### Learning Objective

- Describe the various scientific advancements made during the Hellenistic period

### Key Points

- Great seats of learning rose during the Hellenistic Period, including those at Alexandria and Antioch.
- Scientific inquiries were often sponsored by royal patrons.
- The discoveries of several Greek mathematicians, including Pythagoras and Euclid, are still used in mathematical teaching today. Important developments include the basic rules of geometry, the idea of a formal mathematical proof, and discoveries in number theory, mathematical analysis, and applied mathematics.
- The Greeks also developed the field of astronomy, which they treated as a branch of mathematics to a highly sophisticated level.
- Hippocrates was a physician of the classical period, and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine. Most notably, he founded the Hippocratic school of medicine, which revolutionized medicine in ancient Greece by establishing it as a discipline distinct from other fields, and making medicine a profession.

### Terms

#### Hellenistic period

The period of ancient Greek and Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as signified by the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE.

#### Alexandria

An important seat of learning within the Hellenistic civilization and the capital of Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine Egypt for almost 1,000 years, until the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 641 CE.

# Hellenistic Culture

Hellenistic culture produced seats of learning in Alexandria, Egypt and Antioch, Syria, along with Greek-speaking populations across several monarchies. Hellenistic science differed from Greek science in at least two ways. First, it benefited from the cross-fertilization of Greek ideas with those that had developed in the larger Hellenistic world. Secondly, to some extent, it was supported by royal patrons in the kingdoms founded by Alexander’s successors.

Especially important to Hellenistic science was the city of Alexandria in Egypt, which became a major center of scientific research in the 3^{rd} century BCE. Two institutions established there during the reigns of Ptolemy I Soter (reigned 323-283 BCE) and Ptolemy II Philadelphus (reigned 281-246 BCE) were the Library and the Museum. Unlike Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum, these institutions were officially supported by the Ptolemies, although the extent of patronage could be precarious, depending on the policies of the current ruler.

# Mathematics and Astronomy

The discoveries of several Greek mathematicians, including Pythagoras and Euclid, are still used in mathematical teaching today. Important developments include the basic rules of geometry, the idea of a formal mathematical proof, and discoveries in number theory, mathematical analysis, and applied mathematics. Ancient Greek mathematicians also came close to establishing integral calculus.

The Greeks also developed the field of astronomy, which they treated as a branch of mathematics, to a highly sophisticated level. The first geometrical, three-dimensional models to explain the apparent motion of the planets was developed in the 4^{th} century BCE, by Eudoxus of Cnidus and Callippus of Cyzicus. Their younger contemporary, Heraclides Ponticus, proposed that the Earth rotates around its axis. In the 3^{rd} century BCE, Aristarchus of Samos was the first to suggest a heliocentric system. In the 2^{nd}century BCE, Hipparchus of Nicea made a number of contributions, including the first measurement of precession and the compilation of the first star catalog, in which he proposed the modern system of apparent magnitudes.

The Antikythera mechanism, a device for calculating the movements of the planets, was the first ancestor of the astronomical computer. It dates from about 80 BCE, and was discovered in an ancient shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera. The device became famous for its use of a differential gear, which was previously believed to have been invented in the 16^{th} century, as well as the miniaturization and complexity of its parts, which has been compared to that of clocks produced in the 18^{th} century.

# The Medical Field

The ancient Greeks also made important discoveries in the medical field. Hippocrates was a physician of the classical period, and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine. He is sometimes even referred to as the “father of medicine.” Most notably, he founded the Hippocratic school of medicine, which revolutionized medicine in ancient Greece by establishing it as a discipline distinct from other fields, and making medicine a profession.

Other notable Hellenistic scientists and their achievements include:

- Herophilos (335-280 BCE), who was the first to base medical conclusions on dissection of the human body and to describe the nervous system
- Archimedes (c. 287-212 BCE), a geometer, physicist, and engineer who laid the foundations of hydrostatics and statics, and explained the principle of the lever
- Eratosthenes (c. 276 BCE-195/194 BCE), who measured the distance between the Sun and the Earth, as well as the size of the Earth