previous next

Chapter 7. PHILOLAUS (Perhaps late fifth century)

Philolaus of Croton was a Pythagorean, and it was from him that Plato requests Dion to buy the Pythagorean treatises.1 He (Dion) was put to death because he was thought to be aiming at a tyranny.2 This is what we have written upon him3 :

Fancies of all things are most flattering ; If you intend, but do not, you are lost. So Croton taught Philolaus to his cost,

Who fancied he would like to be their king.4

[85] His doctrine is that all things are brought about by necessity and in harmonious inter-relation. He was the first to declare that the earth moves in a circle,5 though some say that it was Hicetas of Syracuse.

He wrote one book, and it was this work which, according to Hermippus, some writer said that Plato the philosopher, when he went to Sicily to Dionysius's court, bought from Philolaus's relatives for the sum of forty Alexandrine6 minas of silver, from which also the Timaeus was transcribed. Others say that Plato received it as a present for having procured from Dionysius the release of a young disciple of Philolaus who had been cast into prison.

According to Demetrius in his work on Men of the Same Name, Philolaus was the first to publish the Pythagorean treatises, to which he gave the title On Nature, beginning as follows : "Nature in the ordered universe was composed of unlimited and limiting elements, and so was the whole universe and all that is therein."

1 Cf. iii. 9.

2 The subject of ἐτελεύ τα would naturally be Philolaus, and so D. L. understood it ; but the original reference was clearly to Dion.

3 Anth. Pal. vii. 126.

4 Or in prose: "My chief advice to all men is : to lull suspicion to rest. For even if you don't do something, and people fancy you do, it is ill for you. So Croton, his native land, once put Philolaus to death, fancying he wished to have a tyrant's house."

5 i.e. round the central fire. See T. L. Heath, Aristarchus. 187 sqq.

6 Hermippus (F.H.G. iii. 42, fr. 25) seems to forget that Alexander was not born until after Plato's death. Cf. vii. 18.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (R.D. Hicks, 1972)
hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: