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Dorofei Bragin
Dorofei Bragin

Pythagorean Knowledge From The Ancient To The M...

Pythagoras influenced Plato, whose dialogues, especially his Timaeus, exhibit Pythagorean teachings. Pythagorean ideas on mathematical perfection also impacted ancient Greek art. His teachings underwent a major revival in the first century BC among Middle Platonists, coinciding with the rise of Neopythagoreanism. Pythagoras continued to be regarded as a great philosopher throughout the Middle Ages and his philosophy had a major impact on scientists such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, and Isaac Newton. Pythagorean symbolism was used throughout early modern European esotericism, and his teachings as portrayed in Ovid's Metamorphoses influenced the modern vegetarian movement.

Pythagorean Knowledge from the Ancient to the M...

Most of the major sources on Pythagoras's life are from the Roman period,[30] by which point, according to the German classicist Walter Burkert, "the history of Pythagoreanism was already... the laborious reconstruction of something lost and gone."[29] Three ancient biographies of Pythagoras have survived from late antiquity,[10][30] all of which are filled primarily with myths and legends.[10][30][31] The earliest and most respectable of these is the one from Diogenes Laërtius's Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers.[30][31] The two later biographies were written by the Neoplatonist philosophers Porphyry and Iamblichus[30][31] and were partially intended as polemics against the rise of Christianity.[31] The later sources are much lengthier than the earlier ones,[30] and even more fantastic in their descriptions of Pythagoras's achievements.[30][31] Porphyry and Iamblichus used material from the lost writings of Aristotle's disciples[29] and material taken from these sources is generally considered to be the most reliable.[29]

Other ancient writers, however, claimed that Pythagoras had learned these teachings from the Magi in Persia or even from Zoroaster himself.[56][57] Diogenes Laërtius asserts that Pythagoras later visited Crete, where he went to the Cave of Ida with Epimenides.[56] The Phoenicians are reputed to have taught Pythagoras arithmetic and the Chaldeans to have taught him astronomy.[57] By the third century BC, Pythagoras was already reported to have studied under the Jews as well.[57] Contradicting all these reports, the novelist Antonius Diogenes, writing in the second century BC, reports that Pythagoras discovered all his doctrines himself by interpreting dreams.[57] The third-century AD Sophist Philostratus claims that, in addition to the Egyptians, Pythagoras also studied under sages or gymnosophists in India.[57] Iamblichus expands this list even further by claiming that Pythagoras also studied with the Celts and Iberians.[57]

Of the various Greek sages claimed to have taught Pythagoras, Pherecydes of Syros is mentioned most often.[63][64] Similar miracle stories were told about both Pythagoras and Pherecydes, including one in which the hero predicts a shipwreck, one in which he predicts the conquest of Messina, and one in which he drinks from a well and predicts an earthquake.[63] Apollonius Paradoxographus, a paradoxographer who may have lived in the second century BC, identified Pythagoras's thaumaturgic ideas as a result of Pherecydes's influence.[63] Another story, which may be traced to the Neopythagorean philosopher Nicomachus, tells that, when Pherecydes was old and dying on the island of Delos, Pythagoras returned to care for him and pay his respects.[63] Duris, the historian and tyrant of Samos, is reported to have patriotically boasted of an epitaph supposedly penned by Pherecydes which declared that Pythagoras's wisdom exceeded his own.[63] On the grounds of all these references connecting Pythagoras with Pherecydes, Riedweg concludes that there may well be some historical foundation to the tradition that Pherecydes was Pythagoras's teacher.[63] Pythagoras and Pherecydes also appear to have shared similar views on the soul and the teaching of metempsychosis.[63]

Pythagoreanism also entailed a number of dietary prohibitions.[111][161][177] It is more or less agreed that Pythagoras issued a prohibition against the consumption of fava beans[178][161] and the meat of non-sacrificial animals such as fish and poultry.[171][161] Both of these assumptions, however, have been contradicted.[179][180] Pythagorean dietary restrictions may have been motivated by belief in the doctrine of metempsychosis.[151][181][182][183] Some ancient writers present Pythagoras as enforcing a strictly vegetarian diet.[e][151][182] Eudoxus of Cnidus, a student of Archytas, writes, "Pythagoras was distinguished by such purity and so avoided killing and killers that he not only abstained from animal foods, but even kept his distance from cooks and hunters."[184][185] Other authorities contradict this statement.[186] According to Aristoxenus,[187] Pythagoras allowed the use of all kinds of animal food except the flesh of oxen used for ploughing, and rams.[185][188] According to Heraclides Ponticus, Pythagoras ate the meat from sacrifices[185] and established a diet for athletes dependent on meat.[185]

In ancient times, Pythagoras and his contemporary Parmenides of Elea were both credited with having been the first to teach that the Earth was spherical,[223] the first to divide the globe into five climatic zones,[223] and the first to identify the morning star and the evening star as the same celestial object (now known as Venus).[224] Of the two philosophers, Parmenides has a much stronger claim to having been the first[225] and the attribution of these discoveries to Pythagoras seems to have possibly originated from a pseudepigraphal poem.[224] Empedocles, who lived in Magna Graecia shortly after Pythagoras and Parmenides, knew that the earth was spherical.[226] By the end of the fifth century BC, this fact was universally accepted among Greek intellectuals.[227] The identity of the morning star and evening star was known to the Babylonians over a thousand years earlier.[228]

Now, if we look upon the Pythagorean tradition as a part of the Classical heritage, transmitted to Late Antiquity, we will find it to be relatively well documented by the extant sources, fragments and testimonia, and much work has been recently done to clarify the subject matter. Clement of Alexandria as a 'Neopythagorean Philosopher' is relatively badly served, however. It will be useful therefor to collect various observations on this issue, which are scattered over different studies, in a single outline. Clement is not only a good source of the Pythagorean doctrines, which enhance our knowledge of the Pythagorean tradition. He also was one of the first Christian philosophers to adopt the ancient theory of symbolism and to replace it in the new Christian soil. In his works the conceptual system of the second-century Middle Platonists and Neopythagoreans and the method of allegorical exegesis of Philo of Alexandria were incorporated in the context of the Christian world view. His distinction of the fundamental belief (koine pistis) and the highest faith and this of the scientific knowledge (episteme) and gnosis became fundamental for the later Christian theory of knowledge. The highest faith and true gnosis were considered to be the final step to lead to Gnostic perfection, and symbolism played a central role in the process of its achievement. The process of education under the direction of a learned instructor requires time, ability to listen and understand, and a special disposition towards knowledge, fortified by faith that the real knowledge can be achieved. Clement believes that the student should be directed and educated according to a certain model (partially found, as I shall argue, in the Pythagorean tradition). In the process of paidei/a the student is gradually achieving a certain state of moral perfection, learning in a symbolic way things that he is unable to see clearly and exercising his analytical ability by means of the natural and precise sciences.

Pythagoras in Clement's eyes was an ancient sage and religious reformer, a God-inspired transmitter of the spiritual tradition, which itself ascends to the most antique times. The Pythagorean school from the very beginning functioned as a secret society and was shrouded in mystery.

Pythagoras instructed to clean one's body and soul before entering the road by means of strictly drawn dietary regulations. (10) One of the reasons for this is that the burden of food prevents soul from 'rising to higher levels of reality', a condition which, after certain exercise, could be reached during sleep or meditation. Maintaining self-control and a right balance in everything is therefor absolutely necessary for everybody entering the path of knowledge:

I think that it was a splendid statement of Hippodamus the Pythagorean: 'Friendships are of three kinds, one group arising from knowledge of the gods, one from the service of human beings, and one from animal pleasures.' These are respectively the friendships enjoyed by philosophers, ordinary men and animals (Strom. II 102, 1).

Clement has managed to mention the whole bunch of the 'Pythagoreans'. Namely, he refer to and quote from Cercops, (34) Brontius (Strom. I 131,1 above), Theano (I 80,4; IV 44,2; 121, 2) (35) , Philolaus (III 17,1) (36) , Zamolxis (IV 58,13) (37) , Hippodamus (II 102,1) (38) , Theodotus (IV 56,1) (39) , Hipparchus (V 57, 3) (40) , Timaeus Locrus (Strom. V 115,4) (41) and some other ancient and later Pythagoreans, the Neopythagorean philosopher Numenius (I 71,1), but also Numa, king of the Romans (42) (I 71,1; V 8,4), Pindar (V 102,2) (43) , Isidore the Gnostic (II 114,1), Philo of Alexandria (I 72,4; II 100,3) and even a literary personage: the 'Pythagorean' of Plato's Statesman!

To sum up, education requires a certain technique of teaching and should start from a preliminary level. (45) Then it gradually proceeds towards special instructions directed to those of students who are more gifted by nature in comparison with the rest, 'inclined to virtue' and, consequently, are able to make better progress. (46) Finally, only those who 'struck by thyrsus', with great effort, attain to 'epoptic' knowledge. (47) For those who have approached this highest knowledge, school-distinction is not needed any longer, because they have already seen a glimpse of the true doctrine. 041b061a72


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