Uniformly at Random

The effects of slavery on science

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Another interesting notion from Peter Green’s The Hellenistic Age (Ch. 4):

Slaves were thus regarded as at once essential and a permanent threat.  The solution, a simple one, was to keep them fully occupied […].  All power was to be muscle-power.  The effect on Hellenistic science was striking.  It has often been pointed out that ancient inventors were familiar with steam power (indeed, produced a model) and could make effective pistons yet never combined their knowledge to build a steam-engine.  Water-driven mills were known but not used.  The same applied to the compound pulley, which enormously reduced the energy needed to shift a given mass.  The reason should now be clear.  Any device that left the servile labor force with spare energy was seen as a direct stimulus to revolution.

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Written by uncudh

May 7, 2009 at 1:51 am

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