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History >> Ancient Greece >> Biography


Archimedes is one of the more interesting characters in the history of Ancient Greece. He lived in the city of Syracuse where he solved problems and created inventions for the king. He was one of the great mathematicians in world history and made many early discoveries.

Early Life

Archimedes was born on the island of Sicily in the city of Syracuse around the year 287 BC. His father was an astronomer named Phidias. Archimedes may also have been related to King Hiero II of Syracuse. Although little is known about his early life, at some point he traveled to Alexandria, Egypt to study mathematics and then returned to Syracuse.

Working for the King

There are many stories about how and why Archimedes came up with his many inventions. Several of them tell how King Hiero II would request Archimedes to solve different problems. Archimedes would then go off and come up with some ingenious way to help out the king.

Silver or Gold?

One day the king received a new crown made from pure gold. However, he suspected that the goldsmith may have used some silver in the crown to save money. He asked Archimedes to figure out if it was pure gold. Archimedes wasn't sure what to do. He knew the density of gold and the density of silver, but how could he determine the volume of the crown?

He figured it out while taking a bath. He could measure the amount of water the crown displaced and then he could compare that with the weight of the object. Once he had this information, he could determine if the density of the crown matched with pure gold.

Archimedes' Screw

Archimedes used his mathematical skills and genius to create useful inventions. One of his most famous inventions is called the Archimedes' Screw. It was a device that could lift water to higher levels. One of its first uses was to pump water out from leaking ships. It is still used today in some places to move water from low bodies of water to irrigation ditches.

Defending Syracuse

One of the major events in Archimedes' lifetime was the attack of Rome on Syracuse. Archimedes devoted his talents to defending his city from the Romans and came up with some fascinating inventions. Two of his most famous were the Claw of Archimedes and the heat ray. Mathematics

Archimedes' true passion was mathematics. He made many discoveries and today he is considered one of the greatest mathematicians in history. Some of his discoveries were in the field of geometry where he worked with spheres, cylinders, circles, and parabolas. He also calculated the value of pi very accurately using a process called the "method of exhaustion." He even used something called "infinitesimals" to perform math similar to modern-day calculus.


After two years of holding off the Romans, the city of Syracuse was finally taken in 212 BC. Archimedes was working on a math problem when a Roman soldier approached him and ordered him to come meet with the Roman general. When Archimedes refused, the Roman soldier grew angry and killed him.

Interesting Facts About Archimedes

For more about Ancient Greece:

Timeline of Ancient Greece
The City of Athens
Minoans and Mycenaeans
Greek City-states
Peloponnesian War
Persian Wars
Decline and Fall
Legacy of Ancient Greece
Glossary and Terms

Arts and Culture
Ancient Greek Art
Drama and Theater
Olympic Games
Government of Ancient Greece
Greek Alphabet

Daily Life
Daily Lives of the Ancient Greeks
Typical Greek Town
Women in Greece
Science and Technology
Soldiers and War

Alexander the Great
25 Famous Greek People
Greek Philosophers

Greek Mythology
Greek Gods and Mythology
Monsters of Greek Mythology
The Titans
The Iliad
The Odyssey

The Olympian Gods

Works Cited

History >> Ancient Greece >> Biography


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