The Innovative Romans

Hey guys! For this blog post, we will be discussing some of the best legacies that were left behind by the ancient Roman Empire. The Romans were among the most talented civil engineers and remarkable builders in their period. Their flourishing empire created and developed some of the best inventions and innovations that persist until today. The video below summarizes the various Roman innovations that we will be discussing about later on in the post.


References for images used in the video

#1 Julian Calendar

Firstly, the obvious Julian Calendar that our present Gregorian Calendar was closely based on. Ancient Roman calendars were likely “borrowed” from Greek models that functioned under the lunar cycle. However, the Romans had a superstition against even numbers, therefore, they eventually modified their calendar to include an odd number of days in each month. This calendar was however, way off the normal timeline that Julius Caesar had to implement the Julian method to base the calendar on the duration of solar year instead. Caesar extended the number of days in a year from 355 to take a guess 365! and he also incorporated the 12 months in a single year. Evidently, the calendar became what is known as the “Julian Calendar”, which was only appropriate since Julius Caesar himself established it (with the help of many other smart people I’m sure!). This calendar was then adopted across the entire Roman Empire as well as several Christian churches. The Julian Calendar however, had an error of miscalculating the solar year by approximately 11 minutes and this brought about the Gregorian Calendar, which was almost identical. The Gregorian Calendar corrected this inaccuracy by revising the schedule of leap years. The Gregorian Calendar was modified and introduced in 1582 AD.

#2 Aqueducts

One of the most famous innovations by ancient Roman Empire was the aqueduct, which originated around 312 B.C. Using gravity, water was carried downward into the cities from springs and rivers further out from the city through pipelines made from stone, lead and concrete. Although not necessarily the originator of aqueducts, the Romans however received much reputation as “the aqueduct builders par excellence”.

The Roman engineers and their astounding skills led to the spectacular arched aqueducts that rose up all over the empire. The supply of water into towns covered not just the basic necessities, but also extended to the huge public baths, fountains, private villas, etc. Till today, we can still see some of the majestic aqueducts that were so skillfully built by ancient Romans. For example, the famous Trevi Fountain of Rome is actually provided by a renovated Aqua Virgo, which was one of the 11 aqueducts constructed by ancient Roman empire.

# 3 Concrete & Cement

One of the most remarkable innovations of ancient Rome was their concrete and cement. This is evident in their roads, their monuments, their aqueducts and many more structures. The Romans made concrete by combining lime with volcanic rocks known as tuff, and this resulted in the concrete being able to withstand any kind of chemical corrosion. They were the first to invent what is known today as the hydraulic cement-based concrete. Some of the most famous ancient Roman structures that are still standing today are the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and the Roman forum (for over 2 millennia!).


#4 Hypocaust - Heating System

Baths were common in the ancient Roman Empire much like the Greeks. There were many large bath centers that contained a variety of facilities such as swimming pools and places for people to relax and interact. There were also many private baths in private villas of the elites. Starting from 1st century BCE, the Romans invented a more advanced heating system known as the hypocaust, which was “a hollow space or system of channels in the floor or walls of some ancient Roman buildings that provided a central heating system by receiving and distributing the heat from a furnace.” Many private homes, villas and public baths utilized this central heating system. Slaves were used to keep the fire burning in the furnace heating warm air. The warm air is then circulated around the building through spaces underneath the elevated floors, which mounted on piles of stones and bricks, and in between the walls through inserted hollow rectangular cylinders.

#5 Sewers & Sanitation

Hygienic innovations were among the biggest contributions Ancient Romans gifted to society. Ancient Rome had seven major sewers rushing out of the cities by brooks and public latrines maintained by 300 slaves during nighttime when people were slumbering. The main sewer of Rome at the time was the Cloaca Maxima (“Greatest Sewer”), which was one of the world's first sewage systems built around 600 BCE by the commands of King Tarquinius Priscus of Rome. It was initially an open drain that was created by streams from three nearby hills that were directed through the Forum (public square), which then gets released into River Tiber outside the city. The sewage system comprised of many divisions off of the main sewer that flushed out waste and refuse from public toilets, public baths, fountains and more. The tight policy on hygiene and sanitation led to the growth of the population due to reduction in waterborne diseases. Up to this day, the spectacular structures can still be observed below the city.

#6 Surgical Tools & Techniques

Ancient Romans invented numerous surgical tools and techniques that were important for modern medical practice; the use of the cesarean section was one such Roman introduction to the field. Under the ruler Augustus, military medical division was formed – one of the first committed and devoted field surgery units to exist. Through the implementation of Roman medical tool innovations (such as bronze scalpels, bone levers, cupping vessels for bloodletting, hemostatic tourniquets, arterial surgical clamps to control blood loss, and many more!), thousands of lives were saved, especially the soldiers in the battleground. The Romans were also one of the first people to sterilize these medical tools before use, innovating one of the earliest forms of antiseptic surgery procedure not totally adopted until the 19th century. What was even more interesting was the fact that a soldier sometimes lived an even longer lifespan than an ordinary person despite constantly being on the battlefield. All of this was possible thanks to the medical advances in the Roman military medical unit.

We hope you enjoyed watching the video and reading our post! Till next time! :)