Byzantine mechanical lion and singing birds: truth or fantasy?

Nov 2012
189
When I come across with some books and materials about Byzantine technology, I often see "mechanical lion and singing birds installed in the Great Palace in Constantinople" being repeatedly mentioned. I know the principles of constructing similar mechanical toys are known to the engineers working centuries before in Museum of Alexandria, however is it possible that the Byzantine somehow acquire the knowledge before Alexandria was burned? Anyone have the original first-hand source material which describe such things in the Great Palace? Given what we know about Byzantine technology, how feasible is it for them to construct similar devices?
Thanks.
 
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Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,899
Blachernai
When I come across with some books and materials about Byzantine technology, I often see "mechanical lion and singing birds installed in the Great Palace in Constantinople" being repeatedly mentioned. I know the principles of constructing similar mechanical toys are known to the engineers working centuries before in Museum of Alexandria, however is it possible that the Byzantine somehow acquire the knowledge before Alexandria was burned? Anyone have the original first-hand source material which describe such things in the Great Palace? Given why we know about Byzantine technology, how feasible is it for them to construct similar devices?
Thanks.
One doesn't need Alexandria to come up with unique inventions - Greek fire siphons and some of what went on at the Abbasid court in Baghdad are proof enough of that. However, Heron of Alexandria did describe singing mechanical birds and his works were read in Byzantium, so that's as likely an avenue for the creation of the devices as Baghdad is.

There seems to have been two sets of automata. The first was built for Theophilos, but was melted down by a cash-strapped Michael II. The second seems to have appeared around the time of Constantine VII. Both appear in a number of the 10th c. sources (Theophanes Continuatus, Leo Grammaticus, Symeon Magister) although de Ceremoniis seems to have one of the fullest descriptions. Liutprand of Cremona, a bishop who travelled to Constantinople in the tenth century also mentioned roaring mechanical lions at the imperial throne. See G. Brett, 'The Automata in the Byzantine "Throne of Solomon"', Speculum 29.3 (1954), pp. 477-87
 
Aug 2014
512
Byzantium
There were also other mechanical wonders in Constantinople such as mechanical clocks (Horologion). There was even a mechanical clock tower with 24 gates, and at the right time each gate opened automatically. And there were also officers which were responsible for the functionality of the clocks in Constantinople. All that centuries before the appearance of clocks in the Islamic world.

And there was also an optical telegraph , with two mechanical clocks, which could deliver messages in a matter of hours if not minutes. The optical telegraph was a system of beacons stretched from Constantinople to Cilicia. Might have been the fastest communication system of the middle ages.
 
Jan 2012
794
..... Given what we know about Byzantine technology, how feasible is it for them to construct similar devices?
......
Read about [ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_the_Mathematician]Leo the Mathematician - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame] (Greek: Λέων ὁ Μαθηματικός or Φιλόσοφος, Léōn ho Mathēmatikós or Philósophos; c. 790 – after 869).


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Also if you are interested about the flight in Byzantine era and flying machines experiments there is a chapter of this book (only in greek language from what i know> If I remember well, it gives an experiment case happened to Thessaloníki and another one later refer to Constantinople from Kinamos)



to http://www.gbip.gr/book/82211

and some similar (concentrated most to ancient Greece era) http://www.gbip.gr/author/8726/Christos_D._Lazos_¹

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The integration of [study] Mηχανικα (Mechanics/Engineers) of Aristotelian Corpus {modern PDF IN GREEK} done on the Renaissance (1457) by Cardinal Bessarion who receives copies of all the works of Aristotle exceptfrom the books refer about Logic.
From my personal research along time ago, to a latest Byzantine text, refer of [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_Sathas"]Constantine Sathas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame] , at "Monuments Greek History'', Volume IV,pp. XXXVI pt 1, Paris 1882, > Mnēmeia hellēnikēs historias: Documents inédits relatifs à l'histoire de la Grèce au Moyen Âge/, see https://archive.org/stream/mnmeiahellniksh02sathgoog#page/n50/mode/2up there is a 'controversial' text, refer : ''... καί ζητῶ μέν τά Δαιδάλου πτερἀ, οἷς χρησάμενος εἶδον ἄν τήν Λακωνικήν...΄΄ Τῶ Δεσπότῃ. f. 395 verso. > I translate it very free ''... and I want Daedalus's wings, that saw used to Laconica...΄. Though the meaning of the phrase is questionable, we indeed know that [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Argyropoulos"]John Argyropoulos - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame] who had stayed to Laconia, teach to Florence, works of Aristoteles, see more at my post at http://historum.com/medieval-byzantine-history/51970-byzantine-empire-your-thoughts-22.html

If indeed the later text as it seems [not prooved] is realistic, it seems that indeed some successfull experiments of flight with wings in Laconia made, as also the known presence of Argyropoulos to Laconia, the liberty and the income that is given to Pletho and his sons, the study to be saved many Aristotels works about Mechanics, from Bessarion, could excuse all those, and the later Ottoman ocupation of Constantinople and of Peloponesse, surely transported all those studies to Italy, though not a serious research ever made to this section.
In 1471, on the outbreak of the plague, Argyropoulos moved to Rome, where he continued to act as a teacher of Greek till his death(1487).
He made efforts to transport Greek philosophy to Western Europe. He had students such as Pietro de' Medici and Lorenzo de' Medici, Angelo Poliziano and Johann Reuchlin.
It is well known that students hailing from different parts of Europe came to see and hear him at those classes, when he taught Greek and philosophy courses. Leonardo da Vinci probably attended the lectures of Argyropoulos.
Argyropoulos was a member of the Byzantine delegation to the Council of Ferrara-Florence and left a number of Latin translations, including many of Aristotle's works.

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Naima

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
2,323
Venice
When I come across with some books and materials about Byzantine technology, I often see "mechanical lion and singing birds installed in the Great Palace in Constantinople" being repeatedly mentioned. I know the principles of constructing similar mechanical toys are known to the engineers working centuries before in Museum of Alexandria, however is it possible that the Byzantine somehow acquire the knowledge before Alexandria was burned? Anyone have the original first-hand source material which describe such things in the Great Palace? Given what we know about Byzantine technology, how feasible is it for them to construct similar devices?
Thanks.
It was widespread technology all over the ancient greco roman world , nothing surprising .
 
Nov 2013
443
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The Mechanical Lion and Singing Bird were created by Ibn Al-Razzazz Al-Jazari and can be (ellegedly) found in his Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices. It is also said that Leonardo da Vinci createe his own mechanical lion and presented it to the Duke pf Milan
 
Aug 2014
512
Byzantium
The Mechanical Lion and Singing Bird were created by Ibn Al-Razzazz Al-Jazari and can be (ellegedly) found in his Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices. It is also said that Leonardo da Vinci createe his own mechanical lion and presented it to the Duke pf Milan
The mechanisms of Al-Jazari was a couple centuries later, after the Byzantines sent embassies to Baghdad at the era of Al Ma'mun and exchanged ideas about various scientific fields such as mathematics , astronomy etc. So probably took the know how from Byzantium.
 
Aug 2014
512
Byzantium
What about the works of archimedes? Have the byzantine Romans ever used his inventions?
They had in their possession most of Archimedes works.
There is a also a Byzantine mechanical calendar dated at the 5th-6th cent that was similar to the Antikethera mechanism , (which is believed that was constructed by Archimedes). It is also one of the earliest mechanical calendars.

The Byzantine sundial calendar is displayed at the London museum of science




Byzantine sundial calendar - Object Wiki


And has also been reconstructed

A Byzantine Sundial-Calendar, by Michael T. Wright
 

Psellos

Ad Honorem
Jan 2010
2,666
the Polis
What about the works of archimedes? Have the byzantine Romans ever used his inventions?
No they...the byzantine Romans...didn't have time since they were always reading Cicero and Virgil...

Nice info Kentarche, but Antikythera mechanism is believed to be an influence of Archimedes not his hand work. We know for sure that it had connection with Korinthians or their colonies(Syracuse included) due to the calendar nmes it uses and the preminent role of Nemean Games on its usage.
 
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