Timycha of Tarentum was a Pythagorean philosopher living in the Spartan Colony of Tarentum. Diogenes Laertius reports that she had been born in Lacedemon. She was the wife of Mylias who had been born in Croton.
Although many think of Athens as the seat of philosophy in the ancient world, Sparta had a number of well known women philosophers. It should be noted that Sparta provided public education for girls. They studied the Greek myths, poetry and philosophy so it is not surprising that there were a number of Spartan women philosophers - of whom Timycha of Tarentum is one.
We do not know how she learned of Pythagoras or his philosophy. Perhaps she learned of it on her own since there were a number of Pythagorean philosophical groups in Sparta and its Colonies. Also, Pythagoras could have been mentioned as part her public schooling or perhaps Mylias, her husband, who had been born in Croton introduced her to the school of thought. (Croton was the place where Pythagoras landed when he returned from Egypt and where he lived after marrying Theano, a brilliant mathematician who joined him in his philosophical work. And who took over the Pythagorean schools after his death.) But in any case Timycha was part of the Pythagorean society and embraced its teachings and ethical norms.
Timycha was particularly remembered in the ancient world for her courage. The story goes that Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse (396 - 379) had her tortured at a time when she was 6 months pregnant. Fearing that she might reveal some of the Pythagorean secrets she bit off her tongue so she could not speak under duress.
This event is recorded by Diogenes Laeritus in his Lives of the Eminent Philosophers. He reported that Dionysius ambushed a group of Pythagoreans traveling from Tarentum to Metapntum. (He is said to have pursued them because they had rejected his friendship.)
While being pursued the Pythagoreans refused to cross a field of beans and so they were overtaken. Most of them were killed but Timycha , who was pregnant, and her husband were spared.
Her husband Myllias was
taken away when he refused to say why they would not walk on the beans.
Then the order was given to torture Timycha in hopes that she would
reveal the reason for this apparent Pythagorean prohibition.
As noted above she bit off her tongue lest she be tempted to reveal Pythagorean secret doctrine under duress. For this she was considered a hero among the Pythagoreans. Source: Philostorgius: Church History.
You can read about this philosopher and others from Sparta in Sarah B. Pomeroy's work:
This page was last updated 12/18/14