Originally Posted by Koolasuchus
Did not Toynbee make an essay with that premise? I think it went something like this: Alexander lived to old age and was thus able to consolidate his empire so it would not break down when he died. Later on the empire needed better communications so some smart persons came upon the idea to combine Herons idea of a steam engine with the diolkos, a sort of railroad in stone used to drag ships over the Corintian isthmus. So soon trains, pulled by steam engines would traverse the whole realm of the Alexandrian empire.
As a footnote it is also told about a man sitting at the train station in Nasareth preaching his message, but people were so busy so noone had the time to listen.
I think that though Heron had the concept of harnessing steam, the construction of a functional steam engine would have had to await more advanced techniques of metallurgy, and machining before a truly practical one would have been feasible, at least on a large scale. Edratman
should comment on this as he is very good with manufacturing and machines and the like.
As to the Empire in general, I agree that it had reached its natural limit and likely rebellion and fragmentation would have been in store if there had been attempts to extend it further.
It is intriguing though that if Alexander had lived long and established a stable dynasty the whole Hellenistic period would have been altered and possibly the rise of Rome wouldn't have happened! Interesting indeed!