Greek Mythology >> Bestiary >> Automotons (Automotones)


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The Automaton Talos | Athenian red-figure krater C4th B.C. | Archaeological National Museum Jatta
The Automaton Talos, Athenian red-figure krater C4th B.C., Archaeological National Museum Jatta

THE AUTOMATONES were animate, metal statues of animal, men and monsters crafted by the divine smith Hephaistos (Hephaestus) and the Athenian craftsman Daidalos (Daedalus). The best of them could think and feel like men.



Forged by the god HEPHAISTOS or the hero DAIDALOS (various sources)


HIPPOI KABEIRIKOI (Horses of the Cabeiri) A pair of fire-breathing horses which Hephaistos cast out of bronze for his sons, the two gods known as Kabeiroi.

KAUKASIAN EAGLE (Caucasian Eagle) A giant eagle cast out of bronze by Hephaistos to torture the chained Titan Prometheus.

KELEDONES KHRYSEAI (Golden Celedones) Singing maidens sculpted out of gold by Hephaistos for the first mythic shrine of Apollon at Delphoi.

KOURAI KHRYSEAI (Golden Maidens) A pair of beautiful golden maidens which Hephaistos sculpted out of gold to attend him in his own household.

KUONES KHRYSEOS & ARGYREOS (Gold and Silver Dogs) A pair of watchdogs one crafted out of gold and the other out of silver by Hephaistos for the palace of King Alkinous of the Phaiakians.

TALOS A giant sculpted out of bronze by Hephaistos and presented to Europa Queen of Krete as a wedding present. The giant patrolled the island of Krete protecting it against pirates.

TAUROI KHALKEOI (Bronze Bulls) Two fire-breathing bulls scupted out of bronze by Hephaistos for Aeetes King of Kolkhis. One of the hero Jason's labours was to rope these beasts to a ploughshare and sow a field with magical dragon's teeth.

TRIPODES KHRYSEOI (Golden Tripods) A set of twenty wheeled tripods crafted by Hephaistos out of gold for the feasts in the Olympian gods. They were endowed with self-animation and wheeled themselves in and out of the halls of the gods as they were required.


Greek Name

Αυτοματος Αυτοματοι


Automatos Automatoi

Latin Spelling

Automatus Automati


Self-Acting (automatos)



Homer, Odyssey 7. 87 (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[The palace of Alkinous (Alcinous) king of the Phaiakoi (Phaeacians) :] Golden doors closed the palace in, and silver posts rose above the threshold; the lintel was of silver, the door-handle was of gold. Each side of the door were gold and silver watchdogs, deathless for ever and unageing, which Hephaistos (Hephaestus) with his wit and cunning had fashioned as guardians for the great house."


Homer, Iliad 18. 371 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Hephaistos (Hephaestus) was] sweating as he turned here and there to his bellows busily, since he was working on twenty tripods which were to stand against the wall of his strong-founded dwelling. And he had set golden wheels underneath the base of each one so that of their own motion they could wheel into the immortal gathering, and return to his house: a wonder to look at. These were so far finished, but the elaborate ear handles were not yet on. He was forging these, and beating the chains out."


The mythical Athenian craftsman Daidalos (Daedalus) created animate statues. The most famous of these was the Bull of Queen Pasiphae (see Pasiphae for more information).

Plato, Euthyphro 11d (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"I am a more clever artist than Daidalos (Daedalus), inasmuch as he made only his own works move."

Plato, Meno 97d :
"Sokrates (Socrates) : You have not observed with attention the images of Daidalos (Daedalus). But perhaps there are none in your country.
Meno : What is the point of your remark?
Sokrates : That if they are not fastened up they play truant and run away; but, if fastened, they stay where they are . . . To possess one of his works which is let loose does not count for much in value; it will not stay with you any more than a runaway slave: but when fastened up it is worth a great deal, for his productions are very fine things."
[N.B. Sokrates pretends to believe the old legend that Daidalos crafted animate statues.]

Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1. 16 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[From a description of an ancient Greek painting :] Pasiphae is in love with the bull and begs Daidalos (Daedalus) to devise some lure for the creature; and he is fashioning a hollow cow like a cow of the herd to which the bull is accustomed . . . This is the workshop of Daidalos; and about it are statues, some with forms blocked out, others in a quite complete state in that they are already stepping forward and give promise of walking about [i.e. Daidalos crafted animate statues]. Before the time of Daidalos, you know, the art of making statues had not yet conceived such a thing."

Callistratus, Descriptions 3 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C4th A.D.) :
"As I gazed on this work of art, the belief came over me that Daidalos (Daedalus) had indeed wrought a dancing group in motion and had bestowed sensation upon gold."

Callistratus, Descriptions 8 :
"Daidalos (Daedalus), if one is to place credence in the Kretan (Cretan) marvel, had the power to construct statues endowed with motion and to compel gold to feel human sensations."

Callistratus, Descriptions 9 :
"Daidalos (Daedalus) did indeed boldly advance [in sculpture] as far as motion, and the materials of which they were made and to move in the dance; but it was impossible and absolutely out of the question for him to make statues that could speak."




A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.