The statue of Pythagoras of Samos is preserved in fragments in the Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria, and it comes from the “Porticello shipwreck of Villa San Giovanni”. It was part of the cargo of a ship that commuted between the shores of the Strait of Messina, and that sunk in the fourth century BC. In this ship’s cargo there were pieces of valuable statues, which were purposely broken in order to be sold as bronze ingots to remelt.
When contemporary people think about the figure of Pythagoras imagine him as a man who was particularly skilled in mathematics and geometry, a philosopher, an author, and a propagator of religious-mystical doctrines, such as the transmission of souls and the idiosyncrasy toward the broad beans. Even though it seems that Pythagoras was the first one to call himself a “philosopher”, this definition does not do justice of its complex personality, and in some way, it belittles and distorts his identity.
Reading the sources, it is possible to identify in the Pythagorean party the Magno-Greek anomaly which influenced the society of southern Italy from the sixth century BC to the late Hellenistic period. It can be said that the continuous revolts and the political instability of the whole area were largely determined by the fight between the democratic party and the Pythagorean one. In Magna Graecia, the Pythagoreans positioned themselves as a moderate and acceptable version of the aristocratic oligarchy, which governed from the time of the founding of colonies in South Italy until the arrival of Pythagoras. This form of power was responsible of many abuses against the people in the name of haughtiness. As the majority of modern scholars admit, even Plato was inspired by the Pythagorean party and its elaboration of an ideal Republic: a government which is not guided anymore by the richest people, but by philosophers.
The only way to advance the research on the Head of Porticello is to read the signs remained in the bronze, trying to give them an interpretation, and providing the integration of the elements which are now missing. There is a sign behind the head that runs from a temple to the other, it can testimony the past presence of a heavy element because the hair is flattened. In the past, it was interpreted in a wrong way as a laurel crown or as a tiara, but it is clear that the shape of this element reminds of a turban, as in the Head of Pythagoras in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, and it recalls Pythagoras’s formation studies in the East.
The remaining fragments of the bronze statue seems to recall a Greek one, of which we only know a Roman marble copy, known as “The lyre player” preserved in the Louvre, that probably represents the philosopher.
English translation by Corinna Castrizio.