kinda suck.


This is especially true if we consider eastern Rome as a extention of Rome (and indeed, as you say, we should). Then Rome doesn't fall until about 2 centuries after the renaissance began.

You're trying to ascribe a specific age to everything. The post roman times in western europe is different from that elsewhere.


So again... when is the post Roman era? Because the Dark Ages are typically described as the 5th to the 11th century... and this massive building was built in the 6th. And the Byzantines kept building structures like this one well into the western European Renaissance (by the time, western europe is historically said to have caught up).

The widest expanse is considered 5th to 15th century. Some people restrict the term to less than that. It is universally considered a eurocentric term, describing the loss of knowledge AFTER the fall of the WESTERN roman empire.

Trying to muddle the issue by pointing out roman creations, or creations from elsewhere in the world does not change things at all.

Xuc Xac
2011-09-22, 09:59 AM
What would you call this headdress (http://www.gestaltung-neumann.de/bauersfrau.jpg) in english?

That's a kerchief.

Aux-Ash
2011-09-22, 11:29 AM
And...you're using an eastern european structure built by the romans in the early 500s as justification for that?

That's a roman building. The fact that it was done fast and well is kudos to the romans. The fact that similar buildings afterwards built in europe by non-romans took forever indicates a loss of competency.

6th Century building in Europe. Supposedly the era and region that was technologically incapable of anything like it. Or doesn't Thrace count as Europe? Or the 6th century Rhomanion as a "dark age" nation?


Greek fire? Again, late 400s, early 500s development. Also, the tech for it was...wait for it....lost.

Not at all, both the Byzantines and the arabs kept using it for almost a thousand years. Or at the very least, incendinaries much like it. From what I can gather it only started to decline in use with the introduction of gunpowder.



European tech pretty much slowed/stopped/moved backward post-rome. Yes, Rome did not fall at one discrete point everywhere. So, as rome lost power in an area, that area started to kinda suck.

You're trying to ascribe a specific age to everything. The post roman times in western europe is different from that elsewhere.

The position I'm arguing against was that technology started to regress after the fall of Rome. It didn't. Not locally, not globally. The spread of technology slowed down due to the collapse of proper communications, yes. The cities were hit by a rather massive depopulation and diminished intellectual community, yes.
The original scientific sources in greek were left inaccesible, Yes.
But they didn't mysteriously forget things.

This is the time period when latin developed into the scientific language we think of it today (in western European culture).
This is the period of the golden age of Irish Theology and Literature (5th to 8th)
The king Arthur legend was written sometime in this era.
This is the era of the Carolingian Empire and the Carolingian Renaissance. The Carolingian legal code which was the basis of western European law for another thousand years. (8th to 9th)
The windmill was invented in this era. (8th century for the horisontal arab one, 11th for the French vertical one)
Swords went from short gladii to long norman swords with cross guards (implying an development in metalurgy). Swords made from steel.
Crossbows were introduced. Stirrups as well. Brigandine armour too. As was the lance.
Both the Cog (ship) and the Knarr (Longship) were developed.
Vinland (america) was discovered, settled and abandoned by a people that had never been truly part of the Roman empire in the first place. 10th century.
Spain was massively developed by the Umayyad Caliphate (something the portugese, the spaniards and the catalans massively adopted once the reconquista turned in their favour).
A vast number of new medicinal herbs were taken into use.
several western European monasteries and universities concluded mathematically that the world was in fact round
The mechanical clock was developed and the 24 hour day invented (13th century).
Industrial mills were for the first time in history taken into use by the French (13th century)
Gunpowder was introduced in the 13th century and firearms used in wars in central Europe in the late 14th.
Glass production was massively improved on in the 10th century with the invention of Soda glass. In Italy. Blowing glass into spheres was developed in germany in the 11th.
Monasticism as we know it in the western European tradition was developed in the 6th century.
It featured men of massive influence on later science. Like Thomas of Aquinas, Roger Bacon, William Occam to name a few.
The introcution of the compass in the 11th century.

This were all things that improved on Roman technology in Western Europe during the time frame you suggested below. I have deliberately not counted developments of the Islamic world (which were many), the hellenic world, china and similar that was later fully adopted by Europe (except a notable few).


The widest expanse is considered 5th to 15th century. Some people restrict the term to less than that. It is universally considered a eurocentric term, describing the loss of knowledge AFTER the fall of the WESTERN roman empire.

Trying to muddle the issue by pointing out roman creations, or creations from elsewhere in the world does not change things at all.

But the argument is that technology was lost and did not "catch up" until the end (which you here give as the 15th century). Yet the legacy was retained in the Rhomanion (byzantine empire) and the other former areas. And then developed in western Europe, the Islamic World and the Rhomanion. Before the supposed end to these dark ages.

Not only that... but Islamic and Rhomanion feats of science and architecture are blatantly ignored or waved away despite that both worlds controlled 2/3 of the former Roman Empire between one another (and thus, logically, belongs to the post Roman world). Why? Because they don't fit the fictional idea of a technologically backward world after the fall of Atlantis Rome?

And even then a lot of things developed in Western Europe (as listed above).

fusilier
2011-09-22, 12:32 PM
I'm going to throw something into the debate here. It's very important not to confuse science with technology. It's easy to do because in the modern world they are so closely linked, but historically that's not necessarily the case. There are some ancient exceptions, but for the most part technology developed independently of science.


The position I'm arguing against was that technology started to regress after the fall of Rome. It didn't. Not locally, not globally. The spread of technology slowed down due to the collapse of proper communications, yes. The cities were hit by a rather massive depopulation and diminished intellectual community, yes.
The original scientific sources in greek were left inaccesible, Yes.

I think this sums it up rather well. Very little technology was lost, and innovation did continue. Science stalled, and may have even regressed a bit in Western Europe, because communications shut down. Early Medieval scholars were basically left with Plato, but more specifically late Roman Empire neo-platonism which wasn't very true to the original Plato. Aristotle was rediscovered by the West, through middle eastern sources in the 12th century or so, although sometimes the Arabic sources could be poor translations. Then more original Platonic works were unlocked during the 15th and 16th centuries, leading to the scientific revolution. Nonetheless, even science wasn't totally static. For example, the Mertonian scholars in the 14th century studied and described different forms of motion, basically early kinematics.


several western European monasteries and universities concluded mathematically that the world was in fact round

This was known since Ancient Greek times.

Tyndmyr
2011-09-22, 01:07 PM
The position I'm arguing against was that technology started to regress after the fall of Rome. It didn't. Not locally, not globally.

Then show examples that were created in the dark ages, significantly after the local fall of the roman empire.


This is the time period when latin developed into the scientific language we think of it today (in western European culture).

Negative. That'd be after the invention of the printing press in 1500. That's when you get into Neo Latin rising, and being useful in that fashionn.


This is the period of the golden age of Irish Theology and Literature (5th to 8th)
The king Arthur legend was written sometime in this era.
This is the era of the Carolingian Empire and the Carolingian Renaissance. The Carolingian legal code which was the basis of western European law for another thousand years. (8th to 9th)

You know where the term dark ages originates from? From the fact that the utter lack of surviving writing from this period made it so hard to find stuff out about them.

Yes, writing did not stop entirely. However, it hit new lows.


The windmill was invented in this era. (8th century for the horisontal arab one, 11th for the French vertical one)

Negative. Google Heron of Alexandria. 1st century windmill powering machinery.


Swords went from short gladii to long norman swords with cross guards (implying an development in metalurgy). Swords made from steel.

Longswords proper didn't show up till Renaissance or shortly pre-ren. For certain definitions of longswords(so far as Im aware, the categorization of swords we do is mostly a modern invention). Lengthy swords certainly existed prior to the dark ages. Hell, the roman spaatha was both lengthy(nearly 3 feet of blade) AND had a crossguard.


Crossbows were introduced.

Negative. Crossbows existed in BC eras. See also, the Art of War. By the fifth century AD, they were already in Europe.


Stirrups as well.

Yet ANOTHER non european development. It's almost as if you're arguing FOR my side. This one probably didn't make it to Europe till the early dark ages, but it was brought there by people taking the place over. They don't really get a lot of credit for this.

Oh, also...it was used in Europe first by...the Byzantine empire. Aka, the romans. So...they're still winning at everything.


Brigandine armour too.

Also from asia. ALSO, did not show up until very late dark ages or after the dark ages, depending on where exactly you draw the line(after, if we take your date). So....no.


As was the lance.

Long cav spears definitely predate the dark ages. See also Alexander the Great, and...once again...the Byzantine empire.

We're getting a solid trend of europe not really developing things, and the very, very few developments they're getting are things that other people have made that they were fortunate enough to run across.


Both the Cog (ship) and the Knarr (Longship) were developed.

The vikings did do ship development during this time. It's one of the rare exceptions. I could be pedantic and argue if longships proper were actually developed during this time, but there was some advancement. The Knarr proper, I can debate, since we've got a whopping one of those anywhere preserved.


Vinland (america) was discovered, settled and abandoned by a people that had never been truly part of the Roman empire in the first place. 10th century.

Only true if we take the more inclusive view of the dark ages. We're looking at late 11th century here, not 10th century. And that's discovery only. Settlement is very, very sketchy.

I should note that I'm of norwegian descent, and have a rather lot of knowledge of this field. For instance, the Ulen Sword (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulen_sword), is almost certainly a misattributed french arming sword. However, it's the centerpiece of a small Norse museum in the area, and has been described as an authentic find supporting settlement in several books. Given that the local population of most of these areas is heavily norse, nobody is much interested in uncovering any evidence questioning their settlement.


Spain was massively developed by the Umayyad Caliphate (something the portugese, the spaniards and the catalans massively adopted once the reconquista turned in their favour).

I'd be *very* curious for evidence of this "massive development".


A vast number of new medicinal herbs were taken into use.

Feel free to show actual specific developments from this.


several western European monasteries and universities concluded mathematically that the world was in fact round

This is mostly a historical misteaching now. Round earth has long been known about.


The mechanical clock was developed and the 24 hour day invented (13th century).
Industrial mills were for the first time in history taken into use by the French (13th century)

Again, this relies on a fairly lengthy interpretation of "dark ages". And also, the mechanical clock was developed in the orient first. If we're only counting non sundials, non water clocks(since both of these existed for ages beforehand) in Europe, we're looking at late 13th century at the very earliest, with a pretty strong lack of actual evidence for that. More likely mid-late 14th century.


Gunpowder was introduced in the 13th century and firearms used in wars in central Europe in the late 14th.

Again, China is crushing it here. Far, far ahead of europe. We got the tech from them much after they got it. And also, we're looking at more of a 14th century/15th century scale here. The arquebus didn't exist until 1410ish, so Agincourt at 1415 was first to use it, no? That's solidly 15th century. Requires some rather creative interpretation to fit that into dark ages. Even the most liberal use of the term has the dark ages ending then.


Glass production was massively improved on in the 10th century with the invention of Soda glass. In Italy. Blowing glass into spheres was developed in germany in the 11th.

Soda glass is found in syrian and egyptian ruins. This is so much earlier, it's a little bit ridiculous. It was available long before the 10th century. Are you thinking of stained class? That's 12th century, so still later, but at least that's a pretty western development.


Monasticism as we know it in the western European tradition was developed in the 6th century.

This...isn't really a development. This is basically a bunch of dudes living together in a religious community. This was also not new. Not even a little bit.


It featured men of massive influence on later science. Like Thomas of Aquinas, Roger Bacon, William Occam to name a few.

Notice the trend here? 13th and 14th century men. Look at the 500 AD to 1000AD range. A *lot* less notable things happening then.


The introcution of the compass in the 11th century.

Again...invented in china. Around 273. BC. Sure, it was used for navigation in the 11th century....oh wait, that was also in china. Europe didn't even have it then. They got it eventually, sure, but they didn't do anything to boost the tech till the start of the 14th century.


This were all things that improved on Roman technology in Western Europe during the time frame you suggested below. I have deliberately not counted developments of the Islamic world (which were many), the hellenic world, china and similar that was later fully adopted by Europe (except a notable few).

And I've pretty much crushed them all.


But the argument is that technology was lost and did not "catch up" until the end (which you here give as the 15th century)

No. No I did not. I stated that there was some disagreement about what exactly constitutes the dark ages. The very widest spread of the possible dates used for the term was mentioned for reference.

5th to 10th century is most common useage of it in modern terms. However, as previously mentioned, it is a term that is not intended to be applied independent of geography.


Yet the legacy was retained in the Rhomanion (byzantine empire) and the other former areas. And then developed in western Europe, the Islamic World and the Rhomanion. Before the supposed end to these dark ages.

Not only that... but Islamic and Rhomanion feats of science and architecture are blatantly ignored or waved away despite that both worlds controlled 2/3 of the former Roman Empire between one another (and thus, logically, belongs to the post Roman world). Why? Because they don't fit the fictional idea of a technologically backward world after the fall of Atlantis Rome?

The entire world wasn't technically backward, no...but fantasy literature IS highly based on western Europe. Castles, knights, etc. European depictions of dragons, fae, and so forth. So, it pulls from european history quite heavily.

I'm sure examples of Islamic based fantasy exist...but frankly, I can't think of any at the moment, and they certainly don't mesh well with the standard tolkienish fantasy that things like D&D have baked into them.

GungHo
2011-09-22, 01:13 PM
That's a kerchief.
On a younger person, they'd call it a do-rag. If worn for religious or cultural purposes, they might call it a headscarf. It's hard to pin things down sometimes.

Knaight
2011-09-22, 01:19 PM
The entire world wasn't technically backward, no...but fantasy literature IS highly based on western Europe. Castles, knights, etc. European depictions of dragons, fae, and so forth. So, it pulls from european history quite heavily.

I'm sure examples of Islamic based fantasy exist...but frankly, I can't think of any at the moment, and they certainly don't mesh well with the standard tolkienish fantasy that things like D&D have baked into them.

You mean, besides 1001 Arabian Nights? As for fantasy and western Europe, that does encompass a lot of it, yes. There's also the small matter of Japan, India, and China, and China was so far ahead in technology relative to Europe up until the Renaissance (and really, well into it) that its not even funny.

Aux-Ash
2011-09-22, 01:37 PM
I'm beginning to feel we're engaging in polemics now. I'll just adress one point:


No. No I did not. I stated that there was some disagreement about what exactly constitutes the dark ages. The very widest spread of the possible dates used for the term was mentioned for reference.

5th to 10th century is most common useage of it in modern terms. However, as previously mentioned, it is a term that is not intended to be applied independent of geography.

So we're not really arguing against one another's main point. While I did say that Dark Ages is a poor term that's barely in use by modern historians anymore, it was more of a tangent.
What I really was aiming myself against was the notion that The world be much more advanced technologically now if Rome hadn't fallen. Which is ridiculous since everything we have is a direct development from the technologies that existed in roman times.

With that said I think we should leave that argument behind and turn our attention back to mediveal technology.

Rockphed
2011-09-22, 07:10 PM
What would daily life in Constantinople have looked like about 50 years before its conquest by the Turks?

Kiero
2011-09-25, 10:22 AM
You mean, besides 1001 Arabian Nights?

Isn't the 1001 Nights pre-Islamic?

Aux-Ash
2011-09-25, 10:41 AM
What would daily life in Constantinople have looked like about 50 years before its conquest by the Turks?

I believe one would have to respond with the questions:

For whom?


and: Daily life in what regard?

Rockphed
2011-09-25, 01:26 PM
I believe one would have to respond with the questions:

For whom?


and: Daily life in what regard?

Um, in order, the Ruler, Guards and Soldiers, Merchants, and peasants. If there are better classifications of people, then I would like to know what they are.

And I want to know things like what sort of food was common, how well trained guards were, how much leisure time people had. Stuff like that. I honestly do not know enough about it to know which questions to ask.

GM.Casper
2011-09-25, 02:26 PM
How exactly did medieval cities go around to collecting trade taxes from merchants?

Knaight
2011-09-25, 02:27 PM
Isn't the 1001 Nights pre-Islamic?

The story certainly survived and changed in the area through the era of the caliphate. It might not have originated in it.

Hawkfrost000
2011-09-25, 06:06 PM
How exactly did medieval cities go around to collecting trade taxes from merchants?

IIRC the taxes on merchants were mostly duties and tarrifs payed as the merchants traveled from one province to another.

Aux-Ash
2011-09-25, 11:58 PM
How exactly did medieval cities go around to collecting trade taxes from merchants?

Through the toll. In any mediveal city you will see either the remains of the citywall or sometimes areas named after the tolls. Anyone wishing to pass through it had to pay a sum to the guards. This was one of the primary purposes of the wall itself.

fusilier
2011-09-26, 12:42 AM
Um, in order, the Ruler, Guards and Soldiers, Merchants, and peasants. If there are better classifications of people, then I would like to know what they are.

And I want to know things like what sort of food was common, how well trained guards were, how much leisure time people had. Stuff like that. I honestly do not know enough about it to know which questions to ask.

Look for this book:
Daily Life in the Byzantine Empire
http://www.amazon.com/Byzantine-Empire-Greenwood-Through-History/dp/0313324379

I recently read the Daily Life in Renaissance Italy book that is part of the same series. I enjoyed it, although I wish it had more details and specific examples (it has some). Very good overview of that kind of information. I haven't read the one about the Byzantine Empire, and it's by a different author, but if it's anything like the one I've read, it should go a long way toward answering most of your questions.

Kiero
2011-09-26, 10:13 AM
Through the toll. In any mediveal city you will see either the remains of the citywall or sometimes areas named after the tolls. Anyone wishing to pass through it had to pay a sum to the guards. This was one of the primary purposes of the wall itself.

Additionally there might also be tolls on bridges and roads, taking a levy from everyone who passed through them. Nominally in return for said bridges being maintained and roads being kept safe from brigands.

Mistral
2011-09-26, 11:38 AM
Additionally there might also be tolls on bridges and roads, taking a levy from everyone who passed through them. Nominally in return for said bridges being maintained and roads being kept safe from brigands.

Carrying it further, cynical merchants would easily characterize the toll-takers as the very same as the brigands. The term "robber baron" comes from medieval Germany, during the general collapse of authority of the Interregnum. Tolls were generally conducted on the authority of the Emperor, and in the absence of a strong emperor, you would see glorified brigands and raubritter doing things like stretching chains across the Rhine to block ships, or raising towers or castles in strategic choke-points like passes and river crossings. From these castles, they could control surrounding roads and defend themselves against others, and few merchants had the wealth or willingness to oppose a show of force by men at arms, especially one that claimed (frequently inaccurately) to have imperial sanction. These would be effective ways to conduct tolls for official representatives of the ruler as well.

GungHo
2011-09-26, 01:49 PM
Additionally there might also be tolls on bridges and roads, taking a levy from everyone who passed through them. Nominally in return for said bridges being maintained and roads being kept safe from brigands.
And to keep ye olde noggine safe from the pommel of ye olde guarde's sweord, as there was a line about this =>|<= thin between being a guardsman and a brigand, and you didn't want to irritate either of them when it's just you and a couple of your buddies draging along your stuff on the only path for miles. If you dread the idea of getting a traffic ticket in Mexico...


especially one that claimed (frequently inaccurately) to have imperial sanction
And, really... who's gonna be able to verify if they did or didn't? Hell, if you're a duke and the roads are quiet, do you care who is keeping the roads quiet as long as when you send your taxman through, he doesn't get molested?

Ravens_cry
2011-09-26, 07:29 PM
Did bronze mail exist historically? If so, in what area and era?

Thane of Fife
2011-09-26, 07:37 PM
Okay, here's a really weird question that's been bugging me recently:

How did people in Ancient/Medieval times clip their toenails? I mean, I can imagine that they might have chewed and filed their fingernails, but they probably didn't chew their toes. So, does anybody know how they did it?

fusilier
2011-09-26, 08:34 PM
Okay, here's a really weird question that's been bugging me recently:

How did people in Ancient/Medieval times clip their toenails? I mean, I can imagine that they might have chewed and filed their fingernails, but they probably didn't chew their toes. So, does anybody know how they did it?

Well, you can also pick at them. They may wear down through use. However, I'm pretty sure I've seen a picture of a viking nail clipper, so at least in the middle ages they had them. I would suspect that they had something similar earlier. How it was done in stone-age cultures . . . *shrug* . . . a few of those still exist, so maybe an anthropologist may know . . .

Knaight
2011-09-26, 08:41 PM
Well, you can also pick at them. They may wear down through use. However, I'm pretty sure I've seen a picture of a viking nail clipper, so at least in the middle ages they had them. I would suspect that they had something similar earlier. How it was done in stone-age cultures . . . *shrug* . . . a few of those still exist, so maybe an anthropologist may know . . .

We've also had knives for a very, very long time. You can keep your nails short with a knife, and considering how much walking was expected of most people up until the advent of the car, taking a knife to your toe nails is very much worth it.

Ravens_cry
2011-09-26, 08:50 PM
Okay, here's a really weird question that's been bugging me recently:

How did people in Ancient/Medieval times clip their toenails? I mean, I can imagine that they might have chewed and filed their fingernails, but they probably didn't chew their toes. So, does anybody know how they did it?
Same way they shaved, a good sharp knife?

Eldan
2011-09-27, 02:41 AM
Instead of nail clippers, I've seen slightly curved small scissors used. No idea how old those are, however. And that seems more like a luxury good, you can't really use them for anything else.

Earlier in the thread someone mentioned that in German cities, the city "guards" were more like a citizen's militia, serving temporarily. So, where does the idea of a professional city guard, like a kind of medieval, pole-armed police come from? They are omnipresent in fantasy literature, of course, but is there any real-world equivalent?

fusilier
2011-09-27, 02:48 AM
Doing some more research, I think Knaight and Ravens_cry are basically right. A sharp knife (even a stone/flint knife), can be used to trim nails using the right kind of action.


"For nails you use a motion as if you are carving a stick. There is also an abundance of rough stones in the world to file and smooth nails."
From: http://www.hairshearsblog.com/191/what-did-cultures-use-for-nailclippers-scissors-to-cut-hair-and-razors-before-modern-times/

--Warning it's a very annoying website, with a pop-up and video that autoplays.

The wikipedia entry, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nail_clipper , while only talking about the modern nail clipper, shows a picture of a "nail cutter" from 6-8th century BC.

fusilier
2011-09-27, 04:10 AM
Earlier in the thread someone mentioned that in German cities, the city "guards" were more like a citizen's militia, serving temporarily. So, where does the idea of a professional city guard, like a kind of medieval, pole-armed police come from? They are omnipresent in fantasy literature, of course, but is there any real-world equivalent?

I'm guessing here, but, maybe in a city-state, like a prince/duke ruled medieval Italian state, the city guards would basically be an extension of the duke's personal guard? Also, even other states, like Florence, did hire mercenaries and retain them on basically a permanent basis. They also had palace guards, etc.

Daily Life in Renaissance Italy, does mention the police, and how being a policeman was dishonorable (it was not honorable to bind people, which is exactly what the police did). So "police" of some form seem to have been present in Italy by that time. The police get called out to disturbances, and go out to collect suspects and witnesses. The book does not make it clear how the police were organized or recruited (it probably varied a lot across locations), but I'm left with the impression that they were almost like mercenary companies.

Revenue agents, or customs officials, may very well have had their own guards. That is actually a practice today in some nations, with a revenue force being a subset of the national military. But I'm just speculating.

Kiero
2011-09-27, 04:59 AM
Did bronze mail exist historically? If so, in what area and era?

Yes, in pre-Roman Britain where tin was plentiful and thus bronze still common even when it had been supplanted by steel elsewhere. Britain was also something of a backwater in the ancient world (being separated by rough seas and a Carthaginian trade blockade from the continent) so adoption of steel was slower.

Hawkfrost000
2011-09-27, 09:31 AM
Instead of nail clippers, I've seen slightly curved small scissors used. No idea how old those are, however. And that seems more like a luxury good, you can't really use them for anything else.

Earlier in the thread someone mentioned that in German cities, the city "guards" were more like a citizen's militia, serving temporarily. So, where does the idea of a professional city guard, like a kind of medieval, pole-armed police come from? They are omnipresent in fantasy literature, of course, but is there any real-world equivalent?

Probably Mercenaries

Fantasy stories have a ridiculous number of professional soldiers, so whats a few more guarding the gates?

DM

B!shop
2011-09-27, 09:46 AM
Earlier in the thread someone mentioned that in German cities, the city "guards" were more like a citizen's militia, serving temporarily. So, where does the idea of a professional city guard, like a kind of medieval, pole-armed police come from? They are omnipresent in fantasy literature, of course, but is there any real-world equivalent?

They were mercenaries paid by the lords (or similar in-power figure, like sheriffs, mayors) to enforce their law.

In places like counties these guards are paid by the ruler, in cities usually a sheriff (appointed by the ruler) or a mayor pays their salary. were obviously loyal to those who paid them more than to laws and justice.

Most of these guards are just thugs or commoner able to wield a simple weapon like spears or maces: professional soldiers were not as common but after a war, and they were usually part of an army or a mercenary group.

Aux-Ash
2011-09-27, 12:08 PM
Instead of nail clippers, I've seen slightly curved small scissors used. No idea how old those are, however. And that seems more like a luxury good, you can't really use them for anything else.

Earlier in the thread someone mentioned that in German cities, the city "guards" were more like a citizen's militia, serving temporarily. So, where does the idea of a professional city guard, like a kind of medieval, pole-armed police come from? They are omnipresent in fantasy literature, of course, but is there any real-world equivalent?

The city guard of a mediveal town was a citzen militia in the same sense that the greek hoplites or the roman legionnaires were a citzen militia. You signed up as part of the deal, recieved training and served for some time, then returned to daily life as part of the reserves or took on a career as a officer.
It wasn't a very glorious job, but a good career step to professional soldiering (mercenaries), great way to establish contacts and a good way to get a job for 4-5 years if you weren't in line for an inheritance. Frequently a career for journeymen who couldn't find a permanent position as well (serve the guard for a term, sign up with a master afterwards when there might be more jobs).
In the 15th century Amsterdam, the night watch had to purchase their own set of milanese plate, a polearm, a firearm and a sword. If they couldn't afford it, but had good references, they could be lended money to purchase it from the watch itself (which they had to pay off over their career). I'd imagine it was more or less the same across much of Europe. The town guard was primarily from the artisans and merchant sons, served a few years in their youth and recieved relatively good training.

Thane of Fife
2011-09-27, 01:33 PM
"For nails you use a motion as if you are carving a stick. There is also an abundance of rough stones in the world to file and smooth nails."
From: http://www.hairshearsblog.com/191/what-did-cultures-use-for-nailclippers-scissors-to-cut-hair-and-razors-before-modern-times/

--Warning it's a very annoying website, with a pop-up and video that autoplays.

The wikipedia entry, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nail_clipper , while only talking about the modern nail clipper, shows a picture of a "nail cutter" from 6-8th century BC.

Huh. Thank you (and also to Knaight, Ravens_cry, and Eldan). I had considered the possibility of knives, but I wasn't sure if that was really possible.

Talyn
2011-09-28, 08:36 PM
Is there a good source somewhere to really walk a person through medieval steel-making and blacksmithing? I mean really walk you through it, down the the tools used and the nuts and bolts of forges and anvils.

Likewise, I'd love to learn more about medieval leatherworking.

endoperez
2011-09-29, 12:48 AM
Is there a good source somewhere to really walk a person through medieval steel-making and blacksmithing? I mean really walk you through it, down the the tools used and the nuts and bolts of forges and anvils.

Likewise, I'd love to learn more about medieval leatherworking.

The Art of Blacksmithing by Alex W. Bealer is about blacksmithing in general, not medieval specifically, but it's very thorough. Just reading through it gives all kinds of inspirational thoughts. It's well-written and well illustrated. I haven't tested it in action, so I don't know how well it pans out in real life, but I still like it a lot.

He also goes through a few different types of forges, and how the making of iron developed into making of steel.

Conners
2011-09-29, 01:24 AM
I was wondering about corsets--more to do with their origins and reasoning. Was the corset an idea some random person came up with to improve(?) their figure, which caught on?

On that matter, when did the "hourglass"-figure become the ideal for a woman's body? Popular media probably exaggerates the importance of a busty physique... but question is, how important was such in earlier times?

Also interested in other strange technology men and women used to reach their societies' ideals of beauty.

flumphy
2011-09-29, 02:12 AM
I was wondering about corsets--more to do with their origins and reasoning. Was the corset an idea some random person came up with to improve(?) their figure, which caught on?

On that matter, when did the "hourglass"-figure become the ideal for a woman's body? Popular media probably exaggerates the importance of a busty physique... but question is, how important was such in earlier times?

Also interested in other strange technology men and women used to reach their societies' ideals of beauty.

Corsets were originally developed for support. You see, bras weren't invented until the nineteenth century. However, things like staircases and riding and, well, running were obviously invented much earlier. Sure, women could bind themselves with cloth and whatnot, but trust me when I say that the extra structure a corset provides makes a world of difference when it comes to mobility.

The whole extreme shapewear thing didn't really catch on until the 18th-19th centuries, and that was innovation on the existing garment rather than just developing it out of the blue for the sake of fashion. And even then, corsets weren't always used to achieve an hourglass figure. There were times and places (including parts of the 20th century, for that matter) when flat chests were more fashionable.

Conners
2011-09-29, 02:15 AM
Now that makes logical sense. Thank you for clearing that up.

Talyn
2011-10-08, 08:56 AM
How did they make mirrors in the middle ages? Sheets of metal, polished?

Eldan
2011-10-08, 09:29 AM
How did they make mirrors in the middle ages? Sheets of metal, polished?

Ayup. Silver for the rich people.

Kiero
2011-10-09, 07:08 AM
The city guard of a mediveal town was a citzen militia in the same sense that the greek hoplites or the roman legionnaires were a citzen militia.

Uh, there was no "town guard" or equivalent in Republican Rome, the vigiles weren't turned into anything resembling a group enforcing public order until after the Augustan reforms. Men who were enrolled as legionaries were most likely on their farms outside of the city in peacetime (since it drew heavily from the yeoman farmer class).

Nor for that matter were citizen-militia in ancient Greece expected to act as a police force.

In both instances they were mobilised only for war, not public order. Never mind that Rome had all sorts of ancient laws against the wearing of armour within the pomerium (the ancient city walls that the city outgrew).

Yora
2011-10-11, 05:27 PM
Lets talk about locks.

For the campaign I am currently planning, I have an early iron age setting in mind.
This leaves the quite interesting question how to deal with closed doors. Putting a bar on them from the inside would work, but that's not helpful if you want to keep a prisoner or store valuables without having someone on watch the entire time.

So what would one do? Or was there even anything one could do than having a guard round the clock (which also was around back then)?

Aux-Ash
2011-10-11, 11:47 PM
Kiero: I didn't mean that the legions and the hoplites were town guards. I was meaning that town guards, legions and hoplites were all different forms of citzen militias. All well trained, well equipped and diciplined.

Not every town had a town guard. Those that did were of the richer kind.

It's only in modern times that a citzen militia became something unimpressive.

Yora:
Neither locks nor clocks (the mechanical kind) were around in the iron age. Well... except some crude forms in China and Persia.

Most that had anything worth stealing also afforded guards like you surmised. But in most cases, burglary wasn't something you could make a living off.

Besides, there would virtually always be someone home.

Rockphed
2011-10-12, 12:32 AM
Also, a bar works fine for keeping someone in a room if it is on the outside. Or if you are in the desert and keep weapons away from them, they would have to be mad to risk flight. Alternatively, you could just tie them up.

fusilier
2011-10-12, 03:18 PM
Yora:
Neither locks nor clocks (the mechanical kind) were around in the iron age. Well... except some crude forms in China and Persia.

Most that had anything worth stealing also afforded guards like you surmised. But in most cases, burglary wasn't something you could make a living off.

Besides, there would virtually always be someone home.

Actually, it looks the kind of lock that was used throughout the middle ages was developed during the iron age. GURPS Low-tech to the rescue! (I have the older 3rd edition, I imagine the same or similar information is in the new 4th edition). It lists for types of locks available during the Iron Age.

Pin-Tumbler Lock
I don't think the term "tumbler" is appropriate for this kind of lock, but "pin" certainly is. See here:
http://www.charleslocksmith.com/ancient_egyptian_locks.htm

This is apparently a bronze age invention.

Rotary Lock
A simple iron lock, used by the Greeks. It used a sickle shaped key the point of which would catch the bolt and when turned would withdraw the bolt. Any key would work in one of these locks, and they are easy to pick.

Warded Rotary Lock
This is the standard lock that was used until the 18th(?) century and the development of the lever tumbler lock. It was developed in Rome. The lock was a development of the rotary lock, but this time there was a "ward" which only allowed the right sized key to fit -- well not exactly, a key smaller than the original could still work. Medieval locksmiths became very clever designing all sorts of strange shapes -- but they're still easier to pick than later style locks.

Barb-Spring Lock
A simple kind of pad lock used in China and Rome.
This page has an animation of how it works:
http://www.1st-net-lock-museum.com/ot1.htm

This website has many pictures of original roman locks, but also the occasional diagram of how they worked:
http://romanlocks.com/

a_humble_lich
2011-10-12, 03:26 PM
Warded Rotary Lock
This is the standard lock that was used until the 18th(?) century and the development of the lever tumbler lock. It was developed in Rome. The lock was a development of the rotary lock, but this time there was a "ward" which only allowed the right sized key to fit -- well not exactly, a key smaller than the original could still work. Medieval locksmiths became very clever designing all sorts of strange shapes -- but they're still easier to pick than later style locks.


I remember reading that the warded rotary lock had been in use in ancient Egypt, although my memory is a bit fuzzy on that. Also, it was used *much* more recently than the 18th century. I have seen them in Victorian era buildings, and it is still in wide use in many parts of the world. When I was living in Ghana a few years ago that was the only lock you would see.

Yora
2011-10-12, 03:33 PM
The concept of a warded lock is really remarkably simple, but also quite effective. The part where you push the bolt in and out is far more complicated than the one with the key fitting in the lock or not.

Edit: Or maybe not.
Just look at the images here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warded_lock) and here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lever_tumbler_lock). The craftsmanship required to construct such a lock is really not that high. Once you've figured out this concept, it would probably just a matter of how finely you can cut copper sheets to fit them together.

Berenger
2011-10-12, 05:04 PM
[...] Also interested in other strange technology men and women used to reach their societies' ideals of beauty.

Belladonna? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atropa_belladonna#Cosmetics)

fusilier
2011-10-12, 08:14 PM
The concept of a warded lock is really remarkably simple, but also quite effective. The part where you push the bolt in and out is far more complicated than the one with the key fitting in the lock or not.

Edit: Or maybe not.
Just look at the images here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warded_lock) and here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lever_tumbler_lock). The craftsmanship required to construct such a lock is really not that high. Once you've figured out this concept, it would probably just a matter of how finely you can cut copper sheets to fit them together.

The second one is a lever tumbler lock. They're basically the same as a modern pin-tumbler lock but with levers instead of pins. That's why the key looks different -- although a key for a warded lock, sometimes looks similar to a key for a lever tumbler lock.

Interestingly, if you check out that website on Roman locks, there are door locks that have a single spring that has to be lifted out of the way by the key. They are still a form of warded lock, but if they had thought of using multiple springs, they may have come up with the lever tumbler lock.


I remember reading that the warded rotary lock had been in use in ancient Egypt, although my memory is a bit fuzzy on that. Also, it was used *much* more recently than the 18th century. I have seen them in Victorian era buildings, and it is still in wide use in many parts of the world. When I was living in Ghana a few years ago that was the only lock you would see.

Doesn't surprise me. I own a couple, so I know they are still made -- as are lever-tumbler locks.

Templarkommando
2011-10-12, 10:29 PM
Something to take into consideration is that unless you want to stick extremely close to the "medieval" setting, a DM can expect to reasonably get away with a little bit of anachronism.

For example, a technologically advanced city might have a mechanical clock in the city square even though mechanical clocks don't really show up until much later.

In that same vein, the richest person in the viking-inspired settlement might have some technological perks. It depends on how you want to flavor your campaign setting.

Templarkommando
2011-10-12, 10:53 PM
Uh, there was no "town guard" or equivalent in Republican Rome, the vigiles weren't turned into anything resembling a group enforcing public order until after the Augustan reforms. Men who were enrolled as legionaries were most likely on their farms outside of the city in peacetime (since it drew heavily from the yeoman farmer class).

Nor for that matter were citizen-militia in ancient Greece expected to act as a police force.

In both instances they were mobilised only for war, not public order. Never mind that Rome had all sorts of ancient laws against the wearing of armour within the pomerium (the ancient city walls that the city outgrew).

I remember reading Apology by Plato. Without going into a lot of detail, basically, Socrates was accused of corrupting the youth of Athens.

Essentially, if you wanted to accuse someone of something you and all of your buddies - your phratry - formed a posse and went and captured the person you wanted to accuse of a crime. Then all of the adult males of the city would get together and listen to the plaintiff and the defendant's arguments and then the male citizens of the city-state would vote as to whether the defendant was guilty or innocent. If the defendant was found guilty, then both the defendant and the plaintiff would suggest punishments and the voters would decide which punishment was more appropriate.

In the case of Socrates, he basically suggested that the punishment should be a fine of a few bucks, and his accuser suggested death by drinking hemlock. Socrates died from drinking hemlock.

fusilier
2011-10-13, 04:35 AM
Or was there even anything one could do than having a guard round the clock (which also was around back then)?

As for clocks a "clepsydra" would be the best equivalent (i.e. a water clock). Some of these could be very sophisticated. During daylight a sun dial of course can be used to tell solar time (different from mean time -- what most clocks measure), and at night there were various devices to measure the time by the stars.

For the most part, it didn't really matter. Sunrise, Sunset, Noon, were typical "times" that were used for many centuries, even after the introduction of medieval clocks. All were approximate, and meeting someone, someplace at noon, lacked any sort of precision that we might expect today.

The amount of time it took for a candle (or something similar) to burn could be used to measure short time periods, along with hour-glasses (not sure if they had those), or allowing water to drain from some vessel.

Conners
2011-10-25, 08:31 PM
How common was money, in more-isolated farming communities? Let's say under the protection of a lord, but just on the boundaries of his lands. If there is a town, it is too far away to travel to reasonably (only if you want to make a long journey).

Would they have money? Or would they just trade things? I guess they'd pay taxes with grain and such?

Lord Raziere
2011-10-25, 08:44 PM
Yea, I don't think they got coinage back until the Renaissance or so, until then it was probably mostly bartering, coin is a great convenience we take for granted and is one of the reasons why we are so wealthy in this day and age- in medieval times, well you are supposed to give up your food stores- to both the lords and the church, remember said church was corrupt.

so yea, probably not very common, the gold/silver/copper thing is an abstraction.

Gwyn chan 'r Gwyll
2011-10-25, 09:45 PM
Trading communities were more likely to have money: Russia until the 13th century, and Scandinavia until the 13th century are prime examples.

Tvtyrant
2011-10-28, 10:50 PM
Interestingly enough gold was owned by a number of farmers and rural communities, but it wasn't circulated. It was kept in the form of crosses and other items so that they could trade them in case of an emergency.

Templarkommando
2011-10-29, 01:09 AM
Yea, I don't think they got coinage back until the Renaissance or so, until then it was probably mostly bartering, coin is a great convenience we take for granted and is one of the reasons why we are so wealthy in this day and age- in medieval times, well you are supposed to give up your food stores- to both the lords and the church, remember said church was corrupt.

so yea, probably not very common, the gold/silver/copper thing is an abstraction.

The denarius was a coin used by the ancient Romans. The Ancient Greeks used the drachma. Ancient Jews used the shekel. The Macedonians had coins with Alexander's picture on them, and the Lydians (From modern Turkey) minted a coin called the Lion back around 550 B.C. or so if you believe wikipedia. Ptolemaic Egypt traded in gold and silver... copper was reserved for peasants and slaves.

That said, barter was a lot more common in the middle ages and in the ancient world, but there are still coins running around during those periods.

Knaight
2011-10-29, 01:18 AM
Yea, I don't think they got coinage back until the Renaissance or so, until then it was probably mostly bartering, coin is a great convenience we take for granted and is one of the reasons why we are so wealthy in this day and age- in medieval times, well you are supposed to give up your food stores- to both the lords and the church, remember said church was corrupt.

Coins are old. Very old. Let me put this in perspective - by the time of the Renaissance, China had had paper money for centuries. It was a bit ahead of the curve, yes, but not by all that much.

Yora
2011-10-29, 05:42 AM
And I think outside of electronics Gold is virtually useless as a material. Gold was only valuable because other people would trade it, so I don't think it's much different than paper money, except that it's harder to produce, which reduces inflation.

lerg2
2011-10-29, 07:31 AM
I've got a question. How the %(@$ did they make Trebuches work!? We've been working on one for over a week, less than 15 feet sq. We have blueprints and stuff, but it only launches Straight. Up. It's self-destructive, misfires, and has never launched more than 30 ft.

Xuc Xac
2011-10-29, 07:39 AM
Adjust the angle of the release hook. Just pound on it with a hammer to bend it then try it to see how the release timing has changed. Repeat as needed.

Knaight
2011-10-29, 07:46 AM
Adjust the angle of the release hook. Just pound on it with a hammer to bend it then try it to see how the release timing has changed. Repeat as needed.

A more sophisticated method would be to get rid of the release hook, in favor of a release pin, that could be inserted in various drilled holes that are at different angles.

Gwyn chan 'r Gwyll
2011-10-29, 05:41 PM
Here's (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1EAA7pkEJ4)a link which shows an almost full-sized trebuchet being used, and adjusted to increase range. By the end, they even hit the wall set up as a target. It's pretty mindblowing.

Rockphed
2011-10-30, 12:08 AM
And I think outside of electronics Gold is virtually useless as a material. Gold was only valuable because other people would trade it, so I don't think it's much different than paper money, except that it's harder to produce, which reduces inflation.

It also reflects an interesting spectrum of light and doesn't tarnish the way silver, copper, iron or bronze do. Also, it is fairly easy to extract from its ores.

But yes, gold is the original fiat money. I suspect that whether it is any good at that is a question that goes a bit too close to politics to keep clear of flame wars.

Templarkommando
2011-10-30, 01:02 AM
It also reflects an interesting spectrum of light and doesn't tarnish the way silver, copper, iron or bronze do. Also, it is fairly easy to extract from its ores.

But yes, gold is the original fiat money. I suspect that whether it is any good at that is a question that goes a bit too close to politics to keep clear of flame wars.

The technical definition of "money" is anything that is used as a medium for trading something else. So if you trade shoes to the farmer in exchange for beans hoping to barter the beans for some other product at a later date then the beans are technically "money" in the economic sense.

The problem with beans and other food items is that they can rot, they can have mice or bugs get into them... a lot can happen to it that decreases or wipes out its usable value. What makes metal attractive as "money" is that you can mint it and it will stay that way for a long time. Yeah, the value of gold and silver and so on fluctuate, but at least it doesn't rot or get eaten. The nice thing about paper money, is that while paper money isn't really a product that has a use (A jeweler could make a pretty set of jewelry from gold or silver), it does have the advantage of being light.

For example, in the Bible stories are told of talents of silver being used for this or that (be it building the temple, or giving to slaves etc.) If wikipedia is to be believed, the New Testament talent weighs in just a kilo or so shy of 60. Imagine trying to haul around a dozen talents of gold or silver if you were a merchant or a noble then. Because of this, weight makes paper really attractive.

jpreem
2011-10-30, 02:22 AM
It might actually be more prudent to call money a certain abstract note of value.
So actually gold or gold coins were not the "money". Nor is a banknote "money", nor would those shoes or carrots or cows or pig or sheep be money.
Gold and precious metals, as well as coins and paper notes would not be money themselves - they would be physical representation of value. (tokens as you wish). Cows and sheep and so on well "could" be used as tokens but also they are a valuable trade good.
It is an abstract concept hard to illustrate - hmm- but lets see you can have people trading cows and chickens and carrots - and be thinking about their value like this Cow is worth 1000 $, chicken 20 $ and 10 carrots 1 $. This just means you usually can exchange 500 chickens for a cow, or 200 carrots for a chicken. The imaginary $ rises just form the fractions. There never needs to be any actual token coins exchanged, and people can actually trade pottery for textile without thinking about cows or carrots. Still they have in their head a notion of value.
There are lately lots of articles critisising the common notion as for the money rising as a physical means of barter.
Im not sure that i should post article or blog links about it in here - might be a bit too political?
I still give some google instructions.
There is a blogpost by guy named Graeber, on the invention of money. It a place to start. Or maybe search for myth of barter or other such keywords.

Yora
2011-10-30, 05:25 AM
How sad is the world when basic scientific ideas have to be hidden from the censors... :smallfrown:

Beleriphon
2011-10-31, 03:24 PM
There is a blogpost by guy named Graeber, on the invention of money. It a place to start. Or maybe search for myth of barter or other such keywords.

This is a good suggestion, current anthropological theory suggests that pure barter economies never existed. The correct term would be pre-currency economics. It effectively means that everything has a value, but not necessarily one directly related to hard currency standards.

Even is societies that used hard currency non-currency trade was pretty common. Nobody wants to rob the guy hauling purple dyes that he plans on trading for a bunch of blue dye. But you can certainly rob the guy carrying chests full of silver that plans on trading that for blue dye.

fusilier
2011-10-31, 04:35 PM
Even is societies that used hard currency non-currency trade was pretty common. Nobody wants to rob the guy hauling purple dyes that he plans on trading for a bunch of blue dye. But you can certainly rob the guy carrying chests full of silver that plans on trading that for blue dye.

I seriously doubt that fear of theft would prevent people from using money. Thieves also stole goods (and purple dye could certainly be a high value good) and livestock, which transports itself. Coins are much easier to hide and transport. Large quantities have security problems, which was one of the functions of early banks, i.e. to handle large currency transfers through letters of credit, but most people wouldn't be transporting large quantities of currency.

Jay R
2011-10-31, 08:55 PM
Lets talk about locks.

For the campaign I am currently planning, I have an early iron age setting in mind.
This leaves the quite interesting question how to deal with closed doors. Putting a bar on them from the inside would work, but that's not helpful if you want to keep a prisoner or store valuables without having someone on watch the entire time.

So what would one do? Or was there even anything one could do than having a guard round the clock (which also was around back then)?

What's wrong with having a guard around the clock? A full-time peasant is much, much cheaper than any mechanical contrivance. A guard who moves the bar is a very simple tool. So is a blacksmith who "locks" the prisoner's chains with an iron rivet.

fusilier
2011-11-01, 02:05 AM
What's wrong with having a guard around the clock? A full-time peasant is much, much cheaper than any mechanical contrivance. A guard who moves the bar is a very simple tool. So is a blacksmith who "locks" the prisoner's chains with an iron rivet.

Locks rarely fall asleep, wander off and get drunk, and aren't too susceptible to bribes. ;-)

Conners
2011-11-01, 08:59 AM
When did sewer systems become the standard of civilization?

Spiryt
2011-11-01, 09:19 AM
When did sewer systems become the standard of civilization?

In many Roman built cities - as early as few centuries BC.

In many, many small villages all around the Europe, especially Eastern one, there are still many houses without connection to sewers, particularly where old people live and are not very keen about any changes....

So you my want to specify.

Conners
2011-11-01, 09:52 AM
Well, as far as I'm aware, the majority of large cities have sewer systems these days--except maybe for 3rd-world countries. Was wondering when sewer systems became common for large cities.

Rejakor
2011-11-01, 11:10 AM
Define 'common'.

Underground sewerage systems have been a kind of on/off thing throughout human history. There were cities with underground sewage systems in 3500 BC in india, and particularly wealthy/capital cities of 'civilized' nations typically had one for prestige reasons (persia, china). The first recorded regulated mass use of sewer systems in the west was during the roman empire, where uncovered 'street sewers' were required for any roman town or roman part of a conquered town, and the major cities had slave built and maintained underground sewer systems (cloaca maxima was the one in rome), although they could have done it cheaper with slave sewerage carts, it was a prestige/smell thing.

In the dark ages/middle ages, it was pretty much 'don't walk on the sides of the roads' in large cities, as the modern 'gutter' concept was basically designed to deal with the crap cities generated(crude open sewers), and small towns/farms had long drop toilets or nothing.

Then at some point when stuff started getting civilized again, people started building sewers again.


So, basically, whenever. It's not a new idea, and it was certainly achievable with pre bronze age technology.

Templarkommando
2011-11-01, 11:56 AM
Umm, if I had to guess I would say it likely occurred during the hellenistic period. Hellenistic is a derivative of the term Hellenic which means Greek. Hellenistic means Greek-like.

Alexander went on a campaign to conquer a good portion of the world. He was quite successful in this, but he eventually died. After he died, his empire was usurped by his major generals - each of them had to maintain a power base. Since these generals only really had faith in Greek soldiers, they had to create an environment that would attract Greek men that could fight for them. This is why in ancient settlements in Iran, Iraq, Egypt etc. all have some of the hallmarks of Greek civilization - A gymnasium, an amphitheater, public baths, temples to Greek Gods and whatever else the leaders thought would be needed to attract soldiers to fight in their armies. I can only imagine that a sewer is likely something that could be included in that list.

Understand this is only really a guess, I don't know this to be absolutely sure.

Yora
2011-11-01, 01:25 PM
The persian refrigirated storehouses also used waterlines to transport meltwater into the middle of the desert.

Rejakor
2011-11-01, 05:01 PM
Actually, the greeks weren't particularly big on sewers. They were really into engineering, so they had a fair number of sewer systems, but unlike the romans didn't have them other than that, and relied on slaves to get rid of waste in all but the prestigious locations that had sewers.

Plus sewers were around a long time before Alexander.

Templarkommando
2011-11-01, 05:27 PM
Actually, the greeks weren't particularly big on sewers. They were really into engineering, so they had a fair number of sewer systems, but unlike the romans didn't have them other than that, and relied on slaves to get rid of waste in all but the prestigious locations that had sewers.

Plus sewers were around a long time before Alexander.

To be fair, mine was just a guess and I'm not especially attached to my explanation. Also, the question wasn't - unless I recall incorrectly - who invented sewers. I was thinking the question was when having them became common.

I could actually buy the Roman explanation. I'd be curious to see evidence one way or the other though.

The Reverend
2011-11-02, 10:55 AM
So what about megalithic construction? I've seen some Very interesting experimental archaeologist results. One guy figured out how to move a half ton block using:one guy, two medium sized river stones, and some two by fours as a handle on top. Also have seen the figured that the Mediterranean cultures used giant water powered wooden and copper blades with sand abrasives to cut large blocks of stone, such as pillars. Recent testing also showed the best way to move large megalithic stones, i.e. upright stone hinge style stones, was to mount the stone on a sledge on rails with softball sized stone or wooden bearings between the rails and the sledge.

Some interesting pieces of seemingly out of place ancient tech that makes you go wow.

Terracotta army found in the tomb of the first emperor Qin, created around 3rd century BC, have chromium treated blades that have kept them in perfect condition. The tech to reliably use chromium was nit redeveloped till the late 19th century.

From many cultures around the world over large stretches of recorded history there are suggestions that we may have had technology to soften stone so that it was easier to work then reharden it. An example of this is in known recorded history is Hannibals crossing the alps, he used fires to heat the rocks and vinigar in a chemical reaction to soften them to a chalk like hardness making it easier to carve a path thru the mountains.

Antikythera mechanism, more interesting than the actual object is that its complex co struction and clear understanding of a number of principals needed to construct it implies a Community of people familiar with gears and their operation in a systematic way.

Recent British excavation showed the Romans had a "gatling ballista". Box of bolt on top, one guy on each side turning a crank, as the crank turns it pulls the bow back and and new bolt is dropped into place and fires. It was a stationary weapon used in sieges and also into a lesser extent in field battles when prepared positions were used

Egyptians we know used stone drills to make Very precise holes using copper and stone bits
.

ONe interesting, but unconfirmed, theory is that the Djed Pillar was actually center pics of the Egyptian megalithic construction apparatus. It was a pull system used both in controlling drilling mechanisms and as a pully system for kite powered stone lifting

Beleriphon
2011-11-02, 03:34 PM
-- stuff --

It kind of drives me nuts for these theories, most them seem pretty reasonable as presented by you, is that too many modern people don't give enough credit to ancient peoples. Our ancestors weren't stupid and they certainly weren't going around creating microprocessors to control particle colliders, but they could get a heck of a lot of work done using muscle power and time.

fusilier
2011-11-02, 06:34 PM
. . .
From many cultures around the world over large stretches of recorded history there are suggestions that we may have had technology to soften stone so that it was easier to work then reharden it. An example of this is in known recorded history is Hannibals crossing the alps, he used fires to heat the rocks and vinigar in a chemical reaction to soften them to a chalk like hardness making it easier to carve a path thru the mountains.
. . .


To kind of support what Beleriphon said.

This sounds a bit sketchy to me. Probably a misunderstanding of a well known and used technique for breaking up rocks. Building a large fire next to/underneath a rock, or rocky out cropping, heating the rock up, then pouring a large amount of water over the rock, causes a rapid change in temperature and the rock can fracture and break. It doesn't turn it into "chalk", but was a technique sometimes used by miners/prospectors to break up large rocks for inspection, or into smaller pieces that can be moved more easily. Historically, vinegar was considered to be a "cooling" liquid. Early cannoneers swabbed cannons with vinegar instead of water between shots. Gradually that idea was abandoned.

Spiryt
2011-11-02, 06:43 PM
Agree with fusilier, actually causing some chemical reactions, or whatever to carve the paths in mountain would require obscene amount of vinegar.

Doesn't really sound plausible at all.




Recent British excavation showed the Romans had a "gatling ballista". Box of bolt on top, one guy on each side turning a crank, as the crank turns it pulls the bow back and and new bolt is dropped into place and fires. It was a stationary weapon used in sieges and also into a lesser extent in field battles when prepared positions were used

That's interesting, sound kinda like Chinese repeating crossbows. As a stationary weapon make more sense though, as one can actually gather some sensible energy here.

Any links about it? Cause anyway, it's either "ballista" or "bow" because it's not really the same completely different way of working.

I can't picture spanning twisted skeins quickly enough to really make "repeating" have sense either, so it probably would be big bow instead indeed....

Rejakor
2011-11-02, 06:56 PM
The romans had weapons called spitfires that were essentially a twisted sinew ballista that could fire multiple 'layers' of heavy ballista bolts when they were triggered.

They also had steam engines. They just never found a use for them.

The Boz
2011-11-02, 07:14 PM
I think the greeks were the ones with the steam engines without a use...

Gwyn chan 'r Gwyll
2011-11-02, 09:14 PM
I think the greeks were the ones with the steam engines without a use...

Well, Hero of Alexandria was a Greek living in Egypt, when it was a Roman Province.

Given his tract record, I'd bet his wife was Persian, and he was payed by the Chinese.

Rejakor
2011-11-02, 09:22 PM
Nah, the greeks had giant focusing mirrors and salt towers to store heat.

Yanagi
2011-11-03, 12:19 AM
To kind of support what Beleriphon said.

This sounds a bit sketchy to me. Probably a misunderstanding of a well known and used technique for breaking up rocks. Building a large fire next to/underneath a rock, or rocky out cropping, heating the rock up, then pouring a large amount of water over the rock, causes a rapid change in temperature and the rock can fracture and break. It doesn't turn it into "chalk", but was a technique sometimes used by miners/prospectors to break up large rocks for inspection, or into smaller pieces that can be moved more easily. Historically, vinegar was considered to be a "cooling" liquid. Early cannoneers swabbed cannons with vinegar instead of water between shots. Gradually that idea was abandoned.

The story of Hannibal, iirc, is actually that he heated the stone by building a fire, then cracked it throwing vinegar on it.

The folklore of ancient people softening and re-hardening stone I've only encountered relative to Andean civilization and the mortar-less walls they built up there, which the Spaniards marveled at because of the precise fit. Apparently it's been debunked. The stones in question were simply custom-fit by pounding them into shape. If I can find a relevant article I'll link to it.

The Reverend
2011-11-03, 07:28 AM
We find that Hannibal did have an obscene amount of vinegar on hand. Each of his 30k soldiers had a ration of vinegar amounting to a couple of liters. He only did this once to cut thru a sheer cliff face of not toooo big, but big enough the options were go back the way we came and fight the gauls some more or do this and go forward. The interesting effect is not the cold "cracking" of the rock but the chemical decomposition the vinegar caused. From the videos I've seen of the testing it turn hard rock into something about as hard as chalky soapstone, easily broken apart by picks. Its also assumed that this was a well known technique by his engineers. Supposed to smell really really really bad.

The roman ballista I mentioned I should have called an automatic crossbow. In trying to find a pic of it completed, history channel hade one someone recreated, but I can't find it either. Actually had a nice rate of fire on it and used a bow about 1 1/2 times say the size an English longbow. so unlike the Chinese infantry repeating crossbow was lethal without poison.


One of my favorite pieces of ancient tech is the Chinese double bellows. Big box each side of the box has holes with pipe coming out. Movable diaphragm that can be pushed and pulled from one side of the box to the other by external poles/handles. The holes lead to pipes that join together at junction that only allows air to move thru from the tubes but not blow bck down either, because when you pull towards you air will blow out the hole nearest you while filling the other half of the box with air. When you push the reverse happens. This allows a constant air flow producing superior metal.


If you are interested in this kind of stuff visit the coral castle down in Florida. Modern megalithic structure built by One Guy. Its really amazing. He never shared how he moved the stones around. Some pretty fantastic stories surrounding him too.


Oh question, back in the middle ages what did you polish armor with? Oil and fine sand?

Eldan
2011-11-03, 08:09 AM
I know that chainmail, at least, was stored in barrels of fine sand that were rolled around to remove rust.

B!shop
2011-11-03, 08:31 AM
Oh question, back in the middle ages what did you polish armor with? Oil and fine sand?

Sand and other abrasive materials were used to remove rust from armor (mostly chianmails, but even plates), for polishing they used soft cloths, wax and oils.

Conners
2011-11-03, 08:54 AM
Here's a rather odd question. How "desirable" was it for men, in earlier times, to see a woman topless..? Particularly in European countries, I aim the question.

It's a "major desire", nowadays. But in some cultures (even today) no one seems to care if a woman goes about without a shirt. This leads me to wondering whether it was something developed closer to modern times, in western countries.


I would like to dispel from my mind all the pop-culture influences projected onto ancient times, so that I can write fiction with a more real, historical tone. Large breasts weren't always considered the "in-thing" after all.

Spiryt
2011-11-03, 09:39 AM
Vaclav IV'd Bible -

~1400 some kind of thermae (http://www.freha.pl/index.php?act=attach&type=post&id=1128)

Yora
2011-11-03, 11:19 AM
Nudity by itself isn't particularly erotic, unless you're 15 years old. The context that makes the difference.

It really comes down to what the culture considers appropriate situations for certain forms of nudity.

Knaight
2011-11-03, 11:25 AM
Nudity by itself isn't particularly erotic, unless even if you're 15 years old. The context that makes the difference.

It really comes down to what the culture considers appropriate situations for certain forms of nudity.

Note that the middle ages didn't have flush toilets. This doesn't seem like much, but what it often worked out to in practice was having to take a dump right next to a whole bunch of other people doing the same thing (and the idea of a dedicated bathroom for one sex wasn't present), or in a chamber pot in a relatively open area. The development of the toilet, and with it the bathroom effectively allowed the development of many kinds of prudishness, which peaked well after the medieval era (as in, 1700's if not 1800's). While prudishness is going away to some extent, to the point where the term might not even be the most applicable one, in many ways it still hasn't dropped down to medieval levels.

Yora
2011-11-03, 11:50 AM
Again, most "medieval" ideas are actually backdated victorian ones.

Blurazor
2011-11-03, 03:30 PM
Locks rarely fall asleep, wander off and get drunk, and aren't too susceptible to bribes. ;-)

While this is a good point it still comes down to cost. If you simply feed the guard and clothe him it is still cheaper than paying for a complex mechanism (for the age) that would be reliable. Again, this is pre iron age. Once you get into the iron age it is different.

Blurazor
2011-11-03, 03:33 PM
Note that the middle ages didn't have flush toilets. This doesn't seem like much, but what it often worked out to in practice was having to take a dump right next to a whole bunch of other people doing the same thing (and the idea of a dedicated bathroom for one sex wasn't present), or in a chamber pot in a relatively open area. The development of the toilet, and with it the bathroom effectively allowed the development of many kinds of prudishness, which peaked well after the medieval era (as in, 1700's if not 1800's). While prudishness is going away to some extent, to the point where the term might not even be the most applicable one, in many ways it still hasn't dropped down to medieval levels.

Being a historian by trade I partially agree with you. Prudish ideas have been around for a long time and began to take widespread root with the spread of Christianity. It was still crass and unbecomming to take a dump in the open but you are right that there were common areas where it was done. Of course the nobility were the ones that would be less likely to go where others are but still the modesty was there.

Beleriphon
2011-11-03, 04:04 PM
Being a historian by trade I partially agree with you. Prudish ideas have been around for a long time and began to take widespread root with the spread of Christianity. It was still crass and unbecomming to take a dump in the open but you are right that there were common areas where it was done. Of course the nobility were the ones that would be less likely to go where others are but still the modesty was there.

I'm with you Blurazor, using appropriate facilities to relieve oneself was always socially acceptable. Those facilities may have been exceptionally crude by today's standards (and probably not so private) but there is a difference between dropping one's trousers outside a building and using the latreen dug behind said building.

I do know that Romans had a communal toilet system, but two were built one for men and one for women. That said communal was the key word, including the communal cleaning sponge on a stick.

The Reverend
2011-11-03, 05:12 PM
roman toilet paper. issued to every legionaire....sponge on a stick.

literally. they even had a little channel of clean(ish) running water in front of the toilets to clean it in. at least under ideal conditions.


oh interesting piece of tech was the Fire Piston. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_piston caught on in europe about the same time matches became popular so it never gained much use. used for a Really long time in asia.

fusilier
2011-11-03, 05:38 PM
While this is a good point it still comes down to cost. If you simply feed the guard and clothe him it is still cheaper than paying for a complex mechanism (for the age) that would be reliable. Again, this is pre iron age. Once you get into the iron age it is different.

Actually, I believe the original question was set in the iron age. Also pre iron-age locks were often wooden (see the early pin "tumbler" locks that the Egyptians used). Buying any sort of mechanical contrivance (or taking the time to make one), must be weighted against how much it costs to pay someone to do the same job, and for how long. But in the case of security, it must also be weighted against the potential risk.

If you only need to have something guarded for a night or two, then a guard may be more cost efficient. In the long run, however, the lock will pay off. People made locks at the time, so clearly there was a perceived need. Likewise, if the risk is extremely high, then having both locks and guards could be appropriate.

Knaight
2011-11-04, 01:05 AM
Being a historian by trade I partially agree with you. Prudish ideas have been around for a long time and began to take widespread root with the spread of Christianity. It was still crass and unbecomming to take a dump in the open but you are right that there were common areas where it was done. Of course the nobility were the ones that would be less likely to go where others are but still the modesty was there.

Yeah, you can't just pick a well traveled street and take a dump in the gutter, and couldn't in medieval times, but compared to the Victorian era prudishness almost didn't exist in the medieval era. Consider modern bathrooms built for multiple people - not only are most restricted by sex, toilets tend to be in closeable stalls. That is due to Victorian prudishness getting passed down, and not an earlier period.

Yora
2011-11-05, 03:32 PM
What's the advantage of thatched roofs? They seem like a lot of work to make and probably require frequent maintainance.
But there must be some advantages over other methods of making roofs.

Spiryt
2011-11-05, 03:57 PM
What's the advantage of thatched roofs? They seem like a lot of work to make and probably require frequent maintainance.
But there must be some advantages over other methods of making roofs.

Well they are actually not that much work. Material is more available and doesn't require much 'processing'.

Thatched roofs also isolates really well, against all kind of harmful temperature. It's also relatively easy to replace, if there's a need.

Roof from straws, or whatever is also quite spectacularly light. Also, reduces noise very well AFAIU.

Aux-Ash
2011-11-05, 04:40 PM
You also build thatched roofs so that the straws will funnel rainwater and such away from the building, essentially running along the individual straws and dripping down away from the walls. Which means that if you built it right, very little water stays in the roof and thus only the topmost layers will ever be moist enough to rot.

They built a few vikings huts with thatched roofs at Birka outside Stockholm a couple of years back. They haven't needed to replace the roofs yet. And it was very dry inside the homes, despite the downpour outside when I was there.
Mind, the current theory was also that they replaced their homes once every ten years.

Eldan
2011-11-05, 04:54 PM
The material is readily available... if you have a pond, you have the materials. In places like large river deltas, the materials for thatched roofs and daubed walls (if you do that) is pretty much all you have.