An Epic Poem inspired by Kathryn Lasky's
The Librarian Who Measured the Earth
(Little Brown Books for Children, 1994)


Eratosthenes—mathematician, poet, astronomer:
An Epic Poem
© 2009 Arielle Michelle (a pseudonym)

Born in the year 276 BC , or thereabouts,
In Cyrene (now Libya) North Africa,
Studied under poets and scholars,
Then off to Athens he went.

A tutor for a time, he,
Settled in Alexandria, around 255 bc,
Soon became the director at the great library,
Only the third to be a librarian,
In the library, in a temple of the Muses called the Mouseion.

A scholar was he,
But always he was second-best,
Seldom number one —always considered great but not quite great enough.
But even so, he accomplished many things, created the foundation for much to come,
Historical, remarkable, and the basis for modern scientific methods.

Developed Platonicus—mathematics that underlie Plato’s philosophy,
His concepts are used to study geometry, arithmetic, and even music.
He wrote of the duplication of the cube,
The mechanics of which are Indelibly recorded on a column in Alexandria.

Prime numbers, means, geometry,
His works appear in the books of many others,
A calendar that included leap years,
A systematic chronography of the world,
A catalog of the stars,
All moved science forward—progress.

But best-known perhaps for his measurement of the earth.
He became known as the librarian who measured the earth.
A surprisingly accurate measurement of the circumference—the earth all around.
The rays of the sun so far way; they must be parallel to the earth,
Calculations of shadows they made at Syene and Alexandria,
Helped Eratosthenes figure the angles, make the measurements, and calculate the distance,
All around the world.

Other scholars discussed,
Some questioned,
Some even argued,
And some just believed him.

Using lunar eclipses he measured the distance to the sun,
And the distance to the moon,
But in the end of all of his work— it was his measurement of the earth,
We remember most that he was the librarian that measured the world,
Only two hundred miles or so different from what we calculate today.

In the end his work has stayed alive,
But Eratosthenes became blind,
And not wanting to remain,
Suicide became his legacy—starvation his tool.
He died in Alexandria in 194 BC.

Sources consulted:

Eratosthenes of Cyrene.  (2009) In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved July 26, 2009, from Encyclopedia Britannica  (Online) URL:

Lasky, Kathryn.  (1994) The Librarian Who Measured the Earth.  Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.  Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

O’Connor, J.J. and E.F. Robertson.  (1999) “Eratosthenes biography: Eratosthenes of Cyrene.”  School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St. Andrews, Scotland. (Online) URL:

©2007, McBookwords, LLC  Contact the webkeeper with any questions regarding broken links etc.