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The two stories that Poliziano then relates concern legends about Pythagoras’s taming of wild animals, which are worth quoting extensively (11–12): He used to teach animals, wild ones as well as tame. Of course, one remembers that there was a certain Daunian bear. Awesome in its size, the bear was terrifying in its savagery and was a bitter plague on bulls and men. This man (if indeed he was only a man) called to it soothingly. He petted it with his hand, had it in his home for a while, and fed it bread and apples.

Then, I hope, you will easily understand that I am not a philosopher. . ” He then lays out the structure of his praelectio (7): “First, then, we’ll deal with the question, ‘what is a philosopher’ and whether being a philosopher is a vile or bad thing. ” To discover what a philosopher (and by extension what “philosophy”) is, Poliziano engages in a complex internal dialogue of praise and blame, of naming and of withholding names, that marks the treatise’s structure. 55 Poliziano’s method of arriving there, however, is unique.

72 The Lamia, with its use of fable and myth and its nameless mentioning of Pythagoras and Plato, represents perfectly one genre of this style of thought: not a “formal” history of philosophy, since that sort of thing did not exist in the fifteenth century, it is instead a dialogical reflection on the search for wisdom. Pythagoras had his part to play. S. Celenza, “Lorenzo Valla and the Traditions and Transmissions of Philosophy,” Journal of the History of Ideas (2005), 483–506; L. Catana, “The Concept ‘System of Philosophy’: The Case of Jacob Brucker’s Historiography of Philosophy,” History and Theory 44 (2005), 72–90; and idem, The Historiographical Concept ‘System of Philosophy’: Its Origin, Nature, and Legitimacy (Leiden: Brill, 2008).

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