This entry is about the mathematical notion. For the commutative diagram editor, see quiver (editor).
geometric representation theory
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A quiver (Gabriel 72) is a collection of edges which may stretch between (ordered) pairs of “points”, called vertices. Hence a quiver is a kind of graph.
The term “quiver” (German: Köcher) — for what in graph theory is (and was) known as directed graphs (directed pseudo-multigraphs, to be precise) — is due to Gabriel 1972, where it says on the first page:
For such a 4-tuple $\big[$ $E \underoverset{\underset{t}{\longrightarrow}}{\overset{s}{\longrightarrow}}{} V$ $\big]$ we propose the term quiver, and not graph, since there are already too many notions attached to the latter word.
Hence the notion “quiver” is a concept with an attitude, indicating that one is interested in certain special constructions with these graphs, distinct from what graph theory typically cares about: Namely one is interested in their quiver representations. In this way, “quiver” is really a term in representation theory; see also Derksen & Weyman 2005, ftn 1:
The underlying motivations of quiver theory are quite different from those in the traditional graph theory. To emphasize this distinction, it is common in our context to use the word “quivers” instead of “graphs”.
A key result in quiver representation-theory is Gabriel's theorem, also form Gabriel 1972.
The walking quiver^{1} $X$ is the category with
one object $X_0$, called the object of vertices;
one object $X_1$, called the object of edges;
two morphisms $s, t\colon X_1 \to X_0$, called the source and target;
together with identity morphisms.
A quiver is a functor $G\colon X \to$ Set.
More generally, a quiver in a category $C$ is a functor $G\colon X \to C$.
The category of quivers in $C$, Quiv$(C)$, is the functor category $C^{X}$, where:
objects are functors $G\colon X \to C$,
morphisms are natural transformations between such functors.
In the basic case where $C$ is Set, the category Quiv(Set) is equivalent to the category of presheaves on $X^{op}$. So: the category of quivers, Quiv, is the category of presheaves on the category $X^{op}$.
A quiver $G$ consists of two sets $E$ (the set of edges of $G$), $V$ (the set of vertices of $G$) and two functions
(the source and target functions). More generally, a quiver internal to a category (more simply, in a category) $C$ consists of two objects $E$, $V$ and two morphisms $s, t\colon E \rightrightarrows V$.
If $G = (E, V, s, t)$ and $G' = (E', V', s', t')$ are two quivers in a category $C$, a morphism $g\colon G \to G'$ is a pair of morphisms $g_0\colon V \to V'$, $g_1\colon E \to E'$ such that $s' \circ g_1 = g_0 \circ s$ and $t' \circ g_1 = g_0 \circ t$.
In graph theory, a quiver is often (cf. p. 4 or Figure 2-2) called a directed pseudograph (or some variation on that theme), but category theorists often just call them directed graphs.
Let $G_0 = G(X_0)$ and $G_1 = G(X_1)$.
A quiver in $C$ is a presheaf on $X^{op}$ with values in $C$.
A quiver is a globular set which is concentrated in the first two degrees.
A quiver can have distinct edges $e,e'\in G_1$ such that $s(e) = s(e')$ and $t(e) = t(e')$. A quiver can also have loops, namely, edges with $s(e) = t(e)$.
A quiver is complete? if for any pair of vertices $v,v'\in G_0$, there exists a unique directed edge $e\in G_1$ with $s(e) = v, t(e) = v'$.
Saying quiver instead of directed (multi)graph indicates focus on a certain set of operation intended on that graph. Notably there is the notion of a quiver representation.
Now, one sees that a representation of a graph $G$ in the sense of quiver representation is nothing but a functor $\rho\colon Q := F(G) \to Vect$ from the free category $F(G)$ on the quiver $G$:
Given a graph $G$ with collection of vertices $G_0$ and collection of edges $G_1$, there is the free category $F(G)$ on the graph whose collection of objects coincides with the collection of vertices, and whose collection of morphisms consists of finite sequences of edges in $G$ that fit together head-to-tail (also known as paths). The composition operation in this free category is the concatenation of sequences of edges.
Here we are taking advantage of the adjunction between Cat (the category of small categories) and Quiv (the category of directed graphs). Namely, any category has an underlying directed graph:
and the left adjoint of this functor gives the free category on a directed graph:
Since this is the central operation on quivers that justifies their distinction from the plain concept of directed graph, we may adopt here the point of view that quiver is synonymous with free category.
So a representation of a quiver $Q = F(G)$ is a functor
Concretely, such a thing assigns a vector space to each vertex of the graph $G$, and a linear operator to each edge. Representations of quivers are fascinating things, with connections to ADE theory, quantum groups, string theory, and more.
It may be handy to identify a quiver with its free category. This can be justified in the sense that the functor $F\colon Quiv \to Cat$ is an embedding ($k$-surjective for all $k \gt 0$) on the cores. In other words, isomorphisms between quivers may be identified with equivalences between free categories with no ambiguity.
However, at the level of noninvertible morphisms, this doesn't work; while $U$ is faithful, it is not full. In other words, there are many functors between free categories that are not morphisms of quivers.
Nevertheless, if we fix a quiver $G$ and a category $D$, then a representation of $G$ in $D$ is precisely a functor from $F(G)$ to $D$ (or equivalently a quiver morphism from $G$ to $U(D)$), and we may well want to think of this as being a morphism (a heteromorphism) from $G$ to $D$. As long as $D$ is not itself a free category, this is unlikely to cause confusion.
For $Q$ a quiver, write $k Q$ for the path algebra of $Q$ over a ground field $k$. That is, $k Q$ is an algebra with $k$-basis given by finite composable sequences of arrows in $Q$, including a “lazy path” of length zero at each vertex. The product of two paths composable paths is their composite, and the product of non-composable paths is zero.
A module over $k Q$ is the same thing as a representation of $Q$, so the theory of representations of quivers can be viewed within the broader context of representation theory of (associative) algebras.
If $Q$ is acyclic, then $k Q$ is finite-dimensional as a vector space, so in studying representations of $Q$, we are really studying representations of a finite dimensional algebra, for which many interesting tools exist (Auslander-Reiten theory, tilting, etc.).
Gabriel's theorem (Gabriel 72) says that connected quivers with a finite number of indecomposable quiver representations over an algebraically closed fieldare precisely the Dynkin quivers: those whose underlying undirected graph is a Dynkin diagram in the ADE series, and that the indecomposable quiver representations are in bijection with the positive roots in the root system of the Dynkin diagram. (Gabriel 72).
Let $V$ be a category (or a (infinity,1)-category). A quiver $Q$ is a $V$-enriched quiver if it has a collection of objects $Ob(Q)$ and a $V$-valued functor $Mor: Ob(Q) \times Ob(Q) \to V$ for all objects $a, b \in Ob(Q)$. Quivers in the usual sense are enriched in Set, while loop directed graphs/binary endorelations are quivers enriched in the category of truth values $\Omega$. $n$-quivers are quivers enriched in the category of $(n-1)$-quivers.
In dependent type theory with universes, a type equipped with an identity type is a quiver type enriched in a universe Type.
The concept of quiver in the context of quiver representation (and their classification in Gabriel's theorem) originates with
Some general-purpose references include
Harm Derksen, Jerzy Weyman, Quiver representations, Notices of the AMS (Feb 2005) [pdf, full:pdf]
William Crawley-Boevey, Lectures on quiver representations (pdf).
Alistair Savage, Finite-dimensional algebras and quivers (arXiv:math/0505082), Encyclopedia of Mathematical Physics, eds. J.-P. Françoise, G.L. Naber and Tsou S.T., Oxford, Elsevier, 2006, volume 2, pp. 313-320.
Quivers (referred to as directed pseudographs) were a tool in parts of the work of Ringel and Youngs in the second half the twentieth century to prove Heawood’s formula for every finite genus, cf. e.g. Fig. 2.3 the monograph
Beware that, strictly speaking, for Ringel, “quiver” means “embedded quiver” (into a given surface); in particular the author distinguishes between the two possible orientations of an embedded loop.
Quivers embedded in surfaces are studied in:
A special kind of quiver (finite, no loops, no parallel arcs) is treated in
Gregory Gutin, Jørgen Bang-Jensen: Digraphs: Theory, Algorithms and Applications. Springer Monographs in Mathematics. Second Edition (2009)
William Lawvere: Qualitative Distinctions Between Some Toposes of Generalized Graphs, Contemporary Mathematics 92 (1989)
Some introductory material on the relation between quivers (there called multigraphs) and categories can be found in
Last revised on November 14, 2023 at 09:29:54. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.