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The Greek philosopher; born on the island of Samos about 580 B.C., son of Mnesarchus. He is said to have been the first man who called himself a "philosopher," or lover of wisdom. The certain facts about his life are extraordinarily few, since in the course of time his life became obscured by a web of legend and tradition, as is shown by the biographies of the Neoplatonists Iamblichus and Porphyrius. As the story goes, he was a disciple of Pherecydes of Syros, and spent a large part of his earlier life on journeys, during which he studied the civilization and the mystic lore of the East, and especially the wisdom of the Egyptians. When, on his return to Samos, he found his country under the yoke of the tyrant Polycrates, he migrated to Lower Italy, and settled in 529 at Croton, Here, in order to bring about a political and social regeneration of the Lower Italian towns, which had been ruined by the strife of parties, he founded a society, whose members were pledged to a pure and devout life, to the closest friendship with each other, to united action in upholding morals and chastity, as well as order and harmony in the common weal. The aristocratic tendency of this society caused a rising of the popular party in Croton, in which Pythagoras, with 300 of his adherents is supposed to have perished; according to other accounts, he marched with a few followers to Metapontum, where he died soon afterwards (504). Pythagoras has left nothing of his teaching in a written form. The Golden Sayings which bear his name are certainly not genuine, though they may have originated at an early date. They consist of seventy-one maxims written in hexameters, with little to commend them as poetry. It follows then that there is as much uncertainty about the system of Pythagoras as about his life, for it is impossible to ascertain which of the precepts of the Pythagorean school are due to himself, and which are later additions by his disciples, We can only ascribe to him with certainty the doctrine (1) of the transmigration of souls, and (2) of number as the principle of the harmony of the universe and of moral life; and, further, certain religious and moral precepts. The first disciple of Pythagoras who described his philosophical system in writing was Philolaus, either of Croton or Tarentum, a contemporary of Socrates (about 430 B.C.). Of this document, which was written in the Doric dialect, we possess only a few fragments. Archytas of Tarentum was another important follower of this school. He was a friend of Plato, and was distinguished as a general, statesman, and mathematician. He flourished about 400-365, but the fragments which bear his name are not genuine. The same may be said of the writings attributed to Occllus Lucanus and to Timoeus of Locri, Concerning the Nature of the Universe and Concerning theSoul, and of the seven letters of Theano, the supposed wife of Pythagoras, Concerning the Education of Children, Jealousy, The Management of the Household, etc.
Type: Standard
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