Is It True, Not or Just a Crock (#15)?

ErosthenesEratosthenes of Cyrene was born in what is modern-day Libya and became well known as a mathematician, poet, athlete, geographer and astronomer. He was hand-picked by Ptolemy in 236 BC to succeed Apollonius Rhodius as chief Librarian of the Alexandrian Library, the main repository of art, science and philosophy of the ancient world. He was also nicknamed Beta by his contemporaries because he was always considered second in everything he did.

In the very first Olympic marathon, he lost by a nose to Apollonius, although he calculated the circumference of Earth designing the longitude and latitude system long before Earth was thought to be round. He measured the distance of the planet to the Sun creating Feb 29th, the one day appearing every fourth cycle that makes up for those extra six hours each year that still leaves February as the shortest month.

When Apollonius’ Argonautica, the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece, became far more popular than Eratosthenes’ On Circular Motion And The Celestial Bodies – the basis for modern day Astrophysics, a somewhat provocative work that also inspired Newton, centuries later to develop his theories on Gravity.

The two greatest influences on Eratosthenes was his friend Archimedes who calculated the weight of objects and water displacement. However he was openly critical of Aristotle’s separation of humanity by Greeks and everyone else who he termed “barbarians.” He was the first to coin the term, chauvinistic pig, arguing that Aristotle’s call to keep Greeks racially pure was inciting them to enslave other peoples.

His student was Sima Qian, son of Sima Tan, Grand Scribe of Emperor Wu, the man who wrote the first comprehensive history of ancient China, an interesting life and a sweeping tale of fate and choice in the political reality of ancient China.