September 28, 2018
Episode 46: After Pythagoras
This episode is the first part of our second ‘Pythagorean trilogy’ (the first was Episodes 16-18). In it we discuss the end of Pythagoreanism in the Hellenistic period, and the birth of a new kind of ‘Pythagoreanism’, the text-based pseudo-Pythagorean writings. As often in western esotericism, it is only when a movement or thinker dies out that it really comes to life, and this was certainly true of Pythagoras and his school: we begin to see in the Hellenistic period a vast and complex literature on all manner of subjects appearing in the Greek world.
It was this pseudo-Pythagorean literature, alongside the philosophical movement known as Neopythagoreanism, which truly formed the legacy of ‘the Pythagoreans’ in western esotericism, so this episode also begins to look ahead to the Renaissance, when certain of these texts were translated into Latin and used as part of the project of constructing the perennial philosophy.
Works Discussed in this Episode:
Huffman, Carl, ‘Pythagoreanism’, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). On ‘Pythagorean hippies’.
- Robin Waterfield, (trans.), 1988. The Theology of Arithmetic. Phanes Press, Grand Rapids, MI.
- Thesleff, H., 1961. An Introduction to the Pythagorean Writings of the Hellenistic Period. Abo Akademi, Abo.
- Thesleff, H., 1965. The Pythagorean Texts of the Hellenistic Period. Abo Akademi, Abo.
- Thom, J. C., 1995. See below, on the Golden Verses.
- Zhmud 2012 (see below), 169-92, argues that the ‘split’ among the early Pythagoreans is a late doxographic invention and never happened.
- Baltes, M., 1972. Timaios Lokros: Über die Natur des Kosmos und der Seele. Brill, Leiden.
- Bonazzi, M.; Lévy, C. & Steel, C. (Ed.), 2007. A Platonic Pythagoras: Platonism and Pythagoreanism in the Imperial Age. Brepols, Turnhout.
- Burkert, W. (1961). ‘Hellenistische Pseudopythagorica’, Philologus 105 : 16-43.
- Burkert, W., 1972. Lore and Science in Ancient Pythagoreanism. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
- Celenza, C. S. (1999). ‘Pythagoras in the Renaissance: The Case of Marsilio Ficino’, Renaissance Quarterly 52 : 667-711.
- Centrone, B. (2014). ‘The Pseudo-Pythagorean Writings’. In: Huffman, C. A. (Ed.), A History of Pythagoreanism, Cambridge University Press.
- Delatte, A., 1915. Études sur la littérature pythagoricienne. Champion, Paris.
- Dillon, J. (2014). ‘Pythagoreanism in the Academic Tradition: The Early Academy to Numenius’. In: Huffman, C. (Ed.), A History of Pythagoreanism, Cambridge University Press.
- Dillon, J., 2003. The Heirs of Plato: A Study of the Old Academy (347-274 BC). Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Festugière, A.-J. (1945). ‘Les Mémoires Pythagoriques cités par Alexandre Polyhistor’, REG 58 : 1-65.
- Harder, R., 1966. Ocellus Lucanus. Weidmann, Dublin and Zürich.
- Huffman, C., 2005. Archytas of Tarentum: Pythagorean, Philosopher and Mathematician King. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
- Constantinos Macris, Tiziano Dorandi, and Luc Brisson, editors. Pythagoras redivivus: Studies on the Texts Attributed to Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans. Number 74 in Academia Philosophical Studies. Academia Verlag, Baden-Baden, 2021.
- Thom, J. C., 1995. The Pythagorean ‘Golden Verses’. Brill, Leiden.
- Zhmud, L., 2012. Pythagoras and the Early Pythagoreans. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Zhmud, L. (2014). ‘Sixth-, Fifth- and Fourth-Century Pythagoreans’. In: Huffman, C. (Ed.), A History of Pythagoreanism, Cambridge University Press.
Aristotle, Arithmology, Astronomy, Early Academy, Philosophy, Plato, Pythagoras, Pythagoreanism, Renaissance
June 12, 2020
Throughout Chinese history, certain Taoist schools were considered crusties. They had the reputation of not bathing, filthy, wild-haired, unkempt, either ascetic or perverted depending on the times, and “smelly”.
June 12, 2020
I suppose the crusty has always been with us. At a certain point, certain people will always ask the absolutely justified question: ‘Why bother?’
July 18, 2022
Biblio and Alibris list a single set of Thesleff’s intro and texts for $350. No doubt they’re invaluable, but wondering if there’s an alternative, especially for the texts. Also saw “The Pythagorean Writings: Hellenistic Texts from the 1st Cent. B.C. – 3d Cent. A.D. on Life, Morality, Knowledge, and the World
by NAVON, Robert” for a mere $50, but don’t know if it’s any good.
July 31, 2022
The Navon of whom you speak pertains to the following, I’m guessing, which is indeed highly recommended as a general-use English collection:
The Pythagorean writings : Hellenistic texts from the lst cent. B.C.-3d cent. A.D. on life, morality, and the world : comprising a selection of the neo-Pythagorean fragments, texts, and testimonia of the Hellenistic Period, including those of Philolaus and Archytas / translated from the Greek and Latin by Kenneth Guthrie and Thomas Taylor ; edited, with an introduction to the Pythagorean writings by Robert Navon ; with a foreword by L.G. Westerink. Kew Gardens, N.Y. : Selene Books, 1986.
Westerink is The Man, and Taylor and Guthrie are of course stalwarts of the Platonist branch of modern western esotericism, so should be read as perhaps attributing more weight to the idea of a `Pythagorean tradition’ than scholars would, but still rock the house.
July 31, 2022
Tx, Earl, this is very helpful, much appreciated!