Mathematics in Ancient Greece

Greek mathematics, as that term is used in this article, is the mathematics developed from the 6th century BC to the 5th century AD around the shores of the Mediterranean. It constitutes a major period of the history of mathematics, fundamental in respect of geometry and the idea of formal proof. Greek mathematics also contributed importantly to ideas on number theory, mathematical analysis, applied mathematics, and, at times, approached close to integral calculus. Mathematical developments took place in Greek-speaking centers as far apart as Sicily and Egypt, and with a high estimation of the intellectual and cultural status of mathematics (for example in the school of Plato).

Greek mathematics has origins that are presumed to go back to the 7th century BC, but are not easily documented. It is generally believed that it built on the computational methods of earlier Babylonian and Egyptian mathematics, and it may well have had Phoenician influences. Some of the most well-known figures in Greek mathematics are Pythagoras, a shadowy figure from the isle of Samos associated partly with number mysticism and numerology, but more commonly with his theorem, and Euclid, who is known for his Elements, a canon of geometry for centuries.

The Sand Reckoner by Archimedes bespeaks a man who made major discoveries, and whose originality and accomplishments are commonly reckoned to be on par with those of Isaac Newton and C. F. Gauss.

The most characteristic product of Greek mathematics may be the theory of conic sections, largely developed in the Hellenistic period. The methods used made no explicit use of algebra, nor trigonometry. Those were formulated in the way understood in contemporary mathematics as major parts of Islamic mathematics; the texts of Greek mathematics were for the most part preserved and transmitted in the Islamic world. Among the foremost modern historians of Greek mathematics was Thomas Heath.

Famous Greek Mathematicians