Were Greek and Roman empires the most advanced ones for its time, were or Babylon, India, China, Egypt, etc. more advanced than them?
来源：三泰虎 http://www.fjstf.live/46093.html 译者：Joyceliu
Michel Juneau, Sanskritist, student of history
If we consider the classical period, say 500 BCE to 500 CE (where CE = common era = AD), India was more advanced in many fields, such as mathematics - including the invention of ‘Arabic’ numerals and zero -, grammar and phonetics, astronomy, botany, logical inference, metallurgy - steel for blades, smelting of zinc -, banking and mass production of cloth exports manufactured using various printing processes. Rome was ahead in architecture and engineering - bridges, aqueducts and public buildings, water wheels, road building - as well as military technology and organisation.
Let me talk in more detail about that quintessential Roman speciality: the arch.
India had advanced stoneworking techniques, but did not use them to build arches, which had been known in the Middle East since great antiquity - the earliest surviving example is the Bronze Age arched Canaanite city gate of Ashkelon in modern-day Israel, dating to c. 1850 BCE - but not used much except by Romans until the Arabs and Persians picked up on them. In Mesopotamia they were mostly used for drains back then.
印度有先进的石料加工技术，但没有使用它们来建造拱门，这在中东自古就为人所知——现存最早的例子是青铜时代的拱形迦南城门，在今天的以色列，可追溯到公元前1850年- - -但在阿拉伯人和波斯人注意到他们之?#22467;?#32599;马人很少使用它。在美索不达米亚，当时石?#20998;?#35201;用于排水沟。
But then in 350 CE, the Sassanian emperor built a magnificent catenary vault to cover the audience chamber in his new new palace at Ctesiphon. The catenary vault mimics the shape of a hanging chain (Latin catena) but upside down, and requires no buttressing, which is why it is still standing. This was apparently first used in this building, not in Rome. (The catenary arch was later used by Christopher Wren in St. Paul’s Cathedral, and is used in the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.)
Most ancient Indian temples used corbelled arches and domes, in which each course of a wall is cantilevered out from the lower course until they meet in the middle. This required an equal weight of masonry on the other side to balance, so the buildings were absolutely massive, with little interior space and almost no light. The Bhitargaon temple (450 AD) and Mahabodhi temple (7th century AD) built in by Gupta Dynasty, included true arches, but the technique was not picked up by the architectural style as a whole.
Indians kept building temples this way even after the Muslim invaders came building their domed mosques, until this day. The point of the Indian temple was not to shelter people. All the interior space needed was enough to house one or more murtis, and to allow a few pandits to make offerings. The point of the temple was to provide an ostentatious outwards display, to communicate various things, local history, legends, etc, in the various decorations, and to let the deity know that those who paid for this really, really appreciate his or her support. So there was no real reason to adopt the true arch and dome for monumental architecture.
This is a temple ‘shikhara’ with corbelled construction.
I also provide a picture of the Mahabodhi Buddhist temple, which has a true dome, below. I am sure that you will agree that Indian temple building did not really need the true dome.
This experience supports the answer given by Robert Maxwell. Societies develop technology that they need to fit within the social and economic framework.
It is worth pointing out that stone arches were used in China in ancient times, the oldest surviving example Being the Anji Bridge dating from around 600 CE. This is not a rudimentary arch. On the contrary it is a fairly sophisticated open-spandrel segmental arch bridge built entirely of stone. The basic principle of the open-spandrel segmental arch bridge ways applied in Hadrian’s Bridge over the Danube built from 103 to 105 CE by Apollodorus of Damascus, but he used timber arches, each spanning 38 metres.
This style of timber arches on stone bases has been much used in the Far East since. To me it seems that a stone bridge might be fine in the dry Mediterranean with its small streams, but would have been prohibitively expensive spanning the mighty Danube, especially as great rivers have a tendency to wash out bridges as the Danube did Hadrian’s bridge a few decades later, and as has been the fate of a great many bridges in China over the years.
Here is a beautiful example of a open-spandrel segmental timber arch bridge from Japan: the Kintai Bridge in Yamaguchi Prefecture, built in 1673. The pic shows one pier and the underside of the arch.
Interestingly, the principle of the true arch was independently invented in pre-Colombian Meso-America, as well as by the Inuit (‘Eskimos’) in the humble igloo.