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Courtney Ann Roby

Ancient Greek and Roman scientific and technical works, especially in the exact sciences, were much more commonly illustrated than texts in other genres. The images in those texts ranged from the relatively abstract diagrams in mathematical, astronomical, and harmonic texts to the more pictorial images of botanical, medical, and surveying texts. For the most part, the images that survive are found in medieval manuscript copies. Although there are often striking variations from one manuscript to another, and the parchment or paper codex offers very different possibilities for illustrations than the papyrus rolls on which the ancient texts would originally have been composed, the texts themselves often offer clues about the author’s intentions for the images that accompanied the text.

Illustrations ranging from schematic diagrams to veristic pictorial images are found in surviving copies of many Greek and Roman works on mechanics, harmonics, surveying, medicine, zoology, pharmacology, and other technical subjects.


Massimo Raffa

From the earliest stages of Greek thought, sound was thought to originate as the result of an impact between two objects. At first it was believed that the swiftness and force of the impact affected both volume and pitch; then it became clear that these were two different parameters. Pitch, in particular, was connected either to quantitative factors, such as the speed of the movement or the number of subsequent impacts, or to qualitative ones, like the idiotes (“peculiarity”) theorized by Theophrastus. The least investigated parameter of sound is timbre, which was usually attributed to the physical characteristics of the source.There is no specific branch of ancient Greek science or physics named akoustike; nevertheless, the Greeks showed a keen interest in sound and its characteristics from the earliest stages of their literature. In the Homeric poems, sound is conceived of as something that possesses magnitude and direction. Such adverbial forms as .