Pythagoras and the Early Pythagoreans

Book Details

Author  Leonid Zhmud
Publisher  Oxford University Press
Publication Date   September 7, 2012
ISBN  019928931X
Pages  552

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In ancient tradition, Pythagoras (c. 570 - c. 495 BC) emerges as a wise teacher, an outstanding mathematician, an influential politician, and as a religious and ethical reformer. Arguably the most influential thinker among the Presocratics, he was thought to have possessed supernatural qualities. This combination of characteristics has led to his portrayal as a controversial and elusive figure. In contrast, his early Pythagorean followers, such as the doctors Democedes and Alcmaeon, the Olympic victors Milon and Iccus, the botanist Menestor, the natural philosopher Hippon, and the mathematicians Hippasus and Theodorus, all appear in our sources as 'rational' as they can possibly be.

This volume offers a comprehensive study of Pythagoras, Pythagoreanism, and the early Pythagoreans through an analysis of the many representations of the individual and his followers, allowing the representations to complement and critique each other. Using sources dating back to before 300 BC, Zhmud portrays a more historical picture of Pythagoras and of the political society founded by him in Croton. With chapters devoted to the sciences, philosophy, and religion cultivated by Pythagoreans, a critical distinction is made between the theories of individual Pythagoreans. They were as 'normal' as any other Presocratic, a 'normality' that ensured the continued existence of Pythagoreanism as a philosophical and scientific school.

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