need help with GLOBAL BC history for science fiction use... *gasp* sacrilege, i know

Apr 2019
7
Tucson, AZ
greetings all.

i'm looking for help learning about the state of ALL cultures prior to the burning of the library of alexandria. i want to write an alternate timeline "steampunk" story in which the dark ages never happened and technology takes off earlier. i could just fake it and go with my basic ideas, but i'd like to really do some research to make the story more plausible and maybe even interesting to the sci-fi fans here. i got frustrated with trying to research the topic when i first came up with my ideas as history books are generally too specific, and i don;'t want to have to read 200 books to write 1, know what i mean? i DID manage to find one book i did like though that was a global timeline, but that was a bit too general and regarding specific events like battles with few of the juicy kind of details i'm looking for

after having a steampunk dream just before the (aircraft) "carrier" series on PBS inspired steampunk battleship ideas in my head and combined with my dream, started my idea on which i've placed a lot of thought over the years inventing technologies, coming up with the plot basics, and envisioning environments like a giant neon "3rd world blade runneresque " market in athens (?) featuring fusions of recipes and ingredients as people ate back in those days.

what i'm looking for is

- cool "obscure" (to us non-historians, at least) facts about the times to pepper the story with eg. india inventing the #0, the prosperous (until famine) secular trade city that lived in harmony, roman addiction to lead, damascus steel (no brass!!!! LOL), or maybe that lost sex cult
- info on technologies, foods, and mindsets of ALL of the worlds cultures to create antagonists & "UN" protagonists to be able to who's who on each side, though the MAIN antagonist in my story will be a corrupt & greedy rome... integrating current events into the context of those times
- really good history books that answer the kinds of "vibe, tech & politics" questions i'm asking.
- any resources that would better serve me eg. a history Q & A forum

i'm looking for details to fill out the history before my story to explain how things got to be the way they are along with grounding it in facts. if anyone can recommend specific books that'll give me good ideas to incorporate, i don't mind heavy lifting homework at all as long as i don't waste my time on irrelevant and "uninteresting" details. what i'd REALLY like is a conversation with you experts to get straight to "the good stuff" IF any of you would enjoy having your brains picked for this. experts are better than search engines any day!

i'm hoping to find surprising new info that might even take my story in new directions or add sub-plots.

yeah... i know sci-fi is NOT why anyone but me is here, but i'm hoping this semi-"off topic" thread is an exciting change of pace for at least a few of you who just might like to get a mention in the book's tribute. i really need to look into intellectual property laws about this too to make sure no-one tries to sue me for stealing THEIR intellectual property. i'm hoping that you know of all kinds of "lost history" and/or day to day mundane stuff you're just dying to see shared kind of like the true story behind "300"

all i know is i'm NOT a fan of the victorian era at all, and am generally "meh" towards steam punk. i'm looking go "pragmatic" in my technologies etc. and ignore the pompous ornate gilded lilly aesthetics of "fashion conscious" steam punk.

so, that's why i'm wasting your time and "spamming" your forum with lowly fiction.

many thanks in advance to anyone that offers anything i can incorporate into my story or even just points me in the right direction. i'd like to write "the star wars of steam punk" and not just puke ideas that contradict the way things really were in that period of history. i'm looking to add interesting details that will make the story feel more real. by all means... feel free to add your own ideas too. i'm sure you all know the answers to a million questions i don't even know to ask. if you hate fiction... why are you still reading this?! HAHAHAHA! i made sure to be accurate in my thread's title.
 
Jun 2017
432
maine
Not sure if this is the sort of thing you mean. I always liked the Hittites of Anatolia. One of the most memorable photos in one of my college texts was of a Hittite relief that showed warriors going into battle accompanied by a bagpiper. The Hittites (Ancient History Encyclopedia)
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,965
Sydney
More germane to your quest , Ptolemaic Alexandria had this guy Ctesibius who invented the Aeolipile , a precursor of the steam engine
 
Mar 2019
1,801
Kansas
i'm looking for details to fill out the history before my story to explain how things got to be the way they are along with grounding it in facts. if anyone can recommend specific books that'll give me good ideas to incorporate, i don't mind heavy lifting homework at all as long as i don't waste my time on irrelevant and "uninteresting" details. what i'd REALLY like is a conversation with you experts to get straight to "the good stuff" IF any of you would enjoy having your brains picked for this. experts are better than search engines any day!
.
Many dont realize that the Library had been in decline for some time before its ultimate destruction. The decline can be accurately dated to Ptolemy Vll. The power struggle that brought him to the throne lead to the expulsion of large numbers of scholars from the library, and rival libraries being created all over the Med.

So a simple mechanism to accelerate your technology timeline is to rewrite this ruler as far more sympathetic to the library and its aims.
 
Oct 2016
1,157
Merryland
'Hero's Boiler' dates back to Ancient Greece
Aeolipile.jpg
and the Romans were capable metallurgists
turning point; either some clever Romans figure out steam / ironwork tech and save the empire
or something else saves the empire (huns die from plague) which gives Rome time for technology
maybe a family of rogue genius Chinese enters the Roman (or Byzantine) orbit and works with extant to create industrial revolution
 
Nov 2016
1,013
Germany
i'm looking for help learning about the state of ALL cultures prior to the burning of the library of alexandria. i want to write an alternate timeline "steampunk" story in which the dark ages never happened and technology takes off earlier.
Nice idea, but there are some difficulties.

1)
The time when the library burned down or was burned down is completely uncertain. It may have happened in the 1st century BCE or in the 4th century CE or in the 7th century CE. Not the slightest remains were found, which is why some researchers have doubts as to whether the library really existed in the form in which it was described.

2)
The Middle Ages are a product of the Christianization of pagan Europe. So if you want to ban the Dark Ages from your story, you must prevent Christianity from coming to military power and the Christianized Romans from christianizing the core of Europe before a new empire emerges in Europe (the Franks) that spreads Christianity by sword throughout Europe. Of course, the Christianization of the Roman Empire (a personal decision of Emperor Constantine) happened by chance anyway, otherwise the Mithras cult would have become the predominant Roman religion. I therefore recommend that you study this cult in depth and design a Roman Empire in which this cult plays a central role instead of Christianity from the 4th century CE. You will either have to prevent Constantine from becoming emperor or change his biography in such a way that he does not even have the idea of turning to the Christian faith.

The Mithras cult has two central myths: the rock birth of Mithras and the Tauroctony. Here is some info about the rock birth (part of a still unfinished study of mine):

There is no written first-hand source material from which the meaning of both myths could unambiguously be inferred. What is left is only archeological material, namely a number of Mithraea, that is, natural or artificial underground caves with the function of temples, and a number of sculptures and reliefs depicting either the bull-slaying scene, the tauroctony, or the rock birth scene, both being the central motifs of the cult. A cave as worship location was so essential to the cult that an artificial cave was digged in case that no natural one could be found for setting up a new temple.

Most reliefs and sculptures of the birth scene present Mithras coming out of an egg-shaped hole, holding a dagger and a torch, as is the case with the rock-birth sculpture in the Hancock museum in Newcastle/England, which shows Mithra with dagger and torch and being surrounded by a precisely egg-shaped zodiac (that is, not circular and not evenly oval). Often the hole is entwined by a snake what is apparently derived from the Orphic creation myth. Hence the cult of Mithra was basically influenced by the older Orphic cult of Greek light and creator god Phanes who also was thought to be born out of a world-egg. This egg is an unmistakable reference to an invisible ´back stage´ mother figure, namely a mother goddess, whose negated presence is however never picked out as a theme in conventional academic investigations in the subject. It seems that the same process of suppression of the feminine which characterizes Roman Mithraism has also befallen the academia when reflecting on background contexts of the myth.

In any case, in antique mythology the world-egg is regularly produced by a goddess, e.g. Egyptian Hathor in her embodiment as goose, laying the ´Golden Egg´, which symbolizes the sun, or the black-winged goddess of the ´Night´ in Orphic mythology, placing a silvern egg into the womb of the ´Darkness´ from where god Eros springs out to set the world going. In Greece, Leda (Leto) bears the world egg, out of which the Dioscuri, the deities of the morning and the evening stars, come forth. Deviating myths like that of world-egg-fashioning Egyptian god Chnum are patriarchal attempts to misappropriate this typically feminine motif to the masculine world, as is the case with the Egyptian Late-Bronze-Age creator god Atum whose masturbatory creation of progeny is simply an inverted--and somehow ridiculous--copy of the much older feminine parthenogenetic birth mode. It is for sure that the renunciation of a divine mother figure is symptomatic of the misogyne attitude of the Roman cult, to which adhered, apart from a few possible exceptions, only males, mostly soldiers.

In both scenes, the tauroctony and the rock birth, a cave/hole/egg is the stage where god Mithra is acting, inside in the former and breaking outwards in the latter case. Apart from these indications that the location is symbolically coextensive with ´womb´, other religious systems supply numerous examples for the symbolic equality of cave and maternal womb, too. For instance, many Etruscian and Roman sanctuaries incorporated a subterranean room, the so-called ´mundus´, meaning ´world´ as well as ´earth´ and ´womb´, what corresponds to ´womb´ as the original meaning of Sanskrit ´garbha-grha´ (sanctuary). It should be noted, by the way, that the name of the Greek oracle sanctuary ´Delphi´ comes from ´delphos´, also meaning ´womb´. Moreover, the cult of the Anatolian mother goddess Cybele was often practised in caves in correspondence to the residence of the goddess. There the Galloi, the self-castrated priests of Cybele, ´unified´ with their mistress. Those places were called ´nuptial chambers´. The connection to womb is rather obvious. It seems also obvious with regard to the Syrian fertility god Adonai (´Lord´, Greek: Adonis) who not only was given birth in a cave but was buried in the same cave, thus returning into the womb.
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,965
Sydney
Medieval Europe was very good at mechanical devices , many inventions date from this time
also there were great intellectual progress made , one of the most important was the codification of thinking and debate
logic and rhetoric were the basic block of rational thinking
 
Apr 2019
7
Tucson, AZ
Not sure if this is the sort of thing you mean. I always liked the Hittites of Anatolia. One of the most memorable photos in one of my college texts was of a Hittite relief that showed warriors going into battle accompanied by a bagpiper. The Hittites (Ancient History Encyclopedia)
Not sure if this is the sort of thing you mean. I always liked the Hittites of Anatolia. One of the most memorable photos in one of my college texts was of a Hittite relief that showed warriors going into battle accompanied by a bagpiper. The Hittites (Ancient History Encyclopedia)

if there's ONE musical instrument in this world i hate... it's BAGPIPES!!! LOL i'm not into scottish history one bit. i DESPISE braveheart (i call it brayfar_), though rob roy wasn't as bad.

to catch everyone up on where my idea is... greeks are the "good guys" when they double down on democracy and humanism after early contact with native americans, hopis (their name means "the peaceful ones") turn explorers onto peyote and trigger a sort of "hippy" revolution that catches on to create a utopian socialist democracy.

More germane to your quest , Ptolemaic Alexandria had this guy Ctesibius who invented the Aeolipile , a precursor of the steam engine
i'm not familiar with him, but i have seen drawings of the spherical "steam jet" engine. as far as ancient tech goes (if it doesn't happen AFTER my timeline eg. samurai swords are cool, but too modern), i was planning on dropping "Antikythera mechanism " in the story somewhere as it's not only cool, but quite steampunk itself. oh... i see someone mentioned it. i loved the nova science now episode about it. great viewing if anyone's interested

when i say "steam punk"... i'm not at all talking about purism... titanium and SOME modern tech will be in the story and, as part of the progressive nature of the "UN" in the story, they use clean burning hydrogen to power their steam GENERATORS while the empire uses dirty coal... global warming is an issue... overall, it will be a tome against the kind of greed and corruption destroying the planet today, but in a new timeline setting. greek battleships will use anti-gravity to fly, though there will also be trains and dirigibles, as seen in my dream where a dirt burning bi-plane gets chased off by pursuing craft

Rome time for technology
maybe a family of rogue genius Chinese enters the Roman (or Byzantine) orbit and works with extant to create industrial revolution
everyone in general is more saavy & has tech because science kept progressing in my story. i DID definitely want to add china to the story, but as UN allies (although was china isolationist then? and what about that HUGE fleet they sent out? that might be a source for early backstory. the story takes place long after alexandria because its knowledge gets preserved. so far, my idea for the "cause" of the timeline is movable type, so as with us, information reaches a critical mass where ideas build on ideas. so.. .by the time "alexandria happens" people have access to books so there are no disgruntled commoners to torch it.

The Middle Ages are a product of the Christianization of pagan Europe. So if you want to ban the Dark Ages from your story, you must prevent Christianity from coming to military power and the Christianized Romans from christianizing the core of Europe before a new empire emerges in Europe (the Franks) that spreads Christianity by sword throughout Europe. Of course, the Christianization of the Roman Empire (a personal decision of Emperor Constantine) happened by chance anyway, otherwise the Mithras cult would have become the predominant Roman religion. I therefore recommend that you study this cult in depth and design a Roman Empire in which this cult plays a central role instead of Christianity from the 4th century CE. You will either have to prevent Constantine from becoming emperor or change his biography in such a way that he does not even have the idea of turning to the Christian faith.
as i see the church as the CAUSE of the dark ages... yeah... christianity is a non-issue in the story... science and rationality prevail. if i DID portray christianity... it would be part of the roman empire and just as toxic as religious bigotry is right now. REALLY the whole story will be losely based on current events, just in a new setting with new characters. so far... romans and aztecs are the bad guys in the story. i'm still debating video/film tech for the story, but have an idea that rome broadcasts both Colosseum events as well as aztec/inca sacrifices, much like the US is the host to porn & the dark web. rome is corrupt, polluting and sells addiction... the "righteous" chose mind opening hallucinogens which makes people mellower and more empathetic as well as less depressed. it won't go as far as the summer of love... but same idea.

the REAL difficulty with the story is human nature. i'm ALMOST inclined to think human nature is too busted for this to work, but, that one ancient city mentioned in the final disc for the PBS "trade" series supposedly lasted a long time BECAUSE it was secular, and maybe combining that with peyote & mushrooms with a good dose of native american (an independent UN ally in the story) "matrilinealism" not a word until now, i think i can make it work & find workarounds for continuity. i've given this a lot of thought over the years, solving problems or finding alternate paths, trying to stay close to history & current events. so many books throw stuff that's hard to swallow for me in them. that's why i'm here. i want to "do the math" so to speak and have everything make perfect sense as well be interesting.

one of the things i neglected to mention is that i'm also interested in weird, especially if it's funny, trivia to pepper the story with. it MIGHT have some comedy (greek theater reference) in it but in small doses, though something might click to let my comedy freak fly.
 
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Apr 2019
7
Tucson, AZ
ran out of edit time, but at least this forum didn't eat my reply on logout like so many others.

one of the things i neglected to mention is that i'm also interested in weird, especially if it's funny, trivia to pepper the story with. it MIGHT have some comedy (greek theater reference) in it but in small doses, though something might click to let my comedy freak fly.

Medieval Europe was very good at mechanical devices , many inventions date from this time
also there were great intellectual progress made , one of the most important was the codification of thinking and debate
logic and rhetoric were the basic block of rational thinking
actually my timeline takes place in the middle ages because the dark ones never happened. any tech from then on in the story would have to be explained, like my comments about katanas. new timeline = new slate, though some things, like movable type are eventually bound to happen in a technologically progressive world. actually, for me, tech is the easy part. i need historical details to solidify the plot and environment. like bagpipes, i'm not at all a fan of ancient england (or greece really even if i studied it some in art history class... doric, ionic... corinthian. (pillars)

that's one of the cool, to me, things about my idea. it won't be pigeonholed into "victorian steampunk" aesthetics, except for the technologies (and limits thereof), will lean towards functional minimalism and a modern feel... more like blade runner or 1984 than, say, the golden compass. i prefer futuristic sci-fi and want to drag steampunk into it kicking and screaming and whizzing cosplay purists off. HAHAHA! nope... no jules verne here.

WHEW! now i've got to copy and paste everyone's skimmed comments and digest all the details at home as i start taking notes.

thank you so much for all of your input. THIS is how i'll eventually get to the meat of what i'm trying to do... interactive dialogue where i can get you to better understand what i'm looking for than google as well as pick your brains for juicy nuggets of tech/history/sociology that will give the story more weight than some hack just pulling stuff out of their proctology zone with no regards to facts. DO NOT get me started on the hideously impossible science in "the core"! LOL

in between that, y'all can keep me from going too far astray into that unbelievable realm. i really want EVERYTHING to be authentic and plausible, except maybe for antigrav generators. i can't get rid of those though as they were the FIRST thing i came up with merging modern battleships with more steampunkish skipshooting wooden sailing battleships. antigrav is NECESSARY to float the heavily armored (with a "damascus magnesium" alloy) battle ships with rocket cannon port doors and window shutters.

minimalist & modern... my battleships will be way more modern than frilly purist steampunk fodder and more in line with my functional engineering ideas. when it's done, it would cause debate whether or not it's even steampunk. so many people can't wrap their heads around genre crossovers like whoever lost their mind when i added 1984 & avatar: the last airbender to a steampunk movies list despite the fact that there's a steam train in 1984, a bomb is called a STEAMER and the aesthetics are kind of 1940s and airbender has STEAMSHIPS (argued as NOT steamships and powered by fire bending) and after seeing the full series... lots of steampunk tech with the sequel having a 1910 aesthetic featuring primitive internal combustion cars.

my mind works the OPPOSITE of calculatus eliminatus thinkers. i keep my mind open and actively look for less than obvious connections and refuse to have my thinking boxed. i will argue with anyone to the last breath that techinally, religion, superheroes and fantasy are ALL subgenres of science fiction because they all FICTIONALIZE SCIENCE... pretty literal and obvious to me... boxthinkers hate my insolence challenging their world view pretty much the same way i want to stretch the definition of steam punk.

BTW... my loose definition of the genre is "science fiction with primitive technologies or set far in the past".... steam engines, brass, goggles, trenchcoats, victorian opulence (BLECH!!!) and dirigibles ONLY is both far too confining and not as exciting as modern minimalism.

OK... i really got to go now, the library's c;losing. hopefully now that i've let most of the base of my story out and commented on your comments, you have a better idea where i'm trying to go with this.

on the downside... my copied and re-pasted text got re-formatted, but it's easier to delete extra lines than re-type an hours worth of blabbing