Skip to comments.How Europeans Invented the Modern World
Posted on 07/05/2010 8:38:13 AM PDT by ventanax5
Both Greece and Rome made significant contributions to Western Civilization. Greek knowledge was ascendant in philosophy, physics, chemistry, medicine, and mathematics for nearly two thousand years. The Romans did not have the Greek temperament for philosophy and science, but they had a genius for law and civil administration. The Romans were also great engineers and builders. They invented concrete, perfected the arch, and constructed roads and bridges that remain in use today. But neither the Greeks nor the Romans had much appreciation for technology. As documented in my book, Science and Technology in World History, Vol. 2, the technological society that transformed the world was conceived by Europeans during the Middle Ages.
Greeks and Romans were notorious in their disdain for technology. Aristotle noted that to be engaged in the mechanical arts was "illiberal and irksome." Seneca infamously characterized invention as something fit only for "the meanest slaves." The Roman Emperor Vespasian rejected technological innovation for fear it would lead to unemployment.
Greek and Roman economies were built on slavery. Strabo described the slave market at Delos as capable of handling the sale of 10,000 slaves a day. With an abundant supply of manual labor, the Romans had little incentive to develop artificial or mechanical power sources. Technical occupations such as blacksmithing came to be associated with the lower classes.
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There isan interesting book I have just finished called "Justinians Flea". It postulates that the great bubonic plagues which killed over 25 million people in Byzantium alone, so loosened Constantinoples grip on its territory that European states developed from the Franks, The Allemani, The Rus etc.
/src on/According to Zero’s NASA is was the Muzzies who created the modern world./src off/
Greeks and Romans were notorious in their disdain for technology.
Just think how hard it would be to do calculus using Roman numerals.
We forget that at our peril. We toss it away when rather than just confer respect on those who hold different ideas from their heritage, we act as though those ideas are equally promoting of human well being as were Christian Europe.
Progressives are really tolerant of destruction of our most precious heritage. We need to re-learn our history and pass it on.
And at the time, the Arabs were NOT Muslim, contrary to popular belief.
While it's undoubtedly an impressive feat of engineering and construction, how did the Pantheon's unsupported dome improve people's lives in any way similar to the way that the agricultural and industrial advancements in Europe did?
“Arabic” numerals were invented by the hindus, including the zero.
It’s telling when the only known arab achievement is one they have stolen from their hindu victims of the world’s greatest genocide.
Apart from the concrete, arches, roads and bridges, what have the Romans ever done for us?
Amazing they could do that with no real knowledge of chemistry.
a-MEN. Say it loud and often!
Same way with gunpowder. You had to mix sulfur, potassium nitrate and charcoal in just the right amounts. Wherever did THAT idea come from? I suspect some alchemist was mixing stuff and of a sudden BOOM! "Hey, what great fireworks it would make!" says he.
The roads? That goes without saying.
Which their Italian descendants are well-known for into the present day....
>>>what have the Romans ever done for us?
The Romans POPULARIZED A SYSTEMATIC TAXATION system, developed in the East (Pergamum in Western half of Turkey).
Tom Holland in “Rubicon” says that Rome came to find it a “honey pot” as they sold off tax collection franchises throughout the East rather than rely on the established local tax bureaucracies.
This innovation created the first “military-fiscal complex.” It also led to the Romans getting kicked out of Turkey at that time by Mithridates executing all Romans and pouring molten gold down the throat of the Roman commissioner, Manius Aquillius.
It can be argued that the philosophers and politicians (and theologians) set the stage so that the engineers, craftsmen and entrepreneurs could thrive.
It could be said that northern populations were eventually more technology oriented in an effort to survive the colder more austere climate. After all with a shorter growing season (especially during the little ice age) one's interest in bettering crop yields and fattening cattle not to mention inventing things like chimneys would be pretty keen.
Thanks for the reference; I should read the book.
But the argument appears to be strained. The Rus have never even bordered the Empire, and did not even exist as such at the time of the "loss of grip." The Hun invasion that displaced the Visigoths was probably no less of a force than the plague. To attribute the loss of power to a single factor is probably erroneous.
P.S. Is there a single factor for the loss of Constantinople? Probably not. The Christendom, much like in our own time, simply lost its common identity that allowed the vacuum to be filled by the outside force.
You were the one who said “No sale on that one.”, implying that your Parthenon example was somehow not only comparable to the Europeans’ technological advancements, but predated them as well. While the Parthenon certainly did predate them, the two aren’t remotely comparable in terms on their impacts on people’s lives.
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“killed over 25 million people in Byzantium alone”
If by Byzantium you mean the entire empire, then I very much doubt this figure, it would mean literally everyone living under Byzantine rule died. The Bubonic Plague had an unusually high mortality rate in some spots (in the Middle Ages it killed off more than half of the population of Tuscany in Italy), but that number looks far too high.
Looks like an interesting book, nonetheless. I’ve got “Lost To The West” on my any minute now pile of stuff to read. :’)
[snip] Aurelian’s reign records the only uprising of mint workers. The rationalis Felicissimus, mintmaster at Rome, revolted against Aurelian. The revolt seems to have been caused by the fact that the mint workers, and Felicissimus first, were accustomed to stealing the silver used for the coins and producing coins of inferior quality. Aurelian wanted to erase this practice, and put Felicissimus under trial. The rationalis incited the mintworkers to revolt: the rebellion spread in the streets, even if it seems that Felicissimus was killed immediately, possibly executed. The Palmyrene rebellion in Egypt had probably reduced the grain supply to Rome, thus disaffecting the population with respect to the emperor. This rebellion also had the support of some senators, probably those who had supported the election of Quintillus, and thus had something to fear from Aurelian. Aurelian ordered the urban cohorts, reinforced by some regular troops of the imperial army, to attack the rebelling mob: the resulting battle, fought on the Caelian hill, marked the end of the revolt, even if at a high price (some sources give the figure, probably exaggerated, of 7,000 casualties). Many of the rebels were executed; also some of the rebelling senators were put to death. The mint of Rome was closed temporarily, and the institution of several other mints caused the main mint of the empire to lose its hegemony.
His monetary reformation included in the introduction of antoninianii containing 5% silver. They bore the mark XXI (or its Greek numerals form KA), which meant that twenty of such coins would contain the same silver quantity of an old silver denarius. Considering that this was an improvement over the previous situation gives an idea of the severity of the economic situation Aurelian faced. The emperor struggled to introduce the new “good” coin by recalling all the old “bad” coins prior to their introduction.
You are replying to a different question. The issue was not why Constantinople could not defend itself but rather why Christiandom as a whole failed to do so.
"With the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century AD, a Dark Age in philosophy and science descended upon the Mediterranean region. But the unwritten history of technological progress continued. In northern and western Europe, there was never a period of regression. As early as 370 AD, an unknown author noted the "mechanical inventiveness" of the "barbarian peoples" of northern Europe. The Christian ethic of universal brotherhood slowly spread through Europe, and slavery began to disappear. Tribes and peoples became united under a common creed. Europeans not only embraced technology, but they also developed the idea of a universal society based upon respect for the dignity and worth of the individual human being."
"The prosperity created by the new agricultural technologies subsidized education and the growth of knowledge. In the late eighth century, Charlemagne had revived education in Europe by setting up a general system of schools. For the first time, not just monks, but also the general public were educated. As the European economy prospered, students multiplied and traveled, seeking the best education they could find. Christian Cathedral Schools evolved into the first universities. The Universities of Paris and Oxford were founded c. 1170, Cambridge in 1209 AD."
Didn't read it very well did you?
All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
I think that one would have to extrapolate what I wrote from what he wrote.
I think I was much more specific, whereas he was quite general.
Thank you for your thoughts though.
The book postulates that due to the plague(s) all of the area reconquered by Justinian was only held tenuously and individual tribes on the edge or under imperial sway began to develop into nation states.
To my mind the two greatest events that eventually caused the loss of Constantinople were the plagues, and the sack of the city bythe Crusaders lead by the Venetians.
After thatitwas only a matter of time.
That is only one example.All manner of engineeringincluding road building (some still in use today), the draining of the Pontine marshes, the central administration of government, even the make up of armies is still to some extent used today. Euyrope did not develop in a vacuum it stood on the shoulders of the older cultures.
There is another excellent book to read called “The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire”. It is a bitheavybut very absorbing.It also goes into some description of the plague too. And yes by Byzantium I mean the empire which included parts of Africa, Egypt, Italy, Anatolia, etc.
I had in mind that salient example, too. Christians --- on a Crusade, no less --- sacking the seat of the Christian Empire. What better example of a Christendom's loss of common vision do we need?
“We need to re-learn our history and pass it on.”Well said.
What about Heron’s (Hero) inventions? http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/HeronAlexandria.htm
Does anyone remember the series “Connections”? It would follow the roots and development of invention and technology. It didn’t just burst from Zeus’ brow in the Victorian era.
Exactly — was probably sheer luck the first time, then trial and error to make it happen again.
Since you spoke specifically about Constantinople, I beg to differ.
Regardless, in what way did Christendom fail to defend itself?
The collapse of the Byzantine rule in Egypt, north Africa, and in the Holy Land was rapid; the fight for Anatolia was one of slow withdrawal, and was the trigger for Constantinople’s call for aid in Roman Catholic Europe. The Moslem attacks took the form of rapid, mobile raids for plunder, pillage, burning, kidnapping, rapine, and murder. The fade went on for centuries; from the loss of Egypt and n Africa (639 for Egypt) to the fall of Constantinople (1453) is a gap of eight hundred years.
It took eight centuries or so, but the Spanish kicked out the Muzzies; during the Moslem occupation of Iberia, the French defeated the Moslems in the Pyrenees, preventing the establishment of a Moslem realm in southern France.
The Crusades were successful for a century or more, here and there, and the Crusaders weren’t really cut out for Middle Eastern warfare, and were at each others’ throats most of the time, both in the Holy Land and in Europe. It’s a wonder it lasted as long as it did. On balance, it probably distracted the Muzzies from trying to invade Europe via land and sea.
The Portuguese defeat in Morocco in 1578 resulted from an alliance with a deposed Sultan, and led to the Spanish rule of Portugal for, hmm, too lazy to look it up. The US, British, and French beat on the Barbary Pirates for decades, finally putting them out of business in 1830. The Turkish caliphate which began in the early 16th century (by began, I mean started to conquer its rivals) was defeated at the gates of Vienna, and ceased to exist (thanks to Ataturk and “General Ennui”) in 1924.
We are seeing the latest in many a resurgence of Islamic terror. It won’t come to an end until we pry that black stone out of the ka’aba and convert it to a urinal for the White House.
Uh, the Greeks and Romans *were* Europeans. :’) Just sayin’.
"in what way did Christendom fail to defend itself?"
Up until the middle of the VII century, as you know, there was not such thing as Islam. North Africa was a Christian land, full of important centers of Jewish and Christian learning. In a span of one half of a century, all this was gone, irreversibly to to the present day. Muslim al Andaluse lived for eight centuries (672--1492), i.e. longer than the Roman Empire; this is essentially the only land that was regained up until the fall of the Turkish Empire. In other words, your list of victories may be read differently. To be sure, Muslims were stopped by Martel, but but why only there? Look at North Africa today or Eastern and Central Europe up until XX century. The list of victories does not look so victorious. As you also know Turks have managed accept Islam on their way from the East, became the forward of jihad, and by XI-XII century have concurred lands around Constantinople (Thrace, etc.) They were given all the time they needed --- it took centuries from crossing into Europe to taking Constantinople (this is important by itself: the local population grew to like the Turkish rule, which was indeed progressive as the only extant meritocracy in Europe). They have not been dislodged. This too does not feel like much victory --- or even fight, for that matter.
Roman Empire was strong as long as its citizens identified with it and viewed themselves as Romans. And, conversely, it weakened when local loyalties prevailed over the imperial: only then did various barbarians (Suevi, Allemani, Vandals, Gauls, Visigoths, etc.) attain victory.
It is my belief that Christendom had sufficient resources to stop Islam in its tracks (or at least confine it to the Middle East). It would not have failed to do so had it valued that outcome more than the internal differences.
I am not suggesting that the West should mimic this today, but that is precisely what we presently (and always could) observe on the other side: Muslims unite behind a Muslim fighting an "infidel." Turks seizing the European lands acted on behalf of the entire Islam (even Arabs, for whom they have a dislike).
To summarize: Christendom had sufficient resources to repel the advance of Islam and failed to do so because the Islamic threat was viewed as that to individual kingdoms rather than the Christian World as a whole.
"Islamic terror. It wont come to an end until we pry that black stone out of the kaaba"
It could come to an end even sooner. I often wonder: our understanding with the Russians has always been mutually assured destruction (i.e., we'll wipe you out if attacked); why is there not equivalent for the Islamists? There is nothing hypothetical here: we have been already attacked. I am sure that, if not stopped completely, the pressure would be considerably reduced if we gave an ultimatum: one more terrorist attack --- Mecca will be wiped out. It took Reagan one bombing raid to make Lybian terror nonexistent for almost 30 years.
We have to attack what is dear to them. It is not their lives, which they do not value. It must be the holy places. I have no problem with that, as they attack places that are holy to us. Until terror is made expensive in their terms, it will not stop.
If Christendom had not fought back, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.
But I wholeheartedly agree — their so-called holy places must be threatened. Even before that, the Islamic population in the US and Europe has to be gotten rid of. In Europe, Islam should be reclassified as a form of Nazism, and banned under existing denazification laws. In the US, going after their economic base of support (which is the Saudis) and their pattern of soliciting and sending economic support to terrorist organizations should be the approach.
re: other stuff
I didn’t remark that Portugal fell under Moslem rule; Portugal came into being after the liberation of Iberia which is still called the reconquista, the Moslems ruled south of the Pyrenees for centuries, and the Christian kingdoms slowly whittled them down. Later on, the Portuguese monarch and most of the nobility of the country, plus their armed forces, headed to Morocco to try to put a deposed sultan (a Moslem) back on the throne, and failed; they were defeated and mostly killed on the spot.
The Roman Empire started during the Republic period, began with the subjugation of neighboring city-states in the 7th century BC, and continued for a thousand years (actually, until the 5th c AD) in the west, and an additional thousand in the east. Roman rule of Macedonia and Greece started at the end of the 3rd century BC, and that’s where Byzantine rule held on longest, 200 BC to 1453 AD, nearly 1700 years.
The city of Rome was polyglot as far back as history can take us. The Roman army was reorganized by Augustus; he eliminated half of the legions and created the Praetorian Guard (which was a full legion, and quartered in Rome for protection of the Emperor and general security). In addition to the 28 regular legions he systematized the use of auxiliaries, 28 legions’ worth of ‘em, and they were not only not citizens to start with, they were foreigners. That sometimes backfired (Teutoborg Forest), but by and large it worked well. The Roman army was pretty small, considering the amount of territory, the size of the threat, and the overall population under Roman rule.
The Roman Empire was the place to be. One Roman writer joked that one had to travel to the provinces to hear Latin spoken; the great writer Ovid OTOH was banished by Augustus to colonies on the north shore of the Black Sea, and came to speak the local Scythian tongue. The population of the Empire was large, and the Latin veneer was thicker in some places than in others. As much as 15 percent of the imperial population was Jewish (at the peak), which was a pretty fair number of people. The last of the emperors from the so-called noble houses of Rome was among the immediate successors to Nero, during the Year of Four Emperors. The general Vespasian wound up Emperor, and after that the ethnic origin of the office was wide open.
Roman religion was a little too open perhaps; beginning perhaps with Julius Caesar, the Senate started deifying dead leaders, which would appear to us to be completely ridiculous, and probably the total mess of deified emperors and foreign cults undermined the supremacy of both the Roman pantheon of deities, and the credibility of the state.
Pompeii had a nice thriving temple and community of worshippers of Isis; in one of the buried houses (may have been in Herculaneum, can’t remember) a Cross had been attached to the wall in a windowless room of one of the houses. It’s not known for certain, but has been speculated that the occupant of the house quick grabbed the Cross and fled the destruction. It could easily have been removed long before the eruption, when the person changed residences, or got caught and punished. Also found in the ash was an ivory carving of an Indian deity.
Thanks; I enjoyed reading your posts.
Thanks also for clarifying the previous remark regarding Portugal (I was considerably puzzled).
To be exact, it was in 1517, when Selim the Grim (love the name) conquered the Arabian peninsula and declared himself Caliph.
Well, most of them anyway. That Ankythera(sp) device is interesting and obviously some sort of a computer and Archimedes came up with some pretty neat inventions.