Pythagoras' Revenge: A Mathematical Mystery

By Arturo Sangalli | Go to book overview
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Chapter 13
THE MANDATE

Fearing however, lest the name of philosophy should
be entirely exterminated from among mankind, and
that they should, on this account, incur the indigna-
tion of the Gods by suffering so great a gift of theirs to
perish, they made a collection of certain commentar-
ies and symbols, gathered the writings of the more
ancient Pythagoreans, and of such things as they re-
membered. These relics each left at his death to his son,
or daughter, or wife, with a strict injunction not to di-
vulge them outside the family. This was carried out for
some time, and the relics were transmitted in succes-
sion to their posterity.

—From The Life of Pythagoras, by the Neoplatonic
philosopher Iamblichus (c. AD 250-c. 325)

The news from Croton could not have been more devastating. Archippus was dumbfounded. He sat motionless under the olive tree, one of the hundreds that dotted the hill overlooking the splendid harbor and the gulf beyond. All life seemed to have drained from his body, his left hand covering his face and the other still holding the papyrus scroll that his servant had just delivered.

Archippus was a mathematiko, a member of Pythagoras’ inner circle of disciples. He had come to Tarentum, his birthplace and one of Greater Greece’s principal cities, to attend to some family business that had kept him at his mother’s house longer than expected. As he now began to realize, that delay might have saved his life.

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