From Wikiquote
Jump to: navigation, search
Archytas of Tarentum

Archytas (428–347 BC), of Tarentum, Magna Graecia, was an Ancient Greek philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, statesman, and strategist. He was a scientist of the Pythagorean school and famous for being the reputed founder of mathematical mechanics, as well as a good friend of Plato.


  • That tho' a Man were admitted into Heaven to view the wonderful Fabrick of the World, and the Beauty of the stars, yet what would otherwise be Rapture and Extasie, would be but melancholy Amazement if he had not a Friend to communicate it to.

Quotes about Archytas[edit]

  • Simplicius attributes to him a work on Opposites, to which he says that Aristotle was indebted for what he says on this subject in his Categories. His Harmonicon is quoted by Nicomachus in his Arithmetic. ...Fragments of the works attributed to him "On the Good and Happy Man," and "On Wisdom," are... extant. ...A letter of Archytas to Plato and Plato's reply are preserved by Laertius.
    • Lord Brougham (Chair), The Biographical Dictionary of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1843) Vol.3, Issue 1
  • Among the mathematical problems Archytas solved or attempted to solve the duplication of the cube, for which purpose he attempted to find two mean proportionals between the two right lines formed by the section of a cylinder, as Laertius expresses it. ...Among his mechanical inventions is mentioned a wooden pigeon that could fly, of which Gellius speaks particularly. The invention of a rattle, perhaps a child's toy, is also attributed to him.
    • Lord Brougham (Chair) ibid.
  • The fragments of the works "On the Good and Happy Man," and "On Wisdom," were published by T. Gale in 1670, and were given again with other things in his "Opuscula Mythologica," Cambridge, 1671, 8vo.; Amsterdam, 1688, 8vo. The fragment of the Greek text of the work on the "Nature of the Universe," was published at Venice, 1561, 8vo.; with a Latin version by Dom. Pizimentius, under the title "Architæ Tar. X. Prædicamenta." ...A complete collection of the fragments was published by I. Cn. Orelli, Leipzig, 1821, 8vo. The "Political Fragments of Archytas, Charondas, &c., translated from the Greek by Thomas Taylor, was published at London, 1822, 8vo. There is a work by Nic. T. Reimer intitled "Archytas, eiusque Solutio Problematis Cubi Duplicationis," Göttingen, 1798, 8vo.
    • Lord Brougham (Chair) ibid.
  • Such was the celebrity of this philosopher, that many illustrious names appear in the train of his disciples, particularly Philolaus, Eudoxus, and Plato. ...He excelled, not only in speculative philosophy, but in geometry and mechanics, He is said to have invented a kind of winged automaton, and several curious hydraulic machines. He was in such high reputation for moral and political wisdom, that, contrary to the usual custom, he was appointed seven different times to the supreme magistracy in Tarentum.
  • Of his writings none remain except a metaphysical work, "On the Nature of the Universe," in which he has explained the predicaments; and sundry fragments "On Wisdom," and "On the Good and Happy Man," preserved by Stobaeus and edited from him by Gale.
    • William Enfield, Johann Jakob Brucker, ibid.
  • His death, which is said to have been occasioned by a shipwreck, is made a subject of poetical description by Horace, who celebrates him as an eminent geographer and astronomer.
    • William Enfield, Johann Jakob Brucker, ibid.
  • Concerning the philosophical tenets of Archytas... Aristotle, who was an industrious collector from the Pythagoreans, borrowed from him the general arrangements which are usually called his ten categories.
    • William Enfield, Johann Jakob Brucker, ibid.
  • The sum of his moral doctrine is; that virtue is to be pursued for its own sake in every condition of life; that all excess is inconsistent with virtue; that the mind is more injured by prosperity than by adversity; and that there is no pestilence so destructive to human happiness as pleasure.
    • William Enfield, Johann Jakob Brucker, ibid.
  • It is probable that Aristotle was indebted to Archytas for many of his moral ideas; particularly for the notion which runs through his ethical pieces, that virtue consists in avoiding extremes.
    • William Enfield, Johann Jakob Brucker, ibid.
  • Even thee, thou measurer of earth and sea, thou counter of the sands, Archytas, how small a portion of earth contains thee now! It profits thee not to have searched the air and traversed the heavens since thou wert to die. So Tantalus, Tithonus, and Minos have died, and Pythagoras too with all his learning hath gone down once more to the grave. But so it is: all must die alike; some to make sport for Mars, some swallowed up in the deep: old and young go crowding to the grave: none escape: I to have perished in the waters. But grudge me not, thou mariner, a handful of earth: so may the storm spend itself on the woods while thou art safe and thy merchandize increases. Is it a small matter with thee to bring ruin on thy children? Yea, perhaps retribution awaits thyself: my curses will be heard, and then no atonement shall deliver thee. 'Tis but the work of a moment—thrice cast earth upon me and hasten on.
    • Horace, Arthur MacLeane, George Long, Quinti Horatii Flacci Opera Omnia (1881)
  • Te maris et terrae numeroque carentis arenae
    Mensorem cohibent, Archyta,
    Pulveris exiqui prope litus parva Matinum
    Munera, nec quidquam tibi prodest

    The sea, the earth, the innumerable sand,
    Archytas, thou coulds't measure; now, alas!
    A little dust on Matine shore has spann'd

    That soaring spirit; vain it was to pass
    The gates of heaven, and send thy soul in quest
    O'er air's wide realms; for thou hadst yet to die.

External links[edit]

  • Lord Brougham (Chair), The Biographical Dictionary of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1843) Vol.3, Issue 1