7 Roman Inventions: Incredible Feats of Ancient Technology


Ancient Roman inventions and innovations did not collapse with the Roman Empire. Although many millennia have passed, the masterful work of the Romans is still visible in daily life.

With an empire that spanned most of Europe, West Asia, North Africa and the Mediterranean, according to the journal Science, the Romans held enormous power and influence in the ancient world. From the 8th century BC when Rome was founded – until the collapse of the Western Empire in the 5th century, Roman technology influenced some of the tools, architecture and city structure of the modern world.

The Romans were the masters of the beginning environmental geniusfor example by using water and their knowledge of physics to generate energy for mills, according to the journal Nature. Meanwhile, on the farm, they were able to maximize their crop yields using crop rotations and the “feed, feed, fallow” system, according to the newspaper. Agronomic crops. Dividing the farms into these three plots ensured that there were always crops ready to be picked.

However, not all ancient innovations can be attributed solely to the Romans. For example, the first calendar was not a Roman invention, but the widespread use of the Julian calendar taught the vast majority of the world a way to track the passage of time, according to the astronomy history review.

From their own unique inventions to improved techniques, here are seven lessons the Romans helped teach the world.

How to heat our homes

The Romans invented the hypocaust system – an early method of efficiently distributing heat. Click on the interactive image below to discover the functionalities of this system.

What to do with our waste

Ancient Rome was home to some of the world’s earliest sewage systems, the newspaper says Durability. These underground sewers were first installed around 500 BC and consisted of giant carved stone tunnels. Many cities’ sewers today resemble those of ancient Rome – but their purpose may have been different, according to the newspaper. Federation for the fight against water pollution. In the modern world, the primary function of a sewer is to remove unsanitary waste from urban areas. In Rome, however, their primary role was to drain excess water that could flood the streets.

Some houses were directly connected to Rome’s covered drainage system, others simply dumped their sewage into the streets, but the streets were then washed to move the waste into the sewers. The sewage then traveled through an extensive network of tunnels, until it reached the Tiber, Rome’s main river. The architecture of the sewers has not changed too much since these old constructions. In fact, Ancient Rome’s “greatest sewer” is still in place today and is one of the oldest remaining ancient Roman structures, according to the Transportation Technology Journal.

roman sewer

Inside a 1st century Roman sewer. (Image credit: Getty Images)

How to plan our cities

The grid layout of cities – also called centuriation – was one of the formats the ancient Romans adopted to divide and measure their lands, according to the American Journal of Archeology. The grid formation, which then organized Roman land into conquered territories, today organizes major cities into functional roads and streets.

The Romans were highly skilled at turning bare land into built cities, as many cities under the Roman Empire were expanded and redeveloped. The design of the grid may seem simple today, but before the Romans produced mass road networksbuildings and other features of the city often followed the shape and geology of the land.

The idea of ​​large towns and cities was also introduced to many countries by the Romans. Their arrangement of intersecting streets created central plazas for commerce, called insulae. This structure inspired future planners, according to an article published in the Spatial Syntax Journal.

How to get from A to B

More than 9,000 kilometers of roads were built to transport and expand the Empire.

The secret of durable concrete

Usually, with advancements in technology and knowledge, man-made objects are continuously improved over time. However, concrete made by the Romans was actually stronger than our modern material, according to a journal article. Nature. For example, while salt water erodes modern concrete in a matter of years, some of the seawalls built by the Romans 2,000 years ago remain intact. Details of how Roman concrete was produced have been lost over time.

To discover the secret of the construction of the Romans, the scientists of the Berkeley Laboratory at the University of California studied the mineral components of ancient maritime concrete. They discovered that a mixture of lime and volcanic rock has been used. This created mortar and volcanic tuff. To add more strength, the mortar was placed in seawater. The water molecules hydrated the lime, which underwent a chemical reaction with the ashes, cementing them together. This formed a strong calcium aluminum silicate hydrate.

Even the structures that weren’t underwater were sturdy. For example, the skillful technique of the Romans, using volcanic rock and ash to build the Coliseumhas kept this famous wonder relatively intact.

Colosseum, Rome

The amphitheater of the Colosseum is made of stone, concrete and tuff. (Image credit: Getty Images)

how to bind books

Although the Romans were far from the first to leave written records, they are credited with replacing scrolls with the earliest form of books, according to the BBCCulture. Called codexbound wax tablets were used instead of today’s paper.

The wax was etched with a pointed instrument called a stylus, according to the Journal of Neurosurgery. These documents transformed literacy because the binding tablets so they could fold together were thinner than the large clay tablets that were originally written on. Codexes were also easier to handle than scrolls. Later the wax tablets were replaced by lighter animal skins.

Roman wax tablet

A reproduction of a bound Roman wax tablet. (Image credit: Getty Images)

How to Perform Surgery

The Romans invented many surgical tools and spread knowledge of surgical procedures, according to an article published in the Oncology Archives. Many of these medical breakthroughs have taken place on the battlefield.

Some of the Greco-Roman tools that helped shape modern surgery include bone drills and forceps, according to Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. Bone drills were used to remove diseased bone and resembled today’s corkscrews. Forceps were among the most common surgical tools in Roman times. They were used to remove small bone fragments from the body. In ancient Roman literature, there are records of some of the earliest uses of syringes, according to the University’s Faculty of Medicine University of Queensland. These were used to apply medical ointments.

It was a law written in ancient Roman times that if a woman died giving birth, the child had to be cut from her body, according to the United States National Library of Medicine. This led to the first form of caesareans.

Additional Resources

You can read more about the roads of Roman Britain at English heritage website. To learn more about the water and sanitation systems of Imperial Rome, watch this video by The open university.



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