Specifically the description and explanation of the operations of machines (mēchanai); the ancient discipline embraces physical, geometric, and practical aspects. The earliest systematic effort to account for mechanical phenomena, the Peripatetic Mechanica, adopts as its paradigm the lever, turning on the principle that weights are moved more easily as the distance of the moving force from the fulcrum increases. In his mechanical writings Archimedes takes an alternative approach based on the principle of static equilibrium, as exemplified by the balance: that equilibrium holds when the weights are inversely proportional to their distances from the point of suspension. So in his efforts in statics and hydrostatics Archimedes introduces the conception of the centre of gravity, the point at which one can locate a body's entire contribution to a configuration of weights. In a more practical genre, treatises on machines were compiled by Ctesibius, Philon, Vitruvius, Heron, and others. Such of these works as survive include accounts of a wide range of machines, including water‐ and steam‐powered devices, automata, ballistic engines and their deployment in sieges, and so on. The art of the ancient mēchanikos apparently combined enquiries into the theory and design of devices with meticulous concern over details of their manufacture and operation.
Subjects: Classical Studies.