6. Pythagoras of Samos (born around 569 B. C.): Number


The wandering Arithmós



The Pythagoréioi (around 582 - 493 B. C.)

Hylozoistic Dialectics Within the One: Unity and Contradiction of the Arithmós: It's Acme and Aftermath




Philolaos of Croton (end of the 5th Century B. C.)

The Pythagoreans, especially Philolaos and Pythagoras, again reintroduced motion into the One and converted the arché into number itself, having a basic contradiction: the odd-regular. With Philolaos of Croton (end of the 5th Century B. C.) we enter the philosophic realm of Pythagoreanism. Against Parmenides, he argued that it would be impossible to acquire knowledge, if everything is infinite and eternal. Thus, Heracleitus' contradiction had to be reintroduced into the arché which, for him, now became a unity and contradiction of the limitless and the limited:

„Nature is created within the cosmic order through the coming together of limitless and limited elements; this also applies to the Cosmos at large, as well as to all things contained within it“. (Diels, op. cit., Frag. 1, p. 76).

Furthermore, all existing things necessarily have to be either unlimited or limited, or both together. Philolaos concluded „both together“ (Frag 2) - thus, they exist in harmonía. Thus, originated philosophically the number harmony, arithmós harmonía doctrine of Pythagoreanism. Of course, "both together" is a contradiction, is dialectics.

Philolaos concluded that Parmenides’ One was harmonious, because it contained the Odd and the Regular in it; that only by the separation of regular and odd numbers, and by placing them in relation to each other, in motion to each other, it was possible to achieve harmony and order, for example, in music, the octave (1:2), the quintet (2:3), the quartet (3:4), etc. (Frag. 6). Thus: he stated, that monas was the arché, „Oneness (unity) is the origin of all things“ (Frag. 8).

Therewith, we are again right back to Square One! This time, the one, single principle is even called by its very name: The One. Moreover, now we also know what "unity", oneness, is all about; why a United Kingdom, the United States, the United Nations.

However, Philolaos still remained in the hylozoist tradition of Parmenides’ One, of the World Sphere, but, strangely, it was now made up of four original elements „fire, water, earth and air“ (Frag. 12); he even mentioned a fifth external element, on which the Sphere rests, but it is difficult to decipher its meaning or essence. For us, this is certainly something to note, to reflect about. Somebody, Philolaus, has even considered another "element", or should we say an unknown principle, outside, exto, of the arché, of the One, of "A", on which the One rests -- well, this mysterious postulate, ex cosmos, we have named Einai ("B"). In other words, Nature rests on -- is related to -- Society in motion; Praxis rests on -- is related to-- Theory in motion. But, wait, his fellow-philosopher Ion of Chios will teach us the ABC of Trialogics.


Ion of Chios (490 - 421 B. C.)

Ion of Chios (490 - 421 B. C.), an ancient Greek dramatist and philosopher, was influenced by the Pythagoric number-harmony philosophic speculation. In his „tri-combat“ preserved fragment, we learn that „Everything is Three, not less than Three ... the Trinity: mind, powers and happiness“ (Diels, Frag. 1, p. 73). We are really lucky that this fragment survived, and that it did not fall under the censorship hammer of the patrian Inquisition.

Thus, Ion, transhistorically already anticipated the „magical“ trialogical trinity; that it was blemished later with the "Holy Trinity", that is another story. Of course, we could also interpret this "tri-combat" in intra-systemic, universal, dialectical terms: affirmation, negation and "negation of the negation" -- thesis, antithesis, synthesis. However, imperative is that Ion contradicted the mythological Number Seven magic. What he understood precisely by the concepts, mind, power and happiness, we do not know. Perhaps he meant that a powerful, thinking mind excels as mindful, powerful happiness, as historic emancipation.

Nevertheless, with his „tri-combat“, his social triás, he introduced the scientific category „power“ into Western philosophy and politics; and he meant this very concretely, very praxically. In Chios, with Sophocles, he participated in the Samian War (442 - 440 B. C.); in 428 B. C., against Euripides and lophon, he lost the battle in the tragic agon of that year. That's what one calls real social dialectics in the spirit of Heracleitus' "strife". Never mind this unfortunate loss, philosophically he successfully introduced the imperialist principle „right is might“ into Hellenic politics.


Melissos of Samos (acme around 440 B. C.)

Melissos of Samos  also had participated in the Samian War against Athens. In fact, as admiral of the Samian fleet, he defeated Pericles’ armada. (See: Plutarch, Pericles, 26ff.) As philosopher, Melissos defended the Eleatic school, especially Parmenides’ doctrines of the One and of Eternal Rest. In the same way, as Zeno had attempted to disprove dialectically the possibility of manifoldness in Being, Melissos, by means of paradoxes and aporias, tried to expound the true constituent being of Being. We studied the official "history of philosophy" very carefully, and when we state that a single principle, the One, is eternally at rest, we are not sucking such considerations out of our fingers, we highlight, "take with us" all the inconvenient philosophic truths that the patria deliberately has left on the wayside, and formulate a new science a n d philosophy.

It was Melissos that postulated that the One is Eternal Rest; we state that any one, single postulate, the One, is Cosmos (A), and as such, it is non-related, hence, it is Cosmos-At-Rest, Eternal Being-At-Rest. Only when a second postulate exists, in our case, Einai (B), then Relation or Bezug has any logical intensive-extensive relevance. The Non-Relation, Internal Motion (Heracleitus), is Self-Relation, the very "A" non-related to itself, to "Non-A", as "A" (Parmenides). In this case, Absolute Rest (A) and Absolute Motion (Non-A) are identical, are the two internal, intensive dialectical (not dialogical) sides of "A" itself.

Melissos argued that, if Being, if the One, if the Universe, has a Beginning and an End, then it is the proof, that Being cannot have a perfect „being-ness“; on the contrary, it will have a Coming-Into-Being and a Being-Passing-Away. In Melissos’ words:

„No thing, which has a beginning and an end, is eternal or limitless“ (Diels, Frag. 4, p. 53), and, „if Being is divisible, then it also moves itself; however, when it moves, it ends being Being“. (Frag. 10) Well, he explained exactly what we stated above; knowing this, our wise, eminent philosophers have placed a "B" ex "A", others simply preferred "God"; others were happy with neither the One nor God, with "Nihil" (C). All these are fundamental to know, for knowledge, to understand what is currently happening on a galactic scale.


The pythagoréioi (around 582 - 493 B. C.)

Owing to the fact, that we do not possess a single fragment of Pythagoras’ works, scientifically, we are dependent on the polemic writings of his successors, and also on the fragments of his disciples, who belonged to the Pythagorean School. But, most of them had lived in a later period. According to the fragmentary data in our possession, as stated above, Pythagoras was born around 569 B. C. in Samos. As we have seen, Philolaos and lon, Pythagoreans of the 5th Century B. C., had attempted to introduce dialectical motion, Becoming-Being, into Parmenides’ One; Melissos, who really was an Eleatic, in spite of being a native of Pythagoras’ place of birth, Samos, certainly, had contradicted both of them.

At the beginning of the 5th Century B. C., the spermata of Pythagoric number-harmony had been sown and they were germinating in a social setting, which historically became known as the Periclean Age of Hellas. In this way, philosophically Pythagoreanism reflected and anticipated the seeming social harmony of Athenian democracy of the 5th Century B. C. In the following, we will summarize some of Pythagoras’ philosophic achievements and place them in the historico-social environment, which had cultivated and nourished their Becoming-Being, and finally, in the next chapter, we will elaborate the professor-philosophy, Sophism, which forms an essential concomitant part of the historical development of that epoch.


Pythagoras, the philosopher and mathematician

The politico-social environment

We know very little about Pythagoras' real life. Pythagoras' father was Mnesarchus, a merchant from Tyre and, his mother was Pythais, a native of Samos. His youth, Pythagoras spent in Samos but accompanied his father in many journeys; probably the youngster, who also visited Italy, was taught by the Chaldaeans and the learned men of Syria. Hence, he was well educated, he played the lyre, studied poetry and by heart could recite Homer; however, his real philosophic teachers were Pherekydes, Thales and Anaximander.

Especially towards the beginning of the 5th Century B. C., Samos was a commercial rival of Miletus; as base-superstructure reflex, similarly, philosophically Pythagoreanism contradicted Milesian hylozoism. Already in 535 B. C., Polycrates had gained political power as Tyrant of Samos and reigned there for two decades; the mysterious ancient figure, Pythagoras, disapproved of his tyrannis, especially of his egoistic avarice, as reflected in his specific Oriental despotism; not even his extravagant expenditure to further science and arts could convince Pythagoras to remain in Samos; thus, he left for Magna Graecia.

He visited Egypt and certainly Alexandria, the seat of Hellenic natural sciences; he became entangled in ancient belligerent world affairs, and eventually ended up as a prisoner of war. As we know from Ancient History, in 525 BC Cambyses II, the King of Persia, had invaded Egypt and won the Battle of Pelesium, thus capturing Heliopolis and Memphis in the Nile Delta. All Egyptian resistance collapsed, and Pythagoras ended up as a POW, and was taken to Babylon.

Concerning his scientific education there, from Iamblichus, who wrote in the third century A. D., we learn that he:

" ... was transported by the followers of Cambyses as a prisoner of war. Whilst he was there he gladly associated with the Magoi ... and was instructed in their sacred rites and learnt about a very mystical worship of the gods. He also reached the acme of perfection in arithmetic and music and the other mathematical sciences taught by the Babylonians..."


Eventually, about 520 B. C., he returned and settled down at Croton (now Crotone, on the east of the heel of southern Italy), where he founded his philosophic school, called the semicircle. Again, centuries later, concerning his academy or lyceum, Iamblichus informs us as follows:

" ... he formed a school in the city [of Samos], the 'semicircle' of Pythagoras, which is known by that name even today, in which the Samians hold political meetings. They do this because they think one should discuss questions about goodness, justice and expediency in this place which was founded by the man who made all these subjects his business. Outside the city he made a cave, the private site of his own philosophical teaching, spending most of the night and daytime there and doing research into the uses of mathematics..."

In the Semicircle, like later in Epicurus' "Garden", the following were taught:

(1) that book of nature is written in mathematics, in number;

(2) that thinking and thought can be used for spiritual clarification;

(3) that a unio mistica is possible with the divine;

(4) that certain numbers or symbols have mystical meanings; and

(5) that all "brothers" of the order should observe strict loyalty and secrecy.

Never mind this early "brotherhood", this future French revolutionary fraternity, in his order, both men and women were permitted to become members of the Society. De facto, like in Epicurus' "Garden", many

women Pythagoreans became famous ancient philosophers, but their works were destroyed by the burning axe of the Dark Ages and Inquisition.

In 513 B. C., Pythagoras went to Delos to nurse his dying teacher, Pherekydes; soon thereafter, war broke out between Croton and Sybaris; and in 508 B. C., his School was attacked by a local noble tyrant, Cylon; however, Pythagoras succeeded to flee to Metapontion.

Iamblichus gave us his version of the turn of events:

"Cylon, a Crotoniate and leading citizen by birth, fame and riches, but otherwise a difficult, violent, disturbing and tyrannically disposed man, eagerly desired to participate in the Pythagorean way of life. He approached Pythagoras, then an old man, but was rejected because of the character defects just described. When this happened Cylon and his friends vowed to make a strong attack on Pythagoras and his followers. Thus a powerfully aggressive zeal activated Cylon and his followers to persecute the Pythagoreans to the very last man. Because of this Pythagoras left for Metapontium and there is said to have ended his days."

However, no matter what really happened, it was clear that in Croton -- in that flourishing commercial centre, invigorated by Ionian trade -- the influence of his school gradually faded away. Inspired by Orphism, he moved to Metapontion, where he established a mathematical school, but also a religious cult, whose main tenet was the transmigration of souls. Around 500 B. C., in Metapontion, his soul also transmigrated into the realm of number-harmony.

However, what immediately concerns us, is Pythagoras, the philosopher and mathematician. Probably, having been taught geometry in Ancient Africa, in Egypt, he (or his school) "discovered" the proposition or theorem concerning right-angled triangles:

32 + 42 = 52 (3 squared + 4 squared = 5 squared).

However, like in the case of Christopher Columbus "discovering" America, as we all should know, this "Pythagoras' theorem" was already known to the Babylonians 1000 years earlier. Notwithstanding, to give him his mathematical due, it was he who has discovered the theory of irrational and the construction of the cosmic figures.

According to Thomas Little Heath, the following should be attributed to the Pythagorean School:

" (i) The sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles. Also the Pythagoreans knew the generalization which states that a polygon with n sides has sum of interior angles 2n - 4 right angles and sum of exterior angles equal to four right angles.

(ii) The theorem of Pythagoras - for a right angled triangle the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. We should note here that to Pythagoras the square on the hypotenuse would certainly not be thought of as a number multiplied by itself, but rather as a geometrical square constructed on the side. To say that the sum of two squares is equal to a third square meant that the two squares could be cut up and reassembled to form a square identical to the third square.

(iii) Constructing figures of a given area and geometrical algebra. For example they solved equations such as a (a - x) = x2 by geometrical means.

(iv) The discovery of irrationals. This is certainly attributed to the Pythagoreans but it does seem unlikely to have been due to Pythagoras himself. This went against Pythagoras' philosophy that all things are numbers, since by a number he meant the ratio of two whole numbers. However, because of his belief that all things are numbers it would be a natural task to try to prove that the hypotenuse of an isosceles right-angled triangle had a length corresponding to a number.

(v) The five regular solids. It is thought that Pythagoras himself knew how to construct the first three but it is unlikely that he would have known how to construct the other two.

(vi) In astronomy Pythagoras taught that the Earth was a sphere at the centre of the Universe. He also recognized that the orbit of the Moon was inclined to the equator of the Earth and he was one of the first to realize that Venus as an evening star was the same planet as Venus as a morning star." (See: Article by: J. J. O'Connor and E F Robertson, at: http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Pythagoras.html; also: http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Heath.html).


Unfortunately, this Pythagoras' geometry theorem, already in Greek antiquity, had led to the discovery of incommensurables; probably already by Plato, but certainly by Euclid of Alexandria (Book X); and it fundamentally challenged the basis of his number-harmony doctrine. Significant, however, is that Pythagoras bad intermingled religion, mathematics and philosophy. Under Bacchic-Orphic influence, the Pythagoreans believed in metempsychosis - the idea that the soul, psyché or nous is imprisoned in the body, and that it could be purified and emancipated by study, and by following a strict discipline of meditation and self-examination; after death, in the process of self-purification, the soul transcends, transmigrates to another body, until it reaches Total Purity.

Later, we will find the „pre-existence“ ideas of this soul in Plato’s doctrine of anámnesis. Of course, both Pythagoras and Plato were concerned about the systemic closedness of the One, which they formal logically had to affirm, but the Beyond, the Hereafter, was haunting them. They could not dream that Neo-Platonism, Plotinism and Roman Catholicism would make such an absolutist, feudalist, theological mess about their philosophic metempsychosis or soma sema, causing them to emanate brutal, oppressive, delirious fumes of ruling class religious ideology, mind and thought control. Nonetheless, as social products of their epoch, in anticipation, as fore-runners of philosophic alienation, precisely this was their social order.

As proof in the eating of the modern globalized pudding, of this mythological hocus-pocus, transcendental hokum bunkum, these "4th of July", "September 11th", "Twelfth Night", "Friday 13th", "February 14th", "December 25th" or "666" social number syndromes, this spiritistic clairvoyance-clairaudience, -- all these are still very much alive in our "Information Age", in the "Third Millennium"; in spite of their camouflage in modern religious, horoscopic, pseudo-scientific, idealist and ideological veils; essentially, in the "enlightened" patria, they do deserve the common hoity-toity exclamation of disapprobation, but, existentially, in the archaic sense of the parádox of truth, they certainly do not further any social praxis-theory of a science of parápsychology.

In the field of music, Pythagoras, as a result of his mathematical knowledge, gained from Egyptian sources, discovered the numerical ratios of intervals in the musical scale - octave, quartet, quintet, etc. Furthermore, he applied religion, mathematics and music to philosophy. In a sense, he was responsible that later the assumed perfection of „theoretical“ circles and triangles was applied to religion and theology, especially to the Holy Triangle, the Holy Trinity: God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. All these are contained in Pythagoras’ philosophic gnome: „all things are numbers“.

Notwithstanding, Pythagoras’ arithmós is concretus qua material; for example, as real as numbers on playing-cards or on dice. Parmenides’ One is the principium of Being, but, for Pythagoras, it is not the hen kai pan, the one and all. Unomnia is not the highest and most perfect form of Being, also not of the psyché, of the transmigrating soul, with its transcending Platonic ideas. Number Two, Number Three - or Soul Life No. 2, Soul Life No. 3 - could be more perfect forms of Being. Here we notice the levelling or graduation of Being. Again, the different ontological stages of development are just "elements" of the very same principle, of the arché, of arithmós. However, within the ancient clash of "matriarchal" and "patriarchal" visions, Number Seven, the divine psyché of aphrodisiac Artemis, Venus, Athena or Diana -- conveniently transformed into the Nike, into the effeminate motherless virgin (later brutally converted by Macho-Roman Catholicism into the effeminate Virgin Mary of The Immaculate Conception) -- did already reach the highest form of Being, the coming Platonic topos ouranios, the Idea-Heaven.

Let's look more closely at this Pythagorean number magic. According to Philolaos, the Nike is Number Seven, but she becomes the effeminated "eternal, immovable God“, equal to himself, and different to anything else. (Diels, Frag. 7, p. 77) Hence, Pythagoreanism began with Parmenides’ static concrete, in the continuum of the One-At-Rest, then it progressed to the abstract Odd-Regular contradiction, thus, it inaugurated a pure idealist, intellectual extra-material adventure, and it ended up with Philolaos' Number Seven, in the bliss of the sterile, "eternal, immovable God“. In the last analysis, this is what occurred in vulgar-Christian theology, especially of the Dark Age Catholic type: Being is explained not as contradiction or as dialectics, both inherent in the closed, universal system, but as an abstract Parmenidean, Pythagorean diállelos trópos, as a coincidentia oppositorum.


Pythagoras’ number-harmony doctrine

But, let us focus more clearly and in-formatively on Pythagoras’ number-harmony doctrine, and attempt to detect its panpsychic hylozoism. Number One, the concrete to hen, not only has a contradiction, Odd-Regular, it also has a unity and contradiction of opposites in it, a harmony. The Regular denotes Eleatism, Rest; it concerns the Divine in the Cosmos; e contrario, there is an archaic (not obsolete) movement, a material, devilish motion in, inside the One, it concerns Heracleitism, Becoming-Being; it is related (or rather "non-related") to sensuous, bodily, chthonic phenomena and processes; it is the egg-shell of Parmenides’ World Sphere, the body of the Bacchic-Orphic soul; it concerns infralunar, infrahuman things; later, it will be related to Plato’s concept to kenón, to Plotinus’ luciferous matter - to „Nothing“, at the door-step towards the Philosophy Kingdom of the Ideas, to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Evidently, Pythagoreanism had tried unsuccessfully to synthesize Parmenides’ hen kai pan and Heracleitus’ pýr into arithmós. And this unsuccessful metamorphosis produced a central, centralized contradiction, which partly and partially generated Socratism, Platonism and Aristotelianism, including their respective theological, idealist aporias and paradoxes. Besides, the multiplex expressions of hylozoistic matter in ancient Hellenic philosophic consciousness and conscience were direct dialectical reflections of the complex class struggles, social conflicts and destructive wars of the 6th/5th centuries B. C. Hence, apart from the idealist "Right" that went to Socrates and Plato, particularly, there also was a Pythagorean materialist „Left“, leading to Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Leucippus, Democritus and Lucretius.

Within the realm of the Irregular of arithmós, in the patrian "praxical-theoretical" becoming-being of the Hellenic modus vivendi, especially in the field of physical and bodily purification, that is, in human health, the Pythagoreans and their colleagues had made remarkable scientific achievements, especially in Physiology and Medicine. In Ionia, part of contemporary Asia Minor, Sicily and Southern Italy, but also later on the Greek mainland, progressively medical art replaced the magical and religious healing methods of witchcraft and deisidaimonia (superstition). In fact, most of the ancient Greek physicians were either materialist philosophers or were associated with hylozoists, and certainly with Pythagoreans.

The high priests and guardians of the oracles, with their bi-cameral minds, were concerned with the spiritual welfare and the divine inner voices of Socratic eudaimonia. Before Thales, the ill-will of Hesiod’s „some 30,000 gods“, the „subjects of Zeus“, due to their own divine, lustful, voluptuous sacred modus vivendi, had caused human diseases; and, through their divine good-will, they had powers to dispense benevolent cures. One of the earliest physicians, blessed by the Olympus, was Alkmaion (or Alcmaeon) of Croton, whom we met before.

According to historical records, he discovered the optic nerve and carried out the first eye-operation. It was Alkmaion who had destroyed the belief that thought originates from the human heart: he ascribed thought functions to the human brain. No hurt or heart feelings, but he already indicated the superstitious roots of those so-called "emotions" and "feelings', that ideologically well-nurtured supposedly are coming internally from the innermost depths or bottom of the human hearts.

In other words, he already disproved the deisidaimonia that the turkey’s wishbone, protecting the heart, has prophetic virtues. The ruling slave-owning aristocrats and democrats, in that millennium already, elevated the seat of sophía, epistéme and gnosis from the hips, to the thorax, to the brain. As the result of marvellous socialization and religious education, till today billions still have their human faculties in their pants, instead of their cranium or their whole body, or the whole of society.

Furthermore, the Pythagorean, Philolaos, also had developed a medical doctrine, but relevant to our philosophic endeavours, like Empedocles, he also had taught about four primordial elements. Nevertheless, in those „pre-Socratic“ days, medicine, "life sciences", and materialism still went hand-in-hand. After all, though unintentionally, Pythagoreanism had produced, as mentioned earlier, an irregular creative synthesis, a materialist Pythagorean „Left”, which developed across Alkmaion and Philolaos, to Empedocles and Anaxagoras. (See: Novack, Origins ..., pp. 156 - 158)


Social Harmony to all Hellenes of Good Will

To understand the above in its historic setting, within patrian reality, we will now take a Phoenix look at the Hellenic, sphingid, social panorama, as having been witnessed by the 5th Century B.C., and which epitomized in the Periclean „Golden Age“. Prior to the Persian invasions, headed by Darius and Xerxes, Hellas, including Megale Hellas and the Greek colonies, was afflicted by internal, soothing social conflicts and class struggles, as expressed by the various aristocratic, democratic and tyrannical "governments", "constitutions" and other despotic (or oligarchic) forms of rule.

Already in the age of Pythagoras, Hellenic orthodoxy began to crumble, and movements reflecting scepticism, Sophism, cynicism and agnosticism were rife in pagan Ancient Greece. Pericles (495 - 429 B.C.), however, by introducing a moderate Athenian slave-owning democracy (460 - 429 B.C.), succeeded to establish a temporary social harmony of polity-citizens and an „imperialist“ order, which combated all the centrifugal, „odd“, divulgating-disintegrating forces.

In this „Periclean Age“, Hellas was enjoying a period of extraordinary productivity, a type, of Epicurean, social ataraxía, her own specific Victorian epoch. Of course, this does not refer to the oppressed slaves rowing the commercial ships or boats, or the infra-human toiling of the drones and dregs outside Athens in the silver mines.

Under Pericles’ guardianship, primitive accumulation of capital flourished, Athens grew into a wealthy, powerful commercial metropolis. Saved from sweat and toil, intellectual productivity, learning and the arts virulently developed, and "great men" practically sprung up almost overnight like fresh mushrooms across the length and breadth of Hellas; and, Athens retained her artistic gravitational social force. Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Pindar, Phidias, Aristophanes, Herodotus, Hippocrates, Heracleitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Leucippus, Democritus, Protagoras, Socrates, and even Plato, all belong to the Hellenic 5th Century B.C.

Never ever, in any century, had „Western Civilization“, or even any other civilization, produced such a variety of "great thinkers", and "great" practical craftsmen. In fact, Pericles’ Age also had produced a number of gifted, wise, "great" beauties - about this female productivity, more later. They are not recorded in Man’s history, and, in any case, in Hellas, in spite of all the female divinities, mutatis mutandis, women and slaves had no human or divine souls, and this male „blessing“ would last for many centuries to come. In fact, even in Christian-Jewish theology, due to the absence of souls, women could not appear at the „Last Judgement" and no place would be reserved for them in the „New Jerusalem“.


The "Great Women" of the Periclean Age

However, let us return, from the apocalyptic future of these homofinal and heterofinal things, which discriminated the Hellenic gyne, to the Renaissance past of Pericles’ Age, to an ancient modus operandi of productive, creative, patrian, ruling class excellence. Pericles was noted for his swooping, artistic oratory, and even more, for his successful "democratic" policies. Lavishly, he patronized the arts, especially drama, poetry and music; pompously, he decorated the Acropolis. At his majestic Court, dolce vita, including dolce far niente - thanks to the warm and loving care, the private and public entertainment, of the cultured, educated concubines, the hetairaí --, was on the order of the day.

The hetaerae, the courtesans of the "great men", headed by Aspasia, Miss Hellas Cosmopolitan, were, in reality, well-educated, highly-cultured, ancient Greek women. They were endowed with great natural beauty and intelligence, and, nearly all of them, were well-versed in the arts, poetics and philosophy. At the extravagant Athenian festivals, they surely made full use of their savoir pour prevoir.

On the other hand, the official „prostitutes“, the insouciant house-wives of the Athenian gallantry, including their entourage of gentlewomen, generally, were suffering under an insipid insipience. They were of low cultural and intellectual pedigree, and were endowed with no, or very few, artistic or scientific virtues. Realiter, they were not gifted in prevoir pour prevenir, they had no cultural ability to challenge their wise female competitors.

In fact, the "great men" had no special interests in cultivating such emancipatory aspirations. In the pleasant, productive company of these beloved concubines, men of historic eminence, honour and demeanour, like Pericles, Menander and Praxiteles, found ataraxic solace and creative stimulation - all these, in the patrian, fiery-erotic philosophic tradition of Heracleitus-Artemis.

Famous ancient Greek hetairaí of extraordinary intelligence, wisdom and beauty were: Glykera, Phryne, Aspasia, Lais and Leontion. Glykera (or Glykerion), as her name signifies, was the „sweetheart“ or „darling“, who had inspired and contributed to the fame of her literary lover, the Greek comic dramatist, Menander (342 - 291 B.C.). Lais of Corinth was the gifted concubine of Diogenes; Phryne was the mistress of Praxiteles (370 - 330 B.C.), the famous Greek sculptor. She was so successful, that in reverence of her beauté du diable, Praxiteles had eternalized her in statue form.

Out of pure jealousy of her social influence, the Athenian democrats elevated her to Socratic-Aristotelian philosophic-political levels, by accusing her in public of asebeia. As we will note later, Epicureanism of the 4th Century B.C., had its own special courtesans. The most distinguished hetaira of that epoch was Leontion; she had published a philosophic work, which was a polemical attack against Theophrastus, Aristotle’s successor of the Lyceum. He had no alternative, but to acknowledge her intellectual wisdom, philosophic and philological scientific merits.

Aspasia, a native of the hometown of Thales and Leucippus, of Miletus, in artistic charm and intellectual genius, was so successful, that she transcended from mistress to First Lady of the Athenian Empire, as wife of Pericles. Consequently, in this social revolutionary Hellenic gyne element, in the hetaeran alter ego of Periclean glory, productivity and creativity, we can find the progenitrices of ancient dialectical materialism, the Rosa Luxemburgs, Krupskayas, Natalias and Karola Blochs of yesteryear.


The "Great Men" of the Periclean Age

However, let us now briefly introduce the "great men" of the Periclean Age. At Pericles’ Court, Pindar (518 - 438 B.C.), the national lyric poet, was most welcome. At the various Panhellenic festivals and Olympic Games, he entertained the honoured guests with his choral odes. The head of the Sophist movement, Protagoras, -“man is the measure of all things“ - profoundly had influenced another Periclean poetic dramatist, Euripides (480 - 406 B.C.).

As author of 92 plays, he demonstrated that human passions have more dramatic Promethean-Heracleitean Fire than all the Olympic divine directives and decrees, even more than the passionate goddess, Ate herself. In the 18 tragedies which are extant - among them famous ones like „Trojan Women“, „Iphigenia at Aulis“, „Iphigenia in Tauris“, „Medea“, ‘‘Alcestis’’, and the satyr play, „Cyclops“ - Euripides drew his characters with earthly features; they expressed the general vividness of the Periclean Age, and, in general, illustrated great intellectual and philosophic insight.

Another Athenian comic playwright of grandeur was Aristophanes (450 - 385 B.C.) - eleven of his comedies are extant. These works were written boldly, and were deliberately filled with sarcasm, caustic wit and critical jokes. In this way, he objurgated many of his contemporaries: inter alia, Socrates in „The Clouds“, Cleon in „The Knights“ and Euripides in „The Frogs“: In „The Peace“, „Acharnians“ and „Lysistrata“, he peremptorily asked that peace should be established with aristocratic Sparta. At the same time, he demonstrated that comedy can be inspired by the mythological forces of tyché, anánke and némesis.

However, the favourite artist at Pericles’ Court was Aeschylus (525 - 456 B.C.) - the author of some 90 plays, of which 7 complete tragedies are extant --; among the most famous ones are: „Agamemnon“, ‘‘Seven Against Thebes’’, „Persians“ and ‘‘Prometheus Bound“. His direct follower became Sophocles (496 - 406 B.C.), who was appointed as Pericles’ main strategist in state matters. Of his 123 plays, only 7 complete tragedies survived - some famous ones are:

„Antigone”, „Electra”, „Oedipus Rex’’ and ‘‘Ajax“. Both Aeschylus and Sophocles had demonstrated that the destinies of men depended less on the will or wrath of Zeus, Anánke or Adrásteia, but more on the socio-practical intelligence or religious-idealist equivocations of man themselves.

In the fields of architecture and sculpture, the most prominent figure was Phidias (500 - 431 B.C.). He had his workshop directly in Olympia, from where he directed the artistic decoration of the Acropolis and the Parthenon. His favourite artistic motif was Sophía - impersonated as Athens or Artemis. Of course, he was also the creator of one of the ancient „Seven Wonders“ - the gorgeous statue of Zeus. Another famous work of art is his monumental statue of Pallas Athens (or Artemis). In the sciences of philosophy and history, Periclean Athens was less successful.

Herodotus (485 - 425 B.C.), the „Father of History“, author of Histories, was a native of Halicarnassus, although he had spent a considerable part of his active life in Athens. Besides, Athens only had two outstanding idealist philosophers: Socrates and Plato; and, we are not even sure who is the Socratic Plato, the Platonic Socrates or the Platonic Plato.

The famous natural scientists and mathematicians of ancient Greece came from Magna Graecia or the colonies. As we have noted before, Pericles even had to search for a mistress in Miletus -- later, Alexander the Great will even marry two Persian princesses.

However, in warfare, even after the Second Persian Invasion (480 - 479 B.C.), Athens remained the mistress of the Mediterranean Sea - and, of course, Sparta was the master on land. Hence, Athens and Sparta - slave-owning Greek democracy and aristocracy -- guarded and safeguarded social harmony and order, externally and internally, Above and Below. But, gradually, the Macedonian-Alexandrian kosmopolite - the „citizen of the world“ - was being born: the Greek poleis changed into Hellas, and further into Pan-Hellas, the Not-Yet of Greco-Roman Civilization.

Fundamentally, the Periclean cultural achievements reflected the slave-owning democratic desire to establish social order and harmony, echoed the cry for social „peace“ on earth to all virtuous Greeks. Order-harmony had to be the synthesis for the Pythagorean social odd and regular. As mentioned before, the irregular, qua revolutionary theory-praxis, was degraded to things „under the moon“ to a „lower order“, to an infralunar, infrahuman level. Viva Athenai! was the bel esprit of Periclean Hellas, but this social harmony reflected very little of Athens or Minerva, of sophía. E contrario, by the second half of the 5th Century, a Sophist movement spread across Ancient Greece, at a time, when the internal social contradictions exploded in the Peloponnesian War (431 B. C.). This marked the beginning of the end of Pericles’ Golden Age; in 407 B. C., Spartan oligarchy finally triumphed over Athenian democracy. But, it was also the genesis of foreign invasions and the epígénesis of the imperialist conquests of Alexander the Great in the following century.




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