Pythagorean Women Philosophers: Between Belief and Suspicion

ISBN : 9780198859031

Dorota M. Dutsch
304 Pages
138 x 216 mm
Pub date
Aug 2020
Oxford Studies in Classical Literature and Gender Theory
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Greek sources, postdating Pythagoras by hundreds of years, suggest that women played an important part in his school. Pseudonymous texts attributed to Theano, Pythagoras' disciple or wife, and other female Pythagoreans, have also come down to us. Such testimonies are usually discussed as evidence for life in Pythagorean communities. Pythagorean Women Philosophers maps an entire web of textual tradition to offer something more complex: a rewriting of Greek philosophical history so as to include female intellectuals. Bringing together little-known testimonies to women's contributions to Pythagorean thought, this book shows what modern readers may learn from them. Such testimonies first surface in fragments of Peripatetic writers, and continued to shape the reception of Pythagoreanism until the seventh century CE. They include sayings, philosophical treatises, and letters attributed to Pythagorean women, and form a vital undercurrent of the Pythagorean tradition. Against the tendency to discuss these testimonies in terms of their validity as historical accounts of the life in Pythagorean communities, Dutsch contends that their value lies not in what they may represent but in what they are-accounts of Greek philosophical history that emphatically include women. Consequently, the book shifts attention from texts as historical testimonies to texts as literary artefacts engaged in creating a vision of the past, producing meaning in dialogue with other texts, especially the dialogues of Plato. Pythagorean women emerge from this overview not as individuals but as potent cultural icons that exist in the Greek culture's evolving imaginarium, challenging us to rethink our own accounts of Greek philosophical history.


Part I. Portraits
Introduction to Part I: A Portrait of the Master as a Young Woman-An Imaginative Commentary
I Between Utopia and History: Ten Snapshots from a Pythagorean Family Album
II Pictures from an Exhibition: The Making of a Female Sage
Part II. Impersonations
Introduction to Part II: Women and the Living Script
III Les Dames du Temps Jadis: Women and the Pseudepigraphic Time Machine
IV Ipsa Dixit: Letters of Pythagorean Women
Epilogue: From Theano to Saint Macrina
Part III. Texts and Translations
Note on Text and Translations
Letters of Advice
Notes from Vaticanus Graecus 578
Theophylact Simocatta, Theano to Eurydice

About the author: 

Dorota M. Dutsch is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Feminine Discourse in Roman Comedy: Of Echoes and Voices (OUP 2008) and co-editor of Women in Roman Republican Drama with Sharon James and David Konstan (Wisconsin 2015), The Fall of Cities in the Mediterranean: Commemoration in Literature, Folk-song and Liturgy with Mary Bachvarova and Ann Suter (Cambridge 2015), and A Companion to Plautus with Fred Franko (Wiley-Blackwell 2020).

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