Damo (fl. 6th c. BCE)

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Damo (fl. 6th c. bce)

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

In some accounts, Damo is the only daughter of Theano and Pythagoras, the ancient Italian philosopher, but she is generally considered to have had two sisters Arignote and Myia . Two brothers, Telauges and Mnesarchus, are also noted. All became members of the sect established by their father Pythagoras. Pythagoreanism ascribed to the precept of metempsychosis and the teaching that earthly life is only a purification of the soul. It stressed moderation and the study of mathematics. Devotees believed that the order of the world was derived from numbers.

Although Damo is not noted for any works herself, it is quite likely that she contributed to the doctrines ascribed to Pythagoras. In testimony to his greatness, it was the tradition of the sect to credit him with authorship. Some of the content of Pythagoras' writings comes to us through Damo's preservation. Based on the commentaries of their father, her sister Arignote and her brother Telauges composed the Sacred Discourses, which were central to the development of the Pythagorean tradition as it continued to flourish for the next few centuries. The commentaries were in Damo's care after Pythagoras' death in a fire at Myia's house.

It is not clear the social status to which Damo would have been accustomed prior to her father's death, as early accounts of Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans come primarily from followers who tended to glorify and romanticize their lives. But it is certain that she suffered great hardship following his death. Though the Pythagoreans were expelled from Crotona and Damo was exceedingly poor, she refused to sell her father's writings because he had prohibited the communication of their teachings to strangers.


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