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Hero of Alexandria's Mechanical Geometry

Karin Tybjerg

Greek mathematics is often identified with the achievements of a rather select group of Hellenistic authors, most notably Euclid, Archimedes and Apollonius. In these authors we find a highly sophisticated form of mathematics and fully developed practices of deductive demonstration and it is the works of these authors and their predecessors that have received the majority of attention in the scholarship. Other forms of mathematics, such as the mathematics employed by professionals or practitioners working with land-measurement, trade, architecture or administration, have also received some measure of interest, and it has become clear that Greek mathematics covers a plural- ity of practices. The methods employed by these practitioners, often based on numerical calculations and approximations, have, however, often been sidelined as 'applied' or even 'lower' forms of mathematics. These two categories of mathematics provide a strangely polarized picture of mathematical practices, a picture that does not accurately portray the mathematical landscape of antiquity. Although the dichot- omy is still alive and well, some doubt has already been cast over the possibility of a strict division between high-level and low-level prac- tices, or between theoretical and applied mathematics. Reviel Netz has gestured at a 'material' element in the manipulations of Euclidean-Ar- chimedean geometrical diagrams, which are, for instance, 'constructed'

In the case of professional mathematicians, Jens

and 'cut' in real space.


l Netz, 1999, Chapters 1-2; see also Russo, 2003,185-6.

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H0yrup has drawn attention to a culture of 'recreational' problem solving and thereby shown that calculations of areas of land were not always aimed at practical pursuits. 2 Serafina Cuomo has criticized the sharp division more generally by arguing for the inclusion of 'low-brow' practices in the history of mathematics alongside advanced practices. 3 With this paper I hope to add nuance to this picture of Greek mathe- matics by analysing how geometry is used and presented in the mechanical and mathematical writer Hero of Alexandria. Hero of Alexandria flourished in the first century AD and his treatises span a wide range of topics, from geometry and land measurement to pneumatics, catapults and automatic theatres. 4 In his treatises we find both elements associated with the Euclidean-Archimedean tradition and material coming from cultures of professional mathematicians. Starting with the former, Hero wrote a commentary on Euclid's Elements, which, however, is only preserved in a fragmentary form in an Arabic commentary. 5 Most notably, he makes frequent references to Archimedean treatises throughout his work. 6 Other authors of the mathematical elite are also mentioned such as Eudoxus, Dionysodorus, Eratosthenes and Plato/ and Hero mentions titles of treatises that are

2 H0yrup, 1990 and 1996a

3 Cuomo, 2001

4 Of Hero's works the Pneumatics, Automaton Construction, Metrica, Dioptra and Artillery Construction are extant in the original Greek. Mechanics is preserved in an Arabic translation and Catoptrics in a Latin abbreviation. I shall refer to Hero's treatises in the Teubner edition (Schmidt, Nix, Schone and Heiberg, 1899-1914), except for the Artillery Construction, which is edited in Marsden, 1971. The Teubner edition also includes the Geometry, Stereometn/ and Definitions, which are textually difficult and of dubious attribution.

5 Al-Nairizi's commentary is found in Codex Leidensts. There are numerous references to Euclid in Stereometry, but this work has been substantially edited so it is difficult to draw any conclusions from these references

6 Metrica 66.7,66.13,66.27,80.17,84 11,86.30,88.10,88.25,120.15,122.1,122.16,130.26, 172.1, 184.27; Pneumatics 24.11; Mechanics 1.4, 1.24 (four references), 1.25, 1.32,1.33, II.7,11.35. Drachmann, 1963 points to Archimedean sections in Mechanics.

132.7 (Plato's solids); Dioptra







(Eratosthenes' On the Measurement of the Earth)

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Hero of Alexandria's Mechanical Geometry


associated with Apollonius and Hipparchus. 8 As we shall see, a number of Hero's treatises also contain geometrical proofs and his descriptions of machines and measurement techniques are presented as geometrical theorems and problems. Hero does not, however, stick to the topics and approaches typical of the Euclidean-Archimedean tradition. He also solves practical problems of measurement and instrument con- struction, and employs calculation and approximation methods resem- bling those found in traditions of professional mathematics. H0yrup, for instance, located material that is related to a Near-Eastern tradition of practical mathematics in Hero's Metrica and Geometry, and Neuge- bauer saw Hero's work as a Hellenistic form of a Babylonian arithmetic tradition. 9 So Hero neither fits into the standard picture of the Euclidean-Ar- chimedean tradition, nor does he represent a tradition of professional mathematicians and calculators. The relationship between material de- rived from these traditions is not a simple one either. Hero's work can neither be viewed as an application of Euclidean-Archimedean mathe- matics to practical problems, nor as a formalisation of practical methods. But this limbo in which Hero has been left by the scholarship is exactly what makes his work central to rethinking ancient mathematics. Hero's work allows a rare view of the interaction between geometry, mechanics and professional mathematics; it shows that these enterprises were closely related in the ancient world and that some demonstrative proce- dures combined elements from several traditions.

Beginning with Metrica — a treatise on measuring and dividing areas and volumes — we get a sense of how Hero situates his work.

The first geometry, as the old story teaches us, was engaged in meas- urements and distributions of land; this is also why it was called geometry. Since man needed this study, this type [of geometry] was advanced still more, so that the control of measurements and distribu-

8 Hero refers to a 'table of chords' that may have been by Hipparchus, Metrica 58.19,

of an

62.17, see Heath, 1921, Vol. II, 259, and to 'the second book of the Cuttmg-off

Area', which is a non-extant treatise of Apollonius, Metrica


162.2, see Tannery, 1903,

9 H0yrup, 1996b, and Neugebauer, 1962,146-7

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tions came also to deal with solid bodies. And since the first theorems invented were not sufficient, they were still in need of further investi- gation, so that even to this day some of them remain problematic, and yet both Archimedes and Eudoxus have applied themselves eminently to the study. For before Eudoxus' invention it was unfeasible to pro- duce a demonstration (άπόδειξις) that the cylinder, which has the same base as a cone and the same height, is three times as great as this and that the circles are to each other as the squares of the diameters are to each other. And before Archimedes' quick-witted inventions, it was doubtful why the surface of the sphere is four times as large as the surface of the greatest of its circles and that its solid is two thirds of the cylinder that contains it and likewise, many similar questions. Since the inquiries we have mentioned are necessary we think it has value to collect as much useful material as was written before us and in addition as much as has been considered by us. 10

Hero begins with a well-known topos, when he situates the origin of geometry in land measurement. 11 This link is especially important to Hero because he himself deals with both straight geometry and division of land. The emphasis on human needs shows the indispensability of the subject and indicates the practical ambition of the work. Next we hear how geometry turned to solid bodies and that Eudoxus and Archimedes produced some important theorems. In this passage Hero continues the

10 Metrica 2.3-4.4. Ή πρώτη γεωμετρία, ως ό παλαιός ημάς διδάσκει λόγος, περί τας εν τρ γη μετρήσεις και διανομάς κατησχολεΐτο, όθεν καϊ γεωμετρία εκλήθη · χρειώδους δε του πράγματος τοις άνθρώποις υπάρχοντος επί πλέον προήχθη το γένος, ώστε και επί τα στερεά σώματα χωρήσαι την διοίκησιν των τε μετρήσεων και διανομών, και επειδή ουκ έξήρκε ι τα πρώτ α έπινοηθέντ α θεωρήματα , προσεδέηθησα ν έτι περισσότερο ς επισκέψεως, ώστε και μέχρι νυν τινά αυτών άποπεϊσθαι, καίτοι Άρχιμήδους τε και Εύδόχου γενναίως έπιβεβληκότωνtfi πραγματεία, άμήχανον γαρ ην προ της Εύδόχου έπινοίας άπόδειξιν ποιήσασθαι, δι'ής ό κύλινδρος του κώνου του την αυτήν βάσιν έχοντος αύτω καϊ ϋψος 'ίσον τριπλάσιος εστί, και οτι ο'ι κύκλοι προς αλλήλους είσΐν ως άπο των διαμέτρων τετράγωνα προς άλληλα, καϊ πρό[ς] της Άρχιμήδους συνέσεως απιστον ην έπινοήσαι, διότι ή της σφαίρας επιφάνεια τετραπλάσια εστί του μεγίστου κύκλου των εν αυτή καϊοτι το στερεόν αυτήςδύο τριτημόριά εστί του περιλαμβάνοντος αυτήν κυλίνδρου καϊ οσα τούτων άδελφά τυγχάνει

11 Cf. Herodotus (fifth century BC) The Histories II109; Plato Phaedrus 274C; Diodorus Siculus (fl. 50 BC) Bibliotheca 1.69.5 and 1.81.1-2; and Strabo (64 BC — after AD 21),

Geography XVII, 3.

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Hero of Alexandria's Mechanical Geometry


history of mathematics that Archimedes began in the prefaces of his Method and On the Sphere and the Cylinder where he refers to the exact

same Eudoxan demonstration

tory. 12 By adding Archimedes' own famous findings — also found in On the Sphere and the Cylinder 13 — Hero continues the story in the track set

out by Archimedes and he is able to place himself at the end of this formidable line-up. Hero leaves room for his own contribution by noting that there are still some outstanding problems and that he will add his

own material to the collection of earlier material. He thus claims a joint legacy of practical land measuring skill and the highest level of Greek geometry.

feature of this passage is the reference to Eudoxus'

'demonstration'. This is the first, but not the last, time that Hero uses the term demonstration (άπόδειξις) in Metrica. Investigating the contexts where Hero uses the term, we find that he uses it most frequently when he refers to demonstrations by Archimedes. 14 By employing the term in

connection with the names of Eudoxus and especially Archimedes Hero associates the term άπόδειξις with Archimedean-style proofs. Thus when Hero uses it elsewhere in his work it implies the authority and reliability of Archimedean demonstrations. He can therefore rely on the stahis of geometrical proof when he moves on to the division of land in the last book of Metrica; here he states emphatically that geometry is superior to all other arts and sciences for distributing land because 'the

as part of his own mathematical prehis-

Another important

12 Archimedes Method 430.1-9; Archimedes On the Sphere and the Cylinder 4.2-9

13 Sphere and Cylinder Book I (especially 1.33 and 1.34). The theorem that links the

volumes of the sphere and

ment as indicated by Cicero's claim that his tombstone showed a sphere inscribed in a cylinder, Tusculan Disputations V.23.

the cylinder was emblematic of Archimedes' achieve-

14 Hero employs the terminology of demonstration (άποδείκνυμι or δείκνυμι) in six- teen out of nineteen references to Archimedes in Metrica. He refers mainly to

demonstrations in specific treatises, chiefly On the Sphere and the Cylinder, On the

Method, e.g., 84.11: 'But Archimedes demonstrated in

' (άπέδειξεν δε Αρχιμήδης εν τω έφοδικ"). Hero's Mechanics contains

six references to Archimedean demonstrations, e.g., I. 24: 'Archimedes has shown

the Arabic term used in the examples from the

Mechanics is bayana, which means 'prove' or 'show'. There is also a single reference

Measurement of the Circle and

the Method

in the Equilibrium of Planes


to an Archimedean demonstration in Pneumatics

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proof of these things is incontrovertible'. 1? So although Hero neither includes many of the demonstrations by Archimedes to which he refers, nor develops many purely geometrical demonstrations of his own, the term maintains its association to rigorous deductive demonstration. As will become clear, Hero adapts the Archimedean legacy and applies it to a new range of problems of a more mechanical and numeri- cal kind. In contrast to Archimedes, who in the Method showed caution concerning the application of numerical and mechanical methods, and explicitly privileged deductive geometrical proof, Hero appears unham- pered by such concerns. 16 He makes the power of Archimedean deduc- tive proof continuous with his own broader project.

In the following we shall consider ways in which Hero's geometrical practices deviate from the Archimedean ones with which they are asso- ciated. The strategies broadly fall into three categories:

1) Hero makes numerical examples an integral part of his demon- strative practices.

2) Mechanical methods and instruments are made legitimate tools for demonstration.

3) Geometry is applied to physical space and mechanical devices so that the boundary between geometrical and mechanical ob- jects is blurred.

Treating these three strategies in turn we shall see how Hero employs specific strategies to eliminate distinctions between high-level geomet- rical proof and the methods of practical mathematics. By blurring the boundaries between Archimedean and practicalmathematicshe enables himself to combine the power of geometrical proof with thecapabilities of numerical and mechanical techniques. At the end I shall also show how the amalgamation of mechanics and geometry supports Hero's claims that mechanics is useful. In general, the techniques employed by Hero show that it is not possible to maintain the notion that Euclidean- Archimedean geometry was sealed off from traditions of professional

15 Meinen 140.22-142 1

16 See for instance Archimedes Method 428 24-430.1. Brought to you by | University of Haifa

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Hero of Alexandria's Mechanical Geometry


problems and calculation techniques. It moreover shows that practical considerations and a focus on measurement inform Hero's geometry, but it is not a simple relation of practicalapplication of geometry. In my analysis I shall draw on Hero's more mathematically-oriented treatises: Metrica, which concerns the measurement of planes, three dimensional objects, and ways of dividing them; Dioptra, which solves various problems of land measurement and construction with a device that measures distances and angles; Catoptrics, which concerns reflec- tions in mirrors; and Mechanics, which deals with lifting, sizing and moving heavy objects.

Numbers and Measurement

Metrica is the most mathematical of the treatises thought to be Hero's with some certainty, and it provides a clear example of how Hero combines traditions. A prominent feature of the style of the propositions in Metrica is that Hero often assigns specific numbers to the geometrical objects under investigation. He then calculates the specific areas and volumes of these figures rather than producing a general method for doing so. He writes, for instance, 'Let ABGbe an obtuse angled triangle, which has the AB 13 units, the BG 11 units, and the AG 20 units.' 17 What is the role of these numerical examples? The numbers are given in units, and to understand their significance we need to look at Hero's definitions of units. In the introduction to the first book of Metrica Hero explains why surfaces are measured in terms of areas with right angles and straight sides—i.e., squares. His argument is geometrical. A straight line, he says, isalways equal to another straight line and a right angle equal to another right angle; curved figures, by contrast, are not always equal. Measurement therefore consists in 'com- paring' the area under investigation to square ells or feet, or simply to 'units'. The units are introduced, Hero explains, partly for ease so as not to name the specific units for each measurement, and partly for general- ity; Hero assures his reader that a unit can stand for any measure One wants'. 18 He thus gives a geometrical argument for the possibility of

17 Meinen 14.18-20

18 Metrica 4.11-6.1

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Karin Tybjerg

measurement based on a generalized unit of measurement, but at the same time he links measurement to specific, physical measures. The double nature of Hero's project is also reflected in the wording where the term for 'area' (χωρίον) can also mean 'landed property'. The physical nature of Hero's measurements comes through even more clearly when he deals with solid bodies in Book II. The 'demon- stration' (απόδειξις) that the volume of a cube is found by multiplying its sides is, Hero writes, manifest, and if we think about the cube being 'sawed into unit volumes' we get the requisite number. 19 By using the standard term for 'sawing' he provides a highly physical analogy for the act of measuring; and by saying it is 'manifest' or 'visible' (φανερός) Hero emphasizes that the proof is based on the senses. Thus, when Hero uses numerical examples referring to units of area or volume he links the geometrical situation to the physical and thereby maintains the connec- tion to practical measurement. The numerical examples, however, do not just establish a connection to practical situations of measurement. Nor is their function solely to train the reader to do the calculations through examples. In the section on the measurement of triangles that comes early in Book I, it becomes clear that the numerical examples play a real demonstrative role. Hero begins the section with simple cases of measuring different kinds of Mangles such as the right-angled, the isosceles, and the acute- or obtuse- angled triangles. In each proposition he gives the dimensions of a specific triangle and derives a calculation procedure for finding its area based on minimal geometrical argument. Having derived a procedure Hero shows how to find the area, this timewithout reference to the geometrical situation. Hero is, however, quite explicit that the calculations are not just included as exercises:

Until now we produced the geometrical demonstrations through calcu- lation; next we shall produce the measurements according to analysis through the synthesis of the numbers. 20

Hero states surprisingly that calculationis a means for producing 'geo- metrical demonstrations'. Geometry and calculation are thus inter-

19 Metrica 94.5-6: the term used is καταπρίω, whose primary meaning is 'to saw', LSJ.

20 Metrica 16.11-14: Μέχρι μεν τούτου έπιλογιζόμενοι τας γεωμετρικός αποδείξεις έποιησάμεθα, έξης δε κατά. άνάλυσιν δια τηςτων αριθμών συνθέσεως τας μετρήσεις


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Hero of Alexandria's Mechanical Geometry


twined with calculation responsible for producing the crowning glory of geometry — the demonstration. In a similar vein calculationand geometry are presented as two sides of the same solution when Hero states that measurements are produced

through 'analysis' and 'synthesis'. The pair, analysis and synthesis,

that was

used by geometers such as Apollonius and Archimedes. In the analysis the solution is assumed and its consequences investigated; the synthesis solves the problem in the light of the understanding obtained in the

analysis. 21 The concepts, however, did not have stable, well-defined meanings, and this flexibility allowed Hero to adjust the concepts to his own priorities. He uses this freedom to make geometrical proof and

a problem

that in Hero's context concerns producing a measurement. This approach to measurement is applied in the propositions that

follow, beginning with what is now known as 'Hero's formula' for calculating the area of a triangle from the lengths of its sides. The method

is introduced by a complex numerical example.Hero then proclaims that

'[t]he geometrical demonstration for this is the following' 22 and delivers

a Euclidean-Archimedean style proof based on a lettered diagram with

no reference to particular values for the dimensions of the triangle. 23 Following the proof, he writes, 'it is synthesized like this' and gives another numerical example of the calculation of the area. In subsequent propositions Hero frequently writes after finishing a geometrical proof that 'it is synthesized in accordance with the analysis' and then offers a numerical example. He thus establishes a pattern that is followed

throughout the treatise: a geometrical proof, characterized as the 'analy-

sis' followed by a calculation characterized as the 'synthesis'.


synthesis — a standard component of the solution to a geometrical problem — is here turned into a numericalcalculation.

calculation equal and necessary parts of solving a problem,

refers to a two-part method of presenting geometricalproblems


21 On analysis and synthesis in Greek mathematics, see, e.g., Hintikka and Remes, 1974; Behboud, 1994; and Netz, 2000.

22 Metnca 20.6: ή δε γεωμετρική τούτου άπόδειξίς εστίν ήδε

23 The same demonstration is found in Dioptra 280.16-284.10.

24 Metrica 30.5: συντεθήσεται δε ακολούθως τρ αναλύσει ούτως. See 24 22, 32.15,34.15-

18, 38.26-7,42.4-5,48.24,

(there are twenty-seven further occurrences).

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Hero's presentation mirrors Archimedes' solutions to complex geo- metrical problems in On the Sphere and Hie Cylinder II. Like Hero, Ar- chimedes mainly uses synthesis and analysis when dealing with problems, and he introduces the synthesis with the formulation that Hero reuses: 'It is synthesized like this'. 2 ' But when Hero replaces the geometrical problem with one of measurement, he reduces the geomet- rical part of the solution to the analysis, and bases the synthesis purely on calculation. Sometimes the geometrical component is left out all together and Hero simply refers to a demonstration by Archimedes, which is then used for the calculation. This is the case when Hero refers to Archimedes' measurement of the area of a parabola segment or the volumes of figures created by inserting cylinders into a cube — all from the mechanical treatise Method. 26 In keeping with his interest in calcula- tion Hero views Archimedes' results as ways to calculate areas and volumes, rather than as relations between geometrical figures. Hero thus sketches two approaches: one where geometrical demon- strations are based on calculation, and one where measurement prob- lems are solved by combining geometrical demonstration and calculation. In this way physical measurement and calculation are given demonstrative power and geometry is made part of measurement. Hero is thus able to draw on a tradition of numerical problem solving used by professional mathematicians and at the same time inscribe calculation and measurement of physical bodies into the Archimedean legacy pre- sented in the introduction to Mctrica. Recent scholarship recognizes that Metrica contains both Near-East- ern and Euclidean-Archimedean material, but it has focused mainly on evaluating the relative contribution of each. Vitrac noted in his analysis of the first section of Metrica, that although some of Hero's calculation procedures were informed by Near Eastern practices, the treatise was firmly inscribed in the Euclidean-Archimedean tradition. 27 The organi- sation of the treatise is deductive in character, problems are described in geometrical terms and the calculation procedures are justified geomet-

25 Archimedes On the Sphere and the Cylinder

26 The parabola segment is treated by Hero in Metrica 82.25-84 2 and by Archimedes in Method 434.14-438.15. The cylinders in Ihe cube are treated by Hero in Mctrica 130.12-132 1 and by Archimedes in Method 426 8-428 7 and 484.26-506.31.

172.7,184.21,192.7,198 13,204 11,208.15

27 Vitrac, 1994

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Hero of Alexandria's Mechanical Geometry


rically. His analysis captures the combination of methods well, but perhaps overemphasises the division between the geometrical and cal-

culation-centred parts of the treatise. It interprets Metrica as apractical work aiming for Euclidean-Archimedean standards ofdemonstration.

collection of

received approximations and that Hero's contribution is restricted to adding the proof of 'Hero's formula' (also found in Dioptra 2 *) to an already complete text. 29 While Heyrup is right that the geometrical proof interrupts the flow, we have seen how it introduces the style found in the rest of Metrica where a geometricalanalysis is followed by a numeri- cal synthesis. By contrast this form is found only twice in Dioptra and in a set of proofs that are not integrated into the main flow of text. To regard Metrica as literally the product of two different treatises or as a set of calculation procedures with added geometrical justification belies the way Hero integrates measurement and calculation procedures with geometrical practice and presentation. Hero both generalizes the calculation procedures by introducing units and reinterprets the method of analysis and synthesis to suit his own problems of measurement. The work is not simply an application of geometrical methods for practical purposes such as the measuring of vaults or basin mentioned by Hero. Hero produces a form of geometry and demonstration suitable for measurement.

H0yrup, by contrast, argued that Metrica is basically a


Instruments of Geometry

Hero does not just broaden the scope of geometrical demonstrative practice by including calculationand measurement, he also incorporates mechanical language and methods into geometrical investigations. An example of a change towards a more mechanical language is found in Hero's description of the Archimedean problem of finding the volume occupied by two cylinders inscribed in a sphere. If we compare the formulations of Archimedes and Hero, Hero 'pushes' or 'forces' (διωθέω)

28 Dioptra 280.16-284.10

29 H0yrup, 1996b, 15 η 32

30 Metrica 132.1-2,124.14-15

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Karin Tybjerg

the cylinders into the cube where Archimedes' cylinders are 'inscribed' in the cube. The term 'pushes' is one that Hero uses elsewhere in his treatises about mechanical parts of catapults or automatic theatres. 31 In this way, Hero makes an indirect statement that geometrical objects are physical in nature and can be treated accordingly. The introduction of mechanical methods in geometry is clearly seen when Hero extends his range of standard areas and volumes to include irregular (άτακτος) shapes, i.e., shapes that cannot be measured with standard geometrical methods. In direct continuation of his accounts of how to measure geometrically well-defined areas and volumes, Hero introduces methods for dealing with irregularfigures that appear highly surprising within the context of a geometrical treatise. Hero ensures, however, that the subject matter has an Archimedeanpedigree by ascrib- ing the discovery of irregular figures to Archimedes. Hero starts softly with a geometrical approximation for dealing with an irregular plane area. The curve is to be approximated with straight lines and the resulting polygon measured by dividing it into triangles. When Hero gets to the non-planar surfaces, however, geometry is rele- gated to the back seat. The surface of a statue may be measured, he explains, by covering its surface with small pieces of textile. The pieces are then taken off the statue and fitted into a square whose area is easily measured. 33 With equal disregard for the conventional methods of Euclidean-Archimedean geometry Hero suggests methods for measur- ing irregular volumes. 34 He first explainshow to determine the volume of smaller objects by submerging them into water and measuring the amount of water they displace. This method reinforces the connection between Archimedes and irregular bodies because it relates to the well- known story of how Archimedes exposed a craftsman, who tried to cheat his king by replacing some gold for a commissioned crown with cheaper metal. The resulting crown weighed the same as the original amount of


31 Artillery Construction 77.8; Pneumatics 78.14; Automaton Construction 24.3

32 Metrica 92.7-9 and 138.6-9. Heiberg took Hero's references as evidence that Ar- chimedes had written a treatise entitled Surfaces and Irregular Bodies, Heiberg,


33 Metric«90.4-23

34 Metrica 138.7-27

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Hero of Alexandria's Mechanical Geometry


gold, but Archimedes revealed the fraud by showing that it had a larger volume. 35 For objects with larger volumes Hero recommends the equally hands-on method of packing the object into a cube of wax that can easily be measured. The volume of the object is then the volume of this wax-square minus the volume of a square formed of the wax alone. What is surprising here is that Hero at no point remarks on the difference between the methods he employs in the regular and irregular cases. His main concern seems to be to provide a complete account since, as he emphasizes, it is necessary to include irregular volumes 'so that the material is in no way incomplete for those who wish to pursue them'. 36

We find a similar extension of the methods and objects of geometry in Mechanics, where Hero poses the problem of how to reduce or enlarge a given plane or solid with a given ratio. He concentrates on the unit plane and the unit solid (which, of course, we recognize as the unit of meas- urement introduced in the opening sections of the Metrica) and he introduces his survey with plane surfaces and volumes. Doubling a unit of area is a famous problem solved by Plato, Euclid and Vitruvius, but Hero treats it very cursorily and does not even supply a proof. 37 The problem does not seem to have his interest, and Hero uses it simply to present his own mechanicalgeometry as part of a systematic geometrical progression from the unit area to the irregular volume. Solving the problem of doubling of an area does not require any instruments either and these are — as will soon become clear — of central importance to Hero's geometry. Hero first introduces an instrument in his solution to the problem of the duplication of the cube, the problem of finding the length of the sides of a cube that is double the size of a known cube. This famously troublesome problem cannot be solved by ruler and compass, so it is necessary to employ methods that go beyond standard geometrical

35 Vitruvius On Architecture, 9.praef.9-12

36 Metrica 92.7-13

37 Plat o Meno 82b-5b; Eucli d VI.13; Vitruviu s On Architecture 9.3-4; Her o Mechanics 1.9

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practice. 38 Hero's solution consists of a Euclidean-Archimedean style proof, based on a diagram, but the construction of the diagram involves an instrument: a sliding ruler. Hero can, however, do this with some impunity, as he was not the first to use instruments in this context. Several earlier solutions to the problem by famous mathematicians such as Eratosthenes and Apollonius involved similar instruments, 39 and Hero is correspondingly upfront about his use of a mechanical device. He announces that he will 'show this with the aid of an instrument'. 40 He thus links the use of an instrument to a problem that was already part of the mathematical canon, but one that allowed for an instrumental solu- tion. Now Hero has an instrumental foot in the door, and he does not leave it at that. In the last sections — how to enlarge irregular planes and solids — Hero can freewheel into demonstrations where instruments play more central roles. After a geometric proof that similar plane figures exist, Hero launches into a proof of how to construct reduced or enlarged figures with an instrument:

Let us now prove, with the aid of an instrument, how to find for a given plane figure a similar one that is in a given ratio to it. Let us make two round discs (ac, ab), that are cogged regularly, around the same center (a),-


The proof of mathematical existence is thus seamlessly followed by the physical construction of the figures. Both are given the status of proof and again there is no indication of a change in subject matter. Likewise the diagrams that show the geometrical situations in the case of the geometrical proofs now represent the mechanical devices. The style of

38 The problem of the duplication of the cube can be reduced to finding two mean proportionals between the volumes of the cubes. If the relationship between the volumes of the original and the enlarged cubes are a b, then the length of the sides of the enlarged cube must be c, where a-c c:d · d.b.For a discussion of the problem see Heath, 1921, and Knorr, 1986

39 Eratosthenes' and Apollonius' solutions are described in Eutocius' On Archimedes' Sphere and Cylinder 88.3-96 27 and 64 15-66 7; Netz, 2004b, 278-9, 294-8.

40 Mechanics 111

41 Mechanics 1.15

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Hero of Alexandria's Mechanical Geometry


both the diagrams and the propositions, however, remains the same, thus blurring the boundary between mechanical and geometricalobjects. When Hero lastly addresses the problem of enlarging irregular solids the account is given completely over to a long and detailed description of how an irregular solid such as a statue might be copied using an instrument. There is no comparison between the space that Hero dedicates to regular and irregular figures in Mechanics. While Hero pays lip service to the doubling of the area and the cube — the problems that have occupied Euclidean-Archimedean mathematicians — it is the irregular cases that steal the show. The introductory sections on the plane area and the cube are essential, however, as they inscribe Hero's mechanical project into a geometric tradition.

Both in Mechanics and in Metrica we find Hero integrating instrumental and practical methods with problems associated with Euclidean-Ar- chimedean geometry. Hero's inclusion of practical methods has led scholars to classify Hero as a so-called 'practical mathematician'. Thomas Heath — the grand old man of ancient mathematics — stated that Hero aimed at 'practical utility rather than theoretical complete- ness.' 42 But considering what we have just seen it would be more correct to say that Hero prioritizes completeness over purity of method. In fact, Hero shows that instruments are necessary to provide a complete ac- count. Hero associates his work closely with the Euclidean-Archimedean tradition and takes his starting point in demonstrations derived from their work. This background makes it credible for Hero to draw on the authority of Archimedean demonstrations, but at the same time to extend the area of validity to include irregular figures measured with mechanical methods. We have seen how Hero makes this transition continuous. First in Metrica, where Hero employs an Archimedean method for measuring irregular volumes; and second in Mechanics, where Hero includes a famous mathematical problem for which instru- ments had been used before and thus legitimises further use of instru- ments.

42 Heath, 1921, Vol. II, 307

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The problem of the duplication of the cube was at the centre of a long-standing debate about the legitimacy of alternative methods: which is the lesser evil when it is necessary to move beyond the traditional methods based on ruler and compass? Solutions offered or criticized by different authors indicate various ways in which geometrical practice could be extended; 43 so when Hero offers his own solution he steps into

tradition where the fronts are already drawn up. The problem supposedly originated when an oracle told the people of Delos that they had to construct a new altar double the size of their existing one. Baffled by the problem they went to Plato for advice. But Plato —not famous for his practical advice — replied that the oracle was not concerned with the bigger altar;rather it wanted to shame the Greeks for their lack of mathematical knowledge and make them dedicate more time to the study of geometry. The incident is recounted by Eratosthenes (before Hero) and Plutarch (a generation after Hero), but their attitudes to the problem are very different. Eratosthenes does not include the part of the story concerning Plato's reply; he simply proceeds to comment on various solutions to the problem. He rejects Archytas' and Eudoxus' solutions and suggests instead a 'mechanical way' which he recommends for its ease. This method is, according to Eratosthenes, not just useful for enlarging altars, but also for sizing measurement vessels and for enlarging catapults and stone-throwers. Eratosthenes' presentation of the problem thus fits closely with Hero's interests: Hero investigates the measurement and enlargement of architectonic objects in Metrica and Mechanics and the enlargement of catapults is a central topic in his Artillery Construction,



43 See Cuomo, 2000,127-51, for an account of the history of the problem and an analysis

of how Pappus

the problem to support his own mathematical agenda in his Collection.

(early fourth century AD) uses the varied meanings associated with

44 Eratosthenes' account has not been preserved directly, but it is recounted by Theon

of Smyrna (fl. c. AD 115-140) in Aspects of Mathematics Useful for Reading Plato 2.3-12, and by Eutocius (sixth century AD) in On Archimedes' Sphere and Cylinder. Plutarch tells the story in Moralia 386E, 579Α-D and 718E-F.The story is also told by Vitruvius who refers to Archyta s solving it T^y a diagra m wit h cylinders' and Eratosthenes solving it 'by means of an instrument', On Architecture 9 praef.13-14 Vitruvius recounts the story in the same section that deals with the doubling of the square and the story of Archimedes and the gold crown. All but the last of these references

derive from Knorr, 1986, 3-4.

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Hero of Alexandria's Mechanical Geometry


which actually contains the full solution to the problem of duplicating the cube. 45 Byplacing his account and purpose so close to Eratosthenes', Hero indirectly uses the fact that a known mathematician produced an instrumental solution to a geometricalproblem and recommended it for its practicality, to take instrumentation further. Plutarch's Moralia puts a very different spin on the story. Plutarch distances himself from the whole idea of an applicable solution by emphasizing that the oracle was not concerned with the altar at all, but only with the study of geometry. Like Eratosthenes he criticizes Ar- chytas' and Eudoxus' solutions, but this time the criticism concerns the use of instruments. Plutarch finds instrumental methods unacceptable and derides them for abandoning reason in favour of whichever method works. 46 Plutarch's antipathy to instrumental method also surfaces in his Life ofMarcellus which describes Archimedes' mechanical achievements during the siege of Syracuse. Here Archimedes is praised for his mathe- matical and mechanical ability in defending the city, but Plutarch disas- sociates him from mechanics by saying that he thought it too vulgar and tainted by the needs of life to be the subject of a treatise. 47 Here, Plutarch also comments on the use of instruments:

For this admired and famous art of instrumentation was first got moving by the followers of Archytas and Eudoxus: they embellished (ποικίλλοντες) geometry with subtleties (γλαφυρω) and used it as sup- port for problems where there was no ready proof by argument and diagram by means of perceptible and instrumental examples. For

instance the problem of finding two mean proportional lines, a neces- sary element for many diagrams, both mathematicians reduced to

instrumental constructions

, 4 *

45 Artillery Construction 117-19

46 Plutarch Moralia 718E

47 Plutarch Life ofMarcellus ΧΥΠ.4

48 Plutarch Life of Marcellus XIV.5: Την γαρ άγαπωμένην ταύτην και περιβόητον όργανικην ήρξαντο μεν κινεϊν ο'ι περί Εϋδοξον και Αρχύταν, ποικίλλοντες τω γλαφυρω γεωμετρίαν, και λογικής και γραμμικής αποδείξεως ουκ εύποροΰντα προβλήματα δΓ

αισθητών και οργανικών παραδειγμάτων ύπερείδοντες, ως το περί δύο

πρόβλημα και στοιχεϊον επί πολλά των γραφομένων άναγκαΐον εις όργανικάς έξήγον

αμφότεροι κατασκευάς,

μέσας ανά λόγον

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Plutarch criticizes the use of instruments even for the problem of the duplication of the cube (=finding two mean proportionals) which cannot be solved through traditional arguments and diagrams.Tellingly, how- ever, Plutarch's terms of abuse are the same as Hero uses to describe his machines and methods. In Hero's work a term such as 'various' or 'embellished' (ποκίλος) expresses qualities of mechanical inventions, and in the Automaton Construction 'the most subtle (γλαφυρωτάτη) ar- rangement' is presented as something to strive for. 49 Living just a generation after Hero, it could well be Hero and likeminded authors at whom Plutarch lashes out with his contempt for instrumental methods. Plutarch may be taken as evidence of the success of Hero's project since he denotes the methods 'admired and famous'. Furthermore Plutarch's virulent attempt to disassociate Archimedes from mechanicaland instrumental methods indicates that Hero or others were successful in giving instrumental methods the Archimedean stamp of approval.

Geometrized Devices

We have now shown how Hero places instrumental solutions on an equal footing with Archimedean-style geometricproofs and makes prac- tical methods and instruments an integral part of a complete geometry. Now we consider how Hero incorporates geometry into the description of mechanical devices. In his Dioptra Hero does not distinguish between physical and geo- metric space. The problems are presented in a similar vein to Metrica, as problems pertaining to specific numerical examples, but Hero reminds the reader of their physical provenance by giving the measures in actual units such as feet or ells. Although the problems considered clearly deal with a physical landscape that includes growth, harbours, rivers and tunnels, they are presented as geometrical propositions. Problems are introduced with standard formulae such as 'Let the given points be A and B',but while the 'given' is usually a point, circle segment or the like, it might also be a trench. When the lettered points have a physical

49 'Varied', ποκίλος, Pneumatics 2.18, 28.14, and Automaton Construction338.4, 342.6,

404.15; 'subtle', γλαφυρός, Automaton Construction 410 21-2.

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Hero of Alexandria's Mechanical Geometry


condition attached, for instance that they cannot be accessed or observed, this is simply included in the geometrical presentation. 50 The dioptra itself is also presented as a geometrical object with phrases such as 'let the dioptra be constructed', or 'stood up' or 'set up' 51 and Hero refers to 'demonstrations' (άπόδειξιςand δεΐξις) involving and concerning instru- ments. 52 The space in which Hero solves problems with the dioptra is thus simultaneously a geometrical and a physical space and at times the problems seem to be more concerned with covering all the geometrical possibilities than with practical application. Hero, for instance, shows how the outline of a harbour can be drawn not only in the shape of a circular segment but also in an elliptical, parabolic, hyperbolic or any other shape we may choose! 53 These possibilities seem to be motivated

by a desire to give a geometrically complete account in the same vein as discussed in the case of Metrica, but without losing the appeal to practical consequence. Hero aims to satisfy both practical and geometrical re- quirements. Similarly Hero translates a practical motivation into a geometrical problem when he explains the importance of finding a straight line early on in Dioptra. To 'escape cost' he will demonstrate how to find the straight line between two points 'for this is the shortest of all lines that

have the same end-point.'

The latter part of this statement is almost

word for word the definition that Archimedes gives of the straight line in his On the Sphere and the Cylinder. 55 Thus the pragmatics of finding the cheapest construction is directly linked to a central definition of Ar-


50 Dioptra 214.18-19,218.20-2

51 214.21-2 (


και κατεσκευάσθω ή διόπτρα


222.21-2 (και καθεστάσθω ή



234.25 (κείσθω δη ή διόπτρα).


52 Dioptra 214.11 (proof of how the

straight line is found using the dioptra), 286.21 and

23 (uses of the dioptra have been proved), 290.13 (demonstrates the working of the 'star'), 298.28 (the working of the road measurer has been shown) and 308.19-20 (reference to the proofs of the simple powers i.e the pulley,screw, windlass, lever and wedge).

53 Dioptra 246.10-14

54 Dioptra 214.12-14

55 Dioptra 214.13-14, Archimedes On the Sphere and the Cylinder 8.2-3

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chimedean geometry. Hero thus blurs notions of geometricaland physi- cal space, mechanical and geometricalobjects, practical and geometrical concerns. In general purely geometrical demonstrationsare moved to the back- ground in the Dioptra. The treatise contains just three geometrical proofs, including a version of the proof of 'Hero's formula' that is also found in Metrical But where the proofs took the centre stage in Metrica they are presented as an aside in Dioptra. Hero first solves the problem of meas- uring land with the dioptra and offers demonstrations of the geometrical relations he used only afterwards. The geometricalproofs are treated like lemmas to the practicalproblems of land measurement.In this way, Hero presents Dioptra as geometrically based, but makes pure geometry aux- iliary to the geometrical work done with the dioptra.

Hero also uses the ambiguity of geometrical language to geometrize

mechanics. The term 'to construct' (κατασκευάζω), for instance, is com- mon in geometrical language, where it usually refers to the construction of the diagram. It can, however, also mean 'to furnish' or 'make'. In Catoptrics — a treatise concerning reflection in mirrors — Hero begins with a geometrical section where he proves the path of reflection for mirrorsof different shapes. He begins these propositions in standard geometrical

When he

style with 'Let there be', for example, 'a plane mirror ab'.

moves onto more complex mirrors — which he also describes how to manufacture — he changes to a terminology of construction, for instance:

To construct a mirror that shows the right on the right'. 58 Here, Hero uses the range of meaning of the term 'construct' to move inconspicuously from

geometrical demonstrations to the construction of mirrors. In Catoptrics Hero again combinesa Euclidean-Archimedean tradition with a project centred on mechanics. Many of the proofs and types of mirrors that Hero describes are also included in the Pseudo-Euclidean Catoptrics, which offers an axiomatic-deductive treatment of reflection in mirrors. 59 But if we compare the example of the mirror that shows the


56 Dioptra 276.5, 274.14,268.10

57 Catoptrics 326.3: Sit enim speculum planum ab, Greek έστω.

58 Catoptrics 336.12: Speculum dextrum construere See also 342.6,346.1,348.1.

'Sit' is here equivalent to the

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Hero of Alexandria's Mechanical Geometry


right on the right, Pseudo-Euclid does not, like Hero, describe the actual construction of the mirror. Where Hero advises his reader to use Corin- thian bronze, Pseudo-Euclid merely affirms the possibility that such a mirror can be constructed in the opening of the proposition: 'It is possible

to construct

treatises describe the same example are underscored by Hero's inclusion

of an account of how mirrors are manufactured. By describing in detail how to polish up a surface in order to make it reflective he makes the

material foundation of catoptrics evident. By the

some of the geometrical proofs and thereby shifts the focus from geome- try towards physical devices.

' about

different cases he does not draw on a standard distinction in geometrical vocabulary. Bringing geometrical entities into existence and construct- ing geometrical objects are both common ways of proceeding in a geometrical proposition. Hero uses the term 'construction' to merge geometry and mechanics. He simultaneously constructs a diagram that is the site of the geometrical proof and a working device that can produce certain effects. He thus again combines the rigour of geometrical dem- onstration with practical expertise.

same token he excludes

Λ 60 These subtle differences in the cases where both

When Hero uses the phrases 'let there be' and 'to construct

The diagrams in the best manuscript edition of Catoptrics support the geometrical style of the propositions, even where Hero is dealing with mechanical devices such as a window mirror. They resemble the lettered diagrams of geometrical treatises and represent mirrors and visual rays simply as lines. In the modern editions of Hero's work this aspect of the diagrams is underplayed and the reproductions of the diagrams have tended to picture the device rather than just the geo- metrical situation. 61

59 On the similarity of propositions and interests between Hero's and Pseudo-Euclid's Catoptrics, see Heiberg, 1925, 78 n 2; Lejeune, 1957, 137-42; and Knorr, 1994, 70-8. Lejeune argued that the Pseudo-Euclidean Catoptrics is a compilation made after Hero's Catoptrics, with the subtext that Euclidean formalisation constitutes 'im- provement', Knorr rejected this view and showed how Hero clarified and added to his source.

60 Pseudo-Euclid Catoptrics 338.7-11

61 See Nix and Schmidt edition of Catoptrics, which appends an image from the

manuscript page (Wilhelmvon Moerbeke's


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Karin Tybjerg

The majority of Hero's diagrams occupy this uncertain position be- tween geometrical diagram and illustration. Hero follows the conven- tions of the geometrical lettered diagram,but the surfaces of devices are often drawn with thicker lines and ropes on lifting devices are included in the diagrams. They do not however depict the machines as they would appear. The diagrams focus on elements that are important for the working of the devices and enlarge the parts that are relevant to their function. 62 In this way mechanical diagrams are analogous to geometri- cal diagrams, which do not depict quantitative relations either, but rather 'qualitative' geometrical relations. Hero's diagrams simultaneously act as a geometrical diagram where the diagram is the object manipulated and a technical illustration that represents the object. In this way Hero's diagrams bear out the same ambiguity as his geometrical mechanics.

The tendency to geometrize devices is also evident in the treatises where geometry plays a lesser role, such as Pneumatics and AutomatonConstruc- tion. The descriptions of mechanical devices in Pneumatics resemble geometrical propositions both in language and in structure. Each de- scription consists of a presentation of the problem, the construction of the device aided by a lettered diagram, and an account of the functioning of the device in lieu of the actual geometrical demonstration. Moreover, parts of the devices are often described as geometrical objects such as spheres, cylinders or parallellopipeds. 63 Lastly, the development of devices in the course of the treatise can be seen as parallel to the development of geometrical propositions. In the preamble to the description of the clepsydra, which is the first device in Pneumatics, Hero writes that he will begin with the smaller devices because these are 'elemental'. 64 The term used here is the same as is used in the title of Euclid's Elements and when Apollonius denotes the first books of Conies as elementary. 65 Hero thus indicates that his descriptions of mechanical devices constitute a geometry of machines where simple machines are combined systematically to produce more complex ones.

62 Shickelberger, 1994

63 E.g., Pneumatics 70.13 and 120 4-5.

64 Pneumatics56.12-16

65 Apollonius of Perga Conies 4.1

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Hero of Alexandria's Mechanical Geometry


By the same token Hero writes in the introduction to Pneumatics how different arrangements can be made by 'combining three or four ele- ments', 66 thus linking his account to systematic works of geometry or physics.

Geometry and Expert Knowledge

I have now discussed how Hero's demonstrative practices constitute an amalgam of the rigour and demonstrability of geometry with the skill and expertise of mechanics. In this last section I want to briefly consider the link between the claims that Hero makes in his introductions that his work is 'useful' and the geometrization of mechanics. In the introduction to Dioptra Hero gives a long list of applications of the device, which range from aqueduct-construction to measuring areas occupied by enemies or featuring natural obstacles such as currents that 'can suck you down.' Lastly, and rather surprisingly, Hero gives an example of how the dioptra can be used in a military attack on a city. Hero writes that

many who attempt a siege construct ladders or siege-machines, which are smaller than is needed, and, when they attackthe walls, bring themselves under the control of their enemies, having miscalculated the measurements of the wall because they were not acquainted with the study of the dioptra. For one must always measure the interval mentioned above carefully while being outside shooting range. 67

This is not an obvious use of a surveying instrument, but it does allow Hero to connect the dioptra's measurements powerfully to issues of

66 Pneumatics 2.14-16

67 Dioptra 190.10-21: πολλάκις γαρ έμποδών ϊσταταί τιείργον ήμας της προθέσεως, ήτοι δια πολεμίων προκατάληψιν ή δια το άπρόσιτον και άβατον είναι τον τόπον παρε- πομένου τινός ιδιώματος φυσικού ή ρεύματος οξέα ύποσύροντος. πολλοί γοΰν πολιορ- κεϊν έπιχειοϋντες κλίμακας ή μηχανήματα κατασκευασάμενοι ελάσσονα ων χρή και προσα<γα>γόμενοι τοις τείχεσιν υποχείριους εαυτούς παρέσχον τοις άντιπάλοις παραλογισθέντες τη αναμετρήσει των τειχών δια το απείρους είναι της διοπτρικης

πραγματείας, αΐεΐγαρ εκτός οντάς βέλους άναμετρεϊν δει τα προειρημένα διαστήματα.

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military control and security. If no proper measurementsare taken and the siege-ladders are too short the enemy might gain the upper hand. If we now consider the Dioptra as a whole, it becomes clear that Hero appeals to a generalised demand for control over external conditions, which he links to making measurements with the dioprra. Measurement

is the key to avoiding mistakes and to remaining in control of the projects

undertaken. In one problem, Hero, for instance, shows how to replace the boundary stones that mark property after a flood. 68 Although Hero

gives no reason for including this example, it is perhaps significant that

it relates to reinstating property-markers and thereby maintaining social

order. Later in the treatise Hero deals with the problem of how to dig a tunnel in a straight line through a mountain. 69 He gives directions for determining the starting point at either end, such that the workers will meet in the middle. From other sources we know that failing to meet in the middle was a real danger. An inscription from the second century tells us about a tunnel project where the working teams missed each other because T^oth the tunnels deviated from the straight line'. 70 Both Hero and the inscription formulate the problem of constructing

a tunnel in terms of determining a straight line, and, in general, straight

lines are presented in Dioptra as a means to control the environment with mechanical and geometrical expertise. Finding the straight line between two points is one of the first problems that Hero treats in Dioptra, but he

remarks that it is not always easy to draw the shortest line between two points as hindrances such as mountains or unhealthy swamps must be negotiated. 71 Hero describes these hindrances in a military vocabulary. We hear for instance how the hindrances 'fall upon' the straight line and cost 'must be escaped'. This control of both the physical and political environment by build- ing tunnels, replacing property markers and drawing straight lines for aqueducts is closely related to the geomerrisation of the landscape that

I considered earlier. To regard the landscape as a geometrical space is

68 Dioptra 268.17-272.15

69 Dioptra 238.3-240 27

70 Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum VIII.2728. See translation in White, 1984, 215.

71 Dioptra 214.1-17

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Hero of Alexandria's Mechanical Geometry


not only a convenient way to measure it, it is also a way to control it and to deal with military and environmental dangers.

Turning back to Metrica, Hero describes, in the introduction to the third book, how geometry improves current methods of measuring and divid- ing land. Land is, according to Hero, normally divided such that greater peoples get more land and smaller peoples get smaller parts. Also people with a talent for leadership get big cities while smaller minds are left with tiny villages. Hero, however, rejects this method of distribution and he suggests that division of land is better done geometrically.He writes,

the proportions were estimated in a relatively rough

and lazy manner. If someone really wants to divide areas according to a given proportion, so that not a single grain, so to speak, exceeds or is left over from the given ratio, then only geometry is required. In geometry the fit is fair, justice lies in proportion and the proof (άπόδει- ξις) concerning these things is indisputable; this no other art or science

But in these cases

can promise. 72

Here, we see how Hero combines the practical relevance of measurement with the status, precision and especially the demonstrative powers of geometry. It is the indisputability of geometry that makes it superior for measuring and dividing land. And the fact that we are dealing with the highly political and social issue of dividing land means that Hero can associate geometry with ethical values such as justice and fairness. In this way, Hero's extended concept of demonstration allows for a broader claim to expertise.

72 Metrica 140.16-142.2: άλλα τα με ν παχυμερεστέραν πως καΐ άργοτέραν εϊληφε την άναλογίαν · ει δε τιςβούλοιτο κατά τον δοθέντα λόγον διαιρεΐν τα χωρία, ώστε μηδέ ως ειπείν κέγχρον μίαν της αναλογίας ΰπερβάλλειν ή έλλείπειν του δοθέντος λόγου, μόνης

προσδεήσεται γεωμετρίας· εν ή εφαρμογή μεν

περί τούτων άπόδειξις αναμφισβήτητος, όπερ των αλλων τεχνών ή επιστημών ουδεμία


ίση, τη δε αναλόγιο: δικαιοσύνη, ή δε

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Hero adapts Euclidean-Archimedean demonstrations and methods to produce a more mechanical and practical geometry. Machines and meas- urement are integrated into geometry and Hero presents his material with seamless transitions from geometricalto mechanical tools and from geometrical to mechanical objects. Neither diagram nor formal presen- tation allows the reader to set the geometrical apart from the mechanical. This is the aim of Hero's Mechanical Geometry. Hero creates an authoritative foundation for his geometry by casting his mechanics in a geometrical form and extending the concept of demonstration to include instrumental proofs. He associates his demon- strations with the incontrovertibility of the Archimedean proof and is thereby able to present mechanics as a theoretical discipline based on demonstration. But Hero's mechanical geometry has a larger area of validity than traditional Euclidean-Archimedean geometry as he also includes areas such as irregular figures. Moreover Hero vastly extends the power of geometry in social and practical contexts and he blurs the boundary between professional mathematics and geometry that is often used to degrade practical skill relative to theory. By presenting problems of land measurement and siege war as susceptible to geometrical methods, Hero's geometry of machines combines the authority of geometrical demonstration with the power of practical consequence.



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Hero of Alexandria's Mechanical Geometry


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