The legacy of Rome

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Valentinian, Jan 25, 2021.

  1. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    I got this humorous take on history in an email today. I am repeating it virtually unchanged, except for including a Roman Republican coin (and its description) where the original had a sketch. I do not know whether the facts are correct.


    The U.S. 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 designed the U.S. 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 had 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 (including England) for their legions. Those roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? Roman wagons 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 Imperial Roman chariot.

    Roman Republican denarius with a two-horse chariot (a "biga"). Crawford 284/1. M. Calidius and Q. Caecilius Metellus and Cn. Fulvius, 117/116 BC.

    In other words, bureaucracies live forever.
    So the next time you are handed a specification, procedure, or process, and wonder, 'What horse's ass came up with this?', you may be exactly right.

    Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses.


    Now, the twist to the story:

    When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, you will notice that there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank.

    These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah.

    The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit larger, but the SRBs 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 SRBs 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 years ago by the width of a horse's ass. And you thought being a horse's ass wasn't important!

    Now you know, Horses' Asses control almost everything.

    Explains a whole lot of stuff, doesn't it?
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2021
    otlichnik, PlanoSteve, Tejas and 32 others like this.
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. Evan Saltis

    Evan Saltis College Dorm Collector Supporter

    The standardization of gauges happened in the late 1800's in the states. Before, each company had different gauges so only they could use it. Railroad barons, amirite?
  4. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    LOL, awesome, @Valentinian ! I knew about the Rail Gauge in the US matching the Roman Cart gauge. The rest of the story really fills in the historical gaps.

    Here are a couple double-ass Bigas:

    SAMNIUM - Mountain People Neighbors who Fought with Rome

    (Probly part of influencing the standard Biga gauge)

    Samnium, Aesernia
    263-240 BCE
    AE 20 Vulcan Pilos Tongs
    Jupiter driving Biga


    (My oldest Roman Biga)

    Roman Republic
    P Cornelius Sulla
    151 BCE
    AR Denarius
    Sear 84 Craw 205-1
  5. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Great story , and ofcause a dupondius is worth 2 asses

    Augustus S-C 2.jpg
  6. John Conduitt

    John Conduitt Well-Known Member

    The standard gauge was set by George Stephenson in England (who, after all, established the train as a popular mode of transport). But he still had to fight against the Great Western Railway to get it adopted - their gauge was 7 feet (so not linked to ruts in roads).

    Stephenson's original gauge was a little narrower, designed to replace the existing horse-drawn systems used to carry coal from mines in the north-east of England (which brings the link to horses a lot closer than the Romans). He had to widen it a little to allow the engines more slack to get around corners (hence the half inch). The Great Western also widened theirs by 1/4 inch.

    Britain adopted Stephenson's gauge in 1845 on account of it being more widely used. Eventually all railways were converted after the operating companies amalgamated. The US used it because they got their trains from Britain.

    George Stephenson does have a numismatic link - he appeared on the British £5 note in the 1990s

    As does Isambard Kingdom Brunel, his rival at the Great Western Railway, who features on the £2 coin
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2021
  7. Egry

    Egry Supporter! Supporter

    @Valentinian, I’ve read a version of this before, but I like your version better.
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  8. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  9. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    So quadrigas couldn't travel on Roman roads? They were the all-terrain vehicles of the day?

    A biga:

    Ti. Claudius Nero 79 BCE Diana-Victory in biga jpg version.jpg

    A quadriga:

    Probus - Soli Invicto - Quadriga Left - Rome - jpg version.jpg
  10. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths Supporter

    Width of Boudica's chariot wheels I was told as a kid.
  11. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

  12. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Reminiscent of how Mac and Microsoft get along.
  13. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    I am still on Atari...

  14. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Honest, No Lie, to this day, my favorite version of Sid Meier's Civilization is the original, DOS version. Gotta love those flat maps, instead of the fancier ones from Civ2 on. Helps to remind me that it's a Game.
    DonnaML and Alegandron like this.
  15. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

    +VGO.DVCKS and Alegandron like this.
  16. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    That is one of my favorites!
    I never graduated from the arcade style games to todays super type games. Not fun for me. Simple games like Solitaire, Crosswords, Mah-Jong are what I play. Then read news and books. No watching TV for info (don't TELL me what I am to THINK), rather read a lot. :) And vegging out with those simple games are fun for me.
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  17. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    LOL, you are over my head now. :)
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  18. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    I'm So on your page about TV, and being told what to think. Always smells like Orwell, but with corporate instead of state sponsorship, more along the lines of Huxley. ...Speaking of which, I can't even stand it at the more consistently commercial level, being told what to Want.
    That was exactly the initial draw about ebay. The sales model was more like, First, Know what you want, Then, Look for it. Love that, to this day. ...Granted, they stilll do "suggestions," unfailiningly of no relevance whatsoever (...kind of encouraging). But it's relatively easy to ignore those.
    Alegandron likes this.
  19. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  20. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Yes! Yes! Yes!!!!!!! And what finds its way into the inbox gets busted for phishing first, Then blocked. The gestalt kind of lands on you:
    "Oh! I get it. yyyYou think that I'm dumber than you are!"
    For somebody who's still waiting for the book, Old Age for Dummies, I'm already speaking 'Curmudgeon,' Fluently.
    Alegandron likes this.
  21. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    ...Just (from memory),
    "Don't worry ['...Reginald,' except I know that's wrong],
    I'll eat your SPAM;
    I Love it!"
    (...Coughing ...happily; mainly to counteract the gag reflex.)
    Alegandron likes this.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page