Chapter

The Pythagorean Communities

Leonid Zhmud

in Pythagoras and the Early Pythagoreans

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199289318
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741371 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199289318.003.0005
The Pythagorean Communities

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This chapter explores the kind of community founded by Pythagoras. It considers those types of association which actually existed in Greece in the Archaic and Classical periods. If the Pythagorean community was really a religious association, it should conform to the type of religious association of its time, and not to that of the Qumran community or a Christian monastery. To describe the nature of the society founded by Pythagoras, we may choose from a very small number of variants available for that period: a philosophical school (σχολή), like those which appeared in the fourth century; a cultic community (θίασος); and a sociopolitical association (έταιρεία). The chapter shows, first, that none of the features of a religious community is confirmed by reliable evidence. Second, that to apply to the Pythagoreans the term ‘sect’, as developed in the sociology of religion, is methodologically unsound. Third, that the tradition on Pythagorean ‘symbols’, reflected in Anaximander the Younger and Aristotle, mostly bears no relation to the realities of the Pythagorean way of life, while the picture which arose on the basis of that tradition, of acusmatici and mathematici dates from the Imperial period.

Keywords: Pythagoras; community; Pythagorean societies; philosophical school; cultic community; sociopolitical association; sect

Chapter.  14886 words. 

Subjects: Classical Philosophy

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