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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多年前的荷馬時代,希臘神話就探索了機器人和自動移動裝置的概念。到公元前三世紀當時,在希臘化的埃及亞歷山大,工程師們正在建造真正的機械機器人和機器。這樣的科幻小說和歷史技術并不是古希臘羅馬文化所獨有的。



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.

古代機器人和自動裝置
印度教和佛教文獻描述了自動戰士像風一樣旋轉,用劍刺殺入侵者,回憶起阿賈塔薩魯的戰車使用旋轉的刀刃。在某些版本中,機器人由水車驅動,或由印度工程師上帝維斯瓦卡曼制造。但最引人注目的版本是一條通往緬甸“lokapannatti”的曲折之路——巴利語翻譯的古老的、丟失的梵文文本,只有中文譯本,每個都借鑒了早期的口頭傳統。

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.

在這個故事中,許多機器人制造商“Yantakara”居住在“雅瓦納”的西部,講希臘語的人居住在“羅馬維薩亞”中,這是地中海世界希臘-羅馬文化的印度名稱。雅瓦納的機器人秘密技術受到嚴密保護。羅馬維薩亞的機器人從事貿易和農業,并抓獲和處決罪犯。

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.

機器人制造商被禁止離開或透露他們的秘密——如果他們這樣做了,機器人刺客就會追捕并殺死他們。關于這些神奇機器人的傳言傳到了印度,啟發了阿賈塔薩魯首都——帕塔利普塔的一位年輕工匠,他想學習如何制造機器人。

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.

傳說中,帕塔利普塔的年輕人發現自己轉世于羅馬維薩亞的中心。他娶了機器人制造大師的女兒,學習他的手藝。一天,他竊取了制造機器人的計劃,策劃了一個陰謀要把機器人帶回印度。



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.

在其中一個版本中,維斯瓦卡曼神幫助阿修王用箭射進連接旋轉結構的螺栓中擊敗了他們;在另一個故事中,老工程師的兒子解釋了如何禁用和控制機器人。無論如何,阿育王最終親自指揮了這支由機器人組成的軍隊。

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.

東西方交流
這個傳說僅僅是幻想嗎?或者這個故事是圍繞著早期東西方的文化交流而展開的?這個故事清楚地將保護佛陀遺物的機械生物,與受希臘影響的西方羅馬維薩亞的機器人聯系起來。這個故事有多古老?大多數學者認為它起源于中世紀的伊斯蘭和歐洲時代。



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.

我無法確定這個傳說的確切日期,但有一點是可信的,那就是機器人守護佛陀遺物的想法融合了了阿賈塔薩魯和阿育王時代真實和想象中的工程壯舉。這個驚人的傳說證明了建造機器人的概念在古代很普遍,并揭示了想象力和科學之間普遍而永恒的聯系。