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Science in Ancient Greece

The Greeks did have inventions, but they were stronger in the world
of ideas, and we owe much to them for this. They developed geometry and
studied astronomy, geography,
and mechanics. These studies formed the basis of much science that followed.
Their philosophers developed speculative philosophy which is the foundation of
much of our speculation and a good portion of our Mathematics. Their art and
architecture were very influential and set styles that are still popular and
highly copied today. Museums around the world have much material from ancient
Greece which is often the most valuable part of their collection. A list of
inventions follow:

  • analog computer with clockwork mechanism
  • cyclorama
  • camera obscura
  • steam driven jet engine
  • Archimedian Screw
  • astrolabe
  • catapult
  • hydraulic music organ
  • coinage
  • parchment
  • trireme

Ancient Greek Scientists:

  • Alcmaeon of Croton
  • Anaxagorus of Clazomenae
  • Anaximander of Miletus
  • Apollnius of Perga
  • Archimedes of Syracuse
  • Archytas of Tarentum
  • Aristarchus of Samos
  • Aristotle
  • Callipus of Cyzicus
  • Chalcidius
  • Ctesibius of Alexandria

Women may be associated with the development of the loom and weaving. The weaving process probably started with basket weaving. Then spinning was developed. Once string was available weaving could involve fabric made without a loom but plaited or tied with knots. Then weaving was developed. Weaving done by women was very important to the Mycenaean culture which exported woolen items on ships in the Mediterranean. The discovery of silk weaving was attributed to a woman in China, Empress His-Ling-shi, in the 27th century B.C.E.

Metalcraft was attributed to the god Hephaestus. In Homer, Iliad, 18.373: “for he was fashioning tripods, twenty in all, to stand around the wall of his well-builded hall, and golden wheels had he set beneath the base of each that of themselves they might enter the gathering of the gods at his wish and again return to his house, a wonder to behold.”

In Homer, Iliad, 18.417: “but there moved swiftly to support their lord handmaidens wrought of gold in the semblance of living maids. In them is understanding in their hearts, and in them speech [420] and strength, and they know cunning handiwork by gift of the immortal gods.”

There is also a description of metalurgy. In Homer, Iliad, 18.467: “So saying he left her there and went unto his bellows, and he turned these toward the fire and bade them work. [470] And the bellows, twenty in all, blew upon the melting-vats, sending forth a ready blast of every force, now to further him as he laboured hard, and again in whatsoever way Hephaestus might wish and his work go on. And on the fire he put stubborn bronze and tin [475] and precious gold and silver; and thereafter he set on the anvil-block a great anvil, and took in one hand a massive hammer, and in the other took he the tongs.

Also Homer, Iliad, 18.590 “Therein furthermore the famed god of the two strong arms cunningly wrought a dancing-floor like unto that which in wide Cnosus Daedalus fashioned of old for fair-tressed Ariadne.” Though the details are lacking here the reference to Daedalus indicates a reference to science and invention. To Daedalus are attributed other inventions including wings to fly and a bronze man. Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.27 mentions a folding chair. and at 9.11.4 he states: “he(Daedalus) devised for the ships sails, an invention as yet unknown to the men of those times, so as to take advantage of a favorable wind and outsail the oared fleet of Minos.” In Plato Meno 97d, Socrates says of the statues of Daedalus, “That if they are not fastened up they play truant and run away; but, if fastened, they stay where they are.”

In Philoctetes of Sophocles, line 296 There is a reference to starting a fire with rocks (flint):

“…but by rubbing stone hard on stone I would at last reveal the hidden spark which preserves me from day to day.”

In Agamemnon of Aeschylus, line 281 There is a reference to light traveling over a great distance at a very fast rate via a series of signal fires:

“Hephaestus, from Ida speeding forth his brilliant blaze. Beacon passed beacon on to us by courier-flame: Ida, to the Hermaean crag in Lemnos, etc. … Such are the torch-bearers I have arranged, completing the course in succession one to the other; and the victor is he who ran both first and last.”


  • Nies, Kevin Allison/ Nies, Kevin A, From Priestess to Physician :
    Biological Scientists (Lives of Women Scientists, V. 2)
    , California Video
    Institute, 06/01/1996, Hardcover, 135 pages, ISBN: 1880211041.

Science in Ancient Greece

Questions and Answers

Question: When did Science in Ancient Greece begin?

Answer: Most start Greek Science with Thales (Miletus, early 6th century)
but actually the Greek attitude can be found in their religion, which was
formed much earlier. The stories of Dedalus and Asklepios contain suggestions
of science.

Question: how and what was archimidies (please)

Answer: Archimedes of Syracuse. Archimedes (c. 287 BC – c. 212 BC)
was a Magna-Grecian who lived in Syracuse on Sicily. He developed principles of water pressure and the level as well as princiles of mathematics. He was one of the greatest scientists of ancient times.