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Arignote (fl. 6th c. BCE)

Arignote (fl. 6th c. bce)

Pythagorean philosopher. Born in Crotona, Italy, to Pythagoras of Samos (philosopher, mathematician,politician, spiritual leader) and Theano of Crotona (Pythagorean philosopher); sister of Myia, Damo, Telauges and Mnesarchus; educated at the School of Pythagoras.

Selected works:

several of the Pythagorean Sacred Discourses; Epigrams on the Mysteries of Ceres; Mysteries of Bacchus; an unnamed work on Dionysius.

In the 500s bce, Arignote was born to the philosopher Pythagoras, who established the Pythagorean society, and Theano , a member of his sect. Arignote was raised with her sisters, Myia and Damo , and her brothers, Telauges and Mnesarchus, in a house separate from Pythagorean society. She was, however, educated in the Pythagorean school and adopted that life, which involved the study of mathematics and the contemplation of mathematic's role in the order of the universe, particularly in regard to physical relationships and astronomy. The Pythagoreans were a political body who followed rituals in keeping with the Orphic religion (which included avoiding activities believed to damage the soul or to cause injustice to any living creature, because the soul was believed to go beyond the body and be reincarnated), as well as rituals of their own: observing silence, self-examination, moderation in all things, and not eating meat or beans.

While it is likely that Arignote was central to the development of Pythagorean thought, the extent of her contribution is difficult to ascertain, as it was the practice of the Pythagoreans to attribute all of their work to Pythagoras in recognition of his genius. He was believed to be an incarnation of Apollo, god of moderation. Despite the difficulty, Arignote is recognized to have authored several Pythagorean works. With her brother, Telauges, she is credited as the author of the Sacred Discourses based on the commentaries left by Pythagoras after his death. She is particularly known for this passage:

The eternal essence of number is the most providential cause of the whole of heaven, earth, and the region in between. Likewise it is the root of the continued existence of the gods and daimones, as well as that of divine men.

Here, Arignote expresses the Pythogorean belief that numbers are part of the order of the universe and the force that sustains it. The numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4—and their relationships to each other and the other natural numbers—were considered to be the origin of all order.

The Sacred Discourses were written after the Pythagoreans scattered from their original community at Crotona and set up communities elsewhere. The preservation and continuation of Pythagoras' thought allowed Pythagoreanism to flourish for several hundred years and to influence the thought of Plato in the 4th century bce.


Coppleston, Frederick, S.J. A History of Philosophy. London: Search Press, 1946.

Guthrie, W.K.C. "Pythagoras and Pythagoreanism," in Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 7. Edited by Paul Edwards. NY: Macmillan, 1967.

Jamblichus, C. Life of Pythagoras. London: John M. Watkins, 1926.

Kersey, Ethel M. Women Philosophers: A Bio-critical Source Book. NY: Greenwood Press, 1989.

Philip, J.A. Pythagoras and Early Pythagoreanism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1966.

Waithe, Mary Ellen, ed. A History of Women Philosophers, Vol. 1. Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publications, 1987.

Catherine Hundleby , M.A. Philosophy, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada

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