I. Early Life
Since we have now gone through the Ionian philosophy, which was derived from Thales, and the lives of the several illustrious, men who were the chief ornaments of that school, we will now proceed to treat of the Italian School, which was founded by Pythagoras, the son of Mnesarchus, a seal engraver, as he is recorded to have been by Hermippus; a native of Samos, or, as Aristoxenus, asserts a Tyrrhenian, and a native of one of the islands which the Athenians, after they had driven out the Tyrrhenians, had occupied. But some authors say that he was the son of Marmacus, the son of Hippasus, the son of Euthyphron, the son of Cleonymus, who was an exile from Phlias; and that Marmacus settled in Samos, and that from this circumstance Pythagoras was called a Samian. After that, he migrated to Lesbos; having come to Pherecydes, with letters from his uncle Zoilus. Then he made three silver goblets, and carried them to Egypt as a present for each of the three priests. He had brothers, the eldest of whom was named Eunomus, the middle one Tyrrhenius, and a slave named Zamolxis, to whom the Getae sacrifice, believing him to be the same as Saturn, according to the account of Herodotus (4:93).
He was a pupil, as I have already mentioned, of Pherecydes the Syrian; and after his death he came to Samos, and became a pupil of Hermadamas, the descendant of Creophylus, who was already an old man now.
As he was a youth devoted to learning, he quitted his country, and got initiated in all the Grecian and barbarian sacred mysteries. Accordingly he went to Egypt, on which occasion Polycrates gave him a letter of introduction to Amasis; and he learned the Egyptian language as Antiphon tells us, in his treatise on those men who have become conspicuous for virtue; and he associated with the Chaldeans and Magi.
Afterwards he went to Crete, and in company with Epimenides, he descended into the Idaean cave—and in Egypt too he had entered into the holiest parts of their temples,—and learned all the most secret mysteries that relate to their Gods. Then he returned again to Samos, and finding his country reduced under the absolute dominion of Polycrates, he set sail, and fled to Crotona in Italy.
Having given laws to the Italians, he there gained a very high reputation, together with his scholars, who were about three hundred in numbers, and governed the republic in a most excellent manner; so that the constitution was very nearly an aristocracy.
Herclides Ponticus says that he was accustomed to speak of himself in this manner: that he had formerly been Aethalides, and had been accounted the son of Mercury; and that Mercury had desired him to select any gift he pleased except immortality. Accordingly he had requested that, whether living or dead, he might preserve the memory of what had happened to him. While, therefore, he was alive, he recollected everything; and when he was dead, he retained the same memory. At a subsequent period he passed into Euphorbus, and was wounded by Menelaus. While he was Euphorbus, he used to say that he had formerly been Aethalides, and that he had received as a gift from Mercury, the perpetual transmigration of his soul; so that it was constantly transmigrating and passing into whatever plants or animals it pleased; and he had also received the gift of knowing and recollecting all that his soul had suffered in hell, and what sufferings too are endured by the rest of the souls.
But after Euphorbus died, he said that his soul had passed into Hermotimus; and when he wished to convince people of this, he went into the territory of the Branchidas, and going into the temple of Apollo, he showed his shield which Menelaus had dedicated there as an offering. For he said that he, when he sailed from Troy, had offered up his shield which was already getting worn-out, to Apollo, and that nothing remained but the ivory face which was on it. He said that when Hermotimus died he had become Pyrrhus, a fisherman of Delos; and that he still recollected everything, how he had formerly been Aethalides, then Euphorbus, then Hermotimus, and then Pyrrhus. When Pyrrhus died, he became Pythagoras, and still recollected all the circumstances I have been mentioning.
V. Works of Pythagoras
Now they say that Pythagoras did not leave behind him a single book; but they talk foolishly; for Heraclitus, the natural philosopher, speaks plainly enough of him, saying, “Pythagoras, the son of Mnesarchus, was the most learned of all men in history and having, selected from these writings, he thus formed his own wisdom and extensive learning, and mischievous art.” Thus he speaks, because Pythagoras, in the beginning of his treatise on natural philosophy, writes in the following manner: “By the air which I breathe, and by the water which I drink, I will not endure to be blamed on account of this discourse.”
There are three volumes extant written by Pythagoras: one on education, one on politics, and one Natural Philosophy. The treatise which is now extant under the name of Pythagoras is the work of [Lysis], of Tarentum, a philosopher of the Pythagorean school, who fled to Thebes, and became the teacher of Epaminondas. Heraclides, the son of Sarapion, in his Abridgment of [N]otion says that he wrote a poem in epic verse upon the Universe; and besides that a sacred poem which begins thus:
“Dear youths, I warn you cherish peace divine, And in your hearts lay deep these words of mine.”
A third about the Soul; a fourth on Piety; a fifth entitled Helothales, which was the name of the father of Epicharmus of Cos; a sixth, called Crotona; and other poems too. But the mystic discourse which is extant under his name, they say is really the work of Hippasus, having been composed with a view to bring Pythagoras into disrepute. There were also many other books composed by Aston of Crotona, and attributed to Pythagoras. Aristoxenus asserts that Pythagoras derived the greater part of his ethical doctrines from Themistoclea, the priestess at Delphi. Ion of Chios, in his Victories, says that he wrote some poems and attributed them to Orpheus. His also, it is said, is the poem called Scopadaea, which begins thus; ÒBehave not shamelessly to any one.”
VI. General Views on Life
Sosicrates, in his Successions, relates that he having been asked by Leon, the tyrant of the Phliasians, who he was, replied, “A philosopher.” He adds that Pythagoras used to compate life to a festival. “And as some people come to the festival to contend for the prizes, and others for the purposes of traffic, and the best as spectators, so also in life the men of slavish dispositions are born hunters after glory and covetousness; but philosophers are seekers after truth.” Thus he spoke on this subject. But in the three treatises above mentioned, the following principles are laid down by Pythagoras.
He forbids men to pray for anything in particular for themselves, because they do not know what is good for them. He calls drunkenness an expression identical with ruin, and rejects all superfluity, saying “That no one ought to exceed the proper quantity of meat and drink.” On the subjects of venereal pleasures, he writes thus: “One ought to sacrifice to Venus in the winter, not in the summer; and in autumn and spring in a lesser degree. But the practice is pernicious at every season, and is never good for the health.” And once, when he was asked when a man might indulge in the pleasures of love, he replied, “Whenever you wish to be weaker than yourself.”
VII. Ages of Life
Thus does he divide the ages of life. A boy for twenty years; a young man—neaniskos,—for twenty years; a middle aged man—neanias,—for twenty years, and an old man for twenty. These different ages correspond proportionately to the seasons; boyhood answers to the spring; youth to summer; middle age to autumn; and old age to winter. He uses neaniskos here as equivalent to meirakion; and neanias as equivalent to aner.
VIII. Social Customs
Timaeus says that he was the first person to assert that the property of friends is common, and that friendship is equality. His disciples used to put all their possessions together into one store, and use them in common. For five years they kept silence, doing nothing but listening to discourses, and never once seeing Pythagoras, until they were approved; after that time they were admitted into his house, and allowed to see him. They also abstained from the use of cypress coffins, because the sceptre of Jupiter was made of that wood, as Hermippus tells us in the second book of his account of Pythagoras.
IX. Distinguished Appearance
He is said to have been a man of the most dignified appearance; and respecting him his disciples adopted an opinion that he was Apollo who had come from the Hyperboreans; and it is said that once when he was stripped naked he was seen to have a golden thigh. Many people affirmed that when he was crossing the river Nessus, it addressed him by his name.
X. Women Deified by Marriage
Timaeus, in the tenth book of his Histories tells us that he used to say that women who were married to men had the names of Gods, being successively called virgins, nymphs, and then mothers.
XI. Scientific Culture
Also it was Pythagoras who carried geometry to perfection, after Moeris had first found out the principles of the elements of that science, as Aristiclides tells us in the second book of History of Alexander; and the part of the science to which Pythagoras applied himself above all others, was arithmetic. He also discovered the numerical relation of sounds on a single string; he also studied medicine. Apollodorus the logician recounts of him that he sacrificed a hecatomb, when he had discovered that the square of the hypothenuse of a right-angled triangle was equal to the squares of the sides containing the right angle. There is an epigram which is couched in the following terms:
“When the great Samian sage his noble problem found, A hundred oxen with their life-blood dyed the ground.”
XII. Diet and Sacrifices
He is also said to have been the first man who trained athletes on meat; and Eurymenes was the first man, according to the statement of Phavorinus, in the third book of his Commentaries, who ever did submit to this diet as before that men used to train themselves on dry figs, and moist cheese, and wheaten bread; as the same Phavorinus informs us in the eighth book of his Universal History. But some authors state that a trainer of the name of Pythagoras certainly did train his athletes on this system, but that it was not our philosopher; for that he even forbade men to kill animals at all, much less would he have allowed his disciples to eat them, as having a right to live in common with mankind. And this was his pretext; but in reality he prohibited the eating of animals because he wished to train and accustom men to simplicity of life; so that all their food should be easily procurable, as it would be, if they ate only such things as required no fire to cook them, and if they drank plain water; for from this diet they would derive health of body and acuteness of intellect. The only altar at which he worshipped was that of Apollo, the Father, at Delos, which is at the back of the altar of Caratinus, because wheat and barley, and cheesecakes are the only offerings laid upon it, as it is not dressed by fire; and no victim is ever slain there, as Aristotle tells us, in his Constitution of the Delians. It is also said that he was the first person who asserted that the soul went a necessary circle, being transformed and confined at different times in different bodies.
XIII. Measures and Weights
He was also the first person who introduced measures and weights among the Greeks, as Aristoxenus the musician informs us.
XIV. Hesperus and Lucifer
Parmenides assures us too that he was the first person who asserted the identity of Hesperus and Lucifer.
XV. Students and Reputation
He was so greatly admired that it used to be said that his disciples looked on all his sayings as the Oracles of God. In his writings he himself said that he had come among men after having spent two hundred and seventy years in the shades below. Therefore the Lucanians, Peucetians, Messapians and Romans flocked around him, coming with eagerness to hear his discourses; but until the time of Philolaus no doctrines of Pythagoras were ever divulged; and he was the first person who published the three celebrated books which Plato wrote to have purchased for him for a hundred minae. The scholars who used to come to him by night were [no] less than six hundred. Whenever any one of them [was] permitted to see him, he wrote of it to his friends, as if they had achieved something wonderful. The people of Metapontum used to call his house the temple of Ceres; and the street leading to it was called that of the Muses, as we are informed in the universal history of Phavorinus.
According to the account given by Aristoxenus, in his tenth book of his Laws on Education, the rest of the Pythagoreans used to say that his precepts ought not to be divulged to all the world; and Xenophilus the Pythagorean, when he was asked what was the best way for a man to educate his son, said, “That he must first of all take care that he was born in a city which enjoyed good laws.” Pythagoras formed many excellent men in Italy, by his precepts, and among them Zaleucus and Charondas, the lawgivers.
XVI. Friendship Founded on Symbols
Pythagoras was famous for his power of attracting friendships; and among other things, if he ever heard that anyone had any community of symbols with him, he at once made him a companion and a friend.
XVII. Symbols or Maxims
Now what he called his symbols were such as these:
“Do not poke the fire with a word.”
“Do not sit down on a bushel.”
“Do not devour your heart.”
“Do not aid men in discarding a burden, but in increasing one.”
“Always have your bed packed up.”
“Do not bear the image of God on a ring.”
“Efface the traces of a pot in the ashes.”
“Do not wipe a seat with a lamp.”
“Do not make water in the sunshine.”
“Do not walk in the main street.”
“Do not offer your hand lightly.”
“Do not cherish swallows under your roof.”
“Do not cherish birds with crooked talons.”
“Do not defile; do not stand upon the parings of your nails, or the cuttings of your hair.”
“Avoid a sharp sword.”
“When traveling abroad, do not look back at your own borders.”
Now the precept not to poke the fire with a sword meant, not to provoke the anger or swelling pride of powerful men; not to violate the beam of the balance meant, not to transgress fairness and justice; not to sit on a bushel is to have an equal care for the present and the future; for by the bushel is meant one’s daily food. By devouring ones heart, he intended to show that we ought not to waste away our soul with grief and sorrow. In the precept that a man when traveling abroad should not turn his eyes back, he recommended those who were departing this life not to be desirous to live, and not to be too much attracted by the pleasures here on earth. And the other symbols may be explained in a similar manner, that we may not be too prolix here.
XVIII. Personal Habits
Above all things, he used to prohibit the eating of the erythinus and the mepanurus; also the hearts of animals, and beans. Aristotle informs us that to these prohibitions he sometimes added tripe and mullet. Some authors assert that he himself used to be contented with honey, honey-comb and bread; and that he never drank wine in the daytime. He usually ate vegetables, either boiled or raw; and he very rarely ate fish. His dress was white, very clean; his bed-clothes also were white and woolen, for linen had not yet been introduced in that country. He was never known to have eaten too much, or to have drunk too much; or to indulge in the pleasures of love. He abstained wholly from laughter, and from all such indulgences as jests and idle stories. He never chastised any one, whether slave or free man, while he was angry. Admonishing he used to call feeding storks.
He used to practise divination, as far as auguries and auspices; but not by means of burnt offerings, except only the burning of frankincense. All the sacrifices which he offered consisted of inanimate things. But some, however, assert that he did sacrifice animals, limiting himself to cocks, and sucking kids, which are called [-palioi], but that he very rarely offered lambs. Aristoxenus, however, affirms that he permitted the eating of all other animals, and abstained only from oxen used in agriculture, and from rams.
XIX. Various Teachings
The same author tells us, as I have already mentioned, that he received his doctrines from Themiclea at Delphi. Hieronymus says, that when he descended into the shades below, he saw the soul of Hesiod bound to a brazen pillar, and gnashing it’s teeth; and that of Homer suspended from a tree, snakes around it, as a punishment for the things that they had said of the Gods. Those who refrain from commerce with their wives also were punished and that on account of this he was greatly honored at Crotona. Aristippus of Cyrene, in his Account of Natural Philosophers, says that Pythagoras derived his name from the fact of his speaking (agoreuein), truth no less than the God at Delphi (touputhieu).
He used to admonish his disciples to repeat these lines to themselves whenever they returned home to their houses:
“In what have I transgressed? What Have I done? What that I should have done have I omitted?”
He used to forbid them to offer victims to the Gods, ordering them to worship only at those altars which were unstained with blood. He also forbade to swear by the Gods, saying, “That every man ought so to exercise himself as to be worthy of belief without an oath. He also taught men that it behoved them to honor their elders, thinking most honorable that which was precedent in point of time; just as in the world, the rising of the sun was more so than the setting; in life, the beginning more so than the end; and in animals, production more than destruction.
Another of his rules was that men should honor the Gods above the geniuses, and heroes above men and of all men, parents were those entitled to more honor. Another, that people should associate with each other in such a way as not to make their friends enemies, but to render their enemies friends. Another was that they should not think anything exclusively their own. Another was to assist the law, and to make war upon lawlessness. Not to destroy or injure a cultivated tree, nor any animal which does not injure man. Modesty and decorum consisted in never yielding to laughter, without looking stern. Men should avoid eating too much flesh, and in travelling should let rest and exertion alternate; that they should exercise memory, nor ever say or do anything in anger, not pay respect to every kind of divination, should sing songs accompanied by the lyre, and should display a reasonable gratitude to the Gods and eminent men by hymns.
His disciples were forbidden to eat beans, because, as they were flatulent, they greatly partook of animal properties; (that their stomachs would be kept in much better order by avoiding them), and that such abstinence would make the visions that appear in one’s sleep gentle and free from agitation.
Alexander, in his Successions of Philosophers, reports the following doctrines as contained in Pythagoras’s Commentaries: the Monad is the beginning of everything. From this proceeds an indefinite duad, which is subordinate to the monad, as to its cause. From the monad and the indefinite duad proceed numbers. From numbers proceed signs. From these, lines, of which plane figures consist.
From these plane figures are derived solid bodies. From solid bodies are derived sensible bodies, of which last there are four elements, fire, water, earth and air. The world, which is endued with life and intellect, and which is of a spherical figure, in its centre containing the earth, which is also spherical, and inhabited all over, results from a combination of these elements, and from them derives its motion. There are antipodes, and what to us is below, is to them above, He also taught that light and darkness, cold and heat, dryness and moisture, were equally divided in the world; and that, while heat was predominant in summer, so when cold prevailed, it was winter; when dryness prevailed, it was spring; and when moisture preponderated, autumn. The loveliest season of the year was when all these qualities were equally balanced; of which the flourishing spring was the most wholesome, and the autumn, the most pernicious. Of day, the most flourishing period was the morn while the evening was the fading one, and the least healthy.
Another of his theories was that the air around the earth was immovable, and pregnant disease, and that in it everything was mortal while the upper air was in perpetual motion, and salubrious; and that in it everything was immortal, and on that account divine. The sun, moon and the stars were all Gods; for in them dominates the principle which is the cause of. The moon derives its light from the sun. There a relationship between men and the Gods, because men partake of the divine principle; on which count, therefore, God exercises his providence for our advantage. Fate is the cause of the arrangement of the world, both in general and in particular. From the sun a ray penetrates both the cold aether, which is the air, aer and the dense aether, pachun aithera, which is the sea and moisture. This ray descends into the depths and in this way vivifies everything. Everything which partakes of the principle of heat lives, which account, also, plants are animated beings but that not all living beings necessarily have souls. The soul is something torn off from the aether, both warm and cold, from its partaking of the cold aether. The soul is something different from life. It is immortal, because of the immortality of that from which it was torn off.
Animals are born from one another by seeds and that it is impossible for there to be any spontaneous production by the earth. Seed is a drop from the brain which in itself contains a warm vapor; and that when this is applied to the womb, it transmits moisture, virtue, and blood from the brain, from which flesh, sinews, bones and hair, and the whole body are produced. From the vapor is produced the soul and also sensation. The infant first becomes a solid body at the end of forty days; but, according to the principles of harmony, it is not perfect till seven, or perhaps nine; or at most ten months, and then it is brought forth. In itself it contains all the principles of life which are all connected together, and by their union and combination form a hormonious whole, each of them developing itself at the appointed time.
In general the senses, and especially sights, are a vapor of intense heat, on which account a man is said to see through air, or through water. For the hot principle is opposed by the cold one; since, if the vapor in the eyes were cold, it would have the same temperature as the air, and so would be dissipated. As it is, in some passages he calls the eyes the gates of the sun. In a similar manner he speaks of hearing, and of the other senses. He also says that the soul of man is divided into three parts; into intuition (nous), reason (phren), and mind (thumos); and that the first and last divisions are found also in other animals, but that the middle one, reason, is found in man only. The chief abode of the soul is in those parts of the body which are between the heart and the brain. The mind abides in the heart, while the intuition (or deliberation) and reason reside in the brain.
The senses are drops from them; and the reasoning sense is immortal, while the others are mortal. The soul is nourished by the blood, and reasons are the winds of the soul. The soul is invisible, and so are its reasons, inasmuch as the aether itself is invisible. The links of the soul are the arteries, veins and nerves. When the soul is vigorous, and is by itself in a quiescent state, then its links are words and actions. When it is cast forth upon the earth, it wanders about, resembling the body. Mercury is the steward of the souls, and that is the reason of his name Conductor, Commercial, and Infernal, since it is he who conducts the souls from their bodies, and from earth, and sea; and that he conducts the pure souls to the highest region, and that he does not allow the impure ones to approach them nor to come near one another; committing them to be. bound in indissoluble fetters by the Furies. The Pythagoreans also assert that the whole air is full of souls, and that these are those that are accounted geniuses or heroes. They are the ones that send down among men dreams, and tokens of disease and health; the latter not being reserved to human beings, but being sent also to sheep and other cattle. They are concerned with purifications, expiations, and all kinds of divinations, oracular predictions, and the l(ike).
Man’s most important privilege is to be able to persuade his soul to be either good or bad. (Men) are happy when they have a good soul; yet they never quiet, never long retaining the same mind. An oath is justice; and on that account Jupiter is called Jupiter of Oaths. Virtue is harmony, health, universal good and God; on which account everything owes its existence and preservation to harmony. Friendship is a harmonious quality. Honors to Gods and heroes should not be equal. The Gods should be honored at all times, extolling them with praises, clothed in white garments, and keeping one’s body chaste; but that to the heroes such honors should not be payed till after noon.
A state of purity is brought about by purifications, washings and sprinklings; by a man’s purifying himself from all funerals, concubinage, or any kind of pollution; by abstaining from all flesh that has either been killed or died of itself, from mullets, from melanuri, from eggs, from such animals as lay eggs, from beans, and from other things that are prohibited by those who have shared of the mysteries in the temples.
In his treatise on Beans, Aristotle says that Pythagoras’s reason for demanding abstention from them on the part of his disciples, was that either they resemble parts of the human body, or because they are like the gates of hell Ñ they are the only plants without parts; -or because they dry up other plants, or because they are representatives of universal nature, or because they are used in elections in oligarchical governments. He also forbade his disciples to pick up what fell from the table, for the sake of accustoming them to eat moderately, or else because such things belong to the dead. Aristophanes, indeed said that what fell belonged to the heroes, in his heroes singing, “Never taste the things which fall, From the table on the floor.”
He also forbade his disciples to eat white poultry, because a cock of that color was sacred to the god Month, and was also a suppliant. He was also accounted a good animal (?) and he was sacred to the god Month, for he indicates the time.
The Pythagoreans were also forbidden to eat of all fish that was sacred, on the ground that the same animals should not be served up before both gods and men, just as the same things do not belong to both freemen and slaves. Now white is an indication of a good nature, and black of a bad one.
Another of the precepts of Pythagoras was never to break bread; because in ancient, times friends used to gather around the same loaf, as they even now do among the barbarians. Nor would he allow men to divide bread which unties them. Some think that he laid down this rule in reference to the judgment which takes place in hell; some because this practice engenders timidity in war. According to others, the reference is to the Union, which presides over the government of the Universe.
Another one of his doctrines was that of all solid figures the sphere was the most beautiful; and of all plane figures, the circle. That old age, and all diminution was similar, and also; all increase and youth. That health was the permanence of form, and disease, its destruction. He thought salt should be set before people as a reminder of justice; for salt preserves everything which it touches, and is composed of the purest particles of water and the sea.
These are the doctrines which Alexander asserts that he discovered in the Pythagorean treatises; and Aristotle gives us a similar account of them.
XX. Poetic Testimonies
Timon, in his Silli, has not left unnoticed the dignified appearance of Pythagoras, though he he attacks him on other points. Thus he speaks:
“Pythagoras who often teaches precepts of magic, and with speeches Of long high-sounding diction draws, From gaping crowds, a vain applause.”
In his Alcmaeon, Innesimachus says:
“As we do sacrifice to the Phoebus whom Pythagoras worships, never eating aught Which has the breath of life.”
Austophon says in his Pythagorean:
A. “He said that when he did descend below
Among the shades in Hell, he there beheld
All men who e’er had died; and there he saw
That the Pythagoreans differed much
From all the rest; for that with them alone
Did Pluto deign to eat, much honoring
Their pious habits.”
B. “He’s a civil God,
If he likes eating with such dirty fellows.”
And again in the same play he says,
Nothing but herbs and vegetables, and drink
Pure water only; but their lice are such
Their cloaks so dirty, and their unwash’d scent
So rank, that none of our younger men
Will for a moment bear them.”
Referring to his having been different people at different times, Xenophanes says in an elegiac poem, that begins thus:
“Now will I upon another subject touch, And lead the way…..
They say that once, as passing by he saw
A dog severely beaten, he did pity him;
And spoke as follows to the man who beat him:
“Stop now and beat him not; since in his body
Abides the soul of a dear friend of mine,
Whose voice I recognized as he was crying.”
Cratinus also ridiculed him in his Pythagorean Woman; but in his Tarentines he speaks thus:
“They are accustomed, if by chance they see
A private individual abroad,
To try what powers of argument he has.
How he can speak and reason; and they bother him
With strange antithesis, and forced conclusions,
Errors, comparisons, and magnitudes,
Till they have filled, and quite perplexed his mind.”
XXI. Death of Pythagoras
Pythagoras died in this manner. When he was sitting with some of his companions in Milo’s house, some of those whom he did not think worthy of admission into it, was by envy excited to set fire to it. But some say that the people of Crotona themselves did this, being afraid lest he might aspire to the tyranny. Pythagoras was caught as he was trying to escape; and coming to a place full of beans, he stopped there, saying that it was better to be caught than to trample on the beans, and better to be slain than to speak; and so he was murdered by those who were pursuing him. In this way also, most of his companions were slain; being about forty in number; but that a very few did escape, among whom were Archippus of Tarentum, and Lysis, whom I have mentioned before.
But Dicaearchus states that Pythagoras died later, having escaped as far as the temple of the Muses at Metapontum, where he died of starvation, after forty days. Heraclides, in his abridgment of the Life of Satyrus, says that after he had buried Pherecydes at Delos, he returned to Italy, and there finding a superb banquet prepared at the house of Milo, of Crotona, he left that city or Metapontum, where, not wishing any longer to live, he put an end to his life by starvation. But Hermippus says that when there was war between the Agrigentiries and the Syracusans, Pythagoras, with his usual companions, joined the Agrigentine army, which was put to flight. Coming up against a field of beans, instead of crossing it, he ran around it, and so was slain by the Syracusans; and that the rest, about thirty-five in number, were burned at Tarentum, where they were trying to excite a sedition in the state against the principal magistrates.
Hermippus also relates another story about Pythagoras. When in Italy, he made a subterranean apartment, and charged his mother to write an account of everything that took place, marking the time of each on a tablet, then sending them down to him until he came up again. His mother did so. Then after a certain time Pythagoras came up again, lean, and reduced to a skeleton; he came into the public assembly, and said that he had arrived from the shades below, and then he recited to them all that had happened to them in the meanwhile. Being charmed with what he told them, they believed that Pythagoras was a divine being, so they wept and lamented, and even entrusted to him their wives, as likely to learn some good from him; and they took upon themselves the name of Pythagoreans. Thus far Hermippus.
XXII. Pythagoras’ Family
Pythagoras had a wife, whose name was Theano, the daughter of Brontinus of Crotona. Some say that she was the wife of Brontinus, and only Pythagoras’s pupil. As Lysis mentions in his letter to Hipparchus, he had a daughter named Damo. Lysis’s letter speaks of Pythagoras thus:
“And many say that you philosophize in public, as Pythagoras also used to do; who, when he had entrusted his commentaries to his daughter Damo, charged her not to divulge them to any one outside of the house. Though she might have sold his discourses for much money, she did not abandon them; for she thought that obedience to her father’s injunction; even though this entailed poverty, better than gold; and that too, though she was a woman.”
He had also a son, named Telauges, who was his father’s successor in his school, and who, according to some authors, was the teacher of Empedocles. At least Hippobotus relates that Empedocles said,
“Telauges, noble youth, whom in due time Theano bore, to wise Pythagoras.”
But there is no book extant, which is the work of Telauges, though there are some extant that are attributed to his mother Theano. Of her is told a story, that once, when asked how long a woman should be absent from her husband, and remain an pure, she said: The moment she leaves her own husband, she is pure; but she is never pure at all after she leaves anyone else. A woman who was going to her husband was by her told to put off her modesty with, her clothes, and when she left him, to resume it with her clothes; when she was asked what clothes, she said: “Those which cause you to be called a woman.”
XXIII. Ridiculing Epigrams
Now Pythagoras, according to Heraclides, the son of Serapion, died when he was eighty years of age, according to his own account; by that of others, he was over ninety. On him we have written a sportive epigram, as follows:
“You are not the only man who has abstained
From living food; for so have we;
And who, I’d like to know, did ever taste
Food while alive, most sage Pythagoras?
When meat is boiled, or roasted well and salted,
I do not think it well can be called living.
Which, without scruple therefore then we eat it
And call it no more living flesh, but meat.”
Another, which runs thus:
“Pythagoras was, so wise a man, that he
Never ate meat himself, and called it sin.
Yet gave the good joints of beef to others;
So that I marvel at his principles;
Who others wronged, by teaching them to do
What he believed unholy for himself.”
Another, which follows:
“Should you Pythagoras’s doctrine wish to know,
Look on the centre of Euphorbus’s shield
For he asserts there lived a man of old,
And when he had no longer an existence,
He still could say that he had been alive,
Or else he would not still be living now.”
Another one follows:
“Alas! Alas! Why did Pythagoras hold
Beans in such wondrous honor? Why, besides
Did he thus die among his choice companions?
There was a field of beans; and so the sage,
Died in the common road of Agrigentum,
Rather than trample down his favorite beans.”
XXIV. The Last Pythagoreans
He flourished about the sixtieth Olympiad; and his system lasted for about nine or ten generations.
The last Pythagoreans known to Aristoxenus were Xenophilus the Chalcidean, from Thrace; Phanton the Phliasian with his countrymen Echutes, [Diode] and Polynmestus, disciples of Philolaus and Eurytus of Tarentum.
XXV. Various Pythagorases
Pythagoras was the name of four men, almost contemporaneous, and living close to each other. One was a native of Crotona, a man who attained to tyrant’s power; the second was Phliasian, and as some say, a trainer of wrestlers. The third was a native of Zacynthus; the fourth was this our philosopher, to whom the mysteries of philosophy are said to belong, and in whose time the proverbial phrase, ipse dixit, arose generally. Some also claim the existence of a fifth Pythagoras, a sculptor of Rhodes, who is believed to have been the first discoverer of rhythm and proportion. Another was a Samian sculptor. Another, an orator of small reputation. Another was a physician, who wrote a treatise on squills, and some essays on Homer. Dionysius tells us there was another who wrote a history of the affairs of the Dorians.
Eratosthenes, quoted by Phavorinus, in the eighth book of his Universal History, tells us that this philosopher, of whom we are speaking, was the first man who ever practised boxing in a scientific manner, in the forty-eighth Olympiad, having his hair long, and being robed in purple. From competition with boys he was rejected; but being ridicules for his application for this, he immediately entered among the men, and was victorious. Among other things, this statement is confirmed by an epigram of Theaetetus:
“Stranger, if e’er you knew Pythagoras,
Pythagoras, the man with flowing hair,
The celebrated boxer, erst from Samos,
I am Pythagoras. And if you ask
A citizen of Elis of my deeds,
You will surely think he is relating fables.”
Phavorinus says that he employed definitions on account of the mathematical subjects to which he applied himself. Socrates and his pupils did still more; and in this they were later followed by Aristotle and the Stoics.
He too was the first man who applied to the universe the name kosmos, and who first called the earth round; though Theophrastus attributes this to Parmenides, and Zeno to Hesiod. It is also said that he had a constant adversary, named Cylon, as Socrates’ was Antidicus. This epigram was formerly repeated concerning Pythagoras the athlete:
“Pythagoras of Samos, son of Crates,
Came while a child to the Olympic games;
Eager to battle for the prize in boxing.”
XXVI. Pythagoras’ Letter
Extant is a letter of our philosopher’s, which follows:
Pythagoras to Anaximenes.
“You too most excellent friend, if you were not superior to Pythagoras in birth and reputation, would have migrated from Miletus, and gone elsewhere. But now the reputation of your father keeps you back, which perhaps would have restrained me too, if I had been like Anaximenes. But if you, who are the most eminent man, abandon the cities, all their ernaments will disappear, and the Median power will be the more dangerous to them. Nor is it always seasonable to be studying astronomy, but it is more honorable to exhibit a regard for one’s country. I myself am not always occupied about speculations of my own fancy, but I am busied also with the wars which the Italians are waging one with another.”
But since we have now finished our account of Pythagoras, we must also speak of the most eminent of the Pythagoreans. After whom, we must mention those who are spoken of more promiscuously in connection with no particular school; and then will connect the whole series of philosophers worth speaking of, till we arrive at Epicurus. Now [Jelanges] and Theano we have mentioned; and we must speak of Empedocles, in the first place, for according to some accounts, he was a pupil of Pythagoras.
XXVII. Empedocles as Pythagorean
Timaeus in his ninth book, relates that he was a pupil of Pythagoras, saying that he was afterwards convicted of having divulged his doctrines, in the same way as Plato was, and that he was therefore henceforth forbidden for attending his school. It is said Pythagoras has him in mind when he said:
“And in that band there was a learned man
Of wondrous wisdom; on who of all men
Had the profoundest wealth of intellect.”
But some say the philosopher was here referring to [Pytherides] Neanthes relates that until the time of Philolaus and Empedocles, the Pythagoreans used to admit into their school all persons indiscriminately; but when Empedocles, by means of his poems, then they made a law to admit no epic poet. They said that the same thing happened to Plato; for that he too was excluded from the school. Who was Empedocles’s Pythagorean teacher in not mentioned; for, as the letter of Jelanges in which he is stated to have been a pupil of Hippasus and Brontinus, that is not worthy of belief. But Theophrastus says that he was an imitator and rival of Parmenides in his poems, for that he too has delivered his opinions on natural philosophy in Epic verse.
Hermippus however says that he was an imitator not of Parmenides, but of Xenophanes with whom he lived; and that he imitated his epic style, and that it was at a later period that he fell in with the Pythagoreans. But Alcimadas, in his Natural Philosophy, says that Zeno and Erapedodes were pupils of Parmenides, about the same time; and that they subsequently seceded from him. Zeno was said to have adapted a philosophical system peculiar to himself; but that Empedocles became a pupil of Anaxagoras and Pythagoras, and that he imitated the pompous demeanor and way of life and gestures of the one, and the system of Natural Philosophy of the other.