6 Pindarou Str and Akadimias, Kolonaki, Athens (near Syntagma Square)
Opening Hours: 09:00-19:00
Kotsanas Museum of Ancient Greek Technology - a short video. Music by Bensound
The Kotsanas Museum of Ancient Greek Technology is the best place in Athens to get your old-time geek on.
You know how in the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", the dad is always bragging about how the Greeks invented virtually everything? After a visit to this museum, you might start agreeing with him.
Yup. All that and more.
Oh, and the world's first robot?
Yes, you read that right. A ROBOT...well over 2000 years ago. (And she didn't bumble around flailing her arms and shouting "Danger, Will Robinson!". She was invented by Greeks, so she was elegant and did something truly useful. She poured wine. Because priorities.)
This fascinating little gem of a museum is tucked into the Kolonaki neighborhood, in a lovely old Art Nouveau mansion that once belonged to the Greek royal family. You can buzz through it in 90 minutes. Of course, you can and should try to spend longer than that, but it is a very small place and you can visit it without feeling like you're killing half the day, should you have limited time.
It is packed with reproductions of ancient technology, inventions and devices, many of which you can try out, like the charming door alarm and the tripod crane, which lets you lift a heavy stone with a single finger. There are even ancient toys and puzzles and a small area specifically for children.
And with this museum, you get a kind of two-fer - the same building houses the Museum of Ancient Greek Musical Instruments, which shows beautiful reproductions of ancient instruments like the lyre, the Pan flute and more.
The more than 150 exhibits have detailed information in both Greek and English, allowing visitors to really understand the frequently complex concepts and inventions. There are diagrams and photos, and as mentioned, meticulous and functioning reproductions of all the astonishing technological marvels.
The exhibits are broken up into various categories: ancient clocks, the automatics of Heron of Alexandria (My favorite - holy cow, was this guy way before his time!), automatic theaters, the inventions of Archimedes, elevating mechanisms, the technology of the ancient Greek theater (including what a deus ex machina actually was!), hydraulics, astronomical instruments, measuring instruments, and a wide array of medical, agricultural, nautical and sport technologies. And much more!
One of my favorites is this delightful little hydraulic automaton of chirping birds and an owl, invented by the prolific engineer and physicist Philo of Byzantium (you can see it at work in the video above), who also invented our wine-pouring robot and numerous other marvels.
The museum opened in Athens on January 8th, 2018, and is the brainchild of Kostas Kotsanas, an author and expert on ancient Greek technology. With an engineering background himself, Kotsanas has traveling exhibitions all over the world, and has been awarded in Greece and abroad for his work.
This museum is his third; the first is in Ancient Olympia, which opened in 2003, and the second in Katakolo, that opened in 2013. The Athens museum completes the trilogy.
The Athens museum, which is the only one I've been able to get to so far, feels like a labor of love. From the design and layout to the hands-on, come-and-play feeling to the friendly and helpful docents, it's an impressive yet accessible testament to the intelligence and inventiveness of the ancient Greeks.
Even if you don't consider yourself particularly tech-savvy, the stunning display of genius everywhere in this place will captivate you - and if you're Greek, maybe make you puff your chest out a tiny bit.
But you don't have to be Greek to be enchanted - this museum is an testimony to the greatness of the human mind when it focuses on finding solutions.
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