Johann Daniel Mylius - Philosophia Reformata, 1622.

Upon a radiant Globe of Light figures of the Sun and Moon are seated back-to-back, the Sun on the left. The Sun-headed figure holds out in his right hand a double flask, in the upper part of which is a king with sceptre, while in the lower is a black bird (a crow or raven). The Moon-headed woman holds out a double flask in her left hand, the topmost Sphere of which contains a white swan, while the lower has a peacock. She points to this lower Sphere with her right forefinger. Within the radiant Sphere of Light is a Three Headed Snake. To the left is a stump of a tree which is regenerating showing forth a few new leaves, while to the right is a fully mature tree.

Diotima of Mantinea circa 385-370 BCE

Art by Pasquey (tumblr)

“But what if man had eyes to see the true beauty-the divine beauty, I mean, pure and dear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of mortality and all the colours and vanities of human life-thither looking, and holding converse with the true beauty simple and divine? Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may. Would that be an ignoble life?”

-Diotima speaking to Socrates in Plato’s Symposium 

In Plato’s Symposium, Socrates tells the party goers a theory of love which he learned from a priestess named Diotima of Mantinea.  Over the centuries, scholars have debated whether or not Diotima was a real historical figure or a fictional character.  No other ancient text references Diotima, but most of the people named by Plato are documented historical figures. 

Johann Daniel Mylius - Four Grades of Fire, “Philosophia Reformata”, 1622.

Four women with Solar heads sit at a table. In the Sky above are two Winds blowing towards four Flaming flasks set above the Zodiac with its Signs. Three of the women seated at the table point to their heads. In front of them on the table are the Symbols of Aries the Ram, Scorpio the Scorpion and Libra the Scales. The other woman points to her Symbol Capricorn the Goat.

What else is Pythagoras famous for?

Many of you may remember Mathematics teachers talking about Pythagoras and his theorem: a² + b² = c². But what else is he famous for? In Classical Philosophy: A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, Peter Adamson explores the man behind the triangle:

  1. There is no good evidence that Pythagoras himself discovered the Pythagorean Theorem but his followers did know the theory.
  2. However, Pythagoras can be credited with the belief that you shouldn’t eat beans or meat.
  3. Pythagoras and his students supposedly observed a code of silence to prevent a leakage of ideas to those outside their circle.
  4. Like Aristotle, Pythagoras never wrote any books on his ideas which may have been one of the reasons why he was so famous.
  5. Pythagoreans concluded that there must be an unseen heavenly being due to their belief in the importance of the number 10.
  6. According to (unverified) legend from his life time, Pythagoras was supposedly the first to fuse mathematics and philosophy, be able to see into the future, and he was the son of either Apollo or Hermes.
  7. He was also said to have had a thigh made of gold, and be able to talk to animals and geographical features.

If you want to make sure there are no other gaps in your philosophy knowledge, you can follow Peter Adamson on Twitter, listen to his podcasts, or check out the first instalment of the History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps.

Image: Pythagoras emerging from the Underworld, by Salvator Rosa. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.