Friday, April 12, 2013

Pythagoras and the Metrics of Heaven

After Metamorphoses 15, anyone curious to know more about Pythagoras and the impact of what was made of his thinking in after times might want to have a look at Measuring Heaven: Pythagoras and His Influence on Thought and Art in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, by Christiane L. Joost-Gaugier (Cornell UP, 2007).

From the portions of the book accessible via Google it's clear the author has pursued Pythagorean themes and mathematical insights tenaciously though the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, tracing the impacts upon church architecture and Renaissance art. Indeed, she indicates early on that her initial inspiration for her study derived from the works of Raphael:


  1. This post is great. I also like the way Pythagoras, as an exile, could be seen as a stand-in for Ovid, and the way Ovid sort of pokes fun at Pythagoras by making his lecture long-winded and digressive. Maybe Ovid is making fun of himself a little here, even though he uses Pythagoras' authority as a kind of "proof" that he'll become immortal through his Metamorphoses. It makes you question whether Ovid believed in his own project.

    The Joost-Gaugier material is really interesting - thanks for pointing it out..

  2. Just out of curiosity, do you know why the raging sea bull appears to Hippolytus in the story right after this Pythagoras narrative? Is the bull a reference to another myth?

    1. The source for the bull was in the myths, and in Euripides' play:

      "And then this huge wave, suddenly swelled up even more and became a ghastly bull. A vicious bull whose ferocious bellow filled the whole land. The roar echoed everywhere around us.
      It terrified us all."

      We're moving rather slowly through this final book -- might have more thoughts when we get to that scene. Thanks as well for your comments on Pythagoras -- still thinking about Ovid's intriguing use of the figure. Appreciate your interest.