c. 12 | Rome


Antipater of Thessalonica on hydropower.

Cease from grinding, you women who toil at the mill; sleep late,
Even if the crowing cocks announce the dawn.
For Demeter has ordered the nymphs to perform the work of your hands,
And they, leaping down on the top of the wheel,
Turn its axle that, with its revolving spokes,
Turns the heavy concave Nisyrian millstones.
We taste again the joys of the primitive life,
Learning to feast on the products of Demeter without labor.

About This Text

Antipater of Thessalonica, “On a Water Mill.” Preserved in the Greek Anthology, a collection of around 3,700 Greek epigrams, songs, and epitaphs dating to as early as the seventh century bc, this poem is the oldest-known reference to the so-called Greek mill, a device that used mountain streams to turn millstones by means of horizontal waterwheels. By the fourth century, Greek mills were in use from Ireland to China. They could still be found in Orkney, the Faroe Islands, and parts of Romania in the mid-twentieth century.