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Article

Ancient Greek Mathēmata from a Sociological Perspective: A Quantitative Analysis

Zhmud L., Kouprianov A. V.

This essay examines the quantitative aspects of Greco-Roman science, represented by a group of established disciplines that since the fourth century b.c.e. had been called mathēmata or mathēmatikai epistēmai. Among the mathēmata, which in antiquity normally comprised mathematics, mathematical astronomy, harmonics, mechanics, and optics, the essay also includes geography. Using a data set based on The Encyclopaedia of Ancient Natural Scientists, it considers a community of mathēmatikoi (as they called themselves), or ancient scientists (as they are defined for the purposes of this essay), from a sociological point of view, focusing on the size of the scientific population known to us and its disciplinary, temporal, and geographical distribution. A diachronic comparison of neighboring and partly overlapping communities—ancient scientists and philosophers—allows the pattern of their interrelationship to be traced. An examination of centers of science throughout ancient history reveals that there were five major sites—Athens, Alexandria, Rhodes, Rome, and Byzantium/Constantinople—that appeared, in succession, as leaders. These conclusions serve to reopen the issue of the place of mathēmata and mathēmatikoi in ancient society.