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As early as Homer, more than 2,500 years ago, Greek mythology explored the idea of automatons and self-moving devices. By the third century B.C., engineers in Hellenistic Alexandria, in Egypt, were building real mechanical robots and machines. And such science fictions and historical technologies were not unique to Greco-Roman culture.

早在2500多年前的荷马时代,希腊神话就探索了机器人和自动移动装置的概念。到公元前三世纪当时,在希腊化的埃及亚历山大,工程师们正在建造真正的机械机器人和机器。这样的科幻小说和历史技术并不是古希腊罗马文化所独有的。



Ancient robots and automatons
Hindu and Buddhist texts describe the automaton warriors whirling like the wind, slashing intruders with swords, recalling Ajatasatru’s war chariots with spinning blades. In some versions the robots are driven by a water wheel or made by Visvakarman, the Hindu engineer god. But the most striking version came by a tangled route to the “Lokapannatti” of Burma – Pali translations of older, lost Sanskrit texts, only known from Chinese translations, each drawing on earlier oral traditions.

古代机器人和自动装置
印度教和佛教文献描述了自动战士像风一样旋转,用剑刺杀入侵者,回忆起阿贾塔萨鲁的战车使用旋转的刀刃。在某些版本中,机器人由水车驱动,或由印度工程师上帝维斯瓦卡曼制造。但最引人注目的版本是一条通往缅甸“lokapannatti”的曲折之路——巴利语翻译的古老的、丢失的梵文文本,只有中文译本,每个都借鉴了早期的口头传统。

In this tale, many “yantakara,” robot makers, lived in the Western land of the “Yavanas,” Greek-speakers, in “Roma-visaya,” the Indian name for the Greco-Roman culture of the Mediterranean world. The Yavanas’ secret technology of robots was closely guarded. The robots of Roma-visaya carried out trade and farming and captured and executed criminals.

在这个故事中,许多机器人制造商“Yantakara”居住在“雅瓦纳”的西部,讲希腊语的人居住在“罗马维萨亚”中,这是地中海世界希腊-罗马文化的印度名称。雅瓦纳的机器人秘密技术受到严密保护。罗马维萨亚的机器人从事贸易和农业,并抓获和处决罪犯。

Robot makers were forbidden to leave or reveal their secrets – if they did, robotic assassins pursued and killed them. Rumors of the fabulous robots reached India, inspiring a young artisan of Pataliputta, Ajatasatru’s capital, who wished to learn how to make automatons.

机器人制造商被禁止离开或透露他们的秘密——如果他们这样做了,机器人刺客就会追捕并杀死他们。关于这些神奇机器人的传言传到了印度,启发了阿贾塔萨鲁首都——帕塔利普塔的一位年轻工匠,他想学习如何制造机器人。

In the legend, the young man of Pataliputta finds himself reincarnated in the heart of Roma-visaya. He marries the daughter of the master robot maker and learns his craft. One day he steals plans for making robots, and hatches a plot to get them back to India.

传说中,帕塔利普塔的年轻人发现自己转世于罗马维萨亚的中心。他娶了机器人制造大师的女儿,学习他的手艺。一天,他窃取了制造机器人的计划,策划了一个阴谋要把机器人带回印度。



In one version, the god Visvakarman helped Asoka to defeat them by shooting arrows into the bolts that held the spinning constructions together; in another tale, the old engineer’s son explained how to disable and control the robots. At any rate, Asoka ended up commanding the army of automatons himself.

在其中一个版本中,维斯瓦卡曼神帮助阿修王用箭射进连接旋转结构的螺栓中击败了他们;在另一个故事中,老工程师的儿子解释了如何禁用和控制机器人。无论如何,阿育王最终亲自指挥了这支由机器人组成的军队。

Exchange between East and West
Is this legend simply fantasy? Or could the tale have coalesced around early cultural exchanges between East and West? The story clearly connects the mechanical beings defending Buddha’s relics to automatons of Roma-visaya, the Greek-influenced West. How ancient is the tale? Most scholars assume it arose in medi Islamic and European times.

东西方交流
这个传说仅仅是幻想吗?或者这个故事是围绕着早期东西方的文化交流而展开的?这个故事清楚地将保护佛陀遗物的机械生物,与受希腊影响的西方罗马维萨亚的机器人联系起来。这个故事有多古老?大多数学者认为它起源于中世纪的伊斯兰和欧洲时代。



I cannot hope to pinpoint the original date of the legend, but it is plausible that the idea of robots guarding Buddha’s relics melds both real and imagined engineering feats from the time of Ajatasatru and Asoka. This striking legend is proof that the concepts of building automatons were widespread in antiquity and reveals the universal and timeless link between imagination and science.

我无法确定这个传说的确切日期,但有一点是可信的,那就是机器人守护佛陀遗物的想法融合了了阿贾塔萨鲁和阿育王时代真实和想象中的工程壮举。这个惊人的传说证明了建造机器人的概念在古代很普遍,并揭示了想象力和科学之间普遍而永恒的联系。