The Byzantine Empire, much like its predecessor the Roman Empire, had its share of wise and able men serving in great fields of astronomy, physics, mathematics, philosophy and architecture.
One of the great architectural marvels of the Byzantine Era is a church (now a mosque) called the Hagia Sophia, located in present-day Istanbul, Turkey. Built in the 4th century, it has been one of the technological marvels of the day; in fact it was ahead of its time for several centuries.
Emperor Justinian I commissioned the church to be rebuilt for the sake of state-sanctioned Christianity, approaching well-known mathematicians called Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Thalles, who created a building that even 15 centuries later is still considered one of the great architectural models of all time with its design, its symmetry and overall beauty.
Neither Isidore nor Anthemius were known as architects, but they were known for their work with stereometry (measuring of area and volume of solids) and physics, and were accomplished in the logistics of moving people and materials around the Empire to construct such a building, which was one of the largest of the day and one of the largest ever built in the Middle East – a main hall that was a 70-by-75 meter rectangle (more than 50,000 square feet).
Who is Isidore of Miletus? Honestly, other than the Hagia Sophia (which still stands today and is a prominent mosque of the Islam faith), there is not much written about this man. The only other part of his legacy was that he was the first to compile all of the works of the great Archimedes. Only one copy of that, however, survived into the modern age, and it was highly valued in furthering scientific discovery through the Renaissance and beyond.
Isidore was a noted mathematician of the time, as there was evidence that he had a school in which math and physics were studied, and he had some commentaries in several of Euclid’s works, suggesting that the works came from his school and teachings.
The Hagia Sophia was supposedly designed to withstand earthquakes, which were prevalent in the area, but a massive quake collapsed the dome of the church in 558, about 20 years after the church’s dedication. While there is no recod of Isidore passing away, when the re-building of the dome was requested, it was Isidore’s nephew, Isidore the Younger, who came to do the renovation.