Hero of Alexandria and His Vending Machine

Hero of Alexander and His Vending Machine

Hero of Alexandria (10-70 AD) was a resident of Roman-controlled Egypt who was among the most prolific inventors and experimenters of classical antiquity. He is perhaps most famous for describing a primitive steam engine called an aeolipile in his writings, but he had numerous other designs and inventions under his belt. Pictured here is his coin-operated vending machine, which would dispense holy water at temples. It is perhaps the earliest vending machine known from recorded history.

Although Hero’s name (sometimes alternatively spelled as “Heron”) is of Greek origin, his ethnic heritage (along with that of many other Alexandrian scholars) remains uncertain. He could have been descended from Greek immigrants into Egypt, or he could have been a Hellenized native Egyptian (or at least mixed with such). Of course, I chose to go with the more Egyptian interpretation for my portrayal.


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