Machines in Greek and Roman Technology

Andrew I. Wilson

in The Oxford Handbook of Engineering and Technology in the Classical World

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780199734856
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Machines in Greek and Roman Technology

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  • Classical Studies
  • Greek and Roman Archaeology
  • Historical Archaeology


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This article looks at machines in Greek and Roman technology. Greek and Roman machines were used primarily in construction, water-lifting, mining, the processing of agricultural produce, and warfare. It specifically discusses the construction of cranes and machines of surgical traction. Weapons used for war, such as gastraphetes, euthytonoi, palintonoi, and cheiroballistra, are described. Archaeological finds, representations, and especially the design of fortifications suggest that Greek and Roman armies made frequent and widespread use of powerful artillery in both offensive and defensive roles in siege warfare. An important early class of machines was for lifting water. The revolution on these machines is outlined. Besides the water-mill and water-powered noria, water power was also used for dough-mixing, sawmills, pestles for pounding grain, and recumbent trip-hammers or vertical ore stamps for crushing ore in mining regions. Other topics addressed include machines used for oil and wine presses and for entertainment.

Keywords: cranes; surgical traction; water power; water-lifting; oil; wine; entertainment; siege warfare; Greece; Rome

Article.  13465 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Greek and Roman Archaeology ; Historical Archaeology

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