Quotes from GODS AND ROBOTS by ADRIENNE MAYOR:

GODS & ROBOTS cover“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.”

 

See also:

GODS IN OUR MACHINES BY G.B. GABBLER

ON PANDORA AND ANIMATE STATUES:

QUOTES ON HEPHAISTOS FROM FACING THE GODS:

ON HEPHAESTUS’S PANDORA: “HESIOD NEVER HER CALLS HER THE FIRST WOMAN—OR EVEN A WOMAN, PERIOD.”

 

On Daedalus:

‘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. 

See also:

ON THE AUTOMATONS IN THE AUTOMATION

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: A HISTORY OF ROBOTS

ON OVID’S METAMORPHOSES:

“Tentacular Thinking”

“What if the doleful doings of the Anthropocene and the unworldings of the Capitalocene are the last gasps of the sky gods, not guarantors of the finished future, game over? It matters which thoughts think thoughts.”

[Via]

Emily Wilson’s translation of Aphrodite’s affair & Hephaestus’s snare – The Odyssey, Book 4, lines 265-367:

‘The poet strummed and sang a charming song

about the love of fair-crowned Aphrodite

for Ares, who gave lavish gifts to herHephaestus catching Aphrodite and Ares in their affair; circo del herrero imagery for the poem

and shamed the bed of Lord Hephaestus, where

they secretly had sex. The Sun God saw them,

and told Hephaestus–bitter news for him.

He marched into his forge to get revenge,

and set the might anvil on its block,

and hammered chains so strong that they could never

be broken or undone. He was so angry

at Ares. When his trap was made, he went

inside the room of his beloved bed,

and twined the mass of cables all around

the bedposts, and then hung them from the ceiling,

like slender spiderwebs, so finely made

that nobody could see them, even gods:

the craftsmanship was so ingenious.

When he had set the trap across the bed,

he traveled to the cultured town of Lemnos,

which was his favorite place in all the world.

Ares the golden rider had kept watch.

He saw Hephaestus, famous wonder-worker,

leaving his house, and went inside himself;

he wanted to make love with Aphrodite.

She had returned from visiting her father,

the mighty son of Cronus; there she sat.

Then Ares took her hand and said to her,

 

“My darling, let us go to bed. Hephaestus

is out of town; he must have gone to Lemnos

to see the Sintians whose speech is strange.”

 

She was exited to lie down with him;

they went to bed together. But the chaisn

ingenious Hephaestus had created

wrapped tight around them, so they could not move

or get up. THen they knew that they were trapped.

The limping god drew near–before he reached

the land of Lemnos, he had turned back home.

Troubled at heart, he came towards his house.

Standing there in the doorway, he was seized

by savage rage. He gave a mighty shout,

calling to all the gods,

 

“O Father Zeus,

and all you blessed gods who live forever,

look! You may laugh, but it is hard to bear.

See how my Aphrodite, child of Zeus,

is disrespecting me for being lame.

She loves destructive Ares, who is strong

and handsome. I am weak. I blame my parents.

If only I had not been born! But come,

see where those two are sleeping in my bed,

as lovers. I am horrified to see it.

But I predict they will not want to lie

longer like that, however great their love.

Soon they will want to wake up, but my rap

and chains will hold them fast, until her father

pays back the price I gave him for his daughter.

Her eyes stare at me like a dog. She is

so beautiful, but lacking self-control.”

 

The gods assembled at his house: Poseidon,

Earth-Shaker, helpful Hermes, and Apollo.

The goddesses stayed home, from modesty.

The blessed gods who give good things were standing

inside the doorway, and they burst out laughing,

at what a clever trap Hephaestus set.

And as they looked, they said to one another,

“Crime does not pay! The slow can beat the quick,

as no Hephaestus, who is lame and slow,

has used his skill to catch the fastest sprinter

of all those on Olympus. Ares owes

the price for his adultery.” They gossiped.

 

Apollo, son of Zeus, then said to Hermes,

“Hermes my brother, would you like to sleep

with golden Aphrodite, in her bed,

even weighed down by might chains?”

 

And Hermes

the sharp-eyed messenger replied, “Ah, brother,

Apollo lord of archery: if only!

I would be bound three times as tight or more

and let you gods and all your wives look on,

if only I could sleep with Aphrodite.”

 

Then laughter rose among the deathless gods.

Only Poseidon did not laugh. He begged

and pleaded with Hephaestus to release

Ares. He told the wonder-working god,

 

“No let him go! I promise he will pay

the penalty in full among the gods,

just as you ask.”

 

The famous liming god

replied, “Poseidon, do not ask me this.

It is disgusting, bailing scoundrels out.

How could I bind you, while the gods look on,

if Ares should escape his bond and debts?”

 

Poseidon, Lord of Earthquakes, answered him,

“Hephaestus, if he tried to dodge this debt,

I promise I will pay.”

 

The limping god

said, “Then, in courtesy to you, I must

do as you ask.” So using all his strength,

Hephaestus loosed the chains. The pair of lovers

were free from their constraints, and both jumped up.

Ares went off to Thrace, while Aphrodite

smiled as she went to Cyprus, tot he island

of Paphos, where she had a fragrant altar

and sanctuary. The Graces washed her there,

and rubbed her with the magic oil that glows

upon immortals, and they dressed her up

in gorgeous clothes. She looked astonishing.’

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