The Androids of Hephaestus: Between Human and Machine in the Iliad


  • Kenneth Silverman University of Florida



Homer, Iliad, αὐτόματος (automatos), θαῦμα (thauma)


The description of Hephaestus’ workshop in Iliad 18 presents several kinds of fanciful automata. Contrary to several previous treatments of this topic, this paper argues that it is not anachronistic to think of these figures as “robots”—i.e., as having some kind of inner-workings, even though Homer does not explicitly say what they are.  This discussion helps to situate the Homeric poems within the pre-history of Greek natural philosophy.

Author Biography

Kenneth Silverman, University of Florida

Kenneth Silverman is a fifth year doctoral candidate and Latin instructor, writing his dissertation on the Homeric poems. He graduated with a BA in Classical Archaeology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 2010, and with an MA in Classics from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 2013. His dissertation, “The Mind of Homer: Sense Experience and Thought in the Homeric Poems,” examines how ancient natural philosophy emerged from epic poetry, and how the Homeric poems contain observations about sense perception and dreaming that are of interest to research in linguistics, psychology and neuroscience.




How to Cite

Silverman, K. (2022). The Androids of Hephaestus: Between Human and Machine in the Iliad. Selected Proceedings of the Classics Graduate Student Symposia at the University of Florida, 1.