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Ed Driscoll

Quote of the Day

September 6th, 2013 - 11:14 pm

When it comes to the heading of ‘Inventions’, I think the sublime moment is this:

The main character in “River God” is the head slave of the imperial palace.  He’s one of those do-all kind of guys; physician, astronomer, architect, inventor, etc.  But, as exciting as his long life is, there is one moment that surpasses all others.
The enemy has invaded and their war chariots, with long razor-sharp blades coming out of the hubs, are slicing the Egyptian legions to ribbons.  The horses and riders are both covered with armor and are almost impervious to the Egyptians’ weak spears and arrows.  This devastating new weapon panics the remaining Egyptian solders and the battle, and finally the kingdom, is lost.

On a hill high above the battle the slave takes all of this in, but what has him reeling with shock and despair isn’t the fearsome war machines before him.

It’s the wheels the chariots are mounted on.

I admit, it must have been stupefying to the first Egyptians who saw them.  After veritably a lifetime of rational, scientific endeavor like the hero in the book; to suddenly see something so obvious must have come as the most mind-altering, ego-shattering blow humanly imaginable.

Not to mention civilization-changing.

As I note in the piece, what’s particularly baffling about it all is that we have natural axle-ready ‘wheels’ around us in nature, i.e., an eroded pebble in a stream bed or a sawed-off piece of tree trunk with a knot in the middle which pops out.  So you’d think it would have evolved naturally, like fire, without any historical point of reference you could point to.  But nope.

So, if you had to boil it down to one single moment, the great architects of the Egyptian empire seeing the wheel for the first time gets my vote.

— “Great Moments,” at Maggie’s Farm.

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All Comments   (3)
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It should be pointed out that, altho it has come to symbolize ancient warfare, the chariot was an extremely ineffective weapon system. Slow, cumbersome, and difficult to maneuver, it required an absolutely flat, open battlefield to be of any use, and even then could be easily avoided by opposing infantry simply stepping out of the way and spearing the horses and passengers as they lumbered past. The Macedonians and Romans didn't even bother with them, they were so useless. It's likely that the previously unknown warhorse undid the Egyptians, rather than the chariot.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
That "first wheel' thing always got to me. I seem to remember reading that the pyramids were built before the wheel was invented, and my mind cannot wrap itself around that --

I mean, shouldn't it take just one log rolling down a hill for someone to pick up the concept? Or a rock even? Granted, no caveman am I, but I still can't get over that.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Domestication of the horse. The wheeled carriage pulled by a horse, the stirrup, the horse collar. Horses were in practical use well into the 20th century. I remember reading about Gen. Patton complaining when he was exhausting his fuel supplies and wishing he had some horse cavalry. In the English speaking world we still rate engines in terms of "horse power."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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