Ancient Greeks Pioneers in Technology

Ancient-Greeks-Pioneers-in-TechnologyMany arts and sciences were born and developed in ancient Greece: music, language, sports, philosophy only to mention a few. But there is one more field that flourished in ancient Greece, where a lot of innovations were noted; technology and engineering.

Ancient Greeks invented a large number of mechanical creations some of which constitute the basis for contemporary creations and were extraordinary beyond belief, resulting in the pinnacle of technology.

Even from the limited information we have before the geometric period, around 900 to 700 B.C, we can be certain that technology was already advanced.

Let us take a look into the mechanical genius of ancient Greeks:

In Mythology:
a) Daedalus and Icarus’ flying machines
b) Talos, the very first robot, a giant man of bronze who had one vein, which went from his neck to his ankle, bound shut by only one bronze nail. Talos is said to be created from a request from Hephaestus to Zeus, to protect Europe from pirates and invaders. In some versions of the myth, Talos is forged by the inventor Daedalus.

In archaeological excavations:
a)    Papirella (8000 B.C.): a boat that carried out commercial transactions between Milos and Peloponnese.
b)    Amphora (6000 B.C.) in Orchomenus (Boeotia)
c)     Silver mine in Lavrion (3000 B.C.)
d)    Advanced naval vessels (3000 B.C.) with hydrodynamic structure
e)    Megalithic Monuments in Mani (2,000 B.C.)
f)      Broze ingot (1,600 B.C.) in Kymi (Euboea)
g)    Drainage and irrigation projects in Copais (1450 B.C.). The region was facing flood problems so an irrigation canal called The Canal of Minion was constructed.
h)    The Pillars of Hercules the promontories that flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. It is said that these columns, except for altar were also used as beacons.
i) Oil-press (580 B.C.). The first display on a vase of such a mechanism dates back to the 6th century.
j) Anaximander’s gnomon and map (550 B.C.) Gnomon, which was simply a vertical pillar or rod mounted on a horizontal plane, contributed to the development of sundials as well as of many astronomic instruments. The map was the springboard for the development of cartography, astronomy and geography.
k) Lifting machines: some of them date back to 530 B.C. But probably they existed long before, if we consider the megalithic monuments in Mani and elsewhere.

Daedalus_und_Ikarus_MK1888Great Greek Engineers, like Archimedes, Ctesibius, Vitruvius, Pappus, Hero etc., constructed such machines. The main types of lifting machines are the pulley, the lever, the winch and the hoist.

l) Archytas’ flying machine (425 B.C.)
m) Semaphore (4th century B.C.). They used torches, glasses and signs with the letters of the alphabet and tried through the mirrors to guess the text.
n) Catapult and crossbow (400 B.C.): The catapult was capable of firing spears of 1.80 m length to 200 meters.

The technological achievements of the ancient Greeks are innumerable. We just gave some examples. These achievements of course include the infinite archaeological temples and statues that comprise the most wonderful part the world’s cultural heritage (the Parthenon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Asclepieia (temples dedicated to the healer-god Asclepius), Heraion of Samos, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, among others.


  • Thanioti

    Seems to me Greek achievement and cultural excellence is somehow linked to a polytheistic world view relative to man and the cosmos which embodies him… as opposed to monotheistic creationism which reduces man to the subservient and submissive flock of “sheep”, limiting their curiosity to the confines of the omnipotent and omnipresent.

  • Michael Shepherd

    Yes, any interest can be bolstered with Visit-Ancient-Greece.com