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Topic: [HM] Archimedes' language
Replies: 12   Last Post: May 25, 2004 4:28 PM

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Michael Lambrou

Posts: 70
Registered: 12/3/04
Re: [HM] Archimedes' language
Posted: May 20, 2004 3:44 PM
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> Date: Wed, 19 May 2004 06:45:40 -0400
> From: "Roger Cooke" <>
> Subject: [HM] Archimedes' language
> I've been looking through a lot of Greek mathematical works lately,
> and I'm curious in particular about Archimedes' "Ephodos". Am I
> correct in concluding that this work is not an exact copy of what
> Archimedes wrote, since it seems (to my amateur eye) to be in the
> Attic dialect? In his other works Archimedes would refer to the
> line AB as TAN AB, for example, but in this work he says THN AB.

You are quite right. The works of Archimedes come in two versions. Some
are in his mother tongue Doric Greek (as in the example you quote where
the article "the" is TAN) and the others in Attic Greek. The later is
due to transliteration by ancient or byzantine editors of his works.
For instance Tzetzes (12th century) in his Chiliades (2,35)when he
an Archimedean famous saying writes (my translation):

"He (Archimedes) was saying in Doric, the language of Syracuse, give me
a lever and somewhere to stand and I shall move all the earth"

Eutocius in his commentary mentions that he saw an anonymous work with a
solution of a problem from "On the Sphere and cylinder" written in Doric

Greek, from which he concludes that the author "must" be Archimedes.

In reverse, the poem containing the "Cattle problem" is said by some
modern scholars not to be by Archimedes on the grounds that it is not
written in Doric. (I have arguments to dismiss this view, but it is not
the place to do so now).

> Also, in the statement of his first theorem he refers to "a section
> of a right-angled cone" ABC, but then immediately in the proof says
> "since ABC is a parabola." Did he use the terms interchangeably, or
> is this the result of a copyist updating the language?

Quite right. Archimedes' version had the first expression, changed by
later copyists to "parabola". Even the title of his work "Squaring the
parabola" was originally called "Squaring the right angled conic section".

All the best.
Michael Lambrou.

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