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A Commission for a Recreation of the Antikytherian Mechanism

A Commission for a Recreation of the Antikytherian Mechanism

A Commission for a Recreation of the Antikytherian Mechanism

            The selection of the artifact was based on an appreciation of Hellenism. The artifact selected is the Antikythera mechanism. Archaeologists and other experts that have investigated the device suggest that it is the first attempts at making a computer, which shows the significant scientific advances that ancient Greece and Roman had made. Hellenism is an appreciation of the great Roman and Greek influence on society during their time and on the evolution of western culture. Greeks and Romans such as Plato, Pythagoras, Archimedes, and Aristotle are famous names whose contributions to the sciences, the arts, and history are enormous. In this regards, the whole of modern science and logic could be attributed to Aristotle’s logic while Plato could have significantly influenced how people study metaphysics. Therefore, the creation of an artifact that attests to the great contributions of the Hellenistic period would be a valuable addition to the art collection.

            The Antikythera mechanism is similar to a clock, but it uses astrology to calculate the position of various heavenly bodies. It has complex gears that function to indicate the movement of the stars and help in navigation. The complexity of the gears is impressive because it resembles the complexity of the modern switch watch. According to Doctorow, Hublot, which is a Swiss company that manufactures luxury watches, replicated the Antikythera mechanism in one of their watches. The prominence of the Antikythera mechanism is clear because the Hublot watch was placed at the prestigious Paris Musée des arts et métiers for viewing after a short stint at the Baseworld expo in 2012 (Doctorow). For the art collection, the Antikythera mechanism will be replicated in full size. It will be a complete replica of the original artifact to ensure it is an authentic replica of Hellenistic ingenuity.

            The Antikythera mechanism was lost at sea about 2,000 years ago when a ship carrying it got shipwrecked off the Antikythera coastline in ancient Greece. The device was submerged in water and discovered in the modern era. Therefore, the mechanical parts and bronze gears were eroded and mostly indistinguishable. However, modern recreations of the device and investigations have shown how the mechanism worked as is evidenced by Hublot’s recreation in a watch (Becker; Doctorow; Resnik). The connection of the Antikythera mechanism to Hellenistic culture is clear from the findings alongside the device when the shipwreck was discovered. The explorers found jewelry, pots, beautiful vases, and a philosopher’s bronze statue. The accompanying discoveries demonstrate that the device had a deep connection to the Greek cultural landscape. The device and what it represents beautifully represent the rich philosophical tradition in ancient Greece. Its significance was highlighted when Google Doodle featured (Resnik). The Antikythera mechanism has various features that speak to the ingenuity of the Greek culture.

            The Antikythera mechanism features about 12 gears with calibrations that are fixed so accurately that they could rival a modern switch watch. The gears are placed on top of each other in a neat stack. According to Resnick, the technology used in the device was so advanced that modern archaeologists could only attribute it to the 16th century. Scientists and other experts that investigated the device’s function spent years trying to understand its function. The options they were considering included a calculator, calendar or a clock. Finally, Derek J. de Solla figured out that it was a prediction device for calculating the position of stars and the five planets in the sky based on the month. By then, the ancient Greeks only knew of the five planets (Resnik). For the proposed recreation of the device, all planets should be included in the device’s calculations, including any deviations from the relative positions of the stars and planets to the Earth because of the passage of time. The device should be as usable in the postmodern era as it was in over 2,000 years ago, which will make it a suitable homage to the Hellenistic period. Also, there should be engravings on the device of various personalities in the Hellenistic period, including Plato, Aristotle, and Archimedes. Archimedes was attributed to building similar technical devices, which makes him a fit inclusion in the inscriptions. Similarly, the name for the device should be included as an engraving on the body in Roman letters.

            Scientists have worked out how the Antikythera mechanism worked. The device’s gears are made with specific mathematical ratios. Consequently, the device functions as an analog computer compared to modern digital computers that run based on ones and zeros. The device’s user enters data on one gear and their mathematical ratios turn to calculate the specific requirement depending on the operator’s needs. For example, it could calculate the sun’s angle at a particular time. Resnik reports that similar analog calculators used to conduct simple arithmetic such as subtraction and addition; they only appeared during the 1600s in Europe, which further attests to the ingenuity of the Antikythera mechanism. Using 3D mapping and X-ray technology, scientists have revealed other features of the Antikythera mechanism, which include an inscription of instructions to guide the user about the device’s functionality (Resnik). Therefore, to remain an authentic recreation, it should have simple instructions on the back of the device written in English to make it usable by most people because English is a highly common language. Other languages should not be included since too many inscriptions would reduce the aesthetic appeal of the device. Calligraphy would be a viable option to ensure that the device has aesthetics alongside functionality. The ancient Greeks had fine tastes and appreciation of gorgeous artifacts, such as the beautiful jewelry and pottery found alongside the Antikythera wreckage (Resnik). Therefore, aesthetics is an important consideration in the device’s design. In addition, the artifact should be gold-plated to give a glimmering finish and add glamour.   

            Important historical considerations should guide the design of the Antikythera. For example, there should be no direct association between the device and the creator or commissioner of the device. The original device did not have references to the original creators because of a distinctly Greek orientation towards knowledge and social values. Therefore, there was significant respect for such devices. There are few references to the device in literature, which gives it a mystique similar to the Holy Grail, and this should be included in the recreation of the Antikythera device. Also, the piece should be a symbol of anti-individualism in the creation of devices that could benefit human beings. Furthermore, the current global culture is consumerist and individualistic in orientation, which is markedly different from the ancient Greco-Roman world albeit some scholars having a contrary opinion. Individualism and consumerism has led to the devastation of the environment and climate change. The development of harmful technologies has led to the pollution of the environment, which has consequently led to human misery particular in poor parts of the world. The Antikythera mechanism is a simple yet powerful technology that does not pollute the air or create negative environmental outcomes. The mechanism is a reminder of a simpler time in which human ingenuity contributed to societal improvement. It should inspire admiration in people and ensure an appreciation of old but timeless ancient traditions and values. Martin’s research shows that the perception of the Hellenistic culture in modern scholarly literature is based on a generalization. Modern cultural values such as individualism have perceived Hellenistic culture as individualistic because of hindsight bias.

             The dominant cultural orientation in the modern world is individualism, which has led to the perception of cultures extending from 500B.C. to the modern European cultural environment. Martin refers to Hellenistic material culture, religious practice, and philosophical thought to refute the scholarly claims that Hellenism was individualistic. He offers the examples of Alcibiades, an army general in Athens and Alexander the Great, as exemplars of the individualistic orientation of the Hellenistic period. However, these examples are too specific and embody characteristics that could not be used as a template for understanding people who were not in dominant political and/or military positions. Therefore, a more accurate understanding of the Hellenistic culture would involve considering the commoner who embodied the Socratic care cultural care (Martin 117). Socratic care meant that individuals should take care of their soul by always striving towards being virtuous. Socratic care appears to be a better and perhaps a more accurate representation of the Greco-Roman world, particularly the classical Greek period.         

            The description of the Antikythera mechanism and the expectations of the features that should accompany the recreation will pay homage to the glorious age of human history, the Hellenistic culture. The mechanism is an example of Greek ingenuity and appreciation for the advancement of human culture and society. The ancient Greek cultural traditions, including Socratic care, should be resurrected to rein in the overt individualism and consumerist culture that is characteristic of postmodernity.

Works Cited

Becker, Rachel. A 2,000-year-old computer called the Antikythera Mechanism helped the ancient

Greeks understand their universe. The Verge, May 17, 2017. Accessed April 16, 2019. https://www.theverge.com/2017/5/17/15650210/antikythera-mechanism-discovery-anniversary-analog-astronomical-computer

Blain, Loz. Hublot painstakingly recreates a mysterious, 2,100-year-old clockwork relic – but

why?. New Atlas, November 17th, 2011. Accessed April 16, 2019. https://newatlas.com/hublot-antikythera-mechanism-first-computer-watch/20517/

Doctorow, Cory. Antikythera mechanism in a wristwatch. Boing Boing, Nov 17, 2011. Accessed

April 16, 2019. https://boingboing.net/2011/11/17/antikythera-mechanism-in-a-wri.html

Martin, L. H. (1994). The Anti-Individualistic Ideology of Hellenistic Culture1. Numen, 41(2),

117-140.

Resnick, Brian. The Antikythera mechanism is a 2,000-year-old computer. Vox, May 17, 2017.

Accessed April 16, 2019. https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/5/17/15646450/antikythera-mechanism-greek-computer-astronomy-google-doodle

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