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Duane W. Roller

Greek polymath most noted for his calculation of the circumference of the earth and his invention of the discipline of geography, was born in Cyrene in modern Libya, an outpost of Greek culture; he was exposed early to exotic contacts at the end of the Greek world. Nothing is known about his youth, but by the 260s BCE he was studying in Athens, primarily with the founder of Stoicism, Zeno of Citium, and Arcesilaus of Pitane, the director of the Academy. He was also a close associate of the mathematician Archimedes, who dedicated at least one work to him. Eratosthenes was thus trained in the wide variety of thought that Hellenistic Athens offered, and his early writings demonstrate his ability in philosophy, philology, and mathematics. But there are few details about the nearly twenty years that he spent in the city.

In 246 BCE the new Ptolemaic king Ptolemy III ...

Article

Russell Hopley

geographer, was born in the Moroccan city of Sabta (present-day Ceuta). Al-Sharif al-Idrisi completed his early education in Cordoba and subsequently spent time in Malaga, an Andalusian city that had been ruled by the Banu Hammud, a family of Arab noblemen descended from the Prophet. Idrisi's grandfather had been the final Arab ruler of Malaga, and the family's fortunes suffered considerably following the Almoravid occupation of Islamic Spain, an event that proved central in determining the course of Idrisi's life.

Idrisi's stay in Malaga appears to have been cut short by the political turmoil that marked the final decade of Almoravid rule in Andalusia, and he next appears in Palermo, Sicily, in 1139, where he was given sanctuary at the Norman court of Roger II Idrisi would spend the following two decades at the Norman court in Sicily and it was there that he composed the monumental ...

Article

Michael A. B. Deakin

mathematician, astronomer, and geographer, was the principal figure of the “silver age” of ancient Greek mathematics. Little is known of his life; what the sources tell us is contradictory and unreliable. The little we do know reliably is gleaned rather from what survives of his writing. His principal work, at least in what has survived, is the Synagoge or Collection, and even this has not reached us in its entirety. It is described as having comprised eight books, of which the first and part of the second are missing. The only other work of his that survives in the original Greek (and that only in part) is a commentary on Ptolemy’s Almagest. Beyond these are works in other languages that are thought to be translations of originals by him. An Arabic commentary on Book X of Euclid’s Elements may be a translation of a work he is ...

Article

Ptolemy  

Prudence Jones

was an ancient Alexandrian astronomer geographer and philosopher Almost nothing is known about the life of Claudius Ptolemy or as he would have called himself Claudius Ptolemaeus From astronomical observations he made in Alexandria we know he was active between 127 and 141 CE As a scientist in Alexandria he was probably connected with the Library of Alexandria His name indicates that he was a Roman citizen and that citizenship was probably conferred upon him or upon one of his ancestors by someone named Claudius perhaps even the emperor Claudius He shares the name Ptolemy with the rulers of the Ptolemaic dynasty which controlled Egypt from 323 to 30 BCE although there is no evidence that he was related to that family The name Ptolemaeus could indicate that he was born in the Egyptian city of Ptolemais but it is not known whether he was born there or at Alexandria ...

Article

Strabo  

Daniela Dueck

Hellenistic geographer and historian, of Amasia, Pontus, was born and raised in Amasia in northern Asia Minor and educated by renowned Hellenistic Asian teachers. His ancestors on his mother’s side were companions of the kings of Pontus but supported the Romans during the Mithridatic War. In his adult life Strabo visited and lived in Rome, Alexandria, Nysa, and possibly Smyrna and Athens. In Rome (in 44 and 29 BCE) he met and socialized with Roman notables and Greek intellectuals. In 25 BCE he traveled to Egypt with Aelius Gallus the Roman governor. He probably got as far as many other regions in the world, more than he expressly reveals. After writing earlier historiographical work(s), Strabo composed his Geography sometime between 18 and 23 CE and died in Rome or, less likely, in Asia Minor.

His works included (1) History a survey of events at least from the time of ...

Article

Christine D. Baker

early Islamic historian and geographer, was born in Baghdad in the ninth century. Although commonly known as al-Yaʿqubi, his full name was Abu al-ʿAbbas Ahmad ibn Abi Yaʿqub ibn Jaʿfar ibn Wahb ibn Wadih. Little is known of his birth, early history, family, or background. He was a bureaucrat, trained as a katib, a member of the secretarial class, in Baghdad. He is believed to have been raised in Armenia. He later served under the Tahirids, a Persian dynasty of governors of Khurasan who served the Abbasid caliphate, before settling in Egypt. His precise date of death is uncertain.

Although not much detail is known about his life, al-Yaʿqubi is recognized for his historical writings, which are known for eschewing some of the dominant historiographic trends of the time. They are an example of an early proto-Shiʿi perspective on Islamic history. Three of his works survive, the Taʾrikh al-Yaʿqubi ...