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

Eric Oppen ravenclaweric at gmail.com
Mon Aug 26 05:41:16 BST 2019

One big difference between the Romans and the Greeks was that the Romans
put their knowledge to practical use.  At one point in the book *Claudius
the God*, Claudius is talking to a friend of his who was waxing rhapsodic
over the Egyptian pyramids.  Claudius sneers at the Pyramids, pointing out
that they did nothing useful and didn't even preserve their builders'
corpses.  He then points to the Acqua Claudia and says that Rome's
aqueducts and bridges and roads are far better investments and much more

One thing that limited most pre-medieval science was the fact that they
didn't have a numeration system that was much good for anything beyond
simple arithmetic.  Imagine trying to do advanced math in Roman numerals
sometime...or maybe not.  Down that path lies madness, decay and summoning
the Great Old Ones to eat everybody.  Until Arabic numerals came in,
mathematics was necessarily limited.

Another factor was the rise of "revealed" religion.  As the great L.
Sprague de Camp put it in his *The Ancient Engineers*, "why strain for
years to understand some obscure natural law when the new religions
promised eternal life and happiness, so much more easily?"  Or words to
that effect; I don't have the book open in front of me.

On Sun, Aug 25, 2019 at 10:03 PM Nicholas David Rosen <ndrosen at erols.com>

> Matthew George wrote:
> > On Thu, Aug 22, 2019 at 11:59 AM Damien Sullivan wrote:
> >
> >> 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, "
> >
> >
> >> 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.
> Still, the Romans did have theater, and did compose drama in Latin, along
> with poetry, history, and more.  There may not have been a Roman Plato or
> Aristotle,  it how man6 Greeks matched Plato or Aristotle?
> >
> > 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.
> The Romans had slavery and class distinctions, but they weren’t that
> rigid.  The son of a freed slave was an ingenuus, and the descendants of
> conquered foreigners were made Roman citizens.
> >> 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
> > knowledge.
> >
> >
> >> That's a ridiculous claim.
> >>
> >
> > The Barrayarans wrote new 'Shakespearean' plays.  The Romans didn't write
> > new Greek drama.
> As I said above, they wrote new Latin 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.
> >
> The early years of the Renaissance saw improvements in art and to some
> extent in technology, although the Medievals had made advances in
> technology already, as has been pointed out; and the Renaissance saw a
> revival of classical scholarship, including knowledge of Ancient Greek.
> The men of the Renaissance went in for Platonism, which I think was a step
> in the wrong direction, as compared to Aristotelianism, which had prevailed
> in the late Middle Ages.
> I don’t see how the early years of the Renaissance discovered much about
> how the world worked; Copernicus and Galileo were late Renaissance, and
> it’s hard to see how there was much advance in science before that, unless
> you count improved perspective (and perhaps use of a camera obscura in
> painting) as an advance in optics.
> Best Regards,
> Nicholas D. Rosen
> ndrosen at erols.com
> ndrosen.dreamwidth.org
> --
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