# What tool did the Greeks use to draw parallel lines?

• musicgold
In summary: The parallel line method is used in geometric proofs, for drawing parallel lines and for constructing perpendiculars.
musicgold
Homework Statement
Not a homework problem. I am curious as to how the Greek geometers drew parallel lines using only the compass and the straight age.
Relevant Equations
At the 1.30 mark in the video below, Johnny Ball explains how the Greeks multiplied numbers. As far as I know the Set Square is a later invention; so the Greeks must have used something else.

Thanks

They could e.g. take a perpendicular bisector of a line segment ##ab##, creating line segment ##cd##, and then take a perpendicular of ##cd##, creating ##ef##, which would be parallel to ##ab##.

Here's an explanation of the transverse angle copy method with a proof:
https://www.mathopenref.com/constparallel.html

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musicgold and Lnewqban
Two arcs from two points (as far from each other as the length of the available straight edge) on the original straight line, then, draw the second line being tangent to both arcs.

sysprog
Lnewqban said:
Two arcs from two points (as far from each other as the length of the available straight edge) on the original straight line, then, draw the second line being tangent to both arcs.
This method is fast and simple in practice, but it relies on reckoning and verifying to get the correct tangent, instead of on first establishing points of intersection and then joining them.

sysprog said:
This method is fast and simple in practice, but it relies on reckoning and verifying to get the correct tangent, instead of on first establishing points of intersection and then joining them.
That is true.

https://www.mathopenref.com/constparallel.html

https://www.mathopenref.com/constparallelrhombus.html

https://www.mathopenref.com/constparalleltt.html

In building construction layout, any of those methods can be used with a string under similar tension for drawing all the arcs, rather than a compass.

sysprog
@Lnewqban ##-##

If y'ain't cheat'n', y'ain't tryin' hard enough ##-## US Army NCO​

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musicgold said:
As far as I know the Set Square is a later invention; so the Greeks must have used something else.
They could have made a 3-4-5 triangle with rope segments:

Lnewqban and sysprog
sysprog said:
This method is fast and simple in practice, but it relies on reckoning and verifying to get the correct tangent, instead of on first establishing points of intersection and then joining them.
What need for tangents?

fresh_42, musicgold and pinball1970
DaveC426913 said:
What need for tangents?
Your drawing shows 4 arcs, while @Lnewban's tangent is common to 2 arcs:
@lnewqban said:
Two arcs from two points (as far from each other as the length of the available straight edge) on the original straight line, then, draw the second line being tangent to both arcs.

sysprog said:
Your drawing shows 4 arcs, while @Lnewban's tangent is common to 2 arcs:

Of course it's true that you don't need tangents to construct parallel lines, but I wouldn't call the quick method posted by @Lnewqban a bad idea ##-## it's fast and simple, and could be practical for e.g. carpentry or masonry purposes, in that you can set the compass to the distance at which you want the parallel line.

DaveC426913 and Lnewqban
DaveC426913 said:
Not too precise, but not a bad method when you need to field-layout a parallel of a sequence of irregular curves, like when building a sidewalk or road that follows a twisting course.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_curve

sysprog
Is the question how did they make parallel lines in geometric proofs, or how did they do it when like, engineering stuff? I would be surprised if they didn't know to just measure off a distance perpendicular to the line in practice.

sysprog

## 1. What is the tool used by the Greeks to draw parallel lines?

The tool used by the Greeks to draw parallel lines is called a parallel ruler or a parallel straightedge.

## 2. How does a parallel ruler work?

A parallel ruler has two straight edges connected by a hinge. The hinge allows the ruler to maintain a constant distance between the two edges, allowing for the drawing of parallel lines.

## 3. Did the Greeks invent the parallel ruler?

No, the parallel ruler was not invented by the Greeks. It was first used by the ancient Egyptians and later improved upon by the Greeks.

## 4. What other tools did the Greeks use for drawing?

In addition to the parallel ruler, the Greeks also used a compass, a straightedge, and a protractor for drawing geometric shapes and lines.

## 5. Is the parallel ruler still used today?

Yes, the parallel ruler is still used today in various fields, such as architecture, engineering, and art, for drawing precise parallel lines.

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