2. Of BYZANTIUM, a celebrated mechanician, and a contemporary of Ctesibius.
As much confusion has arisen regarding the era of these two men, and of Heron the pupil of Ctesibius (see Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. iv. pp. 222, 234; Anthlolog. Graec.
ed. Jacobs, vol. xiii. p. 899; Montucla, Histoire des Mathencatiqules,
vol. i. p. 268), it will be necessary to attend to the correct date. Athenaeus, the mechanician, mentions that Ctesibius dedicated his work to Marcellus. This Marcellus has been supposed to be the illustrious captor of Syracuse, without any evidence. Again, the epigrammatist Hedylus speaks (Athen. 11.497
c.) of Ctesibius in connection with a temple to Arsinoe, the wife and sister of Ptolemy Philadelphus. Hence it has been stated that Ctesibius flourished about the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus and Euergetes I B. C. 285-222, and Athenaeus, in that of Archimedes, who was slain B. C. 212.
The inference drawn from the hydraulic invention of Ctesibius is untenable, as he might well be employed to ornament a temple already existing, and there is no ground for believing that the Marcellus, to whom Athenaeus dedicated his work, is the person assumed. On the contrary, Philon, and therefore the rest, must have lived after the time of Archimedes, as we learn from Tzetzes (Chil.
2.5.152) that Philon, in one of his works, mentions Archimedes.
There is no reason, therefore, why we should reject the express statement of Athenaeus (iv. p. 174c.), where he mentions Ctesibius as flourishing in the time of the second Euergetes, Ptolemy Physcon, who began to reign B. C. 146. Fabricius, with odd inconsistency, places the era of Philon at A. U. C. 601=B. C. 153, which is sufficiently correct. Consequently Heron must be placed latcer. (See Schweighäuser, ad Athenaeum,
vol. vii. p. 637, &c.; Clinton, F. H.
vol. iii. p. 535.) All that we know of his history is derived from his own notices in the work to be mentioned immediately ; that he had been at Alexandria and Rhodes, and had profited by his intercourse with the engineers of both places (pp. 51, 80, 84).
Among his works is one wherein he took a wide range, treating of the formation of harbours, of levers, and the other mechanical powers; as well as all other contrivances connected with the besieging and the defending of cities. Hence, Vitruvius (vii. Praefat.) mentions him among the writers on military engineering.
Books four and five
Of this, two books, the fourth and fifth, have come down to us.
These books are printed in the Veterum Mathematicorum Opera,
of Thevenot, Paris, 1693, wherein Pouchard revised the fragment of Philon, which occurs pp. 49-104.
The fourth book is headed, ἐκ τῶν Φιλώνος βελοποιικῶν
, and the general subject is the manufacture of missiles.
He mentions in it an invention of his own, which he denominates ὀξυβέλης
In the fifth book we are shocked to find that while recommending a besieging army to devastate the open country on the approach of an enemy, he advises them to poison the springs and the grain which they cannot dispose of (p. 103); and what renders this the worse, he mentions his having treated of poisons in his book on the preparations that should be made for a war. What principally attracted attention to this work in modern times is his notice of the invention of Ctesibius (p. 77. &c.).
The instrument described by him, named ἀερότονος
, acted on the property of air when condensed, and is, evidently, in principle the same with the modern air-gun.
The subject is investigated by Albert Louis Meister in a short treatise entitled De Catapulta polybola Commentatio, qua locus Philoeis Mechanici, in libro iv. de telorum constructio extans, illustratur,
It has also attracted the notice of Dutens, in his Origine de Découvertes attributes aux Modernes,
vol. i. p. 265, ed. Paris. 1776. Further details of this fragment will be found in Fabricius, vol. iv. p. 231, &c.
Works on Geomery and Mechanics
According to Montucla, Philon was well skilled in Geometry, and his solution of the problem of the two mean proportionals (Pappus, Coll. Math.
lib. viii.), although the same in principle with that of Apollonius, has its peculiar merits in practice. We learn from Pappus (l.c.
) that he wrote a treatise on mechanics, the object of which was nearly the same as Heron's. (Montucla, vel. i. p. 268.)
Περὶ τῶν ἑπτὰ θεαμάτων (
On the Seven Wonders of the World.
To Philon of Byzantium is attributed another work, Περὶ τῶν ἑπτὰ θεαμάτων
, On the Seven Wonders of the World.
But Fabricius (Bibl. Graec.
vol. iv. p. 233) thinks that it is impossible that an eminent mechanician like Philon Byzantinus could have written this work, and conjectures that it was written by Philon Heracleiotes. No one can doubt that he is right in his first conjecture, but it seems more probable that it is the production of a later rhetorical writer, who gave it the name of Philon of Byzantium, as that of a man, who, from his life and writings, might be supposed to have chosen it as a subject for composition.
It exists in only one MS. which, originally in the Vatican, was in 1816, in Paris, No. 389.
The wonders treated of are the Hanging Gardens, the Pyramids, the statue of Jupiter Olympius, the Walls of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, and, we may presume, from the prooeminm, the Mausoleum; but the last is entirely wanting, and we have only a fragment of the Ephesian temple.
The style, though not wholly devoid of elegance, is florid and rhetorical. Orelli regrets the lost portions, as he thinks that the author had actually beheld the three last wonders.
There does not appear to be much ground for this, and the whole seems to have been adopted from the reports of others.
It was first edited by Allatius, Rome, 1640, with a loose Latin translation, and desultory, though learned notes
It was re-edited from the same MS. by Dionysius Salvagnius Boessius, ambassador from the French court to the pope, and included in his Miscella, printed at Leyden, 1661
This edition has a more correct translation than that of Allatius, but abounds in typographical errors, there being no fewer than 150 in 14 pages. Gronovius reprinted the edition of Allatius, in his Thesaurus Antiquitatum Graecarum, vol. vii. pp. 2645-2686
It was finally reprinted at Leipzig, 1816, edited by J. C. Orelli
This edition, which is undoubtedly the best, contains the Greek, with the translations of both Allatius and Boessius, (with the exception of a fragment of a mutilated chapter, reprinted from the translation of L. Holstein, which originally appeared in Gronovius, ibid.
vol. vii. p. 389), the notes of Allatius and others, along with some passages from other writers who had treated of the same or similar subjects, the fragments of the sophist Callinicus, and Adrian the Tyrian, and an Index Graecitatis.