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Ancient Greek inventions that changed the World

We are all familiar with the ancient Greek origins of democracy and the Olympic games but did you know that the ancient Greece is also the origin of many useful inventions that are still in use today! Here are some of them.

The Winch

In his Histories, the ancient Greek historian Herodotus described the first winches. They were wooden and used to tighten cables that supported a bridge that crossed the Hellespont during the Persian Wars in 480 BCE. Later in the 4th century BCE, Aristotle reported that winch and pulley hoists were common. He describes complex pulley systems in his work Mechanical Problems that also involved cranes and hoists that were used by the ancient Greeks in their building methods.

Archimedes’ Screw

Archimedes’ screw

Attributed to the famous Archimedes of Syracuse, this ingenious device was used to lift solid or liquid substances from one elevation to another. It was commonly used to transfer water into irrigation ditches. The invention is still in use today and is comprised of a spiral surface surrounded by a cylindrical shaft. Manual labour, cattle, a windmill or a motor turns the screw. As it turns, water is scooped up and pushed up the tube by the rotating spiral.

The Alarm Clock

A 17th century illustration of Ctesibius’ water clock by French architect Claude Perrault.

The alarm clock or water clock was originally used to measure the time of speeches given in the courtroom. The clock was called a clepsydra (water thief) and was the most accurate clock in the world up until the use of the pendulum. The clepsydra was invented by Ctesibius (Ktesibios or Tesibius, 285-222 BCE) who started his career as a barber!

Central Heating

Long before the Roman’s cam up with the hypocaust system, the ancient Minoans (2700-1100 BCE) of Crete had already invented the first, underfloor central heating system. Slaves kept the fires burning, which produced hot air that forced water through clay pipes that ran under the floor.

Showers

Ancient Greek pottery depicting showers.

Communal shower rooms have been found at the ancient site of Pergamon (along the northwest coast of Asia Minor). The showers were connected by a lead pipe plumbing system. There is also evidence of a female shower room depicted on an ancient Athenian vase.

Spiral Staircase

The very first spiral staircase ever to be discovered was found in one of the temples at Selinunte, an ancient Greek city and one of the most important Greek colonies in Sicily founded in 654 BCE.

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