Ancient Chemical Technology: Texts from Greco-Roman Literature: An Interdisciplinary Approach

  • Dimitrios YfantisEmail author


In this communication we tried to analyze texts from ancient Greco-Roman literature with technological interest whose translations in international bibliography are obscure and often incomprehensible. Based on Meteorologia of Aristotle, we assume that reverse osmosis desalination of seawater was known in antiquity. Researching texts of Pausanias (water of Styx) and Geber (recipe of nitric acid, aqua forte), we suppose that the preparation of mineral acids and aqua regia was possible during the Hellenistic period. Manuscripts of chemical devices are discussed and explained (alembic, Cleopatra’s Chrysopoiia, dry distillation of mineral sulfur). Finally, materials (binders or pigments) for corrosion protection of metals such as pitch, bitumen, and cerussa are also critically discussed and explained on the basis of Pausanias and Pliny’s writings.


Reverse osmosis Water of Styx Aqua regia Distillation Mineral sulfur Corrosion Pitch Bitumen Pigment cerussa 



My thanks to Sychem SA Group of companies (Advanced Water Technologies) for valuable technical assistance.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Chemical EngineeringNational Technical University of Athens, NTUAAthensGreece

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