[LMB] Dark Ages [not], was, What makes ...

Matthew George matt.msg at gmail.com
Fri Aug 23 19:46:45 BST 2019

On Thu, Aug 22, 2019 at 11:59 AM Damien Sullivan <phoenix at mindstalk.net>

> Dubious.  Anyway, engineering and other practicalities certainly did
> advance:

But not the theoretical understanding that is ultimately necessary to
produce new practical applications.  How much of our technology is
dependent upon calculus?  Even the few things that don't actually require
it almost always involve it in design optimization.

Oh, and here's a list of Roman science writers.  Geography, astronomy,
> zoology, weather... https://www.ancient.eu/Roman_Science/

" and so Roman scientists, even if their own innovations were largely more
concerned with refinements than new ideas outright, "

The site goes on to note that there are some things the Romans did have
developments in.  But consider the scope and relative duration of Roman vs.
unconquered Greek society - the Greeks had a flood of ideas and
discoveries, the Romans had a bare trickle, despite having far more people,
more concentrated wealth, and existing for much longer.

> Apparently Virgil, Horace, Catullus, Lucretius, Cicero, Seneca, Livy,
> Martial...  don't count as cultural development to you?  Poets,
> playrights, novelists, historians, philosophers...

Their philosophers mostly covered ground the Greeks had already gone over.
Even today, it's noted that all philosophy is covered in the works of Plato
- which is a damning condemnation of the field in my view.  The Romans were
big on history, not so much on novel drama.  To the Greeks, theater was a
highly esteemed function that arose from religious ritual; to the Romans,
actors belonged to the lowest class of society like prostitutes, and
theater was largely an amusement for the proles.

By modern Western standards probably *all* societies have been "absurdly
> rigid and superstitious".

The Roman society has been said to be more concerned with propriety and
codified standards of behavior than medieval Japan.  Even by ancient
standards, they were obsessed with ritual and magic, and their caste system
made India look freewheeling and permissive.

> After all, work is for slaves.    I can hardly find fault in the Romans
> for getting things done.

Yeah, Rome never used slaves.  And despite acquiring virtually everything
else imaginable, they didn't "get things done" when it came to acquiring

> That's a ridiculous claim.

The Barrayarans wrote new 'Shakespearean' plays.  The Romans didn't write
new Greek drama.

> But they weren't.

They were.

> Though Romans do seem to have been weak in
> contributions to pure mathematics.  Your sneering at practical
> contributions says more about you than the Romans.

The scientific revolution proved conclusively that you can produce
infinitely more practical applications by expanding the scope of abstract
knowledge.  We didn't learn about electricity in order to meet needs and
desires, a bunch of nerds studied it because they were curious.  The Romans
accumulated techniques and collated data, they didn't seek understanding,
and so their understanding did not increase.  The early years of
Renaissance discovered more about how the world worked than the Romans
managed in the entire extent of their empire.

These points are obvious.

Matt "man does not live by bread and circuses alone" G.

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