The Romans had everything needed to build a steam engine (1712). Yet, they chose not to innovate.

What if the Romans did choose to innovate? What would they use the engine for early on to popularize the new source of energy and why?

Would they invent things in the same order as industrial Europeans/Americans or would they do it in a different order?

I see my question is very vague, but I'm not sure how to make it more narrow without breaking the meaning of the question.


closed as primarily opinion-based by L.Dutch, sphennings, Mołot, anon, Bellerophon Oct 23 '17 at 15:35

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Ben Hur on steam chariots... seriously... this is not a forum for open discussion, we strive to give answer to narrow questions. Please rework your question to make it such. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Oct 23 '17 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ Khorps, this question is quietly lurking near the border of too-broad territory, but do not get discouraged. A good fix-it pattern might be to state your theory (e.g., steam-powered gladiator robots) and ask if this seems likely/practical given what else we know about Romans. That said, this question is just so intriguing I likely won't be able to resist... $\endgroup$ – akaioi Oct 23 '17 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ Per above comment, there's extensive sturm und drang in meta forum right now about: (a) list-of-options kind of answers, which broad-ish questions tend to invite, and (b) answering broad questions at all. $\endgroup$ – akaioi Oct 23 '17 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ See, I knew this was going to happen! I was just waxing eloquent about Aeolipile vs Newcomen Steam Engine, and private vs public innovation when the Q got closed. Khorps please do not get discouraged. You've got a corker of a question in embryonic form here, I'd surely hate to see it go to waste. $\endgroup$ – akaioi Oct 23 '17 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ Hi Khorps. Your question has been put on hold. "Primarily opinion-based" basically means that there are no objective criteria on which to judge answers, which we require; or at least that the people voting to close couldn't discern any clear enough such. Without such criteria, there is no way to know whether any given answer actually, to within our standards, answers the question. As has been suggested already, you can probably fix this simply by making an Edit that adds some sort of objective criteria for what separates a good answer from a bad answer from a non-answer. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Oct 23 '17 at 16:58

I imagine they would use it for similar purposes to its historical use. Namely draining mine workings (in the cases where this was an important issue), to allow easier and deeper access to mineral deposits.

There are probably a lot of reasons why the Romans didn’t develop steam.

Firstly although they may have had all of the component parts it might not have been at all obvious how to arrange them and devise a working engine to the minds of the ancients. In fact more than a thousand years later and the penny still hadn’t dropped so it can’t have been that obvious despite the fact that after the event we think it should be obvious.

Although they may have had all of the parts they may not have been used by the same people for the same things at the same time. It would perhaps be as if in our world a milling machine innovation needed to be coupled with a lock gate innovation and a new furnace innovation. Might happen but it’s not at all obvious who is going to be in a position to come up with that one.

There was also no pressing need for a steam engine as most mine workings were still fairly near the surface and for those that weren’t the Romans would probably have fallen back on their mechanical engineering strengths to find a solution using levellers and pulleys etc and or slave labour.

  • $\begingroup$ curious why the down vote? $\endgroup$ – Slarty Oct 23 '17 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ Not my downvote, but I can imagine someone felt that with your experience on the site, you should have recognized that this question was likely to be closed. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Oct 23 '17 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ hum.. well slap my wrists ;o) $\endgroup$ – Slarty Oct 23 '17 at 17:11

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