The mobile automatic theatre of Heron of Alexandria (the programmable automotive «puppet show» of the the ancient Greeks)

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The mobile automatic theatre of Heron of Alexandria
(the programmable automotive «puppet show» of the the ancient Greeks)


A precise reconstruction of Heron’s mobile automatic theatre which presents the myth of Dionysos.

Act 1:The mobile theatre moves automatically to another programmed position (doing compilations of rectilinear and circular movements).

Act 2: Fire is lit on the altar in front of Dionysos. Water springs from his holy stick and wine from his cup is poured onto the small panther.

Act 3: The place around the four columns of the base is crowned with flowers. The sound of drums and cymbals are heard while the six Bacches move dancing around the temple.

Act 4: The musical instruments stop and Dionysos turns to the other side of the temple. The winged Niki (Victory) turns with him.

Act 5: Fire lights on the other altar of the temple and from his holy stick, water springs again and from his cup, wine is poured onto the small panther.

Act 6: The sound of drums and cymbals are heard again while the six Bacches move backwards dancing around the temple.

Act 7: The musical instruments stop and the mobile theatre moves automatically to its initial position (by moving backwards doing compilations of rectilinear and circular movements).

All of these are accomplished automatically by the movement of tens of metres of wisely mechanically timed (=programmed) threads that are pulled from the force of a lead weight which fall at a steady pace in a clepsydra with grain (millet). With the clockwise, the releasing and the counter-clockwise winding of threads around axles and reels, the following is accomplished a) the forward movement (rectilinear or circular) of the automatic and the clockwise turns of the mechanisms, b) stillness and c) the backward movement (rectilinear or circular) of the automatic and the counter-clockwise turns of the mechanisms. To start the show, the rope from the front side of the base needs only be pulled.

SCALE 1:1

SOURCES: "Heron of Alexandria, Automatopoetike"