The myths and stories of the ancient Greeks are filled with androids, robots, life-prolonging treatments, and similar imaginings of technology. The android Talos defended the island of Crete. Daedalus, his creator, also made other androids, or life-mimicking sculptures. The artisan god Hephaestus created not only the lighting bolts of Zeus, but was aided at his forge by automated devices. For the Greeks, the mythic past was inhabited by supergeniuses who could create marvelous things which even now seem futuristic.
Adrienne Mayor in her new book Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology not only catalogs these creations, weaving together sources from Hesiod to Etruscan urns, but seeks to understand the fascination, even the obsession, that ancient people had for tales of the artificial creation of life and of the augmentation of natural powers. Adrienne Mayor is a research scholar in classics and the history of science at Stanford University. This is her sixth book, one of several that “investigates natural knowledge contained in pre-scientific myths and oral traditions.”
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