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*)Arxu/tas), a Greek of TARENTUM, who was distinguished as a philosopher, mathematician. general. and statesman and was no less admired for his integrity and virtue, both in public and in private life. Little is known of his history, since the lives of him by Aristoxenus and Aristotle (Athen. 12.545) are lost. A brief account of him is given by Diogenes Laertius. (8.79-83.) His father's name was Mnasarchus, Mnesagoras, or Histiaeus. The time when he lived is disputed, but it was probably about 400 B. C., and onwards, so that he was contemporary with Plato, whose life he is said to have saved by his influence with the tyrant Dionysius (Tzetzes, Chil. 10.359, 11.362; Suidas, s. v. Ἀρχύτας), and with whom he kept up a familiar intercourse. (Cic. de Senect. 12.) Two letters which are said to have passed between them are preserved by Diogenes (l.c. ; Plato, Ep. 9). He was seven times the general of his city, though it was the custom for the office to be held for no more than a year, and he commanded in several campaigns, in all of which he was victorious. Civil affairs of the greatest consequence were entrusted to him by his fellow-citizens. After a life which secured to him a place among the very greatest men of antiquity, he was drowned while upon a voyage on the Adriatic. (Hor. Carm. 1.28.) He was greatly admired for his domestic virtues. He paid particular attention to the comfort and education of his slaves. The interest which he took in the education of children is proved by the mention of a child's rattle (πλαταγή) among his mechanical inventions. (Aelian, Ael. VH 14.19; Aristot. Pol. 8.6.1.)

As a philosopher, he belonged to the Pythagorean school, and he appears to have been himself the founder of a new sect. Like the Pythagoreans in general, he paid much attention to mathematics. Horace (l.c.) calls him "maris et terrae numeroque carentis arenae Mensorem." He solved the problem of the doubling of the cube, (Vitruv. ix. praef.) and invented the method of analytical geometry. He was the first who applied the principles of mathematics to mechanics. To his theoretical science he added the skill of a practical mechanician, and constructed various machines and automatons, among which his wooden flying dove in particular was the wonder of antiquity. (Gel. 10.12.) He also applied mathematics with success to musical science, and even to metaphysical philosophy. His influence as a philosopher was so great, that Plato was undoubtedly indebted to him for some of his views; and Aristotle is thought by some writers to have borrowed the idea of his categories, as well as some of his ethical principles, from Archytas.

Works, some spurious

The fragments and titles of works ascribed to Archytas are very numerous, but the genuineness of many of them is greatly doubted. lost of them are found in Stobaeus. They relate to physics, metaphysics, logic, and ethics. A catalogue of them is given by Fabricius. (Bib. Graec. i. p. 833.)


Several of the fragments of Archytas are published in Gale, Opusc. Mythol. Cantab. 1671, Amst. 1688. A work ascribed to him "on the 10 Categories," was published by Camerarius, in Greek, under the title Ἀρχύτου φερόμενοι δέκα λόγοι καθολικοί, Lips. 1564; and in Greek and Latin, Ven. 1571. A full collection of his fragments is promised in the Tentamen de Archytae Tarentini vita aique operibus, a Jos. Navarro, of which only one part has yet appeared, Hafn. 1820.

Other writers named Archytas

From the statement of Iamblichus (Vit. Pyth. 23), that Archytas was a hearer of Pythagoras, some writers have thought that there were two Pythagorean philosophers of this name. But Iamblichus was undoubtedly mistaken. (Bentley's Phalaris.) The writers of this name on agriculture (Diog Laert. l.c.; Varro, R. R. 1.1; Columella, R. R. 1.1), on cookery (ὀψαρτυτικά, Iamblich, Vit. Pyth. 29, 34; Athen. 12.516c.), and on architecture (Diog. l.c.; Vitruv. vii. praef.), are most probably identical with the philosopher, to whom the most various attainments are ascribed.

Busts of Archytas

Busts of Archytas are engraved in Gronovius' Thesaur. Antiq. Graec. ii. tab. 49, and in the Andichita d'Ercolano, v. tab. 29, 30.

Further Information

Schmidii Dissert. de Archyta Tarent. Jenae, 1683 Vossius, de Scient. Math. 48.1; Montucla, Hist. Matches. vol. i. pt. 1.1. iii. p. 137; Ritter, Geschichte der Pythag. Philos. p. 65.


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  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Aristotle, Politics, 8.1340b
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 10.12
    • Aelian, Varia Historia, 14.19
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