Theoretical Water: Archimedes’ Floating Bodies (3rd c. BC)

Angelique Lemarchand

Ancient philosophers significantly contributed to build a rational discourse on water, which in many ways is still in use today. This new approach would obviously stir questions about the nature of the element, among others. This is one of my fields of interest, within the Greek and Latin tradition (6th c. BC to 2nd c. AC). In line with this, Archimedes’ Floating Bodies (3rd c. BC) deserve more than a detour in my research. Thanks to the France-Stanford Center, I will do a philological reading of the text together with Pr. Reviel Netz who is an Archimedes scholar, in the Department of Classics. Specific questions will be addressed: How does Archimedes use water in his theoretical reasoning? Do Archimedes’ “floating bodies” actually float on water? Or, what are they floating on? Such a specific reading obviously falls within my topic as I look into the nature of water as an element, and liquid bodies at large, their nature and properties, the boundaries between fluids and water within the Greek and Latin tradition (6th c. BC to 2nd c. AC). This in-depth reading will definitely help me understand Archimedes’ original contribution to a science of water.


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