By Catherine Tsounis
How much knowledge was lost by the burning of the Library of Alexandria and the Byzantine Empire that held the science of the ancient world? Kostas Kotsanas has an amazing museum called “Ancient Greek Technology: The inventions of the Ancient Greeks.” A knowledgeable staff explained ancient technology, before the pandemic and masks.
The “automatic Servant of Philon” was displayed. It was a humanoid woman servant in lifesize, that held a jug of wine in her right hand. When the visitor placed a cup in the palm of her left hand, she automatically poured wine and then poured water in the cup mixing it.
How did the machine operate? Inside the maid, there are two airtight containers (with wine and water). At their bottom there are two tubes, leading their content through the right hand to the lip of the jug of wine. Two air pipes start at the top of the containers, go through their bottom and lead curved into the stomach. Through this process, that the reader can study in the links, wine is served. When the cup is full, the hand (due to weight) descends further, the passage of the air pipe of wine obstructs and the flow stops. If the cup is removed at any moment, the left-hand rises, the tubes of the joint descends, cutting off the air pipes, creating a vacuum in the containers, and stopping the liquid flow. The maid then fills the cup with wine or diluted water of desired quantity, depending on the time it is pulled from her palm.1
Two pipes start at the same point (joint) and come down (going through and freeing the curved perforated ends of the air pipes). The pipes of the joint have two holes or tears at their ends, with the hole in contact with the container of wine preceding that, which relates to the water container. When the cup is placed into the palm, the hand comes down and the tubes of the joint are lifted. The hole in one pipe is aligned with the air pipe of the wine container, air enters the container and wine flows from the tube into the cup.
Very little is known about the Greek scientist Philon (ca. 280–220 BC) (sometimes called Philo) of Byzantion (Greek: Φίλων ὁ Βυζάντιος). Byzantion is an ancient Greek city (founded in 667 BC), a precursor of Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, and Istanbul of modern Turkey. The most information about Philon’s life comes from the only work, which has survived (at least major parts have survived) at the present time—Compendium of Mechanics (Mechanike syntaxis). Philon’s works had a great influence over the next generations of mechanics, and are mentioned as a source by many later scientists like Vitruvius, Heron of Alexandria, many Arabic scientists, etc.2
The museum has many exhibits. Stop by Kotsanas museum of ancient technology treasures that was lost for over 1500 till the Renaissance. The West turned its back on Greek/Roman learning of Greece, Alexandria, Egypt, and the Byzantine Empire, letting all knowledge lost. Visit the Kotsanas museum and open your eyes to what we lost.
1.Kotsanas, Kosta. “ANCIENT GREEK TECHNOLOGY: The inventions of the ancient Greeks.” Publisher Kostas Kotsanas, Pyrgos, 2015, p,52.