No Science, No Existence: Why Roman Tech And Science Was Parroted and Imported Too Much

Roman Republican ARMY equipment was PURCHASED in Celtic lands (swords, helmets, etc.). Talk about depending upon the enemy… When fighting allies of Carthage in Spain during the first Punic War (264-241 BCE), legions met, and then adopted the gladius Hispaniensis, the “Spanish sword”.  

Then in time for Second Punic War, the Roman gladius was made with the finest-quality steel then available in western Europe, the ferrum Noricum, from the Alpine kingdom of Noricum (roughly modern Austria).  The Roman conquest of Cisalpine Gaul in the period 220-180 BC exposed legionaries to the Celtic lorica hamata, or mail coat. It replaced the bronze cuirass they wore previously.

“Imperial Gallic” helmets were made of fine steel, forged in one piece. They were the products of Celtic craftsmen in Gaul. Featuring a pair of distinctive embossed eyebrows reinforcements in different metals on the forehead region, they were carefully made and elaborately decorated. “Imperial Italic” helmets  were weaker, not made of steel. They lacked the eyebrows and were roughly made, with chisel metal work appearing, by less-skilled copycats in Italy and elsewhere in the Empire.

The Celts had better metallurgy… and this would keep on being true all the way until Frankish steel confronted the three Muslim massive invasions of 721 CE (Toulouse) to 748 CE (Narbonne). To pursue the Gallic tradition, the “100 years war” with the Anglo-Norman-Angevin monarchy finished badly for the English when two engineers, the Bureau brothers, invented field guns.. No doubt another metallurgical exploit. 

Notice also that Spain had also been taken over by the Celts. So the Spanish glavius, which became the main weapon of the Roman legions, was also a Celtic weapon.

The Romans were excellent engineers. And they invented at least one remarkable product: Roman concrete. It mixed in volcanic material from south of Rome. Modern scientists have been trying to reproduce it, as it solidifies at low temperatures and produces much less CO2 than 20 C cement. To this day, the largest non metallically reinforced concrete building in the world is the Parthenon in Rome. 

Pantheon, Rome: Still the largest non reinforced concrete building in the world, 19 centuries later…

However, in other mental matters of the highest standing, the Romans were superb at DUPLICATING the technologies and ways of others, and making technological improvements: they copied admirably Carthage military ship tech. 

But mostly the Romans copied others’ tech (it’s no accident that the Gregian fire, as its name indicates, was a Greek invention). Copying worked well, until the Romans terminated the Greek city-states socio-economy and freedom, thus creativity and motivation (Second and First Century BCE). Then the Romans found themselves unable to copy anybody but themselves. Monkeys without masters to inspire them, soon to the jungle returned. Seriously: there is no Roman science (Alexandria was a Greek city). 

This came back to bite them: Barbarians caught up in military technology. There was a general military tech stagnation: actually even the Germans got caught up in tech by the Mongols. The Huns invaded the Germans (in what is now Ukraine, Russia), because they had slightly better composite bows… with arrows which could penetrate Roman armor. Yet, eight centuries later, when the Huns were back, after costly victories in Poland and Hungary, top Mongol generals remembered what had happened to their ancestors in France (a succession of defeats, the first one inside Aurelianium/Orleans, at the hand of Celts and Francks). They thought their weapons would not be good enough… and went back to Mongolia (under the pretext of the Khan’s election; the Golden Horde stayed to occupy Ukraine and Russia…)

So what went wrong with Rome? … Besides allying itself with the Huns (at some point; paradoxically, when Attila, king of the Huns, died, it reduced the pressure on the Germans, and Rome was unable to recover North Africa, seized by the Vandals…) There was something wrong with the Roman notion of what it meant to be noble and intelligent. Simply, Roman standards were not high enough, they were barking up the wrong tree. They barked up the tree of vaingloriousness, instead of the tree of knowledge. .

The Romans were expert rhetoricians. The Romans were long expert sociologists: they ended up with the world’s largest Democratic Republic (and basically the only one, as Hellenistic regimes were mostly authoritarian oligarchies, or oppressed by tyrants as Athens or the island of Rhodes were…)… The Roman Republic lasted five centuries greatly because it had been smartly engineered, with a number of wealth limits… When those failed, so did the Republic. 

What Romans didn’t have was philosophical and scientific ambition. The Bureau brother invented field guns… But that was generations after Buridan in Paris had overthrown Aristotelian physics… Jean Bureau led research efforts into a more potent powder that could fire projectiles at a much greater velocity, without mixing in the field. Innovations in casting created stronger barrels that were less likely to explode… Four centuries later, when the french Republic got attacked by the coalition of plutocracies known as Europe’s monarchies, the Polytechnique School would be created, precisely to improve the world’s best artillery (which defeated the invading Prussians at Valmy in 1792, not far from Paris).

Also the Franks had learned to forge (with force multiplying hydraulic hammers) massive steel, centuries prior. When the enormous Amiens cathedral started to slowly bulge, crushed by its own mass, a massive steel belt was devised to hold it together. The cathedral is still standing….

What was missing with the Romans was to desire the stars. This is also, perhaps why, when Caesar rolled the most ambitious military plan to insure the safety of the Republic (seize Iran, ram through the Caucasus, take Germany from behind)… He got assassinated by traitors who didn’t have the safety of the Republic foremost (although they pretended that this was their main motivation). 

As it turned out, the Parthians attacked Rome a couple of years after the assassination of Caesar, and Antonius, with around a small fraction of the Roman forces that Caesar would have had, was defeated in north-west Iran during the counter-attack, a few years after that. After that, it was pretty much downhill: the war with Iran would go another six centuries… Until those crafty desert Arabs (by opposition to more civilized Arabs, to the north…) won it….

The Republic needs to be defended, but it’s best defended by understanding. And understanding has no limits, no “limes”… This is what the dictators of China have all too often forgotten, as all dictators are wont to… And why China spent most of the last millennium occupied, or managed by foreign invaders, and their descendants…

Roman existence was not intellectual enough. This is why, ultimately the Roman state collapsed… A headless chicken can’t run out of trouble. 

The Franks, empowered by Roman Consular Imperium, were smarter (or at least elected kings and imperators Childeric and his son Consul Clovis were). The Franks first, concentrated on what was wrong with the Roman dominant ideology known as Roman Orthodox Catholicism. It turned out that Christianism was making children stupid, by outlawing secular education. That, in turn, became the greatest military advantage, and in no small measure why the Franks were able to conquer Europe, including the Eastern Europe which had eluded Rome. 

There is such a thing as the culture of innovation. The Romans had it in many ways, including engineering, under the Republic… But excluding science, philosophy and most other highest intellectual pursuits… Once the Principate ruled, innovation, and the debates which precede it, were increasingly focused on ever deeper and better fascism. The last time the People’s Assembly took a decision was in second part of the First Century…

Science is not just about the honor of the human spirit. 

No science no existence…

Patrice Ayme


5 Responses to “No Science, No Existence: Why Roman Tech And Science Was Parroted and Imported Too Much”

  1. brodix Says:

    Power is the bull.
    The matador is art.


  2. Damion Keeling Says:

    The Celts of Noricum were famous for their swords and presumably helmets. They had friendly relations with the Romans until conquered around 16BC as part of a wider Roman expansion into the Alps. Their territory is mostly in Austria today. Romans had industrial workshops for lower quality gear. I saw a documentary on the mass production of helmets and was surprised that they were pressing them out of bronze sheet.


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