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On this page: Pyrrhus – Pythaenetus – Pythagoras



110—163, 183—200 ; Thirlwall, Hist, of Greece, vol. vii. pp. 288, 353, 362—364, vol. viii. pp. 4, 5, 15, 16, 26—40, 67—76; Niebuhr, Hist, of Rome, pp. 450—465, 474—522 ; Arnold, Hist, of Rome, vol. iii. pp. 439—445, 481—520.)


PYRRHUS (Uvppos), a Greek poet mentioned by Theocritus, is said by the Scholiast to have been a melic poet, and a native of Erythrae or Lesbos. (Theocr. iv. 31; Schol. ad loc. et ad iv. 20.)

PYTHAENETUS (nu0cuVeTos), wrote a work on Aegina. (Athen. xiii. p. 589, f; Schol. ad Apoll. Rhod. iv. 1712 ; Schol. ad Find. OL ix. 107, ad Nem. v. 81, vi. 53 ; Schol. ad Lycophr. 175.)

PYTHAGORAS (UvOay6pas). The authen­ticated facts in the history of Pythagoras are so few, and the sources from which the greater part of our information respecting him is derived are of so late a date, and so untrustworthy, that it is impossible to lay down more than an outline of his personal history with any approximation to cer­tainty. The total absence of written memorials proceeding from Pythagoras himself, and the paucity of the notices of him by contemporaries, coupled with the secrecy which was thrown around the constitution and actions of the Pythagorean brotherhood, held out strong temptations for in--vention to supply the place of facts, and the stories which thus originated were eagerly caught up by the Neo-Platonic writers who furnish most of the details respecting Pythagoras, and with whom it was a recognised canon, that nothing should be accounted incredible which related to the gods or what was divine. (Iambi. Adhort. ad Philos. p. 324, ed. Kiessling.) In this way a multitude of the most absurd fictions took their rise — such as that Apollo was his father ; that his person gleamed with a supernatural brightness ; that he exhibited a golden thigh ; that Abaris came flying to him on a golden arrow ; that he was seen in different places at one and the same time. (Comp. Herod, iv. 94, &c.) With the exception of some scanty notices by Xenophanes, Heracleitus, Herodotus, Plato, Aristotle, and Isoerates, we are mainly de­pendent on Diogenes Laertius, Porphyrius, and lamblichus for the materials out of which to form a biography of Pythagoras. Aristotle had written a separate work on the Pythagoreans, which is un­fortunately not extant. (He alludes to it himself, Met. i. 5. p. 986. 12, ed. Bekker.) His disciples Dicaearchus, Aristoxenus, and Heracleides Ponti-cus had written on the same subject. These writers, late as they are, are among the best from whom Porphyrius and lamblichus drew: their chief sources besides being legends and their own inven­tion. Hence we are reduced to admit or reject their statements mainly from a consideration of their inherent probability, and even in that point of


view it is not enough to look at each separately, for if all the separately credible narratives respect­ing Pythagoras were supposed true, they would extend the sphere and amount of his activity to an utterly impossible extent. (Krische, de Societatis a Pfrthagora conditae Scopo politico. Praef.; Brandis, Geschichte des Griech. Rom. Philosophie, p. 440 ; Grote, Hist, of Greece, vol. iv. p. 540.)

That Pythagoras was the son of Mnesarchus, who was either a merchant, or, according to others, an engraver of signets (Diog. Lae'rt. viii. 1), may be safely affirmed on the authority of Herodotus (iv. 95) ; that Samos was his birth-place, on that of Isocrates (Busir. p. 227, ed. Steph.). Others called him a Tyrrhenian or Phliasian, and gave Marmacus, or Demaratus, as the name of his father (Diog. Lae'rt. /. c. ; Porph. Vit. Pytli. 1, 2 ; Justin, xx. 4 ; Paus. ii. 13.) It is quite possible that though born in Samos, he may have been connected in race with those Tyrrhenian Pelasgians who were scattered over various parts of the Aegean Sea. There are but few chronological data, and those for the most part indistinct, for fixing the date of the birth of Pythagoras. Antilochus (ap. Clem. Alex. Strom. i. p. 309) reckoned 312 years from the ri\iKia of Pythagoras to b. c. 270, This would place the date of his birth at the close of the seventh century b. c. (b. c. 608.) Nearly the same date results from the account of Eratosthenes (ap. Diog. Lae'rt. viii. 47), and this is the date adopted by Bentley among others. On the other hand, according to Aristoxenus (Porph. I. c. c. 9), Pythagoras quitted Samos in the reign of Poly-crates, at the age of 40. According to lamblichus he was 57 years of age in b. c. 513. This would give b. c. 570 as the date of his birth, and this date coincides better with other statements. All autho­rities agree that he flourished in the times of Poly-crates and Tarquinius Superbus (b.c. 540—510. See Clinton, Fasti HeUen. s. a. b. c. 539, 533,531, 510). The war between Sybaris and Crotona might furnish some data bearing upon the point, if the connection of Pythagoras with it were matter of certainty.

It was natural that men should be eager to know, or ready to conjecture the sources whence Pythagoras derived the materials which were worked up into his remarkable system. And as, in such cases, in the absence of authentic inform­ation, the conjectures of one become the belief of another, the result is, that it would be difficult to find a philosopher to' whom such a variety of teachers is assigned as to Pythagoras. Some make his training almost entirely Grecian, others exclusively Egyptian and Oriental. We find men­tioned as his instructors Creophilus (Iambi. Vit. Pyth. 9), Hermodamas (Porph. 2., Diog. Lae'rt. viii. 2), Bias (Iambi. 1. c.), Thales (ibid.), Anaxi-mander (ibid. Porph. I. c.), and Pherecydes of Svros (Aristoxenus and others in Diog. Lae'rt. i. 118, 119; Cic. de Div. i. 49). .The Egyptians are said to have taught him geometry, the Phoe­nicians arithmetic, the Chaldeans astronomy, the Magians the formulae of religion and practical maxims for the conduct of life (Porph. I. c. 6). Of the statements regarding his Greek instructors, that about Pherecydes comes to us with the most respectable amount of attestation.

It was the current belief in antiquity, that Py­thagoras had undertaken extensive travels, and had visited not only Egypt, but Arabia, Phoenicia,

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