Augustus Caesar : A Roman Disaster .
12 Dec 2007
General Discussion :
Innovation is always at the expense of vested interests . If the vested interests have control of the society’s power levers , innovation is stifled . A bad collapse is then inevitable somewhere down the line .
A small number of competing states can only survive if they encourage innovation . (This is the generally accepted reason why Western Europe is dominant over China .)
Western Europe in Augustus’s time already had the basic building blocks of an industrial revolution .
Universities (Alexandria , steam engines)
Upward social mobility
Adoption of any new ideas (a Roman Republic speciality)
All this was brought to a crashing halt by Augustus freezing the status-quo into the Empire . Even that would have been tolerable if he had not been so damn good . He calculated the exact military forces the Empire would need to remain stable . (Hence his moans about Varus and his 3 legions.) He set it up . Not too many soldiers or too few . For two centuries it lasted . A magnificent achievement .
Note that technological advancement resumed in the low-areas of Netherlands , Belgium .(Windmills , watermills , metallurgy , weaving) If you look at the historical population densities , these are the areas that showed no dip in population figures . The fall of the Western Roman Empire did not affect them at all .
Augustus had some help from China , where Emperor Shi Huangdi had created the Qin Empire in 221 BC . The Chinese had practical , hands-on advice about how to stabilize conquered territories . The contact was via the silk trade initially , but was kept very quiet up till recently
It was in the Chinese interest to steer a far Western Empire into a constitutional stasis . They had definite records of Alexander the Great , and had no desire to repeat the experience .
There is some evidence that the formula for gun-powder was deliberately leaked to western states because they could better use the destabilizing effects against the Mongol and Islamic threat in the west . In the long term , this was a correct thing to do from the Chinese and Western viewpoints . But it was a desperate thing to do .
An Alternative History .
Augustus dies young . The nascent Roman Empire fragments into Western and Eastern parts . These fragment in turn till they resemble western Europe during the Renaisance .
Rome is just one state amongst many . It’s genius for pragmatism and necessity for incorporating Egyptian grain supplies (and the Alexandrian University) , together with the paper supply from Egyptian reeds , leads to a technological and scientific revolution .
Eminently suitable for the shallow harbours and estuaries of the Med . Basically , steam driven galleys . It is a niche never utilized in our time-line because propeller-driven craft developed for Atlantic crossings made better gunpowder weapons platforms. Yet , without guns , a Med paddlesteamer would have been a killer .
Grain and troops (think logistics) could be delivered against the wind and at any time of the year .
But would this not lead to the same Empire ?
No , because the slavery meme would be broken . A machine can do it better .
In our time-line this happened when Jethro Tull invented the seed-planter(1700) , AND it was adopted in England . The pulse of wealth (a factor of 4) fuelled the Industrial Revolution . To put it into perspective , an Acre of ground planted with Jethro Tull’s planter yielded four (4) times as much . In an agrarian society , this multiplied any farmer’s income by four . Think of your salary being four times higher . Not just this year , but every year after .
Other inventions followed as everybody wanted to get rich quick . Slavery cannot compete .
Note Gallic ball-bearings and harvesters .
Something similar would have developed in the alternative time-line .
And so it would have went .