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Believe it or not, but ideas of artificial intelligence and automata were alive and well over 2,000 years ago within Greek mythology. The myth of Talos (‘Τάλως’)—the first robot-like creature in mythology—is certainly a fascinating example. Its name is related to Zeus, as on the island of Crete, Zeus was also called Talios, and in the ancient Greek dialect Talos was the name of the Sun.

The giant robot Talos was brought to life in the 1963 mythological fantasy movie, Jason and the Argonauts. The 17 inch (43 cm) model of Talos was created by the animator and special effects artist Ray Harryhausen. (Oriel Malik / YouTube)

The Story of Talos, the Ancient Greek Automaton 

According to Greek legends, Talos was not a human being but an automaton made by Zeushimself. Another version of the Greek myth attributes his creation to Hephaestus, the god of fire and iron. In other versions, Talos was the son of Cres and the god Hephaestus. Made by humans, rather than born of nature, the idea of Talos was first mentioned by Hesiod circa 700 BC.

Talos was the sun god of Crete and was supposedly constructed of bronze. A single vein, starting from his neck and running down to his ankles, carried his life-blood — liquid metal — and upon each ankle was bolted a nail to prevent the liquid metal from leaking out. Depictions of Talos on coins and within paintings vary, some portraying him with wings while others depict him without. 

Talos was given to Minos, the king of Crete, by Zeus to protect Crete against any invader; however, according to the ancient Greek author Apollonius Rhodius, Talos was a gift from Zeus to Europe in order to protect her and her kids, whom she later gifted to king Minos.


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