Pythagoras Citations in
Dante's Il Convivio

Edited by Peter Y. Chou

for Professor John Freccero's
Dante's Paradiso class
Stanford University, Spring 2001

Paget Toynbee's "Dante's References to Pythagoras" [Romania (1895) 376-384] shows that Dante mentions Pythagoras 8 times— 7 times in his Convivio and once in the De Monarchia. Dante also mentions his followers, the Pythagoreans, once in the Convivio. Lansing's translation (1990) of Dante's Convivio lists Pythagoras & Pythagoreans 7 times in his index. The Princeton Dante Project has a "Minor Works of Dante (Opere Minore)" web site. A word search for "Pittagora" in Dante's Convivio yielded 8 citations— 7 "Pittagora" & 1 "Pittagorici". They are listed below together with Lansing's translation of Dante's Convivio and Dante's sources according to Toynbee. Dante's Monarchia in Latin is available at George Mason University. The translation is from Prue Shaw's Dante, Monarchia, Cambridge University Press (1995).

1— Convivio II-xiii-18

ben considera sottilmente;
per che Pittagora, secondo che dice

Number exists not only in all of them together, but also, upon careful reflection, in each one individually; for this reason Pythagoras, as Aristotle says in the first book of the Physics, laid down even and odd as the principles of natural things, considering all things to have numerical aspect.
2— Convivio II-xiv-5

hanno avute diverse oppinioni.
Chè li Pittagorici dissero che 'l Sole

philosophers have held different opinions. For the Pythagoreans said that the Sun at one time strayed from its path, and, passing through other regions unsuited to its burning heat, set aflame the place through which it passed, leaving there traces of that conflagration.
3— Convivio II-xv-12

dell'universo, alla quale Pittagora
puose nome Filosofia.

I assert and affirm that the lady of whom I was enamored after my first love was the most beautiful and honorable daughter of the Emperor of the universe, to whom Pythagoras gave the name of Philosophy.
4— Convivio III-v-4

Questo mondo volse Pittagora e li
suoi seguaci dicere che fosse una

Pythagoras and his followers maintained that this world was one of the stars and that there was another opposite it that was identical, which he called Antichthon (or anti-world)
5— Convivio III-xi-3

Romani, vivea uno filosofo nobilissimo
che si chiamò Pittagora. E che

750 years before the coming of our Saviour, about the time of Numa Pompilius, second king of the Romans, there lived a very noble philosopher by the name of Pythagoras.
6— Convivio III-xi-5

Questo Pittagora, domandato se elli
si riputava sapiente, negò a sè

When Pythagoras was asked whether he considered himself a wise man, refused to accept the appellation for himself and said that he was not a wise man but a lover of wisdom. So it came to pass after this that everyone dedicated to wisdom was called a "lover of wisdom," that is, a "philosopher," for philos in Greek means the same as "love" in Latin, and so we say philos for lover and sophos for wisdom, from which we can perceive that these two words make up the name of "philosopher," meaning "lover of wisdom," which, we might note, is not a term of arrogance but of humility.
7— Convivio IV-i-1

congiunge e unisce l'amante colla
persona amata; onde Pittagora dice:

Love, according to the unanimous opinion of the sages who have spoken of it and as we see from constant experience, is what joins and unites the lover with the person loved. Consequently Pythagoras says, "Friendship unites the many into one." Since things that are joined by nature have their qualities in common with one another, to the extent that one is at times completely transformed into the nature of the other, it follows that the passions of the person loved enter into the person who loves, so that the love of the one is communicated to the other, as are hatred and desire and all other passions.
8— Convivio IV-xxi-3

Pittagora volse che tutte fossero
d'una nobilitade, non solamente le

Plato and others maintained that our souls issued from the stars and were more or less noble according to the nobility of their star. Pythagoras maintained that all souls were of the same nobility, not only human souls but those of the brute animals and the plants, and the forms of minerals; and he said that the only difference lay between their matter and their form.*

* Dante, in paraphrasing Pythagoras' theory, means that all of these beings are equally noble with respect to their form; but with respect to their material or matter, they are noble in different degrees.

9— Monarchia I-xv-2

Unde fit quod unum esse videtur esse radix
eius quod est esse bonum, et multa esse eius
quod est esse malum; qua re Pictagoras
in correlationibus suis ex parte boni ponebat
unum, ex parte vero mali plurale

This is how it comes about that unity seems to be the root of what it is to be good, and plurality the root of what it is to be evil; that is why Pythagoras in his correlations placed unity on the side of goodness and plurality on the side of evil, as is clear in the first book of the Metaphysics*

* Aristotle, Metaphysics I.5 986a 15-b2

Dante's Sources: 1- Aristotle, Metaphysics I.ii 3; 2- Albertus Magnus, De Meteoris I.ii.2; 3- St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei XVI.2 or Cicero, Tusculanae Quaestiones V.3; 4- Aristotle, De Coelo II.iv.1; 5 & 6- Cicero, Tusculanae Quaestiones V.3; also St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei VIII.2; 7- Cicero, De Officiis I.17; 8- unknown; 9- Aristotle, Metaphysica I.v.15

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (5-31-2001)