People - Ancient Greece: Theon of Smyrna
Greek philosopher and mathematician, who flourished
in 100 CE.
Aelius Theon in Wikipedia
Aelius Theon (Ancient Greek: Αἴλιος Θέων; gen.: Αἰλίου Θέωνος) was an Alexandrian sophist and author of a collection of preliminary exercises (progymnasmata) for the training of orators. He probably lived and wrote in the mid to late first century A.D. and his treatise is the earliest treatment of these exercises. The work (extant, though incomplete), which probably formed an appendix to a manual of rhetoric, shows learning and taste, and contains valuable notices on the style and speeches of the masters of Attic oratory. Theon also wrote commentaries on Xenophon, Isocrates and Demosthenes, and treatises on style. He is to be distinguished from the Stoic Theon, who lived in the time of Augustus and also wrote on rhetoric.
"Narrative is language descriptive of things that have happened or as if they had happened." Aelius Theon
Theon of Smyrna in Wikipedia
Theon of Smyrna (fl. 100 CE) was a Greek philosopher and mathematician, whose works were strongly influenced by the Pythagorean school of thought. His surviving On Mathematics Useful for the Understanding of Plato is an introductory survey of Greek mathematics.
Little is known about the life of Theon of Smyrna. A bust created at his death, and dedicated by his son, was discovered at Smyrna, and art historians date it to around 135 CE. Ptolemy refers several times in his Almagest to a Theon who made observations at Alexandria, but it is uncertain whether he is referring to Theon of Smyrna. The lunar impact crater Theon Senior is named for him.
Theon wrote several commentaries on the works of mathematicians and philosophers of the time, including works on the philosophy of Plato. Most of these works are lost. The one major survivor is his On Mathematics Useful for the Understanding of Plato. A second work concerning the order in which to study Plato's works has recently been discovered in an Arabic translation.
On Mathematics Useful for the Understanding of Plato
His On Mathematics Useful for the Understanding of Plato is not a commentary on Plato's writings but rather a general handbook for a student of mathematics. It is not so much a groundbreaking work as a reference work of ideas already known at the time. Its status as a compilation of already-established knowledge and its thorough citation of earlier sources is part of what makes it valuable.
The first part of this work is divided into two parts, the first covering the subjects of numbers and the second dealing with music and harmony. The first section, on mathematics, is most focused on what today is most commonly known as number theory: odd numbers, even numbers, prime numbers, perfect numbers, abundant numbers, and other such properties.
The second section, on music, is split into three parts: music of numbers (hē en arithmois mousikē), instrumental music (hē en organois mousikē), and "music of the spheres" (hē en kosmō harmonia kai hē en toutō harmonia). The "music of numbers" is a treatment of temperament and harmony using ratios, proportions, and means; the sections on instrumental music concerns itself not with melody but rather with intervals and consonances in the manner of Pythagoras' work. Theon considers intervals by their degree of consonance: that is, by how simple their ratios are. (For example, the octave is first, with the simple 2:1 ratio of the octave to the fundamental.) He also considers them by their distance from one another.
The third section, on the music of the cosmos, he considered most important, and ordered it so as to come after the necessary background given in the earlier parts. Theon quotes a poem by Alexander of Ephesus assigning specific pitches in the chromatic scale to each planet, an idea that would retain its popularity for a millennium thereafter.
The second book is on astronomy. Here Theon affirms the spherical shape and large size of the Earth; he also describes the occultations, transits, conjunctions, and eclipses. However, the quality of the work led Otto Neugebauer to criticize him for not fully understanding the material he attempted to present.
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