Edited by Patrick Rousell for the World Wide Web.
A full-text, public domain edition for the generalist & specialist
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I first came across Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie’s edition of the Complete Pythagoras while researching a book on Leonardo. I had been surfing these deep waters for a while and so the value of Guthrie’s publication was immediately apparent. As Guthrie explains in his own introduction, which is at the beginning of the second book (p 168), he was initially prompted to publish these writings in the 1920’s for fear that this information would become lost. As it is, much of this information has since been published in fairly good modern editions. However, these are still hard to access and there is no current complete collection as presented by Guthrie. The advantage here is that we have a fairly comprehensive collection of works on Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans, translated from the original Greek into English, and presented as a unified, albeit electronic edition.
The Complete Pythagoras is a compilation of two books. The first is entitled The Life Of Pythagoras and contains the four biographies of Pythagoras that have survived from antiquity: that of Iamblichus (280-333 A.D.), Porphry (233-306 A.D.), Photius (ca 820- ca 891 A.D.) and Diogenes Laertius (180 A.D.). The second is entitled Pythagorean Library and is a complete collection of the surviving fragments from the Pythagoreans. The first book was published in 1920, the second a year later, and released together as a bound edition. The bound edition was produced inexpensively as a mimeographed hand-typed manuscript that was rolled-off onto cheap stock. Consequently, only a handful of copies of what must have been a very small edition are extant and were found to be highly deteriorated. Two copies were referenced for this edition.
There has been no attempt on my part to modernize Guthrie’s original edition but rather to reproduce a facsimile. The reason for this is two-fold: First, to add another voice (an uninformed one at that, since I am not a classicist) would have distanced the reader yet further from the original. Second, while Guthrie’s translation may at times seem archaic and convoluted, as his English dates from the late 19th Century, it nevertheless seems to hug the original Greek texts best. It may best be understood as a transliteration, as opposed to a translation. It can therefore be used as another source to compare to modern editions.
There is little that I would want to add to Guthrie’s introduction, except for this: there is one name that stands out here. While Alexander and Einstein may be household names, let us consider Archytas, a master of both the active and the contemplative life. Archytas of Tarentum (ca 375 B.C.) was not only a great general and friend of Plato’s, he was also a great mathematician and philosopher. Not only did he at one point save Plato from the Sicilian tyrant Diogenes (the younger), he also had a profound influence on Plato’s thought. As a mathematician he is believed to have solved the Delian problem (the doubling of the volume of the cube) and been responsible for most of what has come down to us as Book VIII of Euclid’s Elements. As a philosopher he was, I believe, the first to openly postulate a theory of infinity (see text) and extended the “theory of means” in music.
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