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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Artifacts of Antiquity"
This poem came out of the August 6, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] redsixwing and [personal profile] alexseanchai. It also fills the "hazy" square in my 8-2-19 card for the End of Summer Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] redsixwing. It belongs to the Time Towers series, which you can find via the Serial Poetry page.


"The Artifacts of Antiquity"


There are so many things
that people once knew
how to make but have
been forgotten since.

Egyptian blue captured
the color of the gods.

Both China and Greece
produced ancient androids
that could work wonders.

The ancients also had batteries,
like the famous Baghdad Battery.

The Mirror of Archimedes
harnessed the power of the Sun,
setting fire to enemy ships.

Roman concrete drew
its strength from seawater,
getting stronger rather than
weaker over time.

Greek fire rained hell on
the enemies of Byzantium.

All of these secrets were
lost in the hazy past,
dismissed as magic
or outright myth.

So when time travel
was discovered, people
went back to figure out
how they really worked.

It's amazing how many of them
turned out to be invented by women.

* * *

Notes:

Egyptian blue was an ancient pigment with exceptional artistic qualities.

Ancient androids appeared in multiple cultures including Greece and China. They were animated in various ways.

The Baghdad Battery used iron, copper, and an acidic liquid to generate weak electricity. It may have been used for medical or artistic purposes. However, a series of such batteries linked together would have produced enough energy to animate small machines.

The Mirror of Archimedes was described as a set of mirrors that could light ships on fire. So far, all the hypotheses I've seen amount to some sort of mirror-telescope or magnifying glass. Nobody seems to have considered that he might have invented a laser ... somehow. But it sure acted like one.

Roman concrete capitalized on the elements in seawater to make itself stronger. Some of it is still standing and functional even today. That's about 2000 years. Modern concrete falls apart in 5-10, less if it includes iron infrastructure.

Greek Fire was an incendiary material that could not be put out with water. It was delivered by pumps or flung shells. I have always suspected that the empire fell, not because nobody remembered how to make Greek fire, but because the last person that did was a woman who said, "Y'know, fuck it. If I'm not getting credit, let the barbarians have 'em." After all, nobody would ever have suspected her of knowing it.

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