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Neo-Pythagoreanism

Updated on December 2, 2016

Neo-Pythagoreanism is a Hellenistic school of philosophy.

While Neo-Pythagoreanism professed continuous descent from Pythagoreanism, yet it first appeared during the 1st century B.C. in Rome, whence it traveled to Alexandria (the sect's chief center) where it flourished until Neo-Platonism absorbed it in the 3rd century A.D. Its founder was Publius Nigidius Figulus, a Roman savant, and its principal professor was Apollonius of Tyana, a vagrant sage. Other important propagators were Moderatus of Gades, Nicomachus of Gerasa (100 A.D.), Numenius of Apamea, and Philostratus of Lemnos (170-248 A.D.).

The doctrines of the sect, which resembled a religious movement, adopted such elements of Platonism, Aristotelianism, and Stoicism as supported the prime stratum of Pythagoreanism.

Though it is difficult to discover a common corpus of systematic philosophy professed by the school because of its eclecticism, yet its dualism between mind and matter was decided: a spiritual God, who headed an angelic hierarchy, by directing the world through a demiurge, avoided all contact with matter, which, being corrupt, polluted man, whose duty was to suppress desires of the senses and so to attain a spiritual life of freedom. Some attention was accorded to Pythagoras as the prophet of a religious revelation and the propounder of a mode of life, but numerical symbolism, theological speculation, mysticism, divine incarnation, ascetic perfection inspired more interest.

Neo-Pythagoreanism's importance consists chiefly in its influence on Neo-Platonism by Numenius, on Jewish philosophy by Philo Judaeus (30 B.C.-45 A.D.) , and on Christian theology by Clement of Alexandria (150-220 A.D.).

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