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Article

Wilbur R. Knorr and Serafina Cuomo

Carmen de ponderibus et mensuris (perhaps c.400 ce), a Latin didactic poem in 208 hexameter verses, once ascribed to *Priscian, but now attributed to one Rem(m)ius Favinus (or Flav[in]us), sets out the several systems of *weights and *measures adopted in ancient Greece and Rome. It includes two interesting technical accounts:

(1) a hydrometer for measuring the specific gravity of liquids (ll. 103–21), similar to the instruments attributed elsewhere to the Alexandrians *Menelaus (3), *Pappus, and *Hypatia; and

(2) a method used by *Archimedes for solving the problem of the crown (to distinguish an alloy from pure gold or silver) by means of a hydrostatic balance (ll. 125–62), much like the instrument attributed to Archimedes by Menelaus.

Article

William David Ross

Cassius Dionysius of *Utica, wrote (1) (88 bce) a Greek translation (with additions) of the work of the Carthaginian Mago on agriculture, which became the standard work on the subject, used by all its successors in antiquity (see agricultural writers); (2) Ῥιζοτομικά, ‘On Root-cutting’, a compilation much used by *Pliny (1) the Elder.

Article

A Roman physician of the time of Augustus and Tiberius (31 bce–37 ce). His specific for the relief of colic was famous in antiquity.

Article

William David Ross and V. Nutton

Doctor-sophist, the author of Ἰατρικαὶ ἀπορίαι καὶ προβλήματα φυσικά (‘medical puzzles and problems of physics’), not earlier than the 3rd cent. ce.

Article

Wilbur R. Knorr and Alexander Jones

Catoptrics, a special field of *optics, is properly the geometric theory of the visual appearances of objects seen under reflection (anaklasis), but among the ancients also includes studies of refraction (diaklasis) and of burning mirrors (pyria). The basic principle that rays are reflected at equal angles is already understood in the 4th cent. bce (cf. Pl. Ti. 46ac; Arist. [Pr.] 16. 13). The earliest extant compilation of catoptrical theorems is *Euclid's Catoptrica (early 3rd cent. bce), a text whose authenticity is sometimes doubted. Euclid proves theorems on the location, size, and orientation of images in plane, convex, and concave mirrors, and proposes a false theorem on the convergence of rays in concave spherical mirrors. A version of some of the Euclidean results, with additional descriptions of deployments of trick mirrors, is in a work, extant only in a medieval Latin translation and misattributed to Ptolemy (4), but usually (though doubtfully) now ascribed to *Heron of Alexandria (mid-1st cent.

Article

Alun Hudson-Williams and V. Nutton

Censorinus (3rd cent. ce), a Roman grammarian (Prisc. 1. 4. 17), wrote On Accents (De accentibus, lost), and ‘a fine volume, on Birthdays’ (De die natali volumen illustre) (Sid. Apoll. Carm. 14 pref. 3), dedicated to Q. Caerellius on his *birthday in ce 238, which is preserved. The first part deals with human life, particularly its origins, the second with time and its divisions. The work is derived from different sources, above all Varro, and also Suetonius (‘On the Roman year’/De anno Romanorum), and is valuable for its mainly competent transmission of these. It is accompanied in the MSS by an anonymous and noteworthy collection of articles on various topics, e.g. the universe, geometry, metre (our earliest source for Roman metre, see metre, latin), and *music, known (since L. Carrio's edition, Paris, 1583) as fragmentum Censorini. See also scholarship, ancient, roman.

Article

Leofranc Holford-Strevens

Marcus Cetius Faventinus, (3rd–4th cent. ce), made a revised abridgement of *Vitruvius for builders of private houses; his work was used by *Palladius (1) and *Isidorus (2).

Article

The Classical world witnessed many forms of physical landscape change due to long-term and short-term geological and climatological processes. There have also been alterations to the land surface resulting from an interaction between human impact and these natural factors. Cyclical changes in land use, agricultural technology, economy, and politics have continually transformed the rural landscapes of the Mediterranean and the wider Classical world and their mapping, in turn, can shed light on fundamental aspects of ancient society that are not always documented in Classical texts.

As with natural causes of landscape change (see changing landscapes, natural causes of), a useful approach is offered by the chronological framework developed by French historian Fernand Braudel, who envisaged the Mediterranean past as created through the interaction of dynamic forces operating in parallel but on different wavelengths of time: the long term (up to as much as thousands or millions of years, not at all in the awareness of past human agents); the medium term (centuries or more, not clearly cognisant to contemporaries); and the short term (observable within a human lifetime or less).

Article

The classical world witnessed many forms of landscape change in its physical geography, mostly due to longer-term geological and climatological processes, whilst only a minority were due purely to human action. The physical environment of Greek and Roman societies saw alterations through earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, sea-level fluctuations, erosion, and alluviation.

Already in Greek antiquity, Plato (Critias iii) observed how the Aegean physical landscape was being worn down over time as erosion from the uplands filled the lowland plains. Indeed, the Mediterranean region is amongst the most highly erodible in the world.1 However, scientific research in the field known as geoarchaeology has revealed a more complex picture than a continuous degradation of the ancient countryside.2

To uncover a more realistic picture of Mediterranean landscape change, the element of timescales proves to be central, and here the framework developed by the French historian Fernand Braudel3 provides the appropriate methodology. Braudel envisaged the Mediterranean past as created through the interaction of dynamic forces operating in parallel but on different “wavelengths” of time: the Short Term (observable within a human lifetime or less), the Medium Term (centuries or more, not clearly cognisant to contemporaries), and the Long Term (up to as much as thousands or millions of years, not at all in the awareness of past human agents).

Article

Gillian Clark

Childbirth was generally the concern of women, either family and neighbours or experienced *midwives who were sometimes ranked as doctors, but male doctors expected to be called in for difficult cases. Several treatises in the Hippocratic corpus (see hippocrates (2)) include some discussion of childbirth. On the Nature of the Child ascribes the onset of labour to the movement of the foetus, which breaks the membranes. Diseases of Women says that prolonged and unsuccessful labour usually means a difficult presentation, stillbirth, or multiple birth. Suggestions include vigorous shaking to stimulate delivery, and drugs to speed labour (ōkytokia); if all else fails, the doctor may resort to embryotomy, the extraction by instruments of a foetus which is stillborn or impossible to deliver alive. The uterus is envisaged as a container rather than as a powerful muscle, and labour is described as pains not contractions. *Aristotle (HA 586b) notes that pains can occur in the thighs and the lower back as well as the lower abdomen, and that women can help delivery by effort and correct breathing.

Article

Heinrich von Staden

Chrysermus (fl. mid-1st cent. bce?), Alexandrian physician of the ‘school’ of *Herophilus. The extant evidence, transmitted principally by *Galen and *Pliny (1) the Elder, concerns his pulse theory and his drug prescriptions. Like most Herophileans, he displayed independence from Herophilus, defining the pulse as a distention (διάστασις) and contraction (συστολή) of the arteries, when the arterial coat, through the agency of a vital and psychic faculty (ὑπὸ ψυχικῆς καὶ ζωτικῆς δυνάμεως), rises on all sides and then shrinks together again (Gal. 8, p. 741 Kühn). Unlike Herophilus, Chrysermus in his pulse definition omits mention of the heart. His addition of the distinction between ‘psychic’ and ‘vital’ probably was indirectly influenced by *Erasistratus and the Stoics (who, however, gave the distinction quite different applications). His elaboration and modification of Herophilus’ model of the pulse became very controversial: accepted by Chrysermus’ pupil Heraclides of *Erythrae, it was rejected by other Herophileans (e.

Article

Tiberius Claudius Thrasyllus, of *Alexandria (1), astrologer (d. 36 ce), owed his great reputation to the emperor *Tiberius, who, meeting him in *Rhodes, brought him to Rome, trusted his predictions, and made him a Roman citizen. Thrasyllus produced a distinguished family, including his astrologer son Ti. *Claudius Balbillus. His interests were wide, including music (he wrote Περὶ τῶν ἑπτὰ τόνων, (‘On the seven tones’) and philosophy (the division of *Plato (1)'s dialogues into tetralogies is ascribed to him). He is frequently cited by *Vettius Valens and other astrologers. See astrology.

Article

G. J. Toomer

Wrote (perhaps c.360 ce) a treatise on astronomy, Κυκλικὴ θεωρία [μετεώρων] ‘Elementary Theory [of the Heavens]’. Although disordered and often trivial, the work is valuable for what it preserves from earlier mathematical and philosophical writers, notably *Posidonius (2). It provides (the most details for Eratosthenes' ‘measurement of the earth’, although Cleomedes’ account appears to be largely fictitious.

Article

Andrew Barker

Cleonides (perhaps 2nd cent. ce). His Introduction to Harmonics is an unusually reliable compendium of *Aristoxenus' basic doctrines.

Article

climate  

Robert Sallares

The ancient climate was very similar to the modern climate. The Mediterranean climate is characterized by cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers. There is a very high degree of interannual climatic variability, which makes farming (see agriculture) risky and sometimes causes *famines. The ordinary run of interannual climatic variability is taken for granted by literary sources. Only exceptional years stood a chance of being recorded. The rain, predominantly in winter, is usually adequate for dry-farming of cereals, and for evergreen trees resistant to the summer drought. However, it is not sufficient for dense coniferous or deciduous forests. Westerly winds bring most of the rain, so that areas in the rain shadow on the eastern side of Greece, e.g. *Attica, are much drier than regions in western Greece. Rainfall often takes the form of short, intense showers. It runs off the land and does not help plants. There are statistical correlations between cereal yields, total annual precipitation and the monthly distribution of rainfall during the year. The winters generally remain warm enough for plants like the olive-tree, with a low degree of frost tolerance, while the summers are hot enough to support subtropical vegetation. The Mediterranean climate and much of the flora associated with it is quite young in terms of geological time. For ancient views on the weather see *Aristotle's Meteorologica, and *Theophrastus, On Weather Signs.

Article

clocks  

Robert Hannah

Time, or the passage of time, was told through a variety of means in antiquity—via one’s own body, through the actual or calculated movement of celestial bodies (sun, moon, and stars), and by means of artificial instruments, including sundials, water clocks, and various forms of timers. While the natural or built environments could provide large-scale, immobile backdrops to aid with telling the time, there were also miniature instruments that could be carried by hand around the known world with remarkable confidence in their accuracy. And while the simplest form of timing might be provided by one’s own body—such as through its hunger or its shadow—there were also artificial mechanisms of such extraordinary ingenuity and complexity that their like would not be seen for another millennium, and whose remains still elude complete explanation.At the popular level, marking time in the day could utilize simply the shadow cast on the ground by a person and measured by the person’s own feet (cf. .

Article

Michael N. Fried

The curves known as conic sections, the ellipse, hyperbola, and parabola, were investigated intensely in Greek mathematics. The most famous work on the subject was the Conics, in eight books by Apollonius of Perga, but conics were also studied earlier by Euclid and Archimedes, among others. Conic sections were important not only for purely mathematical endeavors such as the problem of doubling the cube, but also in other scientific matters such as burning mirrors and sundials. How the ancient theory of conics is to be understood also played a role in the general development of the historiography of Greek mathematics.The term conic sections, familiar to all students in modern mathematics classrooms, is a direct translation of the Greek, tomai tōn kōnōn. For the Greek mathematicians, conic sections were, true to their name, those curves produced by cutting the surface of cone with a plane not containing the vertex of the cone. The exact cutting procedure—indeed, the definition of the cone itself—changed in significant ways from the end of the 4th to the beginning of the 2nd century .

Article

Conon of *Samos (first half of 3rd cent. bce), mathematician and astronomer. After observing star-risings and weather phenomena in Italy and Sicily, he became famous by his identification (c.245 bce) of a group of stars near the *constellation Leo as the ‘asterization’ (Πλόκαμος, ‘Coma Berenices’) of the lock of hair dedicated by Queen *Berenice (3) II to the victory of Ptolemy III (see ptolemy(1)). This flattery was celebrated by *Callimachus (3) (Aetia fr. 110) in a poem imitated by Catullus (Catull.66). The story that Conon compiled observations of solar eclipses is dubious. In mathematics he wrote on intersecting conics (Apollonius, Conics 4 pref.) and was a correspondent of *Archimedes, who respected him and regrets his early death (e.g. Quadratura parabolae, praefatio).

Article

G. J. Toomer and Alexander Jones

From the earliest times the Greeks, like many other peoples, named certain prominent stars and groups of stars. Homer speaks of the Pleiades, the Hyades, Orion, Boötes, the Bear (‘also called the Wain’, Od. 5. 273), and the ‘Dog of Orion’ (i.e. Sirius, Il. 22. 29). Hesiod mentions all of these, and uses their heliacal risings and settings to mark the seasons and times for agricultural operations (e.g. the rising of the Pleiades for harvesting, and their setting for ploughing, Op.383–4). This traditional ‘agricultural calendar’ was elaborated and codified in the later ‘astronomical calendars’ of *Meton, *Euctemon and their successors (see astronomy). The above are the only stars and star-groups known to have been named in archaic times, and although it is likely that some of the later constellations were identified before the 4th cent. bce (*Democritus, for instance, is said to have used Lyra, Aquila, and Delphinus for calendrical purposes), the division of the whole visible sky into constellations seems not to precede *Eudoxus (1).

Article

Rebecca Flemming

Celsus was a Latin encyclopaedist of the early Roman Empire. Only the eight medical books of his Artes survive, but agriculture, rhetoric, and military matters were also encompassed in his work. The overall enterprise was aimed at synthesising and ordering bodies of useful technical knowledge for a Roman elite audience, knowledge often with Greek origins. Celsus selected, adapted, and reorganised this learning, rendering it into Latin. The extant books follow the tradition division of the medical art into regimen, drugs, and surgery, and are prefaced by an important critical history of ancient medicine.

Aulus Cornelius Celsus was author, probably in the reign of the emperor Tiberius (14–37ce), of a Latin encyclopaedic work entitled Artes, comprising five books on agriculture, eight on medicine, seven on rhetoric, and an unknown number on military matters. He also wrote on philosophy, though whether this was within or beyond the borders of his encyclopaedic enterprise is uncertain. The sources are unclear and the fit of such texts into an overall project aimed at summarising useful bodies of knowledge for Roman gentlemen is debatable.