Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Philosophy, Science and the Sciences

Sara Panteri

Sara PanteriThesis: Eratosthenes’ mathematical and philosophical testimonia and fragmenta

The main purpose of my research is providing an edition, with translation and commentary, of Eratosthenes’ testimonia and fragmenta concerning Mathematics and Philosophy. Collecting all the references to Eratosthenes’ mathematical and philosophical activity will allow us to place the scientist of Cyrene within the context of the Alexandrian scientific community.

In particular, I will deal with Platonicus, a dialogue or a commentary focused on Platonic Philosophy and ascribed to Eratosthenes by Theon of Smyrna in his Expositio rerum mathematicarum ad legendum Platonem utilium. As the title of this work suggests, the philosophical activity of the scholar of Cyrene should be contextualized first of all in reference to Platonic philosophy. This kind of research could possibly clarify how Platonic philosophy was assimilated in the Hellenistic period.

Concerning the role of Eratosthenes as mathematician, I will focus on three main topics, which have also philosophical implications.

First of all, I will work on the problem of doubling the cube since one of the solutions given to this problem is attributed to the scholar of Cyrene both by Eutocius and by Pappus. According to these testimonies, Eratosthenes invented an instrument, the mesolabus, by means of which it was possible to find out two mean proportional segments between two given segments.

Furthermore, the theme of prime numbers deserves particular attention. According to Nicomachus, in fact, Eratosthenes invented an easy method, the so-called koskinon, in order to find them. I am extremely interested in how this method actually works.

Finally, in the seventh book of his Collectio Pappus attributes to Eratosthenes a treatise entitled De medietatibus. If Pappus’ statement is true, Eratosthenes would have introduced a new definition of locus in reference to means.

In conclusion, my research has as a reference point the fragments of Eratosthenes but commenting on them will allow me to investigate cases of reciprocal influences between Mathematics and Philosophy in the Hellenistic period.



PhD in Classical Philology at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin


University of Bologna, School of Arts, Humanities and Cultural Heritage - MA in Classical Philology (110/110 cum laude)


University of Bologna, Faculty of Art and Philosophy - BA in Classics (110/110 cum laude)