Show Summary Details

Text and bibliography expanded.

Updated on 1 January 8888. The previous version of this content can be found here.
Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD CLASSICAL DICTIONARY (oxfordre.com/classics). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2020. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 24 February 2020

Summary and Keywords

Athenaeus (2) Mechanicus is the named author of a surviving treatise On Machines; military ones, for use in siege-warfare. The work is addressed to a ‘Marcellus’, and nowadays orthodoxy identifies him with M. Claudius Marcellus, the short-lived (42–23 bce) nephew & son-in-law of Augustus. That in turn makes it plausible that the writer himself is Athenaeus of Seleucia-on-the-Calycadnus, a Cilician Greek intellectual known to have been in Rome in the 20s, and a contemporary, in that milieu, of Vitruvius. There is indeed material common to A.’s treatise and to sections of Book 10 of Vitruvius' On Architecture—material that, it seems, they took from their teacher Agesistratus of (?)Rhodes.

Short and not always coherent though it is, the On Machines has a two-fold importance. One is in the material mentioned already: Athenaeus and Vitruvius in tandem (together with a middle-Byzantine version of the same material) provide a succinct but useful summary history of military machinery from its beginnings to the early Hellenistic period, highlighting especially the mechanici who served Alexander the Great. But beyond that, Athenaeus offers valuable insights into late-Hellenistic culture, when an educated dilettante felt entitled to make his own contribution to such a technical genre.

Keywords: artillery, engineering, mechanici, siegecraft, Vitruvius (?), warfare

Access to the complete content on Oxford Classical Dictionary requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription. If you are a student or academic complete our librarian recommendation form to recommend the Oxford Research Encyclopedias to your librarians for an institutional free trial.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.