However, Marcellus made his escape, and jesting with his own artificers and engineers,
‘Let us stop,’ said he,
‘fighting against this geometrical Briareus, who uses our ships like cups to ladle water from the sea, and has whipped and driven off in disgrace our sambuca, and with the many missiles which he shoots against us all at once, outdoes the hundred-handed monsters of mythology.’
For in reality all the rest of the Syracusans were but a body for the designs of Archimedes, and his the one soul moving and managing everything; for all other weapons lay idle, and his alone were then employed by the city both in offence and defence.
At last the Romans became so fearful that, whenever they saw a bit of rope or a stick of timber projecting a little over the wall,
‘There it is,’ they cried,
‘Archimedes is training some engine upon us,’ and turned their backs and fled. Seeing this, Marcellus desisted from all fighting and assault, and thenceforth depended on a long siege.
And yet Archimedes possessed such a lofty spirit, so profound a soul, and such a wealth of scientific theory, that although his inventions had won for him a name and fame for superhuman sagacity,
he would not consent to leave behind him any treatise on this subject, but regarding the work of an engineer and every art that ministers to the needs of life as ignoble and vulgar, he devoted his earnest efforts only to those studies the subtlety and charm of which are not affected by the claims of necessity. These studies, he thought, are not to be compared with any others; in them the subject matter vies with the demonstration, the former supplying grandeur and beauty, the latter precision and surpassing power.
For it is not possible to find in geometry more profound and difficult questions treated in simpler and purer terms. Some attribute this success to his natural endowments; others think it due to excessive labour that everything he did seemed to have been performed without labour and with ease. For no one could by his own efforts discover the proof, and yet as soon as he learns it from him, he thinks he might have discovered it himself; so smooth and rapid is the path by which he leads one to the desired conclusion.
And therefore we may not disbelieve the stories told about him, how, under the lasting charm of some familiar and domestic Siren, he forgot even his food and neglected the care of his person; and how, when he was dragged by main force, as he often was, to the place for bathing and anointing his body, he would trace geometrical figures in the ashes, and draw lines with his finger in the oil with which his body was anointed, being possessed by a great delight, and in very truth a captive of the Muses.
And although he made many excellent discoveries, he is said to have asked his kinsmen and friends to place over the grave where he should be buried a cylinder enclosing a sphere, with an inscription giving the proportion by which the containing solid exceeds the contained.1