A Conversation for Ancient Greek Slavery and its Relationship to Democracy

Slavery - why the Greeks had No Technology

Post 1

a girl called Ben

Another interesting thing about Greek slavery is the way it prevented the Greeks from moving from theoretical science to technological science. They were great at mind-stuff - Maths and Philosophy, Literature, things like that. But they did not move on to science or technology.

Science requires that a hypothesis be tested by experiment. Technology is almost nothing but experiment (think of Eddison and his 10,000 failed light-bulbs). The Greeks, as you say, saw manual labour as fit only for slave, and not for educated men. So the practical approach to science taken by Galileo, Leonardo, Isaac Newton, and so on, did not come naturally to the Greeks.

The rennaisance scientists lived a thousand years after the ancient Greeks, they had no more to build on than the ancient Greeks did - in fact less, because the ancient Greeks had already invented, but failed to exploit, clockwork and the steam engine. But the rennaisance scientists were not afraid of the manual drudgery of experiment.

Just think - if the ancient Greeks had done those experiments, and 400 years BC had been the technological equivalent of 1500 AD... then Jesus would probably have been photographed, and there might be recordings of him on cylinders. We would have films and recordings of Nero and Caligular. The gospels would have posted on the internet as soon as they were written.

And 2000 years on, where would we be now? Out there among the stars, methinks...

Slavery - why the Greeks had No Technology

Post 2

Almighty Rob - mourning the old h2g2

As fascinating as it is to hypothesise about a world that discovered technology a thousand years earlier, it is not possible to do so.

Had the Greeks moved on to more practical, technological sciences, the world would certainly be different, but who can say how? You and I would certainly not be here to discuss it.

However, to say that Greeks did not have technology is not correct either. For example, Archimedes (?sp) is a famous Greek inventor for whom the Romans had recorded admiration.

Slavery - why the Greeks had No Technology

Post 3

a girl called Ben

Of course you are right - the ancient Greems had a much less clear idea of the geography than the people of the rennaissance did - no America, etc. And Greece and the Med in general do not have the coal and iron ore deposits that enabled the Industrial Revolution to take place in Britian in the 18th century, enabling the 19th century technological expansion, and so on.

But my point is basically that the Ancient Greeks were not that far off the same starting line as the people of the Rennaissance - and that it was their attitude to manual labour that held them back. Also another attitude held them back: that knowledge should be treated as a "mystery" not "for the benefit of mankind as a whole".

I just use the exanples to illustrate the fact that there is nothing sacred about our particular trouser leg of time.

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