When we hear the word “innovation”, we likely have some modern times on our minds. However, it is way older than that. Welcome to the world of Ancient Innovation.
Firstly, let’s remember that the root of technology is in the understanding of artistic skills. I have written a special article about these Greek words that can trigger our curiosity. Secondly, our imagination about the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome should include lots of ancient colours. It is because these cultures were not as white, bright, and shiny as we might think.
Every culture has something new
From the pre-historic communities to our times, cultures have always learned from each other. Everything is connected, with slower or faster pace, and consequently information turns into knowledge. Likewise, ancient civilisations were not like isolated islands but they rather traded goods, arts, and insights.
Even when they were in wars and conflicts, they gave something to each other. In 2016, I wrote a series of posts about Vučedol Culture, the main neolithic community in Europe. One of the curiosities about their culture is the passion for stargazing. They looked at the sky and imagined. Subsequently they created stories about mythical people and these stories migrated. As a result, some of the Greek myths adopted imagination from Vučedol.
Ancient Innovation: They learned from the Greeks, before starting to add more.
Who are they? Romans.
There are thousands of archaeological sites across Europe, Anatolia, Middle East, and Northern Africa, linked to Roman Empire. If you live in any of these areas, you likely have one close to your home. But do you find them interesting?
There is one simple way to find them interesting. It is all about vision of how these places were in the past. While now you see them in ruins, you would love to see some virtual reconstruction. The most fascinating thing about the ancient architecture of both Greece or Rome is that it all looks so advanced for that era.
In other words, they constantly innovated, as they used some technology – artistic skills.
Meanwhile, Greek Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian became the orders – rules of architecture. Their significance in ancient Greece was structural, as all the buildings needed to have column + entablature as basic stationary elements. But ancient Romans had slightly different ideas.
The very first cement
During the glorious days of Roman Empire, the Eternal City was full of theatres, thermal baths, temples, and palaces. These buildings were slightly different than their Greek counterparts. Not only they had wall paintings, sculptures and columns, but they got more.
In the second century B.C., the Romans invented their own, very first kind of cement. As a result, they were able to get more creative. The use of that cement allowed the construction of vaults, domes, arches, and other wonders.
After that, another ancient innovation came along with the cement. It is the interior design. Romans were the ones who invented this fancy thing. Eventually the use of cement allowed many beautiful customisations in the Rome’s buildings interiors.
From Agora to Forum
The Ancient Agora of Athens was the special place for trade, gatherings, and – that famous Athenian democracy. Several important buildings were there, including the stoa, also known as basilica. Later on, basilica would become one of the public buildings in Roman cities before becoming the form of Christian churches. Ancient innovation was jut going on, subsequently becoming Medieval innovation. Today we have our so called “modern technologies”, but other technologies were modern back then.
The Romans certainly brought a lot of change to the classical Greek architecture. Still, they kept the basics. The Greek Agora translated to the Roman Forum, with the concept remaining very similar. Further, the Greek orders of architecture got their further development in the days of Roman Empire. After all, the ancient innovation cared a lot about things that had already worked.
Experience these sites
Nowadays, visits to these sites feel like walks in the park. However, a good preparation is necessary. Some of these places are listed as “must visit” and hence often crowded. As I suggest the concept of slow traveling, in some next articles I will thrive to give you ideas how to enjoy the sites such as Acropolis & Ancient Agora of Athens, and Roman Forum.
Meanwhile, take a look at my article about amusing museums.
Some easily accessible source are here:
- Similarities and differences of Greek and Roman architecture, Classroom, accessed June 13, 2020
- Dr. Jessica Leay Ambler, “An introduction to ancient Roman architecture,” in Smarthistory, August 8, 2015, accessed June 15, 2020
- Roman Painting, Timeline of Art History, MET, accessed June 15, 2020
- Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris, “The Athenian Agora and the experiment in democracy,” in Smarthistory, December 15, 2015, accessed June 15, 2020