Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pythagoras was Calabrian

Italians often maintain that they have invented everything. I thought that my husband, Salvatore wsa going too far when one day he said that Pythagoras was a Calabrian. It just so happened that the whole south of Italy was part of "greater greece". The beautiful temples at Agrigento, Sicily are testimony to that.

Magna Graecia was the settlement of southern Italy by Greeks from the eighth century BC. From the tenth century AD mainland Greeks were fleeing from the Ottomans. In the eleventh century Normans settled in southern Italy and latinized religion. The Greek clergy also adopted Latin for the mass. The prestige of the Greek language and culture waned in the thirteenth century as the Byzantine Empire declined. From the fifteenth century the Greek communities were increasingly influenced by other nationalities, and the language increasingly romanized. In remote towns and villages Grico survived as an oral language of the peasantry and the uneducated, but even here bilingualism increased from the seventeenth century. There were only about 12 villages where Grico was still in common use at the start of the nineteenth century, and only seven in Calabria, with a total population of 8,000 people, in the first general census conducted after Italian unification in 1861. However, interest in folklore increased in the nineteenth century and Griko songs were collected and published.
In 1901 the Italian government set up an Emigration Commission with funds to help people emigrate. This led to mass emigration from southern Italy to escape poverty, with the peak year in 1911. When the Fascists gained power in 1922, they discouraged emigration. They also persecuted the Greek-speakers. However, until the agrarian reforms of 1950–1, Grico-speaking peasants were virtually self-sufficient on the huge landed estates (masserie), and were able to keep their language intact.
Universal schooling in Italian after the Second World War, compulsory military service and the depopulation of the countryside with migration to the cities undermined this self-sufficiency. Initiatives to promote the language were launched in the late 1950s, spearheaded by middle-class intellectuals in Reggio di Calabria and Bova Marina, and by foreign researchers such as Rohlfs from Germany. A group of university students from Bovesia published a pamphlet entitled La Ionica.
In 1970 the group set up La Ionica Cultural Circle, and the pamphlet became a periodical with poetry and prose in Italian and Greek. La Ionica Cultural Circle and Greek-speakers of Grecia Salentina set up the UGIM (Unione dei Greci dell’Italia Meridionale). UGIM unsuccessfully petitioned the Regional Tourist Office for the introduction of bilingual road signs and five minutes’ broadcasting time on Radio Cosenza. The private radio stations Radio Bova, Radio Mélito and Radio San Paolo in Reggio di Calabria agreed to broadcast some programmes in Greek. 

But what about Pythagoras?

After his travels, Pythagoras moved (around 530 BC) to Croton, in Italy (Magna Graecia). Possibly the tyranny of Polycrates in Samos made it difficult for him to achieve his schemes there. His later admirers claimed that Pythagoras was so overburdened with public duties in Samos, because of the high estimation in which he was held by his fellow-citizens, that he moved to Croton.[36] On his arrival in Croton, he quickly attained extensive influence, and many people began to follow him. Later biographers tell fantastical stories of the effects of his eloquent speech in leading the people of Croton to abandon their luxurious and corrupt way of life and devote themselves to the purer system which he came to introduce.[37]
His followers established a select brotherhood or club for the purpose of pursuing the religious and ascetic practices developed by their master. The accounts agree that what was done and taught among the members was kept a profound secret. The esoteric teachings may have concerned the secret religious doctrines and usages, which were undoubtedly prominent in the Pythagorean system, and may have been connected with the worship of Apollo.[38] Temperance of all kinds seems to have been strictly urged. There is disagreement among the biographers as to whether Pythagoras forbade all animal food,[39] or only certain types.[40] The club was in practice at once "a philosophical school, a religious brotherhood, and a political association."[41]

Pythagoras, depicted on a 3rd-century coin
Such an aristocratic and exclusive club could easily have made many people in Croton jealous and hostile, and this seems to have led to its destruction. The circumstances, however, are uncertain. Conflict seems to have broken out between the towns of Sybaris and Croton. The forces of Croton were headed by the PythagoreanMilo, and it is likely that the members of the brotherhood took a prominent part. After the decisive victory by Croton, a proposal for establishing a more democratic constitution, was unsuccessfully resisted by the Pythagoreans. Their enemies, headed by Cylon and Ninon, the former of whom is said to have been irritated by his exclusion from the brotherhood, roused the populace against them. An attack was made upon them while assembled either in the house of Milo, or in some other meeting-place. The building was set on fire, and many of the assembled members perished; only the younger and more active escaping.[42] Similar commotions ensued in the other cities of Magna Graecia in which Pythagorean clubs had been formed.
As an active and organised brotherhood the Pythagorean order was everywhere suppressed, and did not again revive. Still the Pythagoreans continued to exist as a sect, the members of which kept up among themselves their religious observances and scientific pursuits, while individuals, as in the case of Archytas, acquired now and then great political influence. Concerning the fate of Pythagoras himself, the accounts varied. Some say that he perished in the temple with his disciples,[43] others that he fled first to Tarentum, and that, being driven from there, he escaped to Metapontum, and there starved himself to death.[44] His tomb was shown at Metapontum in the time of Cicero.[45]
According to some accounts Pythagoras married Theano, a lady of Croton. Their children are variously stated to have included a son, Telauges, and three daughters, DamoArignote, and Myia.

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