The king of Persia, Darius – self-proclaimed as the “King of Kings”– jerked aside the flap of his elaborately decorated campaign tent and strutted out in splendid war regalia. King Darius’ soothsayer Macumba had just informed him after inspecting some dots in the sand that the number of soldiers in King Darius’ army would tell whether his coming battle against the Greeks would be victorious or not.
Outside the campaign tent stood Zopyrus, his chief general, looking over the vast field of soldiers who were getting ready for battle.
“General Zopyrus, how many men do we have in my army,” King Darius demanded to know.
“I don’t know exactly, O King of Kings,” replied general Zopyrus, but I will surely find out.
“Line them all up in columns of two,” said King Darius.
General Zopyrus instructed his aide Mortius to carry out the order. Mortius returned, reporting: “O King of kings, there are many columns of two, but alas one soldier remains unpaired.”
“Then line them up in columns of three,” said King Darius. Mortius ran off to comply, almost tripping over his dangling sword.
Mortius returned, reporting: “O King of kings, there are many columns of three, but two soldiers remain in excess.”
“Do I have to do all the thinking,” shouted King Darius. “Continue with four, five, six, etc. and let me know when there are no soldiers in excess,” barked King Darius.
“Yes, O King of kings,” Mortius ran off again to comply, general Zopyrus shuffling his feet nervously.
Mortius returned: “O King of kings, columns of four left three soldiers in excess, columns of five left four, columns of six left five, columns of seven left six, columns of eight left seven, columns of nine left eight, columns of ten left nine, columns of eleven left ten, columns of twelve left eleven, and columns of thirteen left zero in excess, ” he reported breathlessly.
“Well then, that should be sufficient information to determine the total number of soldiers in my army,” said King Darius. “General Zopyrus, have your aide get busy at once. This information is vital.”
“O King of kings, I will ask the court astrologer, Leonardis,” said general Zopyrus. “He is good with numbers.”
“Report the result to me immediately,” the King of kings Darius swept aside the tent flap and returned into his campaign tent, awaiting the result of the battle.
How many soldiers do you think Darius had in his army?
Did King Darius win the battle with the Greeks?