The powerful Roman army made use of simple yet powerful war machines to conquer cities and expand the empire.
Built to last:
The Romans used sand, landfill and stones to build four-layer roads that have withstood 2,000 years.
Hong Kong Science Museum Assistant Curator Paulina Chan invites visitors to use the small-scale sling-and-pulley machines in the exhibition, to see how they work.
Fresco paintings and Mosaic-style artworks were commonly found in Roman homes.
Exhibition spotlights Roman ingenuity
January 27, 2013
The Roman Empire was one of the greatest ancient powers in world history. Under Julius Caesar, its most famous and powerful emperor, its territory extended to Europe, Asia and Africa. A special Science Museum exhibition spotlights his era, showcasing its creative and superior war machines, and Caesar’s astonishing achievements.
All roads lead to Rome
The powerful Roman army conquered many cities and countries in numerous battles. In the famous Gallic Wars in 58 BC, Julius Caesar’s army took just 10 days to construct a wooden bridge strong enough to allow the entire army to cross a deep river. At the exhibition entrance, a detailed model of a bridge and a small-scale piling machine demonstrate how the army built a bridge, using an effective piling method.
Hong Kong Science Museum Assistant Curator Paulina Chan appreciates the Roman war machines’ creative designs, such as its assault towers and devices for lifting heavy stones.
“If you want to win the battle, you need a very smart war machine. You must build it within a very short period of time,” Ms Chan said, noting the Roman machines had innovative design features.
“They use the least energy but they can generate very strong power to destruct the walls and buildings of enemies. They just used very simple mechanics, such as wood, iron and some strings coupled with levers and pulleys to make powerful machines. They were very simple, but the power was very destructive,” she said.
Videos and museum docents demonstrate the mechanical theory of each device on show. Visitors can also operate the small-scale sling-and-pulley machines to see how they work.
The exhibition also introduces Roman Empire road networks. Emperors wanted their army to have access to and from Rome and all parts of its extensive empire. Experts spent years developing their effective road-building methods.
“I think everybody must [have heard] the idiom, ‘All roads lead to Rome,’” Ms Chan said.
“The ancient [Roman] people had very good techniques in building roads. They built very straight roads, they just used sand and landfill, and also some stones to build a road into four layers. They made it very strong.”
Roads were also built to last, as many of them are still in evidence today, having withstood 2,000 years.
The ancient Romans were ingenious in developing measuring and surveying tools. The exhibit features a groma, used to draw straight and perpendicular lines on the ground to measure land and construct roads.
Glimpse of Roman life
The exhibition also showcases the ancient Romans’ lifestyle. A popular form of entertainment took place inside the spectacular Colosseum: Gladiators armed with different weapons would fight against each other or fierce animals, often to the death.
Helmets, swords, spears and armour are on show, alongside fresco paintings and Mosaic-style artworks that depict them in use. Statues and Roman coins with images of Caesar are testament to his ruling power. A book made of wax shows how Romans recycled their writing material.
The exhibition runs until April 10, and about 150,000 people are expected to visit during the exhibition period. Complementary science lectures and children's activities are planned to enhance people’s understanding of the ancient Roman Empire. For details, visit the exhibition’s website