Ctesibius of Alexandria: 3 Influences of His Machines Upon History

Born285 BC
Died222 BC
Famous ForCreating several ancient world changing inventions
Region of WorldAlexandria, Greek Egypt
Further ReadingThe 3 Inventions of Heron of Alexandria That Made Him Famous

Ctesibius of Alexandria was a Greek inventor whose inventions have forever influenced the development of history. Living during the middle Republic of Rome, Ctesibius’s wonderous machines would have 3 lasting influences that impact us today.

There are 3 influences that Ctesibius of Alexandria’s Machines have upon history. First, Ctesibius created and studied the first pressurized container. Second, Ctesibius invented the world’s first pipe organ that led to church organs in the middle ages. Third, Ctesibius created the first accurate clock by improving upon the water clock design.

We know very little about the man Ctesibius himself. Even though he wrote several books and pamphlets detailing ancient engineering, all of it has been lost to us. We know of his inventions and influence from several mentions of other ancient sources such as Vitruvius, Pliny the Elder, and Philo of Byzantium.

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Without further ado, here are the 3 influences of the machines of Ctesibius of Alexandria upon history.

Ctesibius Created and Studied The First Pressurized Container

One of the main influences of Ctesibius’s machines upon history was his study of water and air pressure. Many academics throughout history consider Ctesibius the father of the modern field of pneumatics.

The main machine that came out of this study by Ctesibius was his Air Force Pump which was used throughout the ancient world to lift water up vertical surfaces.

Ctesibius was fascinated by the concept of pressurized containers. He is considered one of the first Atomists as he believed that the world was built from tiny invisible particles which could be controlled. This was the precursor to modern atomic theory.

Across the known world Ctesibius machine of the air pump would influence the development of large cities and aqueducts. This alone has resulted in Ctesibius having one of the largest influences in the ancient world. Without him it’s doubtful that Rome or other large cities in the ancient world would have reached the size they did.

Because of this Ctesibius forever influenced the development of history. His air pumps were used throughout antiquity and are considered one of the marvels of the ancient world.

Ctesibius’s influence even lives on today in our modern history. All modern machines use a pressure based system that incorporates Ctesibius’s basic design of pressure and pumps.

Ctesibius Invented Histories First Air Pipe Organ Which Lead To Church Organs

Another one of the main influences of Ctesibius’s machines upon history was his creation of the world’s first pipe organ. Although none of his designs or machines survive the above image is of one of his student’s (Hero of Alexandria) wind powered designs that incorporate Ctesibius’s pipe organ.

The influenced of this machine upon history is drastic. Before Ctesibius music was often played for small groups of people in small settings. This was because of the lack of musical instruments that could be performed before a large crowd at a sound level where everyone could hear it.

Ctesibius’s pipe organ would forever change that. Using a system of pressurized containers Ctesibius would create a machine that would forever change history. The reason behind this was now music could be played before massive groups of people.

This music could indicate social queues or further a story/narrative. The Roman’s alone would use large scale musical instruments to signal military maneuvers during wartime.

While this alone would create a lasting influence of Ctesibius upon history it was the church of the middle ages where Ctesibius’s influence would be immense.

Ctesibius’s invention of the pipe organ would directly lead to the creation of the modern church organ used during the later middle ages and modern era. This church organ would allow large audiences to engage in the sermon service and would drastically expand the size of the European church.

As such Ctesibius’s machines, the pipe organ, remains one of his biggest influences upon history. Today his machine and methodology has been adapted to nearly all modern concert halls and large scale music venues.

Ctesibius of Alexandria Created The World’s First Modern Clock By Improving The Water Clock

Another one of Ctesibius of Alexandria’s machines that influenced history would be his improved water clock design.

Ctesibius did not invent the water clock. For thousands of years humans have been using water to keep time by controlling the flow of one water body to another. However, what Ctesibius did was create the first accurate water clock in history.

The problem with previous water clocks before Ctesibius was the problem of diminishing flow. Here the flow of water would become weaker over time which made building an accurate clock nearly impossible.

To tackle this problem Ctesibius of Alexandria built a second water clock within the first. This second clock would catch water and as it fell. Once caught this second clock would also turn at the same speed as the first. This was called the indicator system. Today this indicator system is the analog dial and pointer that we see in all modern clocks.

Almost immediately Ctesibius’s influence would spread across the ancient world. While he lived in the 3rd century BC Egypt his improved water clock machine would be found across the entirety of the Greek world.

One of the best examples of Ctesibius’s advanced water clock machine influencing his contemporary history can be seen in the city of Athens. In Athens the Tower of the Winds was built that included Ctesibius’s water clock design.

Today Cetesibius’s influence can be seen in all modern analog clocks which still use the pointer system that he created almost 1,800 years ago.

As such the Ctesibius’s machine of the water clock forever influenced the development of history.


Ctesibius would die with little money or influence within his city of Alexandria in the year 222 BC. We know about this because the ancient Greek philosopher of Arcesilaus would travel to Alexandria to see him.

In the end however the machines of Ctesibius would go on to create some of the most influential developments in history. Several students followed in his footsteps and helped to develop the society of the ancient world.

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