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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126
votes
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 ...
89
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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 ...
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 ...
65
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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 ...
50
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32answers
19k views

How to completely destroy a city, without leaving clues for humanity 4,000 years later?

Background I want to burn down a city completely. Nothing must remain, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Even though I'm a supernatural being, I want this to happen in a natural way. I also want the ...
45
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21answers
8k views

What are some tactics for the ancient Greeks to defeat alien invaders?

Context It's the 4th century BC, Alexander the Great has just passed away and his empire has been divided amongst his generals. Now the successor states of Egypt, the Seleucid Empire, Macedonia, ...
43
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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 ...
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 ...
38
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20answers
12k views

How would someone destroy a dam in a world without explosives?

I'm considering the mechanics of a "shock and awe" scene in my novel which could see an old dam being brought down. The era is equivalent to that of the middle Roman empire, so introducing explosives ...
36
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12answers
8k views

How to stop a massive canal system from silting up?

Based on the desert world from this question I need to transport around 500 cubic kilometres of water / year across a desert. Using this calculator. this can be achieved if the main feeder canal is ...
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 ...
28
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1answer
2k views

Could the Tower of Babel actually stand?

As recorded in Genesis 11:1-9, the ancients allegedly built a tower to the skies in a valley in Babylon (near present-day Baghdad), and God scattered them across the Earth as a punishment. According ...
27
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10answers
4k views

Is it possible for an ancient contraption to survive modern-day attempts of breaking in?

Some Context I watched a generic Da-Vinci-Code-like french movie that, in a certain point, featured a secret society trying to find an item of great value that was lost in a vault built centuries ago ...
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 ...
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 ...
26
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10answers
6k views

How do I make an ancient culture without borrowing from known ancient cultures?

Everywhere I've looked, the way we traditionally make a civilization or society feel ancient is by applying ages or architectures from our own history, hence my term "bronzification." A similar ...
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 ...
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! ...
23
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7answers
6k views

What would the Ancient Greeks call a wizard that can control life?

In this world set in an alternate Ancient Greece, science is combined with magic given from the gods. People who study healing arts usually worship Asclepius. There also is a cult that studies the ...
22
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18answers
5k views

How can I prevent an oracle who can see into the past from knowing everything that has happened?

Our study of human history has numerous problems. 99% of history isn’t recorded. Writing has been around only for 5 thousand years, and much of what we know comes from archaeological evidence. ...
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 ...
18
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8answers
3k views

Ancient-Roman-type Postal Service with Rats as Couriers

Background In the Great City the underground sewers extend to all but the most impoverished households. Most dwellings have an outside privy for their needs as indoor toilets are relatively new. 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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
15
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2answers
548 views

Would a Roman civilization be willing and capable of building large scale sea defences against a serious but unrealised flood threat?

Scenario The straits of Gibraltar never quite opened and the entire Mediterranean basin is dry land apart from a few large salt water lakes at the lowest points ~5% by area. The Europe – Africa land ...
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 ...
14
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6answers
5k views

Julius Caesar with a one-time pad

Julius Caesar used a substitution cipher (now called a Caesar cipher) for sensitive private and military correspondence. The cipher involves shifting all of the letters in a message in one direction a ...
14
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3answers
4k views

Behaviour of Roman army versus zombie horde

Consider the zombies to be human-like, with characteristic zombie gait, only differing in that they don't need to eat, they eat out of taste for human flesh, not out of a need for nutrition. Do not ...
14
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2answers
2k views

Ancient culture which has been visited by aliens

There are theories of ancient cultures which might have been visited by aliens. Most of them have been proven wrong but the I like the idea and want to set up such a culture which has been visited. ...
13
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5answers
4k views

Can Papyrus be folded?

I want a character to invent the codex (that is, modern-shape books) in Ancient Egypt, which means that the primary writing material is papyrus. However, most book binding processes involve sections ...
13
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10answers
917 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 ...
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 ...
12
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9answers
4k views

Naval warfare in a Bronze Age setting - few big ships versus many smaller ships

I wasn't sure which StackExchange I should ask this question, but since the story I am writing is basically a historically inspired fantasy, I decided to present it here. The story in question is ...
12
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4answers
2k views

Zombie perpetual machines - logistics

Linked to Zombie perpetual machines This carriage was devised by Vitrivius as a way to make good use of the Zombies discovered in Roman territory. Question: How many zombies would be needed to ...
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, ...
11
votes
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 ...
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 ...
11
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2answers
2k views

Blindfold battle as a gladiatorial spectacle - what are the tactics and communication methods?

The Emperor (may he live forever) has invented a new form of battle for his birthday gladiatorial spectacle. There are two armies, each consisting of one hundred trained warriors. Each is armed with ...
11
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6answers
3k views

What is the largest / longest practical bronze age sword possible?

Assuming bronze age technology and the use of bronze for the blade, what is the longest blade / total length of sword that is possible and practical to use? Bronze age Naue II swords were typically ...
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 ...
11
votes
6answers
426 views

What are the steps to making pantheons?

In a world where people worship different gods and have different principles, how does a government assimilate those gods (make them coexist without one god being superior)? Clarification: I'm asking ...
11
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6answers
1k views

Why would the Old Gods retreat? [closed]

Many fantasy stories include Old Gods (i.e. pagan deities from largely defunct religions) who still exist during modern times. Whether they're like Marvel's Asgardians, who exist largely unchanged in ...
11
votes
2answers
158 views

The North Star in the ancient world sky

Question: Would a modern-day teen, trained in using the north star for directions when camping/hiking, notice a difference in how the "north star" (Polaris) works when transported suddenly to 1350 BCE?...
10
votes
4answers
844 views

Would a species that migrates across the globe discover its roundness sooner?

I have a world with 9 year days. That is, the day-night cycle here lasts 9 years, where ours lasts a mere 24 hours. Very similar to a tidally locked planet, except the habitable belt moves. The ...
10
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7answers
1k views

The Rollercoasters of Ancient Egypt

Suppose that Khufu, pharaoh of Egypt and builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza, was introduced to the idea of an amusement park. More specifically, suppose that he was visited by a time traveler and ...
10
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2answers
390 views

Romans in the air

We know that the Romans invented or used simple machinery like waterwheels, crank mechanisms and even simple steam and atmospheric engines, as well as what we would recognize today as clockwork, but ...
10
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4answers
357 views

What would change a human society's chronotype?

Humans are diurnal. We have chemical signals the control our waking and sleeping cycles, we are evolved with good day and color vision, poor night vision and smell, and an excellent ability to shed ...
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). ...
9
votes
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 ...