Wikipedia states that

[Archimedes' cattle problem] was discovered by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in a Greek manuscript containing a poem of forty-four lines, in the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel, Germany in 1773.

I have accepted that statement as fact for a long time, but I have never seen the Greek original of that poem, nor a scan/photograph/transcription of it, or even an inventory reference for it in the Herzog August Library, anywhere, nor can I find it on the web.

This makes me wonder whether that "history" is even true at all, or whether Lessing or someone else might have made it up in order to make an 18th century problem look more interesting.

I'd appreciate any reference to the Greek original, or more background showing that (as I now suspect) there is no (ancient) Greek original after all.


Here is a link to the full document at the Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaften in Augsburg:


  • $\begingroup$ Yes! That looks like a scientific edition to me. So it might well be real after all. The edition will likely also contain a proper reference to the original document. Thank you! $\endgroup$ Feb 3 '14 at 14:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ See also dbs.hab.de/mss/?list=ms&id=77-gud-graec in the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel's Handschriftendatenbank where Lessing discovered the problem, according to the German Wikipedia page de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rinderproblem_des_Archimedes#Geschichte. It seems that it hasn't been scanned yet. Other volumes of this collection (Cod. Guelf. Gud. graec.) are available online, see dbs.hab.de/mss/?list=collection&id=gud-graec. Maybe you can ask them for a scan of the page. Lessing himself doubted that the letter was really written by Archimedes, but it is certainly old. $\endgroup$
    – UwF
    Feb 3 '14 at 15:06

Although I cannot quell your doubts, at least the problem statement/poem in Greek can be found here:

ARCHIMEDIS OPERA OMNIA CUM COMMENTARIIS EUTOCII B. G. Teubner, Leibzig, Volume 2 (1881), Pages 448 & 450. (Webpage link)

Here is the beginning:

The full poem, more scholarly references, translations, etc., may be found at this link, maintained by Chris Rorres.


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