Monday, June 11, 2012

Ben Johnson and Paris of Troy meet babes

I beheld her, on a day,
when her look outflourished May...

Ben Johnson (born on this day in 1572) from his poem How He Saw Her

Perhaps the young Paris of Troy felt the same way when he first gazed upon Helen of Sparta and decided to sweep her off her feet and bring her back to Troy with him.  Unfortunately, Helen's husband Menelaus (King of Sparta) violently objected and the Trojan War had begun. (or so the story goes)

On this day in 1184 BC, according to the calculations of the Greek mathematician Eratosthenes, the city of Troy was sacked by Menelaus, Odysseus and the combined Achaean forces - ending the Trojan War*.

Eratosthenes, (276 BC - 195 BC) was the chief librarian of the Library of Alexandria, at that time the center of scientific knowlege in the ancient world. In 240 BC he accurately calculated the earth's circumference, 25,000 miles, using the sun's angle of elevation on the summer solstice from two known spots in Egypt.  The first to use the word geography - from the Greek geo (earth) and graphia (write), he created the first map of the world using his calculations of longitude and latitude.  Not only was Eratosthenes accomplished as mathematician but also as an astronomer and writer.  He composed his Hermes, a poem explaining the fundamentals of astronomy in verse and later produced a star map giving locations to 675 stars.

If Eratosthenes says there was a Trojan War and that Troy was sacked on this day in 1184 BC, who am I to argue!

As a side note:

While Eratosthenes determined the Earth's circumference accurately, some decades later, the Greek geographer Posidonius recalculated the circumference and obtained a distance of 18,000 miles, or 7,000 miles shorter. During the middle ages, while most scholars accepted Eratosthenes' calculations, Christopher Columbus used Posidonius' circumference on his expedition to reach Asia by sailing west from Europe.

As a side, side note:

The Fall of Troy was a progressive math rock band from Mukilteo, Washington. Math rock is rhythmically complex music with unconventional time signatures and sudden stops and starts.  It first emerged in the 1980's (think King Crimson, Roxy Music and Frank Zappa) and developed quickly from there.. 

If you type in Fall of Troy into (think spotify but with booze suggestions) you get...

The Historical Inebriant:  The Fall of Troy          
(Sometimes it's a long trip to a drink at The Historical Inebriant Bar & Grille)

                6 oz. Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey - Serve Neat - Stir vigorously 

* Now, for Menelaus and Helen, all that was left to do was return home - but that's a story for another day.


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