The Hydraulic Telegraph: Advanced Communications in Ancient Greece

Gianluca Riccio

The future of yesterday

Ancient Greece used water to transmit messages with a simple but effective system that was a prelude to modern telecommunications

Thefuture of yesterday' is the column on our site that tells how, in all eras, there has been a push forward to overcome contemporary limits. In this context, ancient Greece emerges with the ingenious hydraulic telegraph of Aeneas of Stymphalos, demonstrating that telecommunications has ancient and innovative roots.

Life and triumphs of a tactical genius

Aeneas of Stymphalos, also said Aeneas Tattico, was a Greek inventor and author of treatises on military topics who probably lived in the XNUMXth century BC. He did not limit himself to documenting wars, but actively sought solutions to improve communication in the war field.

His invention, the hydraulic telegraph, represented a gigantic step forward in the history of telecommunications.

Hydraulic telegraph
A reconstruction of the hydraulic telegraph hosted by the Kotsanas Museum of Ancient Greek Technologies, Athens.

The mechanics of the hydraulic telegraph

The mechanics behind the hydraulic telegraph were simple but ingenious. Each communicator had a jar of the same size, filled with the same amount of water. Inside the vessel, a float with identical messages engraved provided a means of conveying precise information.

To send a message, the recipient was signaled with fire. Next, both parties removed a stopper to let the water drain. The corresponding water level showed the same message on both sides.

Historical and modern implications

This technology, although primitive by modern standards, reflects ingenuity truly remarkable for its time. Enea Tattico's hydraulic telegraph not only overcame the limitations of simple smoke signals, but also paved the way for future innovations in the field of telecommunications.

From historical accounts, we have received no information describing the role of this instrument in the "war" theaters of the time.

In any case, Enea Tattico's hydraulic telegraph proves once again that innovation has no era. Every historical period has its challenges and its solutions, and often, by looking at the past, we can find inspiration for the future.

To learn more about the ancient Greek hydraulic telegraph:

  1. Italian source: “The history of telecommunications: from smoke signals to the hydraulic telegraph” on Scienze Notizie. You can read the article here.
  2. Source in English: “The Hydraulic Telegraph of Aeneas – Long-Distance Communication of Antiquity” on Ancient Origins. This article offers a detailed overview of the invention and its historical context. You can access the article here.
  3. Other Source in English: “Ancient Greeks Invented World's First Telecommunications Device” on This article explores the historical importance of the hydraulic telegraph. Read the article here.

These sources will provide you with in-depth and contextualized information on Aeneas Tattico's hydraulic telegraph, and its significance in the history of telecommunications.

To report research, discoveries and inventions, contact the editorial team!

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