Both of the books in the Circo del Herrero series are free from the 20th to the 21st!
Thursday & Friday only!
‘And consider the confusing situation of the Dioscuri, the twins Castor and Pollux, who accompanied Jason on the Argo in the quest for the Golden Fleece. Mythographers could not decide whether the brothers were immortal or “half-mortal.” The uncertainty arose with good reason. Their mother, Leda, was human, but Pollux was fathered by Zeus, while Castor’s father was Tyndareus, a Spartan kin. The novel idea of twins with different fathers posed a puzzle for mortal versus immortal bloodlines for people to ponder in antiquity. Oddly enough, the notion of twins with different paternity was not just a fantasy or plot contrivance. When two different males sire fraternal twins in the same ovulation cycle, the scientific term is heteropaternal superfecundation. It happens in dogs, cats, and other mammals, even including, albeit rarely, humans.’ – Adrienne Mayor “Medea’s Cauldron of Rejuvenation,” Gods and Robots
“The artistic decision to show Prometheus constructing the first human starting with the bone structure likens the Titan to a sculptor who constructs a statue upon a model skeleton. Kanaboi, skeletal forms, usually of wood, were used by ancient sculptors as the internal core around which they would attach clay, wax, or plaster in the first states of creating statues….
In all the variants of the Prometheus creation myth, the realistic forms of humans become the reality they portray: they become real men and women. This paradoxical perspective taps into the timeless idea that humans are somehow automata of the gods. The almost subconscious fear that we could be soulless machines manipulated by other powers poses a profound philosophical conundrum that has been pondered since ancient times: If we are the creations of the gods or unknown forces, how can we have self-identity, agency, and free will?’ – “Pygmalion and Prometheus”
‘The passages about the tripods and the automatically opening gates of Olympus (Iliad 5.749 and 18.376) are the earliest appearances of the ancient Greek word…automaton, “acting of one’s own will.” In the fourth century BC, Aristotle quoted the Homeric verse and referred to the tripod-carts as automata… Among the thaumata, “wonders,” were tripodes de automatatoi and automated cupbearers that attended royal banquets. As many modern historians have remarked the self-moving tripods serving the Olympian gods calls to mind modern self-propelled, laborsaving machines, driverless cars, and military-industrial robots. Homer’s myth reminds us that the impulse to “automate” is extremely ancient.
The tripods created by the blacksmith god were mindless machines. But Hephaestus also fabricated wondrous automata in the shape of human beings with special abilities. One example appears in a fragment of a lost poem by Pindar. The scrap of poetry tells how Hephaestus made a bronze temple for Apollo, god of music, at Delphi. The pediment of the temple was graced by the Keledones Chryseai, “Golden Charmers,” six golden statues of women who could sing. In the second century AD, the Greek traveler Pausanias (10.5.12) investigated the existence of the singing statues. He visited the site but learned that the bronze temple and the statues had long ago either toppled into a chasm during an earthquake or melted in a fire.
… “Hephaestus’s Golden Maidens set the standard for artificial life,” remarks a scholar of classical and modern fiction. With “human intelligence and bodies indistinguishable from the real thing,” the Golden Maidens are exceptional “divine artifacts in that they are composed of metal but have human-like abilities.” The mythic gold helpers seem to presage modern notions of thought-controlled machines and AI. Like other automata made by Hephaestus, however, their inner workings are cryptic “black boxes.”’ – “Hephaestus.”
‘Modern scholars have often noted that the figure of Daedalus might originally have been an earthbound human double of the inventor god Hephaestus. Indeed, the Athenians gave Daedalus a genealogy that made him a descendant of Hephaestus, who was revered alongside the goddess Athena in Athens. A district of Athens came to be named for Daedalus, populated by craftsmen who saw him as their patron and claimed to be his descendants. Socrates, whose father was a stonemason, twice refers to Daedalus as his ancestor.
…The ancient Greek comparison of automata to slaves remains a concept with a moral significance in modernity. In antiquity, Greek and Roman masters were held responsible for the behavior of their salves. Today, present philosophers of Artificial Intelligence and robotics ethics maintain that it is imperative that AI and robots be considered tools and property – essentially slaves – and that makers must be held responsible for their programming and behavior.
…Aristotle’s discussions allude to legendary animated statues like those associated with Daedalus, but it is also possible that Aristotle had in made real self-moving machines, “mechanical dolls of some kind” made my contemporary inventors… Notably, Aristotle remarks that “an artifact might imitate” a living thing and he defines an automaton as “a kind of puppet with the ability to move by itself.”
In the Politics, Aristotle clearly speaks of self-moving statues like those made by Hephaestus and Daedalus. In a complicated passage in On the Soul… Aristotle specifically mentions Daedalus’s self-moving sculptures.
According to a brief poem by Pindar (Olympian 7.5-54, written in 464 BC), a group of legendary animated statues with similarities to works by Daedalus were located in Rhodes. “All along the avenues,” wrote Pindar, stood works of exalted art so gloriously crafted that they seem to “breathe and move.” An ancient scholiast’s commentary on the poem calls the statues “moving things with a soul or life spark.” IN this case, the maker was not said to have been Daedalus or Hephaestus, but the Telchines, blacksmith wizards of magical metallurgical lore, fabled to be the original inhabitants of Crete or Rhodes. The Telchines carried out activities similar to those of Hephaestus, but on a smaller scale, forging weapons and baubles for the gods. The powers of the statues of Rhodes recalled the bronze guardians defending harbors and borders, the function of the mythic Talos of Crete and the historical Colossus of Rhodes…’ –Adrienne Mayor, “Daedalus and the Living Statues” from Gods and Robots.
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