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The Greek myth of Talos, the first robot - Adrienne Mayor

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Hephaestus, god of technology, was hard at work on his most ingenious invention yet. He was creating a new defense system for King Minos, who wanted fewer intruders on his island kingdom of Crete. But mortal guards and ordinary weapons wouldn’t suffice, so the visionary god devised an indomitable new defender. Adrienna Mayor dives into the myth of Talos: the first robot.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Adrienne Mayor
  • Director Natália Faria, Kelvin Lima
  • Narrator Alexandra Panzer
  • Producer Felipe Grosso, Odirlei Seixas, Liana Vianna
  • Editor Natália Faria
  • Compositor Natália Faria
  • Senior Animator Natália Faria, Kelvin Lima
  • Storyboard Artist Natália Faria
  • Art Director Kelvin Lima
  • Illustrator Kelvin Lima, Vini Pereira
  • Character Designer Kelvin Lima, Vini Pereira, Luke Passos
  • Animator Vini Pereira, Luke Passos
  • Sound Designer Matheus Wittmann
  • Composer Matheus Wittmann
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Script Editor Iseult Gillespie
  • Fact-checker Eden Girma
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
Who first imagined robots? Ancient Greek mythology told of a bronze android automaton more than 2500 years ago. The giant killer robot called Talos was forged by Hephaestus, the god of invention, to defend the island of Crete. In the myth, Jason and the Argonauts and the sorceress Medea had to figure out how to demolish Talos and escape to safety.

This is a link that explains how Adrienne Mayor investigated ancient Greek myths that described automatons like Talos, self-moving devices, and replicants, in what could be called the first-ever science fiction tales. Introduction to Adrienne Mayor, Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Talos was not just famous in ancient Greece. The story of the bronze robot continued to fascinate people in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, right up to the present day. Military scientists are inspired by the idea of an invulnerable guardian made of indestructible materials. Talos: The Bronze Robot of Ancient Greek Myth and His Afterlife

In this podcast theoretical physicist Sean Carroll interviews Adrienne Mayor about her book Gods and Robots. They discuss the details of Talos and his defense of King Minos's kingdom of Crete, the robot's inner workings and power source, and his ultimate demise.

Both Talos and the artificial woman Pandora were commissioned by autocratic rulers and they both brought harm to human beings. The myths foreshadow anxieties about automatons and AI.

Click here for more about Medea, the sorceress who hacked Talos's system.

Real self-moving machines and automatons were actually constructed by brilliant inventors beginning in the Fourth Century BC. This article tells how plans for automatons traveled between the ancient Greek world and India.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Adrienne Mayor
  • Director Natália Faria, Kelvin Lima
  • Narrator Alexandra Panzer
  • Producer Felipe Grosso, Odirlei Seixas, Liana Vianna
  • Editor Natália Faria
  • Compositor Natália Faria
  • Senior Animator Natália Faria, Kelvin Lima
  • Storyboard Artist Natália Faria
  • Art Director Kelvin Lima
  • Illustrator Kelvin Lima, Vini Pereira
  • Character Designer Kelvin Lima, Vini Pereira, Luke Passos
  • Animator Vini Pereira, Luke Passos
  • Sound Designer Matheus Wittmann
  • Composer Matheus Wittmann
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Script Editor Iseult Gillespie
  • Fact-checker Eden Girma
  • See more