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Popular Culture of Mathematics through Ancient Greek Old Comedy

DELL-ISOLA, NICHOLAS,CHRISTOPHER (2021) Popular Culture of Mathematics through Ancient Greek Old Comedy. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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This dissertation explores the extent to which mathematics played a role in comedy of fifth and fourth century BCE Athens. Within the corpus of Aristophanes and the fragments of Old Comedy, jokes about or implementing mathematical concepts occur. Analyzing the effects of these jokes sheds some light on how the audience of these comedies viewed mathematics and what sorts of mathematics were taken as common knowledge. Jokes containing references to calculation and common measurements indicate that the audience was to some extent numerate and had the ability to convert measurements relatively easily. Additionally, although references to specific mathematicians in Old Comedy are scarce, it seems that the audience was presented with a charicature or otherwise skewed picture of named mathematicians when they were mentioned or, in the case of Meton, brought on stage. Meton’s identity in fact seems to have been further mutilated by later scholars, as the passage in Birds does not relate Meton to the kind of mathematics for which others like Euclid would become known, but scholars have insisted that it does. Overall, mathematical jokes show that mathematics could be used both for good and for evil, and often they pack the same punch as the political jokes for which Old Comedy is famous.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Keywords:Mathematics; Comedy; Ancient Mathematics; Math; Maths; Math Jokes; Maths Jokes; Ancient Math; Ancient Maths
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Classics and Ancient History, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Feb 2022 15:37

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