THE AUTOMATIC MAIDSERVANT OF PHILO. GREEK CULTURE – ANCIENT GREEK TECHNOLOGY
The automatic maidservant of Philo is described in the Pneumatics of Philo of Byzantium, a 3rd century BC engineer who lived in Alexandria. It is an automaton (robot) in the form of a (life-size) maidservant holding a wine jug in her right hand.
Inside the effigy were two tanks, one for wine and one for water (as the Greeks used to drink their wine diluted), and a mechanism consisting of liquid and air tubes. By placing a cup on the extended left hand of the maidservant, the mechanism started to work.
Air pressure pushed the liquids (first wine and then water) through the right arm into the jug and then into the cup, in the desired proportion. The automatic maidservant is the first known functional robot.
GREEK CULTURE – ANCIENT GREEK TECHNOLOGY – THE ANTIKYTHERA MECHANISM. The Antikythera mechanism was recovered from a shipwreck found in 1900 by sponge divers off the island of Antikythera.
Built in Hellenistic times, this intricate device was used for astronomical calculations and has been described as the oldest analogue computer. Its more than 30 bronze gearwheels rotated pointers over different dials. Thus, manually selecting a date on the main dial – which represented the zodiac, as well as the solar and lunar years – shifted the smaller gears, so that the pointers on the other dials indicated the position of the selected date in the four-year cycle of the Panhellenic games (Olympia, Pythia, Isthmia, Nemea), the positions of the five then-known planets and the correlation with astronomy cycles that were of particular interest to the ancient Greeks.
The mechanism also predicted solar and lunar eclipses. Research on the mechanism, which has fascinated scholars for decades, is still ongoing under the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project, which, using advanced imaging technologies, continues to provide impressive new insights into the mechanism’s complex inner workings.
George Gordon Byron (London 1788-Missolonghi 1824) was an emblematic figure of European Romanticism and one of the most important poets of the 19th century.
From a very young age, he embraced liberal and philhellenic ideals. His Grand Tour of the Mediterranean in 1809 brought him to Greece, to which he dedicated the second canto of his defining poetic work, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.
The outbreak of the Greek Revolution in 1821 set fire to Byron’s romantic soul. He ultimately moved to Greece in 1823 in order to take part in the struggle and settled in Missolonghi, where he spent much of his fortune on setting up military and naval units. However, he was never to see action, as his life was cut short on 19 April 1824, following a serious illness. His untimely death was a tragic loss and was deeply mourned by the Greeks, but at the same time boosted philhellenic sentiment around the world.