Greek and Roman Technology: A Sourcebook: Annotated Translations of Greek and Latin Texts and Documents

Greek and Roman Technology: A Sourcebook: Annotated Translations of Greek and Latin Texts and Documents

Greek and Roman Technology: A Sourcebook: Annotated Translations of Greek and Latin Texts and Documents

Greek and Roman Technology: A Sourcebook: Annotated Translations of Greek and Latin Texts and Documents

Synopsis

In this volume the authors translate and annotate key passages from ancient authors to provide a history and an analysis of the origins and development of technology. Among the topics covered are:* energy* basic mechanical devices* agriculture* food processing and diet* mining and metallurgy* construction and hydraulic engineering* household industry* transport and trade* military technology.The sourcebook presents 150 ancient authors and a diverse range of literary genres, such as, the encyclopedic Natural Histories of Pliny the Elder, the poetry of Homer and Hesiod, the philosophy of Plato, Aristotle and Lucretius and the agricultural treatise of Varro.Humphrey, Oleson and Sherwood provide a comprehensive and accessible collection of rich and varied sources to illustrate and elucidate the beginnings of technology. Glossaries of technological terminology, indices of authors and subjects, introductions outlining the general significance of the evidence, notes to explain the specific details, and a recent bibliography make this volume a valuable research and teaching tool.

Excerpt

At its most basic level technology can be regarded as the attempt by humans to control and master the natural environment, changing it into a more hospitable, if artificial, one. Unlike pure science, which involves a theoretical understanding of the environment that may involve research but often lacks any immediate implementation, technology is the process by which humans accomplish this change. a varied body of knowledge, composed of recipes and practical skills as well as the abstract knowledge of inventions and designs, is utilized to alleviate perceived problems; in the process various devices and machines are manufactured to aid in the conversion of the environment. It is clear that technological innovations have improved human existence considerably by providing the basics of life (better food, shelter, clothing, defence, and transport), and few aspects of life escape their influence. One goal of this book is the assembly in English translation of the most important passages in Greek and Latin literature illustrative of the role of technology in Greek and Roman society. This Introduction attempts to present some of the themes and sources of this topic.

Throughout human history, attempts have been made to discover the impetus that prompted technological innovation. Ancient and modern theories identify numerous stimuli. Advanced societies realize they had once been simpler and often examine the process by which their standard of living had improved. When historical sources are absent, logic, emotion, and religion become rational sources of explanation. the assumption of a very primitive existence for early humans, a time in which society was too simple to create its own technological inventions, resulted in the belief that advances were made by divine gifts/interventions, chance, or natural occurrence: fire was given by Prometheus; lightning created fire, which then melted naturally occurring ores by chance; trees provided food, shelter, and clothing which humans merely had to harvest or put to use.

A more sympathetic view of humankind suggested that humans might see natural examples and then imitate them by artificial means to alter their environment: observation of a tree leaning across a river prompts people to produce bridges; an acanthus plant inspires the creation of the Corinthian capital. the next step was obvious—people invented/manufactured technologies as necessity prompted: the need for shelter compelled them to create them from the materials at hand; lack of appropriate materials or labour forced humankind to . . .

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