greek technology Essay

Submitted By jahbrady
Words: 2726
Pages: 11

Antiquity is marked by great civilizations that seemed to pull off amazing feats that even today we can not figure out how they were done. Modern cities are full of luxuries that we think of as part of the modern era. This, however, is only true on some levels. Many of the technologies that we have and take for granted were invented in the times of the Greeks and Romans. Technologies such as running water, toilets, and even roads. These inventions helped to shape who we are today in the modern world and did just the same in the worlds of the ancient past. Unfortunately these amazing inventions were lost for thousands of years. To think of where the world would be today if computers had been invented over a thousand years ago. This is the track the Greeks and Romans were on. In Latin the word techni was what was used to describe the technology of the time.1 The definition, however, is different from what we think of as technology. This included a much wider array of areas that included medicine, rhetoric speakers, as well as arts and carpentry.2 Aristotle defined technology as “a productive habit” or creating something that previously would not have existed.3 The Athenians had such respect for their technological advancement that they attributed them to the gods and thought that before they had acquired all of their luxuries they lived like ants in dark caves.4 Their pride in who they were drove them to create cities that were of the most magnificent and advanced on the planet. First, the amount of land that the Greek and Roman empires covered was vast. They made it part of life to acquire new lands and incorporate that society into their own. This was driven by a need for more natural resources as populations grew and a simple drive for greater world dominance. One of the reasons that these warlike peoples were so successful was the technologies that they had to battle their opponents. Comparatively they were far more advanced and for the most part easily took over lands. It was recognized that these devices that could bring peace and prosperity could also bring damage. Plato stated “ even the greatest possessions are pointless if one does not know how to use them properly”.5 Major advancements in war technology took place primarily in the area of siege weapons. These are machines that are made to launch large stones or metal balls over long distances. The point of these were to break down walls of fortifications and cities. These were first seen in Greece in 400 BCE.6 Their machines were basically giant slingshots that had a massive wood frame that could take the tension and weight of the firing.7 As this new weapon developed it took on two distinct designs. The first was called the Catapultai.8 This design was more like a giant crossbow and used huge wooden spears that were tipped with a metal point.9 The other was called the Ballistae.10 This was a large arm that was attached to twisted ropes and it was stretched back and launched large rocks using the tension of the released arm.11 This machine was able to launch a 70 kg rock a distance of 350 m.12 This same design was borrowed by the Romans who later perfected it with their own unique design.13 This was called the Onager and it used the same arm system but instead of letting the arm rotate all the way to the ground they placed a barrier just before the projectile release point and it made a world of difference.14 They could now launch the same weight stone over 1000 m.15 This struck fear into enemies and it was regarded as the most dangerous weapon on the battlefield.16 The Greeks did not only make advancements in war technology on land, but also on sea. Ships at this point had gone through many changes as they had been used by many different civilizations. The Greeks, however, preferred to travel by water and naturally they had developed a method for fighting on water.17 The first type of ship that they developed was called the penteconter.18 These used two