The Infinite in the Finite

By Alistair Macintosh Wilson | Go to book overview

6
THE ACHAEANS

About 2000 BC, a branch of the Indo-European or Aryan people was forced southward into what is now Greece. These invaders were later called the Achaeans. Their greatest poet, Homer, called them the Danaans or the Argives. They were to give the world the modern form of mathematics.

The Achaeans were probably fairer skinned than the tribes living along the side of the Aegean sea, whom they conquered and merged with. Like the Shang, they fought on foot and from horseback, their greatest pleasures being fighting and hunting. They were great breeders and trainers of horses. When they finally settled, the Achaeans lived in houses which consisted of long rectangular rooms, with side walls projecting to form a shallow porch.

At the same time as the northern invaders were diffusing down the Greek peninsula, the original Aegean people were making the transition to civilization.

In Crete, around 1900 BC, royal families began to emerge, ruling over small kingdoms. Foremost amongst these Minoan kingdoms, was Knossos near present day Heraklion in north central Crete. The Cretans had become skilful seafarers, trading with Cyprus and Egypt. They had developed a complicated form of writing, which we still can't decipher, known as Linear A.

The Minoans, like most of the other Aegean peoples, worshipped the Great Goddess--the Universal Mother--who was always depicted bare- breasted, holding a serpent, the symbol of fertility, in each hand. The Cretan women dressed in the same style, creating high fashion, with elegant gowns and head-dresses set off by gold ornaments. They loved to dance.

Around 1700 BC, the palace at Knossos was destroyed by an earthquake. It was rebuilt displaying the labrys, or double-headed axe, symbol of the Great Goddess.

As well as dancing, the Minoans had another way of amusing themselves, and a dangerous one at that--the bull game. This seems to have been something like the present-day bull run at Pomplona, Spain, where wild bulls are set free in the city streets, and the young men show their machismo by running amongst them. The Cretan bull game involved leaping over charging bulls by boy and girl acrobats. The game could be played in an

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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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