More than twenty-first centuries ago, Greece developed a mechanism of incredible ingenuity for the time, a device that indicated exactly what the sky would look like in the coming decades – the position of the sun and moon, the phases of the moon and even eclipses. But this amazing invention drowned at sea, and its secret would be forgotten for two thousand years in a wreck until May 17, 1902 when archaeologist Valerios Stais found the mechanism and gave it a second life.

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What is the mechanism of Antikythera
Antikythera mechanism, National Archaeological Museum.

Mechanism from Antikythera – an amazing discovery

For more than a century researchers have been trying to understand its functions. Since 2005. A multidisciplinary research team of the Greek island’s “Antikythera Mechanism Research Project” has been studying the mechanism using the latest available advanced technology. The results of this ongoing research have enabled the construction of many models. Among them, a unique watch mechanism, designed by Hublot as a tribute to the mechanism, includes the known functions of this mysterious and fascinating ancient mechanism. A model of the Antikythera Mechanism, built by Aristotle University in Greece, along with the watch mechanism and this 3D film are on display at an exhibition on the Mechanism held in Paris at the Musée des Arts et Métiers. Original fragments of the Mechanism, its main models and the watch designed by Hublot are on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece. So what is the Mechanism of Antikythera? What does science say today?

Mechanism from Antikythera
The mechanism from Antikythera in the museum.

Mechanism from Antikythera – the principle of operation

The mechanism is so sophisticated that no one would have believed in its existence had it not been found. Even much simpler machinery would have aroused sensations. This bronze object was created 2000 years ago in Greece – it allowed to see into the future. According to research – it was the first ancient mechanical computer. More than 100 years ago, divers fished it out in a wreck with treasures from ancient Greece, among priceless sculptures. It was named – “the mechanism of Antikythera”. The ancient designer did an incredible thing, with the help of a system of gears he mapped the movements of the planets and the moon. His work is a manifestation of incredible genius – which turned out to be a hellishly difficult puzzle.

Antikythera Mechanism - principle of operation
Idea diagram of the Antikythera mechanism. There is physical evidence of the gears marked with black text. The gears marked in red text are conjecture. Source: Tony Freeth and Alexander Jones.

The motions of the planets and the sun and moon modeled by the mechanism are based on the ancient Greek theories of respect and epicycle, which involve two circular motions. The transfer of this theory to physical form can be achieved by means of an epicyclic gear, in which the center of one gear rotates around the center of the other. Freeth and Jones describe the function of the planetary mechanism as follows:

The gear wheel rotates at the rate of the deferent, and the second gear wheel mounted epicyclically in the first gear rotates at the rate of the epicycle. A slotted tappet, rotating on the axis of the deferent, follows a pin attached to the gear wheel. The tappet is connected to a tube, and the pointer is attached to the tube. This produces an alternating motion.

Reconstruction of the mechanism from Antikythera

In 2012. The Antikythera mechanism which archaeologist Valerios Stais found near a Greek island on May 17, 1902, was on display as part of a temporary exhibition about the Antikythera shipwreck, accompanied by reconstructions by Ioannis Theofanidis, Derek de Solli Price, Michael Wright, Thessaloniki University and Dionysios Kriaris. Other reconstructions can be seen at the American Computer Museum in Bozeman, Montana, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan in New York, the Astronomisch-Physikalisches Kabinett in Kassel, Germany, and the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris.

The National Geographic Naked Science documentary series had an episode specifically dedicated to the Antikythera mechanism titled “BC’s Star Clock,” which aired on January 20, 2011. The documentary, “The World’s First Computer,” was produced in 2012 by Antikythera mechanism researcher-producer Tony Freeth. in 2012. BBC Four aired “The Two-Thousand-Year-Old Computer” was also broadcast on April 3, 2013. In the United States in the science series NOVA , PBS , under the name “Ancient Computer”.

The importance of the ancient Greeks’ knowledge of the movements of the planets

The people of Hellada made a lasting mark on world culture and history with their achievements in many fields. The works of Greek philosophers and poets, are analyzed what examples of excellent work to this day, despite the passage of several millennia. We also associate the ancient Greeks as excellent thinkers, scientists and inventors. They were many years ahead of the era in many respects, as evidenced by the fact that some of the inventions of that period were only able to be reproduced in the 17th or 19th century. The mechanism from Antikythera allows us to add another great invention to the achievements of the Greek people. This seemingly ordinary device excavated from a shipwreck, resting for two thousand years at the bottom of the sea, testifies to the extraordinary construction skills of the inventors of the time. It is a wonderful example of combining analytical knowledge with practical application. The fact that the ancient Greeks were interested in the subject of astronomy and the movements of the planets and celestial bodies shows how broad their interests were. This translated into an invention, which is an inconspicuous device from Antikythera. The ancient Greeks managed to build an intricate mechanism whose mode of operation, construction and full function have only been known in the 21st century, using the latest technological solutions. The device from Antikythera is proof of the genius of the people living at that time, and the recent discoveries of the team working on the mechanism have made it possible to finally reveal to the world the function of the object, thus uncovering and explaining one of the greatest mysteries associated with intriguing devices from thousands of years ago. The original of the mechanism will most likely rest in a closely guarded museum in Athens, and will be a tangible example of the fact that, thanks to modern research, any mystery is solvable.

Antikythera – between Crete and Kithira

Antikythera or Antikythera ( literally “opposite Kythera “) is a Greek island located at the edge of the Aegean Sea between Crete and the Peloponnese. Since the reform of the local government in 2011. It is part of the municipality of the island of Kythera. Antikythera may also refer to the Strait of Antikythera, through which modified Mediterranean water flows into the Sea of Crete. It has an area of 20.43 square kilometers (7.89 square miles), and lies 38 kilometers (24 miles) southeast of Kythira. It is the farthest part of the Attica region from its heart in the Athens metropolitan area. It is diamond-shaped, 10.5 kilometers (6.5 mi) NNW to the SEZ and 3.4 kilometers (2.1 mi) ENE to the WSW. It is a notable site for the discovery of the Antikythera mechanism and the historic Antikythera wreck. It is interesting to note that in 2019 the Greek Orthodox Church announced that new residents can expect 500 euros, or about 2,100 zlotys per month for at least three years if they settle on the island. Local authorities are primarily looking for bakers, fishermen, farmers and builders. Those willing will get a house for free, a plot of land to cultivate and exemption from taxes for as many as five years! The condition is that after five years they must establish a tourist business, such as a hotel or pub.

For those interested in moving, we provide contact information:

Antikythera Community
Antikythera, 80100
Tel: +30 2736033004
Fax: +30 2736033471

Office of the Secretary of the Community
Kapsali, 80100 Kythera
Tel. and fax +30 2736031930

Rooms and apartments for rent
City Hostel: 0030 27360 33004
Sofia: 0030 27360 33040 and 0030 6977870104 and 0030 6938378671
Marika: 0030 27360 38146 and +306984143996
Kalkanakos: 0030 27360 33152 and +306944602036

Antikythera - island

Map showing Antikythera, one of Greece’s wildest islands

Part of the path
Wild goats
Xiropotamos path / Xiropotamos path
Potamos harbor
Potamos beach
Antikythera Castle
Ancient Castle / Ancient Castle
Temple of Apollo / Temple of Apollo
Cousteau shipwreck
Cedar forest / Κεδρόδασος
OTE / Greek telecommunications antenna
Bird watching station
Old elementary school
Olympic Sports Center Antikythera / Ball and Vball fields
Heliport / Heliport
Kamarella beach
The highest peak
Power plant
River-Xiropotamos path / Potamos-Xiropotamos path
St. Myronas Monastery
Xiropotamos beach
St. Nicholas Church
Church of the prophet Ilias
Path to the path of the Apolytara lighthouse
Amazing view / amazing view
Apolytara lighthouse
Guesthouse of the Ornithological Society

Videos about the mechanism from Antikythera