Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, 34.60

Fuit et alius Pythagoras, samius, initio pictor.

There was also another Pythagoras, a Samian, who was originally a painter.

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Created by Valérie Toillon

Il y eu aussi un autre Pythagoras, de Samos, qui commença par être peintre.

Annotation Authors and Editors
Created by Valérie Toillon

Commentary

  1. The remark occurs just after a long passage concerning Pythagoras of Rhegion, a fifth-century-BCE bronze sculptor. Pythagoras of Samos, or the Samian, is, in fact, the same person. Pliny made a mistake which finds its origin certainly among one of his sources, maybe Xenocrates of Athens. Diogenes Laertius made the same mistake dividing the sculptor into two (Jex-Blake and Sellers 1968, pp. 48-49; Pline 1953, pp. 229-230; Linfert 1966).

  2. Pythagoras of Rhegion was a famous bronze sculptor, active somewhere between the 440s and the 420s BCE. Pliny places his artistic peak in ca. 420 BCE, in the 90th Olympiad. He was certainly born in Samos, an island in the eastern Aegean Sea. From there he later migrated to Italy and became a pupil of Anaxagoras of Rhegion (Jex-Blake and Sellers 1968, pp. 48-49). Moreover, Pythagoras was a very popular name in ancient times. Diogenes Laertius, reports that four Pythagoras were born at the same time, among them Pythagoras of Rhegion (the sculptor) and Pythagoras the philosopher and mathematician (Diog. Lart. VIII, 46). Pythagoras of Rhegion was famous for his sculptures of athletes and mythological groups (Muller-Dufeu 2002, p. 233). It should not come as a surprise that Pythagoras began his apprenticeship as a painter. In ancient times a lot of artists were polyvalent. In fact, it is not very rare to find painters who are also sculptors, architects or musicians and vice-versa. For example, Mikon was a painter and a sculptor (see texts 158, 159a and 159b); Polygnotos practiced sculpture, as well as Protogenes (Muller-Dufeu 2002, p. 447, 851, texts 1304 and 2545; see texts 491 and 504). In ancient times, the boundary between different arts was not rigid. All arts were considered as "techne" (a specialized knowledge with technical abilities) whose common purpose was to "create life in the best possible way" (Muller-Dufeu 2011, pp. 169-173). For ancient sculptors, the affinity of their "techne" with that of painting was obvious, since the sculptures were painted. Therefore, a lot of them collaborated closely with painters, as for example Praxiteles and Nikias (see texts 362 to 374, esp. 373).

  3. For A. Reinach Pythagoras of Paros was the same person as Pythagoras of Samos (see text 78a). But, it is clear now that Pythagoras of Samos and Pythagoras of Paros were two different persons (Vollkommer & Vollkommer-Glökler 2001, pp. 333-334).

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Created by Valérie Toillon

Tags

  • pythagoras

Bibliography

Jex-Blake, K. & Sellers, E., 1968. The Elder Pliny’s Chapters on the History of Art, Chicago: Argonaut.

Linfert, A., 1966. Pythagoras, einer oder zwei ? Archäologischer Anzeiger / Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, pp. 495–496.

Muller-Dufeu, M., 2011. Créer du vivant: sculpteurs et artistes dans l’antiquité grecque, Villeneuve-d’Ascq: Presses universitaires du septentrion.

Muller-Dufeu, M., 2002. La sculpture grecque: sources littéraires et épigraphiques, Paris: École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts.

Pline, l’Ancien, 1953. Histoire naturelle. Livre XXXIV, Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

Vollkommer, R. & Vollkommer-Glökler, D., 2001. Künstlerlexikon der Antike, München: Saur.

Annotation Authors and Editors
Created by Valérie Toillon