Earlier development of Balloon and Airship

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Mars, Nov 17, 2007.

  1. Mars Well-Known Member

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    Im doing a Roman TL and i've always been fascinated by airships and such things, being an avid final fantasy player. :D
    I've been thinking of making Romans in my TL invent balloons for the defense of the Limes and later that developing into airships. Is the development early balloons like this realistic, or did the romans just not have the tech level for such an advancement?
     
  2. The Dean No Pain No Pain

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    They could have made hot air balloons and airships. Even if modern knowledge was given to them whilst they could make a normal balloon of sorts the lighter than air gas would be unavailable.
     
  3. Mars Well-Known Member

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    Yes i was thinking something like hot air balloons and later thermal airships and much later then hydrogen blimp like things. Maybe with sails to catch the wind and give them a speed boost. At first it would only be used for communication, recon and transportation, but later maybe they might begin to be used to fire down on enemies, drop some grenades and transport small forces over and behind enemy lines, etc.
    Legionary Airship Corps just has such a nice ring to it:rolleyes:
     
  4. 037771 Well-Known Member

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    Probably more rocks than grenades; explosives at the time of Constantine and after i think were a bit backward, even non-existant. Would it have even mattered in the end, bar huge communication advantages?
     
  5. MrP Brexit is about ethics in UK-EU relations

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  6. Mars Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Mrp!
    i missed that thread when i was searching the forum for topics such as these, i guess thats what you get when you just search for 'airship'.:rolleyes: Btw are you planning on following up on that TL you started in that thread, sounds like it could go places, its got me very interested!
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2007
  7. The Dean No Pain No Pain

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    You might like to look at this thread by Euio, a favourite of mine.
     
  8. MrP Brexit is about ethics in UK-EU relations

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    I dunno, old man. I wouldn't get my hopes up if I were you, though. I've a bad habit of having an idea and then forgetting about it.
     
  9. AirshipArmada No body can predict the past

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    You need a relatively airtight envelope which is also light weight. The earliest balloons were made of silk and were built by french condom manufactures (who had some experience with making impermeable membranes).
    What are your Romans going to use?

    If they do make balloons somehow I think they could be useful in sieges.
    Unmanned "fire balloons" could be launched and allowed to drift over a city. The leaky balloon would sink and potentially start a fire in the town.

    A manned tethered balloon might be a decent ballista platform.

    Of course, balloons would make tempting target for enemy archers as well.
     
  10. Thande Toujours Phrais

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    Nice anecdote there :D

    The Romans did have silk, imported from China - in fact Roman officials worried that Rome's coffers were being emptied as rich Romans bought up silk and trade was only flowing in one direction.

    They did not know the secret of its origin, though, so getting enough to make balloons would have been difficult (unless they do find out in TTL).
     
  11. MrP Brexit is about ethics in UK-EU relations

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    ISTR that the during the ECW our forebears (or p'raps not ;) ) made use of sheepgut condoms - which could be used over and over again. Unsettling thought, that. ;)
     
  12. Thande Toujours Phrais

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    I thought that practice started as early as Magna Carta days...
     
  13. The Dean No Pain No Pain

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    Early aircraft used linen treated with "dope" as a skin this would be available to the Romans. Also would they be able to use paper as modelers do or papyrus?
     
  14. HARRY Member

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    A bloke called Jim Woodman build a hot air balloon with just the materials availible to pre-Incans to show how the Nazca line could have been viewed.
    aerugoairship.wordpress.com/
     
  15. Mars Well-Known Member

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    awesome info guys, thank you very much. I think I'll have them make it out of linen first, and later silk - when they are able to steal silkworm tech from china:cool:.

    It'll start as a observation post along the Limes, sending messages along down line with flags, mirrors and carrier pigeons and so forth. Then they'll start creating better ones which they'll actually be able to maneuver well with, so they'll use it as recon into enemy areas. Then someone will get the bright idea of tossing a clay pot full of greek fire out of the side and will ruin it for peaceful skies as we know it. Romans will start using them like that in major battles, dropping amphorae with greek fire on enemy formations. Later gunpowder grenades taken from the chinese. Who knows where it will go from there:D
     
  16. The Dean No Pain No Pain

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    One of the greatest things about the Romans was they were businessmen, how about they use the revolutionary new means of transport for trade and exploration. Rare spices and gems could be economically transported. then as the machines became more efficient they could expand their use into more general transport.
     
  17. Thande Toujours Phrais

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    Permission to tie this into the Roman India scenario, sir? :D
     
  18. The Dean No Pain No Pain

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    Another virtue of the Romans was their fearless use of technology, if they had encountered lighter than air machines they would have methodically adopted their use without any qualms.
     
  19. MrP Brexit is about ethics in UK-EU relations

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    Indo-Roman Mercantile Aeronautical Corps . . . that might be the coolest thing ever . . . :cool:
     
  20. Admiral_Ritt Member

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    Romans would need either a way to make large envelopes of non-porous
    materials or a way to make lots of smaller ones. One way... see below

    The only thing I think the romans MIGHT have accidetally stubled upon
    is Petroleum distillation and refinement. With enough experimentation
    they would have come across the method to create polyprolynene (plastics)
    and plastics envelopes of modest sizes could have been built.

    but They would never be able to develop commercially viable rigid airships IMO, just blimps with gondolas for a few passengers. A rigid airship with the material of the time would be too heavy and too Expensive in Metal Cost. Maybe usefull as scout ships & Ferrying VIP's around (if the have the guts to get into one)