How smart were the ancients?
Bible writers just were not among the smart ones, or the most avid readers of science news. like the authors of the first century scripts that offered the fake news of Satan showing Jesus "all the kingdoms of the earth from a really high mountain" on a clear day. Einstein predicted bending of light rays around globes much later.
I think the threshold was literacy. There must have been a big divide between the illiterate rural poor (known originally as pagans) and the city dwelling literate citizens. Even if you were a slave you could advance in the Roman world once you had gained your freedom and could read and write and learn the wisdom from earlier generations of writers.
Within the privileged group of the well educated, there were the few who excelled and had extraordinary insights into the physical universe and its workings not the least of these was the genius Archimedes. There is a small museum in modern Olympia devoted to his inventions--his achievements are astonishing.
The Antikithera device is really all the evidence needed to tell us that the ancients were highly accomplished astronomers, geometers and mathematicians and precision metal workers to boot.
As a detail of the scientific approach for achieving accuracy, the designer built into this astronomical calculating device a mechanism to allow for the eccentricity of the orbit of the moon! This tiny fact alone places their understanding at an early modern level of consciousness yet must have been known for a minimum of twenty one centuries. Yet the Antikithera device looks to me (I saw it in Athens this year) like it was already a highly refined and miniaturised machine which had been developed from much older mechanisms, analogous for example to the development of a chronometer from the cathedral clock. This would then put back the understanding of astronomy, geometry and gear making to an even more distant past.
Yeah google Atomists. The ancient Greeks were incredible.
There is no telling what all documented knowledge that was lost as a result of the destruction of the great library of Alexandria.
So sad. Damn Pope Theophilus for his short sightedness!
You know, I never thought about this fact before.... because we have computers, books, knowledge from others handed to us on a plate when we attend school....
If we lived in the "ancient world", spent time outside at night, looked at the moon, saw it's shadows grow across it night after night, we would realize the moon was a sphere, and could easily make the connection that the earth was also.
Let's not get too euphoric about the ancients! Whilst there were some clever people around most lived in a world of appeasing gods, avoiding curses, magic happenings, patriotism for their city and ruthless revenge. It was only some of the philosophers who recognized that a spirit world was just superstition.
Life was precarious; if you held an office of power there was a good chance of being murdered. If poor; your unsanitary life meant you lived with parasites and disease and there were few means of avoiding the plagues which visited the ancient world. The form of democracy invented by the Greeks was only for the elite, and slavery was the means of getting things done.
One enormous contribution of the ancient Greeks to the modern world was due to their inquisitiveness. By this they seeded that vital spark of real progress in civilization; to analyse things critically. That meant to view something objectively, to question what a thing is and why it is and not fall back on superstition or priests or what tradition had taught.
Have we all caught up with them in this?
The Greeks also had the philosophy that nothing had to be observed, it could all be deduced by "logical" thinkers.
Yes Anonymous some did think this was possible but the thing was they did not enforce their ideas, they were pluralistic. They welcomed and benefited from new concepts and ideas from the whole known world of that time and that is why they made progress in science and philosophy. They did not tend to get bogged down in sacred beliefs or absolutist doctrines. With the advantage of hindsight we can see what they could not-- but the ethos was to have open minds and build on what was known to be true.
By contrast the forced suicide of Socrates and the murder of Archimedes by invading Romans is evidence of the permanent cruelty which pervaded the thinking of the holders of power in the classical world.
My answer without any hesitation :
"As smart as the new synaptic and dentritic connections in their rewired and brainwashed brains "