Pythagoras of Samos

Classical Quarterly 6 (3-4):135- (1956)
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The influence which the Pythagorean society and its leading doctrines exercised upon Athenian intellectual and political developments in the late fifth century leads us to seek in Pythagoras a figure of greater stature and more clear-cut features than modern scholarship is prepared to allow. To us he is a great name but little more, the large body of detailed information about his life which is available in later writers being dismissed as fabulous. This scepticism was reasonable enough when the reader was faced with the garbled hotchpotch of an Iamblichus or a Porphyry. But since the task has been put in hand of determining what portions of this tradition can safely be attributed to the various authorities who concerned themselves with the Pythagorean story in the fourth century, and of considering the respective historical value of these authorities, the scepticism of, for example, Burnet's account becomes unjustified. It is now possible to present a fairly detailed account of Pythagoras' activity, which has at least as much claim to credence as a great deal of what we now readily accept as ancient history, and is furthermore consistent with the general picture of the man that emerges from a careful scrutiny of classical sources. Not only for its own sake, but in the context of the increasingly fruitful investigation of fifth-century Athenian movements, I feel that it may be useful to put together such an account of Pythagoras. It will certainly be regarded by some as mere fiction, but may nevertheless provide others with a convenient summary of what the fifth- and fourth-century writers thought and believed about a man and a movement that had profound influence upon their times. I hope at the same time to suggest some links between what Pythagoras thought and did and the main tradition of Greek social behaviour. If Pythagoras was, as I believe, not so much an innovator as a reformer and developer of some of the central institutions of Greek life, the possibility will be opened of regarding various phenomena in mainland Greece which we have been asked to call Pythagorean, e.g. the Socratic phrontisterion as it appears in the Clouds, not as deriving from Pythagoras but as a parallel growth to the Pythagorean synedria and nourished by the same root



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Citations of this work

Herodotus and Samos.B. M. Mitchell - 1975 - Journal of Hellenic Studies 95:75-91.
The Sixth-Century Tyranny at Samos.John P. Barron - 1964 - Classical Quarterly 14 (02):210-.
The Sixth-Century Tyranny at Samos.John P. Barron - 1964 - Classical Quarterly 14 (2):210-229.

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