What did the Romans invent?

The Roman Empire was one of the most influential civilisations of all time. We owe much of their pioneering to how we live now. What were these developments, and how do they affect us?

What have the Romans ever done for us? This is a historic phrase and a comedic shorthand for unrecognised achievement, deriving from the fact that the ancient Romans were behind a lot of our world’s great inventions. They have left their mark on the world today, being some of the best inventors in history. Creating better city systems, technology, and creative developments that we now take for granted.

  • Roman Numerals

    Clock face with roman numerals

    As the name suggests, these ancient numbers were invented back in ancient Roman times, popping up between 900 and 800 B.C. They were used for counting, telling time, recording, and to help list the order of people sharing the same name. It became the standard counting method in communications and trade although it did have its flaws. Such as the absence of the number zero and the inability to calculate fractions with the numerals. There are seven basic symbols: I, V, X, L, C, D and M, which each letter corresponding to a certain number. What’s incredible is that they are commonly used today, in book or film titles, formal names, and even cornerstones.

  • Plumbing

    While you may take this for granted nowadays, back then the invention of plumping and sanitation was a revolutionary finding. Roman’s, in fact, did not invent this, rather copied the Greek’s invention. Despite this fact they did develop plumping in their own way, mastering it into one of the best designs of plumbing the world has ever seen. They built the first aqueducts which delivered 1.2 billion litres of fresh water to the citizens of Rome on a daily basis. Building large public baths and fountains which provided clean water for citizens to wash and use throughout the day. They developed their system of sewage, which beforehand was to just leave it on the streets. Instead, they used the runoff water from local streams to flush drains and sewers filled with waste into the nearest river. Turning the empire into a cleaner and sanitary environment.

  • Heaters

    The Romans were the very first to invent an underfloor heating system in buildings, credited as one of their very first achievements. They did this by using small pillars to raise the ground level of a build, leaving a small space where heat could circulate under the floor. They would continuously burn a small fire in one corner of the room, transporting the hot air throughout the house and walls.

  • Surgery

    Although they never conceived operations in general, the Roman’s did invent many surgical tools, surgeries such as the c-section, and even started battlefield surgery. All these developments caused more sanitary and safer operations that they helped increase the overall citizen’s wellness.

  • Concrete

    Ancient Romans are famous for building longstanding structures, with many iconic landmarks still standing today. They did this by inventing what we call today, hydraulic cement-based concrete. Although it is a lot weaker than modern concrete, it still was a remarkable achievement and helped in building famous structures such as the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

  • Roads


    ‘All roads led to Rome’; a famous line nowadays, meaning that all activities lead to the centre of things. However, back in ancient times, this was an actual fact, with all of Rome road’s radiating out from the centre city. It was the most sophisticated system of roads the world had ever known, with some roads withstanding time. Nowadays, you can walk down this grand roads and easily imagine the ancient world which once traded along the same path.

  • Bound Books

    The Romans were the first to bound papers together in wax tablets or string, with the first manifestation name a Roman codex. It was first made to reduce a large number of scrolls that were piling up and a limited way to store them safely. Therefore, the more manageable way to keep the information secure was born, which has been passed down for generations, now an everyday product used all over the world.

  • Julian Calendar

    The Romans were the first to invent a calendar that consisted of 365 days, along with a leap year. As well a lot of our months are derived from the Roman month names, with July and August being named after Julius Caesar and Emperor Augustus.

  • Newspapers

    Granting their newspapers defiantly differ from our own (as the paper wasn’t invented back then) the Romans did introduce a similar method of displaying the news. Instead of individual papers, they used large stone slabs to inscribe current affairs, placing the slabs in public centres where people could read them.

  • Roman Arches

    Roman Arches

    Although they coined the name, if you go back far enough in history, you will discover the Romans weren’t the only ones to use archers. Despite this, they used them proudly and were the first members of society to build great and grand buildings using these arches. These structures are still so engineeringly impressive after thousands of years they still stand today. With the arches not only providing the perfect support but created a stunning art feature.

  • The Post service

    Although it might not have been the very first form of the postage service, ancient Rome defiantly possessed a sophisticated service for there time. It all began when the Roman Empire was at its glorified grand scale, with long stretches of land creating the transfer of information very tricky. Therefore, Emperor Augustus created a system that used horse-drawn carts to transfer information from one location to the next. This was an easy task because of Rome’s well-engineered roads, allowing postage services to deliver the messages fast and efficiently.

Although some of these aren’t technically invented by the Romans, they made each and everyone their own. Transforming and developing each system into their own style which they mastered. No matter what style and developed for

Related article: Top Things to do in Rome.

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