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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 19 December 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 19 DECEMBER 2015 19 GREECE The technological wonders of the ancient Greeks TASSOULA EPTAKILI The automatic maid on the first floor of the Herakleidon Museum Annex on Apostolou Pavlou Street in central Athens looks like something out of Star Trek. Made by Philon of Byzantium in the third century BC, one of the leading engineers and writers on mechanics in the Hellenistic period, it is considered to have been the first working robot in history. It was a complex device in the form of a life-size woman. In her right hand she held a wine jug. When a cup was placed in the palm of her left hand, she automatically poured wine first and then water - both stored in metal jugs suspended in her chest area - to achieve the right mix. Its faithful recreation by collector Kostas Kotsanas never ceases to amaze visitors. But there are many more wonders to be seen in the exhibition ‘Amazing Inventions of the Ancient Greeks’, such as the static automated theatre, again by Philon, which presented to audiences the plots of popular myths through moving images, sound and impressive effects, or the alarm clock of Plato (fifth century BC), believed to be the first-ever such device designed to emit an alarm, in this case a whistle. Then there is the coin-operated holy water dispenser devised by Heron of Alexandria (first century AD), a distinguished mathematician and engineer, which was ideal for placement at temple entrances. When a coin was thrown into the pot, it fell onto a balance that moved and opened a valve, releasing a quantity of holy water according to the weight of the coin. And of course, Archimedes' steam cannon, which fired stone balls. We have learned details about the existence and operation of these wonderful technological achievements thanks to Kotsanas, who began to reconstruct the inventions of the ancient Greeks as fully working models in the 1980s, when he was a student of mechanical engineering at the University of Patra. "They are extraordinary machines and pioneering, specialised instruments, which demonstrate that the technology of our ancestors was strikingly similar to that at the start of the modern era, and that Western civilisation owes much to Greece; far more than we think," says Kotsanas. After exhaustively researching the source texts and archaeological finds using detailed drawings and - most importantly - the materials and methods of ancient times, Kotsanas has so far recreated more than 350 inventions. Apart from this exhibition, they can be viewed at the museums he has created in the Peloponnese at his own expense: the Museum of Ancient Greek Technology and the Museum of Ancient Greek Musical Instruments in Katakolo, Ilia, as well the Archimedes Museum at Ancient Olympia. Admission to all three is free. The Athens exhibition, which will remain open until January 10, was recently augmented with the addition of a photography section, featuring images captured by Anthi Xenaki of sixth century BC technology used in the ancient ore processing workshops at Lavrio. ‘Amazing Inventions of the Ancient Greeks’ is on display at the Herakeidon Museum Annex, 37 Apostolou Pavlou, Thiseio, tel 211.012.6486. For further information contact www.herakleidon-art.gr Source: Kathimerini Dialogue reopens on Macedonia dispute FYROM foreign minister visits Athens as international media talk up referendum solution MICHAEL SWEET According to a report by The Guardian newspaper this week, Nikola Gruevski, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed 'Republic of Macedonia', says he is open to change his country's name - a step that could end the 24year dispute with Greece over the naming issue. Mr Gruevski was described as willing to reopen dialogue with Athens on the issue - providing that any potential name change is put to a plebiscite in the former Yugoslav republic. "We are ready to discuss, to open dialogue with them, and to find some solution," Gruevski told The Guardian. "We would like as soon as possible to go to dialogue with Greece to find a solution, and if we find a solution we have to go to the citizens and organise a referendum," Mr Gruevski said. "Through dialogue we have to find some solution, and after that to ask the citizens: is this right or not right." The long-running dispute has prompted Greece to con- sistently block its northern landlocked neighbour from joining the EU and NATO. Australia continues to apply the United Nations resolution passed in 1993 that the country should be referred to as 'FYROM' until Athens and Skopje found agreement on a new name. Previously deadlocked negotiations brokered by the UN between the two countries have included proposals for qualifying words such as ‘upper’ or ‘new’ being applied to the term 'Macedonia' - but no wording has yet been acceptable to both parties. Ahead of a visit to Athens on Thursday, Skopje's foreign minister, Nikola Poposki, told Kathimerini that "conditions are more than ripe" for the name dispute to be finally resolved. Many believe the visit, the first in 15 years, suggests a compromise may be close. Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias ended an 11-year embargo with a visit to Skopje in June, when he said that he wished "all our neighbours to be members of the European Union … because our own Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski at a pro-government rally in Skopje. PHOTO: AP/BORIS GRDANOSKI. country, to great degree, is dependent on what happens in the Balkans as a whole". The Guardian story suggested that members of the leftist Tsipras government are keen to finalise a solution which some in SYRIZA blame on right wing nationalism. Having previously warned that no new name for FYROM could include the word 'Mac- edonia', Athens conceded in 2007, saying that it would give its consent to a composite name in which it could feature. A senior Greek foreign ministry source reportedly told media: "We have gone the extra mile. We've proposed a composite name with geographical qualifications for all uses." A Canadian volunteer’s cry for the refugees in Leros Tia Tariq paid her way from Toronto to Greece and described her experience to her country’s media The third century BC automatic maid is considered to have been the first robot in history. The story of a woman flying from Toronto to Leros is raising awareness in Canada for the ongoing refugee crisis in Greece. Tia Tariq is one of the many international volunteers who travelled from their countries - at their own expense - to assist the aid agencies that are trying to welcome the hundreds of refugees arriving daily to the Greek islands. She narrated her experience at a Syrian refugee camp in the small island, describing the situation as "utter chaos". Unlike bigger, richer islands like Lesbos, Chios and Kos, Leros is a small 'forgotten' island with very limited resources, which is very close to the Turkish coastline - which makes it ideal for the refugee-filled boats. "I've been up for 48 hours," she told Global News Network, something she attributed to the immense task at hand and the needs that have to be met on a daily basis. She stated that, by the time refugees get to the island, they have already travelled for days, often without food. "Either they pass away, they start fainting, or they are in the hospital, it is really crazy," said Taniq, who admitted that she somehow feels powerless, unable to offer anything but emotional support to people that have left their fortunes and homes in ruins, while some have lost family, either at home or during the journey. The task of dealing with dead bodies that have drifted ashore is another factor that has haunted volunteers. "Because it's a very small is- land, the morgue is not very big," she said. "So right now you have four children, their bodies are in ice cream freezers because they don't know what to do with them." Illustrating the need for warm clothing and bedding for the refugees who have to sleep in large, shared tents, as the harsh, wet wintertime is coming to its peak, she explained the one rule that has helped her cope with situations she never thought she would have to see: holding her feelings inside. "Because if you start crying, if you start showing emotion, you are not giving them any hope," she said.
12 December 2015
9 January 2016