Abstract

The word Mechanism is a derivative of the Greek word mechane (which meant machine, more precisely, machine element) meaning an assemblage of machines. While it was used for the first time by Homer in the Iliad to describe the political manipulation, it was used with its modern meaning first in Aeschylos times to describe the stage machine used to bring the gods or the heroes of the tragedy on stage, known with the Latin term Deus ex machina. At the same time, the word mechanopoios, meaning the machine maker or engineer, was introduced for the man who designed, built and operated the mechane.

None of these machines, made of perishable materials, is extant. However, there are numerous references to such machines in extant tragedies or comedies and vase paintings from which they can be reconstructed: They were large mechanisms consisting of beams, wheels and ropes which could raise weights up-to one ton and, in some cases, move them back-and-forth violently to depict space travel, when the play demanded it. The vertical dimensions were over 4 m while the horizontal travel could be more than 8 m.

They were well-balanced and they could be operated, with some exaggeration perhaps, by the finger of the engineer. There is indirect information about the timing of these mechanisms. During the loading and the motion there were specific lines of the chorus, from which we can infer the duration of the respective operation.

The reconstructed mechane is a spatial three- or four-bar linkage designed for path generation.

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