Theano of Crotona (Italy) c. 546 BCE

Theano was the daughter of Brontinus, a physician and an Orphic disciple She was born in Crotona c. 546 BCE.

She was educated. She was a fine mathematician who later in life wrote a treatise describing the 'Golden Mean". She was very interested in ideas and when Pythagoras came to Samos, she went to hear him.

She and Pythagoras married although she was 36 years his junior. They had 5 children: three daughters (Damo, Myia and Arignote) and two sons ( Mnesarchus and Telauges).

She taught mathematics in Samos and Croton and is said to be the author of the treatise on the Golden Mean, an important concept in mathematics. the 'Golden Mean' is found in nature and used in both art and architecture.

After Pythagoras' death she became the head of Pythagoras' school and, with the help of her daughters,(Damo, Myria and Arignote) all of whom were philosophers and one of her sons, she continued the Pythagorean school of wisdom. She and her children not only kept the school and its doctrines alive, they were central to the spread of Pythagorean thought. Some would say that without the work of Theano after his death, Pythagoras's ideas and the Pythagorean Brotherhood would probably not have had as much influence in the ancient world around the Mediterranean.

References to to her and her work can be found in Athenaeus, Suidas, Diogenes Laertius and Iamblichus.

Diogenes mentions that she left writings, but he does not mention their titles. There are several interesting letters published under her name in the Aldine Collection of Greek Epistles (1499 )but more recent scholarship has shown that there were not likely to have been written by Theano.

These continued to be published, however, and if you do a search you will find them in:

  • Collection Cujacius, Aurel. Allob. 1606
  • Gale’s Opuscula Mythologica 1671
  • Wolf’s Mulierum Graecarum Fragmenta, 1739
  • Conrad Orelli’s Socratis et Socraticorum, Pythagorae et Pythagoreorum, quae ferunter Epistolae 1815

Suidas claims that is another woman with this same name... . also a Pythagorean ... who wrote works on Pythagoras, on Virtue addressed to Hippodamus of Thuriurn... . but most scholars believe that this is really an account of this Theano.

It appears that she corresponded with Callisto, on child psychology and the best way to bring up a family.

"After the death of Pythagoras, which occurred at the end of the sixth or the beginning of the fifth century B.C., Theano, carried on the central school of the Order. just how many daughters she and Pythagoras had is a matter of guessing but some of them seem to be well established in the records – women who, as teachers, writers, and missionaries, disseminated the philosophy of their parents."

Source : Mary Beard. Woman as a Force in History. 1946

Works

Her principal works are: "Life of Pythagoras", "Cosmology", "Theorem of the Golden Mean", "Theory of numbers" and "On Virtue":

Here is a brief article in pdf format about the Golden Mean

Sources and Resources:

Mary Beard. Woman as a Force in History. 1946 - for information about Theano's writings. See: Woman as a Force in History

The Encyclopedia of World Biography offers this biography of Theano


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