Wisdom Books: Iamblichus’ Life of Pythagoras by Thomas Taylor

Authentic memoirs of the life of Pythagoras-the father of philosophy and the inventor of geometry-hold great interest for every lover of wisdom. Iamblichus’ biography is universally acknowledged as deriving from sources of the highest antiquity. Its classic translation by Thomas Taylor was first printed in 1818 and is once again brought to light in this edition.

Here is an excerpt from ‘Iamblichus’ Life of Pythagoras’:

Pythagoras is said to have been the first to call himself a philosopher, a world which heretofore had not been an appellation, but a description. He likened the entrance of men into the present life to the progression of a crowd to some public spectacle. There assemble men of all descriptions and views. One hastens to sell his wares for money and gain; another exhibits his bodily strength for renown; but the most liberal assemble to observe the landscape, the beautiful works of art, the specimens of valor, and the customary literary productions. So also in the present life men of manifold pursuits are assembled. Some are incensed by the desire of riches and luxury; others by the love of power and dominion, or by insane ambition for glory. But the purest and most genuine character is that of the man who devotes himself to the contemplation of the most beautiful things; and he may properly be called a philosopher.

Pythagoras adds that the survey of the whole haven, and of the stars that revolve therein, is indeed beautiful, when we consider their order which is derived from participation in the first and intelligible essence. But that first essence is the nature and number of reasons (or, productive principles), which pervades everything, and according to which all these (celestial) bodies are arranged elegantly, and adorned fittingly. —–veritable wisdom is a science conversant with the first beautiful objects (the intelligible property so called); which subsist in invariable sameness, being undecaying and divine, by the participation in which other things also may well be called beautiful. The desire for something like this is philosophy. Similarly beautiful is devotion to erudition; and this notion Pythagoras extended, order to effect the improvement of the human race.



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