In ancient times they had robots too, but not the electronic ones we have now. Archimedes invented a water clock with a moving bird and they had a ton of automata way back then. Today you can build your own automaton by using some cut wood and a couple of small motors or springs. The result is amazing.
The guys at Makezine wrote about Colibri, the kinetic sculpture from above, which is an automaton made of wood.
Derek Hugger is the one who created Colibri and you can find out more details on his website. It took him more than 700 hours of work to get this done and he automated the head movement, the wings and the tail. Incredibly complex projects, like this one, deserve all the advertising we can give.