This type of algebra goes back to the Babylonians. Rhetorical algebra
was all oral. There were no symbols to use and writing materials
may or may not have existed in different cultures. This does not mean that
"easy" problems were the only ones described. Keep in mind that
writing materials and symbols do not add intelligence or problem solving
ability to people. Though arithmetic began for practical reasons, an art
developed to cultivate the science. Naturally, consideration of the abstract
began to develop. People began studing mathematics for the sake of mathematics,
not out of necessity. This is how algebra ultimately evolved from arithmetic.
But, the people of this time period were limited in their ability to write
and the materials to write on. Some of the easiest obtainable material was
clay tablets, which had to be just the right consistency at that moment
to allow an impression to be made with some sort of stylus, then baked in
the sun to hold that shape. And they simply wrote out exactly what they
said. They did not have symbols or abbreviations. They didn't know what
+, -, *, or = meant!
276 B.C. - 197 B.C. -- Eratosthenes of Cyrene
He is noted for a device known as the sieve,
used for finding all prime
numbers less than a given number n.
790 - 850 -- Al-Khowarizmi
1048 - 1122 -- Omar Khayyam
He was a great poet of his day, author of the exquisite Rubaiyat.
He found a geometric solution of cubic equations.