The Infinite in the Finite

By Alistair Macintosh Wilson | Go to book overview

11
AN ISLAND INTERLUDE

Of all the islands of the Cyclades, Opalos is the most remote and the most beautiful. This is the land of the peaceful King Thallos. Do not think to find it on the map, stranger, for it is far too small to be shown. But the friendly dolphins know their way there, down the highways of the fishes.

The island is mountainous and well wooded, but near its centre lie flat and verdant pastures. Here graze the abundant herds of fat cattle that are the pride of the Opalans, and the basis of their fame.

It was the day of the race. The capital was crowded with country folk eager to see the contest, shouting across the streets to one another in their coarse accents, always asking the same question: 'Is it true? The princess will race with the men?'

The race was to be held on the great field in front of the palace, site of the annual games dedicated to the gentle Eulitheia, patron goddess of the island. These games consisted of the two classic foot races, the wrestling, the lifting of heavy stones, and the throwing of the discus and the graceful javelin.

As the riders lined up, a murmur ran through the crowd. It was true! There was the princess in the front line, mounted on her great stallion Achilles, brought from the heart of Argos, where the horses graze.

The old country wives clicked their tongues. King's daughters did not race with the men when they were girls. But the young maidens were proud of the princess, and hoped secretly that she would win.

The crowd fell silent. The riders were under starter's orders, and they were away. The race was to the great oak sacred to Zeus at the end of the field, and back again. The princess rode tucked into the middle of the pack, Achilles moving easily.

As they turned the oak, a sigh rose from the princess's friends. She fell behind. Had she been fouled? But no. Flattening herself to her mount's back she whispered into the stallion's ear 'Now Achilles, do what we practised-- Now!' Imperceptibly lengthening his stride Achilles passed the stragglers, closing back on the pack. But would he catch the leader? Bets rang out in the crowd: 'Ten talents say she will win!', 'Twenty says she will not!' Finally there was only one rider ahead of the princess. Her hair held out by the

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The Infinite in the Finite
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • 1 - Symphonies of Stone 1
  • 2 - The Pyramid Builders 19
  • 3 - The Theban Mysteries 42
  • 4 - Babylon 53
  • 5 - The Middle Kingdom 72
  • 6 - The Achaeans 105
  • 7 - A World Made of Numbers 112
  • 8 - The Thoughts of Zeus 132
  • 9 - The Philosopher's Criticism 163
  • 10 - The Elements of Euclid 206
  • 11 - An Island Interlude 239
  • 12 - Proportion 252
  • 13 - The Divine Archimedes 278
  • 14 - Apollonius the Great Geometer 324
  • 15 - The Science of Numbers 366
  • 16 - The School of Alexandria 388
  • 17 - The Dark Sub­ Continent of India 426
  • 18 - The Contribution of Islam 461
  • Bibliography 509
  • Index 515
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