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Roman Republic: Res publica Romana • View topic - Surveying #3

Surveying #3

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Surveying #3

Postby Marcus Minucius Audens » Thu Sep 22, 2016 5:32 pm



Continuing on with the instruments used in Roman construction, we come to the Dioptra of Heron. This device was utilized in the early Greek world by astronomers who were working to measure the positions of various stars throughout the overhead universe. These stars were the main pointer stars for various imagined gods and constellations in the night sky like Big Bear (Big Dipper), Little Bear (Little Dipper), Taurus the Bull, Scorpio (Scorpion), Hercules, and many others. The dioptra in the Roman era was adapted to the science of surveying, and bears a similarity to the theodolite, the use of which dates to the sixteenth century. In its use as a surveying instrument, it is much more accurate than a groma and can be used for a number of angles, not being limited to only square angle surveying. It may have been accurate enough to actually build a tunnel. It is said by some scholars, that the dioptra was used in the construction of the Eupalinian aqueduct, however, some other scholars disagree, saying that the dioptra was not available that early. The dioptra had turning screws on several parts of the machine which enabled the instrument to be unusually accurate, approaching today's surveying accuracy, and also enabled it to calibrate which resulted in the very precise positioning and measurements.

A second leveling instrument was the simple Libella. This was used by roman engineers in the field, where the terrain was to rough for the dioptra, and in areas too small for the use of a chorobates. The instrument was made of a wooden frame reinforced with brass plates for a more solid construction. The frame was built in the shape of a letter “A” with the addition of a horizontal wooden bar at the top. From the apex of the “A” a short plum-line was suspended from a small nail or screw that matched a central mark on the lower bar when the instrument was level. Other marks could have been added to the lower bar, which would have indicated additional slope angles, however there is no evidence on the samples that we have, that such was ever done (Hauck, 1988; 43).

The weighted plumb-line was also an instrument used extensively by Roman surveyors as it was used in at least three of the surveying instruments in use by the surveyors.

Lastly, in the workshop of Verus in Pompeii, there was a portable sundial found there. A portable sundial is not only used to indicate the time of day, but the lines of the two sides can be used for measurements. While the sundial’s precise use is not known and therefore uncertain (Dilke, 1971:72), it has been shown that a sundial can be used for more that simply tracking time. It can also be used to orientate buildings and various other structures.

Respectfully Submitted;
Marcus Audens
Marcus Minucius Audens
 

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