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Discussion 4 to Meditation 13
Ancient Greek Knowledge

by JT

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Peter:

Thank you for your message. However, your comments are quite debatable.

Eratosthenes' (of Alexandria in Egypt, - not ancient Greece) calculation of the circumference of the world was made two centuries after Plato's time, and was based on several false assumptions, and only accurately determined that the distance from Syrene to Alexandria was about 1/50th of the earth's circumference. However, he did not know what that distance was (accurate distant surface measurement was not available - distance was measured in days of travel and the number of "stadia" was only an estimate.) The claims that he got the circumference correct are based on a faulty conversion of stadia to kilometers. (For a more detailed discussion of this "calculation", consult Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers (Chapter 13) by Jan Gullberg.)

To claim the majority of Greeks of Plato's time believed the earth was round is highly questionable, particularly as a significant proportion were were uneducated slaves or serfs. And by no means did the majority live in port cities, or understand the significance of masts disappearing at the horizon. Yes, some early Greek philosophers suggested the earth was round, also Aristarchus - a century after Plato's time - suggested a heliocentric Universe, and we can also find Democritus (who lived at about the same time as Plato) suggesting matter is made of atoms. But, the fact that these ideas were initially expressed at that time does not indicate they were accepted and became the majority view.

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