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The Archimedes Website

Marcus Barnes

The Archimedes Web site: crorres/Archimedes/contents.html.


This website is a collection of Archimedean miscellanea, compiled by Chris Rorres of the University of Pennsylvania.  The home page provides some biographical facts about Archimedes, including his birth, c. 287 BC in Syracuse, Sicily, death, 212 or 211 BCE, killed by a Roman soldier during the Siege of Syracuse, etc. There follows 20 sections, all worthwhile. I will specifically share a little of what I discovered in three of these sections.

Siege of Syracuse:  The introduction provides a perspective of the history that led up to the siege of Syracuse.,  There are links to excerpts from works of several classical authors including the Greek Polybius ( c. 200-118 BCE) and the Roman Livy ( 59 BCE-17CE).    We are told that Polybius’ account is most trustworthy since he may have had access to survivors of the siege.  Polybius writes about the clever military machines Archimedes devised to defend his city from attack.  One nice feature of this page, and others on this site, is the pleasant use of images to augment the written contents.  For example, on this page, we find; images of old coins engraved with the likeness of Herio II (306?-215 BCE) and Hannibal (247-183BCE); a portrait of Marcellus (268-208BCE), the Roman consul who conquered Syracuse; and a portrait of Archimedes, with compass in hand.

Archimedes’ Claw:  Polybius mentions, in his account of the siege of Syracuse, the use of a type of mechanical claw, designed by Archimedes, to defend the city.  In this section, there are excerpts from the writings of Polybius, Livy, Plutarch, John Tzetzes (12th century CE), and John Zonaras (12th century CE), about the use of this grappling  defensive weapon.  There is a link at the top of the page which brings you to illustrations and animations of claw in action.    Rorres also provides pictures of various attempts at constructing scale models of the claw.

Tomb of Archimedes:  The introductory page of this section includes excerpts from the writings of Plutarch, John Tzetzes, Cicero (106-43 BCE), and a poem by William Wordsworth (1770-1850) commenting on Archimedes’ tomb. In Cicero’s except from the Tusculan Disputations (Book V, Sections 64-66), we read of his discovery of the tomb.  Cicero reports how he found the neglected tomb and had it restored to a more pristine state. If one then clicks on the “illustrations” link at the top of the page, we are taken to a page that provides five depictions of the event.  At the bottom of the page, is a photograph of a tomb in Syracuse in the Necropolis of Grotticelli, which is referred to as “Archimedes’ Tomb”.  The tomb however is known to date from at least two centuries after Archimedes’ death and to be of Roman origin.  So travelers to Syracuse be forewarned.  The actual purported site of Archimedes’ tomb lies in the courtyard of the Hotel Panorama, a structure built in the early 1960’s.

Also included among the other sections listed on the home page is one that provides images and short descriptions of various stamps that depict Archimedes or his work.  Still others provide some details about the crater on the Moon named after the great mathematician and the Archimedes Screw.

Now for the climax of this review:  Does the Archimedes site pass the “bookmark test”?  Yes, indeed!  I added the site to my bookmarks just this minute.

Marcus Emmanuel Barnes, Graduate Student, Department of Mathematics, Simon Fraser University.


Marcus Barnes, "The Archimedes Website," Loci (July 2007)