Ingenious inventions – Innovative ideas

Ingenious inventions – Innovative ideas: Episodes from the history of ancient technology. The Aquincum Museum's temporary exhibition can be visited until 31 October 2021.


For technology, the period between the 3rd century BC and the 1st century AD was an especially productive stage in the development of ancient science. This period saw the birth of countless innovative ideas in what almost amounted to a technological revolution, and a forgotten revolution at that. Nowadays, after all, we are no longer aware of how the inventions of the modern period, and possibly even the machines, tools and appliances that we use today are often rooted in Antiquity. It was also forgotten, as certain ideas, perhaps ahead of their time, remained only the experiments of geniuses and consigned to oblivion already in the ancient world. At the same time, however, other innovations became integral parts of everyday life. The ancient engineers drew plans, used a uniform system of measurement, determined gradients, constructed angles and right-angles, and measured time and the distance travelled. They built aqueducts to bring fresh water from springs to Roman cities, constructed roads which came to define the later topography, provided streets with sewers, raised enormous vaulted and domed buildings, and moved around heavy weights with levers and pulleys. They made heating and hot water everyday comforts at least in the baths, and pumped water from mines and wells. They created various machines and devices and invented the organ. This was also the age when the first robots were built and plans for the world’s first ‘car’ were made. The exhibition introduces visitors to this forgotten, but exceptionally exciting world.

Patientia, virtus, spes – endurance, courage, hope (From the funerary inscription of aqueduct-builder Nonius Datus. A good motto for all ancient engineers (and modern people)).


In our online exhibition we present 2000-year-old innovations in science and technology, and give tips on how those interested can become ancient engineers.

Episode 1 – Ctesibius: The barber of Alexandria – the father of pneumatics – can be read here.

Episode 2 – Philon of Byzantium: Everyone’s favourite science teacher from Antiquity – can be read here.

Episode 3 – Heron of Alexandria: A real jack of all trades from the ancient world – can be read here.

Episode 4 – Heron of Alexandria II: The world’s first “automobile” & other inventions – can be read here.

Episode 5 – Endurance-Courage-Hope – can be read here.

Episode 6 – “Water is best” – can be read here.

Episode 7 – Maths class, Roman style – can be read here.

Episode 8 – The tool of empire-building – can be read here.

The curator of the exhibition: Dr. Gabriella Fényes

Nominated for the Pulszky Society Exhibition of the Year 2021 award


Széchenyi 2020
Széchenyi 2020