© 2017

Ancient Engineers' Inventions

Precursors of the Present

  • Describes the technical aspects and historical developments of mechanism design in antiquity

  • Reconstructs lesser known inventions based on the classics, iconic references, and archaeological finds from (mainly but not only) Pompei, Ercolano and Stabia

  • Augmented for this second edition with new material


Part of the History of Mechanism and Machine Science book series (HMMS, volume 33)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvii
  2. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 1-18
  3. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 19-23
  4. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 25-37
  5. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 39-50
  6. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 51-59
  7. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 61-78
  8. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 79-87
  9. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 89-104
  10. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 105-119
  11. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 121-140
  12. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 141-149
  13. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 151-169
  14. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 171-191
  15. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 193-198
  16. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 199-235
  17. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 237-252
  18. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 253-256
  19. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 257-317
  20. Cesare Rossi, Flavio Russo
    Pages 319-332

About this book


This book describes the inventions and designs of ancient engineers who are the precursors of the present. The period ranges mainly from 300 B.C. to 1600 A.D. with several exceptions. Many of the oldest inventions are documented by archaeological finds, often very little known, mainly from Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae and reveal a surprising modernity in their conception.

Most of the inventions presented in the first four parts of the book were conceived up to the late Roman Empire and may be considered as milestones, each in their respective field. The fifth part concentrates on more recent centuries. The sixth part deals with some building construction techniques.

Generally, for each of the presented inventions, three elements of research and reference are provided: written documents (the classics), iconic references (coins, bas-reliefs, etc.) and archaeological findings.

The authors did not write this book for engineers only; hence they describe all the devices without assuming wide technical knowledge. The authors’ main aim is to try to communicate their enthusiasm for the inventions and the inventors of the past and to contribute to the fascinating study of the History of Engineering.

This second edition includes new topics and chapters that are of special interest to engineers.


Ercolano Roman Empire ancient engineers ancient inventions history of engineering mechanism design Pompeian artefacts

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Dipt di Ingegneria IndustrialeUniversità di Napoli "Federico II" Dipt di Ingegneria IndustrialeNaplesItaly
  2. 2.Torre del GrecoItaly

About the authors

Cesare Rossi received the Mechanical Engineer Degree cum Laude at the University of Napoli - "Federico II" in 1979; in the same year his doctoral thesis received the Asmeccanica (Italian Mechanical Engineering Association) award.

He participated in many International Conferences, often with invited lectures and as Chairman. His research activities where carried on mainly in the topics of Tribology, Rotor Dynamics, Mechanical Vibrations, Chaotic Motions of Mechanical Systems, Robot Mechanics, Video Applications for Robotics. Since several years he is interested in studies and researches on the History of Engineering and presently he cooperates with researchers (also on the field) mainly in which the Classic Age is concerned. He is a member of the A.I.S.I (Italian Society for the History of Engineering). 

Flavio Russo holds a degree in Mining Engineering from the University of Rome.

Has been studying military architecture and military history in general for the past thirty years, focusing especially on military technology. For ten years he was member of Scientific Councils of the Italian Institute for the Castles and of National Committee for Studies of Fortified Architectures at the Italian Cultural Heritage Department.

Currently he is working at the reconstruction of a roman water wheel, starting from archaeological finds.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Ancient Engineers' Inventions
  • Book Subtitle Precursors of the Present
  • Authors Cesare Rossi
    Flavio Russo
  • Series Title History of Mechanism and Machine Science
  • Series Abbreviated Title History Mechanism, Machine
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages Engineering Engineering (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-44475-8
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-319-83061-2
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-44476-5
  • Series ISSN 1875-3442
  • Series E-ISSN 1875-3426
  • Edition Number 2
  • Number of Pages XVII, 420
  • Number of Illustrations 184 b/w illustrations, 116 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Engineering Design
    Machinery and Machine Elements
    History of Technology
    History of Science
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“The book is well illustrated with both black-and-white and color drawings and photographs. … this book will appeal to individuals interested in the histories of both mechanical engineering and civil engineering. It is recommended to those who are also interested in ancient Greek and Roman technologies. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above; faculty and professionals.” (A. M. Strauss, Choice, Vol. 54 (9), May, 2017)