Myia (fl. 6th c. BCE)

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Myia (fl. 6th c. bce)

Pythagorean philosopher. Born in Crotona, Italy, and flourished around 6th century bce; daughter of Pythagoras of Samos (a philosopher, mathematician, politician, and spiritual leader) and Theano (a Pythagorean philosopher); sister of Arignote, Damo , Telauges and Mnesarchus; educated at the School of Pythagoras; married Milon of Crotona (also known as Milo, Mylon, and Meno).

Myia was born to the philosopher Pythagoras and his wife Theano , who was a member of the intellectual community he established in Crotona in the 6th century bce. Although Myia and her sisters and brothers were brought up in a house outside of the Pythagorean community, they were all educated at the school, which involved studying mathematics; using moderation in all things and worshipping Apollo, the god of moderation; and following the precepts of the Orphic religion (practicing kindness because of a belief in reincarnation).

The Pythagoreans believed that home and family life was the province of women, whereas men's efforts were appropriately focused on the state and society at large. It is not surprising, then, that Myia is known for the Letter to Phyllis, in which she advises a friend on the practice of rearing an infant. She recommends that the caretaker (the mother) be even-tempered and moderate—the Pythagorean prescription in all practical matters. In regard to the specifics of child-care, she recommends moderation in feeding, clothing, and hygiene. Extreme pampering and extreme denial are to be avoided. Extra comfort can be administered when appropriate, but timing is crucial. The importance of appropriate timing was also part of the Pythagorean lifestyle. We see this in the closing of the letter: "With the help of god [Apollo], we shall provide feasible and fitting reminders concerning the child's upbringing again at a later time."

Myia married another Pythagorean, Milon of Crotona, a famous athlete and a leading Pythagorean. A crowd wishing to expel the Pythagoreans from Crotona set fire to their house during a meeting of the Pythagorean Order. It is unclear whether Myia died in the blaze or in the ensuing persecution of the Pythagoreans in Crotona, but 38 others died, including Pythagoras and Milon.


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