Robocops, Automatons, and Mechanized War Chariots of the Ancient World

whitewave

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As early as the third century B.C. the Chinese, in a philosophical treatise called Liezi, were talking about (and building) humanoid robots. A description of the "enlightened ones" (Taoist archetype) was given as:
They are immune to heat and cold, untouched by the elements, and can fly, mounting upward with a fluttering motion. They dwell apart from the chaotic world of man, subsist on air and dew, are not anxious like ordinary people, and have the smooth skin and innocent faces of children. The transcendents live an effortless existence that is best described as spontaneous. They recall the ancient Indian ascetics and holy men known as ṛṣi who possessed similar traits. (1994:376).
Were there really human beings that were so care-free as to be able to fly and remain impervious to the elements or was something else being referred to here?

Hero of Alexandria (or Heron of Rome?-same guy, btw, we just don't know much about him except that he) was the first to invent steam powered machines, wind powered machines, automatic temple door openers, the first programmable robot and even a sort of coin-operated vending machine that dispensed holy water.

The Leonardo daVinci of the Islamic world in 1206 wrote a book entitled Book of Knowledge of Mechanical Devices and describes how to build 50 automata. He is "credited with inventing the camshaft, the crankshaft and segmental gearing - present in almost every machine today." and is considered the father of robotics. (Despite Hero of Alexandria building one 1000 years earlier and crediting earlier inventors for his inspiration). His mechanized elephant clock moved and made a noise every half hour for the amusement of the masses. Unfortunately, none of his devices have survived to the present day.

We do still have a 15 inch tall mechanical monk which was made "in 1562, by the Spanish watchmaker Juanelo Turri (c. 1500 — 1585) on request of King Philip II of Spain." You can see it here beating its chest and lifting a cross (which isn't creepy at all). And this 16th century automaton housed in the Smithsonian. In the mid 1700's Swiss watchmaker Pierre Jaquet Droz and his son Henri-Louis constructed three extremely complex androids (the lady musician, the draftsman, and the impressive 6,000 piece "writer") which are housed in Switzerland's Art History Museum.

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Can be seen here.

And we have a mechanical puppet from 300 years ago which served tea.

Between 618 and 907 AD. Chao Ye Qian Zai, roughly translated to Stories of Government and the People wrote about mechanical devices that could sing, dance, and perform basic tasks. An earlier model in 550 A.D. could dance, serve drinks, and bow.

In 690 A.D. a Chinese inventor designed and built an automaton [which] was a dresser for the queen which contained a mirror and two shelves with a door beneath. This device was recorded in an ancient book, Travel News, from the time stating that: "Through ingenious levers and switches, when the queen opened the mirror, the doors beneath automatically opened as well. He devised a robotic woman servant for the queen that would bring washing paraphernalia and towels. When the towel was removed from the servant’s arm, it automatically triggered the machine to back away into the closet."

Automated pool side service was invented in the mid 6th century which delivered your drink to you via a little wooden man in a fancy mechanical boat who then waited patiently while you drank it. He would then clap his hands and return to his point of origin when you placed your empty glass back on the boat.
Yin Wenliang from Luozhou "created a wooden man and dressed him with an outfit made of colorful worsted silk. At every banquet, the small wooden man would propose a toast to each guest in order. Yin Wenliang also made a wooden woman. She could play the sheng (an ancient Chinese pipe with 13 reeds) and sing, and she did them in perfect rhythm. If a guest did not finish the wine in his cup, the wooden man wouldn't refill the cup. If a guest did not drink enough wine, the wooden singing girl would play the sheng and sing for him to urge him to drink more."

A Japanese inventor, Han Zhile, moved to China where he "created mechanical birds, phoenixes, cranes, crows, and magpies. Though made of wood, some of the ornithologic prototypes could be made to pretend to eat, drink, chirp, and warble like real birds. He is reported to have installed mechanical devices inside some of the birds to drive their wings to make them fly. He is reported to have also created a mechanical cat."

The first cybernetic machine was invented 1,700 years ago. And some twisted bastid probably lost his head over what, I'm sure, he considered a great gift for the emperor: an automated bed that released an intricately carved wooden dragon when someone laid on the bed. Sweet dreams.

In Northern India in 492 B.C. an Indian king, Ajatasutra, had to device more sophisticated weapons for fighting his enemy, a mace-equipped chariot and a siege engine that resembled a catapult. Picture of the chariot here

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In A History of Indian Literature, Kenneth Norman tells, "Traditionally, statues of giant warriors stood on guard near treasures. But in the legend, Ajatasatru’s guards were extraordinary: They were robots. In India, automatons or mechanical beings that could move on their own were called “bhuta vahana yanta,” or “spirit movement machines” in Pali and Sanskrit. According to the story, it was foretold that Ajatasatru’s robots would remain on duty until a future king would distribute Buddha’s relics throughout the realm."

In this tale, many “yantakara,” robot makers, lived in the Western land of the “Yavanas,” Greek-speakers, in “Roma-visaya,” the Indian name for the Greco-Roman culture of the Mediterranean world. The Yavanas’ secret technology of robots was closely guarded. The robots of Roma-visaya carried out trade and farming and captured and executed criminals.

Robot makers were forbidden to leave or reveal their secrets – if they did, robotic assassins pursued and killed them. Rumors of the fabulous robots reached India, inspiring a young artisan of Pataliputta, Ajatasatru’s capital, who wished to learn how to make automatons.

In the legend, the young man of Pataliputta finds himself reincarnated in the heart of Roma-visaya. He marries the daughter of the master robot maker and learns his craft. One day he steals plans for making robots, and hatches a plot to get them back to India.

Certain of being slain by killer robots before he could make the trip himself, he slits open his thigh, inserts the drawings under his skin and sews himself back up. Then he tells his son to make sure his body makes it back to Pataliputta, and starts the journey. He’s caught and killed, but his son recovers his body and brings it to Pataliputta.

Once back in India, the son retrieves the plans from his father’s body, and follows their instructions to build the automated soldiers for King Ajatasatru to protect Buddha’s relics in the underground chamber. Two centuries later, Ajatasutru's descendant successor had to fight the robot army, defeated them and became the commander of the robot army. Their current whereabouts lie in obscurity. (Or UNESCO or the Smithsonian is guarding them for us. Maybe they're protecting the Vatican)?

In 279 B.C. Ptolemy II's procession is said to have "displayed complex animated statues and automated devices."
The Indian rishis (sages) were reported to be the keepers of divine knowledge.

Were the vimanas and tales of flying cities just fantasy? If all these high tech tales are ancient science fiction then my hat's off to them. Imagining things you've never seen is actually quite rare and it seems several people and cultures had the exact same gift. These happened waaaay before there was supposed to be any technology. They didn't even have stirrups on their saddles but they're making robots that serve you tea and chase down your enemies? It sounds like there were 2 classes of people-those in the know, and everybody else. Because knowledge was/is power, all the secrets were closely guarded and, because they were so closely guarded, the secrets were lost and had to wait thousands of years to be re-discovered.

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Obertryn

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I think what gets me is the robot assassins. Making an automaton that does a specific set of tasks on repeat is impressive but it is also well within possibility even with ancient mechanical knowledge, assuming you know the basics of computing. Making an honest-to-God Terminator that will hunt down and kill designated targets is something that even today we seem to be at least a century away from achieving. How many freaking parameters would you need to program into that thing to account for every single possible action and reaction? Moreover, how the hell would you fit all those levers and switches into something less than the size of Mount Everest?

EDIT: "(Despite Hero of Alexandria building one 1000 years earlier and crediting earlier inventors for his inspiration)".

Al-Jazari did credit others as inspirations, such as the Banu Musa. As far as I am aware, no early robotics engineer in history has claimed sole credit, they were all building on their predecessors. The question is, how far back does it go?
 
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WildFire2000

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This is amazing Whitewave. It's boggling that this kind of history, even the accepted and normal achievements of Da Vinci have no or few mentions of robots, can disappear and be hidden for so long. Yes, I realize they're dismissed entirely as 'tales', but to not even hear about them.

It's amazing, I now regret being raised to not question things as much as I do now. I wish I had the funds and opportunity to travel and search through the old world and read different languages. There's so much buried out there.
 
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whitewave

whitewave

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EDIT: "(Despite Hero of Alexandria building one 1000 years earlier and crediting earlier inventors for his inspiration)".
Al-Jazari did credit others as inspirations, such as the Banu Musa. As far as I am aware, no early robotics engineer in history has claimed sole credit, they were all building on their predecessors. The question is, how far back does it go?
We don't actually KNOW that Hero built those things either; he's just the one we credit with it. Hero, himself credited others (Ctesibius of Alexandria, Archimedes and Vitruvius). He did teach mathematics, mechanics and physical science so he WAS a smart guy who probably could have built those things he's credit with building. He supposedly wrote several manuscripts on the subject such as Automata, the Pneumatica, the Dioptra, the Catoprica and the Mechanica. Most historians don't believe he invented everything he's credited with either but since they don't know who did, they just ascribe it to Hero.

There are several major inventions like that in which someone else gets credit for the work of others and we all just go along with it. The telescope is one such invention. **Hint** Galileo did not invent it. Look at all the things Tesla came up with that Edison got the credit for. What makes that so interesting to me is that it suggests the inventions are so old that historians have no idea who to credit so they just pick the earliest guy they have any information on that sounds plausible. How far back does our history go and how many times have have we lost all memory of what came before?

Talos was a Greek robot made of bronze who patrolled the Greek coast 3 times a day by running 155 miles per hour around Greece. His job was to hurl giant rocks at invading ships and he had "boiling hot breath" capable of melting the invaders. He was said to have a single "vein" (cable?) running from his head to his foot which was bolted in place. He eventually nicked the "vein" and "blood of the gods" (liquid metal?) poured out which ended our poor Talos. How he knew which ships were invading ships and which ones were welcome trading vessels implies some sort of AI capability.

It's amazing, I now regret being raised to not question things as much as I do now. I wish I had the funds and opportunity to travel and search through the old world and read different languages. There's so much buried out there.
It wasn't until I joined this site that I realized how much there was left to discover right here in my own backyard (Oklahoma). I don't think there's been time since the last reset to clean up all the evidence so there's probably still lots left to discover buried in unexpected places. If you find any of it, don't tell anyone-just put it online open source with oodles of evidence. Happy hunting!
 

Maxine

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I wish I had the funds and opportunity to travel.
You don't really need funds to travel, there is a way to travel without any money at all you just gotta disable your mind from this parasitic thought which most masses have that everything revolves around monetary system (it's not, people just convince themselves and condition themselves into it) and get food and travel by yourself! You don't need any money at all to travel, just hard dedication, something to hunt animals for food and some filters to get drinkable water from water sources (i'm dead serious now, and that's a not website where you can even troll so don't get me wrong) also you can sometimes catch a car with somebody so you won't walk a long distances, and i'm not gonna make a travel guide here, you can find lots of these on the web, but you get my point, you can basically get around the whole world that way (just need to find places where bоrdеrs оf соuntries can be crossed easily or semi-easily, there's always a risk though but it's one that worth it), now i know this might be a little bit too much for a regular civilized by society person, but it really is that easy, you just have to stop conditioning yourself around monetary system and a lot of stuff will start to be really easy for you!

P:S I Had no mean to offend you or anybody somehow, so sorry if i did! :)
PP:S And yes it's a big offtop of this thread, sorry for that!
 

KorbenDallas

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And for the future let us avoid derailments like this. Please use personal messaging for similar issues.

No need to reply to my post.
 

Andrinus

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Great OP, this is eye-opening! Found 'Archytas of Tarentum' mentioned in the linked article about Hero of Alexandria, going backwards another 300 years:

"Around 400 BC, Gellius relates, Archytas mystified and amused the citizens of Tarentum by flying a pigeon made of wood. Apparently, the bird was suspended on wires and propelled by escaping steam – one of the earliest references to the practical application of the principle on which rocket flight is based." [source]

If advanced engineering principles like steam propulsion were used for amusement, I would consider them as well established in certain circles already, even back then.

And even given the fact that the entire antique heritage is under suspicion of being much younger than told, these devices are still amazing and could not have been built without a full developed engineering tradition. Technological one-time 'outliers' by universal geniuses, perfected at the very beginning instead in the end, are in general not possible and therefor a clear sign of distorted timelines, again.
 
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whitewave

whitewave

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So true, @Andrinus, but the people of those times were more like children (imho). They could be cruel but were generally not particularly cunning when it came to murder. The Chinese supposedly invented gunpowder but rather than using it's amazing martial potential as a weapon of warfare, they used it to make amusing fireworks for their parades and celebrations. Wasn't until the Westerners got ahold of it that they saw it's potential as a weapon and utilized it for making war.

If our climate and culture were vastly different before the last reset (as I believe they were), the people could have made all sorts of wondrous things that have been lost to us since their time. You generally make toys and amusements when times are good not when you're starving, at war, in survival mode, etc. I can see in better times such gadgets being made for benign purposes. But, if the timelines are correct, we did have a very dark age of ignorance and lost knowledge because it took over 1000 years before anyone began making such marvels again. And why has it taken us so long to catch up to what could be done hundreds of years ago?

I think the Talos robot was named after an actual living person (ruler) which wiki depics as:

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Doesn't look quite human, does he? Wiki says, "Talos's bronze nature suggested to the author of Bibliotheke that he may have been a survivor from the Age of Bronze, a descendant of the brazen race that sprang from meliae"ash-tree nymphs" according to Argonautica." But when the robot was made, it was made to look human-ish (well, as much as a robot can look human).

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In looking for "bronze people" of that time (melia) I found: They were the wives of the Silver Race of Man and mothers of the Bronze, the third generation of mankind. The Bronze were an overly warlike race who incurred the wrath of Zeus and were destroyed in the floods of the Great Deluge.
Does the "third generation of mankind" refer to the third age or iteration/reset?
 

KorbenDallas

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@whitewave, this is some great stuff you posted. The narrative, unable or unwilling to hide stuff like this, continues with their attempts to convince us that inventions like these existed in the vacuum, and were surrounded by dumb uneducated crowds.

It’s funny that a simple pencil was not invented until 1795, yet we had automated assassins running around hunting specific individuals down ages prior.

It appears to be some sort of antediluvian technology which survived the event. This is just my opinion, but you do not go from milking a cow to building automatons without having a proper education to support your inventions. At the same time an education like this cannot exist in the vacuum of its own, for these machines require our normal process of research and development.

Meanwhile, instead of getting to the bottom of this, or similar type issues, our historians and archaeologists look for crap like arrow heads and 10k year old bread crumbs.
  • It appears they left it up to us to investigate the important things.
Additionally, I would love to know when we first learned about this Heron Hero dude. I bet something pertaining to his name was discovered in some attic in the 15th century.
 

Japod

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As early as the third century B.C. the Chinese, in a philosophical treatise called Liezi, were talking about (and building) humanoid robots. A description of the "enlightened ones" (Taoist archetype) was given as:

Were there really human beings that were so care-free as to be able to fly and remain impervious to the elements or was something else being referred to here?

Hero of Alexandria (or Heron of Rome?-same guy, btw, we just don't know much about him except that he) was the first to invent steam powered machines, wind powered machines, automatic temple door openers, the first programmable robot and even a sort of coin-operated vending machine that dispensed holy water.

The Leonardo daVinci of the Islamic world in 1206 wrote a book entitled Book of Knowledge of Mechanical Devices and describes how to build 50 automata. He is "credited with inventing the camshaft, the crankshaft and segmental gearing - present in almost every machine today." and is considered the father of robotics. (Despite Hero of Alexandria building one 1000 years earlier and crediting earlier inventors for his inspiration). His mechanized elephant clock moved and made a noise every half hour for the amusement of the masses. Unfortunately, none of his devices have survived to the present day.

We do still have a 15 inch tall mechanical monk which was made "in 1562, by the Spanish watchmaker Juanelo Turri (c. 1500 — 1585) on request of King Philip II of Spain." You can see it here beating its chest and lifting a cross (which isn't creepy at all). And this 16th century automaton housed in the Smithsonian. In the mid 1700's Swiss watchmaker Pierre Jaquet Droz and his son Henri-Louis constructed three extremely complex androids (the lady musician, the draftsman, and the impressive 6,000 piece "writer") which are housed in Switzerland's Art History Museum.


And we have a mechanical puppet from 300 years ago which served tea.

Between 618 and 907 AD. Chao Ye Qian Zai, roughly translated to Stories of Government and the People wrote about mechanical devices that could sing, dance, and perform basic tasks. An earlier model in 550 A.D. could dance, serve drinks, and bow.

In 690 A.D. a Chinese inventor designed and built an automaton [which] was a dresser for the queen which contained a mirror and two shelves with a door beneath. This device was recorded in an ancient book, Travel News, from the time stating that: "Through ingenious levers and switches, when the queen opened the mirror, the doors beneath automatically opened as well. He devised a robotic woman servant for the queen that would bring washing paraphernalia and towels. When the towel was removed from the servant’s arm, it automatically triggered the machine to back away into the closet."

Automated pool side service was invented in the mid 6th century which delivered your drink to you via a little wooden man in a fancy mechanical boat who then waited patiently while you drank it. He would then clap his hands and return to his point of origin when you placed your empty glass back on the boat.
Yin Wenliang from Luozhou "created a wooden man and dressed him with an outfit made of colorful worsted silk. At every banquet, the small wooden man would propose a toast to each guest in order. Yin Wenliang also made a wooden woman. She could play the sheng (an ancient Chinese pipe with 13 reeds) and sing, and she did them in perfect rhythm. If a guest did not finish the wine in his cup, the wooden man wouldn't refill the cup. If a guest did not drink enough wine, the wooden singing girl would play the sheng and sing for him to urge him to drink more."

A Japanese inventor, Han Zhile, moved to China where he "created mechanical birds, phoenixes, cranes, crows, and magpies. Though made of wood, some of the ornithologic prototypes could be made to pretend to eat, drink, chirp, and warble like real birds. He is reported to have installed mechanical devices inside some of the birds to drive their wings to make them fly. He is reported to have also created a mechanical cat."

The first cybernetic machine was invented 1,700 years ago. And some twisted bastid probably lost his head over what, I'm sure, he considered a great gift for the emperor: an automated bed that released an intricately carved wooden dragon when someone laid on the bed. Sweet dreams.

In Northern India in 492 B.C. an Indian king, Ajatasutra, had to device more sophisticated weapons for fighting his enemy, a mace-equipped chariot and a siege engine that resembled a catapult. Picture of the chariot here


In A History of Indian Literature, Kenneth Norman tells, "Traditionally, statues of giant warriors stood on guard near treasures. But in the legend, Ajatasatru’s guards were extraordinary: They were robots. In India, automatons or mechanical beings that could move on their own were called “bhuta vahana yanta,” or “spirit movement machines” in Pali and Sanskrit. According to the story, it was foretold that Ajatasatru’s robots would remain on duty until a future king would distribute Buddha’s relics throughout the realm."

In this tale, many “yantakara,” robot makers, lived in the Western land of the “Yavanas,” Greek-speakers, in “Roma-visaya,” the Indian name for the Greco-Roman culture of the Mediterranean world. The Yavanas’ secret technology of robots was closely guarded. The robots of Roma-visaya carried out trade and farming and captured and executed criminals.

Robot makers were forbidden to leave or reveal their secrets – if they did, robotic assassins pursued and killed them. Rumors of the fabulous robots reached India, inspiring a young artisan of Pataliputta, Ajatasatru’s capital, who wished to learn how to make automatons.

In the legend, the young man of Pataliputta finds himself reincarnated in the heart of Roma-visaya. He marries the daughter of the master robot maker and learns his craft. One day he steals plans for making robots, and hatches a plot to get them back to India.

Certain of being slain by killer robots before he could make the trip himself, he slits open his thigh, inserts the drawings under his skin and sews himself back up. Then he tells his son to make sure his body makes it back to Pataliputta, and starts the journey. He’s caught and killed, but his son recovers his body and brings it to Pataliputta.

Once back in India, the son retrieves the plans from his father’s body, and follows their instructions to build the automated soldiers for King Ajatasatru to protect Buddha’s relics in the underground chamber. Two centuries later, Ajatasutru's descendant successor had to fight the robot army, defeated them and became the commander of the robot army. Their current whereabouts lie in obscurity. (Or UNESCO or the Smithsonian is guarding them for us. Maybe they're protecting the Vatican)?

In 279 B.C. Ptolemy II's procession is said to have "displayed complex animated statues and automated devices."
The Indian rishis (sages) were reported to be the keepers of divine knowledge.

Were the vimanas and tales of flying cities just fantasy? If all these high tech tales are ancient science fiction then my hat's off to them. Imagining things you've never seen is actually quite rare and it seems several people and cultures had the exact same gift. These happened waaaay before there was supposed to be any technology. They didn't even have stirrups on their saddles but they're making robots that serve you tea and chase down your enemies? It sounds like there were 2 classes of people-those in the know, and everybody else. Because knowledge was/is power, all the secrets were closely guarded and, because they were so closely guarded, the secrets were lost and had to wait thousands of years to be re-discovered.

The impervious to elements thing reminds me of Wim Hof
 

WildFire2000

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Wim Hof, he's the 'Iceman'. He teaches breathing techniques that makes him basically impervious to the elements. He's been documented sitting in ice water, connected to thermometers and he can make his body temperature rise to combat the cold. It's mind-boggling stuff that proves there's more to our mind/matter/body connection than traditional science acknowledges or even wants to contemplate.

So, to tie that to the topic at hand .... perhaps there's some level of super-human ability tied to these ancient 'robots' due to techniques we've lost to time. Who knows.
 
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whitewave

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Oh, I've seen that guy. I think he teaches marines his techniques too. Can he fly, though?
 

Obertryn

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Wim Hof teaches a simplified version of traditional Tibetan monk techniques which tends to strip away most of the "woo-woo" spiritual aspects in order to make it more palatable to a Western audience (kind of how you have "Westernized" Buddhism, which is really just Buddhism in name only). I first read of the body heat technique in a Chinese book on meditation, you basically clear your mind and imagine that there is an ember just a bit below your bellybutton. Then, take deep breaths and every time you inhale, imagine that the ember is slowly intensifying in heat until it is a full-on inferno. I only tried it a couple of times and didn't really practice it too much but it really does seem to make you feel warmer. Might be a simple placebo effect but who the hell knows.
 
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