Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
39. The Order 41. Want of Evidence as to the Teaching of Pythagoras

From Chapter II., Science and Religion

40. Downfall of the Order
For a time the new Order succeeded in securing supreme power in the Achaian cities, but reaction soon came. Our accounts of these events are much confused by failure to distinguish between the revolt of Kylon in the lifetime of Pythagoras himself, and the later risings which led to the expulsion of the Pythagoreans from Italy. It is only if we keep these apart that we begin to see our way. Timaios appears to have connected the rising of Kylon closely with the events which led to the destruction of Sybaris (510 B.C.). We gather that in some way Pythagoras had shown sympathy with the Sybarites, and had urged the people of Kroton to receive certain refugees who had been expelled by the tyrant Telys. There is no ground for the assertion that he sympathised with these refugees because they were "aristocrats"; they were victims of a tyrant and suppliants, and it is not hard to understand that the Ionian Pythagoras should have felt a certain kindness for the men of the great but unfortunate Ionian city. Kylon, who is expressly stated by Aristoxenos to have been one of the first men of Kroton in wealth and birth,44 was able to bring about the retirement of Pythagoras to Metapontion, another Achaian city, and it was there that he passed his remaining years.

Disturbances still went on, however, at Kroton after the departure of Pythagoras for Metapontion and after his death. At last, we are told, the Kyloneans set fire to the house of the athlete Milo, where the Pythagoreans were assembled. Of those in the house only two, who were young and strong, Archippos and Lysis, escaped. Archippos retired to Taras, a democratic Dorian state; Lysis, first to Achaia and afterwards to Thebes, where he was later the teacher of Epameinondas.45 It is impossible to date these events accurately, but the mention of Lysis proves that they were spread over more than one generation. The coup d'Etat of Kroton can hardly have occurred before 450 B.C., if the teacher of Epameinondas escaped from it, nor can it have been much later or we should have heard of it in connexion with the foundation of Thourioi in 444 B.C. In a valuable passage, doubtless derived from Timaios, Polybios tells us of the burning of the Pythagorean "lodges" (συνέδρια) in all the Achaian cities, and the way in which he speaks suggests that this went on for a considerable time, till at last peace and order were restored by the Achaians of Peloponnesos.46 We shall see that at a later date some of the Pythagoreans were able to return to Italy, and once more acquired great influence there.

Burnet's Notes


44. See p. 90 n. 1. I do not know why modern historians call him a democratic leader.

45. Rohde, Rhein. Mus. xxxvi. p. 565, n. 1. The later accounts telescope these events into a single catastrophe. Some have it that Pythagoras himself was burned to death in the house of Milo.

46. Polyb. n. 39, καθ' οὓς γὰρ καιροὺς ἐν τοῖς κατὰ τὴν Ἰταλίαν τόποις κατὰ τὴν μεγάλην Ἑλλάδα τότε προσαγορευομένην ἐνεπρήσαν τὰ συνέδρια τῶν Πυθαγορείων, μετὰ ταῦτα γενομένου κινήματος ὁλοσχεροῦς περὶ τὰς πολιτείας, ( ὅπερ εἰκός, ὡς ἂν τῶν πρώτων ἀνδρῶν ἐξ ἑκάστης πόλεως οὕτω παραλόγως διαφθαρέντων) συνέβη τὰς κατ' ἐκείνους τοὺς τόπους Ἑλληνικὰς πόλεις ἀναπλησθῆναι φόνου καὶ στάσεως καὶ παντοδαπῆς ταραχῆς. ἐν οἷς καιροῖς ἀπὸ τῶν πλείστων μερῶν τῆς Ἑλλάδος πρεσβευόντων ἐπὶ τὰς διαλύσεις, Ἀχαιοῖς καὶ τῇ τούτων πίστει συνεχρήσαντο πρὸς τὴν τῶν παρόντων κακῶν ἐξαγωγήν.

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