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GREEK: Μὴ μου τοὺς κύκλους τάραττε. LATIN: Noli turbare circulos meos. ENGLISH: Don’t disturb my circles.
English translation by Aubrey de Selincourt in The War with Hannibal, Penguin Books, New York, 1965, Page 338.
The city was turned over to the troops to pillage as they pleased, after guards had been set at the houses of the exiles who had been in the Roman lines. Many brutalities were committed in hot blood and the greed of gain, and it is on record that Archimedes, while intent upon figures which he had traced in the dust, and regardless of the hideous uproar of an army let loose to ravage and despoil a captured city, was killed by a soldier who did not know who he was. Marcellus was distressed by this; he had him properly buried and his relatives inquired forto whom the name and memory of Archimedes were an honour.
Urbs diripienda militi data est custodibus divisis per domos eorum qui intra praesidia Romana fuerant. Cum multa irae, multa avaritiae foeda exempla ederentur, Archimeden memoriae proditum est in tanto tumultu, quantum captae terror urbis in discursu diripientium militum ciere poterat, intentum formis quas in pulvere descripserat, ab ignaro milite quis esset interfectum; aegre id Marcellum tulisse sepulturaeque curam habitam, et propinquis etiam inquisitis honori praesidioque nomen ac memoriam eius fuisse.
English translation by D. R. Shakleton Bailey in Valerius Maximus, Memorable Doings and Sayings, Volume II, Books 6-9, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2000.
I should say that Archimedes’ diligence also bore fruit if it had not both given him life and taken it away. At the capture of Syracuse Marcellus had been aware that his victory had been held up much and long by Archimedes’ machines. However, pleased with the man’s exceptional skill, he gave out that his life was to be spared, putting almost as much glory in saving Archimedes as in crushing Syracuse. But as Archimedes was drawing diagrams with mind and eyes fixed on the ground, a soldier who had broken into the house in quest of loot with sword drawn over his head asked him who he was. Too much absorbed in tracking down his objective, Archimedes could not give his name but said, protecting the dust with his hands, “I beg you, don’t disturb this,” and was slaughtered as neglectful of the victor’s command; with his blood he confused the lines of his art. So it fell out that he was first granted his life and then stripped of it by reason of the same pursuit.
Archimedis quoque fructuosam industriam fuisse dicerem, nisi eadem illi et dedisset uitam et abstulisset: captis enim Syracusis Marcellus,
machinationibus eius multum ac diu uictoriam suam inhibitam senserat, eximia tamen hominis prudentia delectatus ut capiti illius parceretur edixit, paene tantum gloriae in Archimede seruato quantum in oppressis Syracusis reponens. at is, dum animo et oculis in terra defixis formas describit, militi, qui praedandi gratia domum inruperat strictoque super caput gladio quisnam esset interrogabat, propter nimiam cupiditatem inuestigandi quod requirebat nomen suum indicare non potuit, sed protecto manibus puluere 'noli' inquit, 'obsecro, istum disturbare', ac perinde quasi neglegens imperii uictoris obtruncatus sanguine suo artis suae liniamenta confudit. quo accidit ut propter idem studium modo donaretur uita, modo spoliaretur.
English translation by John Dryden (1631-1700).
But nothing afflicted Marcellus so much as the death of Archimedes, who was then, as fate would have it, intent upon working out some problem by a diagram, and having fixed his mind alike and his eyes upon the subject of his speculation, he never noticed the incursion of the Romans, nor that the city was taken. In this transport of study and contemplation, a soldier, unexpectedly coming up to him, commanded him to follow to Marcellus; which he declining to do before he had worked out his problem to a demonstration, the soldier, enraged, drew his sword and ran him through. Others write that a Roman soldier, running upon him with a drawn sword, offered to kill him; and that Archimedes, looking back, earnestly besought him to hold his hand a little while, that he might not leave what he was then at work upon inconclusive and imperfect; but the soldier, nothing moved by his entreaty, instantly killed him. Others again relate that, as Archimedes was carrying to Marcellus mathematical instruments, dials, spheres, and angles, by which the magnitude of the sun might be measured to the sight, some soldiers seeing him, and thinking that he carried gold in a vessel, slew him. Certain it is that his death was very afflicting to Marcellus; and that Marcellus ever after regarded him that killed him as a murderer; and that he sought for his kindred and honoured them with signal favours.
Μάλιστα δὲ τὸ Ἀρχιμήδους πάθος ἠνίασε Μάρκελλον. ἔτυχε μὲν γὰρ αὐτός τι καθ᾽ ἑαυτὸν ἀνασκοπῶν ἐπὶ διαγράμματος˙ καὶ τῇ θεωρίᾳ δεδωκὼς ἅμα τήν τε διάνοιαν καὶ τὴν πρόσοψιν οὐ προῄσθετο τὴν καταδρομὴν τῶν ‘Ρωμαίων οὐδὲ τὴν ἅλωσιν τῆς πόλεως, ἄφνω δὲ ἐπιστάντος αὐτῷ στρατιώτου καὶ κελεύοντος ἀκολουθεῖν πρὸς Μάρκελλον οὐκ ἐβούλετο πρὶν ἢ τελέσαι τὸ πρόβλημα καὶ καταστῆσαι πρὸς τὴν ἀπόδειξιν. ὁ δὲ ὀργισθεὶς καὶ σπασάμενος τὸ ξίφος ἀνεῖλεν αὐτόν. ἕτεροι μὲν οὖν λέγουσιν ἐπιστῆναι μέν εὐθὺς ὡς ἀποκτενοῦντα ξιφήρη τὸν ‘Ρωμαῖον, ἐκεῖνον δ᾽ ἰδόντα δείσθαι καὶ ἀντιβολείν ἀναμεῖναι βραχὺν χρόνον, ὡς μὴ καταλίπῃ τὸ ζητούμενον ἀτελὲς καὶ ἀθεώρητον, τὸν δὲ οὐ φροντίσαντα διαχρήσασθαι. καὶ τρίτος ἐστὶ λόγος, ὡς κομίζοντι πρὸς Μάρκελλον αὐτῷ τῶν μαθηματικῶν ὀργάνων σκιόθηρα καὶ σφαίρας καὶ γωνίας, αἷς ἐναρμόττει τὸ τοῦ ἡλίου μέγεθος πρὸς τὴν ὄψιν, στρατιῶται περιτυχόντες καὶ χρυσίον ἐν τῷ τεύχει δόξαντες φέρειν ἀπέκτειναν. ὅτι μέντοι Μάρκελλος ἤλγησε καὶ τὸν αὐτόχειρα τοῦ ἀνδρὸς ἀπεστράφη καθάπερ ἐναγῆ, τοὺς δὲ οἰκείους ἀνευρὼν ἐτίμησεν, ὁμολογεῖται.
English translation by Ivor Thomas in Greek Mathematical Works, Volume II, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1941.
Whether, as Diodorus asserts, Syracuse was betrayed and the citizens went in a body to Marcellus, or, as Dion tells, it was plundered by the Romans, while the citizens were keeping a night festival to Artemis, he [Archimedes] died in this fashion at the hands of one of the Romans. He was stooping down, drawing some diagram in mechanics, when a Roman came up and began to drag him away to take him prisoner. But he, being wholly intent at the time on the diagram, and not perceiving who was tugging at him, said to the man: “Stand away, fellow, from my diagram.” As the man continued pulling, he turned round and, realizing that he was a Roman, he cried, “Somebody give me one of my engines.” But the Roman, scared, straightway slew him, a feeble old man but wonderful in his works.
Οὗτος, κατὰ Διόδωρον, τῆς Συρακούσης ταύτης
Προδότου πρὸς τὸν Μάρκελλον ἀθρόως γενομένης,
Εἴτε, κατὰ τὸν Δίωνα, ‘Ρωμαίοις πορθηθείσης,
Ἀρτέμιδι τῶν πολιτῶν τότε παννυχιζόντων,
Τοιουτοτρόπως τέθνηκεν ὑπό τινος ‘Ρωμαίου.
Ἦν κεκυφώς, διάγραμμα μηχανικόν τι γράφων,
Τὶς δὲ ‘Ρωμαῖος ἐπιστὰς εἷλκεν αἰχμαλωτίζων.
Ὁ δὲ τοῦ διαγράμματος ὅλος ὑπάρχων τότε,
Τίς ὁ καθέλκων οὐκ εἰδώς, ἔλεγε πρὸς ἐκεῖωον˙
Ἀπόστηθι, ὦ ἄνθρωπε, τοῦ διαγράμματός μου.
Ὡς δ᾽ εἷλκε τοῦτον συστραφεὶς καὶ γνοὺς ‘Ρωμαῖον εἶναι,
Ἐβόα, τὶ μηχάνημα τὶς τῶν ἐμῶν μοι δότω.
Ὁ δὲ ‘Ρωμαῖος πτοηθεὶς εὐθὺς ἐκεῖνον κτείνει,
Ἄνδρα σαθρὸν καὶ γέροντα, δαιμόνιον τοῖς ἔργοις.
English translation by Earnest Cary in Dio’s Roman History, Volume II: Fragments of Books XII-XXV, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1914.
The Romans, when they became master of these districts [of Syracuse], killed many persons, among them Archimedes. He was constructing some figure or other, and hearing that the enemy were at hand, exclaimed: “Let them come at my head, but not at my line!” When a hostile warrior confronted him, he was little disturbed and called out: “Fellow, stand away from my line!” This exasperated the man and he struck him down.
ἐγκρατεῖς δὲ τούτων οἱ Ρωμαῖοι γενόμενοι ὰλλους τε πολλοὺς καὶ τὸν Αρχιμήδην ἀπέκτειναν. διάγραμμα γάρ τι διαγράφων, καὶ ἀκούσας τοὺς πολεμίους ἐφίστασθαι, πὰρ κεφαλάν εὰφη καὶ μὴ παρὰ γραμμάν. ἐπιστάντος δὲ αὐτῷ πολεμίου βραχύ τε ἐφρόντισε καὶ εἰπών ἀπόστηθι, ὰνθρωπε, ἀπὸ τῆς γραμμῆς παρώξυνέ τε αὐτὸν καὶ κατεκόπη.
Against Verres, II.4.131
English translation by C. D. Yonge in Cicero: Select Orations, Harper & Brothers, New York, 1889 (see page 571).
To return again to Marcellus. Judge of the case, O judges, in this way; think that more gods were lost to the Syracusans owing to the arrival of Verres, than even were owing to the victory of Marcellus. In truth, he is said to have sought diligently for the great Archimedes, a man of the highest genius and skill, and to have been greatly concerned when he heard that he had been killed; but that other man sought for everything which he did seek for, not for the purpose of preserving it, but of carrying it away.
Vt saepius ad Marcellum revertar, iudices, sic habetote, pluris esse a Syracusanis istius adventu deos quam victoria Marcelli homines desideratos. Etenim ille requisisse etiam dicitur Archimedem illum, summo ingenio hominem ac disciplina, quem cum audisset interfectum permoleste tulisse: iste omnia quae requisivit, non ut conservaret verum ut asportaret requisivit.
English translation by Raphael Woolf in On Moral Ends, edited by Jula Annas, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2001.
Consider how great Archimedes’ passion for study must have been. He was absorbed in a diagram he was drawing in the dust, and did not even notice the capture of his city!
Quem enim ardorem studii censetis fuìsse in Archimede, qui dum in pulvere quaedam describit attentius, ne patriam captam esse senserit?
English translation by H. Rackham in Pliny: Natural History, Volume II: Books III-VII, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1942.
Archimedes also received striking testimony to his knowledge of geometry and mechanics from Marcus Marcellus, who at the capture of Syracuse forbade violence to be done to him onlyhad not the ignorance of a soldier foiled the command.
Grande et Archimedi geometricae ac machinalis scientiae testimonium M. Marcelli contigit interdicto, cum Syracusae caperentur, ne violarentur unus, nisi fefellisset imperium militaris inprudentia.
The death of Archimedes by the hands of a Roman soldier is symbolical of a world-change of the first magnitude: the Greeks, with their love of abstract science, were superseded in the leadership of the European world by the practical Romans. Lord Beaconsfield [Benjamin Disraeli], in one of his novels, has defined a practical man as a man who practises the errors of his forefathers. The Romans were a great race, but they were cursed with the sterility which waits upon practicality. They did not improve upon the knowledge of their forefathers, and all their advances were confined to the minor technical details of engineering. They were not dreamers enough to arrive at new points of view, which could give a more fundamental control over the forces of nature. No Roman lost his life because he was absorbed in the contemplation of a mathematical diagram.
Who would not rather have the fame of Archimedes than that of his conqueror Marcellus?
. . . he was a callous, obdurate, conceited midshipman, intent on his own discoveries, and caring as little for what went on about him, terrestrially, as Archimedes at the taking of Syracuse.