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Alexander and Mathematics
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Alexia



Joined: 29 Jan 2004
Posts: 80
Location: Los Angeles, CA

PostPosted: Thu Jun 10, 2004 5:28 am    Post subject: Alexander and Mathematics Reply with quote

For the sake of brevity, I will keep this simple, and answer questions if they arise about my thoughts on math.

How much math do you think that Alexander had to use on a daily basis and how much during strategy planning and actual battles?

What kinds of math do you think Alexander had to use, and how high did that mathematical thinking go?
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dynamo



Joined: 15 Mar 2004
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 10, 2004 12:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

probably not alot. He may have got his money men to do the counting and his seige engineers to do the harder maths. It's not like he would have used advanced trigonometry but he probably used some way of working out distances and heights but probably not much else.
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alex007



Joined: 11 Apr 2004
Posts: 25
Location: melbourne, Australia

PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2004 4:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i agree! i mean wat would he be paying his engineerers for if he could do it all himself. lol. the man was great but lets not make him to be a god who new everything. however he must have had some knowledge especially wen it came to seiges and the building of the pathway to tyre.
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Alexia



Joined: 29 Jan 2004
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Location: Los Angeles, CA

PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2004 7:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dynamo wrote:
probably not alot. He may have got his money men to do the counting and his seige engineers to do the harder maths. It's not like he would have used advanced trigonometry but he probably used some way of working out distances and heights but probably not much else.


By this do you mean that he wouldn't have sat down and did the types of problems most of us who took trig would have done as homework?
If so, then I would agree, but does math have to be done that way in order for a person to be using math. If math is a social construct, then we have to understand that math did not exist in Alexander's world the way that it does in ours, but since math is a way of constructing and de-constructing the world, it would have been used.

Ok, so maybe he had engineers to do the calculus required to choose materials, but that isn't to say that he didn't do the initial math in the first place.
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dynamo



Joined: 15 Mar 2004
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2004 9:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

He probably would have done very basic maths like adittion and subtraction to work out how much of something he had but not real Maths like we think of it with multiplication and division, trig etc etc. He would have had others to do it for him.

If he had no math skill then his men would have probably think him uneducated (something that would have heightened and fueled the Greek's arguement that Macedon was a barbarian state)
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Alexia



Joined: 29 Jan 2004
Posts: 80
Location: Los Angeles, CA

PostPosted: Sun Jun 13, 2004 7:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dynamo wrote:
He probably would have done very basic maths like adittion and subtraction to work out how much of something he had but not real Maths like we think of it with multiplication and division, trig etc etc. He would have had others to do it for him.


How do you imagine he decided how many men in a phalynx, then? And how did he calculate the number of men in his troops? Multiplication and division are easy concepts, so I don't think it was above a man of such genius. And isn't it possible he had some idea in his head of materials' strengths? And which ones should be used in different situations? What about using math during battle strategizing? Wouldn't he have had to use algebra to figure out duration?
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dynamo



Joined: 15 Mar 2004
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 14, 2004 11:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If someone had said: "right this peice of wood here is good for this and this other one for something else" then he could have just remembered and not needed maths for that. Phalanx size would have been worked out by Phillip or by Aexander's preference (he might like to have fewer large units or visa versa).

Duration-It would have been instinct. 100vs100 cavalry on flat ground =short period of time. 30,000vs 100,000 rocky terrain, foot troops, archers etc =quite a long time.

A lot of the things you said could easily have been done by instinct or learning it as a child off his father or tutor. It's not like they accurately measured ammounts of stress that a 20ft long and 3 ft diameter peice of cyprus tree could take!
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Alexia



Joined: 29 Jan 2004
Posts: 80
Location: Los Angeles, CA

PostPosted: Wed Jun 16, 2004 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dynamo wrote:

A lot of the things you said could easily have been done by instinct or learning it as a child off his father or tutor. It's not like they accurately measured ammounts of stress that a 20ft long and 3 ft diameter peice of cyprus tree could take!


Just because he achieved a level of automaticity doesn't mean he wasn't using math. You're still thinking traditional math. All of those things are math, no matter how you arrive at the answer.

About calculating the number of troops, would you follow a leader who had to turn to his personal mathematician and ask how many foot soldiers he had because he couldn't do the math himself.

I'm just saying that we should be open to the idea that math isn't what we are taught in school, but something we use everyday, automatically without thinking and that the same is probably true for Alexander.
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dynamo



Joined: 15 Mar 2004
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 17, 2004 10:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

He would have used maths but not to any great extent.

Think about it. There you are with 50,000 troops and then along comes another 35,000 as renforcments, it's not like someone educated by a great Greek philosopher would turn to an aide and say "how many's that now??".

Yes he could have probably worked out that he had 85,000 and also he could have prob used things to work out basic problems like if he has x number of mules that can carry y number of bags and he has however many bags...... he could probably do stuff like that with ease.
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Alexia



Joined: 29 Jan 2004
Posts: 80
Location: Los Angeles, CA

PostPosted: Thu Jun 17, 2004 11:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dynamo wrote:
He would have used maths but not to any great extent.

Think about it. There you are with 50,000 troops and then along comes another 35,000 as renforcments, it's not like someone educated by a great Greek philosopher would turn to an aide and say "how many's that now??".

Yes he could have probably worked out that he had 85,000 and also he could have prob used things to work out basic problems like if he has x number of mules that can carry y number of bags and he has however many bags...... he could probably do stuff like that with ease.


You're still thinking too linearly. Think wholistically. Or even better random-abstractly......
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Ptolemy V



Joined: 04 Jan 2004
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2004 12:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is impossible to know Alexander's mathematical thought processes and speculating about it is going to provide as many answers as people have theories about the issue. There is no ancient testimony on his use of "maths" to give us a guide.

He was a general - his skills would have been in strategy (where to fight a numerically superior enemy in order to gain a terrain advantage, what is the enemy's moral, their weapons, etc), tactics (where is the enemy line weakening, where to send a cavalry strike, when to reinforce tired troops, what type of troops to use at this point in the battle), motivation and inspiration of the troops, formulation of a plan for conquest, settlement of veterans, garrisoning of towns, obtaining provisions for the troops, etc.

These are the things that as a king and general Alexander would have been good at. His troops wouldn't give a fig if he could do maths - they looked on him as an inspirational leader and warrior.

In the ancient world (Hellenistic and Roman) battles where also fought on the basis of "omens". Alexander had a number of soothsayers and seers with him who would conduct sacrifices prior to battle and the battle would be conducted on the basis of whether the omens were favourable or not. As such, a perceived "favour of the gods" was just as important on campaign as any calculation of provisions or enemy numbers.

War was therefore more likely to be more of an 'art' for 'Alexander' than a precise mathematical science.
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Alexia



Joined: 29 Jan 2004
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Location: Los Angeles, CA

PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2004 6:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ptolemy V wrote:

War was therefore more likely to be more of an 'art' for 'Alexander' than a precise mathematical science.


who said anything about precision?
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dynamo



Joined: 15 Mar 2004
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2004 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

rule of thumb and estimation got me through my Maths GCSE and beyond (i can now work out any distance on a map if you give me the length of a wall of a building on that map, useful huh??? It ain't too special but it makes me feel good!!)
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Alexia



Joined: 29 Jan 2004
Posts: 80
Location: Los Angeles, CA

PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2004 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ptolemy V wrote:


War was therefore more likely to be more of an 'art' for 'Alexander' than a precise mathematical science.


Exactly when did I say anything about "precise" or "science?" Math is a social construct.
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Alexia



Joined: 29 Jan 2004
Posts: 80
Location: Los Angeles, CA

PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2004 7:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dynamo wrote:
rule of thumb and estimation got me through my Maths GCSE and beyond (i can now work out any distance on a map if you give me the length of a wall of a building on that map, useful huh??? It ain't too special but it makes me feel good!!)


Now we're getting closer to what I'm talking about. Estimation is an essential part of higher, theoretical math, something they don't really talk about when teaching math the way most schools do. What you are talking about IS math, or "maths," as you call it (I'm not making fun, it's just kinda quirky sometimes reading the Standard British English). Also, math isn't always paper and pencil math, the type you really only encounter in the classroom or when you bother to balance your checkbook. If we really open it up, the possibilities are endless.

BTW...what does GCSE stand for?
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