We like to think we’re fairly intelligent today, but did you know that the ancient Greeks and Romans harnessed the power of steam and wind 2,000 years ago?

Your students will enjoy these three prompts based on history and technology as they contemplate Hero of Alexandria, an ancient Thomas Edison, and how his inventions might have changed the world.

Random fact: Did you know that Hero invented the first vending machine? Patrons put in a coin and received holy water from his machine!

This week we’ve included plenty of links so your students can dig more deeply into these topics, if they wish.

Geared for middle – high school students.

Writing Prompts for Middle and High School : Did you know that the ancient Greeks and Romans harnessed the power of steam and wind? Enjoy these prompts about an ancient Thomas Edison and his impact on the world.

3 Steam-powered Prompts

Before the Fall of Rome, Romans were just beginning to develop steam power and Hero of Alexandria , a Greek Egyptian in the first century, is considered the father of the steam engine. While steam power didn’t make its greatest contribution to the world until the 1800s, the rudimentary technology existed long before that.

Can you imagine how the world might be different if the Romans had been successful before their empire collapsed?

Consider these 3 ways the world might be different:

1. The invention of steam power brought about the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, which relieved animals of their primary use to humans in areas of farming and even manufacturing.

Now it’s your turn: How would the increase in farming, rudimentary manufacturing, and water production have impacted the Roman people and the spread of Roman civilization? Write from the perspective of a horse hearing stall talk about the new steam technology that would make its life easier.


2. The Roman civilization and its economy were dependent on slave labor to get much of its work done. Slaves were relegated to the hardest of labor and supported tradesmen and merchants in their work.

Now it’s your turn: How might the Fall of Rome have been impacted by the use of steam power? Imagine that you’re a governor at that time and have just discovered this new technology. What will you now do with your slave labor?


3. Can you imagine what our world would be like today if the technology had been fully available to the Romans at the time of Christ? The Gospel of Christ moved westward with the missionary efforts of the Apostle Paul “in the fullness of time.” For that to have happened, the roads of Rome were necessary. These roads were so well built that the new Christian faith easily spread throughout the Mediterranean world. In fact, they were so well built that some of them still exist today!

Now it’s your turn: You’re a missionary of the new Christian faith. Since you are no longer dependent on walking or horseback alone, you venture as far as a steam engine vehicle can take you. Where will you go? What vehicle will you power with steam? How will you explain this new technology to people who haven’t seen it before?


Explore our fun writing prompts for your middle school students here. >>

Your teens will enjoy these engaging prompts. >>

Don’t forget the fantastic samples and lessons you can download for FREE. >>

Prompt by Gina Glenn.
Copyright © 2017 by Sharon Watson
Image: Fernando Cortez /