The Sun Is as Big as the Peloponnesus

  • Dirk L. Couprie
Part of the Astrophysics and Space Science Library book series (ASSL, volume 374)


Plutarch, Hippolytus, and Diogenes Laertius report that Anaxagoras compared the size of the sun with the Peloponnesus (see Fig. 16.1). The aim of this chapter is to show that Anaxagoras was not crazy when he said this but that it was a fair estimate, from his point of view, which was that of a flat earth. More precisely, I show that with the instruments (gnomon, clepsydra, sighting tube) and with the geometrical knowledge (the properties of similar triangles, simple equations, Pythagoras’ theorem) available, he must have been able to use the procedures and perform the calculations needed to reach approximately his result.


Solar Eclipse Angular Diameter Summer Solstice Similar Triangle Preceding Chapter 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dirk L. Couprie
    • 1
  1. 1.MaastrichtNetherlands

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