I understand the concept of a Dirichlet character, and am interested in its generalizations to arbitrary number fields. I have heard that this generalization is called a Hecke character. However, I am not familiar with adeles or ideles, so I don't understand that definition. I know there is a "classical" definition of Hecke characters, but I am having trouble finding an easy to understand source about this definition. Could anyone provide a reference on the classical definition of Hecke characters that covers some of the preliminary knowledge needed to understand this definition?


2 Answers 2


The group of fractional ideals (coprime with some ideal $J$..) is a free abelian group generated by the prime ideals $I_{K,J}\cong \prod_{P\not\ni J}' P^\Bbb{Z}$

So it is easy to construct all the homomorphisms $\psi: I_{K,J}\to \Bbb{C}^\times$.

The Hecke characters are those whose restriction to the principal ideals is defined in term of reduction $\bmod J$ and complex embeddings $\sigma_j$, ie. $$\psi(aO_K)=\chi(a) = \phi(a)\prod_j \sigma_j(a)^{r_j}|\sigma_j(a)|^{s_j}$$ where $\phi$ is an homomorphism $O_K/J^\times\to \Bbb{C}^\times$

It is easy to generate all the possible $\chi$, the big restriction is that we need it to be trivial on $O_K^\times$ so that $\psi(aO_K)=\chi(a)$ is well-defined.

Finally we extend $\psi$ by defining $\psi(I_l)$ for the finitely generators of the class group (of fractional ideals coprime with $J$..) :

$Cl_J(K)\cong \prod C_{n_l}$,

$I_l$ is a generator of $C_{n_l}$, so $I_l^{n_l}=(a_l)$ is principal, we choose $\psi(I_l)$ such that $\psi(I_l)^{n_l}=\psi(a_l O_K)$.

Try with $K$ a quadratic imaginary field, $O_K^\times$ is finite thus it is much easier to construct all the possible $\chi$.

Try also with $\psi(I)=\varphi(I\cap O)$ where $\varphi$ is a character of the class group of $O=\Bbb{Z}[mi]$ with $m\ne 1$.

The point of this construction is that $\sum \psi(I) N(I)^{-s}$ (in addition to its Euler product) is the Mellin transform of some kind of theta function similar to $\sum_n e^{-\pi n^2 x}$ which will give the analytic continuation and functional equation.

  • $\begingroup$ I appreciate the answer, and apparently I need to learn more abstract algebra before studying Hecke characters! $\endgroup$
    – Math Rules
    Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 1:11

The original papers, in German, are quite well written, and certainly do not use ideles or adeles. Yes, identical titles:

E. Hecke, Eine neue Art von Zetafunktionen und ihre Beziehungen der Verteilung der Primzahlen}, Math. Z. 1 no. 4 (1918), 357-376.

E. Hecke, Eine neue Art von Zetafunktionen und ihre Beziehungen der Verteilung der Primzahlen, Math. Z. 6 no. 1-2 (1920), 11-51.


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