SV: Science Fiction Question for an Indologist (fwd)

Klaus Karttunen Klaus.Karttunen at HELSINKI.FI
Wed Dec 13 15:48:42 UTC 2000

Lars Martin Fosse wrote:
> The construction of mechanical wonders (thaumatourgia in Greek, I believe)
> goes all the way back to antiquity. Oriental princes were very
> enthousiastic about such devices whereas they were practically unknown in
> the West during the Middle Ages. The phenomenon is described in art
> history, I recently saw a monograph on the subject (unfortunately, I don't
> remember the title of the book, but I can find out).

There was some interest in mechanics in the Hellenistic and Roman
period, true, and some manuals of it are preserved, partly in Greek,
partly, thanks to the Oriental Princes (?), in Arabic. However, the
Greek engineers were not capable of constructing robots and flying
machines, this was only part of their exaggerated fame in Indian
literature.  The late Finnish scholar Bjarne Hulden wrote in the 1980s
and 1990s two books about Greek and Roman science and engineering;
unfortunately they are in Swedish, but Lars at least is capable of
reading them.


Klaus Karttunen, Ph.D.
Docent of Indology and Classical Ethnography
Institute of Asian and African Studies
PL 59 (Unioninkatu 38 B), 00014 University of Helsinki, FINLAND
phone 358-0-19122188, fax 358-0-19122094

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