Director of research, National Hellenic Research Foundation
Permanent secretary of the International Academy of the History of Science
The Mechanism of Antikythera is an Ancient Greek mechanical device with gears dating around the second or the first century before our era, which was found together with 40 statutes and other valuables in a Roman shipwreck near the island of Antikythera, Greece, in 1900.
From the time of its discovery until today, specialists are trying to decipher its functioning and understand its functions. The most recent technology has been used in 2005 with special IT tomography and surface imaging. This allowed the reading of a big part of the inscriptions on the mechanism which were unknown before, and this reading ascertained the hypothesis that the mechanism had more gears that those found, and displayed, excepting the motion of the Moon and the Sun, the motion of the five planets known at the Antiquity.
Historical research has also established that this kind of mechanism was mentioned in Ancient Roman literature and that planetaria with gears were constructed from Archimedes’ time, about 2300 years ago.
In this lecture I will present the history of more than100 years investigations about the mechanism and the most recent findings, and also the use and the importance of such mechanisms in the Roman aristocratic milieus.