The Antikythera Mechanism – ancient Greek inventions still at its best!

Charity, Conferences, Seminars, Forums, Maritime Art, Maritime Education and Training, Maritime History and Museums — By on April 22, 2012 at 11:21 PM

Adm. (HN-rt) John J. Theofanides delivering his slides speech; on his right seated is the Centre's Director Adm. (HCG-rt) Stavros Michailides

A two day event presentations in mid-March at the Island of Chios in Greece; the first day held at the amphitheatre of Homerion Cultural Centre* – Xylas’ charitable donation, and the second day at the premises of the Maria Tsakos International Centre of Maritime Research and Tradition** – Tsakos’ charitable donation, gave the chance to the people of Chios, students and the public, to get the real glimpse of Ancient Greece’ scientific grandeur!

The team comprised from Physist Yiannis Bistakis, a Science Historian and member of the project of history, philosophy and instructive tutorship of science and technology, Agamemnon Tselikas, philologist, and head of the Historic and Paleiographic Archives of the National Bank of Greece’s Foundation and Adm. (HN-rt) John J. Theofanides, whose grandfather, the late Admiral of the Hellenic Navy John J. Theofanides  was the first to study the Antikythera Mechanism*** in detail and built the first functioning clockwork-like model of an advanced astrolabe.

A full house at the Homerion Centre

Given today’s situation in Greece this is a rare chance to create in depth a new touristic product, that of scientific tourism and have the world learn that the Greeks where not just an arty tarty philosophical democratic shipping nation and all that the world wrongfully knows today, but the Centre of creation of scientific instruments and science that today governs the world!  It is also a rare chance of all guides in Greece to attend a further educational course and take advantage of all the Greek ancient scientific Achievements, thus creating the prerequisite for extra earnings from Tourism at a time most needed!

According to Xenophon Moussas, Astrophysics Laboratory, Faculty of Physics, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens,  “the Antikythera Mechanism is the oldest known advanced astronomical instrument and dedicated analogue computer is presented, in context. The Antikythera Mechanism a mysterious device, assumed to be ahead of its time, probably made around 150 to 100 BCE, has been found in a 1st century BCE shipwreck near the island of Antikythera in a huge ship full of Greek treasures that were on their way to Rome. The Antikythera Mechanism is a clock-like device made of bronze gears, which looks much more advanced than its contemporary technological achievements. It is based on mathematics attributed to the Hipparchus and possibly carries knowledge and tradition that goes back to Archimedes, who according to ancient texts constructed several automata, including astronomical devices, a mechanical planetarium and a celestial sphere.

The Antikythera Mechanism probably had a beautiful and expensive box; looking possibly like a very elaborate miniature Greek Temple, perhaps decorated with golden ornaments, of an elegant Hellenistic style, even perhaps with automatic statuettes, ‘daemons’, functioning as pointers that performed some of its operations. Made out of appropriately tailored trains of gears that enable to perform specialised calculations, the mechanism carries concentric scales and pointers, in one side showing the position of the Sun in the ecliptic and the sky, possibly giving the time, hour of the day or night, like a clock.

The position of the Moon and its phase is also shown during the month. On the other side of the Mechanism, having probably the size of a box (main part 32×20×6 cm), are two large spiral scales with two pointers showing the time in two different very long calendars, the first one concerning the eclipses, and lasting 18 years 11 days and 8 hours, the Saros period, repeating the solar and lunar eclipses, and enabling their prediction, and the 19 year cycle of Meton, that is the period the Moon reappears in the same place of the sky, with the same phase. An additional four-year dial shows the year of all Greek Festivities, the so-called ‘games’ (Olympic, Pythian, Isthmian etc.). Two additional dials give the Exeligmos, the 54 year and 34 day cycle, which provides a more accurate prediction of eclipses. It is possible that the Mechanism was also equipped with a planetary show display, as three of the planets and their motion (stationary points) are mentioned many times in the manual of the instrument, so it was also a planetarium.

From the manual we have hints that the mechanism was probably also an observational instrument, as having instructions concerning a viewfinder and possibly how to orient the viewfinder to pass a sunbeam through it, probably measuring the altitude of the Sun. There are fragmented sentences that probably give instructions on how to move the pointers to set the position of the Sun, the Moon and the planets in their initial places in the ecliptic, on a specific day, or how to measure angular distances between two celestial bodies or their coordinates. This mechanism is definitely not the first one of its kind. The fact that it is accompanied with instructions means that the constructor had in its mind to be used by somebody else and one posits that he made at least another similar instrument.”

We leave the comments to you and hope that the Greek Ministry of Tourism, really gets its act together, that the new Greek Government which will be hopefully formed after this May’s forthcoming elections, will allocate – despite the inhumane austerity measures, the appropriate funds and safeguard Greece’s Treasures for the benefit of Humanity, and not “offer” same to looters following many incidents of cowboy style burglaries and attacks

Lastly we take the opportunity to thank Admiral (HCG-rt) Stavros Michailides, the Centre’s Director his information assisting in compiling this report. We are more than sure that the Maria Tsakos International Centre of Maritime Research and Tradition  will become not only the beacon in Chios and Eastern Mediterranean, but beyond in this kind of scientific, cultural and historic maritime events!

*The complex of the Homerion Cultural Centre is one of the most sophisticated “miniatures” of an events, exhibitions and symposium centres in the world.

The Maria Tsakos International Centre of Maritime Research and Tradition

**The building that houses the  Maria Tsakos International Centre of Maritime Research and Tradition is a unique building, the former Livanos Mansion (Livanoudikon) belonging to the late Michael Livanos heirs (the Papastratos’) and initially was the city-family mansion of the Zygomalas noble chian family; it is worth when one visit Chios to pay his tribute to an architectural monument, meticulously preserved by the initiation of Captain Panagiotis N. Tsakos.

Admiral John Theofanides, grandfather of Admiral John Jason Theofaniedes

***There are many scholars amongst them many American, British, French and Russians who have “relentlessly” worked and studied the Antikythera Mechanism and its worth our viewers search in Google and other data banks information sites.

 

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