Syracuse was already attracting scholars by the 5th century BC (Archytas of Tarentum, the founder of studies on mechanics, stayed there, as did Plato repeatedly) but they were then also drawn to Alexandria by the favourable conditions created by its rulers, who had founded two outstanding institutions - the Library and the Museum - committed to the preservation of knowledge and hugely innovative research. Cultural relations between Syracuse and Alexandria became especially important and, by the 3rd century BC, not only were poets and men of letters such as Theocritus from Syracuse and Callimachus active in the Egyptian city but also mathematicians, astronomers and scholars of mechanics, with Archimedes forging key friendships with the geographer Eratosthenes, the astronomer Conon and the mathematician Dositheus.
C. 217/214 BC
First Imperial Age
Reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, 285/282-246 BC
1st century AD
1st century AD
Second half of the 2nd century AD
Pneumatics played a key role in the new mechanics that was emerging in the Alexandria of the 3rd century BC. Based on the philosophers' reflections on the existence of empty space, this discipline explored all phenomena involving water, air and steam pressure. The first assumption was a conviction of air's corporeal substance and the existence of a separable vacuum but not an absolute vacuum, which nature was believed to fear. Specially devised and constructed instruments subjected the air to motion, demonstrating its elasticity and ability to expand and rarefy. The changes in volume generated a whole host of surprise effects that led to gushing fountains and water devices becoming prime attractions. The first water clocks belonged to this same type of apparatus.