Archimedes’ crown and the first Eureka!
Syracuse, myths and legends: the Golden Crown of Archimedes and the first Eureka moment in history.
The history of Syracuse is inextricably linked to the name of its most famous citizen: we are obviously referring to Archimedes.
Syracuse is certainly not the only city to be in debt with the famous inventor, but it is the whole world of physics and mathematics. Even today his most famous expression, “Eureka”, is easily attributed to genius of Syracuse, but how do we know? And what was the first use of this expression?
Despite having made many significant discoveries, it is thanks to one of the many anecdotes that revolves around the scientist’s life, that Archimedes is remembered: the legend of the golden crown.
This story, passed down from many sources – first of all Vitruvio – is set in Syracuse and recounts that the inventor was commissioned by Hiero II a very difficult task: the tyrant wanted to know if a crown he had received as a gift by a goldsmith was actually made of pure gold, thus worthy of the sovereign, or if it had instead been realized with poor materials.
All this had to be done, however, without even scratching the crown! How to do it?? Tired of continuing to mull over this dilemma, Archimedes grieved, he decided to take a break and go to the baths, of course a refreshing dip in the hot water would be beneficial to his nerves. Shortly after being immersed, he stood up shouting “Εύρηκα !!” (Eureka!, which means “I found it!” in ancient Greek), The mathematician jumped out of the tub and ran hurriedly to the tyrant. He had just uncovered what is now known as Archimedes’ principle.
He decided to first weigh the crown in the water, and then to do the same with as many gold coins as were said to have been melted to create the precious artifact; the two weights, however, moved different volumes of water, and it was thanks to this phenomenon that Archimedes understood that the the crown was in part made of less valuable materials than gold.
Because of this and other anecdotes, as well as the prestige that the aretusean genius brings to the city of Syracuse, the figure of Archimedes today is certainly very dear to the local people, who boast the birthplace with great pride. His name has been given to one of the main squares in Ortigia island, in the middle of which you can admire the beautiful Fountain of Artemis, godess of wisdom.