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by Archaeology Newsroom

The Approach to π in the Homeric Epics

According to the conclusions of the research on numbers in the Homeric epics, they have been mainly used in order to reinforce the poetic-literary aesthetics. This happens because numbers in these studies are approached individually and the theory of music as a comparative method has altogether been ignored, although it was crystallized in the classical period and its fundamental principles had appeared long before the Homeric poems. Therefore, if we examine numbers in the epics using the theory of music, we also find out the opposite: the poetic text functions as canvas embellished with “announcements” of mathematical content. On the basis of the information “On favorable and unfavorable numbers” that Greek Literature supplies, we establish in this article that the ratios of a series of individual numbers or their combinations seem to have a similar function in the epics. Thus, the numbers 11 and 17 are considered to have a disagreeable influence, as also in the classical age. The number 22 (2X11), one of the derived numbers, in relation with the number 7 appears as a “mathematical figuration”. In this way the ratio 22/7 is interpreted as circumference/diameter, which is considered as the Greek approach to π. It should be noted that all the historians of mathematics refer to this approach, but they do not know when it was invented. Finally, it should be also added that the ratio 222/7 (=3.1428……) is much superior to the other two approaches to π dating from the second millennium B.C., namely that of the Babylonians, 3 1/8 (=3.126), and that of the Egyptians, 256/81( =3.1605).