129THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS
All historians know that there is a great deal of mystery and uncertainty concerning the details of the ever-memorable battle on that fatal day, October 14, 1066. My puzzle deals with a curious passage in an ancient monkish chronicle that may never receive the attention that it deserves, and if I am unable to vouch for the authenticity of the document it will none the less serve to furnish us with a problem that can hardly fail to interest those of my readers who have arithmetical predilections. Here is the passage in question.
"The men of Harold stood well together, as their wont was, and formed sixty and one squares, with a like number of men in every square thereof, and woe to the hardy Norman who ventured to enter their redoubts; for a single blow of a Saxon war-hatchet would break his lance and cut through his coat of mail.... When Harold threw himself into the fray the Saxons were one mighty square of men, shouting the battle-cries, 'Ut!' 'Olicrosse!' 'Godemitè!'"
Now, I find that all the contemporary authorities agree that the Saxons did actually fight in this solid order. For example, in the "Carmen de Bello Hastingensi," a poem attributed to Guy, Bishop of Amiens, living at the time of the battle, we are told that "the Saxons stood fixed in a dense mass," and Henry of Huntingdon records that "they were like unto a castle, impenetrable to the Normans;" while Robert Wace, a century after, tells us the same thing. So in this respect my newly-discovered chronicle may not be greatly in error. But I have reason to believe that there is something wrong with the actual figures. Let the reader see what he can make of them.
The number of men would be sixty-one times a square number; but when Harold himself joined in the fray they were then able to form one large square. What is the smallest possible number of men there could have been?
In order to make clear to the reader the simplicity of the question, I will give the lowest solutions in the case of 60 and 62, the numbers immediately preceding and following 61. They are 60 × 42 + 1 = 312, and 62 × 82 + 1 = 632. That is, 60 squares of 16 men each would be 960 men, and when Harold joined them they would be 961 in number, and so form a square with 31 men on every side. Similarly in the case of the figures I have given for 62. Now, find the lowest answer for 61.
whats the best way of solving this puzzle
the only way i can find is by guess-work
this takes a computer about 5 seconds to do
can anyone solve this by hand
is an example of Pell's equation set by Fermat as a challenge problem in the 17th Century.
Google for Pell's equation and you should find an explanation of the method of finding the solutions.
Alternativly ImPerfectHacker will be along later and I'm sure he will be happy to explain how to solve it.