Questions tagged [ancient-history]

For questions that are set in an era corresponding to a level of technology between the invention of writing and the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD.

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89
votes
15answers
27k views

If the Romans found one working steam engine would they have been able to copy and use it?

I Previously asked if the Romans could have built a steam engine to power a ship, which received a number of answers perhaps best summarised as “probably not but…”. Assuming the Romans couldn’t have ...
26
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4answers
3k views

Zombie perpetual motion machines

Lo and behold! A zombie apocalypse broke out inside Roman territory. In the Iberia peninsula. Being smart as vitruvius is, he devised a plan on how to deal with the zombies. Use them as power sources! ...
11
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8answers
2k views

How can my ancient Roman civilization develop effective steam power for use in ships?

Following on from this question which specifically asks about the consequences of aeolipile development, how can my ancient Roman civilization develop effective steam power for use in their ships? I ...
44
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16answers
8k views

Suitable jobs in Ancient Rome for time travelers

The people of Handwave-land have created time travel technology and are training people to send back to Ancient Rome and become part of the community without disturbing the future too much (to observe ...
12
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3answers
1k views

What consequences would ancestral guidance have?

After realizing how aliens and irradiation are not really suited for my world, I came up with a different idea for how Belgium could become a global power, one which I like more. Basically, at birth, ...
5
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4answers
598 views

What methods might an ancient civilization take to extract fresh water from great depth?

I previously asked What measures might an ancient civilization take to protect itself from extreme heat? The answers gave some useful suggestions as to how cities could be adapted. For convenience in ...
26
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9answers
3k views

How do you layer history?

One of the facets of great fantasy worlds is the depth built into the environment. A well built world provides a complete setting in which stories can grow naturally and appear as a small sample of ...
65
votes
19answers
15k views

What modern technology would be most revolutionary to ancient Greeks?

In Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" a nineteenth century character finds himself in medieval England and shortly manages to build all the "modern" inventions: from steam ...
12
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13answers
3k views

Present time travelers in bronze age - how much could they boost technological development?

Short version How much would reasonably well-educated but unprepared time travelers from the present be able to speed up the technological and social development of civilization from the first ...
13
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10answers
925 views

How would a time traveller conquer the ancient world?

I have found myself approximately 2000 years in the past, I didn't bring anything with me. But since I am here, I want to conquer the world with my knowledge from the future. Or as much as is possible ...
11
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8answers
2k views

Preventing the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire

In this alternative reality Constantine the Great never embraces the Christianity and the Roman Empire remains polytheistic. So I would like to know what realistic change(s) could have prevented the ...
71
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20answers
15k views

How could an ancient race warn the future in a universally understandable way?

Let's say that an ancient race of beings locked away some sort of evil that could destroy the world if unleashed. Let's also say that unleashing it would be relatively easy to do if not warned of ...
126
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23answers
25k views

What could people notice about someone who is two times as dense as a regular person?

I've got a group of magical people living mostly incognito in an ancient society. They look and act exactly the same as regular people, but they are really magicians, and a side effect of having those ...
39
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16answers
13k views

What difficulty would the Roman Empire have besieging a fantasy kingdom's 49 m wall?

I'm trying to work out the logistics of a little fantasy-historical piece I'm working on. Rome at the height of its power (c. 117 CE) has decided to invade a fantasy kingdom up north. It has a ...
33
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8answers
11k views

Could the Romans have colonised the New World?

The question of whether the Romans could have crossed the Atlantic in a storm has already been answered and the answer seems to be: yes but unlikely. Could the Romans have crossed the Atlantic in a ...
15
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3answers
2k views

What would we see of a devastating interstellar war between alien civilizations within 1000 Ly?

I have two interstellar civilizations, both of which are extremely advanced and within a few thousand light years of earth. They go to war and make some stars explode in the process. The Combatants ...
15
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6answers
5k views

What tool would a Roman-age civilization have for the breaking of silver and other metals into dust?

Assume a guy who has a lump of silver, and needs to get it into really small pieces. Ideally down to dust level, if possible. The technology level of the society around him is comparable to late-roman ...
27
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12answers
3k views

How would the constant presence of an affable, undemanding immortal affect a society?

There are lots of books that explore immortality outside the context of society. Either they live alone or in a heaven/palace of one sort or another, or they drift from place to place to avoid ...
9
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4answers
2k views

Ancient Roman Pneumatic tube Postal Service

The Romans had pumps, aqueducts, water wheels (which were used to grind flour, saw wood & stone etc), valves & pipes (they are known to have used stone, clay, lead & copper for pipes). ...
7
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2answers
727 views

Creating a Classical civilization

By classical civilization, I mean one that form the ethical, governmental, scientific, or lexical foundation for cultures that follow. Such a civilization's impact lasts for centuries if not millennia....
5
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6answers
2k views

How would a person with modern knowledge of chemistry and medicine fare in Ancient times?

You were born in Rome, when the Roman Republic was still in power. Your father is an upper middle class merchant and you are (or will be) the sole inheritor of his wealth. One day, a ...
27
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17answers
5k views

How would a primitive society react to a cataclysmic event that disproves their beliefs?

My novel deals with a primitive society, geographically similar to ancient Egypt, based on a planet with rings. The society, known as the Motek, have a very strong sense of order -- everything has a ...
19
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3answers
3k views

What is the oldest a cave could possibly be?

What is the oldest a still extant cave on Earth could be? What conditions could encourage the longevity of a cave? It seems that the oldest known caves, the Jenolan Caves in Australia, formed in the ...
17
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6answers
1k views

How could 1BC Earth speed up communication across vast distances?

Tech level is early Rome, China, Ethiopia, etc. ~ first century BC. Unlike history, there's peace and cooperation among all the benign monarchies of the whole Earth. But it's hard to get daily ...
9
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3answers
1k views

How early can transparent glass windows be easily available?

TL;DR: How early can windows made of transparent glass (can look through) be readily available (not a rare luxury) to "common" citizens (at least top 10% of population)? Disclaimer: I know very ...
15
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2answers
2k views

Tallest building possible by the Roman Empire

In my world a Roman emperor (any emperor of any period of the Roman Empire for the purpose of this question) decides to create the tallest possible tower (measured from base to the highest floor ...
11
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16answers
3k views

What stops a race of giants from wiping out humanity?

Starting from 435 A.D., a race of sea-faring giants has made land-fall in Eurasia and is raising hell. Due to socio-political pressures in their island homelands in Polynesia and Australia (constant ...
7
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4answers
927 views

Ancient divers of Rome

Ancient divers: Vitruvius connected a long tube of cloth, impregnated with special waxes, with bronze rings every 10 cm to hold the tube open, to a pair of bellows connected to crude cheek valves. ...
7
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4answers
1k views

How to build the largest possible zeppelin with ancient tech?

In my world lives a society with ancient technology. By ancient technology, I mean ancient roman-like tech, with full access to ancient greek-like knowledge (like the antikythera or Archimedes' war ...
7
votes
3answers
940 views

How to determine the population size and spread in a fictional ancient world settling

Similar question to this one except I want to calculate the urban and rural population needed to support an army. I want to create a world for a fantasy wargame campaign using some of the elements ...
2
votes
4answers
806 views

Steam boats of ancient Rome

Ancient steam boats: Vitruvius managed to tame the power of the aeolipyle by connecting its rotation axis to a clock like mechanism. Soon, larger models were created, reaching 10kW sizes. Those were ...
4
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4answers
2k views

How would a low-tech device be able to alert its user?

Assume a low-tech scenario, no Electricity, more or less iron age tech-levels. Some people in this world carry devices the size of a modern compass. Within is a very thin (like hair, but of lighter ...
4
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3answers
1k views

Can We Build Noah's ark?

In the Christian Bible story, Noah built an ark that could hold two of every land animal. Now let's assume that Noah lived in 3000 BC and that he had the men and materials to build this boat. How ...
2
votes
1answer
300 views

Explaining high tech gadgets in an ancient world?

In a medieval world, the protagonist has a suit of armor that draws off of his body heat to produce a weak electromagnetic shield that repels against attacks from metal weapons. I don't feel ...
2
votes
4answers
525 views

Roughly how much water would my desert civilization need every year?

In my desert canal world all water is supplied from the poles to the temperate zones via a canal network. I want to work out the amount of water that that is needed, so that I can work out the ...