Alternative History

Age of wonders (Orbis Romanum)

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Timeline: Orbis Romanum

January 10, 42CE

Pliny is already a famous scholar. He visits Hero in Alexandria bringing engineers with him. Hero's aeolipile is demonstrated. Roman engineers are delighted and do some experiments, one of them accidentally sealing the steam vents. The toy explodes, injuring the engineer but demonstrating the power of steam.

January 10, 45CE

Kujula Kadphises the king of Kusha is defeated in the great battle of Begram at the Indus. The king had intended to invade the Roman teritory of Bactria. He is now a prisoner, destined to feature in the next triumph in Rome. There are now 30 Roman legions in India, 60% of available manpower. Roman tactics includes the use of combined forces: foot soldiers, artillery, Persian cataphracts, light cavalry, archers. Roman generals skillfully use the internal divisions between Indian kingdoms to defeat them.

January 10, 47CE

Hero visits Pliny in Rome. He demonstrates his Heromobilium, a cart on wheels moving under steam power. It has a small boiler fired with wood. It can only move over a flat surface and is incredibly inefficient but it greatly delights Pliny. Roman engineers are called in and the first recorded brainstorming session takes place. The toy has an irresistable attraction for engineers and they start making copies with improvements.

April 5, 50CE

The Greek Philosopher Caltrix takes the first steps on the way to the decimal system after a visit to India . To demonstrate the power of his tool he calculates the number of water drops in all the oceans.

August 5, 55CE

The steam engine has been improved by Hero and Roman engineers. It now sports large copper cylinders and works at a higher pressure. A wooden track is laid along the Via Appia from the Forum to Aricia, a distance of some 30 km. The toy will run on it and transport patricians for amusement.

July 1, 56CE

The Appian railway is an enormous success. The train is slower than the speed of a horse but the novelty attract many patricians. It becomes a badge of honor to be able to say "I traveled the Appian railway". The track will be extended to Anxur, 100 km from Rome. Farmers along the track complain that sheep and cows are frightened by the steam engine and stop giving milk.

September 7, 60CE

The rail network is steadily growing. Some tracks are built using iron tracks intended for iron-wheeled engines on a trial basis. The Via Appia is now paralleled with tracks all the way. President Germanicus is an enthusiastic supporter of railways. He was the first to travel the Appian Track all the way. He foresees tracks running to India and Germania. The rapid expansion of the track network is made possible by increased income from conquered nations. The treasury now has 500,000 talents flowing into its coffers every year. The Roman denarius has been deflated over the years increasing the relative wealth of Rome.

October 1, 60CE

The engineers of the university of Rhodos have constructed a primitive capacitor in a glass jar. The capacitor is laboriously charged with a woolen strip on a wheel turned by slaves. After some seconds a most satisfactory spark is produced between two conductors connected to the capacitor, a sure sign that the gods favor the experiment. The poor slaves are worked to exhaustion demonstrating the device to countless visitors. More importantly, scholars devote time studying the phenomenon.

May 4, 61CE

The railway station of Rome gets a mechanical clock built by the master craftsmen of Rhodos. Water clocks used previously were not accurate enough. Patricians used to order a train to leave when it suited them. Now the station master can point to the schedule and the clock and order patricians to wait.

September 17, 62CE

The conquest of India is complete with the last Tamil kingdoms in the south surrendering. Roman legions are now standing at the Ganges river. Meanwhile on the border of Kush, Roman traders following a silk route encounter yellow men. This is the first contact between China and Rome.

December 1, 62CE

The Academy of Plato adds the mechanics of steam engines to its curriculum.

April 2, 65CE

Brittania starts exporting coal. This is a much better fuel for steam engines than wood.

May 4, 65CE

The engineers of Rhodos, already famous for the study of electricity have constructed an elektron pile. The device is a primitive battery made from copper and zinc plates and a brine electrolyte. It produces 50 voltas of electricity and a sizable current that can make a silver wire glow.

February 1, 72CE

A railway from Rome to Alesia is planned. Eventually the railway will run from Rome to the north of Germania.

June 19, 73CE

Roman engineers start building a railway from Caesarea in Israel to Ctesiphon in Parthia. The next stages will take the railway to the Indus, greatly improving control and communication.

June 19, 73CE
Appian railway

A specially designed steam tractor takes 1/50 of an hour to traverse a stretch of 10 stadia on the Appian Railway, reaching the incredible speed of 90 km/h. The steam engine was built by the famous engineers of Rhodos. There is an unofficial competition going on between Athens, Rhodos and Alexandria in building the best steam engine. In spite of predictions passengers don't die from the speed. Record chasing now becomes a favorite pastime of rich patricians. All stations now have mechanical clocks as trains have to run on some kind of schedule.

August 21, 77CE

The Rome-Alesia railway becomes operational, uniting Gaul with Rome as never before. Roman citizenship is now granted to Gauls and Belgae upon merit.

September 19, 77CE

Claudius Fermio opens a printing shop. He has invented a printing machine using wooden letters and ink to make large numbers of paper copies cheaply and quickly. Germanicus commissions him to print (what else?) De Bello Gallico by Julius Caesar.

January 1, 78CE

The dominant philosophy in the empire is stoicism. This is based on logic and reason. Its tenets of virtue and fortitude in the face of adversity appeals to the Roman spirit. Although Rome is the center of the world it can now be argued that Greece is the spiritual driving force of the empire. Most inventions come from Greece. Science has replaced philosophy as the most important subject in Greek universities.

June 1, 79CE

President Germanicus dies peacefully in his sleep at the age of 94. His adopted son Scipio automatically becomes president. The senate is pleased as the name Scipio is well remembered as the victor of Hannibal.

April 22, 82CE

Roman legions win a great battle east of India. For the first time steam-powered catapults are used that can hurl a 50 kg burning naphtha projectile a distance of one km. Enemy elephants panic and bolt, throwing the enemy line in confusion. A cataphract charge seals the fate of the enemy, infantry only being used for mopping up. General Numerus is invited to Rome to celebrate a well-deserved triumph.

April 22, 82CE

The first horseless carriage is manufactured in Rome by the inventor Aneas. The steam-driven vehicle puffs its way to the forum and causes the first motor accident in history by knocking down a slave who was paralyzed with fear when the monster approached.

May 9, 83CE

A steam-driven ship arrives in Caesarea from Rome in the record time of five days.

August 15, 85CE

The wild tribes of Germania take to civilization like a duck to water. In the university of Colognia Agripina the first electrical coil is produced. The coil is made of insulated copper wire and can produce electricity when it is moved around a magnet. Visitors from universities as far away as Alexandria drop in to gape at the wonder.

October 19, 85CE

The engineers of Rhodos have produced the first electrical generator. A moving magnet produces a current in a coil strong enough to make a fine gold wire glow. The device is powered by slave power but a steam engine could also do the job.

March 3, 86CE

The engineers of Rhodos have produced an electric light bulb. Air is pumped out of a glass jar and a carbon rod inside the jar connected to a generator. The result is a blinding white light, even in the middle of the night. With this invention the engineers of Rhodos have established a lead in the competition for scientific advance against other universities, especially Colognia Agripina.

December 15, 88CE

Hermanus, a German scholar working with glass discovers the focusing property of lenses. Soon he has built the first telescope by mounting two lenses in a wooden frame. The miracles of the sky enfold now for science. Curiously, no sign of the gods is found in the heavens.

February 5, 91CE

A traveler from China brings home some gray powder and the formula for making it, based on saltpetre. The powder burns fiercely when lighted. Universities are now researching electricity, chemistry, mechanical engineering and optics.

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