If nowaday an engineer needs to know high level of mathematics and physics to complete the constructions of bridges buildings and so on

what happened in ancient rome, greek middle ages ? they had no idea of physics so how could build they a temple for example or a cathedral or similar

even today there are failures and buildings and bridges collapse so why for example a church or temple or pyramid do not fall ?

how could anyone build something without knowing the laws of physics ?

  • $\begingroup$ "why for example a church or temple or pyramid do not fall ?" experience. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2017 at 12:54
  • $\begingroup$ "how could anyone build something without knowing the laws of physics ?" experience. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2017 at 12:55
  • $\begingroup$ Many of them did fall. But of course those are not around any more. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2017 at 15:20
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ How can someone throw, or even more surprisingly: catch, a ball without knowing the laws of physics - or knowing how to solve differential equations? $\endgroup$ May 5, 2017 at 15:47

1 Answer 1


One does not need to know Newton's Laws to construct buildings. Newton's laws are about dynamics, and the parts of physics most relevant to buildings are statics and material science. (Statics was a highly developed science in Ancient Greece but not before that. Material science did not exist until 17th century).

But even this is irrelevant. We know that large buildings were built long before Ancient Greece, for example in Egypt and Babylonia. And the builders of Mexican temples did not know Ancient Greek statics, and it is doubtful that medieval builders knew much of the Greek science.

All these buildings were possible to build by trial and error and experiments on scale models. We can only guess the details how very ancient buildings were built, but it is known that medieval builders of cathedrals used scale models, and very little mathematics. And they used common sense, first of all.

(Similarly mankind built very good ships without hydrodynamics, even without Archimedes law, and complicated irrigation systems without hydrostatics, and artillery without ballistics). Seaworthy ships were built even before writing was invented! People did not understand as we do now how and why these things work, but they could make working things by very long trial and error. By the way, even now we do not have a complete theoretical understanding how such things as sails or airfoil work. They are also made mostly by trial and error.)

EDIT. We all know that Greek science disappeared and was forgotten during the Dark Age in Europe (approximately starting from the fall of the Western Roman empire. But it disappeared also in the Eastern Roman empire).

Sometimes they cite an edict of Justinian which formally prohibited mathematics along with all other "pagan" science. On the other hand, the same Justinian (an Eastern Roman emperor) sponsored the Hagia Sophia cathedral, which was arguably the most sophisticated building built in the early Middle Age.


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