Here's how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Marbleezy asks: How did the ancient Romans manage to build perfectly straight roads hundreds of miles long?

The ancient Romans were a people famed for their architectural prowess, something no better demonstrated than by their ability to build almost perfectly straight and incredibly durable roads spanning expansive distances. For example, in Britain alone, the Romans built well over 50,000 miles of roads with the longest ruler-straight stretch spanning over 50 miles. They did all of this in an era without modern surveying tools, construction equipment, or even very accurate maps of precisely where their destination was for many of the areas. So how did they do it?

To begin with, it’s important to note there were a few different types of roads that were made throughout the Roman Republic and Empire, and exact method and materials used for road construction varied somewhat from region to region and evolved slightly over the centuries.

That caveat out of the way, the three main classification of Roman roads were viae terrenae, essentially dirt roads, often made by people walking and wagons riding over the same path over time; viae glareae, which would be a dirt road that was then graveled; and, finally much more interestingly, viae munita, which were more or less paved roads, some of which have survived through modern times.


Within these types of roads there were further classifications based on who could use them, such as viae publicae (public roads), viae militares (military or state use roads), and viae privatae (private roads, constructed at private expense and for the owners to decide who they allowed access, perhaps the general public or perhaps just a select few).

To help pay for them, roads of all types often had tolls, particularly at locations like bridges and city gates where it would be impractical to avoid the tolling location.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

The Appian Way, a road connecting the city of Rome to the southern parts of Italy, remains usable even today.

This brings us to the road construction process itself. As dirt and gravel roads aren’t terribly interesting, we’re going to focus this article on the viae munita. So how did they make these incredibly durable and generally amazingly straight roads? After all, even with modern machinery, constructing and maintaining an expansive road system is an extremely time consuming and labor intensive process.

To start with, a group of surveyors would be sent out to figure out the precise direction connecting the two main points. At the same time, they’d attempt to plan the route as efficiently as possible while accounting for any major obstacles like tall mountains, rivers, etc. When possible, they may attempt to avoid such obstacles, but, particularly in some of the earliest Roman road construction, where it might result in having to take a large detour to get around, say, a mountain, if possible given the terrain, they tended to just build the road to go directly over it or directly through it. For example, the longest tunnel through such a mountain was the Grotta di Cocceio which was excavated from 38 to 36 BCE and is approximately 1 km (.62 miles) long and about 5 meters (5.4 yards) high and wide. Before WWII, it was also still a fully functional and safe to traverse tunnel despite standing about 2,000 years at that point, but was damaged during the war, though there are presently efforts to have it repaired and opened again to the public.

As for going over a mountain, it’s important to note here that we don’t mean they’d use switch backs as is the general method today. No, if at all possible, they’d just build roads straight up a mountain and down the other side, expecting the soldiers and mules and the like to just man up and traverse the steep slopes without complaint.

That said, as the empire matured, it did eventually become apparent that there were economic advantages to slightly longer roads that were easier for draught animals to pull carts over, and thus there was a shift to favoring longer distances but lesser gradients when talking roads for general public use.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

A Roman street in Pompeii.

Either way, during the process, the surveyors would setup markers, often at very visible points like on hills, mapping out the optimal path, again trying to ensure the road would be as straight as possible between the start and end point to reduce needed labor, materials, and distance needed to traverse the road once it was complete.

This brings us to how they actually ensured perfectly straight roads between the markers. A key tool here was a device known as a groma. In a nutshell, this was nothing more than a sort of cross with four weights hanging from a string at each end of the cross to function as plumb lines. The whole thing could rotate with degree markers on top. Two of the plumb lines would then be lined up with a marker and then on the other side lined up with the previous marker. Where changes in direction would need to be made, the degrees were marked and ultimately the whole thing drawn up on a central document showing the entire route of the road with each segment.

Once the actual construction was to begin, the groma would once again be used, this time with rods pounded into the ground between markers using the groma to make sure every single rod was perfectly inline in between the markers.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

A groma.

Now, finally, construction of the road would start, usually first done via plows to loosen the soil, this would be followed by legionaries and/or slaves digging the ground out, with depth varying based on conditions. For instance, swampy land would need a lot thicker foundation if it was to have any staying power. For more typical ground, the trench needed would be somewhere in the realm of 3-6 feet (around 1-2 meters) deep. Once dug out, this would then be tamped down to a leveled, compact layer of earth.

From here, exact road composition varied based on available materials in a given region, land composition, and a variety of factors like this.

But typically large stones would be packed as tightly as possible together and into the earth base. Onto this layer would usually be placed smaller stones, sometimes comprising broken concrete or somewhat crushed rock, again packed and smoothed as best as possible. Depending on availability, they would also put a layer of sand on this foundation to make a genuinely perfectly smooth surface.

On top of all of this, at the minimum gravel would be added, packed, and leveled. In some cases, such as near big cities, as described in one manuscript on the construction of roads in Rome itself, paving stones, often flint, lava rock, or marble, would be embedded in cement for the top layer instead. When the road was complete, they are thought to have been quite smooth allowing for relatively bump free travel in carts and the like.

During this whole process, special attention was taken to making the center of the road higher than the sides so that any water would drain off, with the entire road surface itself also elevated above the ground on the sides where drainage ditches would generally be created to help rapidly move water away from the road in times of heavy rains.

As for the size of the roads, according to something known as The Law of Twelve Tables, which more or less formed the basis of Roman Law for almost a millennia, Roman roads were required to be at minimum 8 Roman feet wide (which converted into modern units equals about 2 and half metres) where the road was straight and double that if the road happened to be curved.

Beside the roads were footpaths, sometimes graveled, which were particularly handy in the case of viae militares where only people with proper authorization could use the road itself. Finally, at the very outer edges of the roads, any nearby trees and bushes would be removed to help reduce areas for bandits to hide and surprise anyone with an attack, as well as to help ensure plant growth didn’t overtake the road or tree roots compromise it.

But this wasn’t the end of the construction process. They now needed to know exact distances along the road. It’s not fully clear how they did this, though a device known as the odometer of Vitruvius is mentioned starting around 27 BC and is often claimed to have been used for this purpose. However, whether it was actually ever used for road construction, or even made at all, is up for debate.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

A depiction of Vitruvius presenting De Architectura to Augustus.

At a high level, this device used the spinning of a wheel to mark distance. In this case, it was the spinning of a wagon wheel which was in turn hooked up to gears that would drop a pebble into a container every Roman mile (4,841 feet, which is around 1,000 paces of an adult male, with the world “mile” deriving from the Latin milia, meaning, funny enough, 1,000 paces).

For whatever it’s worth, while Leonardo da Vinci tried and failed to make such a device as per outlined, in 1981 one Andre Sleeswyk was successful in building one exactly as described except, unlike da Vinci, he used triangular gear teeth instead of square ones. His justification for this modification being that these same type of gear teeth were used in the Antikythera mechanism, which was created sometime from around 250 BC to 70 BC, with the device itself used to predict various astronomical phenomenon like eclipses. Thus, perhaps if the odometer of Vitruvius was ever actually built and used, maybe it used these too.

There are, of course, many other much less technologically advanced ways they could have measure mile distances easy enough and with extreme accuracy. However they did it, at every mile mark, the law required they place an approximately two ton, 7 foot tall (2 feet in the ground) mile marker, called a miliarium. Helpfully, on this stone would be engraved the names of the locations the road connected and how many miles to each from that respective marker. A master marker, known as the Miliario Aureo or Golden Milestone was also created during Caesar Augustus’ rule and placed in the central Forum of Rome itself. This was the point at which all Roman roads were said to lead. It’s not actually clear what was on this master marker, but it’s been speculated it listed the distances from that point to all major cities under Roman rule.

Whatever the case, like the roads themselves, some of these mile markers are still standing giving archaeologists and historians a valuable snapshot of the past, since they tended to include not just basic geographic information, but information about when the road was built or repaired and by whom.

Next up, it was also required by law that regular way stations be built for official use, generally every 16 to 19 miles apart. These were more or less really nice resting areas providing food and drink and the like for officials. For the general public, inns known as cauponae would tend to pop up near these way stations. On that note, at particularly high trafficked way stations, many other businesses would pop up as well, sometimes leading to the creation of whole towns.

Along these roads you’d also find at similar intervals mutationes, or changing stations, where people could get the services of veterinarians, wheelwrights, etc., as well as potentially find new mounts.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads
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To give you an idea of how fast one could move along these roads with its network of way stations and facilities, it’s noted that Emperor Tiberius once traversed about 200 miles in 24 hours after news that his brother, Drusus Germanicus was dying from gangrene after being seriously injured falling from a horse. A more typical time to traverse for, say, a government mail carrier was usually around 50 miles per day if not in a particular hurry.

But to sum up, it turns out that Roman road construction, amenities and all, wasn’t all that different from modern times, often featuring deep foundations, paved surfaces, proper drainage, landscaping around the roads, sidewalks, toll booths, rest areas, hotels, restaurants, the historic equivalent to gas stations and convenience stores, etc.

Bonus Fact:

The infamous phrase — “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” — has come to mean a person who is neglecting their duties, probably by doing something frivolous. But did Nero actually sit around play music while Rome was burning around him in 64 AD?

To begin there was such a fire, though its extent is unknown. According to Tacitus, the fire lasted for six days and decimated Rome, with only four districts untouched (out of a total of fourteen). He goes on to state that ten of the eleven districts that burned were heavily damaged, with three of those completely destroyed. However, oddly, there is very little documented mention of the fire from those who actually lived through it. The only Roman historian during that period who even mentioned it at all was Pliny the Elder, and even he only briefly referenced it in passing.

Had it been as widespread as Tacitus claimed, one would think the likes of Plutarch, Epictetus, or other such famed Roman historians who lived through the fire would have mentioned such a significant event. And, indeed, we see that perhaps it wasn’t that great of a fire from the only other documented first hand account of the scope of the disaster — a letter from Seneca the Younger to Paul the Apostle, where he explicitly stated that only four blocks of insulae were burned (a type of apartment building), along with 132 private houses damaged (about 7% of the private houses in the city and .009% of the insulae). Not anywhere close to as widespread as Tacitus later claimed, though Seneca did say the fire lasted six days, as Tacitus stated.

As to Nero’s reaction to the fire, the first and biggest flaw in the fiddling story is that the fiddle, or violin, didn’t actually exist in Nero’s time. Historians aren’t able to give an exact date for the invention of the violin, but the viol class of instruments to which the violin belongs wasn’t developed until at least the 11th century. If Nero actually did play a stringed instrument—and there’s no evidence that he did, whether during the burning of Rome or otherwise—it was probably a lyre or cithara.

Okay, so some details can get muddled through history. But did Nero neglect Rome while it burned? Historians argue probably not. Reports do place Nero thirty-five miles away from Rome at the time of the fire, as he was staying in his villa at Antium. However, an account from Tacitus tells us that he returned to Rome immediately when word of the fire reached him in order to begin relief efforts. As the fire raged on, Nero even opened up his own gardens to provide a temporary home for those who were now homeless. He also ordered the construction of emergency accommodation and cut the price of corn, as well as provided food directly, so that people could eat. Besides this, he paid for much of these relief efforts out of his own pocket.

However, Tacitus also tells of the rumour that had spread among the masses: while the flames surged through the city, Nero stood on his private stage and sang about the destruction of Troy in a comparison of the two events. Whether or not the rumour had any evidence to back it up or was just something made up by the unhappy masses, we don’t know, but this and Suetonius’ account are the most likely source of the fiddle story we hear today. Unfortunately for Nero, at least in the context of this story, he did have a reputation for enjoying concerts and participating in music competitions, so the activity itself wasn’t entirely unlikely even if the timing of the act is highly questionable.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Bust of Nero at the Capitoline Museum, Rome.

While Tacitus claims the singing story was a rumour, Suetonius wrote about it with conviction. However, the story could have been an attempt to further mar Nero’s name. Nero faced problems during his reign from the very start, when it was reported that his own mother poisoned his predecessor, Claudius. He was also blamed for the death of Claudius’ son Brittanicus, who was being urged to take his proper place as Emperor by overthrowing Nero. Numerous other deaths were thought to have been committed by Nero’s hand, including one of his wives and his own mother.

As such, Nero was painted as a man who was difficult for the masses to trust. No one knew how the fire started, and many Romans believed that he had started the fire that burned their city. (It likely started in shops containing flammable goods, and was probably an accident rather than any one person’s intentional act.)

With the mob out for blood, Nero was forced to turn to a scapegoat and blamed Christians for starting the fire. There were only a small number of Christians in Rome at the time and they were considered a strange religious sect, so they were an easy target. As Tacitus stated:

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all [Christians] who pleaded guilty [to the fire]; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

Even finding someone to blame for the fire didn’t help Nero’s plea of innocence. In the wake of the fire, he built a palace on top of some of the land cleared by the flames, which people argued he had been planning from the start, though this is highly unlikely as the place he built the new palace was over a half mile away from where the fire started. In addition to a new palace, Nero did provide for the reconstruction of the city, but rebuilding stretched the limits of Rome’s treasury at the time. He was forced to devalue Roman currency, which wasn’t a popular move.

Nero ended up committing suicide — or at least, begging his secretary to kill him when he lost the nerve to do it himself—four years after the fire. Accounts of his life and of the time of the fire are highly contradictory. Further, Suetonius and Tacitus wrote their histories fifty years after Nero died, and Cassius Dio wrote his 150 years later. Many historians also think it likely that Nero was more popular with the people of Rome than he was with the senators, and as all three of the main sources were from the senatorial class, it’s likely they carry more than a little bias against him, not unlike happened with the popular history of Marie Antoinette who popular history remembers very differently than who the actual woman appeared to be. That being said, Tacitus did state that while Nero’s death was welcomed by senators, the lower classes mourned his passing.

So in the end, the implication that “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” — or played the lyre, sang a song, or neglected his duty in any way — is likely the result of anti-Nero propaganda and an attempt to tarnish his name. The morality of many of his actions during his reign is open to debate, but the fiddling, or playing music, story is almost certainly a myth, unless he was playing to entertain the displaced masses he’d taken in.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Special tactics airmen get Tyndall running for hurricane operations

Air Force special tactics airmen with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron assessed, opened, and controlled air traffic at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Oct. 11, 2018.

The special tactics airmen cleared and established a runway at Oct. 11, 2018, at 7 p.m., and received the first aircraft at 7:06 p.m.


Special tactics airmen have the ability to assess, open and control major airfields to clandestine dirt strips in any environment, including those that have been impacted by a natural disaster.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Special tactics airmen with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron unload an all-terrain vehicle from a CV-22 Osprey assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 11, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Special tactics airmen with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron access an airfield on Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 11, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

Special tactics airmen are in control of the airfield and are prepared to support airfield operations until further notice, which will allow support to facilitate humanitarian assistance to Tyndall AFB.

Tyndall AFB received extensive damage in the wake of Hurricane Michael.

For any questions regarding special tactics airmen, contact Jackie Pienkowski at 850-884-3902 or 413-237-4466, or jaclyn.pienkowski@us.af.mil.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers to be issued locator beacons like the Coast Guard’s

The U.S. Army recently awarded a $34 million contract to McMurdo Inc. for personnel recovery devices that can be used to pinpoint a missing soldier’s location.

This PRD is a dual-mode personal locator beacon built to military specifications that will be integrated into the Army’s Personnel Recovery Support System, or PRSS.


“The PRD will be capable of transmitting both open and secure signals (training/combat dual mode) to alert and notify that a soldier has become isolated, missing, detained or captured,” according to an April 11, 2018 press release from Orolia, McMurdo’s parent company.

McMurdo was awarded a contract in 2016 to develop working prototypes of the PRD that could coordinate with the service’s PRSS.

“The Army recognized a need to complement its PRSS with a dual-mode, easy-to-use distress beacon to provide initial report/locate functionality, even in remote locations,” said Mark Cianciolo, general manager of McMurdo’s aerospace, defense and government programs, in a 2016 press release.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads
The McMurdo Inc. FastFind 220 personal locator beacon used by the Coast Guard. The U.S. Army awarded McMurdo a $34 million contract for similar personal recovery devices to be used for locating missing soldiers.
(McMurdo Group photo)

Commercially made personal locator beacons have become extremely popular with mountain climbers and other adventurers, who depend on them to send a signal to rescuers in the event they become injured in remote locations.

McMurdo’s positioning device has been designed to meet military standards and has improved accuracy. It also has decreased size, weight and power requirements, the release states.

“We are extremely proud and honored to have been selected by the U.S. Army as the provider of this critical positioning device for the safety of U.S. warfighters,” Jean-Yves Courtois, chief executive officer of Orolia, said in the April 11, 2018 press release.

The PRD is based on Orolia’s new rugged and small positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) platform, but the release did not specify the exact model being produced for the Army.

The Coast Guard awarded McMurdo a $3 million contract in 2016 for 16,000 FastFind 220 personal locator beacons.

The handheld FastFind 220 is used to notify emergency personnel during an air, land or water emergency in remote or high-risk environments. It uses a 406MHz frequency and transmits a distress signal containing unique beacon identification information and location data through the international search-and-rescue satellite system operated by Cospas-Sarsat, according to an Aug. 17, 2016, post on Intelligent Aerospace.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

True confessions of a sexually-deprived military spouse

Editors Disclaimer: This is a HUMOR piece…we understand that the subject matter in this piece is a bit taboo and not for everyone. If you are uncomfortable with it, we won’t be offended at all if you choose not to read. We laughed, we may have even blushed just a little…and we imagine many of you will do the same. As with all of the pieces in our ‘Confessions Series‘ the author is anonymous.

I was going to start this by saying ‘let’s talk about the elephant in the room,‘ but frankly I don’t understand that statement. At all. There has never been an elephant in any room I’ve been in and if there was, I’m confident that I would take an epic selfie with it, post it on Facebook, SnapChat it to my friends and do everything BESIDES avoid acknowledging its existence.

So, I’m going to preface with this instead:


Sex. Yup, I said it. Sexual intercourse. We’ve all done it. We are all married so let’s not pretend that any of us are innocent little virgins who don’t get our freak on occasionally. (I say occasionally because I don’t know about you, but no matter how often I do the dirty, my husband insists I never do… So I’m trying to be an equal opportunity writer, oooor something like that.)

As a self-admitted sexually active adult, military life is precisely the opposite foundation for a stable sex life. (Unless you and your spouse are swingers, in which case I’m not judging… I just prefer not to know about it, ok?)

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

That being said, I’m just going to openly, honestly (half sarcastically because god knows someone is going to get bent out of shape over something I am writing here) make a brief outline of my own, personal sexual deprivation from our last 12 months of deployment. Thank goodness for anonymous confessions, right?

Enjoy. And relax. We are all friends here. Anonymous friends behind a screen. We can laugh. It is humor. See that nice disclaimer at the top?

Month 1

I think I will send my husband sexy pictures. I will stand in the mirror, strike a cute pose, pout my lips and send them to his email, making his knees weak.

Month 2

I still send my husband sexy pictures… but I decided to prepare with fake nails, a spray tan, a wax and some sexy lingerie. By this time he has half forgotten what I look like, so I am certain he will be like ‘dang! She really IS naturally hot’.

Month 3

I caved. I bought my first ‘assistant’. Sometimes a girl just needs more than, well, not having an adult marital aid.

Month 4

I have started purchasing batteries more frequently.

Month 5

I am forced to add batteries to the budget to keep myself from spending our car payment on BOB; my Battery Operated Boyfriend.

Month 6

My friend’s husbands are better looking than I previously remember. Oh come on… looking doesn’t kill anyone. Stop judging me for saying it. You thought it, too. Also… remember that disclaimer?

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Month 7

Ok, forget their husbands, my friends have started looking HOT! Why haven’t I noticed this before? Am I gay? Have I not been naked with a hairy chest in so long that my body is rejecting the idea? Will I be straight again when he gets home? OMG. Who is going to get the couch in our divorce?

Month 8

Crisis averted. He came home for RNR. I’m definitely still straight…

Month 9

Maybe I’m bisexual…

Month 10

BOB is boring me. We might need a break…

Month 11

I’m going to redecorate the house… not to keep myself busy, but because doesn’t REAR-D send service members to help assemble furniture if your spouse is deployed? (Breathe deep… remember those bold words from my editor: This is a HUMOR piece!)

Month 12

The swing, leather whip, hot wax, studded paddle, stiletto heels and handcuffs are purchased…why is this welcome home ceremony taking sooo long??? Can we PLEASE just go home?!?

Ok, but seriously, I don’t understand why the subject of being sexually deprived is so taboo between spouses. We should be able to openly admit to each other that we are quivering, shaking and utterly drenched from not getting thrown around by the sexy man/woman in uniform who vowed to rock our worlds forever.

It’s sex… It sucks going a long time without it, especially when you are married, in love and crazy about your spouse. Yes, we also worry every day. Yes, we miss them like crazy. Yes, our kids suffer. Yes, there are a ton of other, more productive, supportive things we could be talking about.

But it’s okay sometimes to laugh, to talk about something taboo… to admit that we are married adults with sexual needs. Sexual needs that sometimes leave us climbing the walls.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These World War I troops claimed to be rescued by angels

In August, 1914, British troops were in full retreat from the World War I Battle of Mons in Northern France. The Germans chasing them were far greater in number, and the men were desperate. In a turn of good luck, they happened to pass a celebrated old battle site that turned the tide of their retreat, in an almost supernatural way – and that’s exactly how it was remembered.


The Battle of Mons went as well for the Brits as could be expected. It was the first test of the British Expeditionary Force in continental Europe. They fought hard, and the Germans paid dearly for their advance. But the French Fifth Army gave way to the Germans, and the British could not hold the line on their own. An orderly battle turned into a two-week rout that would end with the epic Battle of the Marne – but not unless the BEF could escape the oncoming Germans. They retreated south as orderly as possible.

On their way, they passed the site of the famous medieval Battle of Agincourt, where King Henry V’s English longbowmen devastated a French Army that outnumbered the English with estimates as high as 6-to-1. The retreating British troops of 1914 were on the run from a numerically superior German force when legend says a British soldier said a prayer to Saint George that changed the outcome of their retreat.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

St. George, the Christian dragon slayer.

George was a Roman Praetorian Guard for Emperor Diocletian, and was executed for not recanting his professed Christian faith centuries before the emperor converted the empire to Christianity. He is probably the most prominent of all soldier-saints. So, when a retreating British soldier asked St. George for help, it makes sense for the men of the retreating army to believe he may have intervened when the Germans suddenly broke off their pursuit.

After the battle, men present during the fighting chalked the sudden turn of events up to a number of supernatural explanations, each more awe-inspiring than the next. In the most prevalent retelling, the prayer to St. George caused an army of spectral English bowmen to appear, which both frightened and slaughtered the pursuing Germans.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Looks like St. George needs to train his angels a bit.

The claims of the English soldiers were grounded by a fictional short story called “The Bowmen” written by Arthur Machen after the battle. In the book, angelic archers appear after a British soldier prays for help from St. George. Led by the patron saint of England, a thousand archers appeared and mowed down the enemy. Afterward, the German generals determined the BEF must be using a new gas weapon, as there were no wounds on the dead German troops.

Machen’s story was a fabrication, of course, based on a different story by Rudyard Kipling. That one was set in Afghanistan. But veterans of the Battle of Mons soon began to claim they were eyewitness to the spectral event. In each retelling, the story changes: German soldiers are found with arrow wounds, the ghost army was actually a team of angels in the form of medieval knights and led by St. George, or the BEF was able to retreat into a wall of clouds.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

World War I Ex Machina.

The Angels of Mons very quickly entered the lore and legends of the First World War, joined there by stories of ghouls living in No Man’s Land, crucified Canadian soldiers, and the end of the war by Christmas.

MIGHTY MONEY

Hilton wants a staff full of US military veterans

Working in a hotel is no joke – those jobs are hard. Think about how hard you worked in basic training under the latrine queen, using a dirty sock to dust the day room, and how clean the barracks had to be to pass a drill sergeant’s inspection. Even if you’re looking to work in management, Hilton hotels host hundreds of thousands of event every year. It’s suddenly your job to manage that. Wherever you’re working in a hotel, it takes grit, organization, and attention to detail.

Do those traits sound familiar? They do to Hilton Hotels.


Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

And to Hilton founder Conrad Hilton, a World War I veteran who served in France.

This might be part of the reason Hilton is all aboard with the mission of hiring 20,000 veterans by 2020. That is a good chunk of the hotel brand’s overall employees. As a matter of fact, when Hilton completes its most current mission, hires from the military-veteran community will comprise more than 17 percent of the company’s overall workforce. It first launched the initiative to hire 10,000 vets and spouses by 2020 but upon completing that mission two years early, Hilton set the goal to hire an additional 20,000 in the same time frame. That’s an astonishing dedication to the community of veterans.

It’s part of an initiative named Operation: Opportunity. The company and its CEO Chris Nassetta believes in what they call “the military skill set.” The hotel chain believes veterans bring incredible assets to their team and are affecting the company culture for the better as a result. So it makes sense for Hilton to hire as many veterans as possible. These skills include discipline, organization, problem solving, and teamwork.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Yeah, vets might know a little something about all that.

The company says hiring veterans is not only the right thing, but is also helping the company achieve its own goals.

“Operation: Opportunity is a shining example of the convergence of doing something that is good for society, good for our business, and good for our culture,” says CEO Chris Nassetta.

Hilton has a long history of supporting veterans, dating back to founder and Army vet Conrad Hilton’s postwar years. The elder Hilton had a knack for hiring vets after World War II, giving Korean War veterans and their families free nights (and spending money!) at some of his most popular hotels. Even during Vietnam, troops could get a free RR stay at the Hiltons in Hawaii.

The decision to hire veterans picks up where Conrad’s legacy left off, ensuring veterans have sustainable employment in a growing industry with one of the world’s top hospitality brands. Hilton is even supporting a number of veteran-related non-profits, no more appropriate than the Military Influencer Conference.

These days, Hilton may not be able to give veterans their own Hilton to run, but they do provide opportunity and training to run their own businesses through donating to events like the Military Influencer Conference. If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.

To learn more about a job with Hilton, check out Hilton’s job search website – and don’t forget to list your veteran status.

MIGHTY GAMING

You’re gonna need a strong internet connection to run Google’s new gaming service

When Netflix transitioned from its original business of mailing customers physical DVDs and became a company primarily focused on streaming movies over the internet, customers had reservations.

There were questions about the smaller library of content available through Netflix’s digital service, and there were concerns about the viability of streaming videos to a public that hadn’t fully embraced broadband internet speeds.

“What if I live somewhere that doesn’t have strong enough internet speeds?” people wondered.


More than a decade later, that’s the same question at the heart of Google’s new video game platform, Stadia.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Google VP Phil Harrison introduced Stadia at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on March 19, 2019.

(Google / YouTube)

The idea with Stadia is simple: High-end, blockbuster games are streamed through Stadia to whatever device you’re using.

With Stadia, Google says, you can stream the same game to your smartphone that you stream to your home television, running at the same resolution and framerate. No game console required.

It’s a bold, ambitious promise, and it’s one that depends on strong, stable internet to function.

“When we launch,” Google VP Phil Harrison told Kotaku in an interview this week, “we will be able to get to 4K but only raise that bandwidth to about 30 megabits per second.”

What that means for the average person is that, based on current LTE and home broadband speeds, you’ll probably be able to run Stadia.

The big unknown, however, is stability.

More than just having strong internet, Stadia relies on steady internet connection speeds. If you’ve ever experienced buffering on Netflix, you’re already familiar with this phenomenon: Your internet speed dips, or tanks completely, and the video you’re watching stops playing while it struggles to load.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

The sell points for Google Stadia.

(Google)

This is an inconvenience when you’re watching a video, but it could be outright game-breaking if it happens in the middle of, say, a crucial moment in a boss fight.

You’re just one hit away from finally crushing Lady Maria in “Bloodborne” when — uh oh! — the internet drops speed just enough for the game not to register your button press in time. And just like that, she’s won again.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to ensure a steady internet connection. Playing during off-peak hours, when fewer people are online in your area, will help. And, if you’re on a mobile device, playing in a part of your house with thinner walls will help maintain a better signal.

But for the most part, this part of the gaming experience is beyond your control.

Harrison said that, should your internet speed dip while playing, the first result is something pretty similar to what Netflix does: A drop in visual fidelity.

“If you have less bandwidth, we’ll give you a lower resolution. We do a lot of that for you in the background, and we will only offer up the appropriate bandwidth for the infrastructure that you have,” he said.

A sharper drop, of course, could result in the stream outright freezing up; whether Stadia recognizes that issue in enough time to stop something unintended from happening in the game you’re playing remains to be seen.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Military Life

Why Royal Marines don’t wear undies to bed will make you think twice

In America, when you go without wearing any underwear, we jokingly call it “going commando.” If you’ve ever deployed to a joint military base and you’ve worked alongside Royal Marines, then you understand the term better than most — you’ve probably received an uncalled-for eyeful when these troops wake up for the work day. That’s because they tend to sleep in just their birthday suits.

But it’s not for comfort’s sake — it’s hygienically sound.

It’s no secret that, when the mission calls for it, military personnel sometimes have to live in tight berthing areas. Because of this close-quarter living, illnesses and bacteria can quickly spread from person to person.


Most service members are taught to shower before they go to bed. After all, you want to remain as clean as possible throughout the night. But when we sleep, we naturally sweat from our pores. Meanwhile, our microscopic skin cells die and flake off. You might not know it, but you leave behind an imprint of skin and sweat wherever you lay — it’s actually pretty nasty.

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Royal Marines tend to sleep naked so they don’t hold all the juices and skin flakes emitted from their bodies in the clothes they’ll later wear.

U.S. troops are taught to sleep in a t-shirt and undies or some type of pajamas. Sure, this might contribute to the ever-growing pile of dirty laundry, but at least it’s easier to go to the restroom at 0300 — which is located on the other side of the FOB.

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Sleeping naked may work for our Royal Marine allies, but U.S. military culture hasn’t accepted the idea — yet.

If you still don’t believe us, check out the very censored video below to see Royal Marines put the “commando” in “going commando.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jMYOzOQL1U

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why do Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo so much harder than Mexicans?

It’s a common misconception that Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of Mexican Independence day. The May 5th celebration is actually the marking of a win by a small faction of the Mexican Army over the French during the French-Mexican war.


Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

A Cinco de Mayo celebration in Washington, D.C.

In reality, Americans actually do have a cause to celebrate and commemorate the Texan-born Mexican general, his ragtag battalion of enlisted volunteer troops and their unlikely defeat over the French Army at the battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862. Despite being outnumbered 3-1, the Mexicans obliterated the French, forcing a retreat after the French sustained over 500 casualties, compared to the Mexican’s mere 100 deaths in the battle.

What many people might not know was that the French were planning a lot more than just a one-off takeover of the small Mexican city of Puebla. Along with this mounted offensive, Napoleon and his Army were planning to exchange their superior and advanced artillery with the American Confederate Army in exchange for southern cotton; a commodity that was growing quite sparse across the pond in Europe.

Had the French won the battle of Puebla and made that deal with the Confederates, our Civil War most-certainly would have turned out quite differently. At the time France was known to have some of the most technologically advanced and deadly firepower in the world. And if they had supplied their weapons to the Confederates, the Union Army’s fight would have become exponentially more difficult, causing more deaths and perhaps even resulting in a Union defeat; an outcome that would have changed the course of US history.

So be sure to have a celebratory margarita this Cinco de Mayo and when someone asks you why we Americans tend to celebrate this holiday in more numbers and with more gusto than our neighbors to the south, just smile and pour one out for the warriors that won the Battle of Puebla and saved us from a significantly bloodier and potentially-disastrous end to the American Civil War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Great Falls Nike Fire Control Site W-83 played a critical role in the creation of GPS

During the Cold War’s arms buildup, there were 13 Nike Missile sites erected around the greater Washington D.C. and Baltimore areas. Project Nike was a U.S. Army project proposed in 1945 by Bell Laboratories to develop a line-of-sight anti-aircraft missile system. The project created America’s first operational anti-aircraft missile system, the Nike Ajax. Here’s how the Great Falls Nike Fire Control Site W-83 played a critical role in the creation of GPS.

The first successful Nike test happened in November 1951 when a Nike Ajax intercepted a drone B-17 Flying Fortress. The Army initially ordered 1,000 missiles and 60 sets of equipment. By 1953, the first missile had been deployed to Fort Meade, Maryland. By 162, the DoD had built up an additional 240 launch sites across the country. Most of the missiles replaced radar-guided anti-aircraft guns. 

Each of the 13 launch sites located around Washington D.C. included three parts, separated by about 900 meters. One part contained the Integrated Fire Control radar systems used to detect incoming targets. The second part held one to three underground missile magazines that could service four launch assemblies. This site had a crew of 109 officers who operated 24 hours a day. The third part of the site was an administrative area and contained a battery headquarters, barracks, DFAC, motor pool, and rec area. 

Nike sites were organized in defensive positions and placed near large population centers as well as strategic locations that might come under attack, like long-range bomber bases, nuclear plants, and ICBM sites. 

The Great Falls Nike Fire Control site was built in 1954 after being purchased from a dairy farmer. It was activated just a year later, all in an attempt to ensure that the national capital region could be properly defended against air attacks. The 13 sites included everything the military might need to wage war. Integrated Fire Control Sites were located downrange from launch areas, and the majority of the sites all operated first-generation Nike Ajax missiles.

Ajax missiles are massive and weigh around 2,400 pounds. They’re 34 feet long and have a range of 25 miles. After being fired, they can reach a max speed of Mach 2.3. 

Military fears about defending the metro-DC area quickly faded. By 1962, the Great Falls Nike Missile Launch Site and the Integrated Fire Control Site ceased operations. Then it became a research station for the Army’s Map Services. Research focused on geo-location and navigation developments, and it was at the Great Falls site that the Map Service initiated a satellite tracking program that would eventually become part of the Defense Mapping Agency. 

This tracking system is the foundation of what we now know as GPS. The data that the Mapping Agency collected allowed geospatial scientists to establish geographical reference points on the Earth’s surface. This knowledge allowed the researchers to refine their estimates of the true shape of the planet as well as develop a better understanding of the variations in the gravitational field.

In the years following the deactivation, the launch site’s buildings and other structures were left to rot. Weaponry and other harmful elements were removed, but the government didn’t tear down any of the surrounding buildings. As suburban development reached out of urban D.C. in the late 1970s and early 1980s, many of the launch building sites were finally torn down. Missile magazine hatches were buried where contractors found them. One of the missile launch sites was overtaken by the Fairfax County Park Authority and transformed into the Great Falls Nike Park, complete with a tennis court and two baseball fields created right on top of the missile magazine hatches. IN 1980, Forestville Elementary School was built on top of the launch site’s barracks.

Between 2000 and 2002, all the remaining structures were finally torn down, with the exception of two radar towers. The southern tower was repurposed as an observatory. In 2010, the dome was replaced with a newer and stronger telescope. Now, there’s a roll-top observatory building located next to the telescope, and both sites are utilized by local schools. Now, all that’s left to mark the spot is a radar dome. 

Nike missile sites might be all gone, but the technology continues to live on. Many of the rocket systems used to develop the Ajax were later reused for many aeronautical functions. The missile’s first-stage solid rocket booster became the basis for several types of rockets, including the Nike Hercules missile and NASA’s Nike Smoke rocket, which has been used for upper atmosphere research. 

MIGHTY FIT

5 ways you’re ‘creeping’ way too hard while at the gym

For most people, going to the gym is a safe place for people to work out and burn off stress. Unfortunately, not all gym goers show up for the right reasons. They show up to watch others break a sweat and find an angle to hit on people.

Now, it’s okay to meet and interact with other patrons while you’re at the gym. In fact, it’s recommended for everybody to open lines of communication when the situation presents itself. However, there are definitely people that don’t know how to find ways of producing normal interactions.

Instead, they watch people they’re attracted to from far away, looking for an excuse to start up a conversation or any type of communication. These are called “gym creepers.” Although they tend to work out every so often, their mission is to hit on every person they find attractive — until someone gives in.

Most gym creepers don’t even know they’ve been secretly given that title. So we came up with a list to let you know if you’re one of them.


Also Read: 5 of the stupidest diseases you can develop at the gym

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Flirting with the gym staff

When you first enter the gym, you’re usually greeted by a staff member at the check-in desk. It’s their job to be as helpful as possible. This doesn’t mean you should start flirting with them immediately because they smiled at you when you entered.

There is nothing wrong with carrying on a light conversation with one of them, however, if you continually become a chatterbox every time you see them because you think you’ll eventually score a date — you might be a gym creeper.

Staring at people in the mirror

This is one of the ultimate signs you’re a gym creeper. If you’re lifting weights and roll your eyes in the direction where a cute guy or girl is workout via the mirror, there is a good chance you’re gym creeping. It’s okay to look at an attractive person once in a while during a rest period, but when you start staring, that’s when things can get weird.

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Using the gym’s machines to follow someone

People in the gym are highly mobile as they move from one workout station to the other. That’s pretty standard. If a good-looking gym patron that was working next to you gets up and travels to a new area to continue their exercises and you follow them to stay close, you might be a gym creeper.

Most people will get a pass if this minor stalking occurs once or maybe twice. But when it continues from area-to-area, you’re definitely a gym creeper.

Asking your gym crush random questions

Some people will do practically anything to get a chance to talk to their gym crushes. But, unless that moment happens naturally, it’s pretty awkward to walk up to them with a random question.

“Do you lift here often?”

Yes, they do. And yes, they’ve heard that question before. Cue eye-rolls from everyone else nearby.

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Endless staring

You remember the people who use the mirror to stare at the hot guy or gal as they workout? Well, this gym creeper doesn’t even use a damn mirror, they just f*cking stare directly.

It is sad to watch, but it’s still pretty funny to see.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Americans are twice as likely to die in hostage situations

While the United States was celebrating its 100th birthday on July 4, 1976, four Israeli C-130 cargo planes landed at Entebbe Airport in Uganda, cargo bay doors already open. A black Mercedes and a parade of Land Rovers screamed out of two of the planes, headed for the old passenger terminal. Armored personnel carriers exited the other three.

There were 106 mostly Israeli hostages being held by pro-Palestinian hijackers and supported by the Ugandan army under dictator Idi Amin being held here. The hostages were coming home.


Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

If anyone’s coming to rescue you, you want it to be the IDF.

The raid on Entebbe airport was one of the most daring hostage rescues of all time. The Israelis flew in some seven planes under the radars of many hostile countries, landing at an enemy airport, pretending to be the caravan of a brutal dictator, and risking an all-out war to save Israeli citizens, losing only three and only one of the Israel Defence Forces commandos. The Israelis even destroyed 11 Ugandan fighter aircraft on the ground in retaliation. In three years, Amin would be deposed.

Airplane hijackings dropped dramatically after this incident and a number of Western countries vowed never to negotiate with terrorists, especially the United States. The U.S. does not negotiate with terrorists as a matter of policy.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

This resulted in a number of American hostages dying at the hands of ISIS.

In the years following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, more than 1,200 Westerners from some 32 or more countries have been captured by terrorists and held hostage by militant groups and pirates, demanding ransom or some other concession. Americans made up 20 percent of those hostages taken since 2001 and half of those were killed by their captors. The reason for this is the policy of not giving concessions to terrorists or anyone else who might take citizens hostage.

The United States believes giving in to terrorist or other militants’ demands for ransom or some other concession would just make Americans a more tempting target for those who would take hostages, allowing terrorists to perpetually self-finance through hostage-taking. As it is, Americans are twice as likely to die in captivity by their captors while countries who pay ransoms – Germany, Spain, France, Austria, and Switzerland – are more likely to have hostages released.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

But citizens of those countries are not taken hostage in disproportionate numbers because taking hostages is risky and not as profitable as other ventures for terrorist groups, such a narcotics, black market oil and arms sales, and human trafficking. Civilians more likely to be kidnapped are those who are already in unstable areas. Three-quarters of Westerners taken by al-Qaeda and ISIS were freed. Only two of those were Americans.

Since a new hostage policy was announced in 2015, where the U.S. coordinates agencies to secure the release of hostages, six have been released, and none died in captivity. The only hitch is that none were held by foreign jihadist groups.

It should be noted that the Carter Administration held negotiations with Iran for the hostages taken at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran during the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Not one of the hostages were killed, and they were released on the last day of the Carter Presidency – all without firing a shot.

Articles

This British sub hoisted its own Jolly Roger after sinking an Argentine cruiser

The HMS Conquerer is the only nuclear-powered submarine to engage an enemy with torpedoes. In a sea engagement during the Falklands War in the 1980s, two of the three shots fired at an Argentine cruiser hit home. Her hull pierces, the General Belgrano began listing and her captain called for the crew to abandon ship within 20 minutes.


In line with Royal Navy tradition, the Conquerer flew a Jolly Roger – a pirate flag – to note her victory at sea.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads
HMS Conqueror arriving back from the Falklands in 1982. (Reddit)

Submarines were considered “underhand, unfair and damned un-English,” by Sir Arthur Wilson, who was First Sea Lord when subs were introduced to the Royal Navy. Hs even threatened to hang all sub crews as pirates during wartime.

The insult stuck. When the HMS E9 sunk a German cruiser during WWI — the Royal Navy’s first submarine victory — its commander had a Jolly Roger made and it flew from the periscope as the sub sailed back to port.

The pirate flag soon became the official emblem of Britain’s silent service.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads
The British submarine HMS Utmost showing off their Jolly Roger in February 1942. The markings on the flag indicate the boat’s achievements: nine ships torpedoed (including one warship), eight ‘cloak and dagger’ operations, one target destroyed by gunfire, and one at-sea rescue. (Imperial War Museum)

The 1982 sinking of the Argentine General Belgrano was only the second instance of a submarine sinking a surface ship since the end of World War II.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads
The General Belgrano listing as all hands abandon ship. (Imperial War Museum)

Argentinian sailors reported a “fireball” shooting up through the ship, which means it was not cleared for action. If the crew was ready for a fight, ideally, the ship’s doors and hatches would have been sealed to keep out fire and water, author Larry Bond wrote in his book “Crash Dive,” which covers the incident.

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads
The Conqueror’s Jolly Roger, featuring an atom for being the only nuclear sub with a kill, crossed torpedoes for the torpedo kill, a dagger indicating a cloak-and-dagger operation, and the outline of a cruiser for what kind of ship was sunk. (Royal Navy Submarine Museum)

The Royal Navy’s Cmdr. Chris Wreford-Brown, the captain of the Conqueror, later said of the sinking:

“The Royal Navy spent 13 years preparing me for such an occasion. It would have been regarded as extremely dreary if I had fouled it up.”

Ships from Argentina and neighboring Chile rescued 772 men over the next two days. The attack killed 321 sailors and two civilians.

The Argentine Navy returned to port and was largely out of the rest of the war.

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