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Three Millennia of Greek Literature



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The Pythagorean Brotherhood—Number the master—God the soul of the world—Music and morals


The birthplace of Pythagoras is uncertain. He is generally called the Samian, and we know, at all events, that he lived for some time in that island, during or immediately before the famous tyranny of Polycrates. All manner of legends are told of the travels of Pythagoras to Egypt, Chaldaea, Phoenicia, and even to India. Others tell of a mysterious initiation at the sacred cave of Jupiter in Crete, and of a similar ceremony at the Delphic oracle. What is certain is that at some date towards the end of the sixth century B.C. he removed to Southern Italy, which was then extensively colonised by Greeks, and that there he became a great philosophic teacher, and ultimately even a predominating political influence.


He instituted a school in the strictest sense, with its various grades of learners, subject for years to a vow of silence, holding all things in common, and admitted, according to their approved fitness, to successive revelations of the true doctrine of the Master. Those in the lower grades were called Listeners; those in the higher, Mathematicians or Students; those in the most advanced stage, Physicists or Philosophers. With the political relations of the school we need not here concern ourselves. In Croton and many other Greek cities in Italy Pythagoreans became a predominant aristocracy, who, having learned obedience under their master, applied what they had learned in an anti-democratic policy of government. This lasted for some thirty years, but ultimately democracy gained the day, and Pythagoreanism as a political power was violently rooted out.

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Cf. Guthrie, The Early Presocratics and the Pythagoreans - A Synopsis of Greek Philosophy

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