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*Filo/las), a distinguished Pythagorean philosopher. According to Diogenes Laertius (8.84) he was born at Crotona; according to other authorities (Iamblich. Vit. Pyth. 36) at Tarentum. It is more probable that these are varying statements with regard to the same person, than that two different persons of the same name are referred to. The most secure datum for ascertaining the age of Philolaus is the statement of Plato (Phaed. p. 61d.) that he was the instructor of Simmias and Cebes at Thebes. This would make him a contemporary of Socrates, and agrees with the statement that Philolaus and Democritus were contemporaries (Apollod. apud Diog. Laert. 9.38). The statement that after the death of Socrates Plato heard Philolaus in Italy, which rests only on the authority of Diogenes Laertius (3.6), may safely be rejected. Philolaus is not mentioned among the Pythagorean teachers of Plato by Cicero, Appuleius, or Hieronymus (Interpr. ad Diog. Laert. 3.6). Philolaus lived for some time at Heracleia, where he was the pupil of Aresas, or (as Plutarch calls him) Arcesus (Iamblich. Vit. Pyth. 100.36, comp. Plut. de Gen. Socr. 13, though the account given by Plutarch in the passage referred to involves great inaccuracies, see Böckh, Philolaos, p. 8). The absurd statement of Imblichus (100.23) that Philolaus was a pupil of Pythagoras, is contradicted by himself elsewhere (100.31), where he says that several generations intervened between them. The date when Philolaus removed to Thebes is not known. Böckh (ibid. p. 10) conjectures that family connections induced Philolaus and Lysis to take up their abode in Thebes; and we do, in point of fact, hear of a Philolaus of the house of the Bacchiadae, who gave some laws to the Thebans. (See the preceding article.) That Philolaus was driven out of Italy at the time when the Pythagorean brotherhood was broken up (i. e. shortly after the overthrow of Sybaris), is inconsistent with the chronology, though it is possible enough that there may have been, at a later period, more than one expulsion of Pythlagoreans who attempted to revive in different cities of Italy something like their old organization. The statements that Philolaus was the instructor of Gorgias, and a disciple of Lysis, for the purpose of paying sepulchral honours to whom he came to Thebes (Olympiodorus ad Plat. Phaed. ap. Wyttenbach ad Phaed. p. 130, who mentions him instead of Theanor), are of no authority. According to Diogenes Laertius (8.46), Phanton of Phlius, Xenophilus, Echecrates, Diocles, and Polymnestus of Phlius were disciples of Philolaus. Böckh (l.c. p. 15) places no reliance whatever on the story that Philolaus was put to death at Crotona on account of being suspected of aiming at the tyranny; a story which Diogenes Laertius has even taken the trouble to put into verse (D. L. 8.84; Suid. s. v. ὑπονοία, Φιλόλαος).


Pythagoras and his earliest successors do not appear to have committed any of their doctrines to writing. According to Porphyrius (Vit. Pyth. p. 40) Lysis and Archippus collected in a written form some of the principal Pythagorean doctrines, which were handed down as heir-looms in their families, under strict injunctions that they should not be made public. But amid the different and inconsistent accounts of the matter, the first publication of the Pythagorean doctrines is pretty uniformly attributed to Philolaus. He composed a work on the Pythagorean philosophy in three books, which Plato is said to have procured at the cost of 100 minae through Dion of Syracuse, who purchased it from Philolaus, who was at the time in deep poverty. Other versions of the story represent Plato as purchasing it himself from Philolaus or his relatives when in Sicily. (D. L. 8.15, 55, 84, 85, 3.9; A. Gellius, N.A. 3.17 ; Iamblichus, Vit. Pyth. 31. p. 172; Tzetzes, Chiliad. 10.792, &100.11.38, &c.) Out of the materials which he derived from these books Plato is said to have composed his Timaeus. But in the age of Plato the leading features of the Pythagorean doctrines had long ceased to be a secret; and if Philolaus taught the Pythagorean doctrines at Thebes, he was hardly likely to feel much reluctance in publishing them; and amid the conflicting and improbable accounts preserved in the authorities above referred to, little more can be regarded as trustworthy, except that Philolaus was the first who published a book on the Pythagorean doctrines, and that Plato read and made use of it. (Böckh, l.c. p. 22.) Although in the Phaedon and the Gorgias Plato expresses himself as if he had derived his knowledge of the doctrines of Philolaus from hearsay, yet, besides that such a representation would be the more natural and appropriate as put in the mouth of Socrates, who was not a great reader, the minuteness and exactitude with which the doctrines of Philolaus are referred to, and the obvious allusions to the style in which they were expressed, show clearly enough that Plato derived his acquaintance with them from writings; and the accordance of the extant fragments of Philolaus with what is found in Plato points to the same result.

"One Work" (βιβλίον ἕν

In one passage (8.85) Diogenes Laörtius speaks of the work of Philolaus as one book (βιβλίον ἕν). Elsewhere (3.9, 8.15) he speaks of three books, as do A. Gellius and lanblichus. In all probability, what Philolaus had written was comprised in one treatise, divided into three books, though this division was doubtless made not by the author, but by the copyists. The first book of the work is quoted by Nicomachus (Harmon. i. p. 17,) as τὸ πρῶτον Φυσικόν, and the passage quoted by him is said by Stobaeus (Eel. 1.22.7. p. 454) to be ἐκ τοῦ Φιλολάου περὶ κόσμον. It appears, in fact, from this, as well as from the extant fragments, that the first book of the work contained a general account of the origin and arrangement of the universe. The second book appears to have borne the title Περὶ φύσεως, and to have been an exposition of the nature of numbers, which in the Pythagorean theory are the essence and source of all things (Böckh, l.c. p. 27, &c.). It is no doubt from the third book that a passage is quoted by Stobaeus (Eel. 1.21.2. p. 418) as being ἐν τῷ περὶ ψυχῆς ; and from other sources it appears that the third division of the treatise did, in reality, treat of the soul.

Other Works

There is no satisfactory evidence that any other writings of Philolaus were known except this work. More than one author mentions a work by Philolaus, entitled the Βάκχαι. But from the nature of the references to it, it appears all but certain that tis is only another name for the above-mentioned work in three books, and to have been a collective name of the whole. The name was very likely given, not by Philolaus himself, but by some admirer of him, who regarded his treatise as the fruit of a sort of mystic inspiration, and possibly in imitation of the way in which the books of Herodotus were named. (Böekh, l.c. p. 34, &c.)


Several important extracts from the work of Philolaus have come down to us. These have been carefully and ably examined by Böckh (Philolaos des Pythaygoreers Lehren, nebst den Bruchstücken seines Werkes, Berlin, 1819).


As the doctrines of Philolaus, generally speaking, coincided with those that were regarded as genuine doctrines of the Pythagorean school, and our knowledge of many features in the latter consists only of what we know of the former, an account of the doctrines of Philolans will more fitly come in a general examination of the Pythagorean philosophy. The reader is accordingly referred on this subject to PYTHAGORAS. (Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. i. p.862, vol. iii. p. 61).


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