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Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know the Ancients Had

Levi . . . Comments

When we think of Ancient civilizations we think of togas, chariots and gladiators. What we don’t think about is flame-throwers, eye surgery and other inventions we take for granted. This is a list of things that the ancients had that you think are modern inventions.

10. Cosmetics

Dn3994-1 185

Roman women would put metal compounds on their faces in order to enhance their color. Tin-Oxide or Lead-Oxide was used as a paling agent, Arsenic (Though they knew it was poisonous) as a rouge or blush, and charcoal was used as eyeliner. Romans also were the first to use a pocket mirror.

9. Odometer

Zhi Nan Ju

Although first used effectively by the Greeks in their measurements between cities, the Romans employed a very simple cart odometer that had 4-foot wheels. Each time the wheel completely turned, a pin would engage a cogwheel one notch out of its 400 teeth. Each time said cogwheel turned, the cart traveled one Roman Mile. (Approx 1400 Meters).

8. Flame-thrower


The Ancient Byzantines first used flame-throwers as a naval device, usually to set alight the rigging and sails of an enemy vessel. Although handheld devices were cumbersome and dangerous, naval ones were much more efficient. Working on a simple siphon pump concept, they would be pumped, and the action would pull flammable liquid out of a reservoir tank, forcing it past an open flame, igniting the spray in a lethal barrage of a panic inducing inferno.

7. Medicines

718Px-Ancientgreek Surgical

There is much archeological and historical evidence to support the use of complex medications and medical procedures within the ancient world. Honey was used as a topical antiseptic, Honeysuckle often for spleen problems, horsehair for stitches, fine needles for cataract corrective surgery and maggots for wound cleaning (as they eat dead tissue). Most medical procedures used today haven’t changed significantly in several thousand years. Boils are still lanced, drained, cleaned and closed, bones are still set, and teeth are still pulled, although pain medication has come a long way.

6. Biological Weapons


With the increase in medical knowledge through the ages, there has also been a markedly increased reverse engineering of the same knowledge to produce biologically based warfare tactics. In medieval times, besieging armies would hurl rotting carcasses into a city with catapults and trebuchet. Farther ago, there is evidence that plagued prisoners were thrown into rivers and streams leading to a city, poisoning it’s water supply and demoralizing the defending forces.

5. Heated Indoor Swimming Pools


The Baths of Caracalla were one of the largest bathing complexes built in ancient Rome. The baths boasted both heated and cooled rooms, heated and cooled baths, a gymnasium for sports and a “hat check room” where garments and personal effects were held under guard by a slave. An ingenious network of under-floor rooms and tunnels, coupled with heating furnaces arrayed around the lot, created the marvelous thermal differences used by the patrons.

4. Postal System


Ancient postal systems were normally used either for official business conducted by the government or by the military. They were often the fastest form of information conductivity available.

3. Concrete


The Romans are credited with inventing ‘modern’ concrete as a building material. It was a completely revolutionary material at the time. It was lightweight, extremely strong, dried underwater and highly pliable when wet. The basic components of concrete haven’t changed in several thousand years and, in some ways, Roman concrete is superior to that which is used today.

2. Mechanical Astrological Calculator

672Px-Nama Machine D'anticythe?re 1

The earliest known example of a mechanical calculator used in the calculation of astronomical objects is the Antikythera Mechanism. Its gears were used to compute the position of the Sun, Moon and possibly other astrological objects. It’s complexity rivals that of clocks produced in the 1700’s. The Antikythera Mechanism was produced sometime between 150 and 100 BC.

1. Glassware

498Px-Roman Diatretglas

The earliest known use of glassware occurred in Ancient Mesopotamia. Its use was later copied and refined by several civilizations including, but not limited to, the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians.

Contributor: Levi

  • Rey

    I noticed there wasn't any Asian contribution. No matter, I'll just use google. :D

    • Aliphatic

      the asian contribution is the picture listed for the roman odometer. the cart is of chinese origin and is actually a compass; the figure on the stick is attached to a gearing mechanism under the cart that would cause the figure to always point in the same direction.

      -1 to the contributor of this article for missing that particular contribution.
      -10 to the contributor of this article for not checking their resources.

  • phunniemee

    Egyptians used cosmetics long before the Romans.

  • phunniemee: it doesn’t say they didn’t :) It only says the Romans were the first to use pocket mirrors.

  • Something they had: the death beam!

    I am, of course, referring to Archemides’ mirrors ;)

  • SocialButterfly

    dangorironhide: The Mythbusters had an episode once where they proved that Archimedes wouldn’t have been able to do that… It is still possible though. :)

  • AS much as i love Mythbusters, sometimes there experiments dont seem to cover ALL basis. There still good but I dont swear by the findings all the time.

  • Hmm – who mythbusts the mythbusters? :)

  • Lasse

    You forgot electricity in form of the so called “Bagdahd Battery”:

  • Lasse

    No Bagdad Battery?

  • Lasse: the Bagdad battery is on another list here – it is very cool.

  • Mom424

    Yes the Bagdad battery is cool, but from what i read and understand it wasn’t used for any practical function, more like a cheap parlour trick
    to wow the masses. The items on the list were actually used the same way we use them today. (unfortunately for us on the bio weapons)

  • Mom424

    ps, i liked mythbusters way better when it was just the two guys, it gets carried away with itself now.

  • kikiam

    KEWL dude…a-huh, a-huh…

  • Yarr

    Social Butterfly- The Mythbusters, though supremely cool, will close a case just because they can’t do it:

    A similar test of the “Archimedes death ray” was carried out in 1973 by the Greek scientist Ioannis Sakkas. The experiment took place at the Skaramagas naval base outside Athens. On this occasion 70 mirrors were used, each with a copper coating and a size of around five by three feet (1.5 by 1 m). The mirrors were pointed at a plywood mock-up of a Roman warship at a distance of around 160 feet (50 m). When the mirrors were focused accurately, the ship burst into flames within a few seconds. The plywood ship had a coating of tar paint, which is flammable and may have aided combustion.[31]

  • Yarr

    That’s a Wiki quote. I hit ‘submit’ accidentally.
    Don’t accuse me of stealing!!!

  • Yarr: wow – how cool would it be to see that test!

  • Leo

    #2 is speculating, they don’t know for sure that it was actually used for that. At least that’s what CNN said :-)

  • Is it possible to “steal” from wiki?

  • Dandelion

    Those people sure were smart.

  • SubliminalDeath666

    Gay list.

  • SubliminalDeath666: That offends me very much, please watch your language.

    Otherwise…Interesting list, but I’m pretty sure a lot of people knew about the cosmetics. How could you look at an egyptian painting and not know? They wore more eyeliner than Billy Joe Armstrong.

  • emily

    ahh, nothing like fixing yourself up by putting on a little lead-oxide, arsenic, and charcoal. Although I have to say I have no clue what is in cosmetics today, could be about the same stuff! :)

  • emily

    SubliminalDeath666: gay username.

  • Very interesting list. Yes dragonironhide’s deathbeam was disproved on Mythbusters. Jamie says he wants to try that one again with a different attack. (I love Mythbusters, old and new, as long as Adam and Jamie run the show)

  • Barabas

    Didnt Heron invent a steam machine?

  • SocialButterfly

    Ravyn: Yes, I think that would be awesome if they tried it again… I agree the show just isn’t the same without Adam & Jamie! :D

    Yarr: As I stated I believe it is still possible, so I will definitely be looking up the wikipedia article.

  • I got to be honest when i first read the title of this list i got the sudden urge to play Final Fantasy VII.

  • Juggz: you too, eh? Have you beat it yet? If not where abouts are you?

  • I still havent completed FFVII…

    VIII and IX are a lot better though, in my opinion

  • I have not completed FFVII yet and I have not seen VIII or IX yet so I can not say an opinion.

  • I would STRONGLY advise you to get VIII. The game is incredible, though some of the techy bits are a bit complicated.

  • Ravyn: I beat it long ago one of my favorite games ever! I honestly stopped playing FF after X due to a strong hate towards sony machines. If they were to ever be release on the 360 Id be all over them…But yah VII VIII and IX are all awesome.

  • Juggz: I love Final Fantasy no matter. It is taking me a long time to beat FFXII. Trying to keep a house with 3 kids can be entertaining. lol

    dragonironhide:I feel ashamed but I (in my haste to finish some housecleaning) got my roman numerals mixed up. *blush* Yes VII and VIII are awesome, I love those games. Was not too fond of IX but I played it and still liked it.

  • deep

    nothing like final fantasy.

    The list is amazing. #2 is rather more interesting.

  • dan231

    Sorry to but in but I have to say this:

    People shouldn’t criticize lists. They are here for enjoyment and some people get more enjoyment out of them than others. If you don’t like the lists than please submit your own.

    now, the rest of the story…

    I liked this list, I never knew how far back the odometer or flame thrower went.

  • Dan: I didn’t find this highly criticized…? There was that one comment by SubliminalDeath666 but I think the rest were either neutral, suggestive (you know what I mean!), or praising. Especially compared to some of the more controversial lists.

  • Nelia

    I think Dan has a point… if you think there should be additions and subtractions to the list, however, I don’t think that is criticism. I always enjoy reading what people would have added or rearranged, etc. I do get annoyed by the “this list sucks” comments though, they don’t add anything.
    Good list, I liked it. Is the flame thrower the same thing as that “roman fire” or whatever it is called? the stuff they can’t discover the composition of?

  • dan231

    my comment was in response to SubliminalDeath666, but I also wanted to make a blanket statement as I keep seeing these types of comments on almost every list.

  • Randall

    Couple interesting notes:

    Mythbusters later returned to the Archimedes Death Ray question—and while they still found it unlikely, the end result was that it *would* have been possible with a properly-constructed hyperbolic mirror. However, the historical *written* evidence is against it.

    On the other hand—we now know that Archimedes and other Greek inventors were even more clever than we had thought, because….

    …as it turns out, the odometer mentioned above was almost certainly invented by Archimedes. And as it happens, even Leonardo DaVinci could not duplicate the functions of this odometer centuries later—Leonardo was able to produce a similar machine, but not one that was as accurate or versatile as the one Archimedes had built–according to the records. It took a recent effort by archeological engineers to figure out just how Archimedes had done it, based on a gear system that, again, we had previously thought the Greeks hadn’t developed. (But the Antikythera mechanism, mentioned above, opened the door to understanding Greek gear technology).

    Moreover, the Greeks also had steam engine technology, used for various “animorphic” toys and display items—and may have even had a kind of modern, geared clock.

  • sdggrant

    The Baghdad battery wasnt used for parlor tricks, it was used to gold plate other metal items. Ancients Greeks did invent a steam engine, its a shame though they did not realize its potential. Imagine where we would be today if the industrial revolution had happened 1500 years ago.

  • SubliminalDeath666

    Kelsi: Sorry I called it gay. :( I just had like 4 exams and my hand is numb like hell! *Ouch*

  • SubliminalDeath666

    And sorry if anybody was offended as well. Once I actually read the list clearly, i realized it wasn’t that bad, interesting really.

  • dan231

    This wasn’t even my list and I was offended by your remark. That is what makes comments like that really uncalled for.

    I think it shows something that you did come back with an apology.

  • siv89

    the persians invented the first postal system and the first refrigerators, but they were just big holes in the ground which they filled with snow and used as refrigerators in the summer, look up yakhchals, and they also had ice cream. and the parthains had the first battery, look up the baghdad battery.

  • SubliminalDeath666

    dan231: Thank you for understanding. I feel a little better now. :|

  • Levi

    Wow… Holy Crap. I wasn’t expecting this much positive input. Thanks a bunch.

    Leo’s right, it is speculation… but can you think of a better use for it other than what’s being… “Speculated?”

    I personally, Like FF7 although, I’ve only got a pc and the game doesn’t run on newer systems. :-(

    As I look at SubliminalDeath666’s comments… I prayed for you. :-)

    Thanks to everyone who double checked my work.
    A good student always debates with the teacher.

  • SubliminalDeath666

    Levi: Thank you but I didn’t think someone would pray for ME! That’s probably the first time ever in my life! :) It feels like I still need a response from Kelsi though… :|

  • SD6: I’ll be happy to do it more often. Just let me know.

  • I just thought you might all like to know that have just passed 20,000 comments on the site and now have 1,000 registered users! Well done all.

  • SubliminalDeath666

    Levi: Awesome!

  • SubliminalDeath666

    Woah 20,000!! That is pretty badass!

  • Levi: PSOnes are super cheap these days :)

    If not a psone emulator should run just fine on newer machines :)

  • Juggz: True, but why waste the time and effort to play a game that doesn’t look nearly as good as newer ones, when I’ve already beaten it before?

    Or mabye I’m just a fat and lazy bastard… Who knows?

  • That is alot of comments Jamie….holy crap

    Levi: I always go back and replay older ones…when I finished X2 I went back and played VII…it was fun

  • jocsboss

    The Chinese had odometer carts and they had carts with compasses in them so that they could also tell what direction they were going. This goes back a couple thousand years.

  • chadster

    Haha what about sex toys?

  • Why can’t *I* get my mail delivered by a naked guy with wings on his feet?

  • Diogenes

    Dana: You can for the right price.

  • Diogenes

    concerning #8 It would seem that one boat(with flame thrower) would have to get pretty close to the other boat(with out flame thower). I mean, it couldnt burn things that far away could it?….unless it had a type of glue in the solution. So they would have to get kinda close, assumming the guise of a friendly ‘Hey, what’s Up, Howya doin?” that the boat without flame thrower would have no reason to draw their bows…Then wwwoooooshhh, wailing and burning ancients diving into water- only to be shot full of arrows by the boat with flamethrower, which also has bows.

  • Diogenes

    –unless what you mean is, that the boat would first shoot a flaming arrow into the boat without the flamethrower and then they would hose the boat in flamible liquid.

  • Levi: I make it a point to play through FFVI at least once a year. Thats how much I love it. Always a great game and i can look past the looks because I love it so much.

  • flgh

    The important question is: how come these technologies got ‘lost’ along the way?

  • corinthian0430

    WHAT?! no mention of the Bagdhad battery?….

  • sdggrant

    Diogenes….Getting close was how the ancients fought, the rammed eachother. Yes, there were bowmen on board, but the rowers were all below deck, so the bows did nothing to disable a ship. So getting close to unleash Greek fire was no problem at all.

  • 20Fan20

    I think it is fine to offer constructive critiques of the lists. Having the ability to comment and talk about lists is important nad makes this site cool. Even saying “great list” is a critique or complement.
    Of course, this should be done in a respectful and positive manner. We don’t want to discourage future contributors.

    As far as this list….Is the true use of that calculator still in debate? I thought the challenge was that no one knew what it really did.

  • Diogenes

    sdggrant: how far out in the sea do you think they were with man power to ram other ships? and the way you describe it, i see them as closer to submarine. ..plowing through at war on the edge of the earth.

  • SubliminalDeath: It’s okay, I just want to make more people aware that ‘gay’ should not be used in a negative way, EVER! It is so hurtful to people who are struggling with coming out, and a lot of people that use it don’t even realize how much they’re hurting others because they don’t say anything. Just being the voice for those who have none. Nothing personal, I call pretty much everyone out on it. Just be careful, you never know who you’re hurting.

  • Pingback: Comment on Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know the Ancients Had by Kelsi | ok()

  • Harsha

    I read that cosmetics was first used by people of the Indus Civilization almost 3000 years ago, then the egyptians , and then the Romans!

  • Fallenangel

    It’s funny the only one I didn’t know they had wa a flame thrower… but I probably saw that on the history channel and forgot about it LoL… I watch way too much T.V.

  • Randall

    I’m sure Kelsi means well, but political correctness makes me gag. Every gay person I know has absolutely no problem with the use of the word “gay” when directed at things like this. They’re smart enough and well-balanced enough to understand the difference between a throw-away pejorative and an actual insult or “hate speech.”

    Now, “flgh” (#62): The reason some of these technologies got lost is because of this little thing called the Fall of the Roman Empire and the subsequent Dark Ages—you may have heard of these events. Lotsa loss, many books, buildings, and works of art destroyed. In fact… all of Western Civilization fell. That, uh… explains it.

    And anyway, point of fact is, not all this technology was “lost.” The point of the list was, the ancients HAD this stuff.

  • Randall: Talking of PC crap, have you heard of the ‘Fairytale of New York’ and ‘Faggot’ thing that happened here over the past couple of days?

  • Randall

    Nope, didn’t hear a thing. What’s this about?

  • Essentially the controller of BBC Radio 1 (one of the the big national radio stations here) decided it would be a good idea to censor the word ‘faggot’ from the song ‘Fairytale of New York’, just in case anyone was offended by it.

    Loads of people complained (as in, LOADS) about it though, including gay groups over here, so 2 days after they did it they started playing the uncensored version again.

    PC got mad, as they say.


    Thats the story from the BBC news site.

  • Randall

    wait a second… in the UK, where “faggot” has traditionally meant A) a bundle of sticks and/or B) a cigarette… they censored that word in a song by the Pogues–an IRISH band?


    Not that any of that matters—of course I know the song, and the word is used as Americans have used it—as a term for a homosexual… but again, more proof that Political Correctness has run far more rampant in the UK (the Nanny State) than it has here.

  • elle

    The battery, thought to have existed in Baghdad/Egypt around 250BC. Check out the Baghdad Battery for more information.

  • Randall: I do make a habit of hanging out with ill-adjusted, easily inflamed, mentally unbalanced kids…many of whom happen to be (possibly?) gay. Makes life interesting. I’m sorry the thought of politiness, respect, and modesty makes you gag. I happen to be a fan of it, myself. It is used in society to make everyone comfortable, and if you don’t care about people feeling comfortable and happy to be around you, then what sort of person are you anyway?

  • sdggrant

    Should we not call things “stupid” or “retarded” as well, out of fear of pissing of mentally retarded people??? Words have different meanings in different situations and intelligent human beings are able to decipher that difference. I had a neighbor get pissed at me the other day for refering to my dog (a female dog which my famiy breeds and I LOVE very much) as a bitch, which by the way is the correct term for a breeding female dog, she said it was offensive to women. I had a gay co-worker who used the word “gay” to describe things he thought were stupid, come to think of it, many of his gay friends which I met did the same. If words bother you, wear earplugs.

  • sdggrant: Citing examples of other people’s thoughless behavior does not make it any more acceptable to me.

  • Clues

    I was helping some of my clients with a geography lesson. I thought they would be able to memorize more easily if I made it fun. So I collected a mixture of Silly American Laws. As it happens one of my clients was born with one arm. She unfortunately picked Iowa as her state the first bit of silly facts she drew was “Iowa law forbids any establishment from charging admission to see a one-armed piano player. “ So as you can guess she was devastated. She ran out of the room crying and feeling o’so sorry for herself. I of course was busy laughing at fate. She of course was offended by my laughter as well. I guess what I am trying to say is being offended is another matter of opinion something that is safe and fostered here, because really who wants to worry that what they write may offend someone. One of the things I appreciate here is the diplomacy and outrageous humor. Everyone needs the ability to laugh at themselves. Saying Gay List was not written with hate against homosexuality it was written as “this list is not my cup of tea” at least that’s my opinion.
    Although this list is my cup of tea I enjoyed it very much!

  • Randall

    Kelsi, get off your freakin’ high-horse.

    And in particular, don’t give me your crap about politeness. I said nothing personally insulting or rude to you in my original comment, but you (as the self-styled example of politeness here) came back and sniped at me. (QUOTE: “I’m sorry the thought of politiness, respect, and modesty makes you gag. I happen to be a fan of it, myself. It is used in society to make everyone comfortable, and if you don’t care about people feeling comfortable and happy to be around you, then what sort of person are you anyway?”)

    AS IT HAPPENS, “madam,” I did NOT say that “politeness, respect” or “modesty” make me gag. I said POLITICAL CORRECTNESS makes me gag. YOU may have some confusion in regards to the definition of these terms, but I can assure you that *I* do not.

    Let me give you some lessons about life, Kelsi:

    A) Public discourse is NOT (this may come as a surprise to you) about “making people comfortable.” That’s the job of the host of a party, or a flight attendant, a hotel employee, or those similarly involved in the hospitality industry.

    B) Sanctimonius people, such as yourself, are roundly disliked in society; however, I’m sure you (and they) never notice it because you’re 1) too busy BEING sanctimonius and patting yourself on the back for it, and 2) you end up associating only with OTHER sanctimonius individuals.

    C) Neither society, nor anyone here on this website, nor I—are required to operate by YOUR rules of discourse, even if you think (obviously this is the case) that we damn well should. I can’t help whatever habits you have in regards to “hanging out” with “mentally imbalanced kids”… and whether this is the profession you’ve chosen for yourself or simply how you get your kicks, I don’t frankly care. I don’t need you to tell me how to comport myself in situations that are not relevant to the restrictions and niceties encumbent upon YOU for your job or your way of life. In public, I am very much in the habit of keeping within the bounds of good taste and politeness–clearly more than YOU understand or can personally manage, given your repeated habit of trying to tell people on this website how to conduct themselves. I do not view a website as being the same thing as talking aloud in a public setting, nor do I think most people view it as such. If you do, then I suggest you stop looking on the web and stay home where you can continue congratulating yourself on your superior manners.

    In any case, I invite you in future to keep your middle class, tight-assed attitudes to yourself.

    It’s people like you, who think you’re oh-so-virtuous-and-righteous, who contribute your own little tiny, miserable bit to making life intolerable.

  • SocialButterfly

    Wow… I was going to make a comment on the Baghdad Battery but errmmm it seems like a silly point now.

    Sooo is everyone getting excited for the holidays… :)

    wiki link to the Baghdad Battery for anyone who cares:

  • Randall: I’m sorry that me saying that I found a word offsensive makes your life miserable. You’re sort of an asshole, you know? You made some really broad generalizations about my character, and I never asked anyone to follow my rules of discourse, I simply asked SubliminalDeath666 to be more thoughtful of his use of offensive words. Whether or not he does is solely up to him. You can do whatever the hell you want. I happen to not be middle aged, bitter, and fed up with society like you, so I do my part to still try and improve it. =)

  • Also, I would like to add that I am rather surprised at everyone’s attitude toward the usage of the word ‘gay’ in a negative sense. How old are those of you who are arguing against me? It’s sort of a thing that goes around with my genetation, so I would not be surprised at your misunderstanding as you probably did not spend much of your rebellious teen and college years fighthing for gay rights like I am. :-)

  • Randall


    “…I would not be surprised at your misunderstanding as you probably did not spend much of your rebellious teen and college years fighthing for gay rights like I am.”

    And there it is, right there—the self-righteous, nostril-upturned air of the self-congratulatory boor. You’re just oh-so-better than the rest of us slobs who toss “hateful” words around, aren’t you?

    How do you know what I or anyone else here has done or hasn’t done for the rights of others?

    Ordinarily I just wouldn’t waste my time bothering with you, Kelsi, but once again I remind you—you CHOSE to take a swipe at me when I made NO *personal* comment towards you. I simply said that political correctness makes me gag–and so it does–but I predicated my statement by offering you a nicety, that I was “sure you mean well.” Now I’m not so sure, and in fact I now retract even this mild bone tossed your way.

    “I happen to not be middle aged, bitter, and fed up with society like you, so I do my part to still try and improve it.”

    Again the self-congratulatory, smug and self-satisfied air of the person who ASSURES themselves that THEY are doing the RIGHT thing while all others who don’t see it their way MUST be bad and must be assholes.

    It cannot be, can it, Kelsi, that you and I PROBABLY do believe in many of the same things–such as gay rights–can it? Because I don’t speak the language or act the part that you think I and others should speak and act, to conform to YOU.

    And asshole that I am, I conclude this now before I get TOO hurtful, because the fact is I suspect you’re more fragile than you let on, and I have no wish to keep hammering at you about this.

  • Oh for crying out loud…did the ancients invent long discussions on political correctness for Internet list websites too?

  • sdggrant

    I’m sure, Dana, that ancient Romans had long, thought out discussions in the forum about political correctness. Although, I doubt that it was called that back then.

    And Kelsi, Im currently enjoying my college years and am half way through my junior year.

  • Happy

    The ancient Chinese had blast furnaces, seismographs, And an invention called the cosmic engine. I saw these things on a documentary on the history channel last night.

  • Yarr

    I had a boner.

    Now I don’t.

  • kiwiboi

    Randall – well said.

    I, too, abhor political correctness and the self-serving smugness that often accompanies it. But, like you, this doesn’t logically infer that I set out to be offensive or impolite during my routine comings and goings in the “real world”.

  • Drogo

    @ Dana (comment 86)

    Yes, they did! The first discussion on Political correctness was started by Exasperius Debatilus in the year 2108 b.c.

  • Drogo

    ^of course I might be off on the year, I just poked at random numbers.

  • jocsboss

    Exasperius Debatilus- hahaha

  • Ginger Lee

    Ancient Egyptians also had birth control, and no not, uh hem, pulling out. They used honey and crocodile dung as spermicide, mainly because they didn’t grasp the concept of the female eggs. They thought it was all sperm doing the job for quite sometime.

  • Ginger Lee: that is interesting! Thanks for mentioning that. We could probably do a second list like this one.

  • condoms was left out, they were first invented in the 1500’s, even though, it is not that long ago, as most on the list, it is still pretty amazing. they were first made out of sheep stomach lining.

  • Levi

    Jeez… I leave for Christmas break and come back to find that Political Correctness has come to the Ancients. ::sighs:: Ahh… well… Um yeah. I reall don’t have anything else to say.

    Perhaps… Rome rules or something of the sort?

  • Randall


    Actually, there’s evidence that condoms go back farther than the 1500s… if I’m not mistaken, there are items mentioned in various ancient Greek (Apuleius, I think) and… I think Babylonian texts which could almost certainly only refer to what we would today call “condoms”—so you’re even more dead on than you thought–this would be a great addition to the list.

  • SuperLyndsey

    This is such a non-gay list.

    ^___^ Oops.

  • Rawr

    They also had batteries…
    I think you should have put that on there…
    But overall, good list.

  • jocsboss

    Just noticed, I think #9 is a Chinese odometer cart, not a Roman one. It has a Chinese figure on it and Chinese writing (I think)

  • nelson

    they have wisdow too

  • Martha

    some ancient civilisations also had batteries:


  • The photo above the “odometer” illustrating item 9 on this page is not an “odometer” – but a Chinese invention which through a system of gears always pointed the direction “home”. The little sage atop the center post points toward the origin of the journey no matter how many turns and changes in direction the cart has taken… Kinda nice when the magnetic compass hadn’t been invented yet…

    So – wrong image – see those are Chinses characters on there? …not Roman.

  • benvenuta

    Medicines? Glassware? Postal system? Cosmetics?

    Why is this list called “Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know the Ancients Had”? Who is meant by “you”? One would have to be pretty dumb to not know that ancient civilizations used medicines, surgical procedures and glassware. And cosmetics? WTF?

  • Not odometer

    Here’s the wikipedia article on item no.9. It’s called a ??? or zhi nan che

  • megamank

    But the romans never figured out a working calender. They didnt have leap years, so they ended up having october in the middle of summer, etc. At the same time though, the celts had a working calender, and they had leap years.

  • willdog

    it’s amazing how the ancients had this!

  • Hello ello ello

    SocialButterfly- a bunch of people called out the Mythbusters for their attempt in disproving that, so they had a bunch of students come in and test the myth on their own and they proved it right…

  • iHate lolcats

    Bhagdad battery used for electrolysis and electroplating.

  • Boyan Yurukov

    Here are three more:

    Batteries – about 2000 years before the first experiments in Europe, the Persian (or Iranians) invented the batteries. Samples are still being found in archeological digs.

    Anti-pregnancy pills – There are herbs that are very efficient natural anti-pregnancy agents. They were discovered many centuries ago and were still used a hundred years ago in the Balkans. There were also such that cause termination of early pregnancies. They were both not as good as what we have today, but some reports suggest around 70% efficiency. Overall the medicine of the ancients was much better for the common man than today. Now we specialize in complex procedures and the preventive medicine is almost non-existent.

    Sound weapons – in Bulgaria several artifacts were found that dated back to the 3-4 century b.C. They were made from very pure crystal and had copper wiring all over them. Later a physics professor has a crazy idea and thank God they went though with it. It was discovered that when running a weak current with specific properties though the wiring, the magnetic field made the crystal tremble and emit sub-sound waves that disabled everyone in the room. Sort like the weapons you can see on Discovery channel now.

  • Me

    What a shame that you have all this knowledge, and yet don’t know the difference between the possessive “its” and the contraction “it’s” (“it is”). Good site, otherwise.

  • uretards

    i just hit my stumble button and you all go away-bye bye.

  • mac

    BTW Rey, the flame thrower attributed to the Byzantines was in fact invented by the ancient Chinese…..They also get credit for the first semi-automatic firing weapon developed about 500 years before Christ….

  • …srsly?

    Now, this is a story all about how
    My life got flipped-turned upside down
    And I liked to take a minute
    Just sit right there
    I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air

    In west Philadelphia born and raised
    On the playground was where I spent most of my days
    Chillin’ out maxin’ relaxin’ all cool
    And all shootin some b-ball outside of the school
    When a couple of guys
    Who were up to no good
    Startin making trouble in my neighborhood
    I got in one little fight and my mom got scared
    She said ‘You’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air’

    I begged and pleaded with her day after day
    But she packed my suite case and send me on my way
    She gave me a kiss and then she gave me my ticket.
    I put my walkman on and said, ‘I might as well kick it’.

    First class, yo this is bad
    Drinking orange juice out of a champagne glass.
    Is this what the people of Bel-Air Living like?
    Hmmmmm this might be alright.

    But wait I hear there’re prissy, wine all that
    Is Bel-Air the type of place they send this cool cat?
    I don’t think so
    I’ll see when I get there
    I hope they’re prepared for the prince of Bel-Air

    Well, the plane landed and when I came out
    There was a dude who looked like a cop standing there with my name out
    I ain’t trying to get arrested
    I just got here
    I sprang with the quickness like lightening, disappeared

    I whistled for a cab and when it came near
    The license plate said fresh and it had dice in the mirror
    If anything I can say this cab is rare
    But I thought ‘Naw forget it’ – ‘Yo homes to Bel Air’

    I pulled up to the house about 7 or 8
    And I yelled to the cabbie ‘Yo homes smell ya later’
    I looked at my kingdom
    I was finally there
    To sit on my throne as the Prince of Bel Air

  • MPW

    good job but you misspelled suitcase

    “suite” is pronounced just like “sweet”

  • Ash

    I enjoyed reading this even though I already knew most of them (being a History channel fan). Just proves how well written it was to be a good read anyway!

    All I can say to the PC thing is Randall, will you marry me?! lol

  • Milander

    I’m with Randall too, that Kelsi biatch can go f**k herself…

  • Claire

    Is it bad that I read every comment up to one I am posting right now…and enjoyed it?

  • fornetti

    I do not believe this

  • dusynaga

    to have a one on one discussion with you regarding what i read here.

  • ligeia

    Damn, and there I wa hoping I’d learn something new this morning. Curse my archaeology degree…..

  • ligeia

    Damn, and there I was hoping I’d learn something new this morning. Curse my archaeology degree…..

  • kiwiboi

    ligeia – you have an Archaeology degree? Archaeology is fascinating…so write us a list!!

  • Amber

    Sorry to make a few corrections. Egyptians were the first to have cosmetics. They used kohl as an eye liner. Also, the first flame thrower was from the Greeks. We still don’t know, with modern technology to boot, just what they used. Also, it has been proven that the first brain surgeries were done in Ancient Egypt. Not only were they practiced for brain swelling, people actually survived past the surgery. They would cut a piece of bone from the skull, and then put a coin or some other flat circular disc and sew the skin over it.

    i guess its the history major in me to fill in some facts.

  • sweeterex

    Thanks for giving us updated information…. thanks

  • Andy_Dee

    Hey mate what about the Babalonians.. it was recorded that they had a cure for cancer and also a transportation which didn’t need horses and had bright lights

  • Parker

    for #8..
    it wasnt really a flaim thrower… fire didnt come out…
    it was an acid thrower that started on fire with contact.
    it was called greek fire.
    no one knows what it was made up of but it was thought that sulfur naptha and quick lime were in it… it was shot out of a bronze tube at other ships. it was their most used weapon in the Navy.

  • Foo

    Damn, I already knew about all 10.

  • Buzkashi

    The ancients probably could spell better than you did in this post. And concrete doesn’t “dry” — especially underwater — it goes through a chemical reaction and it “sets”.

    Inga J. Lorta
    Buzkashi Squad of the Emperor

  • Buzkashi

    did you know that the ancients invented farting?

  • Chris

    I am a lowly carpenter with just a high-school diploma, but I love what I do. It sure is comical to watch you “educated” people engage in all this rhetorical pettiness. It kind of makes me feel better about my station in life.

  • Angelina

    Chris, are you Jesus?

  • damien_karras

    Chris: I actually had to read up the list to find out what the hell you were talking about. Do you know the actual defenition of rhetorical? Because I do and if you have the time to take from your busy carpentry schedule let me know.

    As far as the “educated people” here… well Im guessing that they are more educated than you if your original comment is the standard to base ANYTHING upon. I’m betting that you recently came upon the word “rhetorical” and it’s a sexy word to grab onto. It really is… When you are a carpenter there is selective vocabulary you can use while trying to hit on a woman: “YOU! COME HOME WITH ME SO I CAN SHOW YOU BANDSAW!! THEN WE MATE!”
    But you came across “rhetorical”… now you can break up your monosyllabic grunts between measuring a doorframe.

  • Chris

    I thought rhetorical meant words. What I mean by my comment is that it seems like alot of people are arguing over the use and misuse of words on this site. By the way,all roof construction is based on the Pythagorean theorem,but you probably already knew that. Also, who the hell is talking about hitting on women? Thanks for showing yourself to be a real j*rk Damien, it would take an over-educated, self-righteous boob to respond in a personal way to the type of generalized non-offensive comment like I made. Sorry if my grammar is not perfect either.

  • Chris

    Angelina- no, I am not, but it sounds like Damien thinks he is.

  • Chris

    damien karras- you must have been the little geek that always got picked on back in school. What, no response now?

  • damien_karras

    Actually I have a response: “You blow your father with that mouth?”

  • Chris

    damien- One last thing, then I’ll leave you alone. Maybe you know the meaning of “rhetorical”,but at least I know how to spell “definition”, apparently you don’t. Maybe you can use SpellCheck while you are taking random potshots at people. To everyone else-thank you for some interesting info, and I apologize for getting sucked into that stupid exchange with His Highness Damien.

  • Chris

    How can I when he’s busy doing your mom? I just had to respond to that one. Pretty telling that you regressed into juvenile sexual comments, instead of responding to a direct assault on your spelling skills. Good luck in life. Are you going to admit your spelling error? Because I have you cold on that one. Everything you are saying is sophomoric. (4 syllables, and spelled correctly) I think everyone knows who got the better of this exchange. It’s the high-school educated carpenter, not the self-righteous, educated, know-it-all with no sense of humor.

  • Chris

    Really, one LAST thing to everyone else: Who do you think won this RHETORICAL battle, me or damien? Please cast a few votes,so he can realize what an ass he is.

  • casey


    You started out saying this (completely out of the blue):

    “I am a lowly carpenter with just a high-school diploma, but I love what I do. It sure is comical to watch you “educated” people engage in all this rhetorical pettiness. It kind of makes me feel better about my station in life.”

    And you ended up saying this:

    “Really, one LAST thing to everyone else: Who do you think won this RHETORICAL battle, me or damien? Please cast a few votes,so he can realize what an ass he is.”

    So, was it comical to watch yourself “engage in all this rhetorical pettiness?” Jeez, I thought you, as a “lowly carpenter,” were above all that.

  • Ronald Baro

    I love this information. I’d like to have more. I knew of some of this? but there is more. It helps for Engineering knowledge. What I would like to know? is what about what came before? As in before the proverbial flood that we had back then? Anti-deluvial things? Because we still have remnants of languages from before the flood. Message to all the verbal fighters and Bullies on this site: You people need to take your poison elswhere. This is an information, or a historic learning site not for bickering or fighting about verbal prowess? nor intellectual classes like the lowly humble Carpenter profession that Jesus Christ and his Earth Father practiced and professed? or the Literal intelligentsia classes that profess The Rhetoric which is a part of what is called the Philosophy of Logic. As you two? the Damian and the Chris? need to know? this is really not the place for this. Do something called Heuristics which you two may know as Problem Solving? and settle your differences elsewhere maybe live in person somewhere if you all want to battle it out. Jesus was a Carpenter I don’t think he’d like to see nor hear the both of you fighting here in this fashion. Carpenters? use numbers for measurement and labels and words for materials, and Rhetoricians? use numbers to count words etc.. and many of the professions? complement each other. Everything is Relative. Refer to Einstein. Good day Gentlemen.

  • ethered

    What kind of idiot wrote this shit. I’ve read a couple of these list like this and I already new ancients had them. Stop writing useless lists

  • kristi

    did you know that the romans invented double pain glass?

  • Bioboy

    Wow i must watch allot of discovery channel cause i knew all this o.0

  • gaylist

    I agree, Gay list.

  • listmyballs

    A lot is two words. The ancients knew that.

  • Twirly

    Believe it or not, I knew about every single one of those. I also happen to have a degree in archaeology, so that likely helped….

  • alan

    i’m pretty sure the picture for #9 is not an odometer but a chinese invention called the south pointing carriage. The man on the top always points south no matter how you turn the bottom portion of it. it in fact does not use a compass but is based purely on gear mechanisms (one must set it to south initially though).

  • I am far more intelligent than you

    You dumbass… anyone who has taken fifth grade history, gone to wikipedia, or watched fucking cable television knows all of this crap and far more…. Fucking glassware is number one!? AND CONCRETE? This is how much the internet sucks…

  • whateverman

    This list is rubbish. I should assume that Greeks and Romans are the only two ancient civilizations who gave us everything? The fact is that Egyptian civilization was much more advanced, and so were the Chinese and the Indians. Romans mostly took for the Greeks, who took for the Egyptians.

  • vermilionskin


  • bob

    Dont forget the flying machines they used to trade across the globe, the microscopes they used to create microscopic metal art, the light bulbs they had that have been found burning for over 5000 years, the lasers they used to make huge thousand mile tunnels throughout the world or the anti gravity machines they used to lift thousand ton stones up mountains. These have all been found or have been mentioned in ancient stories and can’t be explained. Read dead mens secrets and you’ll see that ancient man was pretty modern.

  • Julian Rubavu

    Its sign that ancients were intellectually/technologically strongest regardless their primitivity. We must honor them!