Understanding Greek and Roman Technology
From Catapult to the Pantheon Course

Understanding Greek and Roman Technology - From Catapult to the Pantheon Course
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24 episodes in this series

Episode 1 Technology in the Classical World
Begin your exploration of ancient Greek and Roman engineering by probing the technological edge that allowed the Greeks to beat the Persians at the Battle of Salamis. Then survey the…
Episode 2 The Substance of Technology—Materials
Study the engineering materials available in classical antiquity. First look at the simple physics of compression and tension. Then consider six specific materials: stone, wood, clay, copper, bronze, and iron.…
Episode 3 From Quarry to Temple—Building in Stone
Gain a deeper appreciation for the ancient world's most important construction material by following a block of stone from a quarry to its final resting place in the wall of…
Episode 4 Stone Masonry Perfected—The Greek Temple
Focus on the classical-era temple, one of the crowning achievements of Hellenic civilization. Where did it originate? Why are the many examples so architecturally consistent? What were the principles of…
Episode 5 From Temple to Basilica—Timber Roof Systems
No wooden roof of a Greek temple has survived from antiquity, yet we can surmise a great deal about how these impressive structures were engineered. Trace how Greek and later…
Episode 6 Construction Revolution—Arches and Concrete
Learn how the physics of the arch solves the problem of the tensile weakness of stone. Then see how standard bricks and concrete greatly simplify and reduce the cost of…
Episode 7 Construction in Transition—The Colosseum
Built in the A.D. 70s, the Colosseum reflects a transitional period of Roman building technology. Follow the construction of this mammoth arena from the ground up. Begin with the geometry…
Episode 8 The Genesis of a New Imperial Architecture
Focus on two structures--Nero's Golden House and Trajan's Market--which are emblematic of Rome's bold new imperial architecture during the 1st and early 2nd centuries. These buildings feature complex vaulted and…
Episode 9 The Most Celebrated Edifice—The Pantheon
Conclude your study of great classical-era structures by examining the greatest of them all: the Pantheon in Rome. Imitated but never equaled, this temple to all the gods incorporates Greek…
Episode 10 Cities by Design—The Rise of Urban Planning
Start a series of episodes on infrastructure in the classical world with a look at city planning. The Piraeus in Greece was an influential early example. Analyze the Roman approach…
Episode 11 Connecting the Empire—Roads and Bridges
At its height, the Roman Empire had 75,000 miles of public roads, organized into a system that incorporated way-stations, milestones, triumphal arches, and upward of 1,000 bridges. Investigate how the…
Episode 12 From Source to City—Water Supply Systems
Delve into the history of water supply technologies. The Greeks solved the problem of transporting water across deep valleys by building inverted siphons. By contrast, the Romans preferred to use…
Episode 13 Engineering a Roman Aqueduct
Design an aqueduct for a hypothetical Roman town. First identify a water source. Then consider its elevation and distance to the town, the possible terrain profiles for a channel, and…
Episode 14 Go with the Flow—Urban Water Distribution
Trace the flow of water through a major city such as Rome--from the aqueduct to water towers, public fountains, buildings and private residences, and ultimately to sewers. Among the questions…
Episode 15 Paradigm and Paragon—Imperial Roman Baths
Complete your exploration of classical-era infrastructure by exploring one of the ancient world's finest examples of an engineered system: the imperial Roman baths. Focus on the magnificent Baths of Caracalla,…
Episode 16 Harnessing Animal Power—Land Transportation
Begin a sequence of eight episodes on machines in the ancient world. After an introduction to the simple machines described by the Greeks, focus on land transport employing the wheel…
Episode 17 Leveraging Human Power—Construction Cranes
How were giant stone blocks lifted using only muscle power? Examine the technology of classical-era cranes, breaking down their components to understand how they provided significant mechanical advantage. Close with…
Episode 18 Lifting Water with Human Power
In antiquity, water pumps were extensively used in ships, mines, and agriculture. Investigate how these devices worked. From Archimedes' screw, to the waterwheel, to the piston pump, each had tradeoffs…
Episode 19 Milling Grain with Water Power
By the 1st century A.D., waterwheels were widely used for grinding grain throughout the ancient world. Explore three different types of waterwheels that were perfected by the Romans: the undershot…
Episode 20 Machines at War—Siege Towers and Rams
Focus on the ancient world's most technologically intensive form of warfare--the siege--which provided a powerful stimulus for the development of large-scale machines such as siege towers and rams. Analyze several…
Episode 21 Machines at War—Evolution of the Catapult
Trace the evolution of the catapult, which overcomes the inherent human physiological limitations associated with the bow and arrow. From hand-operated crossbows, catapults progressed to giant artillery pieces able to…
Episode 22 Machines at Sea—Ancient Ships
Spurred by their dependence on maritime trade, the ancient Greeks became masters of nautical engineering. Follow the development of their ship design and sailing techniques, which were adopted by the…
Episode 23 Reconstructing the Greek Trireme
The trireme, a swift warship with three banks of oars, ruled the Mediterranean Sea in the 5th century B.C., when the Athenian empire was at its height. Yet only sparse…
Episode 24 The Modern Legacy of Ancient Technology
Finish the course by exploring the legacy of classical-era technology, discovering that its influence is everywhere. From roads, aqueducts, and planned cities, to structural trusses, concrete, and the classical architectural…

Comments (1)

Simon avatar
Simon

This has been such an amazing voyage in Classical antiquity that I feel sad that I've watched all the lectures.
Everyone knows to some degree that Romans and Greeks were pretty brilliant people, but seeing — in so much details — the engineering principles they have developed and ...Read more

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The Most Celebrated Edifice—The Pantheon
Conclude your study of great classical-era structures by examining the greatest of them all: the Pantheon in Rome. Imitated but never equaled, this temple to all the gods incorporates Greek as well as quintessentially Roman architectural features. The stupendous dome is a work of engineering genius.
Machines at War—Evolution of the Catapult
Trace the evolution of the catapult, which overcomes the inherent human physiological limitations associated with the bow and arrow. From hand-operated crossbows, catapults progressed to giant artillery pieces able to shoot enormous arrows and hurl heavy projectiles. Revisit a type of catapult called the palintone from episode 1, and watch…
Stone Masonry Perfected—The Greek Temple
Focus on the classical-era temple, one of the crowning achievements of Hellenic civilization. Where did it originate? Why are the many examples so architecturally consistent? What were the principles of Greek temple design? And what were its structural limitations?
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In Greece's Argolid region, walk the mighty fortress of Tiryns, and learn about Mycenaean and classical-age warrior culture. Visit the Heraion, picturesque sanctuary to the goddess Hera, the imposing Roman villa of Herodes Atticus, and the port of Nafplio, with its remnants of Venetian, Byzantine, and Ottoman culture.
The Modern Legacy of Ancient Technology
Finish the course by exploring the legacy of classical-era technology, discovering that its influence is everywhere. From roads, aqueducts, and planned cities, to structural trusses, concrete, and the classical architectural style, the fruits of Greek and Roman engineering play a vital role in the modern world.
Engineering a Roman Aqueduct
Design an aqueduct for a hypothetical Roman town. First identify a water source. Then consider its elevation and distance to the town, the possible terrain profiles for a channel, and the appropriate type of aqueduct. Conclude by examining the complex system that supplied plentiful water to Rome.
Paradigm and Paragon—Imperial Roman Baths
Complete your exploration of classical-era infrastructure by exploring one of the ancient world's finest examples of an engineered system: the imperial Roman baths. Focus on the magnificent Baths of Caracalla, finished in A.D. 235, by spotlighting the major steps in its five-year construction.
From Quarry to Temple—Building in Stone
Gain a deeper appreciation for the ancient world's most important construction material by following a block of stone from a quarry to its final resting place in the wall of a Greek temple. Learn how stone blocks were extracted from solid bedrock, moved many miles, and then fitted together without…
From Temple to Basilica—Timber Roof Systems
No wooden roof of a Greek temple has survived from antiquity, yet we can surmise a great deal about how these impressive structures were engineered. Trace how Greek and later Roman architects covered large interior spaces with increasingly sophisticated timber roof systems.
From Source to City—Water Supply Systems
Delve into the history of water supply technologies. The Greeks solved the problem of transporting water across deep valleys by building inverted siphons. By contrast, the Romans preferred to use arcaded aqueduct bridges whenever possible. Why was this apparently extravagant technique often more practical?
Technology in the Classical World
Begin your exploration of ancient Greek and Roman engineering by probing the technological edge that allowed the Greeks to beat the Persians at the Battle of Salamis. Then survey the aims of the course and preview an impressive piece of technology that you will encounter in a later episode.