History of the Sciences in Greco-Roman Antiquity

By Arnold Reymond; Ruth Gheury De Bray | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER III
THE GRECO-ROMAN PERIOD (From the Christian Era to the Sixth Century A.D.)

THE Roman Empire once established, Greek science was able to spread throughout the civilized world; it remained, however, foreign to the Western mind, while in the East it made some progress or remained stationary, before falling into decadence.


1. THE ROMANS AND SCIENCE

The Romans, owing to their essentially practical and political turn of mind, had little appreciation of pure science. They even despised it, and Cicero praises them because, thanks to the gods, they were not like the Greeks, and knew how to limit the study of mathematics to utilitarian purposes ( Tusculanae, 1, 2). The mathematical rudiments of which the Roman surveyors had need were borrowed from Greek writings in such a way as to enable them to be used in practice without the aid of theoretical knowledge. When need arose, specialists were called from Alexandria and shown the measurements to be made. It must have been in this way that Agrippa carried out the cadastral survey of the empire.1 The fragments which appear in the mathematical compendiums are very poor. MARTIANUS CAPELLA (about 400 A.D.) published a work of bad taste, entitled The Marriage of Mercury and Philosophy, which was held in high

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1
15 Heiberg, Naturwiss., p. 73et seq.

-92-

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