Archimedes and the Roman Imagination
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: University of Michigan Press
Preface and Acknowledgments
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This project rises from two sources. The first is a long-standing interest in teasing out what ancient literary descriptions of monuments tell us about the authors who describe them, figures whom I anachronistically imagine standing in front of each of these monuments and waving...
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Introduction: The "Life of Archimedes"
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In the first chapter of his dissertation on Archimedes, published in 1879 as Quaestiones Archimedeae, Danish scholar Johan Ludvig Heiberg methodically sets forth a narrative biography of the great mathematician.1 The information about the lives of all the ancient...
1. The "Eureka" Story
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During most of Archimedes' life, Syracuse was ruled by Hieron II, who had come to power through a military coup and thus reigned as a tyranta usurping monarchfor some years before being proclaimed king. The story of Archimedes' helping Hieron solve a problem...
2. Cicero at Archimedes' Tomb
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A painting by Benjamin West, in the Yale University Art Gallery, shows a group of figures in classical dress in a Mediterranean setting. Smoke rises from a volcano in the background. Almost all the adult men are bearded, by which West conveys that they are Greek; one is rather portly. ...
3. Why Two Spheres?
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Cicero's account of finding Archimedes' tomb transforms the grave marker into a symbol of knowledge neglected and lost by its original owners, while the digression itself acts as an extended metaphor for the recovery and appropriation of that knowledge by a worthier heir. ...
Coda to Part One. The Afterlife of the Spheres from the De republica
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To see even more clearly how Archimedes' two spheres together form a figure for the transmission of knowledge, we can examine the discussion of a sphere that appears in a work from late antiquity, the Matheseos libri VIII, eight books of astrological learning...
A Sketch of Events at Syracuse
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I include here, simply to orient the reader, a brief sketch of events at Syracuse, based largely on Polybius, Livy, Cicero, and Plutarch, some of the very sources discussed in the following chapters.1 ...
4. Who Killed Archimedes?
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Valerius Maximus, author of the nine-book Memorable Deeds and Sayings (Factorem et dictorum memorabilium libri IX), tells the story of Archimedes' death as an example of extraordinary industria, or "diligence."1 ...
5. The Defense of Syracuse
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Cast as the story of Marcellus receiving the news, the "Death of Archimedes" plays a role in the aristocratic competition for glory in republican Rome: any thug can kill an unarmed old man, but it takes greatness of character to recognize and commemorate the virtues of an enemy who...
Coda to Part Two. Claudian on Archimedes
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I here take leave of the ancient Archimedes with a glance at a text by the late antique writer Claudian, whose collection of short poems includes a fourteen-line epigram on Archimedes' sphere.1 Of Archimedes' mechanical achievements, it is the planetary sphere, not the giant...
6. Petrarch's Archimedes
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Petrarch includes biographical accounts of Archimedes in two early prose works, the De viris illustribus and the Rerum memorandarum libri.1 The De viris illustribus includes a life of Marcellus (the De Marco Claudio Marcello, hereinafter Marcellus), which in turn includes an account...
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Archimedes enters historiography, via Polybius, as the possessor of a power on which the Romans did not reckon and as the embodiment of a principle that they could not foresee. The attack on Syracuse, in theory, should have worked, but the Romans' mathematical reckoning...
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Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2008