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What is Pythagorean in the Pseudo-Pythagorean Literature?

Leonid Zhmud EMAIL logo
From the journal Philologus


This paper discusses continuity between ancient Pythagoreanism and the pseudo-Pythagorean writings, which began to appear after the end of the Pythagorean school ca. 350 BC. Relying on a combination of temporal, formal and substantial criteria, I divide Pseudopythagorica into three categories: 1) early Hellenistic writings (late fourth – late second centuries BC) ascribed to Pythagoras and his family members; 2) philosophical treatises written mostly, yet not exclusively, in pseudo-Doric from the turn of the first century BC under the names of real or fictional Pythagoreans; 3) writings attributed to Pythagoras and his relatives that continued to appear in the late Hellenistic and Imperial periods. I will argue that all three categories of pseudepigrapha contain astonishingly little that is authentically Pythagorean.


An earlier version of this article was presented at the colloquium “Pseudopythagorica: stratégies du faire croire dans la philosophie antique” (Paris, 28 May 2015). I would like to thank Constantinos Macris (CNRS) for his kind invitation. The final version was written during my fellowship at the IAS of Durham University and presented at the B Club, Cambridge, in Mai 2016. I am grateful to Gábor Betegh for inviting me to give a talk and to the audience for the vivid discussion. My thanks are due to Phillip Horky (Durham) and Stefan Schorn (Leuven) for their very helpful comments on this paper.


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Published Online: 2018-02-28
Published in Print: 2019-05-29

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