I know this question sounds like it should be in the sci-fi site (and maybe it should), but I'm more interested in the state of metallurgy etc at the time of the Roman Empire (let's say around 0 AD) and if a modern electrical engineer, if somehow magically transported back to that time, would be able to create and store electricity in a way that would be useful.

For example, did the Romans have the technology for drawing copper wire thin enough to create a rotor/stator setup, and did they have the ability to create a mechanical crank and gears to turn this type of primitive electromagnetic motor, as well as all concomitant parts (housing, shafts, etc.)? Would they have had the grease?


  • $\begingroup$ I recommend to change the tag to "electricity" and "antiquity". $\endgroup$ Feb 23, 2015 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't have enough points to add new tags. I had to choose from among the existing ones. Thanks, though. $\endgroup$
    – Marc Adler
    Feb 23, 2015 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ Do you agree with my change of tags? The tag "electricity" existed. "Ancient-rome" I added. If we have "ancient-Greece" and "ancient-India" why not "ancient-rome"? :-) $\endgroup$ Feb 23, 2015 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, feel free to add any tags you think are appropriate. I still don't have enough points to add any. :) $\endgroup$
    – Marc Adler
    Feb 24, 2015 at 14:12

1 Answer 1


The simplest electric generator contains copper wire, and permanent magnet (loadstone). You need no grease. There is no doubt that copper wire could be made, but probably was not readily available. With some effort, you can make it yourself, using technology available to the Romans. (They did make very fine wire of gold, for example). It will be a bit difficult to insulate the wire properly (otherwise you cannot make a coil). Other parts could be certainly made. So you can make simplest electric motor/generator.

Batteries or accumulators will be more difficult: chemistry was in very primitive state, and making the necessary chemicals yourself is much harder, but probably not completely impossible. Volta's first batteries used plates of copper and zink, and salt water brine as electrolite. Everything available in Rome. The general conclusion is that given enough time and money, this is probably possible.


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