Ancient Greek Mathēmata from a Sociological Perspective: A Quantitative Analysis

Isis 109 (3):445-472 (2018)
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This essay examines the quantitative aspects of Greco-Roman science, represented by a group of established disci¬plines, which since the fourth century BC were called mathēmata or mathē¬ma¬tikai epistē¬mai. In the group of mathēmata that in Antiquity normally comprised mathematics, mathematical astronomy, harmonics, mechanics and optics, we have also included geography. Using a dataset based on The Encyclopaedia of Ancient Natural Scientists, our essay considers a community of mathēmatikoi (as they called themselves), or ancient scientists (as they are defined for the purposes of the present paper) 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 centers – Athens, Alexandria, Rhodes, Rome and Byzantium/Constantinople – that appear and replace one another in succession as leaders. These conclusions serve to reopen the issue of the place of mathēmata and mathēmatikoi in ancient society.
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