More than fifty years ago in my “Introduction to Greek Literature” class, I learned of Archimedes and his “Bath Tub Revelation“. Even so, in the decades since I have found that our dear little Archimedes was far wiser that the image of a little old man that ran through the streets of the capital city Syracuse, Sicily: naked and screaming. Archimedes was born 287 years before the Christian era begun in Syracuse, educated in Alexandra, Egypt and his death was recorded at the fall of Syracuse. Plutarch writes in his work on “Marcellus”: the Roman commander, about how Archimedes’ engines of war were used against the Romans in the siege of 212 years before the Christian era. Archimedes is said to have, “single handedly defended the city” by constructing what are now called solar furnaces, or Aten orb as that system was known in Karnack, Egypt. Mirrors that were to focus the Sun’s light by more than one thousand fold onto Roman ships.
Other engines of war used in that defense were based on Hercules’ Birds of Styphalian story. Archimedes used noise makers against the land forces, “immense masses of stones that came down with incredible noise and violence: against which no man could stand:” breaking the Roman army’s ranks, just as Hercules used “noise makers” to flush the Birds of Styphalian.
When you look up Archimedes word of praise that he screamed in a Greek lexicon? Eureka starts with the Greek letter Epsilon: which means:“to cover 1in a lion2” and as often as not Epsilon is pronounced as an “H” sound, as in Helen3 and eureka would be pronounced as “heureca,” linking that word to the name Heurcules4. The Greek prefix and root word heur-cole that refers to. The tool or “The Splendid Gift”or inherent power linked to Hercules. A man that wore a suit of armor made of lion skin.
Hercules was a man with the right tool for each job. That is why Archimedes loved his Mentor, Hercules so much, and why Archimedes was known for discovering so many of the right tools based on the story riddles of Hercules. Could have our dear little Archimedes have written part of his own biography using the pen name Heuracleides?5 A name that means, a Son of Heurcules, but what else would you call a man like Archimedes that could tow a loaded ship on land as easily as he could on water, with Hercules’ rope of the Cretan Bull story and a few pulleys. A man that held the Roman Navy and then Army at bay with a few blinks of mercury clad copper magic mirrors and a few of Hercules’ noise makers.
The story riddles of Hercules lead Archimedes to become the father of “Experiential Science and Engineering”: Heuristic6. Sadly the children of the 21st century of the Christian era think Hercules was a super hero like Super Man: not a man that used his intellectual skills to multiply his strength or advantage. All the same, that is the point of story riddles. The plot of the story is not the Wisdom of the Riddle.
Hercules origins are not found in Greece,
But in the night skies of Egypt where he is called Bau,
In combat with the snake Draco.
Surprisingly, even in the later versions of these Herculean stories you do not find a man of super human strength but a man of great wisdom and wisdom is more powerful that brute force. One of the best-known Herculean stories is, The Stuck Cart. A man had mired his cart and was unable to free his vehicle. So on the cart seat, the driver was in fervent prayer to the pantheon of the Greek gods and goddesses asking for them to free his cart. Hercules hears the man’s prayer for help; however, his response is not of a godlike benefactor, but as an exasperated father speaking to a dim-witted son.
“The gods help them that help themselves.”
Then Hercules shows the driver how to multiply his own strength using levers, in so doing frees the cart. The Wisdom of this story riddle is not that prayers work: even though the driver’s prayer did work. And it was not that Hercules got the cart unstuck, which he did. The wisdom of the riddle is the lesson of fulcrums and levers. Even so, who got the credit for discovering “The Law of Levers,” Archimedes and not Hercules. Each of Hercules’ Labors held great wisdom that was camouflaged in what seems to be a fairytale, Labors that were achieved by intellectual and engineering principles. When Hercules tries in his own strength, he fails. That is the wisdom of the Hercules story riddles, “Use your head not your back,”
When Hercules cleansed King Augeas’ Ox Stable that had not been cleaned for three decades: was the cleaning of the King’s stable done by Hercules’ ability to shovel “Bull Shit” that got the job done?
No! It was hydrodynamics principles. Hercules used two dams to change the course of two rivers to flow through the stable to cleanse it’s of the massive amounts of Ox Dung. That process is used in gold mining and is known as Hydraulic Mining. And who got the credit for that field of scientific endeavor of hydrodynamics? Archimedes has been given the title of the Father of that field of scientific research.
Hercules had another problem: there was a Lion running around that had a hide that was impenetrable. That made the Nemean lion “un-defeat-able.” So how could our Hero prevail against such a beast? In many versions of this story our Hero was swallowed whole, in order that, Hercules could kill the beast from the inside by choking the beast. After the battle with that lion, our Hero fashioned himself a suit of armor, which takes us back to the Greek letter Epsilon, to be clothed with the lion. That is right Hercules got a Greek letter named after one of his Labors.
Eight hundred years before the birth of Archimedes, what army used that Herculean concept from that story riddle to defeat a city that had impenetrable walls? –BINGO– The Greek army that was encamped around the City of Troy, with its impenetrable walls, though it took them a while to remember. Eventually, someone must have remembered that old Herculean Riddle. So they loaded up some men in a big Wooden Horse and left them to be swallowed by the Gates of Troy with its “Impenetrable walls.” Well we have come full circle back to the City of Troy and Cassandra. Not to worry we will get back to our Old Friends: Archimedes and Hercules later: but we will have to untie some other “Knots” first.
1Strongs, Op. Cite,, Greek, no., 1909
2 Ibid, no., 3023
3Ibid, no.1672 24
4 Heurcules the spelling in old English
5Strongs, Op. Cite, Greek, no 2398
6Webster, 9th New Collegiate Dictionary, Merriam-Webster inc, Springfield ,1989, p.568