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From Stone Axe to Nukes — Technology and Warfare
By Reiner Pommerin
Proceedings of the 38th International Congress of Military History, Sofia, Bulgaria, 25 August — 1 September 2012
Introduction: This maxim has been written down by Flavius Vegetius Renatus 390 ante Christum natum in book III of his work De Re Militari under the headline regulae bellorum generales. It does serve as a perfect key to this year’s conference theme “Technology and Warfare”. The wording only has slightly to be changed to “All technology that is advantageous to the enemy is disadvantageous to you and all technology that is useful to you, damages the enemy”. Vegetius language of course was Latin and he therefore could not have used the term technology. However, in his fourth book Vegetius described: “universas machinas, quibus vel opugnantur civitates vel defenduntur”. The machines or technology Vegetius referred to were those used in his time to attack and defend fortified places.
In 1405 Konrad Kyeser was able to offer in his book Bellifortis quite a number of more machines, as well as old and new technology.3 Weapons like trebuchets, cannons and crossbows, battering rams, movable portable bridges, rockets, chariots, ships, mills, scaling ladders; incendiary devices were in this book not only described in length but even illustrated. His text was written in Latin and therefore also Kyeser like Vegetius did not use the term technology.
Technology (in German Technologie) refers to the knowledge of making and usage of tools, machines, crafts, systems or methods. It does stem from the Greek word technologia. Téchné meaning art, skill, craft, and logia does mean “study of”. However, these days technology no longer is only the study of Téchné. Technology actually does mean new technique.