The Compass        

The Chinese are generally credited with inventing the magnetic compass.  Susan Silverman at the Smith College Museum of Ancient Inventions says earliest records show a compass shaped like a spoon and made of lodestone or magnetite ore during the 2nd century BCE (Before the Common Era – BC). Ancient Chinese alchemists realized that the magnetite ore would point towards a magnetic north, but at this time the compass was used primarily to determine the best location for burials or buildings.  By the 7th-8th centuries, the Chinese had developed needle compasses that could be floated in water (wet compass) or placed upon a pointed shaft (dry compass).  During the Sung dynasty in 1000 CE, Chinese trading ships used the compass to sail as far as Saudi Arabia. Mediterranean seamen appear to have been the first to use the compass for navigation in the west during the 12th century.
Cotter, Charles H. “Navigational Compass.”  1997 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia.

Silverman, Susan. “Compass, China, 220 BCE.”  Smith College Museum of Ancient Inventions: Compass. Accessed May 8, 2005.


Appian Way

The Appian Way is the oldest and most famous of the vast network of roads through the Roman Empire. Construction began in 312 BCE and by the time it was completed, it ran for 362 miles from Rome to Capua (Campania) and the port city of Brindisi. It was the first Roman paved road, made of stone blocks cemented with a lime mortar and overlaid with blocks of smooth lava. It was slightly convex and elevated to allow rainwater to drain off the road and prevent deterioration, characteristics that created the term “highway” as a description of a major thoroughfare.

The Appian Way embodies the spirit of Roman roadbuilding, which quite literally became the foundation of the Roman Empire. The roads were designed to last a hundred years and were maintained with tolls, tariffs and private contributions. Their achievement led to the famous observation that “all roads lead to Rome.” A traveler on any one of the roads could enter the city of Rome simply by following the chosen route to its conclusion.

The Roman road network spanned 15,000 miles and stretched across Europe to Africa, Greece, the Middle East and India for a total of 372 roads.  This transport design included such vital infrastructure as bridges, tunnels and drainage systems. Originally intended for military purposes, the roads were also used by merchants and other travelers. The Roman roads also inspired a postal service and ultimately generated a mass market for goods in Europe, the Middle and Far East.

“Appian Way,” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed Aug. 23, 2002.

Van Hagen, Victor W. The Roads That Led to Rome. New York: The World Publishing Company, 1967.



Not a lot it appears, although the elephants have earned Hannibal a place in history. Hannibal is considered the father of logistics for his mastery of military strategy, tactics and leadership. Born in 247 BCE, Hannibal learned to hate the Romans from his father and brother-in-law. Together they rebuilt the power of Carthage, battling the Roman legions in the Punic Wars. Hannibal first provoked Rome by capturing Saguntum in Spain. He then planned to invade Italy from the North and attempted to cross the Alps in 218 BCE with his elephants. Most of the 34 elephants that began the expedition died while crossing the mountains or trying to survive the severe winter.

Hannibal did defeat the Romans on several occasions but was then forced to go to North Africa to counter an invasion by the Roman conqueror Scipio. Hannibal had 80 elephants in North Africa, but he ultimately abandoned them and escaped to Carthage, located in what is now Tunisia. From Carthage, Hannibal agreed to peace terms with Rome. He became a chief magistrate in Carthage, implementing a variety of constitutional and economic reforms. Battles with Rome continued – without elephants – and in about 182 BCE, Hannibal committed suicide to avoid being handed over to the Romans.

Hannibal’s elephants came from North Africa; they were smaller than Indian elephants and did not carry towers from which soldiers could wage war. The Romans figured out ways to realign the formations of their soldiers to create corridors through which the elephants could be harmlessly herded.

Ward, Allen Mason. “Hannibal.” 1997 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia.

Yocherer, Greg. “The Trouble with Elephants.” Military History magazine at Accessed May 8, 2005.