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The Tower of the Winds - the weather station of ancient Greece

Updated on August 28, 2013

There is nothing around the world, similar to this ancient wonder that is still erected north east of Acropolis in Athens, Greece. Called horologion (or timepiece) by the Greeks this modest structure was built 2000 years ago.

Tower of the winds Athens, georg Zumstrull
Tower of the winds Athens, georg Zumstrull | Source

An ancient octagon of fine marble

The Tower of the Winds is a tall building in the shape of an octagon, that means it has eight sides.

Each side is about 8 meters (about 26) wide and the tower is 12 (39 feet) meters high.

It was built Before Christian Era (BCE, or BC), some archaeologists say anytime after 200 BC, others thinking is more recent, about 50 BC.

The construction of the Tower of Winds has been at attributed to the macedonian astronomer and architect Andronicus of Cyrrhus (or Andonikos of Kyrros, as greeks call him).

The tower was built using the finest marble of Pantelic.

The winds Morn GNU Free Documentation
The winds Morn GNU Free Documentation
Aristotle wind rose(45-degree)
Aristotle wind rose(45-degree) | Source

Where does the name comes from

Greeks thought there were eight winds in the world. They were blowing from the four cardinal points that are North, South, East, and West, and and from the intermediate points (or compass points) that are northeast, southeast, northwest, southwest.

These eight winds, represented by human figures, were carved on the eight sides of the building. Hence, the name: The Tower of the Winds.

The eight Greek winds are









Moondial | Source

An ancient advanced technological device

The tower of the Winds wasn't just a tall octagon, but it had a deeper meaning and played a greater role in the life of ancient athenians. The Tower, was, in fact, a weather station and a clock. It told the time and the direction from which the wind was blowing.

The building was equipped with three mechanisms, each of them serving its own purpose.

Weather was told by a weather vane. On the roof of the tower there was a bronze weathervane depicting Triton (a Greek god, the messenger of the sea) holding a pointer. When windy, the pointer spun around, pointing to the respective carving of the quarter from which the wind was blowing.

Time was told by a sundial and a moondial and a perpetual clepsidra.

The sundial and the moondial operated on the outside of the building. Each of the eight figures had a pointer (or a gnomon) and below the carving of the winds line were cut into the wall, marking out time. But this way to tell the time was only working when the sky was clear and/or it was enough moonlight at night to cast a shadow.

Inside of the tower was though a very sophisticated mechanism for measuring the time when the sundial was not useful. Andronicus added a water clock which is a device that has been invented by Ctesibius from Athens that improves a clepsidra making it a perpetual clock. The water to power the perpetual clepsidra was brought from Acropolis.

Whirling dervishes are men initiated in Sufi religion (an Islamic religion) that love to dance, their usual white robe whirling around while performing.

Whirling dervishes at Mausoleum of Mevlana, Konya, Turkey
Whirling dervishes at Mausoleum of Mevlana, Konya, Turkey | Source

The Tower of Winds through history

Even though some archaeologists place the construction of the tower anytime after second century B.C., the official historical date is still 50 B.C., mainly because the building has been attributed to Andronicus of Cyrrhus who lived around 100 BC. The Tower was first described in the works of Vitruvius and Varo.

Early christians have used the Tower and it had served as a church well under the Byzantine Empire.

When Ottomans conquered that part of the world, the Tower changed its destination and it is said it had been used by the whirling dervishes.

In between 1837 - 1845, the Tower of the Winds was excavated by the Archeological Society of Athens. At that time, the building was buried up to his half.

At present, the Tower is a museum and had been restored couple of times.

Some speculates that this building is somehow linked to the Antikythera mechanism, which remains yet to be proved.

What do you need to know about the the Tower of the Winds

1. The Tower of the Winds is a Greek building, located in Athens, Greece.

2. It was built sometimes between 200 B.C. and 50 B.C.

3. .It had functioned a clock and weather station and athenians have guided their lives accordingly.

4. For its time, the tower was making use of very advanced technology.

5. Till this days, the Tower is still erected so you can go see it next time you are in the area.


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    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      So beautiful about Greece would love to one day visit this place not far from Croatia


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