Ancient Greek engineers were only, according to National Technical College professor Theodosis Tassios, ten to a maximum of 100 years away from inventing a normal steam-powered water pump. In effect, the industrial revolution could have happened much earlier.
Instead, it took until 1776 for Scottish engineer James Watt to invent a steam-powered pump.
As the professor said, by the time of the Ptolemies, engineers had gradually invented all the necessary mechanical components (belts, pipes, gears, turbines, etc.) that enabled them to harness the energy of air and water to make pumps, thus harnessing both wind and hydrodynamic energy.
They had also taken the first step toward steam propulsion by converting thermal energy into kinetic energy and creating rotary motion through steam.
Although the professor of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Michalis Tiverios, pointed out that only about 2.5% of the ancient historical texts have been preserved, it cannot be excluded that the final step of steam propulsion took place.
He says that this is even if only a prototype of a pump was built as a toy and the corresponding technology was then forgotten, but - at least so far - there are no corresponding testimonies and evidence.
Tassios - who is also president of the Society for the Study of Ancient Greek Technology - estimates that the ancient Greeks, thanks to their impressive scientific and technological advances, came very close, but ultimately did not definitively advance to the use of steam to move a pump and eventually an engine.
Tassios and Tiverios referred to the important technological works of Ctesivius (3rd century BC, founder of the School of Engineering and Mathematics in Alexandria), Philo of Byzantium (student of Ctesivius) and Heron, whose inventions showed how advanced Greek applied science -technology was.
Many works of Greek engineers have been preserved in Arabic translations, as Tiverios pointed out.
Tassios emphasised the passion of the ancient Greeks for technology, pointing out that robots and robotic ships are already mentioned in the epics of Homer.
Later, the combination of cosmopolitanism (especially in Alexandria), the emerging bourgeoisie, and the interest of the Ptolemies led to important inventions, as shown by the mechanism of Antikythera.
However, the question remains whether these technologies found wider application or remained the privilege of a small group of people.