Roman Engineering

The Roman Empire was not only the largest empire seen since Alexander the Great, but the most technically advance.
There are many different inventions produced by the Roman engineers that used today. Can you think of some?

Roman Roads

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The Romans are often associated with the extensive network of roads they made that traveled all over
Italy, Europe, Greece, and quite an extensive network in Britain too.

If you were to see a map with the roman roads marked on it, you will never find a curve.
Roman roads were made straight unless there was a large obstacle such as a mountain or mountain range.
When one was encountered, the Romans would turn to the direction
they were going to go around the obstacle, and make a straight line going that way.

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How might the Romans have made their roads precise and straight?
How could they know exactly what direction their destination was over hills and obscurities?
Actually, they had a device that made it very simple. This device is known as a Groma, as shown to the right.
The groma is a pole with two bars crossing over each other at exactly ninety-degree right angles.
It works by having a surveyor line up one of the pair of strings towards his destination.
Then another surveyor with his groma goes to a spot in line with the first groma and lines his up to the next high point.
Each surveyor plants a beacon on the high point and then a road is built following the beacons.


Roman roads were made by first digging a trench where they wanted the road, next the put in sand, stones, and cement,
then put another layer of cement mixed with tiles, and then put the cut surface stones down.
The larger stones were put on the outside to hold it all in.

Did you know that Romans measured their roads too? They had a system of measurement called "The Roman Mile" in which it was approximately 1,000 paces. But everyone's pace is different, so the Romans figured they'd go ahead and create another invention centuries before its time.

Roman_odometer.jpgWhat they invented, is used today in cars, its an odometer. What you see in the picture is a replica made based off of written descriptions. The wheel's have a four foot diameter. Which meant that the wheels turned four hundred times for every mile. One of the wheels was connected to a center cog that had four hundred little nails in it. That meant that the center cog would make a full rotation every 400 turns of the wheel. When the center cog turned all the way around, it dropped a pebble into a tin waiting to catch it. In this way, they could tell the distance between cities and tell the lengths of roads.

Modern Inventions made by the Romans

If you've ever been to Rome in Italy, you have probably gone to see the Colosseum.
But you might not have known you were looking at the location of the very first elevator.
The Colosseum was built with an underground level filled with cells of gladiators slaves, lions,
and other exotic and dangerous animals. When they wanted to send one up to entertain the crowd,
they had a team of slaves operate the elevator.

To see a visual representation of how the elevator worked, refer to ¹

Irrigation and Other Water Channeling Uses

One of the things the Romans used rivers for, was for mining. they made a channel from the river go to large tanks of water along a hillside.
Every day the tanks would fill and the Romans would open the gates, releasing thousands of gallons rushing down the hillside. All the water would clear the hillside of dirt, exposing valuable minerals to be mined. It was much more effective than having hundreds of men walk and dig for signs of gold.external image moz-screenshot.jpg
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Above is a short clip from the Monty Python movie "The Life of Brian". They are wondering, what did the Romans, ever do for us?

Works Cited

¹ Discovery channel series: Machines of Malice: Ancient Times

What the Romans Did for Us Series: