Ciceron Decouvrant le Tombeau d'Archimede,
by the French painter Pierre Henri de Valenciennes (1750-1819)
From Cicero (106-43 BC), Tusculan Disputations --
"But from Dionysius's own city of Syracuse I will summon up from the dust--where his measuring rod once traced its lines--an obscure little man who lived many years later, Archimedes. When I was questor in Sicily [in 75 BC, 137 years after the death of Archimedes] I managed to track down his grave. The Syracusians knew nothing about it, and indeed denied that any such thing existed. But there it was, completely surrounded and hidden by bushes of brambles and thorns. I remembered having heard of some simple lines of verse which had been inscribed on his tomb, referring to a sphere and cylinder modeled in stone on top of the grave. And so I took a good look round all the numerous tombs that stand beside the Agrigentine Gate. Finally I noted a little column just visible above the scrub: it was surmounted by a sphere and a cylinder."
"I immediately said to the Syracusans, some of whose leading citizens were with me at the time, that I believed this was the very object I had been looking for. Men were sent in with sickles to clear the site, and when a path to the monument had been opened we walked right up to it. And the verses were still visible, though approximately the second half of each line had been worn away."
"So one of the most famous cities in the Greek world, and in former days a great center of learning as well, would have remained in total ignorance of the tomb of the most brilliant citizen it had ever produced, had a man from Arpinum not come and pointed it out!"
back | next | index