Thursday, July 14, 2005

Philon's of Byzantium automatic maid

Look at the next picture. If you think that is an ancient statue then you are wrong. This magnificent statue is ancient indeed. The thing is that it's not just a statue. It may seem impossible to you, but this is a ROBOT with the form of a statue.
The above automat (automats is the ancient Greek word for robots) was built by Philon of Byzantium, a mechanic of the very well known school of Alexandria. Philon was the connecting ring between Ktisibius (whom was his student) and Heron of Alexandria.
When you put an empty cup to the robot's left hand (normally the left hand was extended), then it was starting to move down (from the cup's weight) towards the stable right hand, which was holding a Oinochoae (a vessel containing wine). When the hand was reaching at the Oinochoae the automatic machine was able to fill the cup with the desirable quantity of wine. Next, the robot was pouring water in the cup mixing it with the wine (the wine in ancient Greece must have been very strong and therefore it needed rarefaction).
Philon describes the construction procedure and the way the automat (robot) worked in great detail.

The picture you see above was designed by the French historic researcher Carra de Vaux, who managed to translate the great work of Philon of Byzantium from 2 Latin and Arabic manuscripts, in French (Unfortunately the original has not been saved in Greek language).
Based on Philon's descriptions the robotic statue must have looked like the one you see in the picture. (The photo comes from the book of Christos D. Lazos, Mechanic and Technology in ancient Greece, Aiolos editions).

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