Great Moments in History: The Roman Empire

From 27BC to 476AD (or 1453BC depending on if you are referring to the eastern or western Roman Empire) the Roman empire covered much of the world as it was known at the time. During it’s span, it was known for its large, well trained army, and contributions to civilization including architecture and roads. Like every civilization before it and many since though, it came to an end. Would technology have helped prevent this or would it have sped up the demise?

Since we mentioned roads, we’ll start there. The engineering that went into building Roman roads was credited as being one of the reasons that the empire could sustain itself. Innvoations included crowning the road so it drained and paving them so they lasted longer. But for the roman citzen traveling in those days there was no way to know if storms had washed out bridges, if a cart carrying vegetables overturned and was blocking traffic or if a band of barbarians had set up a toll booth on one of the roads furthest away from Rome. To answer these questions, multiple innovations could have been used to help keep citizens informed. The Department of Public works could have used Twitter to let followers know about traffic conditions, delays, etc. RSS feeds could also have been used by the local scribe so that people who followed the news would automatically be informed of a story about the delay. Finally, for those morbidly curious to see if the overturned cart had caused any injuries, a link could be provided to a streaming web cam so that live images of the road could be seen right from the home without having to go through the hassle of actually leaving the house.

Of course as useful as all that technology could have been, what some people would really want to see is the gladiator fights on YouTube. It has been written in multiple places that the gladiator games were set up as a distraction for the people of Rome and the rest of the Empire. On something like YouTube, aspiring gladiators could post thier backyard fights in hopes of getting noticed by a promoter or bootleg cuts of the greatests fights of all time could also be seen and commented on by fans.

So would technology have saved or destroyed the Romans? We’ll never know since it didn’t exist at the time. Scholars of things that never were though could argue that the instananeous transfer of information could have helped adminstrators and military leaders keep tabs on areas that were farther away from Rome without committing a lot of resources. Reviews of blogs could help them get a sense of the mood of the people and make adjustments to avoid being stabbed in the back like Caesar. Then again, the people could have stayed glued to their screen watching gladitators fight or traffic cams and never notice their empire crumbling around them.

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