A Prophet of Divine Wisdom?—Giambattista Vico and the Construction of the Pythagorean Myth

In: Philological Encounters
Markus Alexander Lenz University of Potsdam

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In the nineteenth century, the reception of Giambattista Vico’s writings came along with nationalist interpretations of his Scienza Nuova as an ‘Italian Science’. This tendency was based upon an increased examination of the role that the philosopher Pythagoras and his Italian school of Croton played in Vico’s hierarchical conception of the ancient Greek and Italian civilizations. Writers, archaeologists and historians used the New Science as a metonymic reference work for their own nationalist concepts by updating the Pythagorean myth in accordance with relevant narratives of exclusive genealogies concerning an ancient Italian wisdom. These narratives follow tendencies in Vico’s own writings that were quoted strategically and mixed with further interpretations of the Scienza Nuova as reliable testimonial for a glorious Italian history. A theological poet characterized by deeper insight into the secrets of nature and some parts of the divine providence, Pythagoras gains his special position in Vico’s general conception of knowledge.

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