by: Geoff Ficke

Cement is the most widely used building material in the world and has been for thousands of years. The historical record confirms that the ancient Persians, Assyrians and Babylonians used cement in the binding and affixing of mud bricks. The Egyptians also used cement in construction. It was the Romans, however, that perfected the production of slaked cement that made many construction advances possible.

The basic materials that the ancients used to make cement were readily available, then as now. Sand, water and rocks, the basic ingredients in cement, are essentially found anywhere in the world. The first great advance in the evolution of the production of cement was the Roman invention of the pozzalana technique. The Romans found that volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius, when mixed with slaked lime; sand and water produced an amazingly versatile type of cement. It was easier to work with and delivered much greater strength than previous blends.

Many of the monuments and buildings so gloriously built by the ancient Romans, standing to this day, benefited from the perfection of pozzalana cement. Hadrians Arch, the Forum, the Roman Baths, the Appian Way, the Church of Constantine and many more edifices were strengthened utilizing this simple, but essential construction product. The proof of the utility of pozzalana cement is on display every where you look in modern Rome. Ancient walls of pozzalana cement as thick as 12 feet have been discovered at a number of Roman archeological dig sites.

Amazingly, the secret of pozzalana cement was soon lost and was not re-discovered until the 18th century, when the scientific age of discovery was in full bloom. The lost recipe for Roman cement was re-invented and continued in use until Portland cement was perfected in the 19th century. Portland cement is the gold standard product for building material to this day.

For almost 1500 years builders were limited because an ancient method of improving simple cement was lost. We know that many of the inventions of the ancient world went extinct as well. Bathing and personal hygiene became rare, directly contributing to advance of disease and the great Plague.

Running water and sanitation systems, common in ancient Rome, were lost and did not reappear until the late middle ages. Agriculture techniques, brewing spirits, military organization and strategy, road building and trade routes were lost for centuries as well.

Today we take much for granted. We assume that things will always be convenient, food prevalent, choices abounding and affordable. The lesson of history is that this is not necessarily so. Societies do recede. Knowledge can be lost. We must protect and value our freedoms, knowledge, science and creativity.

Today, in a good portion of the world, the populace lives much as the most backward ‘burgher of the Dark Ages lived. Subsistence farming is prevalent. Clean water is not available. Hygiene is unknown. Basic medical care and drugs are not to be found. These populations do not choose this bleak existence, they have simply never known anything else but the horrid grate of endless poverty, ignorance and hunger.

In other areas of the world, owing to religious or societal mores, there is no desire to live a modern lifestyle. The whole goal is to live as if the year were 908 rather than 2008. In too many instances, unfortunately and dangerously, these populations not only wish to live lives of physical deprivation but they want the rest of us to be forced to accept their hatred of modernity and be forced to share their aversion of contemporary comforts.

The inventions that the Romans perfected and left for subsequent generations were soon lost. The world went into a period of darkness. Creativity and science went into torpor. It could happen again. It could happen to us if we let down our guard and allow our advances and knowledge base to wither and decline. It will happen if some fanatics have their way and can force their ideology on peoples not appreciative of their freedoms. Freedom isn’t free and gains can easily be lost.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.