The width of a horse's ass in ancient Rome and why it matters today.

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jun 30, 2009 3:19 PM GMT
    INTERESTING HISTORY LESSON

    Railroad tracks.

    The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet,
    8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number.

    Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in
    England , and English expatriates built the US railroads.

    Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines
    were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and
    that's the gauge they used.

    Why did 'they' use that gauge then? Because the people who built the
    tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building
    wagons,which used that wheel spacing.

    Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if
    they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on
    some of the old, long distance roads in England , because that's the
    spacing of the wheel ruts.

    So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first
    long distance roads in Europe (and England ) for their legions. The
    roads have been used ever since.

    And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts,
    which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon
    wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all
    alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore the United States
    standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the
    original specifications for an ImperialRoman war chariot.. Bureaucracies
    live forever.

    So the next time you are handed a specification/ procedure/process and
    wonder 'What horse's ass came up with it?', you may be exactly right.
    Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate
    the rear ends of two war horses. (Two horse's asses.) Now, the twist
    to the story:

    When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two
    big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These
    are solid rocket boosters, or SRB's. The SRB's are made by Thiokol at
    their factory in Utah . The engineers who designed the SRB's would
    have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRB's had to be
    shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad
    line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the
    mountains, and the SRB's had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is
    slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know,
    is about as wide as two horses' behinds.

    So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the
    world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two
    thousand yearsago by the width of a horse's ass. And you thought being
    a horse's ass wasn't important? Ancient horse's asses control almost
    everything... and CURRENT Horses Asses are controlling everything
    else.

    Which is why the Marbles should be in the Smithsonian. QED.
  • Rowing_Ant

    Posts: 1504

    Jun 30, 2009 5:16 PM GMT
    Hmm not quite. Nearly, but not quite

    4 feet 8.5 inches in Imperial Measure is the Standard Guage for the railways in the UK, from 1846, not beofre. Also 4 feet 8 inches was not the the standard span for all vehicles in the UK or Europe.

    Prior to 1846 railways were built at various gauges, but the most common was the "Stephenson Gauge" i.e.the gauge, 4 feet 8 inches from wheel centre to wheel centre as that was the current "span" used on coaches, wagons etc etc.

    Isembard Kingdom Brunel thought the Stephenson Gauge too narrow and instead adopted a 7 foot gauge. Other engineers adopted 5 foot gauge.

    In Europe the Metre and 5 foot gauge predominate.

    Due to the differances in guages in the railways, Parliament convened a board of inquiry into the gauges and found in favour of the Stephenson gauge as that was the most numerous. Other railways had to be re-laid to the then new "Standard Guard"; it took until 1892 for all the 7 foot track of Brunel to be replaced with "Standard". Other railways that used the 5 foot gauge kept it.

    The 7 foot gauge made for wider locomotives which were more stable at high speed, were lagrer and more powerful, and could carry approximately twice the cargo or passengers as a Standard Guard train of an equivalent length. The big problem was, was the cost of the infrastructure in terms of civil engineering and cost of land.

    The other issue with gauge is termed Loading Guage - i.e. how much of the locomotive or vehicle over hangs the track and how heigh it is for tunnels etc. In the UK the loading gauge is 13 feet 1 inch as a lot of the early railway locomotives etc built in the 1820s to 1840s were not that big which means that civil engineering works were built for them, which means modern locomotive an vehicles have to be built according to design criteria 150+ years old.

    In the US, due to land being cheaper, the loading gauge is far more generous than the UK.

    Further more, the Romans did not have "war chariots" - they didn't have or use chariots for war. They had chariots for racing - but please ignore the rubbish you see in e.g. Ben Hur as that is a terrible late 19th century American travesty of Roman history!

    Indeed the span ie distance from wheel centre to wheel centre of Roman vehicles was 5 feet, no 4 feet 8.5

    The Romans were poor horsemen and tended to have cavalry supplied by Auxlia/Numerii units recruited from none citizen people of the Roman Commonwealth, e.g. horsemen from Scythia or Parthia or Batavia, Egyptian boatmen etc, utilising the strength and specialisation of other nations to add to and compliment their own exceptional infantry.

    Furthermore, I cannot see why the Standard Guage of railway lines has anything to do wtih Lord Elgin and the marbles he purchsed from the Ottoman Turks from the ruins of the Parthenon (which the Turks had used as a Fort and was blown up in the Greek War of Independence) in 1807!!
  • swimbikerun

    Posts: 2835

    Jun 30, 2009 5:24 PM GMT
    Yeah I've never heard of a Roman war chariot. As an aside, they didn't even have saddles with stirrups like we think of!
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    Jun 30, 2009 5:24 PM GMT
    I like the horse story better.
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    Jun 30, 2009 5:27 PM GMT
    Rowing_Ant saidFurthermore, I cannot see why the Standard Guage of railway lines has anything to do wtih Lord Elgin and the marbles he purchsed from the Ottoman Turks from the ruins of the Parthenon (which the Turks had used as a Fort and was blown up in the Greek War of Independence) in 1807!!


    funny pictures
  • Rowing_Ant

    Posts: 1504

    Jun 30, 2009 5:35 PM GMT
    Yes the Romans did not have stirrups but had a saddle with four horns on it, which sort of wedged the thighs in place - two vertical horns at the back, two angled at the front. The seat was like on a modern saddle, suspended on raw hide straps to give some suspension. The rest of the horse tack was like modern tack which offered great control.

    It used to be thought the Romans didnt have cavalry due to lack of stirrups, but the Roman Sadldle gives a very solid seat and does allow for cavalry which means you can couch a lance and charge, or use a sword or bow in the saddle.

    The problem with it, is that its very hard to get out of if your horse falls due to the four horns. The same problem exists with a Medieval Great Saddle which is more or less, an arm chair on a horses back. very comfortable but scary to get out of in an emergency.

    Roman Cavalry tended to be of two types - Auxillia recruited from the natural/native horse riders of the Commonwealth or the rather poor Legionary Cavalry recruited from the Equitate class (Roman Knights). The Roman Horse Guard who were the mounted version of the Praetorian Guard were recruited exclusively from Batavians (in the modern world they'd be Dutch).
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jun 30, 2009 6:10 PM GMT
    Rowing_Ant saidYes the Romans did not have stirrups but had a saddle with four horns on it, which sort of wedged the thighs in place - two vertical horns at the back, two angled at the front. The seat was like on a modern saddle, suspended on raw hide straps to give some suspension. The rest of the horse tack was like modern tack which offered great control.

    It used to be thought the Romans didnt have cavalry due to lack of stirrups, but the Roman Sadldle gives a very solid seat and does allow for cavalry which means you can couch a lance and charge, or use a sword or bow in the saddle.

    The problem with it, is that its very hard to get out of if your horse falls due to the four horns. The same problem exists with a Medieval Great Saddle which is more or less, an arm chair on a horses back. very comfortable but scary to get out of in an emergency.

    Roman Cavalry tended to be of two types - Auxillia recruited from the natural/native horse riders of the Commonwealth or the rather poor Legionary Cavalry recruited from the Equitate class (Roman Knights). The Roman Horse Guard who were the mounted version of the Praetorian Guard were recruited exclusively from Batavians (in the modern world they'd be Dutch).

    Oh, you're good! ... icon_biggrin.gif
  • Rowing_Ant

    Posts: 1504

    Jun 30, 2009 6:22 PM GMT
    Yup. That I am icon_biggrin.gif
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    Jun 30, 2009 6:26 PM GMT
    oh, i like you...
  • Rowing_Ant

    Posts: 1504

    Jun 30, 2009 6:31 PM GMT
    thanks!

    Im a nerd. And a Jock. the two shouldnt go together. But they do in me. LOL heheh icon_biggrin.gificon_evil.gif
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    Jun 30, 2009 6:57 PM GMT
    RJ guys know the damndest things.
  • jeepguySD

    Posts: 651

    Jun 30, 2009 7:08 PM GMT
    Awesome thread... I love learning this kind of stuff. Unfortunately we didn't learn much about Roman transportation when I took Latin in college.
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    Jun 30, 2009 8:29 PM GMT
    Rowing_Ant saidYup. That I am icon_biggrin.gif


    Be careful.
  • DCEric

    Posts: 3713

    Jun 30, 2009 8:47 PM GMT
    That was a worth while read.
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    Jun 30, 2009 9:08 PM GMT
    jakenoh saidI like the horse story better.


    I like your tattoo better than the horse story. Aside from that, Im way too illiterate to be reading this post but it was interesting to see there are people that intelligent about certain things. Now where the hell did I leave my spongebob tapes.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jun 30, 2009 9:17 PM GMT
    For a minute there I thought you were talking about my ex wife! icon_rolleyes.gificon_lol.gificon_wink.gif
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    Jun 30, 2009 11:22 PM GMT
    jeepgazer saidAwesome thread... I love learning this kind of stuff. Unfortunately we didn't learn much about Roman transportation when I took Latin in college.

    You may enjoy these series with James Burke in the '70s

    Episode 1 of James Burke's ground-breaking series "The Day The Universe Changed" which explores the evolution of Western Scientific thought starting from the fall of Rome.



    ....................

    Episode 1 of James Burke's most well-known series "Connections" which explores the surprising and unexpected ways that our modern technological world came into existence. Each episode investigates the background of usually one particular modern invention and how it came into being. These explorations are an attempt to locate the "connections" between various historical figures who seemingly had nothing to do with each other in their own times, however once connected, these same figures combined to produce some of the most profound impacts on our modern day world; in a "1+1=3" type of way.
    It is this type of investigation that is the main idea behind the Knowledge Web project; whereby sophisticated software is used to attempt to discover these subtle connections automatically. See http://k-web.org.




  • jeepguySD

    Posts: 651

    Jul 03, 2009 5:51 AM GMT
    Excellent. James Burke is terrific. Thanks Caslon11000.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 03, 2009 6:27 AM GMT
    This is an awesome thread icon_biggrin.gif