I have developed an interest in studying Pythagoras, mainly his idea of Number as the Arche. It seems that neither him nor his school left any writings, and what survives of it comes through Aristotle's and Plato's references in their respective pieces. However, according to Aristotle's Sources for Pythagorean Doctrine (J. A. Philip, 1963), Aristotle only ever makes two references to Pythagoras himself. So, where could one read about the Pythagorean school of thought and its cosmogony, in a way that's the farthest possible from second-hand?

  • See Pythagoras and Pythagoreanism and follow the links to Archytas and Philolaus. Jun 16, 2019 at 12:33
  • I am afraid, you are out of luck. According to modern scholars, most of what came down to us about Pythagoras, including through Plato and Aristotle, is a fabrication. The classical work is Burkert, Lore and Science in Ancient Pythagoreanism, see also Zhmud Pythagoras and the Early Pythagoreans. "All is number" that piqued your interest is neo-Pythagorean gloss on Aristotle's "creative" narrative
    – Conifold
    Jun 17, 2019 at 6:21
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    @SmootQ I've read about Aristotle's pythagoreanism and your comment's bit about "religion" clicked. Indeed, in "A review of Aristotle’s claim regarding Pythagoreans fundamental Beliefs: All is number?", it's clear that the mystical sense in number is strong for Aristotle, making it rather a materialization of number than a mathematization of nature, being the latter what I was searching. But could you point to something related to the "metaphysics of ratios"?
    – user31740
    Jun 17, 2019 at 16:02
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    @William Oops ! My mistake , it is called cosmology not metaphysics in this case. And ratios are what is also called 'Numbers', some say 'Numbers' and some 'Ratios'. There is also this idea of reincarnation (metempsychosis) plato.stanford.edu/entries/pythagoras I am afraid I do not know of any resources that I can confidently point to and say : This is the right one.
    – SmootQ
    Jun 17, 2019 at 18:16

1 Answer 1


Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie's Complete Pythagoras may be one place to start.

Patrick Roussel describes the collection as

The Complete Pythagoras is a compilation of two books. The first is entitled The Life of Pythagoras that contains the four biographies that have survived from antiquity....The second is entitled Pythagorean Library and is a complete collection of the surviving fragments from the Pythagoreans.

Guthrie, K. S. Complete Pythagoras. Retrieved on June 16, 2019 from Internet Archive at https://archive.org/details/TheCompletePythagoras

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    Maybe is worth noting (to avoid too many wrong "expectations") that Pythagoras lived in 6th Century BCE while the author of The Life of Pythagoras was Iamblichus who lived AD 245 – ca.325, which means around 1.000 years later. Jun 17, 2019 at 15:46
  • I think that's pretty much the best I could possibly get, together with Allegranza's commentaries. I'll wait +24h so I can greencheck this asnwer.
    – user31740
    Jun 17, 2019 at 16:06

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