In a modern world obsessed with technology, it might be surprising to know the first humanoid robot was to be found in ancient Greece.
Talos, the legendary bronze giant and protector of Minoan Crete, can claim to be the first humanoid robot in history. Brought to life in the 1963 film production Jason and the Argonauts, he was portrayed as 70 meters tall, a fearsome mechanized warrior.
He was not born but was made — either by Zeus himself, the craftsman Daidalos or Hephaestus, the god of fire and iron, on the order of Zeus.
In a coin found in the Minoan palace of Phaistos, Talos is portrayed as a young, naked man with wings. Myth has it the wings were to give him the speed to circle the whole of Crete three times a day.
Talos’ body was made of bronze. He had a single vein that gave him life, starting from the neck and ending in his ankles.
Instead of blood, molten metal flowed in his veins. In his ankle was a bronze nail which acted like a stopper to retain this life-giving liquid.
Talos’ job was to protect Crete from outside attack. He would not allow ships to approach the island, hurling giant rocks at potential invaders.
If an enemy managed to land on the island, Talos’ body would heat up into a glow and he would kill the invader with a fatal embrace. Myth has it that after killing Crete’s enemies, he would break into sarcastic laughter.
(Talos as imagined by the makers of the 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts)
Talos was not only protecting Crete from outside enemies, but he was also the protector of citizens from all kinds of injustice. He would tour Cretan villages three times every year, carrying on his back bronze plates inscribed with divinely-inspired laws. Their purpose was to ensure these laws were observed in the province.
The bronze hero symbolizes the technological development in metallurgy in the prehistoric Minoan years. They had reached such a high level that they created with their imagination a bronze superhero to protect them.
Another very important property of Talos was that he was a servant of justice, much like today’s superheroes like Iron Man — revealing the importance ancient Cretans attached to justice.