The Philosopher Priestess at Delphi


“Aristoxenus says that Pythagoras got most of his moral doctrines from the Delphic priestess, Themistoclea.”

Diogenes Laertius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers 


Themistoclea was a sacred priestess at Delphi, the site of the revered Delphic oracle, the sanctuary dedicated to the great god, Apollo.  Apollo would speak by way of the sibyl or priestess of the oracle known as the Pythia.  Not everyone could aspire to this lofty position.  Only older women known to have an impeccable, flawless character could apply.

Themistoclea had those qualifications and was recognized for her wisdom.  Her talents as a teacher were recorded by Diogenes Laertius in his comprehensive work, “Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers.” It was written that Pythagoras was introduced to the principles of ethics by none other than our priestess, Themistoclea.  Ethics, the branch of philosophy that classifies, defends and recommends concepts of right and wrong, requires the application of wisdom, honesty and compassion.  It is the education of the spirit as well as the mind.

Pythagoras went on to discover one of the most famous equations of all time, yet we can thank Themistoclea for teaching him discernment.

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”