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Aesara of Lucania (Greek: Αἰσάρα Aisara; 4th or 3rd century BC) was a Pythagorean philosopher who wrote On Human Nature, of which a fragment is preserved by Stobaeus.


Aesara is known only from a one-page fragment of her philosophical work titled On Human Nature preserved by Stobaeus.[1] Lucania, where she came from, was an ancient district of southern Italy and part of Magna Graecia where many Pythagorean communities existed. It has been conjectured that her name is a variation on the name Aresa, who, according to one minor tradition, was a daughter of Pythagoras and Theano.[2] A male writer from Lucania called Aresas is also mentioned by Iamblichus in his Life of Pythagoras.[3]


On Human Nature is written in the Doric prose characteristic of the 3rd century BC or earlier,[4] although that doesn't preclude the possibility that it was written later in an archaic style.[5] It has been argued that the fragment is a Neopythagorean forgery dating from the Roman era, although this at least implies that there was an earlier Pythagorean called Aesara of Lucania worth imitating.[6] It has also been suggested that the fragment is pseudonymous and comes from a textbook produced by one of the dissenting successor schools to Archytas of Tarentum in Italy in the 4th or 3rd century BC.[7] In the absence of any strong evidence supporting either hypothesis, there is no reason to suppose that the fragment was not written by a woman philosopher called Aesara in the 4th or 3rd centuries BC.[8]

Aesara argues that it is by studying our own human nature (and specifically the human soul) that we can understand the philosophical basis for natural law and morality:[9]

Human nature seems to me to provide a standard of law and justice both for the home and for the city.

Aesara divides the soul into three parts: the mind which performs judgement and thought, the spirit which contains courage and strength, and desire which provides love and friendliness:

Being threefold, it is organized in accordance with triple functions: that which effects judgment and thoughtfulness is [the mind], that which effects strength and ability is [high spirit], and that which effects love and kindliness is desire.

These things, being divine, are the rational, mathematical, and functional principles at work in the soul.[10] Aesara's theory of natural law concerns three applications of morality, concerning the individual, the family, and social institutions.[9]

The Pythagoreans were notable as a sect for including women in their ranks. This did not necessarily equate to modern ideas of equality; they believed that women were responsible for creating harmony and justice in the home, in the same way that men had the same responsibility towards the state.[11] Seen in this context, Aesara's theory of natural law is fundamental to justice and harmony in society as a whole.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stobaeus, i. 49. 27
  2. ^ Plant 2004, pp. 81–82
  3. ^ Iamblichus, Life of Pythagoras, 266
  4. ^ Waithe 1987, p. 72; Plant 2004, pp. 81–82
  5. ^ Waithe 1987, p. 68
  6. ^ Waithe 1987, pp. 61–62
  7. ^ Waithe 1987, pp. 63–65
  8. ^ Waithe 1987, pp. 72–73; Plant 2004, pp. 81–82
  9. ^ a b Waithe 1987, p. 19
  10. ^ Waithe 1987, p. 22; Plant 2004, pp. 81–82
  11. ^ a b Waithe 1987, p. 25


  • Plant, Ian (2004), Women Writers of Ancient Greece and Rome: An Anthology, Equinox, ISBN 1-904768-02-4
  • Waithe, Mary Ellen (1987), A History of Women Philosophers: Volume I: Ancient Women Philosophers, 600 BC - 500 AD, Springer, ISBN 90-247-3368-5

External links[edit]